Question:

How can I get my son who is in his twenties to connect with and see the relevance of Judaism in his life? I worry about any strong attempts backfiring and turning him totally off. How do I get my wife to see the importance of observing Judaism? She finds paying high membership dues at synagogues or paying for High Holiday service tickets objectionable, hence we are not affiliated at present.

Over the past year I have attempted to improve my knowledge of Judaism through reading many books, visiting various Jewish websites including Chabad.org. If I knew 25 years ago what I know now I would have been more observant and insisted that my son continue his Jewish education beyond Hebrew school and preparation for his Bar Mitzvah...

Answer:

You are writing at the right time of year. We're in the Ten Days of Teshuvah, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Teshuvah means to return. Most of all, the message of teshuvah is that it's never too late.

Not just never too late for you to return home, but never too late to rewrite the narrative of your own life, including your impact on those closest to you.

Parents and children remain connected long after the umbilical cord is broken. What happens in the child has a deep effect in the parent, even if that parent lives on the other side of the planet, overtly unaware of what is going on with his or her child.

And vice-versa: As a parent makes changes in his or her life, the child at some subliminal level feels it and is changed. We imagine ourselves as loose particles in the air, but we are all deeply connected, more like the molecules of a thick, moving fluid, or like the cells of a single body. There's some point inside us from which our children never left, they still reside firmly there and accompany us in all that we do.

It's a wonderful thing that you are learning and growing in your knowledge of Torah. I'm sure that has already had a positive impact on you and your entire family. Perhaps now is time to start growing, albeit step-by-step, in practice, as well.

The good news is that Judaism is not an all-or-nothing practice; it is a structure with many entrance points and stairways. You begin with small and easy mitzvahs, like the mezuzah or tefillin or just putting a few coins in a charity box each day. It's not how much you do or where and when you arrive—what matters is just that you are growing, moving, alive.

Just start with something small and see where it leads you. Something that won't drive the rest of the family nuts. Something that just enhances your life and your home as it is already. Perhaps you should look at this and get some ideas.

As long as you avoid moralizing to your son and wife—and from your tone, I'm confident you're not the type for that—they will be affected by your mitzvahs. Not just by your example and by the inner joy you have from doing these things, but most of all in a deep, subconscious way.

As for your non-affiliation, there are alternatives to the high-membership dues. Most Chabad Houses do not charge a membership fee. Click here to find the center nearest you.

Keep in touch, and have a sweet, good year.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org