Last night, I blogged that I would do ten minutes of Torah study and relax. I actually did about twenty minutes, although it made sense to split the sedra (weekly Torah portion) where I did, as Tetzaveh falls into two very different chunks. I just spent too much of the evening doing “stuff,” but it was important stuff. The upshot was that I had little time to relax (just one episode of Yes Minister) and when I got to bed, I couldn’t sleep. I am not good at the whole balance thing, even though I only work two days a week and don’t take my work home with me.
I did eventually get about four hours of sleep and coped OK at work, but it was slow and boring and even a trip to the bank was hard as I got overloaded from the crowds in the streets. J asked me to cover for him on Purim next week if we need to do the Very Scary Task in the afternoon, as he wants to fulfil the commandment (“unhealthy custom” is probably a better description) of getting drunk at the celebratory festive meal. I agreed, as he’s so flexible and forgiving for me, but also because I didn’t have the courage or vocabulary to explain just how much I’m dreading Purim and how this could make it even worse. I just have to hope we don’t have to do the Very Scary Task. Between all this and worrying that alexithymia (difficulty experiencing and understanding my own emotions) means that I will never experience religious joy, I came home feeling pretty depressed.
I watched another episode of Yes Minister and some of Undermind and spoke to E and I feel a lot better now, but I still feel very drained and as I have volunteering tomorrow and more stuff to do, I will try to keep this briefer than might otherwise have been the case.
Reading some of this week’s sedra, combined with the family event yesterday, got me thinking about not being envious. Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron) could, according to rabbinic tradition, have fulfilled each other’s roles as prophet and leader and as high priest, but each was happy for the other’s success in their roles. I suspect this is a lot easier if you are secure in knowing what your own role in life is and this is where I struggle as I just don’t know.
On the Intimate Judaism podcast they spoke about the Orthodox world’s tendency to exhort young people to “date for marriage” being counter-productive, as it encourages over-thinking and turning down dates for reasons that need not prevent a relationship developing. They said instead to date for the date, to see if there is something there. I’m glad my rabbi mentor said something similar to me, otherwise I would not have gone out with E. But I wonder if I need to think the same about my role in life, to stop over-thinking my role in my life as a whole and just focusing on being a good husband/son/brother/friend/online community member in the current moment. The problem is that I’m not sure how good I am at any of those…
A while back I watched a video on Chabad.org where an abuse survivor said he struggled with tefillin (the leather boxes Orthodox Jewish men and some non-Orthodox Jews strap to their arms and heads during weekday morning prayers) because wrapping them tightly around his arm gave him abuse flashbacks. He asked a rabbi, who said he could stop wearing them, but after a while he went back to wearing them again despite the flashbacks, as he felt that a Hasid should go further than the letter of the law.
I’ve been struggling with this. Aside from the negative social effects of the way this attitude of going beyond the letter of the law in everything has taken hold in many parts of the Orthodox world, it just reinforces my feeling that relying on so many legitimate leniencies myself (leniencies for mental illness, autism, low income, living with less religious parents) makes me somehow inadequate. That I should be able to get by without the leniencies, let alone the things I do that are against halakhah (Jewish law) without being permitted even by a genuine leniency. It’s a struggle and probably connected with the idea of not being secure in my sense of self and my own role in life.