Expectations vs Reality

At 10:59 on Saturday morning, in a studio off of Union Square, my yoga teacher was settling into her mat, as students put blocks under their bottoms, folded their legs, kissed palms, and took a deep breath in, to power up a ringing oooooommmmm.

At 10:59 on the same Saturday morning, I was sitting in my yoga pants and my tshirt and my sports bra (if this was a different type of site, I would be writing whole posts about the bra-ing of pregnant breasts), frozen in traffic twenty miles outside of the city.

I was pissed. I had been buoyed all morning with a sense of righteousness and pride that I WAS going to make it to yoga that morning. I had pushed past the relentless desire for ten more minutes, just ten more minutes, now ten more minutes of delicious weekend sleep, done what needed to be done, gotten into the car fifteen minutes earlier than I even needed to, and then, god lachting at my trachting* , found myself in middle of paralyzed gridlock.

My teeth were clenched. My hands gripped the steering wheel. My ankle tensed, ready to jump to gas. I was so freaking annoyed. For about 40 minutes.

I didn’t make it to yoga on Saturday.  But, I did make it to the yoga studio on Sunday, for a workshop on yoga for pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. One of the things we talked about, that resounded deeply for me, was the basic Buddhist idea that suffering is often caused by a lack of acceptance or an aversion to reality. We hold on to our expectations so tightly, and when reality doesn’t match them (and when, really, does it?), we refuse to adjust or accept this or deal with this, instead, like me sitting furious in my car that day before, our blood pressure rises, our muscles tense up and we suffer.

To eliminate my Saturday morning suffering, once I realized there was a bigger chance of a snowball freezing in hell than me making it to yoga, I should have accepted that reality, and begun figuring out how I was going to deal with that. Should I go home? Should I go to the afternoon class? Should I go to Barnes and Noble, etc…, instead of sitting, stewing and resisting the reality.

It’s a tiny example of a much more profound idea.

It’s particularly resonant for me, as someone who always planned to be a part of the religious community, to marry at eighteen, and a have gigantic family. It took a very long time to accept that wasn’t going to happen, to stop resisting the reality of where I found myself in actuality. I spent a good few years relinquishing my power to self-direct my life, because I was too busy obsessing over how it wasn’t what I thought it should be.

Acceptance isn’t the same as approval. It’s just a first step, an honest admission of what actually is, that, almost paradoxically, can then free us to move forward in the direction of where we want to go.

* Mentch tracht uhn Gott lacht – Yiddish ‘man plans, god laughs’

What about you? How does your general reality match up to your expectations? If the present isn’t what you thought it would be, is it easy or hard to accept that?

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Author: FreiFem (95 Articles)

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  1. I find it quite odd that you seem to be celebrating the fact that you left Shabbos observance but yet you are writing specifically about the suffering of running around on Shabbos caught in the regular every day stress of the week.

    I hate to be so frank but I really feel that you are a hero to no one but yourself. Even worse, deep down in your neshama you are not even a hero to yourself but then you write and make it all sound so cute and poetic and that helps to cover up the pain. Anyone with an ounce of spiritual depth knows that running to Yoga on Shabbos morning will do more damage to your spiritual(and physical) health than sitting at home and davening and then having a wonderful seuda full of singing, divrei Torah, laughter and nachas from family. We all know that the Jews don’t keep Shabbos but Shabbos keeps the Jews. Keeps the Jews alive, warm, vibrant and real.

    I feel your aura. It shines through all your writings. It is so dark, so lonely, so confused. Your darkness shines out brightly- like cold shafts of broken glass. There is nothing redeeming in your words. No real humanism. No heroism.

    You left the world of truth, of Torah, of holiness, of oneness with the Creator of the Universe for some shallow, NYC, NY Times, ditsy, amorphous agnosticism. I cannot think of anything less interesting. NYC is a sewer and you celebrate drowning in it. I feel so bad for you. It is a road to nowhere. And I pray that your pintele Yid gets so fed up with the shallowness of this “life” that you come back to yourself and are able to once again reconnect with your essence, with your holy neshama. May G-d bless you.

  2. Emes Rocker, congratulations. Yasher koach. You’ve convinced me to be mechalel shabbos b’farhesia just to cleanse myself of your smug, sanctimonious claptrap.

