Important Preface to Readers by Jameel: One of the first blogs I was introduced to was the "godolhador" blog. I was fascinated by frank discussions I rarely heard elsewhere and eagerly followed them daily. My personal emuna was never really bothered by the questions or the skeptics, but it was very refreshing to be hashkafically challenged by the different viewpoints raised. One of the frequent commenters there, The Holy Hyrax is personally troubled by doubts... skepticism... and questions... yet what makes him different (so he claims) is that as a Ba'al Teshuva, he lacks the basis to "remain in the fold" since he did not grow up "frum from birth" -- and therefore poses his question, "Can a Baal Teshuva with doubts remain Frum?"
My blog The Muqata, is probably not the best of blogs for this guest posting for a variety of reasons, most importantly I lack the overly diverse readership as the GodolHador blog and this posting will probably not receive as wide ranging feedback on the subject as The Holy Hyrax deserves. However, since he asked if he could guest post it here and he doesn't have a blog of his own, it's the least I can do. I can say that reading his post caused me to think about my own hashkafa and my own children's education -- and I sincerely hope someone can provide answers for The Holy Hyrax to sooth his anguish.
Can a Baal Teshuva with doubts remain Frum?
A Guest Post by The Holy Hyrax.
That question has been haunting me for quite a while now. Can I, as a BT, lead some sort of normal existence within Judaism, with doubts? This past Shabbat gave me time to reflect on my present situation, as well as paint myself some sort of portrait of my future. Of course, no one knows what’s in store for me in the future, but I do know something about my present situation.
I am utterly miserable.
How does one remove these doubts from his head and build himself some sort of ideal Judaism? I don't know if other people can, but I can't. I have talked to many wonderful people here on the blogs, many of them with doubts, but none of them, BT's. All the bloggers here that are able to somehow appreciate Shabbat or some good niggun, are those that are FFB. Whether they have doubt or not, they are basically indoctrinated with a love for Judaism and a love to keep halacha (different people at different degrees). Me, I just don't care anymore. I was not raised with a Jewish upbringing, so it’s not in me to say Modeah Ani in the morning, or put tzitzis, or tfillin or just say a regular bracha. These things are not important to me because it was never a part of me, and let’s not forget the part of the doubts.
Now I have two things working against me.
My kids will be attending orthodox elementary schools soon. When my kid asks me why I don't say birkat hamazon, what should I tell her? What do I tell her when she lifts up some electronic device on Shabbat? Do I quickly run to her and ask her to put it down because it is muktzeh? I don't think so. How can I have any appreciation to keep all these halachot if it’s not inside me? Will I honestly care about the size of my son’s Peyot? Should I just let the school raise my child when it comes to religious matters? There have been posts every-now and then critiquing modern teaching -- comparing it to a time long gone when things were done differently. Will I know what good religious teaching will be? Will I know how to fix it? How can I?
I used to be a happy person. I never did drugs, or gotten drunk. I always felt sorry for those that were picked on. I have tried to tend to those that really need help. This is just part of my character. It has nothing to do with Judaism. Since Judaism came along, I have been depressed. Judaism has offered me little except for grief and tears. I ask God what’s the point of all this? Could it be so that we have come almost 3000 years only to discover we are not what we believed we were? Is the real essence of "Continuous Revelation," that we discover the truth about our Torah? Perhaps the beauty of Torah is that we DID make it up. That through our own devises, we tried to connect to you, as best as we could, because we are, after all, only human, and the system that we developed would ultimately have flaws. But I am only human too. And there is so much mental anguish that I can take. Having this hashkafa may be a way to look at it, but its definitely a lonely hashkafa. I am not part of the Reform community. My wife is orthodox, and as I see it, my children’s future will be going to orthodox schools. So how on earth can I continue like this? Not much longer. It is getting very lonely. How will I deal with my orthodox community? How will I deal with going to relatives during the holidays, pretending that I am having a good time.
Over Shabbat, I was reading the book "Off the Derech." I got to the part of where children are exposed to the "atmosphere" of the home, and how they pick up behaviors from their parents, even the most subtle ones. Then I started to think of my home. How on earth am I going to raise healthy children, when their father is always depressed? How can I fulfill my potential to be a good father and husband, when my mind is always pre-occupied by doubts and questions. This is no ideal to raising children. Children need good homes. Sometimes they have very religious fathers, but yet he abuses them. So what good is the religion? The same thing goes on now in my home. I may not be physically abusing them, but the mental abuse that they will receive from a father that is always done about religion, will be great as well. They do not deserve this. My wife deserves the husband she once new -- a happy, caring one. So if Judaism is causing me such great misery, why should I keep up with it? I just don't know anymore. All I know is that I wanted to be frum, I really did. Anyone that knows me can testify to that. But how can I go on any longer.
So my question remains. Can a BT with doubt remain frum?
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael