Tuesday, October 31, 2006

stumbling in the dark

How many times have you forgotten to turn on the bathroom light before shabbat started and found yourself stumbling to the toilet for the next 25 hours? It’s annoying, it’s unpleasant, but it’s manageable. Most of us know the routine with our eyes closed, we don’t fall in, we don’t miss, we don’t trip, we don’t drown.. Somehow we just turn off our conscious brain and manage on the part of the brain that works on habit, experience and faith!

That’s basically how I’ve been feeling - spiritually speaking - for the past few weeks; I’ve been stumbling in the dark.

For as long as I’ve been Torah observant, my behavior and my beliefs have been secured on two fronts - intellectual and emotional.

On the intellectual side, I've read books, asked questions, spoken to countless people and studied many years. Although I don’t believe there is 100% proof of anything, for many, many years I have felt confident that there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt regarding the existence of G-d and the Torah.

I’ve continued to question, but I’ve questioned from the inside out. I accept the premise that the Torah is valid and authentic and when inconsistencies arise I take for granted that the mistake is in my perception or in my understanding, and not in the Torah itself. That may seem like a cop-out to some, but it’s a choice we all make. No one can remain sitting on the edge, sometimes looking in, sometimes looking out.
You’re either IN the torah - looking outwards to the world and trying to make sense of the world according to the reality of the Torah
you're IN the world, looking outwards to the torah and trying to make the torah fit the reality of the world.
I made that choice years ago and since then I can honestly say that I have very rarely had real intellectual doubts regarding the truth of my chosen path.

My heart on the other hand, seems to work on a different track than my brain. Emotionally speaking, there have been times when I didn’t care what proof there was or wasn’t, my heart felt so connected to its source, my heart felt the presence of G-d so strongly and my tfilahs were so heartfelt, so sincere and so real that I had no doubts that they had been heard.

And so, throughout all these years, when questions would arise and make me intellectually doubt my beliefs, I’d quiet my brain and rely on my heart - my emotional experiences keeping me anchored. And, when my heart would shut down, and I couldn’t feel the connection - the intellectual reasoning would resonate in my mind and remind me why I had chosen this lifestyle.

Never did I envision that both of these powerhouses could collapse, simultaneously. Having felt secure in my beliefs for so many years, having overcome so many questions and doubts and internal discord, I thought I had finally reached a point where I had made peace with it all and could finally soar forwards…

And then it happened – and I literally felt the rug being pulled out from under me.

In the blink of an eye, my feelings and my thoughts, which had always kept me connected to G-d suddenly abandoned me. As my heart emptied itself of the feelings of attachment and gratitude, my mind filled up with uncertainties and doubts.
I suddenly felt like a baby thrown into an enormous pool of water, left to swim on his own.

I’ve done a lot of thinking since to try and understand what happenned, and to try and figure out how to handle it. One of the things I’ve realized is that there are actually three parts to me through which I connect to my Judaism, not two. I had always relied on my intellectual and emotional connections to Torah and it seems to me now that these two had suppressed the third – my soul. With my soul abandonned by its emotional and intellectual accomplices, I suddenly became aware of a force in me that I had not encountered in years. The energy that drove me when I was just learning about Judaism, before I felt its truth, and before I knew its truth suddenly reappeared. I've come to realize that these anchors that had been securing me down all along were apparently only confirmations of what I knew on a much deeper level.

It’s difficult to differentiate our minds, from our hearts and from our souls, they all combine to form our conscious experience and it was only through the ‘malfunction’ of some of these that I was able to reconnect with the other(s).

It’s still new to me. I still feel like I'm stumbling in the dark. I’m not sure how much I can trust my soul. I feel vulnerable, but it’s a power stronger than me, a power that seems to keep pushing me, whether I want it or not - and whether I understand it or not.

I often hear people who were born in observant homes say that they don’t know if they would become baalei teshuva if they had the choice. They haven’t gone through the kiruv system, they haven’t heard all the ‘intellectual’ proofs, and they haven’t had all the emotional highs.. and so they can’t pinpoint what it is that keeps them going.
I think this is what ive just discovered.
It’s a connection so subtle, but SO real. It’s one we have a really hard time describing or verbalizing, but it’s a link to reality we can’t deny.

Dovid from a gonzo state of mind wrote something beautiful in his blog today. He said: "Torah study draws the soul into this world by giving forms and definitions and physical experiences to its otherwise vast and intangible spirituality". Anyone who has studied Torah knows that it is more than an intellectual pursuit and/or an emotional exercise. It touches something much deeper, much more difficult to describe, but very powerfully felt.

Today, having been stripped of the comfort of my emotional attachment, and the security of my intellectual connection, I realize that this third, deeper, spiritual entity is what will really keep me connected and push me forward…until the light turns back on.


