I didn’t want to post much tonight, as Shabbat (the Sabbath) finished late and I’m going to go to bed late as it is and doubtless will struggle to sleep, given how much I slept over Shabbat (yes, I failed to make it to shul (synagogue) this morning again and dozed in the afternoon for about three hours too). Tomorrow I hope to be volunteering, although “hope” is a somewhat tricky word there as “dread” might be nearer the mark. I feel I ought to go, but like almost everything else in my life at the moment, I’ve lost confidence in my ability to actually do it properly. Then in the evening I’m out for dinner with my family to celebrate my Mum’s birthday. So I may not have the time/energy to post much tomorrow either, so I wanted to get a few thoughts down, for myself as much as anyone else.
Shabbat was difficult with a lot of depression and difficult thoughts. I can’t remember all of them, but they were pessimistic thoughts about the future of Western society and frum (religious Jewish) society as well as my place in them, or rather my inability to find a place in either of them. It sometimes feels like a race to see whether postmodern Western society or Orthodox Jewish society will self-destruct first. Do I really want to be a part of either? Lately I feel I just want to go off and be a hermit somewhere, but that’s not a very Jewish thing to want to do. I have to existed somewhere and I’m not introverted and autistic enough to be able to cut other people out of my life completely.
I realised today that I’m going through a crisis of faith again, albeit a strange one. I make it my third: years ago (probably around 2008, I’m not sure) I had a ‘traditional’ crisis of faith, not being sure what I believed, wanting proof for the existence of God and so on. Then, over the last couple of years, particularly when my religious OCD was bad, I believed in God, but couldn’t believe that He loved me. Now I can sort of believe that God loves me, but I don’t believe I can find a community that is right for me, that has the right balance between tradition and modernity, that takes Torah study and prayer seriously, but is also open to the (post)modern world, doesn’t stereotype non-Jews and non-religious Jews and doesn’t turn wicked people into heroes for political reasons. It’s very difficult.
A Jew can’t be a Jew without a community. That’s one of the major differences between Judaism and some other religions. So I feel stuck. I just feel that I stick out wherever I go and don’t fit in. It doesn’t help that I don’t understand the nuances of social interactions because of autism, so I don’t know when some things are allowed. For example, my shul isn’t Zionist, but some people are quite open about their Zionism and that seems to be OK, beyond a little teasing. I don’t really understand it. It’s hard to know what I have to do/believe and what is optional.
It doesn’t help that I don’t do the things a good Jewish man is supposed to do. Between them, autism, depression and social anxiety keep me away from shul a lot and mean I study a lot less Torah than I should. Similarly, I struggle to understand Talmudic study. At shiur (religious class) today the topic was a very technical halakhic (Jewish law) topic and people were asking all kinds of kashas (high-level questions based on finding logical or conceptual flaws in a halakhic argument). Meanwhile, I struggled to keep up. I don’t know why so many people seem to be able to do this and I can’t. I don’t know how many of them have spent significant time in yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) or studying Talmud with a chevruta (study partner) to learn this. I assume most did not go to Jewish schools where they would have learnt it at a young age, although their children do. But I just fell behind very quickly.
And, of course, I’m not married and I don’t have children, which is both a cause and an effect of my dislocation from the community. In a community where almost every adult is married, not being married locks me out from a lot of social interactions, including some that might help me get married (given the strict gender segregation at most shul events).
The interesting thing about my earlier crises of faith (the ones I mentioned above) is that I never resolved them. I never proved that God exists beyond all doubt or that God loves me. They just stopped being important after a while. I either learnt to live with the uncertainty, or they just stopped mattering. Maybe one day this will stop mattering too.
This was supposed to be a short post just to announce what I was thinking, but it has become much longer, so I’ll leave this here. There is, of course, much more to be said and I will probably return to this topic in the coming days.