Monday, May 19, 2008

Day 1 -- Six Months Left

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Malkie. I'm 26, married for five years and I have a beautiful two year old daughter. My husband is a great guy. I truly love him and our family. We have no serious financial worries (although we haven't started paying tuition yet) and our health is fine.

So, what's the problem?

Well, the problem is this... I just don't feel any... connection...to yiddishkeit anymore. Where once upon a time I had a feeling of closeness to God and a joy in keeping the mitzvos, I no longer have this today.

What led to this yeridah? I honestly can’t say for sure. It started shortly after the birth of our daughter. It’s not like one day I was “gung ho” on the mitzvos and the next day I was “who cares?” It’s been a gradual process, slowly building up from day to day.

I look at the frum community and see all the troubles that abound. Rabbeim accused of horrible crimes against children. Horrible attitudes that I see from my friends and neighbors toward those who aren’t Jewish (or are from “wrong” frum circles). Seemingly more and more bizarre rulings from rabbanim. The nonsense that goes on in the shidduch world (which, as a naïve 21-year old I embraced wholeheartedly, but now see as demeaning, demoralizing, filled with arcane nonsensical rules and just plain stupid). The apologetics that some people go through to make the gedolim out to be paragons of perfection rather than well-learned, exemplary but fallible human beings. And on and on. I see it all in real life, and in cyberspace (such as on Imamother.com and other cyberplaces).

At this point, I’m so… disgusted… with the system that I’m almost ready to chuck it. I can’t believe that HaShem wants us to engage in all this nonsense (if, indeed, He exists… but that’s another story for another time).

The one main problem is that I don’t live in a vacuum. I have a husband whom I love very much who married me with the understanding that I would be a good Jewish wife. I have a daughter who is too young at the moment to understand, but, nonetheless, expects a good Jewish role model for a mother. I have my own parents who would be scandalized if I just left the fold… certainly I owe all of them better than this.

And yet, I don’t know if I can go on living a charade. I don’t know how long I can feign joy at keeping the mitzvos. I don’t know how long I can go on pretending that I believe that the Torah lifestyle is the ideal lifestyle when, deep down, I no longer believe it.

And, of course, there is the issue of the fact that people change. After all, just two and a half years ago, I was a “true believer.” Who’s to say that I won’t slip out of these spiritual doldrums in a few months and be “hunky-dory” again? On the other hand, who’s to say that I will, and how long can I wait for this to happen?

And, I suppose, that’s the point of this blog. I’m going to give myself six months. I’m going to work hard during those six months to try to see the positives in Judaism. I’m going to spend the next six months trying to re-establish a connection to my spiritual self. I’m going to spend the next six months doing some soul-searching (if I have a soul) to see if this is the way I want to spend the rest of my life, and if this way of living will give my life some meaning.

And what happens if I don’t? What happens if, after six months, I find that I am no closer to God, or God forbid (pun intended) I’m even further away? What happens to my marriage and my family? To my parents? I don’t know. But I do know that I have a breaking point. I can’t live a lie, and I can’t go on pretending forever. For now, I do it for my family. I do it for my wonderful husband. I do it for my precious daughter and my parents who worked so hard to raise me. But if I’m going to live this way for the rest of my life, then it has to be for me. It has to be because I want to live this way, not because others want me to. It has to be because I am moved to do so, not because I feel pressured by familial and societal pressures to do so.

And so, that’s the point of this blog. This blog will help me work through the ideas of how to go about my life. This blog will be my laboratory for thoughts and ideas regarding the big decision that I have to make in my life.

Six months, starting…. Now.

43 comments:

Lubab No More said...

Malkie,

Great first post! I especially found the line "It started shortly after the birth of our daughter." Very interesting. I had a similar experience when my wife gave birth to our baby.

I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog!

Jewish Blogmeister said...

Pretty intense post...does your husband have even an inkling that you feel this way? I understand how the various points you made don't help you in your devotion to g-d.there is a saying "asey l'cha rav" or perhaps rebbitzin your case. I think you'll find it helpful to discuss your feelings with someone who is knowledgable and someone you admire and respect.

