It all fell apart one day, and I do not get credit for doing so.
The initiative came from outside myself. I did not have the inner strength to do the unthinkable, the fortitude to acknowledge failure, the resilience to be anything but what my current shitty life was.
So it was done for me.
And my life came crashing down. It was official. I had failed.
All those efforts. All those attempts to do right. All the earnestness and trying and tears and prayers – they all meant nothing. If they had culminated in success, they’d be part of a journey. But I had failed, so they were worthless.
At that exact moment, everything else fell apart as well. I was done with this God. I was done with these rules.
Not only did they get me into this mess, which is maybe just the way the world should operate; no, they made everything worse. They made everything harder. And they provided zero guidance and meaning along the way. In fact, doing the opposite had oftentimes been the only thing that brought some relief.
I have always been an unusual person.
Unintentionally different than most people: out of the loop, bewilderedly bumbling through life, feeling like I’m looking *at* the world instead of living in it. Very often, what worked for other people just doesn’t work for me.
The TV shows don’t make me laugh.
The sports teams don’t get me excited.
Owning things doesn’t make me feel good.
The renowned therapist’s recommendation? Doesn’t help.
The revered Rabbis advice? The exact opposite of what I need.
The insights from best-selling self-help books? Commonplace.
Therein lies my most fundamental criticism of religion – simultaneously very personal, yet inherently universal: how can one set of rules apply to everyone?
We point to gay rights as extreme examples, but what of the myriad of day-to-day challenges?
What if I don’t get a sense of belonging from going to shul?
What if I’m a night owl and don’t like waking up for shachris?
What if I’m not academic and don’t want to learn Torah “day and night” as I’m commanded to?
What if Niddah is eating away at my relationship?
If Shabbat makes me feel stifled and trapped?
If halacha fills me with anxiety, and the philosophy, with guilt?
They say that God talks to everyone via the Torah to accommodate for their own special needs. All I see is a book written by ESTJ’s, for ESTJ’s.
After 26 years of trying to contort myself into this tiny box that was not me, and never was; a framework which I never had the capacity to even question, I was finally so very fucking done.
Fueled initially by the most fundamental anger, I started making decisions that were completely my own, for the first time in my life. There was no longer anything else to guide me, only my own intuition, my own sense of right and wrong.
And what do you know? There were lots of answers there. They looked exactly the opposite of what religion thought I should do. What most of society thought I should do.
Yet when I listened to my instincts, I found happiness. I was able to make mistakes, and own them. These were *my* mistakes, and I would make them in stride, as part of being human. I could just as easily reverse and make a good choice. It was all me, and my relationship with myself.
One of my worst memories, the one that leaves me most angry at religion, involved a situation where I absolutely knew what the right thing to do was. And I did not take that action, and instead helplessly watched others suffer, because the Torah said it was wrong. I suppressed my conscious for the sake of “Truth”, my own knowledge of what is wrong and right for a “higher power”.
I will never forgive the Torah or Judaism for putting me through that, and I will never again be in that situation. I now listen only to myself.
Since then, I have made extremely difficult decisions that pain me daily. I have fucked up, sometimes knowingly and sometimes accidentally, in massive ways.
I can live with that.
Because for the first time, the choice is mine.
I’m in Tel Aviv on Shabbat, staying in a hostel. Hanging out with some German tourists who I’d met that day. Telling them the story I’ve just told you.
Two weeks earlier, I’d read the entire Torah portion in synagogue, the assistant Rabbi at my cousin’s bar mitzvah.
Now I’m on the way back from the beach, with five shekel in my pocket. I buy a falafel from an Arab shop in Jaffa.
I feel so light, so free. No more worrying about how many laws I’m breaking at any given moment, whether God approves of me today, or where I’d find my next Kosher meal.
I take a bite.
It tastes like freedom.
Full chapter list (Available in eBook Form)
- Good and Evil
- Yeshiva Gedola
- Ramat Shlomo
- More of That
- The IDF
- Shitting on the Parade
- Spreading Wings