Dear Stranger,

You talk about how dangerous loshon horo is, and tell me how careful we must be when discussing those who aren’t in the room. But what about those who are in the room?

When I sit across the shabbes table from you, I do not want to be asked about my parents’ divorce. I don’t want to answer questions about which family members I’m closest to. I’m not interested in sharing personal details about what aveiros I did before I became frum. And believe it or not, your endless questions about what it’s like having a non Jewish father do not come across as concerned, but rather they display a sense of schadenfreude which makes me feel sick. Likewise, I don’t welcome your advice on shidduchim for me, when I’ve told you I’m not looking, and I don’t need a stranger’s opinion on where I should live, whether or not I should quit my job, or what university to go to.

You know full well that if I wasn’t there, discussing these things would be loshon horo. So why don’t you stop and realise that asking me them is onaas devorim- a transgression of the prohibition against speaking harshly and upsetting others?

You’re well versed in halacha, you cover your hair fully, you wouldn’t dream of breaking shabbes. You’re the woman in the queue in the supermarket, the guest sitting next to me at Seuda Shlishis, the friend of a friend who I’ve just met at the shul kiddush. You talk about pure speech, you talk about the dangers of smartphones, and you talk about the importance of tznius.

But there’s nothing refined about the way you talk to my face and the questions you ask in front of a room full of people. There’s nothing heimishe or warm or loving about making me feel like the subject of an interrogation, or an animal in the zoo.

Because of you, I dread talking about my life. I feel ashamed. I feel alone. I feel like I’ll never fit in. Because of you, I step away from the Shabbes table to hide my misty eyes. And I want you to know that Hashem counts my tears, and hears every word you say. So be careful, and think twice before you open your mouth to the next person sitting across from you at the Shabbes table – our lives are not soap operas to be pored over, just because we are less fortunate than you.

Yours sincerely,
A fed up Baal Teshuva

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