Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Dear Readers,

This is a revision of a chapter excerpted from In Memory of Ben

Lessons Learned Late

I announced I would not eat the matzoh ball soup.

My wife had been preparing the seder meal in the

same manner she had always done. The tension

between us had been simmering for some time when

the pot boiled over the afternoon of Erev Pesach. I

could not have chosen a worse time to make such an

announcement had I tried.

At issue was a can of treif chicken broth, but that

alone was only the tip of the iceberg. Given the state of

our marital affairs, the last thing we needed was to be

arguing about kashrus.

“Must you use that particular broth?” I asked her,

wishing I had kept my mouth shut, but I kept on.

“Folks should be able to reasonably expect they will

enjoy a kosher meal on Passover at the very least.”

“What are you talking about?” she shot back. “It

makes no difference because our kitchen is not

kosher,” she reminded me-a fact that my daughter

would echo in several minutes.


I had been brought up in a Reform environment. My

wife and I chose it within which to raise our children.

My contentment with Reform, however, began to wane

when I began pursuing my religious agenda. I joined a

traditional minyan and began learning with the rabbi

as part of a Federation program to broaden Jewish

literacy. For the first time ever, I felt excited about

Jewish learning. Missing though was any guidance

about how to bring this new knowledge home without

disrupting my family.

Choosing to become observant requires changes

that reach to the deepest roots of family life.

It is a team undertaking and no one parent can impose it on his family.

Even under the most optimal ofcircumstances, additions to

home ritual observance are best approached gradually. Family members can

then learn the content of the new practice and enjoy

time enough to assimilate it into their routines. The

bottom line is family members can deepen their

observance only by taking manageable steps together.


My wife was opposed to kashering our kitchen

because she knew it would lead to a more observant

Jewish lifestyle she wanted neither for herself nor for

our family. I was so busy pursuing my personal

religious odyssey I failed to recognize the danger it

posed to my marriage. None of us was ready for a

religious makeover.

The worst part of this Erev Pesach arrived

when my daughter Kimberly confronted me on the

steps leading to her room.

“Dad!” I could see steam coming out of her ears!

“Uh, oh!” I knew that look on her face.

“You have ruined Passover for me and the family,” she

vehemently asserted. Her voice became louder but

then cracked a bit.

“Sweetheart, I am trying …” proclaiming my


“Oh, I know what you are `trying’ to do. I see the

groceries you bring home. All kosher. I see it.” I stood

in silence and listened to her rebuke. No one had ever

been so passionately angry with me. Always ready,

willing and able to express herself, Kimberly attacked

my insistence that only kosher food be served at seder-

labeling it “an absurd contradiction.” I could say

nothing in my defense. She and her mom were correct.

What was the point of pursuing a kosher agenda if not

done properly and without the assent of my family?

While true my family did not know the halachos of

Pesach, we had always enjoyed its spirit at our seders.

I poisoned that spirit. This regrettable incident should

have been a wake-up call for me. The truth is I

remained “asleep” on a path strewn with stumbling


Older eyes often need assistance to see things more

clearly. Mine certainly did. I sat with Kimberly one

afternoon in my mother’s kitchen not long after

her mother and I had divorced. I continued to struggle

with observance and my family’s exasperation with


“Alan,” my mother advised, “Please listen to your

daughter. She loves you and wants only the best for


“Dad, your clothes: that suit, that black hat: they

make you look like an old man! And shave your

scraggly beard! Your beliefs are your own. Your

observance may work for you, but it doesn’t for me.”

”Alan,” my mother chimed in. “Young girls want to be

proud of their dads, not embarrassed by their

appearance. You’re so nice-looking. Why do you have

to dress like an old man?” echoing a sentiment

Kimberly’s mom used to say all too often. I sat there in

silence as I had done on Erev Pesach. A few tears fell

from my daughter’s eyes.

This was such a confusing set of issues. There were

so many things I wanted. Kimberly showed me that I

could not have them all without making some

accommodations when my level of observance

was at odds with my family and children.

I would find a way to live observantly without jeopardizing their


Alan D. Busch


Figure 1. Alan Dear,
Please remember family first. Nothing else is as important. Love you, Mom. Be well.


Jack's Shack said...

Hello Alan. I like the picture at the top of your blog. It is very sweet.

Alan aka Avrum ben Avrum said...

Dear Jack,

Thank you for stopping by. I

appreciate your time and interest.