And On That Day There Will Be Shame


So my sister sent me something very beautiful yesterday. I did not write this*, but I have adapted it here for a broader audience, and embellished it a bit. The part that is from the original email is quoted.

It's called: "A powerful message from someone who struggles."

"The day is coming. There’s no denial about it. I don’t know when it will come but I hope it will come soon. It’s the day when all the truth will be revealed. It’s the day when all pain will end."

"It will be on that beautiful day that our loving Father will take us and give us a hug and be so proud of us that we made it through the long and bitter exile."

"The shofar will sound and everyone will come running.....(but) all the way in the back will be the ones who....don’t feel like they belong there and are therefore staying in the back."

"God will call out in a loving & caring voice: Who among here struggled with keeping (My commandments)? Who among you struggled with living life and not (committing suicide?)"

"No one will raise their hand."

"Who among you were abused during your childhood and suffered every single day as a result and had to fight mightily just to get through it? Who among you suffered so much from loneliness and shame your whole life because you weren't able to come out about your abuse?"

In my mind I imagine God's voice is thundering now.

Thundering with RAGE at the CRUELTY of His creations.

Thundering with RAGE at the SUFFERING of His innocent souls.

In any case, this time

"MANY HANDS ARE RAISED."

Because we know the truth is that more have suffered abuse than not.

In His infinite mercy and compassion, God calls out to His suffering children.

“All those whose hands were raised should please come up and sit next to Me. Not in the back. Not in the middle. Not in the front. Right next to Me."

Slowly, one by one, they walk to the front of the room.

The abandoned ones.
The homeless ones.
The ones that turned to drugs, and prostitution, and cutting.
The ones ostracized by their families.
The ones who have contemplated suicide.

"They all gather around, crying uncontrollably."

They are crying "from the validation and love that they are receiving (from God) after a lifetime of the exact opposite."

"God then calls out to all abusers. And the abuse enablers."

"STAND UP AND MOVE TO THE BACK ROW."

"The ones who refuse to stand up and give out their secret are forced to by His angels."

God then calls out to everyone, and He says:  “All of you are my children. I love you all and will reward you immensely for everything that you did. All the extra effort you made (to be good)."

The evil ones, the abusers, look down at the floor in shame.

God turns to face the victims directly. "However, this group of people that are sitting next to me will get everything, plus much more. They will always stay right next to Me. They suffered and struggled their entire life. They were lonely and sad, looked down upon and degraded. They were told their stories are not true. They were told to 'get up and get over it'."

God turns to face the evil ones.

"On this day of truth I want you all to know that these people, the ones you nearly destroyed, are the closest and dearest to me. They held on and fought and struggled with all their might to stay alive, to go through each and every day."

He turns to face the ones who were not abused.

"To you, life and faith came naturally. You were good because that was what you learned as children. But for them, everything was a challenge and they fought so many battled you never saw or had to go through."

God was almost finished speaking, but there was something He had to add.

"On this day of truth I want to applaud them in front of you all - and show them how much I cared about them, how I was watching them from above. They never saw Me, but I saw them, and I never took My eyes or heart away from them. I cried along with them. I struggled along with them. And now I want to be together with them again -- and will therefore always have them next to Me."

The evil ones were stunned.

All their plans had failed -- miserably.

All the lies, all the games, all the elaborate plots.

Now they were all alone, in the back.

Loved, perhaps, but also exposed for exactly who and what they are.

A few raised their hands, to try to apologize, but they quickly put them back down.

Their bodies were burning in shame.

Silently they waited for more from God.

But nothing was forthcoming.

Their actions had sealed their fate.

All they could do was reflect.

Not a word - nothing could be heard.

Except the sound of their tears.

__________

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Attribution for the quoted portion: "Forwarded with permission from a courageous client by: Binyamin Greenspoon, LCSW, director of Nesivos, www.nesivos.org." Creative Commons photo via Pixabay.

I Personally Don't Hold By That

I wish I had a dollar for every new chumra and another fifty cents for the passive-aggressive ways those chumras (did you know we're not supposed to live on chumras by the way?) are propagated to the innocent faithful.
"You can go by that shechita but I personally wouldn't. I just don't hold by that, but you can do what you want." 
"You can go on social media but I personally wouldn't. It's not very bekovodik of a bas melech. I just don't hold by it, but you can do what you want."
Someone said to me: “You’re so spiritual. You're always talking about this stuff. Why aren't you just religious already?"

I guess you could say that I am religious already, that there are 613 mitzvos in the Torah and that none of us keep all of them.

You could even go so far as to say that I accept the primacy of halacha and as such "am religious."

But I personally don't hold by that.

Because I was raised religious and I understand that there is a difference between conceptually agreeing that halacha is right and actually dedicating your life to its observance.

I understand that if you aren't actually an observant Jew, meaning you don't really care what the rabbeim have to say about a topic and instead choose to just do your own thing, then halachically you have gone to the other side of the fence and should not be regarded as "religious."

