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Nov 12, 1997 - 16:41 -

I have a question:
Hi. I am a 15 year old girl who has been raised questionably Conservative. I've been given a little more than a basic education, know how to read and am learning to speak Hebrew, and go to the occasional Shabbat service (when I can get my parents to take me). My parents gave me what little Judiasm they believe in, but I want more. I've been studing for quite a while and am looking for ways to increase my Jewish observances. Unfortunatly, I know my parents would not be very accepting of my decision to do so. For instance, I have amde my best attempt possible to keep kosher for the past month. I know my mother thinks that's what I'm trying to do, but I didn't tell them for fear of having to listen to lectures on how irrational it is. My mother refuses to 'notice' what is going on, and never seems to notice how I'm never hungry when it's pork chops or clams for dinner. I understand that this is a tremendous request, but could you please try to give me some things that I could do to increase my level of observance, including prayers I could do alone, and basic mitzvot that I probably don't know? Also, what and when should I tell my parents what is going on in my life? We have an excellent relationship, but my views on religion were never things I could discuss with them. (Sex, ok. G-d? Forget it!) Please don't reccomend any books because while I have a limited Jewish library of my own, I have no access to other Jewish lierature. Thank you very much for your time and help. Rachel

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First of all, let me congratulate you on being able to do so much already, and wish you a rewarding growth path. I grew up in a non-observant Conservative-affiliated home, with much love but little in the way of traditional mitzvot. (I was in my thirties before keeping kosher.)

Remember that every mitzvah is "plus one" even if it seems small to you (or to others). No one but God can weigh your achievements truly.

Without knowing how to correspond with you, and without knowing what kind of community is where you live, and without pointing to books, I'm not sure how to proceed.  Here are a few suggestions:

Seek out friends who do more, or know more, than yourself ; and hang out with them. Get invited to their homes.

When you *do* pass by a synagogue (any synagogue), borrow books. (Once you can drive, Jewish resources will get easier to come by.)

When planning for college, be sure to consider whether the campus has a strong Jewish life or is in a city with good Jewish resources for you.

In the meantime, there are many "quiet" little observances you can use to cleave to God throughout the day.

  • Say a few silent words of appreciation each time you eat something, each time you exit the bathroom, and when awaking, and before sleeping.
  • Set aside a fixed time for Jewish learning each day. (Even if you have no other books, borrow a Chumash from somewhere and work your way through the Hebrew as best you can. )
  • Put a charity box in your room and make a tiny donation whenever you can, for example before each Sabbath.
  • If you can add a few "overt" mitzvot without upsetting your family life, try lighting candles on Friday to welcome the Sabbath.

Can you find a mentor locally? If you live in a town with many synagogues, is there an orthodox rabbi you can call by phone for guidance?  

May you go from strength to strength!