When Being A Weirdo Is What Makes A Difference

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What I discovered recently and keep on rediscovering was tha, sometimes,  the only REAL way to make a difference for someone is if you absolutely don’t care whether they like you or not.

Not that you don’t care at all. Because your brain will always want people to like you. No no.

What I mean is that your actions are not given by nor influenced by whether the person will like what you say or not.

EXAMPLE:


I’m sitting on the train. It’s been a very long day. There is a black woman sitting to my right with two children both of whom appear to be roughly 10.


I turn to her…”how are you” I inquire.


She is literally forming the words “I’m great” when her sons start bickering. Her mouth rapidly changes shape and she starts shouting. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE I TOLD YOU TWO TO CUT THAT SH__T OUT?!?!?! (Insert another minute of angry shouting)

She turns back to me and goes “I’m fine”.

Now she doesn’t appear fine.

She’s mad as hell!

So one part of me wants to have a real conversation about what really matters to her. The other part is like “berry stop it. She’s not interested. She is sending all the conventional signals of wanting to be left alone. She’ll think you’re weird man. Dude you really are a WEIRDO just relax and let it go”

In that moment I discovered how hard it is to make a difference for people if your concerned with what they’ll think of you.

I closed down and didn’t speak to her further.

I could have said  something like (of course, it never goes this smooth): “Excuse me ma’am. Wow I see you’re really frustrated by your sons bickering. I see you’re very angry. Now I know I’m a total stranger and its not common to talk to random strangers about what’s really important to you. And I also know you may just not be in a mood to talk. But I want you to know that if you do let me in on your world, it would be an honour and a privilege for me to hear what’s really going on for you.”

I didn’t do that. I closed.

I thought she might think I’m weird.

So I didn’t take the action that might have brightened her day.

EXAMPLE:

A friend of mine told me recently that tanya has helped them  with something they were dealing with and struggling with. And how exciting it was for them because it’s the first time they’ve felt Tanya is really practical.

I asked, “Is it completely resolved, whatever you were struggling with?”

No.

Ok. Would you be willing to share with me?

Not really.

Ok. Why?

It’s personal.

Ok. And you may want to consider that the hesitation and uncomfortability you give it grants it power over you. Like, as if, there is something there that is shameful or threatening?

Oh yeah? So YOU tell me everything private in your life!

Ok. Ask what you want.

Really?

Yes.

[He went there. I went there too.]

Ok, I said, now that we cleared that up, do you wish to tell me what’s going on?

NO.

Ok I said and went home.

Was that comfortable? I love people. You think I want to make people uncomfortable? NO.

But I also know that I’m fanatical about people getting some freedom in their lives around what they’re dealing with.

In the world of that commitment there is very little space for not saying things just because I think or feel that that person will think or feel something ABOUT ME.

——-

P.S. Here’s what I’m NOT SAYING:

I’m not saying if you don’t want to talk about something with someone it means automatically that thing you’re dealing with has any power over you or is unresolved.

I’m not saying there is something wrong with choosing not to share something private with your friends.

I’m simply saying what I’m saying.

P.P.S. If you found this article in any way helpful, empowering or insightful, share it with two people you suspect might like it, resonate with it, or even strongly disagree with it.

With much humility, fragility and awe at the possibility of you creating lasting change in your life,

Berry Schwartz

 

Posted in Conversations

Do You Love Your Frustrations? Then Why Are You Keeping Them?

Experience Time:  10 minutes

Reading Time: : 2 minutes, 49 seconds. Contains 565 words  (calculated by http://niram.org/read/)

Skim Time: Don’t skim this. Seriously. If you don’t have the time to invest a couple minutes right now, come back when you do. Skimming through life and looking for more knowledge won’t make any difference for you. You need to take the time to invest in getting something (experientially) from reading this. If you’re in skimming mode, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that or bad, it just won’t work and my intention in writing this is that it work.

My intention in writing this article is: to have you take a look at where you’re holding onto a complaint about someone or something instead of taking action.