At Tuesday, October 31, 2006 5:16:00 PM, Anonymous jeff said...

think of your self like one of those deepsea fish in the tonga trench that have those lights above their heads....

At Tuesday, October 31, 2006 5:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post deserves post of the year (century?) award!


At Tuesday, October 31, 2006 6:51:00 PM, Blogger Lvnsm27 said...


At Tuesday, October 31, 2006 8:17:00 PM, Blogger Dovid said...

Hey there.
The connection you felt before wasn't the real thing. This is the real thing. The connection without reasons, just because a Jew is connected to G-d. In Chasidus it is called a "kesher atzmi".

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 8:57:00 AM, Blogger socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Beautiful post. I am ffb and still in the dark always learning.

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 9:49:00 AM, Blogger Nemo said...

BTW, nice post, I'll comment more a bit later.

Just wanted to point out about finding the toilet in the dark... guy's still can't find it, no matter how many times we've been there.

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 11:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a difference between knowing that there is a God and between believing in God. as long you were walking on a paved way with your intellectual and emotional assuredness of God you knew that there is a God, now hashem gave a "nisoyon" to see if you can "believe" in him even when it's dark you can't see nothing, you can't feel nothing, do you still believe? that's the real test.

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 2:17:00 PM, Blogger FrumWithQuestions said...

I think you should start learning some Chassidus which might be able to help you understand a little better what G-d is and whats expected of us and how our chochma is limited to how well we can actually understand G-d. I know what i said is confusing but hopefully it will help you. I have been frum for a while now and I never have any doubts about anything and I never will.

At Wednesday, November 01, 2006 9:22:00 PM, Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

ultimately...we're all somewhat in the dark.
every connection and emotion we feel..is not based on a a real provable source..no matter how real it feels.

It's a combination of intellectual knowledge based on mesorah..backed up by an emotional connection that keeps us all frum.
But we're all really stumbling in the dark and we hope that this what we call light is truly the light as it really is.

At Thursday, November 02, 2006 12:34:00 AM, Blogger ~ Sarah ~ said...

"so they can’t pinpoint what it is that keeps them going" --> i guess something like that because it's something we've always had, taken for granted. (At least I did until a few years ago when I started to look at things a little differently.) Nevertheless, we have to keep learning, moving forward, stumbling through the dark if it may be to find what we feel is true.

At Thursday, November 02, 2006 4:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

very beautiful mooks
extremely well expressed
highly open to debate, i'm sure
as is anything in a religious context..lol
but it sounds good to me

At Thursday, November 02, 2006 4:30:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

very beautiful mooks
extremely well expressed
highly open to debate, i'm sure
as is anything in a religious context..lol
but it sounds good to me

At Thursday, November 02, 2006 7:30:00 AM, Blogger Sara with NO H said...

I thnk we all go through those phases where we just sort of feel like we're running on auto pilot. It's like waking up in the morning eyes half closed and washing. We're all wandering and we all drift off and sleep walk sometimes. Splash some cold water on your face...Not in a literal sense of course. lol

About the bathroom light. It's even worse when you accidentally turn it off DURING shabbos.

At Thursday, November 02, 2006 10:14:00 AM, Blogger kasamba said...

Rabbi Tatz says that spirituality comes in two phases; the initial enlightenment phase which is (given by your parents) then taken away. A person must then fight for that spiritual confidence to return in which case the second phase is the one that he earns and is everlasting.

At Friday, November 03, 2006 12:05:00 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

jeff: no bears in the tonga trench..

you need to read more blogs :)
(but thanks :)

lvnsm27: thanks

dovid: im so glad you told me that.. i actually thougth when i posted this - if what im feeling here is real, it must be somewhere in the torah - and most probably in chassidut..

swfm: exactly, i dont think its a matter of being BT or FFB its just a matter of growing and developing our r/s with g-d

nemo: o.. i hadnt thought the comparison through that much, thanks for clarifying :)

anonymous: i hear that, i just never knew there WAS such a test.. kind of crept up on me..

frumwithNODOUBTS: i'm not sure its a good thing never to have doubts, never to question...

david_on_the_lake: i dont think we are stumbling in the dark anymore than anyone else is in the world - the difference is that not everyone is aware that they are in the dark..

sarah: yup, we all do..

towik: highly open to debate? how does one debate spiritual instincts and feelings?

sara with no h: soemtimes you need to jump into an olympic size pool of ice water :)

kasamba: i used to think it was a one time deal. phase 1 and then phase 2 - but ive discovered its a cycle, a comfortable phase 2 turns into a phase 1 and leads you to a new level of phase 2..


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