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Dear Emuna: Former Party Animal
Dear Emuna

Dear Emuna: Former Party Animal

I have a pretty wild past and am slowly becoming observant. How do I forgive myself? Will a nice Jewish boy ever accept me?


Dear Emuna,

I am a college student who is on the path to living a life of Torah Judaism. I find it incredibly intriguing and fulfilling and I am really enjoying the journey. There is only one problem. In high school, I was a bit wild. I got into just about any crazy situation a teenage girl could get into. I had intimate relationships and liked to "party”. Now that I am learning to value myself more and am building my self-esteem, I can't help but feel guilty and awful about my past. I often feel like a hypocrite and worry people think I am mocking Judaism because of my drastic change to the "good girl." How do I forgive myself and move forward? Will I ever find a nice Jewish boy who will accept and love me anyways?

Former Party Animal

Dear Moving Forward,

You are to be applauded for your courage and effort. It’s not easy to grow and change, to leave the past behind – under any circumstances. It’s difficult to acknowledge our mistakes. It’s challenging to adopt new behaviors and viewpoints and I give you tremendous credit for all the hard work I know you are doing.

As I’ve said many times, despite the teachings of popular culture, guilt is NOT a Jewish idea. Because it’s a completely unproductive emotion. It’s a total waste of time and energy. You recognize you’ve made some mistakes. You regret certain past behaviors (you “feel awful”). And you are trying to change (thereby obviating the need to continue to “feel awful”!).

I’m sure that, with the guidance of your teachers, you are working on teshuvah, on repairing your relationship with the Almighty and returning to His loving embrace. You are anything but a hypocrite. Moving forward and growing without being “there” yet does not make us hypocritical. Who, after all, is “there” yet? The charge of hypocrisy is only legitimately leveled at those who are no longer growing but who sit in smug self-righteous judgment of others. That is clearly not you!

In fact, you are a role model. And a nice Jewish boy would consider himself lucky to find a serious, idealistic, growth-oriented girl like you. Don’t worry about finding someone to marry. The God who led you on this path of return, the God who created the world and took the Jewish people out of Egypt, the God in whose arms you have found your home is the God who makes matches. He won’t forget about you. And He’s even prouder of you and more impressed with you than I am!


Mother’s Ultimatum

Dear Emuna,

Although my mother does not have a 'close' relationship with any of her children or children-in-law, there is one daughter-in-law that she does not get along with at all. She has asked me not to invite my brother and his wife to my home for meals. My husband does want me to invite them and he says I absolutely do not have to obey this request of hers. I enjoy having them over; however the stress of the possibility of my mom walking in when they are here is killing me. This has happened in the past and my mother made me feel like a disloyal daughter.

Caught in the Middle

Dear Caught,

It is crucial for you to know and understand that the commandment to honor your mother and your father does NOT include obeying a request to exclude a sibling and his family from your home or your love. You have no responsibility to adhere to that demand. On the contrary, your husband’s wishes (and yours) take precedence.

I’m sorry for your mother that she seems to have created such a lonely life for herself, having a limited relationship with most of her children and none at all with one of her daughter-in-laws. And I’m sure you don’t want to replicate her behavior in any way – including the aspect of having no relationship with the aforementioned sister-in-law.

Maybe it will be stressful on a few occasions if your mother keeps walking in on your family and your brother’s. If it becomes unpleasant, that will be your mother’s choice and not yours. Either she will force herself to be more cordial to her daughter-in-law or she will learn to call first before just dropping by.

But don’t give in to her blackmail.

Loyalty is not the same as blind obedience. Loyalty doesn’t mean sharing prejudices, rude behavior and bad character. You are responsible for your behavior and you have an obligation to the best person you can be. That includes showing kindness to your brother and sister-in-law and not allowing yourself to be bullied into unattractive behavior.

Children should not have to choose between their parents and their siblings. Unfortunately your Mother has put you in a terrible position. And she has made your appropriate choice obvious.


How Do Young Couples Make Enough Money?

Dear Emuna,

I read your column everyday and love your blunt and strait to the point honesty. Thank you! I am in my early 20's and so is the guy I've been dating for awhile. We are both working full time jobs while schooling at night. We would like to get engaged in the near future, but we have a dilemma. How are all these young couples, without degrees or real jobs that make "real money" making it? We are taking all the necessary steps to save up and are both very diligent and money conscious people. Neither of us are big spenders or high maintenance and we both know how to stretch money and budget. We both don't want to be living from paycheck to paycheck. The thought of that stresses me.

