It's actually a follow-up post that digs deeper into the issues discussed in How a Deeply Flawed Person from a Deeply Flawed Background Can Be The Greatest of All and Seeing Ourselves through Hashem's Eyes by Using a Measuring Scale of 0-10.
This happens across the board, both with people who were initially either not religious or not Jewish, and with people who were born into frum families, but strive to be more than their individual family was.
And there are a variety of scenarios that take place.
Gleaning External Keilim (Tools & Resources) from Outside the Home
So, yes, they lack the keilim a decent upbringing would give them.
But they received other keilim:
- their innate nature, while not perfect, still propelled them to realize that their upbringing didn't represent the Torah ideal and to seek ways to build a spiritually & psychologically healthy home
- from their frum schools (especially if they had good teachers) and the Torah they absorbed from their environment
- from examples of the many fine families they saw in their friends' homes
- from their fine husband who possesses similar fine goals and middot
And many of these people succeeded in creating a happy marriage & a functional home.
However, if you listen to their feelings about it all, they feel very damaged by their upbringing, like it's a constant battle to overcome.
They also often take a lot of pride in being so different than their parents. They know they've done so much better in the same situations their own parents failed.
So again, these special women lacked the keilim of an emotionally healthy upbringing, but they still gleaned from the keilim of their society, their spouse, and their own inborn nature which responded to family dysfunction by:
- being aware that this is dysfunctional
- saying "I don't want to be this way"
- taking active steps (both mental planning and actual behavioral changes) to be better
Do they deserve credit for being better?
And in addition to the external keilim they discovered outside the home, they also possessed internal keilim (or else they wouldn't have been able to learn from other or be attracted to a better way of life, including bettering themselves).
Some Examples of Inner Keilim
For example, some people innately possess or seek to acquire:
- kindness toward others/to be baalei chessed
- a sense of responsibility
- making the world a better place
- and much more
However, what happens when the keilim just aren't there?
What happens when they don't just lack the keilim of an certain upbringing, but other keilim as well?
Meaning, what if their society, school, environment, and other influences weakened or corrupted them even more?
What if good examples simply did not exist where they lived?
What if the person they ended up marrying proved to be an ornerier-than-normal challenge?
And what if they don't innately possess the above middot or even a desire for the above middot?
Lack of Inner Keilim (Inner Tools & Resources)
This indeed happens as you see sisters from the scenario described above:
- She grows up in a dysfunctional family
Yet she also:
- grows up within a relatively healthy Torah-observant society
- attends a good Torah school with good teachers
- encounters many examples of functional families
- marries a spouse with good middot
- enjoys a good financial situation
(Yes, I'm basing this on a real-life dynamic with any possible identifying details heavily disguised or omitted.)
And yet one sister turns out with what can only be described as a personality disorder (Narcissist or Borderline) and is a dysfunctional wife and mother, a difficult community member, and her children act out in unpleasant ways that can obviously be traced back to the mother's behavior within the home.
So here we have two sisters (or brothers) raised in the same family, same society, same schools...yet totally different results.
The dysfunctional sister lacks inner keilim.
She lacks both awareness & ratzon.
Now, many times you can also attribute the dichotomy between 2 siblings to other factors.
Perhaps the parents treated the dysfunctional sister differently than the functional one, in a way that benefited the more functional one. Even in healthier families, each child receives something different from the parents.
Some people, no matter how badly they were raised as children, will still rise up and say, "THIS is NOT okay. I WILL be different. I WANT a BETTER life for my children & myself, and THESE are the steps I WILL take to achieve that goal."
There are people who experienced really awful upbringings with very little external keilim, and still made themselves into better people than you'd ever expect.
Throughout my life, I've met so many people like this.
And therefore, it was so bizarre to me when I encountered some mothers who really don't care about their children's psychological experience within the family.
The Mother who Lacks Inner Keilim
Again, I know it's hard to believe, but after observing such mothers for months or even years, I couldn't come to any other conclusion.
I'm not saying they don't care at all, but that their children's psychological well-being is simply not a priority.
(These are often the ones who feel that children turn out however they turn out and will both adjust & manage without help from the mother—and what do you expect her to do about anyway when she is already so overwhelmed with dealing with xyz? Furthermore, she holds on to this attitude not as a temporary "fall," but holds onto it the entire time she's bringing up children.)
That's not the majority, of course. Most frum mothers care very much about raising their children well.
But you can definitely encounter a minority who don't prioritized it, or at least even consider it. Ever.
So the type lacking inner keilim, she pretty much ignores the children's needs and raises them according to her convenience.
Again, I want to stress that she reflects a consistent attitude that continues for years.
Anyone can experience a "down" period in which they reflect poor behaviors.
