- the yetzer hara convincing us to sin; giving in to our base impulses
- our minds rationalizing how our transgressions are really no big deal
- allowing ourselves to be put in potentially compromising situations
- not following our rabbeim and gedolim
- not learning enough torah
- stepping on to the slippery slope (I suppose all of the above could be examples of that)
Those may well be legitimate explanations for the phenomenon of people choosing to leave the traditional way of life. No doubt there were many times that when faced with the "do what I think is right vs. do what I want" dilemma I willingly chose the path of self-indulgence and then rationalized it away after the fact. Admittedly, that may well have had some affect on my overall torah commitment. (Actually I have no idea if it did. But I also have no idea if it didn't, so I won't rule it out.)
But there are other catalysts at play which I believe are more deserving of attention. I can think of other, more honest and more genuine reasons why people choose to step out of the seemingly warm, comfortable and secure world of frumkeit to one so foreign and unfamiliar.
Looking back on my own journey of transition, I can clearly identify a variety of factors that were instrumental in the weakening of my allegiance and devotion to a committed torah life (in no particular order):
- Frustration that I was not allowed to pursue activities and experiences which were enjoyable and meaningful to myself. And the opposite:
- Being forced to constantly engage in activities which I found boring, meaningless, and even painful (and even being taught that I must be devoted to it and enjoy it!).
- Engaging in innocuous activities, but because they have been characterized as unkosher, feeling guilty about it and reinforcing the self-image of a transgressor.
- Witnessing hypocrisy, lies and injustice perpetrated in the name of Torah, halacha, and Yiddishkeit.
- Being made to feel second-class.
- Not being allowed to freely express my true feelings and views about many issues.
- The constant and endless harping about so many trivial and irrelevant halachos and issues as if they were the most important issues of life.
- Discovering that certain basic tenets of Jewish life and thought might not really be as true as I was led to believe; that facts, history, and even torah were being distorted to further an agenda.
- Realizing that those charged with my upbringing (family members, rabbis, teachers) made decisions which were far from being in my best interests because they felt that a proper frum upbringing demanded that such a path be taken.
- When I realized that the trust I had in the torah system may be a bit unfounded.
- When I came to the conclusion that I was just not going to be happy living a typically frum, torah lifestyle.
It's obvious that the above listed items are primarily emotional issues. Despite what led some others to renounce their ties to Yiddishkeit I freely admit that the primary impetus for my departure from the chareidi world was not due to any deep intellectual convictions. True, there definitely were other issues along the way which had some influence on my choices (some of the more intellectual type) but I think it's fair to classify my "rebellion" as mainly an emotional response. (Although, as is often the case in these situations, I probably felt it neccessary to legitimize my decisions by pointing at the intellectual issues.)
Since exiting the chareidi world and the koslei beis medrash, I've been exposed to many ideas and views on life other than the typical frum ones, and I have heard many opinions and intellectual arguments which seem to undermine much of the foundations of frumkeit. A lot of it is quite convincing. I've also heard some more solid arguments for the cause of Torah than I was previously aware of. At this point there's a whole mess of ideas and opinions within me vying for my attention and allegiance. Some trying to convince me why so much of my former life is so wrong and not worth paying any more attention to and some pleading with me not to make the biggest mistake of my life. Much of it is quite intriguing, but actually, the simple truth is that I really don't care too much whether it's true or not. What I do care about is to live a meaningful, fulfilling, enjoyable life, filled with as much goodness, love, enrichment and happiness as I can, and as devoid of pain, pettiness, shallowness, and injustice as possible. Something like that.
In the next installment (which hopefully won't take 3 weeks to compose), I'll try to explain how this is all relevant to something I'm going through now.