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My Orthodox Friend Cut Me Off!

My Orthodox Friend Cut Me Off!

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Question:

I'm not Jewish, but my best friend while growing up was. Our bond was unusual for teenagers and young adults. We had a real love and respect for each other.

In his mid 20's, he was drawn to Israel and eventually moved there. He became orthodox and is now actually a rabbi.

Not long after he began his spiritual journey, he shut me out of his life completely, but without a word or explanation. He did this quite abruptly and very insensitively. I decided to give him some space and wait for some correspondence.

I didn't hear a word from him for nine years, although he occasionally visited home not far from here.

Now he's been emailing me, he's married with kids, and wants to reconnect. It hurts, but I just don't want to deal with him.

My question is this: Because the collapse of our friendship coincided with his awakening religiosity, it has crossed my mind that maybe he was instructed either directly or indirectly to sever ties with old friends, particularly non-Jews.

Could this be possible? And if so, why would he now be trying to contact me?

Response:

Many of us have been through this. You fall in love with a different way of living, rituals, study — a whole new wave of life washes over you — and your only way to deal with it is by blocking out the rest of the world. I've seen it happen not only to people getting into their Judaism, but with musicians, artists, career people, politicians. Although, yes, religion may be the most encompassing of all.

It's a sign of an earnest personality, someone who puts his all into anything he does. You can't achieve a total immersion into anything without first letting go of everything else. Perhaps it was that same earnestness that allowed such a strong bond between the two of you in younger years. This is a person who, wherever he is, all of him is there.

So what has happened now? Simple: It's taken your friend nine years to get his feet back down on the ground. He's finally comfortable with where he is. And now he feels a need to get back to who he is and where he comes from.

I believe your friend's reaching back out to you is sincere. You can give him the benefit of the doubt. The world, the Jewish sages say, can be sustained only through forgiveness.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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zs brooklyn March 27, 2017

Thank you Rabbi Freeman For the clarity Reply

Lisa Providence, RI February 5, 2016

Orthodox Friend Wants to Reconnect You have to be honest with him by telling him how badly he hurt you by cutting you off without explanation. You can also ask if it was because you're not Jewish.

I agree with you that what he did to you wasn't a nice thing to do, but sometimes, people don't always realize how badly their decisions affect those around them. If you want nothing more to do with him, tell him straight out. Reply

Anonymous Pittsburgh, PA August 19, 2014

Linda "Learning Not To Make Assumptions" Linda,

I have been trying for so long to follow this advice properly. Communication is difficult, fear is strong, assumptions are hard to acknowledge as such, etc.

Yet when I see your words in action, things work out, and when I see them not in action, things often don't. Thank you for sharing. Reply

Igerne Paris, France February 21, 2011

life... I know where this person is going through for i've been there.
We often hurt people just because we're feeling insecure, the same way some people may hurt us because they don't feel comfortable.

I begun to change my way of life some years ago and I lost some friends in the road -some of them because they didn't feel ok with a Torah observant woman around them and others because they didn't belong to my world any longer.

But whenever there was a sincere and deep bond between us, we've reconnected and talked about what drove us apart and finally why it wasn't that important after all, because at the end of the day we are rediscovering each other.

So... yes I believe you should give your friend a chance. At worst, nothing will change and at best... you shall gain a new and deep relationship! :) Reply

RostikAviel port hueneme, ca via chabadofoxnard.com September 16, 2010

RE:when family cuts you off. Dear Anonymous!
You should know that the approach which your kids took is not necessarily the right one. We Jews have a good joke (that really is a true statement) ..."Where 2 Jews meet there will be 3 opinions" and such is the nature of our faith its very argumentative especially concerning ethics. But there is a general consensus that we must avoid hurting other people around us as all of us regardless of faith are G-D's creatures and sons and daughters of Adam and Eve so the Godly soul is within all of us. For further Talmudic justification of this statement (as your children won't accept anything less) I refer you to this website as well as askmoses .com, or Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi and see their response your issue is no less important than the one you have commented on
sincerely Reply

Anonymous Philadelphia, pa September 2, 2010

insight Great answer from the Rabbi. One personal addendum: as I was becomming observant many years ago, I was discussing the "perils" with one of my non- Jewish (non-white) friends. She said, "Just as my people have had to explore their roots to discover who we are, you have to, also. Just know that this may separate us in the interim." Reply

Anonymous NY, n July 29, 2010

This happens all of the time, people drift into different directions when they are adults. When we are children, teenagers and young adults our lives pretty much coincide with our peers but when we are adults we start to move in different directions, this really has nothing to do with religion. It is about the lives we choose to lead and most of the time it is not how others want to live their lives so we move in different directions. I am moving back home to NYC this month so that I can live my life Jewish with my son, my dad is Jewish but my mom was not so it is going to take a great deal of time, spiritual growth and learning to become the person I need to be. I have lost contact with friends from college but in the past few months, thanks to FB have found some of them and have a new found relationships as people in our forties, not the same relationships we had as single young women, jobs, careers, spouses, divorce, grandparent hood is the main topic of conversation. Reply