On Her Own said...

Wow. This is really incredible. It takes a lot of courage to do this. I do hope you find the connection you're looking for.

Six Month Malkie said...

Thanks, Lubab.

Jewish blogmeister -- I don't think he knows, but I can't say for certain that he doesn't suspect something is wrong.

I don't know about approaching someone in the flesh. I'm still trying to figure this out and hope to do it anonymously. I'm not ready to face the possible consequences of revealing my doubts in public.

On her own -- thanks for the praise. I hope I find it too.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should try davening for others it would be a way to get closer to Hashem and since you seem to care about people it probably wont be hard

Anonymous said...

Strange, you don't talk about whether Judaism is actually true or not. Shouldn't this be the primary question?

Anonymous said...

Good luck. I hope it works out for the best for you no matter where it takes you.

Lipman said...

Maybe you should try davening for others

Would you recommend she daven shachris for them, or rather minche/maarev?

Malkie, I don't see you think different in six months' time, frankly, but the "project" is probably about the best you can do. Only you should kinda speak with your husband about this, mabye step by step. If you guys are happy together, chances are that your minds are at least roughly in mind.

Who know, maybe you will see a Tôre life different after you occupy yourself with it under this new aspect of yours. It helps not to equate it with the one or two forms of Orthodox Judaism alone which you see in everyday life in the US.

Lipman said...

In tune, I meant.

Six Month Malkie said...

Of course the question of whether or not Judaism is true matters to me. But whether its true or not is not as important to me as to whether I can be happy in it. If I can be happy maintaining customs for purely cultural reasons, then I can live with it for the sake of my family. But if not; if I'm going to be miserable, then I don't know if I can stay with it, even if it is true.

I know that sounds selfish, but I can't live the rest of my life feeling miserable.

Six Month Malkie said...

Lipman,

Thanks. I don't know what will happen in six months time. I hope to have an answer by then, but I can't make that guarantee, of course.

I don't know if I can confide in my husband about this just yet. I feel horrible about keeping it from him, but I'm also afraid of what he will say or think of me if he finds out that I'm not quite the true aishes chayil he signed up for. Yeah, I know I can't hide it forever, but I've gotta maintain the illusion at least for now until I have a better idea of where I'm going.

Anonymous said...

What can't be "true" is that Hashem doesn't want anyone deaf converting to Judaism. etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc and the list of appalling shondes is pretty endless.

So what exactly are we supposed to believe is "true?" Ultimately we all pick and choose what we want to believe and do.

Advocate said...

Welcome to the club! I love your writing.

Wishing you hatzlacha rabbah!

Daganev said...

I have a simple suggestion for you.

Leave New York :P

These problems you mention don't exist elsewhere.

Daganev said...

Also, something else you should be a ware of, as it sounds like you are new to the whole "get ideas from the internet" thing.

1. There are only two types of people who talk about religion on the internet. 1) People who are upset with it. 2.) People who are nuts and think they can "convert" other people on the internet into "seeing the light" because they are correct and everyone else is lost.

2. This type of population results in people who are asking for advice to get lots of well documented advice from the people who are hung up on denouncing religion, and lots of bad advice from the people who know so little about human nature that they think they can help others "see the light" via the internet.

3. People who can really help you with these issues don't exist on the internet. (either to stay or to go, either way, the advice you get on the internet will be bad)

4. I predict that in six months time you will either a. realized how good my bad avice is and stopped blogging, or b. will continue to blog and lead a double life with no resolution and the problems will haunt you for years to come.


Just speaking from experience here.

Anonymous said...

Something else you should be a ware of, as it sounds like you are new to the whole "get ideas from the internet" thing.

There are only two types of people who talk about religion on the Internet. Sensible people genuinely in search of the truth, and 'hockers' like Daganev.

Just speaking from experience here.

Lubab No More said...

Daganev,

> 1. There are only two types of people who talk about religion on the internet. 1) People who are upset with it. 2.) People who are nuts and think they can "convert" other people on the internet

And which category do you fit into Dag?

Liorah Lleucu said...

Welcome.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know about approaching someone in the flesh. I'm still trying to figure this out and hope to do it anonymously. I'm not ready to face the possible consequences of revealing my doubts in public."

You can't talk privately with anyone and you think that in six months you're going to chuck the whole thing publicly?

Anonymous said...

the advice you get on the internet will be bad
--

Perhaps, but the information you get will be invaluable. There's no where else where you can so easily find the truth about where OJ came from, and how it developed from earlier expressions of Judaism. And that's only one example.

Found you via DovBear, and at his site, you'll find many other examples.

Anonymous said...

Great post, if you're legit.

You're sitemeter is wide open, meaning there's a loss of anonymity for commenters.

Shira Salamone said...

Perhaps Daganev has a point--you may be living in the wrong neighborhood, literally. If you were living somewhere where the Orthodox community was, for example, more tolerant of "the wrong kind" of Orthodox Jews, non-Orthodox Jews and non-Jews and less unthinkingly devoted to gedolim, you might find that the feeling of community might suffice to keep you on the derech (path).

The Hedyot said...

6MM –

I truly feel for you. Your post eloquently conveys your sense of frustration and turmoil. I went though a similar transition whereby I lost interest in what Yiddishkeit had to offer me. However, despite my own eventual departure from the frum world, I’m not going to tell you that you should just chuck it all and be done with it. That’s a really drastic step which can possibly have truly awful repercussions, and I urge you to first try to make it work for yourself somehow.

Look, you‘re smart enough to realize that what you’re truly seeking is happiness, fulfillment, and a lifestyle that in consistent with your core values. As you’re well aware, your spiritual search shouldn’t be about proofs of god and torah and other stuff like that. I’m not going to tell you to find a rabbi who can answer your questions, but I do think you should seek out someone whose opinion you respect and who you feel you can discuss your issues with openly and honestly. What you should be looking for is not answers, but an honest sounding board. Someone whom you can hear alternative perspectives from. Someone who can help you understand yourself, your needs, your situation, and your motivations, more clearly. Someone who is able to hear the genuine urgency of your plea without judging you and considering the only valid outcome to be remaining frum (or to leave frumkeit).

Also, I think the direction of your inquiry should not be “why should I remain frum?” or “How can I get excited about Yiddishkeit again?”. Those questions reflect a bias which will only get in the way of your search. I think you should frame the questions more honestly introspective. You should be asking yourself, “What makes me really feel fulfilled and how can I have that in my life?”, “Is there anything about (religious) Judaism which truly touches me?”

It’s true that the frum world is so full of crap, and I’m the first to admit how much there is not to like about it, but I do believe that with effort one can get past all that sh*t and find genuinely worthwhile and admirable qualities within it. And amongst all the idiots, there are some exceptional people out there who can help you with your inner search. (Actually, it doesn’t really have to be a frum person, but I recognize that a non-frum person might not have some of the perspective which you might consider to be necessary.)

I truly hope that you find the serenity and fulfillment that you desire, whatever path you end up taking. Feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss the issue further.

daashedyot at the gmail

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Hello 6MM,

Good first post.

Though the name is catchy, I really don't think 6 months is an adequate time frame to begin to explore this new direction. There's just too much stuff out there.

Also, I think that it's not religion that you have a problem with per se, but all the bullshit and judgmentalism that goes along with it. In other words, for example, it's not keeping kosher that bothers you, it's the fact that what you might consider kosher isn't kosher enough for 'yenem'-- and that you are judged on the rest of your observance by that yardstick. Ditto for SHabos, clothing style, where you go to shul, etc.

For that, the only solution is to dissociate from that kind of community. I'm willing to bet a week's pay that you are in Flatbush/Far Rockaway/Five Towns (you don't have to answer). If you are, that's understandably enough to drive anyone away from frumkeit. Or underground.

Anonymous said...

I think you should try to do what most people do: see the positives in Judaism as a religion, not as it is practiced. My dad always says, "If I wasn't a Jew, I'd be the biggest antisemite". Jews, unfortunately, make Judaism unbearable at times. Every single thing you listed is true for me as well. I just try to see the beauty in traditions and family and ignore all the nutjobs. I think finding your personal connection to aspects of the religion is better and more productive than focusing on the people and things that make it so annoying and frustrating.

tikunolam said...

