Friday, May 13, 2005
Wanderings into the Dark Side
Absolutely no studying happened last night. However, I did nothing else except sit in front of my desk with the books. Apparently I surfed the web until my eyes got tired.
This morning I woke up and I said my preliminary prayers (berachot). I came up with the idea that in addition to using my alarm clock to remind me to wake up, I could use it to remind me to pray, do my laundry, and do each progressive step that I need to do today.
I set up a facade that I was going to a friend in the city for Shabbos (Sabbath), but in reality I will be staying at home where there is no synagogue within comfortable walking distance. Had I said that I was staying home, my Rabbi would have seen right through me and would have known that I intended to study on Shabbos, a grey-area semi-permissible act which we came to the conclusion that I would not do so that I would not get into the habit of doing lawyerlike "reading" when I am married. However, it is not a transgression or a violation of any law, as I do not plan to write or use electricity or do anything that would desecrate the Sabbath. However, I feel that I have slacked so much in my studies with this whole shidduch dating experience that G-d owes me this leeway.
I was also joking around with a friend before I met this girl that G-d and I had an agreement that if this doesn't work out, I will go ballroom dancing which involves touching women, holding hands, being in a place I shouldn't be, and leading myself into the hands of temptations where something can lead to something else and I would likely not be strong enough to say no. I will not kid myself -- if I go down this path, I will be putting my values in jeopardy because we both know that I am not strong enough to withstand secular influences. Perhaps it is my way to scream out to G-d "YOU TOOK AWAY SOMETHING POTENTIALLY GOOD IN MY LIFE AND I GAVE HER UP SO THAT I CAN SERVE YOU. EVEN THOUGH I DEFENDED YOU AND HELD BY YOUR WAYS, YOU STILL TOOK HER AWAY FROM ME." This would have been a good match. I knew it, she knew it, my rabbis knew it, and the shadchan (matchmaker) knew it. This didn't happen because I was too religious. Thank you G-d.
I must say that from the amount of anger and frustration I am generating from the thought that I lost another good girl because I was religious (this has happened before), it doesn't put G-d on my favorites list. I am defending some power that I force myself to believe in every day. With regret and sorrow, this is one of those times that I will likely grit my teeth and admit that I am all talk, because the truth is that I likely will not go out to this bar or this dance club because it is times like this that I need to remind myself that I am 28 years old, which is roughly 107 lifetimes away from 3000 years ago, when us Jews were slaves in Egypt. G-d took us out and performed miracles so that we would be "his" slaves. (I used a lower-case "h" because I am angry at him; normally when you refer to G-d you use an upper-case "H"). Nevertheless, he built us a temple and gave us the Torah, and I've seen them both with my own eyes, so I can not deny that I am a slave to G-d just as are all other Jews. So naturally my will succumbs to His will and I will grin and bear this experience just as I have done for all others. This is one more step in the right direction.
I could not help to notice, however, what is the wrong direction? "What is the 'Dark Side' and Why Do Some People Choose It?" by Mark Thornton is an article that I was reading early this morning about Anakin Skywalker's turn to the dark side. The article can be found here.
In short, the author traces Anakin's turning to the dark side to three factors. 1) He had no father around when he was growing up. 2) He and his mother were slaves. 3) He abandoned his mother only to return years later to find that she had been horribly brutalized, surviving just long enough to die in his arms.
I couldn't help but to notice the similarities between Anakin's childhood and mine. Firstly, my father was never around when I was a child. He didn't raise me; his influence was only felt through the strength of his hands and the dents in the wall from me slamming against them from the force of his hits. He left my mother and took everything away from her when they got divorced. He even broke her bras one by one, foreclosed on the house, and emptied all of my mom's bank accounts including my account which contained all the money I ever saved. (Even though it was not much, a child's account, [a father's own child's account] with around $1500 from savings coming from quarters, years of mowing other people's lawns, and years of discipline from unspent allowance is a lot to steal.) If you see the movie "War of the Roses", you will know the story of my parents, because everything that the man did, my father did.
As for 2), our slavery was to a life of poverty and depression. My mother worked many jobs just so that we could survive. I don't want to go into it because I hate poverty sob stories. As for the 3), I left and abandoned my mother when I moved out when I was sixteen. (I ran away many times during my childhood, but my first successful abandonment was when I was sixteen.) The difference is that my mother did not die (chos v'sholom), but for years I felt that inside she did. I have lived with guilt my whole adult life that I could not save my mother from the torments that she experienced when I was younger. I wished I would have been stronger so that I could save her, and I vowed to G-d that I would be strong so that I wouldn't fail her again.
The difference between Anakin and I is that while we both had masters (he had Obi Wan and I have my mashpia) who guided us on the right path, I have no sith teaching me the ways of dark magic. Further, there is no force which leads me to the dark side except for my animal soul (nefesh habahamas) which is within me, and I am clearly aware of its presence and its temptations; more importantly, I am stronger than it.
Lastly, in Star Wars, there is no G-d. There is only the influence of truth and moral integrity which causes the individual with free choice to choose which side of the force he will join; good or bad. In my life, there is a G-d who is all-powerful and all-knowing who will kick my ass if I get out of line. Since my experiences which have led me to becoming religious, He has tagged me as one of His slaves.
I can become unobservant and break away from yiddishkeit (orthodox Chassidic Judaism) at any time, but I will never be able to UNLEARN everything that I have learned. This is forever burned and engraved within me, and I will never be able to abandon it. I suppose it is possible to rationalize it away, but deep down I will know the truth and I will be filled with guilt because once truth finds a person, that person can never hide from it again; it will always be with that person, even if it is hidden in a closet or under the bed -- haunting that person until he realizes and acknowledges its presence and its validity. Additionally, if I did reject it, then all that I have been through and all that I have lost including this girl and the others will have been for nothing.
With all this said, I do not plan on abandoning anything. I will continue steadfast on this path of truth and freedom regardless of the obstacles that come my way. G-d is bigger than me, and bigger than any philosophy I can dream up. I remember my goal in life, namely to tap into his wisdom and bring it down to our level so that others can connect to it through technological means for good, and I will adhere to that mission regardless of the costs. Thank you, readers, for staying with me throughout this ordeal.