The True Meaning of Z’chus Avo
“Nancy is a very special person,
a true individual and I truly feel lucky to be her friend. It
is rare to meet someone that is in touch enough with herself
that she can follow her own goals and dreams without being distracted
by forms of peer pressure.”
The fact that Nancy is deeply religious impressed me early on
in our friendship. I was impressed that this incredibly modern
woman held very strict religious traditions. Wherever we were
racing, she would lug her own kosher food and in an age where
everyone is on the phone, she refused to use the phone on Friday
nights and Saturday—and forget the car altogether. She
never made excuses or acted inconvenienced, she did these things
because they were part of her. . . . There was a confidence
about her that could not be shaken, and an inner strength which
PEER PRESSURE. We all know it; we have
all succumbed to it at some point in our lives. As a child we
may have pulled a
prank on our teacher that was totally out of line with our
true nature, only to be “cool.” As an adult we
may be focused on attaining wealth so we, too, can afford luxuries
build ourselves magnificent homes to keep up with our friends.
How many Jews who grew up religious abandoned
Judaism completely out of their compelling need not to be “different”?
Out of their desire to fit in with the crowd? The answer, unfortunately,
is: too many.
It is only natural to crave acceptance
among one’s peers,
to feel welcome, to be “normal.” Nancy was different.
Nancy had many friends. Her friends were Jewish and gentile;
religious and secular. Due to her passion for biking (not exactly
the most common sport among Orthodox Jews), Nancy frequently
found herself among non-Jews and non-religious Jews, in faraway
places. Nancy never hid from them or succumbed to fitting in.
When everyone went out to eat, Nancy went along. What would her
friends do when Nancy did not order anything? Why was Nancy not
eating? It didn’t matter. As Nancy used to say when pressed, “No
This is real strength. To be able to stand
up alone in a crowd of peers and declare “I am different!
I am a Jew!” demands
a unique inner strength. What is the source of this strength?
In our prayers, there is a theme that is
stressed over and over— Z’chus
Avos—the merit of our fathers (Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov).
We are constantly beseeching Hashem to forgive us for our sins—not
because we deserve to be forgiven—but because we have Z’chus
Avos. We are the children of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.