    What happens if someone has an ounce–or even two–of spiritual depth, and they decide their spirit responds better to yoga than to Shabbos? They’re obviously wrong, aren’t they? God, I wish I had your clarity. Marching with a smile on your face, in lock-step with all the other robots and ditto-heads, humming ‘kol mekadesh shvii’ off-key.

    Oy.

    Anyway – nice post, FF. And by all means, please write a whole post about your pregnant breasts. :p

  3. Question you asked: What happens if someone has an ounce–or even two–of spiritual depth, and they decide their spirit responds better to yoga than to Shabbos?

    Answer: You can probably do some yoga on Shabbos as long as you are not driving to a yoga class. You can do it in your own home. Why not? You also have six other days to do yoga. Shabbos is another dimension entirely.

    Why is it that anyone who does not possess the moral ambiguity of the NY Times is automatically made fun of as “smug, sanctimonious claptrap?”

    Do people on this website who “leave” their traditional Jewish upbringing automatically turn into upper west side Jewish liberals?

    That does not sound too heroic to me.

    Just because you personally may not believe in certain absolutes that does not mean that others who do not share your confusion should be labeled as “sanctimonious”

    As for the ditto heads who march in step like robots–what does that have to do with anything? The Torah is the Torah, Shabbos is Shabbos. Just because there are many shallow people who follow it does not in any way take away from its truth.

    What can I do? The truth is the truth. No one said it was always going to be easy to hear. Nonetheless, this “Freifem” is so blatantly troubled that how can a decent person not try and help.

    I hope that you reconsider your threat to be mechalel Shabbos. You are hurting no one but yourself. I know I sound sanctimonious–but I am what I am. Who are you?

    May G-d bless you with only peace and love.

  4. Funny, Emes Rocker, how the act of brushing against someone’s
    raw nerve will often produce a surge of bitter hostility coupled with
    lashings of grotesque cynicism. These types are so lost inside
    themselves, so out of touch with their neshamot that they seem
    beyond redemption. Perhaps they had it shoved down their
    throats growing up, and were forced simply to accept rather than
    question – a most unenlightened approach. I hope one day they can
    overcome their resentment, their bitterness. I hope that one day
    they can forge a more moderate path for themselves, where
    Yiddishkeit is not viewed as a yoke around ones neck.

    M path for themselves,’

  5. Shabbos is Shabbos. The Torah is the Torah. You have to believe and follow because you have to believe and follow.

    If you’re inside, that makes perfect sense.

    If you step outside for half a second, you see the holes, the cracks, the flaws – both in the logic and in the people.

    You want to know who I am? I am a person who respects everyone’s right to choose. If you choose to be shomer torah umitzvos, I respect that. If FF chooses not to be, i respect that, too.

    Shaking your head and clucking about our neshamos and our olom habo and our ‘true’ natures is all pointless. If you’re inside, it’s everything. And if you’re outside, it’s vapor.

    Try to put yourself in FF’s shoes and see what happens.

  6. I have been outside and I have been inside. I have lived and worked in the secular world my whole life. I have met world leaders and some of the biggest power brokers in this country. I have a perspective that goes far beyond Brooklyn.

    I know this is not what you want to hear but I will say it anyway because we are all brothers.

    There is no question that if one takes his/her living the Torah life seriously, living on the inside is a life of real depth, beauty and truth. There is no system of life that gives one a deeper sense of G-dliness, Oneness with the universe and simchas HaChaim. But you have to choose to do the Torah seriously. You can’t be a Flatbush minyon hopper or a Emporio mannican.

    You have to seriously strive to be close to Hashem through learning Torah and doing mitzvos. It is hard work. It is irrelevant if your parents did it, or if they did not do it. It is not an inheritance. You have to be a seeker. Someone who wants to grow.

    Granted we all know that there are people in the Torah world who are far from perfect. No need to dwell on that. There are also many truly chushuv, baalei chesed, baalei tzedaka, chochomim and nashim tzidkanious of the likes that are far beyond what you will ever see living “outside”.

    You were given diamonds. Perhaps they had some flaws. Nonetheless they are still diamonds. Don’t choose tin.

    I believe that in the long run you will be more disillusioned in the so called “outside” world than you ever were on the inside. Nonetheless, I wish you great success in finding and maintaining deep happiness.