———

Me: What’s up? What have you been dealing with lately?
Him: Nothing much. Just upset about something.
Me: Would you be willing to share with me?
Him: It’s no big deal.
Me: Well, I can see you’re upset, you heaved a great big sigh when you said it and you don’t look too excited! I’m ok if you don’t wanna share but why are you saying it’s no big deal?
Him: Whatever, it’s just something nagging me.
Me: Ok
Him: It’s my friend…basically he always asks me for help because I’m a big strong guy and last week he asked me to help him set up an event in his backyard again and I came and helped him for 2 hours.
Me: Ok. Great! You’re helping your friend out! So where’s the upset?
Him: Well, I don’t feel appreciated. I feel a bit used you know? Like, my friend was even literally just watching me work and carry tables and chairs. He’s not mean just really lazy lol.
Me: Ok. Did you communicate that?
Him: No! I don’t wanna make a big deal.
Me: Right. You just wanna be frustrated and feel used and carrying that around all day with you.
[He laughs]
I’m serious! What’s so funny.
Him: You’re making a big deal outta this.
Me: Am I?
Him: Well, whatever, you know, it’s just this thing he does. Doesn’t really matter.
Me: Ok. So why you talking about it? And why are you walking around heaving big sighs and feeling used? Why you doing that to yourself? Look, there’s nothing wrong or bad here. It’s not bad to be frustrated or feel slightly used by your friend. It’s just not allowing you to experience life the way you want to.
Him: Well, what would I say? I don’t wanna say anything and either make him feel bad or look like I’m making a big deal.
Me: Ok.
Him: Yeah.
Me: Great! So say that! Say, “Hey Moshe, look I want to communicate something to you. And I didn’t even wanna bring this up because I don’t wanna make a big deal out of nothing and I don’t want to make you feel bad but there’s this thing that keeps coming up for me in our relationship. You know how you ask me to help you with physical tasks all the time? Well, I don’t mind doing it, in fact, I like helping you but I also don’t feel appreciated and sometimes you just watch me do the work without even pitching in and that doesn’t really work for me. So I’m requesting you thank me after I work and that you pitch in with me. I want to be there for you! I just wanna feel like you’re in it with me.”
Him: Well, I don’t know that’s like a lot to say.
Me: Yeah you’re right. Much better to walk around being incomplete with one of your best friends and feeling used. So much easier isn’t it?
——
Sometimes people don’t actually want to give up whatever baggage they’re walking around with. They say they do but you wouldn’t believe the stuff that comes out of people’s mouths. The one thing that will always show you what a person is committed to is action. And sometimes people are not actually committed to having a life that frikin works and that they LOVE (regardless of what they say)

P.S. Here’s what I’m NOT SAYING:

I’m not saying there is no value in what people say.

I’m not saying there is something wrong with holding onto your frustrations.

I’m simply saying what I’m saying.

P.P.S. If you found this article in any way helpful, empowering or insightful, OR if you disagreed with it and yet it had you come alive and start thinking about what really matters to you AND you want to give something back to me, I have a request of you!  Share it with two people you suspect might like it, resonate with it, or even strongly disagree with it.

Find me on facebook http://on.fb.me/1vOyXKU or twitter http://bit.ly/1BtOnFD or shoot me an email berryschwartz[at]gmail[.com] to let me know how my content is working (or not) for you.

With much humility, fragility and awe at the possibility of you creating lasting change in your life,

Berry Schwartz

Posted in lovingcomplaints

What if Moshiach wasn’t coming?

Here’s my question: If you knew Moshiach was not coming in your lifetime, would anything in your life or character or vision of the world change?

Sometimes we relate to Moshiach as the person who will come save us all.

And sometimes, as a result, we hold back.

But what if no one else is coming…what if Moshiach didn’t come in this lifetime. And it was on you.

And what if in fact, NO ONE else is coming to save the Jewish nation and community from its problems and whatever isn’t working?

What if…the only person who was there to do it was you?

Now …take out the what if. Because that’s precisely the truth.

No one is coming because YOU are the one who will be coming.

So now you can take on your life with power and accountability.

Which is awesome and ridiculously fun once you get what that really means.

So yes Moshiach will really truly come one day.
Is he coming?
No.
So get out there and start playing full out.

 

Posted in Stam

Choose Your God (wait…what?)

God actually is real…as we say chai vikayum…he’s like living and like ALIVE.

He loves and wants, even …dare I say it…needs.

He cries…he laughs…he longs for you.

Damn, that’s crazy.

How this fits theologically and philosophically is a whole conversation and for another time.

But you do have a choice to make:

Either God actually wants and needs you for real or he doesn’t. Either way is fine and there can be full and great (halachic) lives lived in both of those worlds.