Hey Six Months,
Welcome to the blogosphere. As one who left OJ - I can relate to where you are coming from. But if I could give you some unsolicited advice - let the people in your life in - don't suffer alone. You can help them understand how you are feeling without making any grand proclamations about your future. Remind them that you love and respect them and are scared in this struggle. If they are with you on your search process - you will feel less alone and get more support. And you might be surprised that others who put up an unwavering front regarding their faith- have likely have had thoughts and certainly at least feelings of disappointment at times, just as you have.

And if you ever need any anon support from a person who has been there - write me at tikunolamdb@gmail.com. You can read all about my story of leaving OJ, on Dovbear's blog: Dovbear.blogspot.com - I have chapters I, II and III up so far.

Also - don't be surprised if you find reactions of men on the blog to be challenging you to search for some intellectual truth. I think there are gender differences in the way women search and the way men do it. I have to say - I have been frustrated getting some more typical male responses to my story on Dovbear, there is a shortage of women on the blogosphere - so don't let that frustrate you.

Good luck!

gabe said...

I have to agree with daganev, that turning to Blogdom for answers to religious doubts is a bad idea. I'm not saying you can't use the internet as a tool to educate yourself, but to have the anonymous bloggers direct you from their armchairs is poor judgement. I'm still not convinced 'Malkie' is real, and I wouldn't be surprised if after 6 months we find out that this was all part of some sort of research project. If it is, I'd suggest you work on some copyrighting, as well as put up a disclaimer reserving rights to stuff posted here ;).
If your real Malkie, I'd suggest you learn about the religion as an outsider would. Scrap all you know, and start from scratch, take a jewish history course, go to an Aish/Discovery seminar, spend a Shabbos in Monroe/squaretown/b'nei Brak, Check out some newer, burgeoning, religious communities (Dallas comes to mind). It seems like your dissatisfaction with your religion stems from a closed minded education of it, and would you broaden your education you may embrace it, saving your family much grief. But do it for real, so that whatever course you take it will be for real reasons, not theoretic, 'blogular' (TM) reasons. Now I'm going to get some windex to clean all the narcissism oozing of my screen

Lipman said...

I'm afraid attending Aish/Discovery seminars will have a contrary effect. That only works for those who are already convinced, but might not realise yet.

OOC said...

The maximum you can only love someone/thing depends on how much you know about them/it. If you are really serious about exploring all your options within the next 6 months, try to really get to now God before you say goodbuy.

Daganev said...

"There are only two types of people who talk about religion on the Internet. Sensible people genuinely in search of the truth, and 'hockers' like Daganev.

Just speaking from experience here.

May 27, 2008 8:04 PM
"

Sorry, evidence suggests otherwise. Especially on blogs.

1. Why would you come to blogs to learn about something that mostly exists in analogue and not digitial form? i.e. books. Most content on the internet is only "new" content, and if you are in search of Truth and not Fads, you'll have better luck finding that information in books, or going to classes, possibly even starting your own classes, or catching visiting scholars and the like. There is currently more information off the internet then there is on the internet, especially in regards to religion. So if one is seeking "truth" odds are the information will be found off the internet.

What you will find lots of information about on the internet, is things which have small followings, is new, or someone has a strong ideological/political agenda in trying to get more people believing that some specific piece of knowledge is more true than they would otherwise be able to convince people outside of the internet.


Lubab No More said...
Daganev,

> 1. There are only two types of people who talk about religion on the internet. 1) People who are upset with it. 2.) People who are nuts and think they can "convert" other people on the internet

And which category do you fit into Dag?
"

I'll let you decide.

Anonymous said...

3. Dagenev (in a comment on in one of your posts) happens to be right, but IME the “professionals” you may find know more “about human nature”—to quote Daganev—than how to answer the question. It’s not fair to lead you to a charmer with natural psychology instincts who will use all his powers to bring you back to the fold FALSELY.

