On a personal note, this China trip has been a good distraction from the experience I had before I left the U.S. and I am glad I got a chance to get away and to clear my mind. It is important in a person’s life from time to time to be able to step back and re-evaluate one’s morals, life goals, and values. I’ve moved in a direction I am not fully comfortable with because it entails dropping a lot of the dogmatic junk I have picked up along the way, yet it has also caused me to feel a bit disillusioned with regard to the lifestyle I was planning on living. Part of me feels that I was freed from what has turned for me into a psychological religious trap, and yet another part of me is saddened because I feel like I have woken up from a long dream and an idealist view of life. Again, another model has been shattered and again I am back where I started, yet I have been affected, changed, and matured by the experience.
My rabbi will be saddened to read this, and my parents and my friends will be jumping for joy. I don’t know if I want to be 100% anymore. I was never at that point anyway. I feel like I have been living in a world of restriction and constriction for some form of methodology to aspire to higher purpose that comes with a lifestyle I am not sure I buy into. I think I would rather be an observant modern orthodox Jew rather than an aspiring baal teshuva Chassidic Jew. Of course, nothing major is going to change for the worse except that I am considering [considering, not planning] no longer being so strict on the little stuff, such as shaking hands, clubbing, touching, movies, bars, and dating. In my heart however, this stuff is not so little. If I actually did this, it would be a shame and I would feel grief for a long time for sinking so low from where I was in my faith.
The thought on my mind is that I had a deal with G-d before my last shidduch that if this one didn’t work out, I would no longer refrain from dancing and being shomer negiah. Of course this doesn’t mean I will be hooking up with women or being intimate or sexual in any way, chos v’sholom. I have decided to save myself for my wife for almost five years now, and I am not about to go ruin that trend. It would not be fair to either of us. Abstaining is a worthy cause, especially if I want to develop the kind of close relationship with my wife that one should want to.
However, even after that shidduch didn’t work out, I came to China, the home of prostitutes, clubbing, karaoke, and who knows what else. Yet even here, I have abstained from anything that could compromise my integrity. My friends have been telling me that nobody would ever know, and even Rashi says that if you are going to do something wrong, go to a place like China where there are no Jews and sin there; of course this is clearly out of context, but pardon the application to this situation. The truth is, however, that I would know and so would G-d and my future wife. I value my authenticity, and along with that comes what I call “cold-hard honesty at any cost.” So while I could have done any sin with any woman, and while my Chinese skills are good enough to do it now and the coming week, I have abstained and I have decided to continue abstaining because I feel that it is the right thing to do.
What changes are to come are still unknown to me, and they will cause grief to a lot of people. The question is one about authenticity. At what cost does one sacrifice authentic expression to fit into a mold set by an external force? The problem is that I have developed so much distain and disrespect for people who pick and choose their religious observances and so they hold by some things and not by others; I would never want to be one of these people. Rather, if I were to digress, I would sin and I would know I was sinning. I would know that one day I would pay the price when I left my body and came to stand in front of the almighty G-d who would judge me for my actions. However, I would not delude myself into thinking that what I was doing was okay. I would be evil and I would know it.
There were two reasons I became religious, both of which were not being satisfied by my becoming religious. Firstly, I wanted to understand the nature of the world so that I could understand the cloud phenomena and the connection people have with nature; so to speak, I wanted to learn to do magic and I thought that by learning Kabbalah that I would acquire this skill as if it were a muscle to be flexed. I wanted flame to come out of my eyes when I spoke words of Torah. Secondly, I wanted to secure my future by avoiding the disaster of a relationship my mother had with my father. I felt that only by going in the opposite extreme can one have a good family. However, by reading about all these trapped Jews who can not get out of the lifestyle they have built, I don’t want to do that to myself. I know I never will want to live a life where movies and all secular influences are gone; I would feel that this would be a wasted life, even though it would be closer to a life of truth. However, what I am describing is called frying out, or going off the derech.
I am sad that when I called my rabbi, it didn’t sound like they had anything prepared when it came to shidduchim. I am heartbroken and disappointed by this because I had sincerely hoped that I would take a step back and reevaluate my values and I would come back to the US, I would meet someone, I would get married, and all this would distract me from the garbage fake secularism that has filled my head since my experience where I was misinformed by my rabbi that a Chassidic Jew does not wear color.
I am so angry for being misled, even though he was trying to keep me away from the influences that will most certainly infect my mind now that I don’t look so different from anyone else with my colored shirts. If you know me, as my rabbi should have known better, the ONE thing that one should NEVER violate is my trust. In my eyes, he lied to me by neglecting to tell me the whole story the many times that I asked him about wearing colored clothing, and even though he technically told me that there is “halachically” nothing wrong with wearing color, he led me to come to my own conclusion that there is something very wrong and non-chassidish about wearing anything other than the black-and-white penguin suit which Chassidic Jews typically don.
Naturally, I objectively have the knowledge that with anything that involves anger, my mind is poisoned from my anger and I have been influenced and led astray in my heart from the applicability of Chassidic observances to my life above basic halacha (Jewish law). But in my ill-minded state, I am so sick in my head that I am even willing to break halacha in the face of G-d himself, unashamed and unabashed by loosening up on my strict observances of touch and dance and by making the decision not to actively work on ceasing the viewing and active participation of movies, shows, and opera. For this I blame G-d and I blame myself for being so weak minded that I didn’t see the truth.