But you want to get settled about which it is for you.

What I’m saying here is that a God that is REAL and ALIVE and NEEDS you and WANTS you is a God worth living for!

There is a power and freedom in a yiddishkeit and relationship with a God that is so frikin vital and vibrant.

AND…whatever you choose…your whole relationship to God and yiddishkeit fundamentally transforms when you take ownership of it and LIVE it as WHO you are.

This is Berry and I’m in! :)

Posted in Foundational

Give Yourself Permission To Seek

Give yourself permission to seek.

Avraham was a serious idol worshipper.

Yisro was too.

They both became giants of the Jewish people.

Sometimes, the fact that you’ve been to so many foreign pastures is simply a statement about what an incredible human being you are and how dedicated to finding meaning and truth you are.

It’s ok to explore and seek a form of halachic Judaism that will work for you.

It’s ok to create the Judaism that will work for you for your whole lifetime.

And by the by, no one will do it for you.

You see, you can decide to be hardcore litvish or chabad or modox or charedi or whatever and relate to anything you do that doesn’t fit within that hardcore standard as weak/sin/failure etc….

That’s one option.

Or you can create the Judaism you want (within the halachic framework).

Here’s the irony.

You already do that.

You pick and choose like a woodpecker hopping from tree to tree.

We all do.

You pick and choose which mitzvot and which values you will stand in today.

Maybe you’ll come home from work and pick the value of being upset or frustrated or tired or snappish.

You’ll reply: Well, those are just actions where I fail and you’re talking about principles, be’shittah.

I’m inviting you to consider that there is not that much difference at the end of the day.

What REALLY matters is: ACTIONS.

What you, in reality, do in this world.

So you pick and choose. Now what?

What I’m saying is: be authentic  about that.

If it’s in the dark it has so much power over you. So take it out into the harsh glare of the bright sun.

That way, you can examine it for its warts and flaws and see what’s working and what isn’t.

Hey, maybe you want to be yeckish lubab or a chazon ish chabadnik.

Who cares?

Show up for God, do your thing and do you baby!

Posted in Foundational

Are religious people timid?

How did bittul (selflessness) become perceived by some as leading to timidity and lack of self.

Chassidim like zalman moshe yitzchaki, mendel futerfas, chatche faigin, zalman nevler, ruvin dunin etc. etc…. were ridiculously assertive, confident, and steamrolled any obstacles in their way. Sometimes religious people become less confident, less assertive, less …there. There is less of them there. That is a tragedy.

Bitul, done properly, leads to more self not less. Its just a different self. A self not driven by the need to survive or accumulate wealth and prestige. Its a self driven by whats important to god. The values are different …but the self? Just as strong if not stronger.
THAT is cause for celebration.
Posted in Bittul

Why People Are Frum – The People Respond

 

Here are the refreshingly straight and beautiful answers posted to the question “why are you frum.”

I was moved by people’s courage and willingness to take an authentic look for themselves.

My own thoughts on all this will be up later this week.

Enjoy.

 

—-

I have no clue

—-

Provides meaning, value, community, and hope.

—–

#2 and i like the idea of doing the right thing…Jewish guilt maybe…?

—-

And I believe that it is still the best option for: Jewish continuity Transmitting the Torahs teachings

—–

If caring about G-d = caring about Truth and Goodness then “check”

—–

My answer is that it works for me but not for mainly for the reasons that are cited in the choice above. Those are important but also are the existential, spiritual, ethical, and cosmological (micro and macro) qestions it answers as well as the empowerment that living a Torah life and learning Torah provides.

