Reply To: Kid Off The Derech

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I know I said I would not be posting here in 5769 but since I happen to know who Gitty is I feel I should say a few words:

Gitty, I know you have your head on your shoulders and that you will not end up in trouble.

But I also know you are missing out on your real purpose by living the kind of life you are living. I fully understand that your community turned you off. But why not try something else within the 70 ponim of Torah? I know you online and not personally, so I don’t know what your particular interests are, but for instance, if you prefer being with a creative, offbeat crowd, there are many such communities in the frum world. If, as I suspect, you are more rational and career oriented and constantly questioning, then look for such a shul and community. And don’t necessarily look near home or near school. Take a weekend off and go somewhere else, away from your old and usual surroundings, and experience a Shabbos among people who do not know you and who do not assume they know you by your appearance (I’ve been fooled many times myself by people’s appearances and anyone who judges you that way is making a fool of himself, not you).

For that matter, take a semester or a year of university in EY and check out different communities every Shabbos until you find what you like – or (chas vesholom) at least know once and for all that you cannot fit in whatsoever with Yiddishkeit as it is presented in today’s world.

I went off for 7 , yes, SEVEN, years because I experienced corruption of the worst kind in my former community. And I am talking Mafia corruption, where the rav of the community was and is no better than John Gotti, Jr. because while he started out sincere, he could not withstand the particular pressures of the place where he lives and the yetzer horo got to him. The other choices in town were not a fit for me either as I was abroad and did not fit into the local Jewish culture. In retrospect, I had many places to run to but I stayed put physically and went down spiritually.

Those seven years were successful in secular terms – I was literally one step below a celebrity because of the respect I earned in my chosen field of endeavor. I would gobble down a package of smoked salmon every evening because I had no time to eat until 9, 10 pm – the phone was always ringing with journalists asking me questions and then I would buy the paper the next day and find my name and picture there. I traveled throughout Europe, stayed in the best hotels, filled my closets with the best clothing, liquor, cigars etc. But it was all empty; first of all I could not forget that I am a Jew, much as I tried to. Either something within me or the anti-Semites – or fellow Jews – reminded me fast enough. And there was just no satisfaction; if you think the frum world is all about money and yichus (and maybe it is superficially in some places), wait until you get into the professional world. It was all about showing off, wasting money on luxuries that were here today, worn out or available in a better model tomorrow. And in the end, these things had no value. I ate bear, kangaroo, ostrich – and they all tasted the same, like beef or chicken.

Now I am back for 3 years, but it is hard because I am older, and have to start all over again in many ways. Nothing I have from the old days is there anymore, and even if it were, it would be gone as of today because of the financial situation. I hope I can start over financially but in these times, who knows what will be. I never married (BH the one non-Jewish woman I was seriously involved with relocated and I could not follow her), and now I am finding it very difficult to find a shidduch. But people do not judge me for those years I was off; some people find it hard to believe that I even was off for seven years. Except that I do not yet wear the levush my married friends wear on Shabbos, there is no way anyone would know where I have been from the way I look or act.

And the best revenge was when that gangster rav saw me once, after I came back. He trembled with fear, knowing full well I could expose him (or that, as he was not in his home city and therefore unprotected by his minions, I would do something completely out of character and inflict physical harm upon him).

Everyone has questions. Everyone has times when they wonder whether or not Torah is true. There are so many things happening in this world that seem so unfair; far too many parents are burying children and far too many children are losing parents even before they reach the age of mitzvos. Many decent people will suffer during this financial crisis; criminals will find a way to steal even more.

But if you keep your eyes open, you can see there is a plan to this world. I had a business partnership go bad this past year, and at the time I was very upset as it was the reason I live and work where I now am. The clients were in the UK and my services were priced in UK pounds and only the exchange rate made it worthwhile. I had an opportunity to take the business from my ex-partner as he was negligent and clients wanted me to handle the work but I asked a rav and he said it was ossur. End of story. I changed my phone number and blocked all incoming E-mails from my ex-clients so I would not be tempted to try to service them on my own against the rav’s psak.

Had I taken the business away against daas Torah, or even had it worked out between my former partner and I, I would now be deeply in debt and unable to continue (and possibly subject to a din Torah and/or secular legal proceedings) because the exchange rate is not favorable anymore.

And yes, in these dark times of the final days of golus, there are a lot of people who have fallen victim to the yetzer and are in positions where they can and do cause spiritual, social, financial and even physical harm to others (all were the case with me). There are those who are just going through the motions and do not believe themselves, and their doubts show in every one of their actions; sadly some of them are in chinuch or rabbonus etc and they can turn you off faster than I can turn off this computer. There are also those who feel that Torah compels them choose ways of interacting or avoiding interaction with the darkness of the secular world that may be too extreme for you. (I’m probably one of them LOL!!!)

But for every one of those bad apples, there are a hundred people, some in official positions and some just poshuter Yidden (or not so poshuter Yidden – some are multi-millionaires who made their way in this world the honest Torah way; others are successful professionals, including creative professionals, who do not compromise in either their Torah or professional lives) who live according to the way Hashem wants us to live, and they are not only people to look up to, but they are even “fun to hang out with” – and much more interesting than the empty souls of the secular world.

Don’t make the same mistake I did – leaving because you don’t like the exterior of the particular community you were exposed to, and then coming back after a long time away when it becomes harder to re-integrate. See what the interior of the Torah world is by really learning and by really doing and by really looking for the right community for you (and not the one anyone thinks you belong in). Only then can you really decide. And I think that you will “choose life”, and not only you but many others will be better off for it. Just do it fast while you are still young!