I have been privately not religious anymore for over a year and a half now. I don’t keep Shabbos or kosher privately, and I stopped keeping both publicly when I’m away from home or no one is around.
This was never really my intention, but life happened in many painful ways. I used to be looked up to by the Jewish community. I see a therapist to deal with my painful past and present, and to have someone to talk to. I could not continue to live in my solitude, feeling like there’s not a single person who knows the real me. In the meantime, people are suggesting learning guys for me to marry, thinking that I’m right for that kind of a match. I never envisioned anything else for myself, but I cannot imagine sharing my life with anyone, especially because it is full of secrets and I haven’t been able to “come out of the closet” in regards to not being religious.
What would my friends, parents, siblings say… and for what? Is it really worth it? Maybe I can figure this out and turn things around, maybe if I could talk honestly with my rabbi or my mentor about where I’m holding spiritually. Do I keep up the facade to make it easier to work things out and not damage my future within the yeshivish Orthodox world should I choose to remain in it, OR can I just stop pretending and actually be able to go out to a bar with my friend who’s more modern instead of keeping my life to myself and being so alone in this? I guess I’m asking the same question that brought me into this situation in the first place: Do I risk suffering emotionally or spiritually?
I’m sorry to hear what you are going through. I believe there is a way for you to not suffer emotionally or spiritually, but if we’re going to go in order, I will tell you that your physical and emotional health comes before your spiritual health, and I will use Torah to prove it.
In seminary, I once thought I was being super clever with my rabbi and asked him “if the Torah says we’re supposed to love our neighbor as much as ourself what if we hate ourself – are we commanded to hate our neighbor as much as we hate ourself?” He stopped me and said “the Torah is meant for healthy people.” So before you worry about burning in hell (if that worries you) I’d say your first priority is to be a healthy human being before your Judaism comes into play.
And living in solitude is unbearable and is not an option in order to be healthy. At the same time, confiding in someone or a few trusted friends is different than making a public announcement. You can’t put that back in the bag once it’s out, so I would consider that carefully before you go down that road.
So the question is – can you confide in someone(s) privately for now and see how that goes? We are dealing with people at Project Makom who are in very similar situations- trauma, secrets, being isolated. There’s no way that your hurt can’t affect your Judaism. And how could you envision being half of a whole in a marriage when you are feeling so broken? I would focus on your mental health right now as your top priority and try to find some friends to be real with. If you can’t find them in your life, you can find them at Makom.
I believe once your hurt heals, you will be able to approach Judaism again from a place of positivity and once you feel shalem yourself, you will be able to find a guy, maybe who overcame his own personal pain, to build a healthy and happy home with.
But both of those steps are for later. For now, focus on healing as a human being and keep in mind that it’s your religious duty – see here.
If you’d like to join Makom you can sign up here.
All the best,