——

I am not Frum. I am not convinced the Torah is the absolute truth. I question everything. Science proves to me the world is billions of years old, not a mere 7,000. The Adam and Eve story (along with many others) are metaphors, not historically, factually, or scientifically accurate. I further keep G-d separated from what he may have told, but it was man whom interpreted that message and further changed some or much of it when it was translated from one language to another. The original integrity may be missing. I do see the purpose of Kabbalah, but I have yet to see how they tie together (especially the daily mitzvahs that I call check-list Judaism), and how they help me with my tikkun nefesh and not make my Seder and OCD worse. I didn’t grow up Jewish, but I was born Jewish. I find our way of like frustrating and fascinating at the same time. I love G-d for the life and surroundings he has given me, but I don’t idolize anything before Him (including any text that man says G-d authored. Many authors put their hearts, minds, and hands in the texts we have of both oral and written laws and traditions to date). Because I keep the Texts separate and not the exact words of Hashem, I question everything. I fight for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered rights, because being GLBT is nature and G-d made. I believe every spark of the divine counts and no one should be made to feel less-than or disposable just because man wrote it down and said G-d said it is so and we have to follow every word or else. That or else being whatever children are taught and those children grow up and teach their children the same thing and it may not be accurate. Not teaching children secular subjects along with Jewish texts does not allow a human being at any age the ability to reason and figure it out in accordance with their ability to learn, retain, and problem solve. It is child abuse to teach children only one way. Frum children are being abused by only one way of thinking (excluding the secular subjects of the internet, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, music, texts, theatre, etc). They grow up and if they are forced to enter the secular world, they are sometimes forced to take on two identities to survive and get along. The Frum one and the Hidden Frum one while they interact with secular populations. If Frum people were allowed to do both Frum and secular education, they wouldn’t have to hide one way or another (hide that they indeed watch some TV, surf the entire internet, listen to secular music, have secular social media accounts, and hide they are Frum from unsuspecting secular persons they encounter, while lying to the Frum world they did look at secular stuff). It is a two sided blade. I thank G-d everyday for not making me Frum. I thank G-d everyday for giving me the eyes to read both traditional Jewish texts, (to reason if those texts apply in this here and now), as well as a mind to be able to see both sides of a black and white world perspective. I learn something new each day I do Torah study (I do Torah study to learn, not necessarily to elevate my sparks or to to something positive for my family when I do. It is something I do whether or not it would still be a mitzvah. I don’t know if doing so connects me directly with Hashem. I feel connected by the mountains I live in, not just by doing Torah study). Before I knew I was born Jewish, I had an urge to be doing something that would somehow bring me closer to G-d. I pray, but hitbodedut, type of praying. A relationship type of conversing, not a prescribed way of davening from a siddurim. It is deeply personal and private. I go by my gut (intuition). If something feels positive I know Hashem is guiding me. If something feels awful I know Hashem is warning me. I pay close attention to those feelings. They are what is absolutely true and honest to me. They Torah contains punitive passages that seem hateful to me. Those passages frustrate me. Specifically around homosexuality. How could G-d make many creatures homosexual and then state the human ones are to be shunned, punished, or killed (if it were allowed to do so in this day and age). Forget the argument, “a Jew can have same-sex attractions, but is only to marry someone of the opposite sex.” That is forcing people to live a celebrate life or a marriage based on lies not truths. It is not a whole life with pleasures that dictate how they personally desire to fall in love or be sexual with the one they fall in love with. It is cruel and the punishment is forcing anyone that is Frum and GLBT to hide and fear all of their lives. Further, fundamentalists and literalist ism spills into politics and law making that is sometimes not equal for the GLBT population or the religious population. I am for equality, not oppression based on Bibles that people take literally as G-d’s word (without taking into consideration the mistakes or someone else’s spin on it, moving away from the exact original message). It may be divinely inspired, but it is man altered. I don’t pray to man authored stuff. I don’t believe G-d and the Torah is one in the same because I believe it is man altered.

—–

I believe the Torah is absolute truth, and I’d rather struggle to adapt to the truth than live a lie.

—-

I do not like labels but if according to some, ”frum” equates being halachkily observant then I do not consider myself that according to contemperary rabbinic standards. I will say that my connection to Gd is and has always been. I do not believe Gd fails us, I believe us people fail us. I care about tikun olam-rebuilding what needs fixing. Of course I am in a constant state of question in terms of Torah and the written word. I’m always trying to figure out the mystery behind the blueprint (Torah)- I do believe in a lot but I also do not fit in with the standard/robotic ”frum” community tendencies- never really have…and so I keep a lot of what was instilled/ingrained within me and toss the things that I do not feel are as important for me (just ME) to practice (at least for right now)- my own version of ”borer”-. I do not believe Gd is not in favor of my approach if anything- I think He is fully with me all.the.time- end of story

—-

What else?

—-

I believe that God and the Torah are true, I find Judaism to be meaningful and fulfilling.

—-

Because its the truth

—–

all the above, and none. I’m frum because I’m frum. period. I can give a thousand excuses why I’m frum, but no reason

—-

Because I’m afraid of the expectations and judgements from family, friends, and community if I’m not frum. That being said, I related to some of your suggested answers but they aren’t powerful enough in my life to motivate a fully frum life.

