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 Best Wishes, Vivienne
Dear Mrs. Kohn:
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.