  7. Emes Rocker, I wonder about your intent; why do you bother to comment on these articles? Are you trying to be mekarev the writers? If so, your posts may be pushing them away even more. They echo the world left behind and the reasons for leaving that world. If your intent is to give mussar, you’re probably doing more harm than good. This is not the audience, and preaching will get you nowhere.
    You may want to change your tune a bit and first try to undestand them.

    On the other hand, maybe reading these articles makes you feel uncomfortable, and posting is your way of defending yourself from that. If so, you may want to ask youself where the discomfort is coming from.

    Bottom line is, if you are a true ohev yisrael and want nothing but the best for the writers on this site, you’re probably better off having them in mind in your tfillos and using your time online to read divrei torah or something instead of reading this site.

  8. >It is irrelevant if your parents did it, or if they did not do it.

    Ah well, you overlook Miller’s discourse on “Tefillos tzadik ben tzadik” or perhaps you are lacking as a Millerphile too.

  9. Emes Rocker, I have been analyzing many of your comments on this site, and I am saddened. I am saddened that an individual with your intelligence is so caught up in the nonsense of pseudo-spirituality through “doing mitzvos and striving to be close to Hashem.”

    I don’t know your age, but you’re either very young or very troubled. You seem to have left the secular world because your life was meaningless there. The problem is that in order to find meaning you’ve embraced a hokus-pokus fairy-tale world of Superhuman Beings, and a system of nonsensical rules that supposedly please said Being.

    I’ve known many Baalei Teshuva in my lifetime. And the pattern, unfortunately, is a tragic one. Many BTs embrace Judaism with the zeal of the newly converted only to become deeply disillusioned after several years. I pray that you realize it sooner rather than later. I fear, however, that even if you were to discover the nonsense of Halachic Judaism, you lack the courage to switch to a more sensible lifestyle. Or you might fear the mockery and scorn of all around you for yet another lifestyle change. I sympathize; truly, I do. It’s a hard choice to make. But it isn’t reason enough to waste away a life in darkness and superstition.

    I suspect also, since you seem obsessed with this website, that there is something threatening to you about frum people who leave frumkeit. I suspect that’s because at heart you know they’re right. My heart aches for you, my brother, for sinking ever deeper into the medieval darkness of the shulchan aruch when you realize full well the futility of that lifestyle. It must be deeply painful to see other intelligent men and women making choices for themselves and exercising the freedom they were naturally given to live meaningful lives. But fear not, my brother, it’s never too late. I know it’s a difficult choice, but it is the brave and courageous step to take. May you be guided by true wisdom — the wisdom of human spirit, of courage — to make the right choices for you and the people you love.

  10. Thank you for your concern. Nonetheless, I humbly think that you are probably not a psychologist as all of your assessments are incorrect.

    YOU SAID: You seem to have left the secular world because your life was meaningless there. The problem is that in order to find meaning you’ve embraced a hokus-pokus fairy-tale world of Superhuman Beings, and a system of nonsensical rules that supposedly please said Being.

    EMES: No one actually leaves the secular world. I wish I could leave it more. My life has never been meaningless. Torah and mitzvos has just given it added depth and wisdom. I love Torah. I love swimming in the sea of Talmud. I love davening. I love constant spiritual infusion of living a halachic life. I wish I could be better at all of the above.

    YOU SAID: and a system of nonsensical rules that supposedly please said Being.

    EMES: Rambam, Ramban, Maharal, Chasom Sofer, Rav SR Hirsch, Rav M. Feinstein. I think I am in good company intellectually and you are the one who has to prove these giants wrong. I am an intellectual ant compared to our sages who believe in all of this more than I do.

    YOU SAID:I suspect also, since you seem obsessed with this website, that there is something threatening to you about frum people who leave frumkeit. I suspect that’s because at heart you know they’re right.

    EMES: Good question why I am spending so much time here. First of all I think that it is a really wicked thing to make a movement of off the derech Jews. If an individual like Hasidic Rebel or Frei Fem has a problem with Yiddishkeit why can’t they just keep it to themselves? Just because someone likes to eat poison does not mean they have to make a website for the worlds poison eaters.

    Trying to influence others to do evil is a really bad career choice. I would not want to be in their shoes in this world or the next.

    Second of all, since I have a talent for writing I figured this is a good place to use it where I can help people.

    May G-d bless you my brother.

  11. “Thank you for your concern.”

    You’re welcome. I am still deeply concerned.