—–

I firmly believe/(know?) that G-d exists and the Torah is true. Living a Torah life is fulfilling my ultimate purpose as a creation in this world. It is the only true “real” and “free” way to live. It is how I will be happiest ( although that is not the reason to necessarily live a certain lifestyle), and in my opinion the Only way to live.

—–

it works for me and i care about g-d

 

Posted in Foundational

Why are you frum? A one minute exercise

A ONE MINUTE EXERCISE ON WHY YOU ARE FRUM

 

 

Posted in Stam

A Converation About The Many Benefits of Being a Victim

Experience Time:  4 minutes to read – 5 minutes to digest = 9 minutes of your day.

Reading Time: 3 minutes, 9 seconds. Contains 600 words  (calculated by http://niram.org/read/)

Skim Time: Don’t skim this. Seriously. If you don’t have the time to invest a couple minutes right now, come back when you do. Skimming through life and looking for more knowledge won’t make any difference for you. You need to take the time to invest in getting something (experientially) from reading this. If you’re in skimming mode, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that or bad, it just won’t work and my intention in writing this is that it work.

My intention in writing this article is: to have you take a look at where in your life you are being a victim of something or someone. 
——-

It can be scary acknowledging that we do have choice and are not ever victims…but it is one of the most powerful steps in starting to get complete and at peace with everything in your life.

So take a hard look. Does Torah and Mitzvos occur to you as this system you are the victim of?

I was coaching one of my clients this past week and what came out was that this guy literally lives in a world where he is bound hand and feet, by the system of halacha and is a total victim to it.

He’s unsatisfied, unfulfilled and the only thing that keeps him going is that he gets to feel like he’s doing life “right” and “better” than everyone else because he is frum.

Not in a malicious way, just what’s there for him.

The truth (at least from my eyes)? He’s a beautiful human being. I was so moved during our conversation at his commitment to his family.

I asked him at one point while he was talking about how he has no choice and that yiddishkeit is the only thing he can do and that he also has no choice about his family because he HAS to take care of them:

“Dovid (not his name obviously) hang on one second. Who decided that halacha means anything?”

Dovid: “What do you mean? It’s emes!”

Me: “Yes you believe that and I happen to also believe that, but you know there are jews who don’t believe it’s emes right? There are even jews who grew up frum like yourself that decided Torah doesn’t mean anything. So my question is. who decided FOR YOU that it means anything TO YOU in your world?”

Dovid: [add more back and forth before this point] “I guess…I…did.”

Me: “Right. So how are you a victim again?”

Dovid: “But I don’t feel like I have a choice.”

Me: “I get that. I can see that. AND your feelings have nothing to do with reality. You actually live like your feelings mean anything in reality. As if they get to determine what’s true and real. And because you don’t feel like you have a choice you make that mean that in reality you don’t. Am I right or wrong on that? You tell me.”

Dovid: No, that’s right.

Berry: But do you?

Dovid: But what about my family, my 4 kids? I don’t have a choice there!

Berry: Look, Dovid. I’m not saying you’re not in a tough spot.I really do get the fear and frustration and guilt and shame and the seemingly impossible situation you’re living in. And if you want that, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s wrong or bad to continue this way or to just bite the bullet and live a religious and marital life sentence. I also don’t think it’s wrong or bad to leave both. The question is…what do you REALLY want. Because whatever that is, I’m committed to having you powerhousing THAT into reality!

But it all begins with a choice. Because victims don’t get to choose the life they want. And I also do get how very much it seems that you don’t have a choice and have no good options and what’s also true is that you do have options and choices. You know there are people who buy a one way ticket to some exotic place and escape it all. I’m not suggesting you do that but what is this nonsense? Of course you have a choice! You can choose to powerfully invest in your marriage and your community and religion. You can choose to practice it publicly and privately not. You can choose to stay in your marriage and speak to your wife about exploring how you can start to feel more engaged and alive within the marriage. You can leave. I mean, there are endless options here.

But here’s what you want to start to look at. If it is true that you have choice and are not a victim, why are you living in a world where you don’t? Meaning, what do you gain by being in that world? What is the benefit of being a victim?