I'm not talking about that. I mean the type for which this attitude is consistent and continuous.
For example, if (after she brings up her challenging situation) you gently inquire as to how the children are dealing with things or what she's doing to help them, she just looks confused.
She never even thought of it!
Then she'll say something like, "They're fine" or "They're too young to understand what's going on" or "Children are naturally resilient; they seem fine so far" and seem disgruntled that you've brought it up.
After all, she prioritizes her own feelings and psychological state, not theirs.
This type also get disgruntled if anyone, no matter how gently, suggests that a child's behavior indicates a need for, say, an affectionate squeeze on the shoulder at least twice a day, or a gentler tone of voice, or any other expressions of love, no matter how minor.
If the children are lucky, she prefers organizations and a schedule, which at least offers the children some kind of consistency.
If they're unlucky, she's all over the place, both emotionally and practically, adding to the dysfunction and instability.
The Mother who Possesses at Least Some Inner Keilim
She actively seeks out ways to protect the children from the dysfunction and raise them as best as possible within the dysfunctional atmosphere.
And these woman, by the way, often run themselves ragged trying to be a good wife to a dysfunctional husband and trying to be a good mother to children with a dysfunctional father.
But they're right to strive to overcome what they can.
They usually feel pretty bad about themselves, but they care very much about their children and their marriage, and are willing to take responsibility for their own actions.
Paradox: Take Responsibility, But Realize It's All from Hashem Anyway
This is a bit paradoxical because you can't just say after 120 years when standing before the Heavenly Tribunal:
"Hey, it just wasn't who I was. You know...to be considerate, work on my anger, put my children's actual needs before or at least equal to my own, to rise above my own upbringing...to actually take to heart what's written in Tanach and halachah...It's YOUR fault, Hashem. You should've made me a better person. Next!"
On the other hand, people with inner keilim cannot exactly feel proud of themselves because Hashem put that awareness and positive ratzon there.
They can (and SHOULD) feel pleased. Grateful. Take pleasure in your good decisions and in the goodness emanating through all the dysfunction from their pristine neshamah.
So we must take responsibility for our behavior, but without feeling pride and yet with feeling pleasure.
What If Both Inner Keilim & External Keilim are Lacking?
Let's say that a person not only lacks the keilim of a functional upbringing, but their society was dysfunctional too.
Hopefully, their school is good and they possess inner keilim.
You sometimes see this with a Jewish kid from a non-frum families living in a non-Jewish/secular society who attends a frum school that knows how to deal with a Jewish child from this kind of background.
These people can often turn out very well.
I've seen it.
Yet what if...
- What if this child lacks inner keilim, even if the child attends a good frum school?
- Or what if this child attends the crummy American school system (whether private or public; it's mostly garbage at this point from a value-centered point of view) and therefore lacks the keilim of a good frum school (or they attend a frum school that doesn't meet their needs)?
- Or what if this child lacks both his/her inner keilim AND the keilim of a good frum school (i.e., of a Torah education)?
Especially regarding the last one: How are you going to help them then?
What is this person supposed to do?
And what should your expectations of them be?
It's also not so black-and-white because a person may possess certain kinds of inner keilim while lacking others.
For example, some people are very chessed-oriented but suffer from taavah issues.
Others are empathetic & patient, but lazy.
Others are responsible & trustworthy, yet very hot-tempered.
And we see people like this becoming frum.
And we also see how much they struggle with certain expectations the Torah has of us simply because they lack the keilim (inner, societal, educational, familial) to first of all, be aware of it, and then to understand & appreciate it enough to strive to acquire it.
What's Wrong with Crass, Immoral Behavior? And Hey...What IS "Crass" or "Immoral" Anyway?
Without going into the details, the comedy made hefker & crass behavior seem very fun to watch.
Via humor, this popular series brought this behavior into the mainstream.
For all it made fun of white trash, it also made it acceptable & attractive (because now it's funny, popular, and also the teenage daughter was very attractive).
When the TV show first appeared, it faced a backlash from more conservative viewers (who were always portrayed as repressed stick-in-the-mud nay-sayers).
These types especially criticized the behavior of the teenage boy and girl on the show, claiming (rightly so) that these characters promoted a terrible example for children and teens.
The embarrassing thing is that, at that time, I didn't even understand why they thought the show was problematic.
Not that I disagreed with their views or their protests.
Halevei I'd understood enough to disagree!
No. The problem was: I didn't even understand why the values portrayed on the show were wrong!
Okay, that's not completely true.
I did not find attractive the father sitting in his frayed undershirt in front of the TV while guzzling beer. That definitely was something I felt was NOT okay in life.
