Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bad For Your Spiritual Health

It's almost 4am, and my laptop has 27% (17mins) left on the battery which means I probably shouldn't write because I'd either be overtired or rushed.

I had an important conversation with mashpia (rabbi / spiritual advisor) today over Shabbos. I told him I have not been davening (praying) consistently and that I am not happy in my current state of religious observance (or more accurately, religious non-observance) because I feel that after five years, "I am not the frum person that I believe that I should be." [On my mind were Anakin's words from the most recent Star Wars movie where he said to his wife "I am not the Jedi that I should be," right before he turned to the dark side; this scared me with regard to my own religious observance because I am experiencing similar things.]

The four issues I discussed with my mashpia were: 1) I don't daven frequently and I don't put on Tefillin when I should, 2) I still go lap swimming in mixed-pools with women present even though it's not tznius (modest) and it's assur (forbidden), 3) I still watch movies and I don't intend to stop [although I do not believe a TV belongs in a Chassidic home so I would see movies elsewhere], and 4) I don't like the idea of kol isha (not being allowed to listen to a woman's voice) because that would preclude me from being part of the opera or broadway world, which is an important part of my past, and which I never resolved to give up while I was becoming religious.

I also was happy to have a conversation about my various vices with the rabbi's wife who is looking for a shidduch (wife) for me. This was the first time I confided in her that as I am today, I do not plan on giving up movies, broadway shows, or swimming, and that I am open to my future wife having similar areas of improvement.

The big distinction that I felt was necessary for both of us to have was that if either of us were to be at a point of weakness in our observance where we would violate various halachas (jewish laws), I feel strongly that as Jews, we have the responsibility to be honest with ourselves and with G-d to face reality that an action that violates halacha is wrong, even if we still engage in (and enjoy) those activities knowing they are forbidden.

For example, if my wife and I were to go out to a dance club and get high on extacy, [I thought that the example of simply going out to see a movie or to go to the beach where there was mixed swimming wouldn't get the point across, so pardon the extreme example], then I would expect that the girl at least be at the level in her yiddishkeit (observance) that when she engages in the forbidden act (if she or we must) that she do so with the understanding that she is breaking halacha, and that in her own mind that she own up to the fact that what she is doing isn't the proper way to act. This goes for me too, but I already am at this level. I feel that the important thing at this point is that I don't want rationalizations, lies, or smoken mirrors.

As a disclaimer, I don't do drugs, and I don't like the idea that I am not up to par with various halachas. If she has a similar vices that we enjoy doing together, I don't want that activity to become something where we rationalize that we are in the right in doing; rather, I would expect that we know in our minds that it is wrong and just as a smoker knows that smoking causes lung cancer but he nevertheless lights up anyway, eventually, we should get to the point where we stop engaging in that forbidden activity just as eventually, a smoker must quit smoking or he will die (noting the exceptions).


Lvnsm27 said...

good post.

I wish you hatzlacha

Anonymous said...

I'm just curious (because of experiences I've had)...

Do you rationalize your behavior while you act improperly? Because I, personally, can't get myself to do certain acts in public or with another person. I know our backgrounds are very different (since when I act improperly, I'm acting against my upbringing while you are acting in consonance with it) which might lead to different feelings towards various behaviors. So, I was just wondering what how you deal with the situation. Am I unique? Or do our different backgrounds explain it all?


Zoe Strickman said...


I was excited to see your comment with this question. I feel that you and I are only now getting a chance to understand eachother. Let me give you a real life example to answer your question. (In short, no).

Today I spent a few hours with a female friend from college. We worked together after college and we became good friends. We also shared an interest in latin dancing (cha cha, rhumba, salsa, etc) during my pre-frum days.

Today we were walking near the pier and there was a group of Salsa dancers dancing. We were tempted to join them.

We didn't, but it wasn't because we were trying to be frum. I was ready to dance and if it weren't 100 degrees outside and if we weren't just starting off on our walk to our destination some 25 city blocks away, I would have danced and so would have she.

We actually discussed this later. She came up with the rationalization that since we are in galus, there is a permanent state of impurity on us, so touching wouldn't matter. I didn't know whether she was right because I lacked the halachic knowledge on that topic, [and in my heart I think she was probably wrong in her logic], but I was ready to dance even knowing it was assur (forbidden) and there probably weren't any leniencies that would make it okay.

So as you say JMO, if I danced, we both know that would have been inappropriate. The fact that I'm at a point where I'm trying to find out where I am holding and the fact that I would have danced in public does NOT make it okay. If when you are in a similar scenario and you felt that you COULDN'T dance (or do other public acts), then baruch Hashem -- that is a really good thing. Our nefesh elokis (soul) should not be letting us do things that are against the Torah. The fact that I'm not feeling the fear of G-d that I should in this and related scenarios is MY WEAKNESS in my yiras Hashem. This is a problem where my nefesh elokis has been covered up by all the shtus (junk) I have filled my head with.

This is a problem and I need to address it and fix it. It is not an okay thing.

Rowan said...

Zoe, I'm sensing a lot of change in your life and coming your way. Maybe "she's" finally coming for you. I enjoyed your comment to JMO. Slightly off topic, I know the feeling of longing to dance, cha cha & the waltz were our best dances, we won awards, we were top of our class. I miss most of all the feeling of flying when you've "really" nailed the perfect waltz. The dreamy mood that can set in, the ultimate feeling of romance that you cannont get from a mere human. *sigh* oh to be very filthy rich and do nothing but dance, dance dance. Incidentally, did you take American standard or International? I miss the Canams most of all.

Zoe Strickman said...

I can relate to your comment on an American Standard and International Waltz. We (my competition dance partner at the time and I) learned them both. I never figured out the other kind of Waltz that you see in the movies. (I think it's called ballad or something, haven't thought of the name in years).

Chacha and Tango were also American Standard (never learned Argentine Tango but loved the way it looked); Rhumba we learned both American Standard and International -- we kicked butt in International. Salsa and Samba were my weakness. Never loved swing or hustle that much... too much jumping, not too much technique or grace.

Zoe Strickman said...

*** JMO,
please sign up for an account on blogger. I value your posts, and I would like a way to contact you via e-mail if I ever wanted to or if I had a question for you. Just because you sign up for a free account on blogger doesn't mean that you need to have a blog. ***

blueenclave said...

I also have trouble getting up to daven in the morning. I am encouraged by Lisa Aiken in "To Be A Jewish Woman" where she says that Hashem almost prefers that a woman daven at home.

blueenclave said...

Perhaps this is just MO, but I do not see anything wrong with dancing with my own husband in public if the time of the month is proper.

blueenclave said...

Good luck in your shidduch plans. Remember that your wife is there to throw you out of the house in the morning :)