I Couldn’t Ask Questions In My Community, But I Could At Project Makom
Growing up as a child, I had an idyllic life. The oldest of (then) three boys, we were a rambunctious bunch. My mother was nurturing, singing songs to us every night as we tried to fall asleep. My father was super smart. He was a fountain of knowledge on wide range of topics, including the entire Talmud. School was also great. As an energetic, motivated child, I did well on tests and had many friends.
Fast forward to my mid-twenties, and adulting was turning out to be a different story. Firstly, with a desire to grow and deepen my understanding of Judaism, I went on a mission of searching. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult to find the right books to address my questions. The Ramchal in Da’as Tevunos understands the verse of “vaha-sheivosa el levavecha ki Hashem hu Ha’elokim” (“You are to know this day and take to your heart that Hashem is the only G-d.”) as an obligation to try to understand ikarei emunah – principles of faith- to the best of our abilities.
My Rosh Hayeshiva as well, used to say, “one needs to learn Chumash every year so that they don’t maintain a childlike concept of Avrohom Avinu in adulthood.” Surely, this applies to all areas of Torah and Yahadus. And as such, it won’t be hard to find, right? Well.. Maybe. Not sure. Resources were hard to come by. Every “normal” guy just learned Gemara.
Not knowing what else to do, I started learning Derech Hashem. Slowly, I began to notice others in my yeshiva learning Derech Hashem as well, but everyone seemed to be covert about it. Being inquisitive was somehow controversial.
There was no place to find sources on the topics discussed, so I devoured every footnote in Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s translation of Derech Hashem. I divulged my secret to a select few friends, whom I thought open-minded enough to engage and respectful enough not to divulge.
One friend recommended a contemporary sefer. I read it voraciously. I even contacted the author, who lived locally, and arranged to start a series of lectures. That fell through. So I continued learning. Researching. Asking. Looking for any way to get my hands on what I consider appropriate material. Slowly, my resources started to grow.
And then I found Makom. At Makom, I discovered something very refreshing. Freedom to be me. I was able to talk openly and freely about what I was learning. At Makom, I found like-minded people. Makom is a place that I can go to meet these people and be myself.
In the midst of my searching to understand Judaism on a deeper level, there was another major narrative in my life – my marriage was not working out, which was causing many issues. We are given tools to create a healthy marriage, but no tools on how to deal with one that isn’t working. Project Makom became my safe haven. A place where I found a tribe of people going through similar situations. And those going through different, but difficult situations.
It was a place to hang out, relax, refresh, be comfortable and ultimately be able to deal with the challenges of my life with a clear mind. It took years to figure out what would become of my marriage and all along Makom was available. I made long lasting friendships. People that I still keep up with until this day.
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