Rivka C. L.A. July 19, 2010

reflects the state of mind of the Orthodox friend If you have a non-Jewish friend (not of the opposite sex), & become religious, if the friendship is solid, it's unlikely you'd drop the friend just because of you aren't Jewish. My best friend today (other than my husband and my sister) is my non-Jewish college roommate. We are very different, but she's alway supported me, and I've tried to support her even though our lives are very different. However, when I became religious, I dropped many other friends, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Sometimes I just got too busy w/family & kids, or them with work. W/some, we just drifted apart b/c our lives diverged so much. & there are a few I dropped because they reallly were bad influences on my spiritual growth (gossiped incessantly, were exceptionally shallow, were promiscuous, stole money, etc.). You don't have to pick up the pieces with the friend, but if you choose to do so, try to be understanding if he gives you an explanation that moved him to drop contact with you in the 1st place. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY, USA June 22, 2010

it's life, not Judaism it sounds like this person still thinks of you. but you, on the other hand, don't want to deal with him. it is understandable but not very forgiving. i would give him a chance to tell me what happened. This happened to me a few times, when friends "left" and came back years later. it never brought our intense friendship back but at least, I got an idea of what the heck happened. Judaism does not instruct anyone to severe ties with gentiles. but people often grow apart. this happened with me and my Christian friends from school and college because they simply did not understand my thinking and I - theirs. But this happens in life all the time because people change and often not in the way we are. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA June 21, 2010

I'm pretty positive the Rabbi doesn't know this. He probably didn't even thing about it as "abandoning". He just got busy, and let everything and everyone else go to pot. I had a friend who NEVER called me, EVER, and never returned my calls; yet, when she did pick up, she was very HAPPY to hear from me. I had a standing invitation to come over her house on every holiday. She and her husband, when I had the divorce, took my sons under their wing and let them sleep over, took them to basketball games, etc. She had numerous physical ailments and had to go through it her way (alone, didn't want to bother anyone). I'm glad I stayed loving her until she died. I didn't care that she didn't call me when alive. She was into her own religion (Catholic). I didn't blame the religion. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA June 20, 2010

Carmen, not Lashon Hara for this reason... There are no names mentioned. There is only a SITUATION mentioned. Many of us go through this in real life. If any of the postings can help, then it is TIKKUN OLAM (rectifying the world). It will heal. Reply

Carmen June 20, 2010

To Anonymous, lod, Israel "Being non-Jewish is a poor justification for cutting off one's relations"

We don't know if this was the reason of the friend about whom these talkbacks are about. This is only the reason that his hurt friend *thinks* it is, but even he does not know what exactly happened.

The poor religious guy must be feeling his ears burning like fire.

I wish he knew this article and could give himself an answer, because otherwise this could border Lashon Hara ("evil talk," slander).

Am I wrong? Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA June 20, 2010

I don't understand the mindset... With me, it is my youngest son who, when he left for college, completely cut me out of his life. In his MIND, he didn't. He just got busy, that's all. When asked why I hadn't heard from him and why he never responded to my letters, phone calls or emails he said, "Don't worry Mom. If you don't hear from me, it means I'm ok." If I see him once a year, that is rare. When he sees me, he acts like no time has elapsed and still talks about things from over 20 years ago as if they just happened. When I try to discuss with him my feelings, he says I'm laying a guilt trip on him, and that is why he doesn't contact me. So, to those who say to try to communicate, it may not be so easy. The new Rabbi may be in denial of ever having abandoned the friend. Reply

Saul Indianapolis June 20, 2010

To Gregory Shalom.

I totally agree with you. Reply

Anonymous lod, Israel June 19, 2010

cutting off his friend I am Jewish and I have been living in Israel since 1980. And yet it DID NOT CROSS MY MIND to cut off a friend of my youth. I fully empathize with the writer. Being non-Jewish is a poor justification for cutting off one's relations.
Of course, I might be prejudiced. I come from Poland and my family had been rescued by Polish woman. She risked her life and her 2 year old baby to save quite a number of JEWS!! Reply

Linda Cincinnati, OH June 18, 2010

Learning not to make assumptions In my family growing up, we were supposed to just guess when we had hurt someone's feelings and fix the problem without any discussion. That system didn't work. People are so different that even if you can imagine what you would feel in another person's shoes you can never really guess what they know or think. I have learned that it is better not to make assumptions and to talk things out. I think you should tell your friend that he hurt your feelings and ask him what happened. Ask him what has changed now and request some honest communication in the future. You might want to make some ground rules that respect the feelings and traditions of both of you.
Good Luck :-) You can never have too many friends or too few enemies. Reply

Roger Cold Lake, Alberta June 18, 2010

Forgiveness I have never heard that saying about forgiveness before ...... It is so beautiful I will always remember it. Reply

Chanoch Miami Beach, FL June 18, 2010

Orthodox friend An alternative label to the behavior of cutting all ties is fanaticism...all of us are capable of this and religions have demonstrated millenia of fanaticism. I agree with your recommendation that forgiveness is important. We liberate ourselves from the mundane by forgiving others AS WELL AS ourselves. So, forgive...but I would be cautious about "restoring" the relationship or thinking that it can be just like it was. Remember and do not forget. Reply

Gregory D. metzger Los Angeles, CA June 18, 2010

A new wave of life Rabbi Tzvi,

This story is beautiful because the Rabbi finds his way back to his friend with a full heart and spirit. Unfortunately, some get lost while seeking to find. For me, the deeper my connection with G-d’s Torah, the more I find Him in this world, in friends, work, community, in my daily life.

The delusion that I can find G-d, by separating from the world, is the persistence of the illusion that this world is separate from G-d.

As your whole new wave of life washes over you, may you be a wave of hope and inspiration that elevates, not isolates the world about you.

Peace and Blessings, Reply

Marc Louis fredericton, canada June 18, 2010

Rabbis perfect? & Wine I suspect that the only activity your friend would have been instructed on, is not share wine with you, beer and whiskey being ok. it’s an old rule, and probably sounds stupid, but it’s there.

Also, Rabbis while having a great deal of knowledge are human and do make errors in judgment.

You obviously miss your friend or you wouldn’t be reaching out here. get on the phone. Reply

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