TO BE CONTINUED…

——

Again, right now this occurs to this man as conceptually true perhaps but experientially false as he does not feel like he has choice AND he relates to his feelings like the truth. The real breakthrough won’t necessarily even come from something directly related to his marriage and frumkeit…it may come in a minor area but will come as he starts to relate to his life based on his commitments and starts to reduce the significance of his internal state of affairs.

 

[Please note the following:

a) this is a slice and a window into a conversation without the previous context of past conversations as well as the before and after of this conversation itself

b) I don’t bring any agenda to my clients or just stam people I interact with. MY only agenda is that they get empowered to fulfill on what’s important to THEM. It’s about their agenda not mine

c) I asked this man if I could use this conversation to make a difference for other people in an article and he agreed.]

Thank you to Rabbi Gershon Shusterman, Jackie Stern, Eli Soble, Rabbi Fink, Tzvi Bleich and Dovi Seldowitz for reading a draft of this article and providing insightful feedback.

P.S. Here’s what I’m NOT SAYING:

I’m not saying feelings aren’t important, valuable and/or necessary.

I’m not saying this man needs to do anything, whether to stay or go.

I’m not saying he has great options to choose from.

I’m not saying he is a sub-par husband for feeling this way.

 

I’m simply saying what I’m saying.

 

P.P.S. If you found this article in any way helpful, empowering or insightful, OR if you disagreed with it and yet it had you come alive and start thinking about what really matters to you AND you want to give something back to me, I have a request of you!

Share it with two people you suspect might like it, resonate with it, or even strongly disagree with it.

Find me on facebook http://on.fb.me/1vOyXKU or twitter http://bit.ly/1BtOnFD or shoot me an email berryschwartz[at]gmail[.com] to let me know how my content is working (or not) for you.

With much humility, fragility and awe at the possibility of you creating lasting change in your life,

Berry Schwartz

Posted in Choice

When Torah’s Morality Appears Bankrupt – An Approach

Experience Time:  6 minutes to read – 5 minutes to digest = 11 minutes of your day.

Reading Time: 5 minutes, 9 seconds. Contains 1033 words  (calculated by http://niram.org/read/)

Skim Time: Don’t skim this. Seriously. If you don’t have the time to invest a couple minutes right now, come back when you do. Skimming through life and looking for more knowledge won’t make any difference for you. You need to take the time to invest in getting something (experientially) from reading this. If you’re in skimming mode, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that or bad, it just won’t work and my intention in writing this is that it work.

 

My intention in this article is: to give you a glimpse into my recent struggle with parts of Torah that, by today’s standards at least, appear unpalatable, even obscene. I don’t go the classic route of trying to justify, or simply even understand. I offer two approaches that I think work on the experiential level. If you are seeking something that works for you on the conceptual level, perhaps seek elsewhere today! :)

 

——

Did it ever bother you that, if beis din was alive and well today, if Jewish law was being implemented fully, that we would kill people for, say, driving on Shabbas?

It never bothered me.

Until last week.

I’m walking along Eastern Parkway on my way to study at this rustic gorgeous coffee shop for my final law exams when it hits me.

I’m like staggered by the thought of literally stoning a man to death for a crime against God and Torah.

Last week, a good friend of mine, confided in me that, although he is a well known and much loved member of the community, the truth is that he doesn’t really think God exists, and that if even if God does, he’s not at all convinced that the Torah is God’s word.

SO take this guy, let’s call him Ari, who despite having serious doubts always kept Shabbas. And one day, it’s just too much, and, in a moment of frustration and doubt decides to flip the light on Shabbas. Just then two friends of his come by and are all like, Ari don’t do it! Beis din will kill you. And he goes, “I don’t care. I can’t stand it anymore, I can’t live a life not knowing if it’s true or not!”

So he flips the switch.

I mean, my goodness, we’re gonna kill this guy.

Or, imagine a good friend of yours, who in a moment of weakness sleeps with another man’s wife.

Do you know we would stone them?

Of course you know but do you KNOW?!

I remember growing up, in my interactions with reform and conservative Jews who would challenge these laws, that I would scoff and laugh at them. But now it was hitting me on a emotional level. I couldn’t believe it. Where is the mercy and compassion for someone who bitterly regrets a moment of weakness that is now going to define his very life?!

I mean, my friend Ari, in my opinion deserves a frikkin medal for lasting 40 years of scrupulously frum even while harboring real doubts about the whole enterprise! Instead, we come down on him for that one time and send him to the guillotine?!