    “Nonetheless, I humbly think that you are probably not a psychologist as all of your assessments are incorrect.”

    But they are correct, as is obvious to anyone reading your comments. I understand that it’s difficult to realize that. But the burden of proof is on you. You must prove that a) I am not a psychologist, b) that my assessments are wrong. But even if you do prove that I’m wrong, I still will not accept it. Because I believe, proudly, that I am right, as I’ve said earlier. And anyone reading this with only a drop of sense will realize it.

    “I love swimming in the sea of Talmud.”

    Just don’t drown in it! Haha. (Just kidding. I mean, no, don’t drown, but of course, you can’t really… ANyways, getting off track…)

    “I love Torah. … I love davening. I love constant spiritual infusion of living a halachic life. I wish I could be better at all of the above.”

    You poor poor thing. I realize this might sound condescending (and believe me, I don’t mean to be!) but my heart really does go out to you. It’s like the adult who never got over his childhood belief in Santa Claus, and you just want to shake him and say, “Man, think! It’s just a nice little children’s story!” But of course, sometimes we’re so enthralled by the myth that we simply can’t give it up. I understand, truly, I do. But still, my heart aches for you, my dear dear brother.

    “Rambam, Ramban, Maharal, Chasom Sofer, Rav SR Hirsch, Rav M. Feinstein. I think I am in good company intellectually and you are the one who has to prove these giants wrong.”

    I once heard a good p’shat about why we Jews do hold by the Argument from Authority,” even thought it is a logical fallacy. It’s because only the Umois Ha’oilom, the descendants of Bil’am, who had no respect for the authority of Moishe Rabeinu and therefore had to submit to the authority of his ass, can come up with an idea that relying on big names in an argument is a “fallacy of defective induction.”

    But that’s a false pshat. Think about it. Because neither Moishe nor Bil’am likely ever existed, and therefore to build a p’shat on non-existent beings makes no sense. Unless it’s d’rush. Because d’rush doesn’t have to be logical, as we know, “Ein meshivin lidrush.” But that causes further problems, as I’m sure you know.

    “I am an intellectual ant compared to our sages who believe in all of this more than I do.”

    Lulei demistafina, I will say that they too were intellectual ants. But of course, I am not mistafina, and therefore I will say it. That does not mean, mind you, that I disrespect those very great gedoilim. But the burden of proof is on you that a) I disrespected them, b) that they weren’t secret apikorsim, c) that if they knew about and believed in evolution and Reb Avigdor Miller would’ve known about it, he wouldn’t hold from them.

    “Good question why I am spending so much time here.”

    Yes, that was the question, in case it wasn’t clear.

    “I think that it is a really wicked thing to make a movement of off the derech Jews.”

    For real? Wicked? That’s a strong word, my brother. I’m not quite sure I can agree with you on this.

    “If an individual like Hasidic Rebel or Frei Fem has a problem with Yiddishkeit why can’t they just keep it to themselves?”

    Ok, I see what you’re getting at. And I think it’s a good question. Indeed, why can’t they keep it to themselves? Funny, I wonder why it never occurred to me to ask.

    “Just because someone likes to eat poison does not mean they have to make a website for the worlds poison eaters.”

    Well, yes, that’s true. But only for poison. Or do you mean that Unpious is poison? Or did you mean that “Unpious” is an almost-anagram of “poison”? I’m not sure what you mean. Can you tell me what you mean?

    “Trying to influence others to do evil is a really bad career choice. I would not want to be in their shoes in this world or the next.”

    LOL. (I love your dry sense of humor…!)

    (I’m assuming you meant to be funny, right? …or –yikes, maybe you were serious…? But you do know that to believe in a “next world” is kind of ludicrous, right? Or do you think the burden of proof is on me to prove it doesn’t exist? I don’t think that’s quite fair. How would I know for sure it doesn’t exist?)

    “Second of all, since I have a talent for writing…”

    Talent for writing? Me too!!! Gosh, we can start a writer’s club! Yippee! Email me.

    “I figured this is a good place to use it where I can help people.”

    I have to say, I don’t know what you mean. By getting them to believe in your superstitions? If so, I have to put this quite strongly: Even if Halachic Judaism is right for you, why can’t you just keep it to yourself? To paraphrase your own so clever analogy (which I only realize now was an analogy! Haha!): Just because someone likes to eat poison does not mean they have to convince all the world to eat it with them!

