I don’t have much to write today.  It was a normal lockdown Shabbat.  I slept too much, and at the wrong times, but that’s also normal.  I won at Scrabble this week.  I started playing strategically.  I think in the past I would just have gone for the longest or most obscure word, but sometimes a really basic word can get a higher score, if it has a high-scoring letter or hits a double word (etc.) square.  I do get a bit frustrated that it’s hard to play a lot of obscure words that I know, but I guess that’s just showing off.

I tried to stay in the present and not worry about the future or beat myself up about past decisions (breaking up with E., going to the school I went to and not the one my Mum wanted me to go to).  I probably have made some bad decisions in my life, albeit partly because a big part of my life was unknown until recently (high functioning autism – which technically has still not been diagnosed, so who knows where this will go?).  There’s not a lot I can do about that now, though.  If I do manage to build a career as a Jewish author, then I think a lot of my past decisions and difficulties will have led me to it.  If I can’t do that…  who knows, really?

My big struggle today is with loving my neighbour, literally and metaphorically.  Literally, I have a lot less time for our Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) neighbours than I did in the past, because of the illegal minyanim (prayer service).  They have stopped most of these since shuls (synagogues) reopened (although they are still doing Saturday nights).  I still feel angry and resentful.  I still feel that they were risking our lives, especially Mum’s life, for the sake of their spirituality, even though the actual risk to Mum was probably small, even when she was in our garden at the same time they were davening (praying) in their garden.  People breaking the rules annoys me a lot.  In my experience, people on the autism spectrum either obsess over every tiniest rule and can’t bend a rule no matter how justified or alternatively can’t stand any rules at all, however logical.  I’m definitely in the former camp.  It was not always easy at work to work out when I should bend the rules for people and when I should be strict.  Maybe I should write a letter to the neighbours and not send it?  That was a technique my therapist suggested for dealing with feelings about E.; I should probably try it there too.

In a more general sense, I am in this weird situation of being frum (religious Orthodox Jewish) and wanting to stay frum, but also having a lot of resentment against the frum community.  I think it’s mainly about feeling I don’t fit in, which is probably largely because of the lack of a vibrant, committed, Modern Orthodox community in this country, unlike America and Israel.  Here the United Synagogue has a hashkafa (philosophical outlook) I agree with, but most US members are not shomer mitzvot (keeping the commandments), not even close.  Most are “traditional” and are members of an Orthodox shul (synagogue) out of family tradition, convenience or a vague sense that Reform Judaism isn’t “real” Judaism.

The Haredi world is a lot more committed to Torah study, meaningful prayer and mitzvah performance (keeping the commandments), yet has an outlook I often disagree with, whether over the place of secular study and the sciences, the role of women or various other things.  I could probably cope with that if that was all, although it does make me feel that I’m hiding myself, but I feel there is a level of casual sexism, racism/anti-non-Jew feeling and so on that sometimes appears and upsets me.

I think there is a lot of hesed (kindness) in the frum world, but not much empathy.  If you have a “normal” problem, people will help, but if you have an unusual situation or something that is stigmatised and not spoken about (the classic “bad for shidduchim” (potential marriage chances) problem) people won’t help and probably won’t even be able to understand what your problem is.  My thought on this matter were provoked from reading about a Haredi woman who adopted a black girl and has experienced a huge amount of unthinking racism, but it applies to mental health stigma, homosexuality, children who stop being religious… lots of things.

I feel that I do have a lot of anger and resentment towards what really is my own community that I have to work through somehow if I’m to keep functioning and I’m not really sure how to do it.  I kind of hope that one day I’ll marry someone who fits into the community better than I do and somehow things will slot into place, that suddenly I’ll have more frum friends and feel able to be myself, but I’m not sure that that’s a realistic idea.  Realistic in that I don’t think finding a wife would necessarily let me fit in a lot better and in that I’m not sure how likely it is that I will find a frum wife.

7 thoughts on “Love Your Neighbour

  1. Was trying to edit. Any of such communities is like that. And go say to Leeds where there is a mixture, it’ll be less like that.

    Scrabble is a learning curve.

    Every moment you are here is awesome….

    I like the idea of a letter. I’ve found that helpful before.

    Hope you are sleeping

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting that R’R thinks it exists less in the USA. I know American communities mainly through what I’ve read of American Jewish blogs and websites. I’ve never been to the Leeds community, so I don’t know what it’s like. My experience is mostly London communities, and also Oxford, but that was weird because it was a pluralistic community, not an Orthodox one.

      I might write some letters!

      I think I was probably falling asleep right when you posted this! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So, do you feel that you would fit better or not as well in a Modern Orthodox community? (not that it would be practical for you anyway if there isn’t one around you) Although you can’t leave your parents, especially right now, would you ever consider relocating? Like to Israel?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think I would fit better in an American Modern Orthodox community. British Modern Orthodox communities I find not religiously committed enough, although I have belonged to them at times. At the moment, my parents’ community would be the only option like that. I do go there sometimes, but I find it too big and I don’t have an identity of my own there, only as my parents’ son.

      When I was dating E., that thought reconciled me to the thought of moving to the US somewhat, that I might find a better community. But it would be hard to move to the US without an American partner.

      As for Israel… part of me would like to move there. It’s the only place in the world where Jewish culture is the default, not the exception. But there a lot of negatives. The language barrier is a big one. Then there’s the summer heat, which I can’t stand (although Dad said the other day it was hotter here than Israel!). And the threat of war, and the politics generally, and the way politics and religion are so intertwined there… But part of me would like it to work somehow, some day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The thing is, that your negative thoughts and depression could actually be caused by the need or feeling that you don’t fit in, but somehow have to fit in.
    And you noticed yourself, that many things are actually very strange in some way.
    At least from your words, I assumed that you noticed. This means, that from my view point, you should less try to fit in and instead focus more on what you could change.
    So for example the topics no one wants or seems to speak about. The thing is, that this is sadly in many communities the case. And it should raise the question “I can’t be the only one with these problems, can I?” Usually not or at least some of the problems. So why is no one speaking about them? Is it fear, is it shame or guilt? So I often see that people are not talking about their true feelings, thoughts and so on. Especially in the western society.
    Why is that? So consider it as either a challenge or at least an opportunity for you to make change. Maybe through you being an author as you wrote. I am sure you would write some good books. But what do I know about you, right? I hope you are doing okay. I hope my thoughts on this somehow inspired you or helped you and if not, no problem. 😀
    It is your life and I hope it will get better soon or as you always wished it to be. ♡

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for your comment!

    I do think my depression is partly caused by feeling I don’t fit it.

    Yes, the novel I’m writing deals with some of these issues that no one wants to talk about. I hope it will raise awareness of them, if I can get it finished and published.

    I think people don’t talk about things from a mixture of fear, shame and guilt. Definitely people do not always talk about their true feelings, which is often a sad situation.

    Liked by 1 person

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