1 Sivan 5764
Chillul HaShem vs. Dealing with Old Friends
By Mrs. Chana Silver
I was standing on the corner of an intersection the other day, which happened to have been two major streets in a frum neighborhood. I was looking down waiting for my ride to come pick me up and I heard my name called out by the voice of a guy. I looked up, a little startled, because it’s been a while since I was friends with any guys, and saw a guy I used to be friends with – someone who is very much off the derech and it is well-known throughout the community. At that moment, there happened to have been a lot of people walking by and the streets were very busy. I didn’t want to brush the guy off because it would have made a chillul HaShem in my opinion but at the same time I couldn’t help but feel that people were watching me talk to this guy and that it would look bad on my part. I felt horrible thinking that way and felt like it was a shallow thing to think but the truth is that I had my “fun” in highschool and I have worked very hard on changing my inner and outer self and now I feel like I’ve cleaned up my reputation and for me to talk to this guy in public would damage what I’ve worked so hard to achieve. I felt especially bad after he walked away and I saw that this now very super-frum boy I used to be friends with too was hiding behind something (so we wouldn’t have to have an encounter) waiting for him. I watched them walk away, the frum boy wearing black, white and a black hat, walking on the street with the kid, not seeming to care what other people thought. The truth is, the frum boy is a boy and that makes a world of a difference but then when my ride came and I mentioned to the girl who picked me up that the boy I just spoke with asked for a ride somewhere (which happened to be in the opposite direction, so it didn’t work out) and she said she would have been happy to give it to him. I then felt even worse for thinking people were staring at us when others chose to walk on the street with him and give him rides.
Where does one draw the line with reputation and chillul HaShem? I’m starting to feel like frum neighborhoods are filled with people who talk about others all the time, and should I let that affect my decisions?
Name & Seminary withheld.
Dear Jemsem Reader,
It sounds like you are a young woman who has done alot of changing in the past few years. Let me commend you on that! To grow and develop ourselves in the framework of our Avodas Hashem is what life is all about on every level! The basic answer to your dilemma on the street corner that day that I would give you is that a person always has to be a mentch. If you see a guy from your previous life on the street, say hello in passing, acknowledge him, and then move on. You don’t need to be giving him rides or helping him out in any major way, but you don’t need to totally ignore him either. In the circumstance that you wrote about, I question if your friend should have given him the ride, [even if she would have been going in that direction] though she said she would have been happy to. I don’t think that would have been so appropriate. Every situation is obviously different and takes alot of thought or eitzah from someone, details can be vast and varied. The fact that the black hatter boy in your story was friendly and walking with him is fine and great. As you said it makes all the difference in the world that he is a boy! For a frum boy to be mekarev another boy or have what to do with him is probably a very good thing!
So here you are pitting yourself against two situational things that aren’t your deal at all. Yes, one does have to be careful and yes, others are watching, but the basic foundational thought to remember is where YOU are headed. Keep that picture of the more perfected you in your head at all times with the goals that you have set for yourself. With everything that comes your way, ask yourself “is this in line with who I am becoming?” If the answer is yes, so go for it, if not forego it. If you keep it straight in your mind who you want to be, sometimes the answers to these things can be easier and clearer.
I’m going to add a p.s. to this letter, though this was not your question. It seems that with girls who are going to various coed colleges mostly in the NY area, that they carpool with guys who also have classes at those times and who live in the same neighborhood as they do. I do not feel that this is acceptable. That is just the thing that someone who is staying separate from the opposite sex would want to stay away from. An hour drive there and an hour drive back several times a week certainly seems like excellent breeding ground for ‘friendships’ that shouldn’t be. If you want to date those guys, by all means, find someone who can set you up in a kosher v’yosher fashion, but stick to carpools with other females.
With Warmest Wishes,
Mrs. Chana Silver