Sunday, September 04, 2005

My Selfish Wager with G-d.

Chassidic versus Ultra-Orthodox: I suppose "Chassidic" refers to an association with one of the Chassidic sects, i.e. Bobov, Satmar, Lubavich, Ger, etc. Identifying with one of the groups as I understand it means that you follow their Rebbe, which means that you follow their minhagim (customs), you study their chassidus (esoteric studies), and if they are strict or lenient on certain halachas (laws), so are you.

Although rare, I suppose you can be Chassidic without being ultra-orthodox (UO), UO meaning that you follow all the halachas to the highest degree. I suppose this state of being Chassidic without being ultra-orthodox isn't a good state to be in, because it means that you look like one of them, but you're not up to par with the expectations of the group. After all, no Chassidic group or Rebbe would say that it is okay to go to bars and dance with women, or that its okay to skip davening (praying) or wearing tefillin from time to time.

However, I suppose from the point of view of baal teshuvas today (those who have accepted religious laws upon themselves after living secular lives), most of the time they return to orthodoxy through a Chassidic sect (i.e. either through Lubavichers doing "mivtzoim", or through the other groups doing "kiruv"). However, I suppose non-religious secular life is kind of like a scar -- it never completely goes away. Therefore, I'd say that in today's times where a majority of religious people today are baal teshuvas or children of baal teshuvas, it is quite common to be Chassidic, but not necessarily ultra-orthodox.

Breaking Out Of The Chassidic Shidduch System:
Anyway, thanks for the good wishes on the shidduch. I haven't gotten her number yet or said okay to the meeting. I am having issues by having an arranged meeting without the medical genetic pre-tests (Dor Yeshorim) for Tay Sachs, etc., and without my rabbi's consent or my shadchans checking up on her and her family, it wouldn't be a proper shidduch and per social pressure, our meeting would be not by the rules [not Jewish laws, but social norms of how men and women meet in the Chassidic world]. By meeting this girl, I break through a dating barrier that has been set up around me like a barb-wired fence and electrified for almost four or five years now, because this date would be through someone of another sect who didn't go through the pre-sorting process. In other words, she wouldn't be "good enough" because she wouldn't be accustomed to the in-group's rules and belief systems. This would just be a "set-up date."

If I like her, then I have to face my rabbi and somehow break it to him that I broke out of the Chassidic way of shidduch dating and I met someone who I'd like to marry. I know I wouldn't get his approval, and they would think badly of me and they would think they've failed in their trying to get me to be in their system. No matter how hard I tried, I get the suspicion that we'd never really fit in and be trusted.

This is harsh writing, and actually thinking about it makes me see the crazyness of it all. While this is only my biased observation, I know the description I have layed out here is not normal, but this is the bad that comes with the good of the group that I have associated with.

On another note, I enjoy my association with being Chassidic, because I like the belief systems, the theories, and the Chassidus (Kabbalah) that they teach. They don't joke around about being religious; I am the one who is not observing and not holding halachically (per Jewish law) the way I should be. Funny enough, according to most Young Israel Shuls (Synagogues) and other orthodox Jews, I am very strict in many ways in my observances, and lax in areas I shouldn't be. I am my own contradiction.

My Selfish Wager with G-d:
Yet as an answer to many of your questions of why I went out to the bar again, and why I decided not to be strict shomer-negiah (not touching women) anymore, b'kitzur (in short), in my own mind when I became religious and gave up my girlfriend who I loved and thought I would marry, I set a limit on how long I would wait for G-d to kick in and help me find a wife if I became religious. It was my personal deal that in my heart I made with him when I decided to go all the way, giving up everything that I built up until then. I held up my part of the bargain and stayed religious all the way, and I was very saddened when the deadline passed this May, 2005. The last shidduch didn't work out and in my heart, G-d was in breach.

Now I face the question as to what to do now. Obviously, you don't make contracts with G-d unless you're Moshe Rabbeinu, and I'm no Moses. Perhaps in my heart I fully observed for years with an "I'll believe it when I see it" attitude, and since all the yeshiva bochurim (students) were getting married one year after Yeshiva, so I set my limit at three-times that number to give G-d some leeway just in case I required more time to get married. That deadline past and I'm still single and I feel as if I did everything right keeping my part of the bargain.

I learned Torah every day (Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya, Rambam, Halacha, Gemara, and then some), I davened every day with kavannah (intent), I fully abstained from any sort of physical or intimate contact with women, I was careful to go to the mikveh even though there was no halachic requirement to do so, I kept my dress fully Chassidic, including wearing the big black hat, and I stood by my Rabbi and his family at the peril of my time and my grades and my youth of my precious twenties waiting every day for something to happen.

So now I don't know how to act, what to do, or even if I believe with emuna (faith) anymore. I'm starting to think G-d is ignoring me, or testing me. I am staying religious, but since the breach, I have been distancing myself from my Chassidic friends, and I have been focusing on my law school work and getting my life in order. This is ultra-selfish, I know, but I feel in my heart that I can't rely on G-d anymore, so I am doing what I need to do to get by, and I will be as religious as I can, and hopefully one day, he'll see that I am still religious after all this time of his abscence, and he will reward me with a good shidduch and a good life. If he doesn't kick in, then I'll have to live a meaningful life being as religious as I can as a wager and a bet that there is a G-d and an afterlife, and that there will be a reward for my staying religious my whole life.

This is my selfish wager. At least I'll still be religious.


erica Lubavitch said...

How do you know G-d agrees with the deal?

Zoe Strickman said...

It is likely that G-d never accepted my offer. Yet according to halacha, if someone performs an action on behalf of another such as painting a neighbor's house without the neighbor's permission, even though the neighbor never consented to the contract, he is still obligated to pay the painter because he was enriched by the painter's actions.

Of course I came up with this argument just now, but I suppose there is the argument that somehow G-d was enriched by my becoming religious for two reasons:
1) A soul is a part of G-d Himself, and mitzvos are the food of the soul -- therefore, by enriching the soul through my actions, it can be argued that He benefitted.
2) A secular Jew who becomes religious, especially in the face of adversity and continues to be religious after hardship strikes is a kiddush Hashem and sanctifies G-d's name in front of others.
3) My being religious has influenced others to be religious.

These have to be worth something. Anyway, I'm not expecting payment from being religious. I was just hoping things would turn out okay. Truth be told, just as easily as I argued for binding G-d into a contract he didn't agree to, I can find reasons why he shouldn't be obligated and hence I continue to deserve nothing.

I was just expressing in the blog the feelings I had when I became religious. This is unfortunately what really went through my head.

fsgsf said...

Very interesting blog! Good luck to you!


NJ from NJ

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Thank you for stopping my my blog.

You seem to have raised some interesting questions for yourself. I hope you can sort some of it out, and that you are able to live peacefully, without torment or pain. You seem to be headed in that direction, and sharing some of your thoughts with your therapist is a good first step.

a leben ahf dir!

Editor said...

We Want Your Shiddach Now!

Zoe Strickman said...


Zoe Strickman said...

It is now months later and I wanted to make a note that after writing this blog entry, I didn't fry out and start dating women. In fact, I never ended up going on that date I wrote about in this blog entry and I stayed with the Lubavich Shidduch System, as I call it. In short, while I wanted to break down and start hooking up with women and resuming my pre-religious activities, I've abstained from that and hindsight, I am happy that I did.