We’re not going to get Geula with big speeches, or by sending out big, preachy emails to 4 million people telling them to dress more tznius ASAP, or else.
We going to get redeemed by treating other people with more love and consideration, and by recognising the profound truth that there is one thing ‘wrong’ with the world, currently, and that’s us, ourselves.
God showed me that very clearly a couple of days’ ago, when I ended up having a show-down on holiday with one of my teenagers.
In fairness to her, she really didn’t want to come in the first place, and I persuaded her to. Also, our air-conditioning was broken, because the car is nearly as old as our aliya, and we moved to Israel 10 years’ ago, and we were going camping, which meant no air-conditioning on arrival, either.
And lastly, we tried a shortcut through Nazareth that ended up adding an hour to our trip in the middle of a sweltering hot July heatwave day.
So we get to the camping ground, and the next thing I know is that my daughter’s in ‘short t-shirt’ sleeves and has hitched her skirt to above-knee level, to go and paddle in the stream running through the campground.
I went ballistic.
I mean, I’m a FRUM Jew, and frum Jews don’t do things like remove layers of clothes just because they’re about to pass out from heat exhaustion…
Long story short, we got into a huge row, and all these horrible words and thoughts started to bubble up in my head, and some of them even escaped out into the open.
I felt terrible. My daughter felt terrible. My husband and other kid felt terrible.
My husband suggested that we go into town, and find somewhere with air-conditioning to calm down a bit, and eat something. My daughter refused to come. While my husband was trying to change her mind, I felt another bitter volcano of angry resentment well up and rushed off to the car, before I made a bad situation even worse.
While there, I asked God for some serious help. “God, Rebbe Nachman, someone, I’m treating my daughter horribly. Please help me! Help me to see past the short sleeves, and reach out to her!” Because you know what, I used to wear far less clothes than that at her age, and she’s basically a really good kid, and not some evil baddy out to destroy all the kedusha in my home.
Suddenly, my anger started to evaporate, and I really, really just wanted to be back on the same page as my kid, even if that meant letting go of my pious standards and expectations.
My husband watched me rush out of the car, and got a bit worried I was about to do something rash. Who knows, maybe I did.
I apologised to my still hurt and misunderstood kid.
I told her I wanted her to come with us, even with her short sleeves, because SHE was what was important here, and I loved her and accepted her regardless.
She could come with short sleeves, and with her above-knee skirt, and I’d try very hard to ignore them. I’d also buy her whatever (tznius) clothes she wanted in bulk quantities, if she’d let us patch things up, and just come.
So she came.
And after I spent 500 nis (around $150) buying her some really nice stuff that was still a serious bargain, I then spent the rest of the afternoon pondering what God really wanted.
For sure, God wants my daughter to dress modestly.
For sure, He also wants me to have a good relationship with her, and to keep seeing the good and treating her compassionately, too.
I put myself in her shoes for a few minutes, and I could see that at that age, I probably would have reacted exactly the same way, if not even worse. And now look at me ?
Point is, God has a lot of patience for our young people, and a lot of love for them. And as Rav Natan wrote, when something is true, it brings you closer to God, and it doesn’t push you further away.
Continuing to make a point about her sleeves would have only pushed my daughter away, long-term. Maybe I would win the tznius battle (and that’s a big maybe), but for sure, I’d lose the tznius war.
She’d be another kid that got a bit older, and ditched the skirts completely in favour of jeans as soon as she could actually do what she wanted. I don’t want that. I want her to serve God happily from choice, which means I need to give her some space now.
Afterwards, my husband told me that he thought my making peace with my daughter had done more to bring geula forward than anything else I’m up to at the moment.
If the reward is commensurate with the effort and the difficulty, then I think he might be right.