    “May G-d bless you my brother.”

    ROFL. May the Flying Spaghetti Monster bless you too. Mwah! Peace and love.

  12. I just can’t figure out why you schlep into the city to go to yoga. There are no yoga studios near your house? Seems that would be much more in line with “accepting reality (of where you live)” than fighting traffic and not getting to do yoga.

  13. The Real Emes,

    I have to assume that most of what you replied to my post was comedy. If chas v’ shalom I am wrong and you really believe what you wrote, my only question to you would be “Is your real name Adolf?

    It is impossible that a Jewish neshama like yours can be wrapped in darkness this tight. I have seen the yetzer hara at work and it can make great people do really dumb things but the darkness that is pouring forth in your last post is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Therefore I have to judge you favorably and just assume you are playing devils advocate and that you have a very dark and twisted sense of humor.

    I once heard a story about Rav Shlomo Wolbe ZTL. Someone walked up to Rav Wolbe after an inspiring speech he gave and thanked him and told him it was really great. Rav Wolbe looked at him and said that everything he said could easily be knocked down if someone just laughed at his words for a couple of seconds.

    Laitzonus is very powerful. One of the most effective tools liberals use is that they make jokes and humor about serious issues. All the late night comedians do this. Instead of dealing with serious issues, they crack jokes.

    Please remember, the last time there was a serious deflection of Frum people from Torah observance was in the beginning of the 20th century. Many Jews fell hook, line and sinker for secular liberalism, socialism and secular zionism. I have heard from the Gedolim of that time that most of the Jews before WWII were anti Torah and non observant.

    We all know what the fate of European Jewry was. My friends, lets not repeat the same mistake.

    May G-d bless you with everything you need.

  14. I actually think about this often. Since most of my time is spent taking care of my kids, this issue comes up most often in reference to that. When I drive by other people’s houses, I picture a loving mother and father inside, laundry neatly and promptly folded, dinner on the table at 6pm every night. I imagine moms taking their kids to the park 3 times a week, freshly sliced organic apples in tow. In my head, everyone else has it all figured out. I’m the only one that hasn’t taught her almost 4 year old to read, arrives 5 minutes late to ballet class, and has a pile of unfolded laundry. Every so often I’ll tell myself this will be “perfect week”. Dinner from scratch on the table every night, I’ll remember to bring my son’s water bottle to his soccer game on Saturday, we’ll take a trip to a museum on Sunday, and of course, I’ll take them to the park, with said sliced apples. Of course, when I think rationally I know that this is all a fantasy. Nobody’s reality is perfect all the time. Even simple everyday life involves so many details, sometimes including factors we have no control over (such as traffic in your case), that there is no way it can measure up to our fantasy . Sometimes a while goes by where everything goes perfectly, but that is not the reality most of the time.

    Being able to lower our expectations and make peace with reality is a good idea, and it’s definitely something I need to work on. Coming to some type of truce with reality is necessary in order to navigate life without constant disappointment. On the other hand, if we just accept everything as it is, wouldn’t we become too accepting of the way things are and not strive to improve our lives, ourselves, and the world in general? It reminds me of the concept of gam zu l’tova. Take this misery, imagine God wanted this for you, (which in turn should make you want this for yourself), and you’ll be fine with whatever is handed to you. For those that truly believe, and put all their faith in God, reality shouldn’t be as upsetting, because after all, isn’t everything gam zu l’tova? In reality how many people are truly content accepting life’s inconveniences that God throws at them? Also, like I mentioned before, shouldn’t we strive to make things better rather than accept reality as it is?

    I’m hoping there is some type of in-between, where we can be aware and somewhat accepting of life’s inconveniences, yet not become too comfortable in our misery.

  15. Emes Rocker. To reply to the Korach here would be the equivalent of casting pearls before swine. This is clearly a twisted and malevolent creature whose connection to emes is tenuous at best. Let it revel in its delusional little bubble of reality. No telling what it could do if you rock that boat to hard.

  16. “my only question to you would be ‘Is your real name Adolf?'”

    Adolf? No. Why do you ask?

    Oh — Wait. That Adolf? Gosh no. My dear brother, how can you even think that? I sit here in the silence of my apartment, stunned, and all I can do is weep. For a Jew to descend so low to accuse another Jew of being named Adolf. (Cold shudder!) What has happened to our loving frum bretheren?