From:http://hassid.blogspot.com/2008/05/welcoming-newcomers.html

Anonymous said...

I went through a similar time shortly after my first son was born 11 years ago. I write the following in the hope that my experience helps you.

I was very disgusted with the system and decided to opt out. I still kept the mitzvos as before, but I cut out the whole social part. I made friends with many non-Orthodox Jews (the playground was a great place). I moved away from anyone who I felt was more interested in shallow things and surrounded myself only with those who were sincere, sweet, bright, and non-judgmental (ok, so I was alone a lot!)

I tried to relax and take care of myself. I stopped inviting guests for shabbos and spent more time with my husband and much more time in my PJs on the weekend. I read novels (which I never did before). I tossed most of my high heeled shoes. I started worrying about the environment, I became vegetarian (which I always wanted to be but didn't want to be so different or "strange"). I read more about parenting and implemented Montessori ideas at home with my son.

I decided that my marriage and family were my prime focus, that I wanted to make my home a place of sanctity, that I wanted to connect to Jewish tradition and not to the current fads. I brought in Jewish music as well as new age instrumental and classical music. I started to sing and play the guitar. I made our place less elegant and more relaxed.

I read a lot of Jewish thought -- not from the middle ages. A lot of Rav Soloveitchik, a lot about biur tefilla. I started learning Halacha properly from the sources for the first time ever. Tefilla meant a lot to me. I learned how to talk to G-d and care about Yiddishkeit while throwing away all the societal garbage that seemed to come along with it.

In retrospect, I realize that what I went through was the need to grow up, to take control of my relationship with HKB"H, and to become more independent in terms of learning and thinking. I needed to build a life I would want my family to share with me.

I wish we could have moved out of town, I even know which community I would love to live in, but this is not an option at this time.


I never did find a Rav who I can connect with and be open about my feelings about "the system", or a rebbitzen either. I did find inner strength to read, listen, and learn, and take away the parts that I felt were essential to Yiddishkeit and throw away the other parts. I also found a deeper friendship with my husband, who always listened, understood, sympathized, and let me express who I needed to be.

My starting point was that I had to break out of the frum community but that I wanted to keep my family intact. My husband is amazing and I would simply do anything to stay with him and make him happy.

My ending point (if such a thing has an ending) is that I developed a deep faith (which I am not sure I ever had, despite what I said/felt when I was younger). I built my own life within the parameters of halacha, a life which others certainly consider different and odd, but which my family and I are happy with. I stopped caring what ppl think, and stopped believing that there is such a thing as "the torah lifestyle" but in fact a great many lifestyles which are within the torah and halacha. It was not easy, but once I identified what I was looking for I found my lifestyle and it is filled with love of G-d, love of family, and much joy.

I wish you the same.

Izgad said...

I think it is important to distinguish between Judaism as a theoretical entity and Judaism as practiced by real live flawed individuals. As with the previous commentator I believe that it is important to consider whether your problem is with Judaism or how you are practicing Judaism. To steal a line from a character in C.S Lewis’ Till We Have faces, the fact that you see problems with Judaism should not simply be taken as an answer to the question; i.e. that Judaism is ridiculous and irrelevant. Rather it should open up a larger set of questions. Lots of people seem to be nourished from something so clearly flawed; how can this be?
Two books that I would recommend to you are Hermann Wouk’s This is My God and Rabbi Abraham Heschel’s God in Search of Man.

frum single female said...

i have two words for you "leave new york!" the community here is insane and i suspect you grew up here. there are orthodox jews other places in smaller communities who subscribe to a different mentality.
i also agree with njg who said that you shouldnt confuse the schtick alot of people have with what the torah really says.
everyone has to find where they belong frumkeit-wise.
since it seems that you are individualistic, be individualistic. find a way to be frum on your own terms. to me this is the key. most of these chumrah of the months types arent really all that frum when it comes down to it and it doesnt matter what they think. they are morons. dont judge judaism by the idiots who abuse it. and if there are things you dont agree with, dont dwell on them and focus on those mitzvot you do enjoy.

FrumP said...

