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We Are All One Big Family

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Anat Gopstein’s latest column in the Shabbat weekly Gilui Da’at:
We Are All One Big Family
“You’re my family”, she told me.This was painful. I had tears in my eyes. Her family has been disconnected from her for 15 years, and there is no tie between them. There is a total cutoff. Since she went with a non-Jew and her family tried to convince her, she didn’t listen and did what she wanted, “In the end, you’ll come crawling back but we won’t accept you”, they told her.
She was unwilling to break off with her boyfriend, she got married, converted to Islam and chose him. When her son was born, she tried to re-connect with them, but there was no response from her parents. When she became a mother, her conscience started bothering her, and she regretted the path she had taken.
The relationship between them (her and her husband) didn’t last. She left him, wanted to come back to Judaism and turned to us. Since then, there has been a tight connection between us; we accompany her along her path, encourage and strengthen her. I really admire her for the change she made in her life; one needs a lot of courage to persist. And in spite of all the difficulties, she hung on and did not break. In my eyes, she is a most impressive woman. True, she did something that just isn’t done, but that wasn’t out of awareness.
We live in an age where there is legitimization of assimilation. And even when she returned to Judaism and repented, there was still a disconnect and alienation. And now, as she builds herself and her family up and as she hugs another son now, she still has no connection with her family of origin, so she asked my husband Benzi to be the sandak because for her, we are like family.
A relationship is tested at a time of difficult and painful crisis, and in spite of the difficulty, we get together – because one does not disconnect from family.
On the holiday of Pesach, we recall the exodus from Egypt and that we went out from slavery to freedom. Pesach is a family holiday, when we pass on the tradition from father to son “to tell your son”. This is the essence of the holiday of Pesach, the transfer from generation to generation. Each one of us is part of a puzzle; all of us belong to a big family called “Am Israel”.
Family is the source of warmth, love and support and mutual commitment to one another. I have a hard time seeing a family disconnect that goes on for years. An emotional disconnection leads to pain, suffering and a feeling of helplessness. A person without a family front experiences severe loneliness. Sometimes the disconnection is a defense mechanism against pain and over-vulnerability; a person cannot contain the force of the hurt and chooses to ignore it and disconnect from it. A person who takes refuge in his attitudes, has a hard time coming down from the tall tree he has climbed and cannot pardon or forgive or go forward and re-connect.
On Shabbat HaGadol, the Shabbat before Pesach, the family holiday that unites, we read from the Haftara: “Here, I send you Elijah the Prophet to return the hearts of the fathers to their sons and the hearts of the sons to their fathers.”