We hope you enjoy this new, multi-installment virtual Farbrengen on the topic of peer pressure, presented by Chaya Mushka Kievman of Melbourne, Australia!

Part Three

Hi everyone at JGU, and so excited again to virtually farbreng with you. I hope you had an amazing Yom Tov.  To start our last session of our three-part exploration and discussion on peer pressure, I would like to pose a question to you:  How do clothes become “in fashion?”  You’d probably answer it’s when someone designs some article of clothing, decides that it’s the coolest thing in the world, then gets basically the whole world to wear it.  How does this have to do with peer pressure? It’s because this scenario is an example of peer pressure! Because people know that the rest of the world is wearing that dress, they do too; and so, the rest of the world also thinks that. Do they care about how expensive it is, and that they’re paying tenfold or more for it than regular clothes? Do they care if it looks on them ridiculously baggy or doesn’t suit them at all? This is the power of peer pressure. People are willing to break the bank, do crazy things, do things that they honestly don’t believe in, just because it’s ‘cool’ and everyone else is doing it. It’s a sad reality, but, on the flip side there’s an advantage to it, as we will soon see.
Everything, even something seemingly bad, can have some good coming out of it, or a lesson learnt from it. There are two examples of this: When Moshe Rabbeinu broke the Luchos, it seemed like a tragedy, yet it aroused B’nai Yisrael to return to Hashem and reach the level of Ba’alei Teshuva, which is higher than the level of Tzaddikim. It also brought about the giving of the second set of Luchos, which were a higher level than the first set of Luchos. This shows that even seemingly bad situations have good that can come out.  The students of the Baal Shem Tov once saw a man carving out a cross in the snowy ice. Instead of focusing on the negativity and unholiness the situation had, the Baal Shem Tov saw a lesson to be learnt from the event. ‘If a person is as apathetic and cold and not excited towards Yiddishkeit – like the ice – then this is what it  can lead to (chas v’shalom).  This brought about the lesson to have enthusiasm towards Yiddishkeit. We can therefore see that a lesson can be learnt  from everything. Why were these two examples brought up?

The past two sessions were mainly focusing on how peer pressure is bad, how bowing to it makes it bad for us in being the best person we can be. But can peer pressure be good? Can something that we need to supposedly only fight and stand up against be good, or have any good, like the examples we mentioned? The answer is yes, and it’s called positive peer pressure. It took one person’s influence in Paris to make a large part of the world wear a certain dress.  Imagine if one day someone got the courage to influence a large part of the Jewish world to wear a certain outfit that had a higher neckline, longer skirt and sleeve-length, and succeeded? Once things become the ‘in’ thing to do, no matter what it is, once there’s peer pressure to do it, it’s possible. And positive peer pressure does occur. In my school, there is a program called Pnimi and it’s all about self-improvement. And so many people, who you’d never imagine, took on hachlatos, joined the program, and made changes to their lives, because there was positive peer pressure to join.

My main point today is: We each have so much influence – small- or large-scale. Just because today a lot of the ‘trends’ that there are, are unkosher things, tomorrow they don’t have to be.  Get the girls in your class to thank your teacher instead of pranking her; get some friends to wear maxi skirts for a change instead of those skirts that barely skim the knee; get your neighbours to have a weekly shiur every Thursday night.  And the best way to make that change is by example.  So much power is in our hands, to raise the standard of our community, to make positive change, and to not only fight negative peer pressure but to transform it into positive peer pressure. And you can do it by saying no to that short skirt, changing the topic when there’s lashon hara spoken, or standing firm about going on an outing that’s appropriate for a Bas Yisroel. You have as much power as – lehavdil – that fashionista in Paris, to make the next trend.
I enjoyed so much farbrenging with you on this topic and gained as much as I hope you did.  I can’t wait to hear from you and hear what your opinion is on it. And… get excited for the next farbengen!