As I’ve written in the past here, when I was in my late teens, sparked by some personal things that happened, I had a crisis of faith. That is the proper term for it right? I grew up in a religious home an Orthodox, Baal Teshuvah Chabad home. For some sad reason my father never carried over his initial “it” feeling for how he came to be religious into his parenting lifestyle. There were no lengthy explanations for why we do certain things. No reminiscing about how when he wasn’t Frum he took this or that for granted. No love, or passion for things he lectured his children on every day. Reading what I’m writing now, it’s actually even sadder than I realized.
On the other hand my mother, also a Baal Teshuvah, did bring that passion for religion into the home, she didn’t have all the knowledge that my father had, so it would not have been as easy for her to do the “explaining” but I definitely developed my own passion for life and for being religious from her.
Part of what happens sometimes in a large orthodox family, where there are chores aplenty and school busses coming and going. Where there are always late classes, tons of Hebrew and English homework to do. There is little time for logic, explanations, general conversations of why we do the things we do. In the best of situations the parents and the teachers combine to give you just enough to sustain your need till your old enough to delve further into it. In the worst of situations you’re just along for the ride. What happens when you just go with the flow is that when you get older and your not being watched over as much. Where your old enough to start doing and thinking on our own, when the already know it all attitude has developed in your teen years, you start asking yourself the biggest question of all. Why am I doing this? Without proper conditioning as a child, some people just don't bother to answer that "why."
I have many friends that grew up frum and never had the crisis of faith I did. Now, I don’t know that for sure, maybe some of them weren’t brave enough to face it but they did remain frum. I think the reason is because they were in situations where there parents did go the extra mile to nurture their spiritual growth. You can’t just give a plant air or sun, it needs water too. In order for the plant to grow just right and survive, in needs all the elements.
It’s ironic, to think that a man who came from a place so far removed from religion, and who went on such a long and harsh road to return, didn't instill the passion that drove him there in the first place in his children. Because he didn’t do that, many of my siblings aren’t religious today. What can I tell you; with some people bad parenting is just bad parenting, religion aside. Thank g-d for my mother.
I think to understand what I went through myself, and to better understand my own journey, its good to read my smaller less intimate posts leading up to this. This post for example will demonstrate how my love for doing “smaller mitzvahs” eventually powered the engine that lead me back. I think I felt guilty about some of the bigger mitzvahs I wasn’t careful about or didn’t understand the reasons behind, or never felt that passion for them. Since I didn’t feel so into those bigger things, I went out of my way to do the “easier” little things. Helping someone out in a jam for me was a simple and logical “mitzvah.”
Jumping forward many years to college, I “hung” around the Chabad house on campus a lot. Since I was well versed in being frum, (just not understanding why I would want to be) there were always things I could help out with there. I ended up being like an assistant rabbi. It must have been odd, there I was a regular guy, not dressed in any formal rabbinic gear. No beard, no hat, just some jeans, a baseball cap and a sweatshirt. Talking about major issues, like the woman’s role in Judaism. Did Moses really exist? How do you know? Isn’t it easier to “rest” on Shabbos by going to a nice quiet restaurant Friday night and a movie afterwards? What does turning on a light switch have to do with it? But for whatever reasons we connected, and those were some amazing and inspiring conversations.
Of course I believed everything I was explaining to them, I just hadn’t always believed IN THEM. In one case, a student who I became friends with at the Chabad on Campus, came to me and asked me to teach him to read Hebrew. He was 21 years old, and never had any connection with religion. No Bar Mitzvah, no
I’ll write more another time. I’m kinda cutting this post off in the middle. There is more to this story, and I hope to find the time it deserves to write about it in the future. For now, thanks for reading.