It's a mistake to judge religion by those who practice it.

matt said...

Have you talked to your OB/GYN about your feelings? It sounds like you have postpartum depression. A quick read on your blog clearly shows you have several symptoms. The largest being anhedonia (not getting pleasure from things that you normally did)

Questioning faith isn't a medical condition but depression is. When you start talking about not wanting your daughter to feel this way, red flags go off.

Think about it, discuss it with someone you trust.

Matt Feldman RN, MSN, OCN

Lubab No More said...

Matt Feldman RN, MSN, OCN,

> It sounds like you have postpartum depression.

Before you start making diagnoses of people over the internet (based only on reading their blog) I recommend you get a degree in psychiatry then meet your patient first.

Anonymous said...

>>It's a mistake to judge religion by those who practice it.

It is the people who practice religion that define that religion.

avakesh said...

Relationship with Hashem, on our human level, is exactly like other relationships. If you work at it, through times of closeness and times of distance, He will approach you also and lift you up. If you are not even sure He exists or if it's worth it, you will loose Him.

Just like other relationships...

onionsoupmix said...

But if I’m going to live this way for the rest of my life, then it has to be for me. It has to be because I want to live this way, not because others want me to. It has to be because I am moved to do so, not because I feel pressured by familial and societal pressures to do so.

Malkie, in any way of life you have to compromise for the other party. I am not frum anymore, but my husband is very, very religious and I keep it all up for him.

Bruce said...

Hi 6MM. I have two slightly unorthodox ideas (pun intended) that might help you.

First, take a look at some thoughtful non-Orthodox books or blogs or websites on why Judaism is important and meaningful. (I would recommend Arnold Eisen's book "Taking Hold of Torah" as a good place to start.) Not for the purpose of becoming Reform of Conservative, but for the purpose of seeing some meaning and beauty and purpose in mitzvot from a different perspective.

The Orthodox ideology requires observance of mitzvot, even if they are not important or meaningful, and in fact even if you consider them meaningless or immoral. (A point you made in your posts on killing Amalek and wishing for the death of a child from an intermarriage.) But more liberal Jews do not believe they are under such an obligation. Thus, many thoughtful liberal Jews work hard to find the importance of mitzvot in ways that Orthodox Jews do not. And many such Jews have such a different perspective and background than Orthodox Jews that they come up with results that would be surprising to Orthodox Jews. You might find that some of these ideas will infuse meaning into mitzvot in ways that are hard to find in the Orthodox world.

Second, your family situation might make this difficult, but you might consider a different form of Orthodoxy or a different Orthodox community. Sometimes problems like yours are simply a result of a poor fit into a particular environment.

Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

I'm older than you but am going through something similar. I converted because I was convinced I had found "the truth." I was a zealot for a while. I'm coming up on about 12 years since I first found Judaism, and I'm having some serious doubts. I have a wonderful husband and a nice community, but I just feel false in so many ways. I keep up the charade of mitzvot for my husband's sake, but he knows my true feelings. It bothers him but he loves me and hopes I will get through this rough patch. There is still so much beauty and truth in Judaism that I am not ready to chuck it all, but I stopped davening from a siddur years ago and I have major problems with many of the same teachings that you have mentioned in your blog here. We do not have children together despite many years of trying (the stress and anguish of infertility has definitely played a role in my loss of faith) but sometimes I feel thankful that I have not brought children into this confusion. I do not know how I would raise them. I don't even know if I believe in God anymore. I'm leery of people who try to talk me back into religious faith again. It is a very personal journey. I enjoyed Faranik Margoles book "Off the Derech" and I recommend it. It didn't "bring me back" so much as it helped me to feel normal for my feelings.

Good luck sweetie! I think goals are good, but, don't impose this six month burden on yourself. It can take years or even a lifetime to work through faith issues. Be patient with yourself. Maybe a more realistic goal would be to make gradual but steady progress toward finding and maintaining your intellectual, spiritual, and emotional integrity. "Be true to thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string." Ralph Waldo Emerson.

American Jew

Anonymous said...

Go to http://www.chabad.org for all your answers.