    “It is impossible that a Jewish neshama like yours can be wrapped in darkness this tight. I have seen the yetzer hara at work and it can make great people do really dumb things but the darkness that is pouring forth in your last post is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Therefore I have to judge you favorably and just assume you are playing devils advocate and that you have a very dark and twisted sense of humor.”

    Again, ER, you make me very sad. I am deeply troubled at the shocking and hurtful things you say. My “neshama” wrapped in darkness so thick you can cut with a knife? (My god, such a vivid image; you really are a writer!)

    ER: your behavior is very much against the spirit of Torah! The Torah says to love every Jew with all our heart, and I’m so very afraid that your words here are not in keeping with the Torah’s spirit. I must give you the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard, very hard. Because your words seem so hateful, so hurtful, so damning, that… (Gosh, I feel I can’t go on…)

    “Rav Wolbe looked at him and said that everything he said could easily be knocked down if someone just laughed at his words for a couple of seconds.”

    Rav Shlomo was a very wise man. I’m sure he stayed away from websites where leitzim would’ve torn his words to shreds with only a few seconds of laughter.

    But I do thank you for the heartwarming tale. Can you share more? (Also, I too have loads of tales of saintly gedoilim, which I can share if you’d like. Let me know.)

    “Laitzonus is very powerful. One of the most effective tools liberals use is that they make jokes and humor about serious issues. All the late night comedians do this.”

    I know. That’s so true. Like you, I too love liberals. For the same reason. Those conservatives are so humorless!

    As an aside, I’m glad you find my laitzonus effective. You know, the gemara says in Maseches Megilla: Kol leitznusa asira, bar mileitznusa d’avoda zara. So I thought of a little chiddush, just a little vort — if I may: All leitzonus is forbidden, except for “leitznusa d’avoda zara,” i.e. leitzonis that comes from avoida zara! (Do you khap?) Unfortunately, nowadays we’re not zoiche to real avoida zara, so the closest we come to is kefira and apikorsus. But — Spaghetti Monster willing, (as we Pastafarians say) — when moshiach comes we’ll be zoiche to full-fledged paganism and idolatry, and then we’ll be zoiche to real leitzanus! And we’ll be mekayem the pasuk, “Az yimaleh se’chok pinu!” THEN our mouths will be filled with laughter! (Geshmake vort, huh?)

    But I digress…

    “I have heard from the Gedolim of that time that most of the Jews before WWII were anti Torah and non observant.”

    Is that what the gedoilim of that time said? Hmmm… Did they really?

    Anyway, as we all know (and I’m sure you know this too; you’ve probably heard it from the gedoilim), all those anti-Torah Jews were killed by the Nazis, and all the frum ones were saved.

    (Wait… Is that right? I might have my facts wrong. Let me check and get back to you.)

    “May G-d bless you with everything you need.”

    ROFL. (You crack me up, ER!)

  17. oh god peoples. get a life – you wanna be frei be frei. you wanna be BT be BT. but remember the most important thing is happiness. If you cant look at yourself in the morning and accept your decision and be happy with them then remember its YOU in the mirror.

    You dont need to change anyone else life unless your lubavitch (its a JK – i am lubavitch)

  18. ER: your behavior is very much against the spirit of Torah! The Torah says to love every Jew with all our heart, and I’m so very afraid that your words here are not in keeping with the Torah’s spirit. I must give you the benefit of the doubt, but it’s hard, very hard. Because your words seem so hateful, so hurtful, so damning, that

    There is no mitzvah to love a mumar lihachis.

    I pray you are just being sarcastic and humorless. Nonetheless in a public forum it is not kosher.

    I wish you a refuah shlaima.

    EMES

  19. Emes Rocker, I read in one of your above posts that you are trying to help people.
    You are not, in fact, helping. The resentment people have towards your presence here is quite palpable, and you are likely pushing them further away.

    Instead of attempting to understand why people would leave the world you find so much meaning and fulfillment in, you chide them to return- all the while reminding them of the resons they left. Meaning and fulfillment are subjective experiences, and just because you have found them in Orthodox Judaism doesnt mean that others have. In fact, I have been Orthodox all my life and know plenty of practicing frum people who do not find fulfillment in what they do. (to this, you would probably respond “that’s probably because they don’t do it right.” this is an unfalsifiable statement).