I will be starting a full-time graduate program soon and that would mean we would be a subject to a single income, as I know that I would not be able to handle work and graduate school at the same time. I don't think resorting to living off of student loans would be conducive to starting a healthy marriage. When I've asked married friends, the answer varies, but always comes down to parental help, which would not be the case for us. Any insight would help? How do they do it?

Living on a Shoestring

Dear Careful Budgeter,

Isn’t that the question we’re all asking? I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint you. I don’t have a simple straightforward answer.

Everyone’s means and needs are different. Some couples are willing and able to make do with very little; others have higher financial expectations and greater material needs. I’m not judging one or the other. Everyone needs to know themselves and what they can realistically live with (not their ideal or their fantasy - their reality). It sounds like you fall into the first category and that your material wants are few and simple. If that assessment is true, it should be easier for you to “make it”.

But I won’t sugarcoat the situation. It’s a really tough economy right now and financial issues can be a source of stress to many young (and old!) couples.

Yet, what’s the alternative? Wait indefinitely to get married? Is there ever some magic point where you would feel “Now I’m financially stable and we can safely get married”? Despite our politicians’ promises (and some really dreadful debates!), no one really knows when things will turn around (or how to get them there).

So, at some basic level, it comes down to bitachon, to trusting God. We are taught that on Rosh Hashanah, the Almighty (among His other tasks) determines our income for the year. We have to make a reasonable effort to merit the designated amount but, beyond that, it’s out of our hands.

Young Jewish couples are frequently given the blessing that they should build a faithful home in Israel, a home built on faith and trust. I think that if this is the focus on your home, your financial issues won’t fade away, but you will, in fact, truly “make it”.


October 28, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 10

(9) Raphaelle Do Lern Hwei, November 6, 2012 2:17 PM

Caught In the Middle with Family Relations

It is good that you can have your brother and family over for meals with your family. Your husband is right. Do not let your Mum's opinions get in the way. You relate to your brother's family in your own unique way. Maybe both your families can work out what gets your Mum such that all of her children and their families are alienated from her at some time or another. You can work out a way to relate with her in the best possible way. One thing at a time.

(8) Jonathan Keefe, October 29, 2012 8:03 PM

Hatzlacha in your Teshuvah and In Finding a Chushaveh Partner

Being honest with yourself and doing real Teshuvah-you're a hero! Keep on this path and I hope to hear great things from/about you. Hatzlacha in everything.

(7) Tinah, October 29, 2012 10:56 AM

Party Animal Moving Forward

I loved your answers, directions and encouragement to "Former Party Animal". That was me once upon a time. I lived with guilt and shame for my previous lifestyle. I carried it with me for years and years and it took a toll on my life. I can, from experience, tell you that you are 100% correct in what you told her. Teshuvah is a process, it is a journey but it leads to healing, hope, health and life. I have by no means "arrived" but I have finally gotten to the place where my past does not need to be any different for my present and my future to be in peace. I trusted GOD and He led me out of a lifestyle of self destruction and in to a life of peace and wholeness. I am now married to a wonderful man who walks in the ways of HaShem and together we have made a home where our children can grow in love, life and hope. We are not perfect, neither one of us, we both have a past, but now walking in the way of HaShems Torah, we have something better, we have a future filled with hope. The future belongs to HaShem so never let your past dictate your future. Thank you Emuna for such great advice!

(6) Anonymous, October 29, 2012 12:15 AM

The Beauty Of Tshuva From Party to Celebration!

Most people think that Tshuva is an erased slate. It is NOT!! A Baal or Baalas Tshuva is given not a clean slate but a NEW slate! I only wish all would appreciate how elevated their Neshamos are, as it says that a complete Tzaddik cannot possibly reach the level of someone who dropped to the lowest of lows and had the strength to pick themselves up and come back to H-Shem's embrace! As far as a Shidduch is concerned, you know that in Shamayim there are no limits to what a person can get........Rochov married Yehoshua Bin Nun! See Navi Yehoshua. May you be Zoche to be Makim Bayis Neeman BeYisroel and have lots of Nachas from all your Doros together with your wonderful (future) husband! I only hope that my daughter BEZ"H follows in your footsteps. Right now she IS where you WERE. Signed AN ADMIRER

(5) Moriah, October 28, 2012 7:40 PM

To girl returning to Hashem

You must remember that you are not required to confess your sins or former sins to any man or woman. You confess your sins to your Creator...period! It is not a good idea to dwell on past indiscretions or to discuss them with a shadkan. This is way too personal to discuss. G-d can and will forgive you. Please do not persecute yourself. This also is a sin. Congratulations and welcome back!

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