Reading this week’s section in the book Sparks from Berditchov, Yaakov Klein quotes the famous saying in the Talmud: both one who gives much and one who gives little are equally accepted by God provided he directs his heart to Heaven i.e. if you can’t study much Torah or daven (pray) a lot, it doesn’t matter as long as you do it to serve God.  I have long been familiar with the saying, but it has never comforted me because I thought (a) I could do more than I do and (b) I don’t direct my heart to Heaven properly i.e. my motivation is wrong and I don’t focus on God, instead doing things out of habit.

I’m still not sure about this, but I did wonder: if I force myself to get dressed to daven a tiny bit when really I want to sleep or eat or do anything else, is that habit or for God?  (It can take me ten minutes to force myself to start davening because I’m so depressed that the thought of davening seems actually painful, and even then I only daven for ten minutes or so because I just can’t cope with any more.)  Or if I force myself to study Torah for a few minutes when I really want to watch TV or write or read something else or just not study Torah, is that just habit?  It feels like even if I’m not consciously saying, “I want to connect with God” (which I’m definitely not doing) it must have some kind of spiritual motivation because I’m not thinking about reward and if it’s not about reward and I’m not doing it because I want to do it, it must be to connect with God, right?  Or is it just habit after all?  Maybe I can be in the habit of making myself do things that are painful.  I don’t know.  I wish I knew.


I had insomnia again last night despite not drinking coke at dinner, which I had thought was the cause of Friday night insomnia.  I went to bed at 12.30am, got up around 1.30am and read a Doctor Who novella which lasted quite conveniently until I started to get tired around fifty minutes later, although I think it was nearly 3.00am before I actually fell asleep.

I’m a bit stumped as to why I have sometimes get insomnia on Friday nights in particular, if it really isn’t caffeine.  The heat yesterday didn’t help, but I don’t think that was the main reason.  I think some of it is that I go to shul (synagogue) in the evening, which is draining because of lots of people and noise.  Then I come home and go into dinner, which is draining because my parents make the dreaded Small Talk and I have to listen politely and try to suppress my autistic desire not to do so.  Then I do some Torah study and meditation (breathing meditation and hitbodedut spontaneous prayer/meditation).  I read a bit and go to bed, but I wonder if the reading isn’t enough time to really relax compared to the autistic stresses of the evening, especially if I’ve spent a chunk of the day job hunting as I did yesterday.  In the winter it’s perhaps not so bad as I have more time after dinner to unwind when Shabbat starts earlier and dinner is at 6.00pm rather than 9.00pm.  I did read a bit before bed yesterday, but it was a heavy-going academic book (Kabbalah by Gershom Scholem, which is basically all the articles Scholem wrote on the history of kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) for the Encyclopedia Judaica compiled together in a book), which probably was not the ideal thing to unwind me.

As with last Shabbat (Sabbath), I then woke up at 7.00am and decided I needed to sleep more rather than get up and hang around waiting for shul, but in retrospect, it was probably social anxiety again trying to avoid shul, so in the end I didn’t go to shul at all.  I was alone for lunch too as my parents were out, but that was OK.  I fell asleep for two and a half hours in the afternoon, which I didn’t want to do, as I won’t sleep tonight now, but the heat and the heavy meal made me too drowsy to resist.

I did make it to shul in the evening for two shiurim (religious classes), Minchaseudah and Ma’ariv (Afternoon Service, third Sabbath meal and Evening Service).  It was OK, but I was distracted a lot by feeling lonely and wishing I had a wife and kids.  I don’t know where that came from.  In Talmud shiur the topic of Chana’s (Hannah’s) prayer for a child came up, but that was after I’d already started getting these thoughts, although it probably didn’t help matters.

It’s just depressing.  I wish I didn’t want a wife and kids so much because (a) I can’t see myself ever being in that situation and (b) given how my relationships have been with friends and family lately, I’m not sure I could manage marital or parental relationships.  But I feel this gaping wound in my soul.  I know I’m never going to be rich or famous or powerful or influential or honoured and respected (not even the small amount of honour a rabbi has or the tiny amount of honour a communal lay leader gets).  And I’m OK with that, because I don’t want those things deep down.  But I do want this and it hurts me so much that I don’t think I’m ever going to get it.  Just to make it worse, it’s a mitzvah (commandment), and one almost everyone seems to manage to fulfil, so I feel that God is probably angry with me for not doing it, even though I want to do it.

I can just about accept that I might get married one day.  Extrapolating (admittedly a dangerous pursuit), I can see that I’m better off than I was ten or fifteen years ago, when the idea of my ever having even a part-time job seemed ridiculous.  So maybe I will learn to manage my life well enough so that I could get married in my forties or fifties.  It would be better than nothing, but as I very much doubt I would marry someone significantly younger than me, it would mean that children would be unlikely.

2 thoughts on “More or Less

  1. It seems like if Torah study and davening were habits you would do more of them rather than struggling to do as much as you want. Sounds like connecting with God would be a more logical motivation.


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