Think of his wife and kids sobbing as he’s led out in chains. This might still be conceptual for you…but one day it might hit you in the gut, as it did me last week.

So first I was like, “ Well, there’s no absolute morality without God in the first place and the real inherent value of human life is only given by his values for it, so why can’t he decide when a human life is forfeit?”

And that is true. I do believe that. But my god, fine he COULD but WHY does he HAVE to?!

Here you have someone who was there for God his whole life even though he never saw and heard from God directly and then this?! The crushing severity is …well, crushing.

It’s almost lacking in basic mentchlichkeit.

Whatever.

My intention is not to give you doubts as well, or the feeling I had. It’s to communicate two distinct points to you.

Do you think any of this affected my commitment to God and Torah at all? No it didnt .

My performance and actions were not and will not be affected by this. Why is that? How could it be it doesn’t affect my yiddishkeit at all?

Seriously. Pause and think about it.

——

The answer is because I’m in a committed relationship with God.

Look…imagine one day my wife, god forbid, murders someone in a fit of cruel and sudden anger.

Yes, I’d be shocked, dismayed, would have to deal with it, and with the fact that either I did not know who she was or that human beings are always fallible to the most basic sins and failures. Etc….

But she’s my wife.

Period.

It would not threaten our relationship. I gave her my word and I’m committed for life.

So why is it different with God?

[If you haven’t given your word to God to be in a committed relationship with him for life, that’s another story.]

If there are things within Judaism that strikes us as shocking, incompatible, unbelievable…fine. Deal with it. But perhaps it can be dealt with by realizing that it’s not our crap. It’s God’s. He’ll have to deal with it and will deal with it one day.

[Note: This is all in the world of emotion and experience. Of course, in the world of concept and logic, (which rarely drives our behavior) there is a reality where, whatever God does is the ultimate good and is beautiful. What I’m suggesting is that that may not really work in the world of visceral experience. So let God’s issues be God’s issues and not yours.]

 

2) If the above seems abstract or weird, or just not relatable here’s another thought:

I was speaking to my wife about this and she said, “Look, there’s a reason there is no beis din carrying out stoning these days. A divine reason. We’re only built and meant to deal with what is in our reality and experience. Stonings are not for us to deal with, and there’s a reason for that. Hashem knows what we can handle.”

And it was so resonant for me. It’s so tempting sometimes to have all these questions and problems etc…but it’s also not effective at having a yiddishkeit that works. Deal with that God gave YOU not jews of thousands of years past.

I used to be so upset with the Rebbe that he told people to have so many kids and then I see men in their forties with 10 kids struggling so hard to support that family and dealing with constant stress. And then I realized, it’s not my struggle and fight. Let me own my stuff and deal with MY experience of the Rebbe’s directives.

If someone else has doubts about God or Torah and is struggling, be there, support them, provide a safe space for them to show up inside of, but what I’m learning to do is not to own that struggle for myself.

Not the truth. But not a bad place to come from either.

 

Thank you to Rabbi Gershon Shusterman, Jackie Stern, Eli Soble, Rabbi Fink, Tzvi Bleich and Dovi Seldowitz for reading a draft of this article and providing insightful feedback.

You can listen to this article here: https://soundcloud.com/dovber-schwartz/aud-20150514-wa0004-aac

P.S. Here’s what I’m NOT SAYING:

I’m not saying the conceptual explanations offered in chassidus and elsewhere are invalid.

I’m not saying God is evil or bad.

I’m not saying Torah is outmoded and has now been surpassed by modern ethics and morality.

I’m not saying that frum people need to deal with this.

I’m not saying that if you’re not troubled by this, you’re missing something.

 

I’m simply saying what I’m saying.

 

P.P.S. If you found this article in any way helpful, empowering or insightful, OR if you disagreed with it and yet it had you come alive and start thinking about what really matters to you AND you want to give something back to me, I have a request of you!

Share it with two people you suspect might like it, resonate with it, or even strongly disagree with it.

Find me on facebook http://on.fb.me/1vOyXKU or twitter http://bit.ly/1BtOnFD or shoot me an email berryschwartz[at]gmail[.com] to let me know how my content is working (or not) for you.

With much humility, fragility and awe at the possibility of you creating lasting change in your life,

Berry Schwartz

Posted in Struggles with Torah/Judaism/God

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