    Seriouly, the best way you can help is to say tehillim and learn in the hopes that they return. If not, maybe try borrowing a page from any good kiruv organizations’s playbook: kugel, cholent, carlebach, and unconditional acceptance.

  20. Dear Zee:

    Thank you so much for your comment, for sharing about your life and your experiences, which I think we all sympathize with!

    To respond to your point about balance, I don’t think acceptance is the same as inertia. To make an extreme example, a central tenant of AA and a lot of similar programs, is that participants “accept” that they are addicts. The reasoning being that you can’t begin to get to a better place if you aren’t willing to face where you are starting from. I think it’s a similar idea: accept where you actually are, but use that as a the ‘first chapter’ to what happens next, not the ‘last’!

    What do you think?

  21. “* Mahn tracht uhn Gott lacht – Yiddish ‘man plans, god laughs’”

    Not to quibble but I believe the saying actually goes like this: “Ah mentsch tracht uhn Gutt lacht.” I know. It’s one of my favorites. I first heard it from a Holocaust survivor years ago when I was interviewing him for a documentary I was working on. Oddly, my parents never said it. They must have thought it, it’s gripping Yiddish gallows humor, but they would not have dared utter it out loud.

    Otherwise, nice essay :).

  22. “Do people on this website who “leave” their traditional Jewish upbringing automatically turn into upper west side Jewish liberals?”

    If only, Emes Rocker. I can’t afford the Upper West Side!

    How about an Upper West Side liberal who takes her Judaism very seriously? Can you handle that?

  23. “First of all I think that it is a really wicked thing to make a movement of off the derech Jews.”

    I’m not off the derech. I’m just off YOUR derech!

  24. hah- love it, J.
    I often use the phrase “the community” to refer to the frum world, and I think I’m making the same error – why is it “the community” as if I don’t have other communities, as if other communities don’t exist?

    The words we use make such a difference in how we’re shaping the issues.

  25. This is a clear misunderstanding of human nature. In the secular world where they are trying to blur distinctions in the name of political correctness, men and women are considered the same except for different plumbing.

    The Torah is about distinctions: men/women, shabbos/weekday,
    holy/profane, Yisroel/umos haolam, darkness/light etc…

    Once you understand that you can start to begin to understand the very real need for all of the Torahs viewpoints on men and women.

    The strange caricature that Frei Fem here writes about is someone who has no concept of Torah’s philosophy on marriage, women, beauty etc…

    Unfortunately many who live in the “frum” community have never been taught properly the Torahs view. Hence you could possibly wind up with an essay like Frei Fem wrote. It is sad.

    And yes J, you can be a good Jew on the Upper West Side. Lots of fine people there. Not sure what you mean by being a liberal though…liberal on what subjects?

  26. Emes Rocker, suffice it to say that my family and I are committed Jews. We learn, we study, we are strong supporters of Israel, the Holocaust and its terrible aftermath shaped my being, we engage as knowledgeable and informed Jews. Worlds apart, though, from the quaint stifling galaxy of Williamsburgh, Boro Park and Monsey.

    Take halacha for example. I’m stuck on this strawberry ban, I can’t stop thinking about it. When I try to begin a dialogue on it, my sisters just mutter, “it’s halacha, we’re machmir, end of story.”

    That doesn’t do it for me. I like to know where people are coming from and then go from there. So I go back to the source. Yes, there is a prohibition on consuming bugs, it’s right there in Bereshit. I know, my mother would call me a sheretz but that’s another story.

    So my husband and I research the OU stance. Mainstream orthodox acknowledges the prohibition, of course, and suggests washing the produce. The Chassidim in New York (and likely everywhere else) have decided to ban strawberries entirely.

    What gets my goat is not that I can’t eat strawberries when I visit. Nisht geferlech, I’ll scarf them down when I go home. It’s the creeping extremism that raises my shackles. As my husband notes, Judaism is not for angels. It’s supposed to be reasonable. I sometimes feel Chassidim make up halacha as they go along. At some point, machmir becomes so absurd, it’s not halacha anymore. We are Jewish, not the Taliban. I’m just cautioning that we need to keep an eye on this stuff. Freedom is a terrible thing to waste.

    And that’s what this site is all about, no? I just found it. It’s a haven for people who see through this narishkeit and finally have the courage to declare loud and clear: THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES!!!

