A few weeks ago, at the end of our class on Queen Esther, we asked for your response to the following question…
“How would you counsel an individual who finds herself (like Esther) in an environment that has values different from your own?”
Here is a selection of your answers. Thanks to all for your input:
Dear Rebbetzin Kohn,
My sister is now an orthodontist. When she was in training, she was not only the only Orthodox student in her graduate program, but the only Orthodox person that anyone involved with the program had ever met. She faced many challenges, her commitment to keeping Shabbos and Jewish Holidays was frequently threatened by superiors who “just didn’t understand” why she was leaving early. I often discussed with her the fact that being [dedicated to] Shabbos and Yom Tov would strengthen her appreciation and future observance of these [practices and commandments].
She passed the program and earned her degree, and hopefully along the way she made a favorable impression of Orthodox people to a group to whom she was the sole representation of what Orthodox Jews are. The fact that she remained consistent in her observance despite pressures to “give in” and work on Shabbos I think made a strong impression on the people she was with.
With Best Wishes, Vivienne
Dear Mrs. Kohn: Yvonne
Dear Mrs. Kohn:
I would like to think that I would counsel someone living in an environment with a different set of values, to be true to oneself. I have found that in similar situations, I stubbornly cling to my faith as an example, but cautiously hear another person out. I will listen, then when invited, I will offer my thoughts on a/the subject. I have found myself questioned a lot recently about faith and although I don’t always have the best answer, I rely on it for my strength and guidance. I think of Esther living in the Persian court, and standing by her own personal values and faith, finding courage to be counted different, but special. In these troubled and questioning times, especially with the young people, that example says a lot, sometimes, more than words.
I think I would, as I have done in the past, encourage anyone who is physically outside their moral ground to continue on the road that they know to be right. Nothing is worth anything if you don’t stand for and live what you know in your heart and mind to be true.
Dear Leah Kohn:
My response to a woman who finds herself in an environment/culture/society with values contrary to her own….is to advise her to be sure to spend time by herself daily, morning and evening, to remember who she is, what she believes in, and to pray to Hashem for strength, guidance and wisdom in holding on to her own values and beliefs.
Regarding your question as to how one should counsel an individual who finds him/herself in a situation that is conflicting with his/her values: I have had some experience with such situations in the past, where I was often the one who needed to find an appropriate way of reconciling my own values with the opposing forces around me. What I found to be most helpful is the strength that is to be gained from the knowledge that your ideas and values are “real” and most truthful to you…
Also, it is necessary for one to be certain about one’s own ideas and values and to be proud of what one holds important. Because conflicting messages often only trouble individuals that are not strong in their own beliefs. Ultimately, we need to remember that just because someone has a different set of values, does not mean they are worthy of an attack or any negative treatment.
Dear Mrs. Kohn:
With the reflection on Esther, we can see another example for us in our modern time. As I see it, Esther was chosen for a purpose. As we read we can clearly see she did not want to be picked as a queen for a king that clearly didn’t believe the way she did. As we can see, she didn’t have the whole picture presented before her, therefore she was truly tested. Esther, even though brought in circumstances against her will and beliefs, she continued to serve her G-d and continued her observing the laws,etc. She was uniquely different and yes, true to her G-d and the people of Israel! She was born for such a time as this and she realized that for her step in standing in for her people she could make a difference!
Dear Mrs. Kohn
First of all, to find yourself in an environment with a set of values “different from your own” means that you know what you value! Hooray! The next step is clear, use this opportunity to strengthen your hold on your values. YES!
To Mrs. Kohn:
Being in an environment that is not your own can be on the outset very frightening. You must take that as a comfort because you have been given the opportunity to discover the differences that present themselves as well as realize the beauty of them. This is a time to stand out and let your identity shine. The inner struggles that you come across will teach you many lessons about the faith that is buried in your soul. Your fear of the unknown will depart because of your strength in your beliefs that G-D is always by your side. You will have the chance to teach someone a different path should they utilize theirs and find it doesn’t take them far. You are equipped with a built in alternative. You are also able to relieve the fear that others may have of the unknown because they will encounter you and understand the beauty of the differences by you being open to explain them and guide them. Every struggle is a blessing and it is important to know that. If you realize that and understand that, most challenges in your life will be overcome. If the fear guides you and not your belief in G-D, you can never get to the point of being able to over come them. Thank G-D for the struggle he gives you and take his gift and figure out what you can do with it. Be proud of who you are use all talents and strengths inside of you, you will find that you are never alone and that even though the outside maybe different and the environment may be different as well, there are always core similarities and always a chance to share your heart with someone else.
Women in Judaism, Copyright (c) 2000 by Mrs. Leah Kohn and ProjectGenesis, Inc.