But the teenage kids? They seemed to be living a good life! (Outside of their bum of a father, of course.)
And I really wanted to look like that girl & enjoy her freedom.
So on the most fundamental level, I could not even see the problem.
Do you see what I mean?
Why were people protesting? I had no clue.
Because I couldn't even grasp what was wrong, I concluded that the protesters really were just the nutty, controlling weirdos as portrayed all over the mainstream media.
What else could they be?
Now, my parents, of course, did not like this show, but freedom of expression and all that trumps everything in America (if you're a liberal).
And they could not explain to me why the show was problematic, which is a common issue with generation gaps.
Generation Gaps & Gaffes
It's very hard.
And that difficulty in explaining is also entirely normal.
I look at the generation of secular/non-Jewish people below mine and cannot imagine how to explain certain ideas.
(And I really admire the people who do manage to explain—even as I see that it's getting harder, even for those with the verbal talent.)
Anyway, the entire society around me (including some teachers) were telling us that our parents are irrelevant anyway (unless, of course, our parents goosestepped to the prevailing winds of the day—then they were considered cool parents).
And as society disintegrates, this is getting even worse.
I'm Okay and...Only I'M Okay. You're Okay ONLY If You Think Exactly Like Me
- Their parents say it's fine.
- Their school says it's fine.
- They have no inner compass telling them that maybe it's not so okay; on the contrary, they fully support it.
- Their society says it's fine. (In fact, everything around them insists that if you DON'T support these relationships, it means you are a bad person who lacks compassion and likely suffers mental illness—you're "phobic," for example.)
- Novels, movies, and TV shows portray mishkav zachur relationships as being even more functional than male-female relationships, which is a total lie.
(This is despite the fact that your own personal observations of people you know AND the testimony of those who've lived this lifestyle AND statistics ALL show that these mishkav zachur relationships are the MOST dysfunctional—in addition to being totally forbidden.)
- If they enter the frum community, they may also find obfuscaters who try to kasher aspects of male-male attraction to make Judaism more appealing to the non-frum.
And the above is done with all sorts of issues:
- euthanasia (AKA, "death with dignity")
- denial of Hashem (whether via avodah zarah belief systems or atheism)
- premarital hefkerut
- unwed single parenthood
- nivul peh (foul language)
- pritzut behavior and clothing
- bad middot (anger, pride, lashon hara, self-righteousness, trolling, bullying—these are all encouraged & glorified if done for the "right" reasons)
And much more.
So you have people going into frumkeit (much to their credit and the credit of those who bring them in) without even a fundamental value system in some areas.
And IF the frum community they enter into is weak in any of the above areas, then the person really has no lifesaver in that particular area to grab on to.
Placing a Stumbling Block before the Blind
Converts and baalot teshuvah who join a community in which miniskirts, problematic hair-covering (or no hair-covering at all), or even pants are the norm among the frum women—it looks like all this is okay.
And why doesn't their rabbi tell them otherwise, particularly if he's converting the giyoret? If her whole giyur stands on accepting Torah & mitzvot, then why doesn't he reveal the actual halachah to her so she can decide properly, and later uphold properly?
(But...that's a whole other kettle of fish.)
Anyway, when these baalot teshuvah/converts see women who do dress according to basic halachah, they either assume AND/OR are told that those women are "ULTRA-Orthodox" (meaning doing more than minimally required), "extremist," or just following "their own community's minhag, but ours is different."
So it's very misleading and therefore, when reading a book of halacha, like Halichos Bas Yisroel or other halachah books, they may assume (or be told) that it's extreme and not the actual halacha.
Having said all that, some people do wake up.
It may take a while, and they may struggle with it and feel resentful at first, but they realize at some point that the Torah requires more of them...and they step up to plate.
Maybe they join a more tsnius community which makes them realize the truth, maybe they see that there is nowhere in halacha that allows miniskirts, maybe they hear a shiur that hits them in just the right way, maybe someone davened for them to wake up...
But on the other hand, many do not wake up.
But the main question is: What does HASHEM say about it all?
Hashem Loves the People who Try
You may not be happy with yourself. Others may not be happy with you.
But Hashem is likely VERY happy with you.
And Hashem is all that matters.
What does it say to Hashem that you are willing to suffer humiliation and criticism, bruising, and fail after fail after fail...all to simply fulfill what He told you to do...all to simply reach Him?
THAT'S dedication. That's commitment.
Even if you're not doing it cheerfully, it still a very big commitment on your part.
Because everything is against you.
You don't have the keilim.
And the people below you are trying to drag you back down.
And the people above you aren't understanding where you're really holding.
And that mountain is SOOOO high.
The top seems completely unrealistic.
Yet you're doing it.