  27. All the groups within Orthodoxy–Chassidish, Yeshivish and Modern have their good points and bad. That’s life. Its galus. We all have our meshugass. Life is like peanut butter. Sometimes its smooth and sometimes its crunchy.

    If you are comfortable with your community and you are enjoying Torah life- that is wonderful! Keep learning and growing!

    Let’s keep our eyes and our hearts open for all the good that our fellow Jews do– whatever their customs are. We all have our inconsistencies and hypocritical moments. Such is the life of humans.

    Keep strong and may you be blessed with a happy and healthy family and much simcha till 120!

  28. Emes, I leave one point out. If it’s merely a “live and let live,” I could let it go. But it’s not. When I visit, I have to wear that stupid shmateh on my head. Even though they well know I don’t do that in my home, my universe. Nowhere but there.

    I can delude myself to my heart’s content it’s out of respect. Respect for my father (now deceased), respect for my mother, respect for our ancestry. But it isn’t. It’s manipulation. Pretend to be who you are not not just to satisfy us. What kind of healthy family relationship is that, I ask you? It’s dysfunctional, I tell you, dysfunctional. And dreadfully unhealthy.

    And then when I have all my hair tucked out of sight, my mother’s started in on shaving my head. Really? Where is this coming from? And why nag me to death about something she’ll know I’ll never do. For what? All it does is engender bitterness. Who benefits?

    I see a culture that while it has its positives attributes, is often built on manipulation, fear and control. I got out. My heart breaks for those that ache to but cannot.

  29. Emes, here’s your flaw. I said “committed Jew.” I did not say Orthodox. You automatically assumed one begets the other. I doubt you can accept that there are observant Shomer Shabbat Conservative Jews, now can you?

    I’m not saying which I am. I’m not saying I’m fully Shomer Shabbat. I’m not saying I’m not. What I’m saying is, you’re pretty narrow minded. You need to expand your level of understanding.

    I’ll trade you one of your gedolai hador for a rabbi/professor at Jewish Theological Seminary any day. Listen to some of Brad Artson’s podcasts. You could learn something…

  30. “And then when I have all my hair tucked out of sight, my mother’s started in on shaving my head. Really?”

    Wow that is really interesting. I guess I am naive but I did not know people actually do that. I don’t think I could stomach my own wife with a bald head. I hardly think that has anything to do with the Torah that I learn and I would love you to have your mother give me a call. I could explain everything to her. I am serious, I would love to speak with her and her Rabbi’s as well. There is no legitimate Torah source for this. It might even be forbidden (at least philosophically) on the grounds of v’ahavta L’raicha C’mocha. (see Kiddushin, forgot what daf sorry). Unfortunately non-Jewish ideas have seeped into the Chassidish world.

    Why by the way are you in attack mode on me? Did you have a bad lunch? Are you upset about the way the Yankees are playing? I am actually a very nice guy (at least that’s what my mother used to tell me)

    I actually applied to the Jewish Theological Cemetery when I was in college. Then I heard that they actually started debating marrying Joe and Steve and I quickly took the application and hit a 20ft jump shot right into the garbage. Just not my kind of scene.

    I am glad that you are still immersed in your Judaism even though it sounds from your brief comments that you come from a fairly dysfunctional family.

    I don’t really care about labels such as conservative, reform etc…only thing that matters is if you are sincerely trying to connect to the One above. I would be open to listening and meeting with Brad Artson even though most “Brads” I know are hairdressers downtown and not Rabbi’s. How do I reach Brad Artson?

  31. Emes, sorry to attack you. I might just take you up on that offer. I didn’t think, at my age, I’d still need help. I never really sought it because I assumed a non frum therapist would never get it and a frum one would be too close for comfort.

    Is my family dysfunctional? I think they’re pretty typical of what you see in that corner of the universe. In fact, I could have it much worse. At least they didn’t disown me. Ha! I think they should fear more I’d disown them.

  32. “A culture that treats women as sex objects is just as misogynist as one who has them all covered up. Both treat women as objects for their own pleasure and power.”

    J. – you raise a really interesting point – I’m going to co-opt it for a post next week :-), I hope you’ll join the conversation when I do, and share your view!

  33. Maybe we should co-write it? :). Sure, go for it, it’s a great conversation!

    Wouldn’t you know, next week finds me back in that maw. Ugh…

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