My feeling on this is that after nearly 50 years and many internal discussions and debates about this (meaning debates with myself) I have no real likelihood of changing very much. But that doesn't stop me from being a good Jew.

  • I can be very proud of being Jewish, and open about it. I can support my people and promote ahavas Yisrael.
  • I can "call a spade a spade" and specifically speak out when individuals wearing the mantle of a religious leader commit bad acts while hiding behind the authority Torah gives them - this disgusts me.
  • I can support other people who do want to be religious by telling them the truth of halacha as it is, at least insofar as I know it, including the correct hashkafa as I learned it from genuinely sincere, committed and educated teachers.
  • I can offer a supportive attitude, support, and anything else I can do for my family to contribute to their positive growth as Torah Jews.
  • I can give Tzedakah.
  • I can go to shul.
  • I can contribute through writing to the general elevation of Torah in our world and to its genuine observance.

About ten years ago I did not feel this way. After many years of feeling forced into religion, shamed if I was not perfect about it, and judged by just about everyone, I had had enough.

I told one of my aunts, who I admire very much for her intelligence. She said to me, in this very calm and rational way, "At least you owe it to yourself to explore your heritage first."

You would think that this calm and rational, nonjudgmental approach would work, but it did not, at least not for me.

Fast forward about five years and I started seeing the number 613 everywhere (and I do mean everywhere--license plates, house numbers, numbers on packages, amount of email, even a roll of three dice randomly). I've written about it before and so has my husband, but the bottom line is it reached such a point that my father had to go to the rebbe, who pointed him to a kabbalist. My father drove at night, in the rain, to meet with him for two hours.

The net-net of that conversation, as far as I got it from my dad, was that either I was going to do a few things or HaShem was going to pull me back where I came from. Those things included keeping kosher, keeping Shabbos and going to shul with my family. (Somehow the kabbalist knew that I was driving to Barnes & Noble every week instead of going to shul).

You would be forgiven at this point for thinking that my father was engaging in some kind of 4D chess kiruv by telling me that the kabbalist said all this stuff, without having actually gone anywhere or spoken to anyone.

But the truth is, nobody knew that I was going to Barnes & Noble on Shabbos, including my dad. So he could not have made that detail up.

In any case, in the intervening time, I have changed quite a bit. You could say that HaShem "held the mountain over my head" in order for me to voluntarily accept the Torah, and that would be true, and I am fine with that.

I also understand, in a way that many people will not admit, how important it is for observant Jews to hold the line. Very often people will rationalize their non-halachic behavior as somehow "OK," and they will say and do anything to get the rabbis to go along with them so that they feel less bad about their behavior.

(One of my kids calls me "Lazy Orthodox" for admitting this fact and yet not going full-blown halachic as a result.)

However--and this is the key point--it is not okay to constantly move the goal post when it comes to halacha, either.

And ever since Sam Heilman published "The World of The Yeshiva" several decades ago, it seems to have become the fashion to make everything that well-intentioned people do somehow "not good enough."

The skirt isn't long enough.

A strand of hair is showing from the tichel.

You have to wear thick black stockings to "cover up."

You shouldn't wear the color red.

You can't have that type of shechita.

All television and movies are a bad influence.

Cellphones can link you to a world of trouble.

On, and on, and on until everything is somehow scary and only a few people in the tightly knit "trusted" community are the go-to advisers on everything.

You don't need me to tell you that this is fertile ground for abuse.

It also isn't halacha.

Like my father once said to me, "VeChai Bahem." Jewish law is something to live by, in a healthy way, and not drown in because you're so submerged in minutiae.

My mother puts it more plainly: "Well that's just a bunch of bullshit."

But you don't need us to tell you anything.

The Rambam himself taught us that moderation is the way.

__________

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. Creative Commons image source via Pixabay.

Target Practice on the Tofel

Once I had a friend who went out on a date with an Orthodox Jewish young man. She asked him about his past "experience" and he told her it was "really nothing," just "target practice on a shiksa."

Someone else I know went out on a date with an Orthodox Jewish young man, many years ago. Hc called it a "tefillin date" because he left his tefillin in the car, thinking that she wasn't very religious, and therefore she would easily sleep with him. For convenience he wanted to have easy access to his tefillin when he woke up.

A third person told me that the gartel is worn by Chasidim because it separates the holy thoughts they have (above the waist) from the unholy ones (below the waist).

A fourth was supposed to marry the guy, but he took advantage of her gullibility and then walked away.

All of these stories are true. And none of them happened to me.

I thought that the sick stuff boys learned about girls in yeshiva was bad enough.

Then, somewhere around 2009, I learned more.

I learned that when ultra-Orthodox rabbis abused boys they didn't think it was anything. That one protested when a young boy was literally lifted off his lap in the mikvah while he was in the process of raping him.

I learned that the members of the "modesty committee" sometimes helped themselves to the girls they were supposed to be "patrolling." That one girl was abused so badly the rabbi actually burned a havdalah candle on her stomach in the course of sexually abusing her.

I learned that bad rabbis, meaning pedophiles, have historically been passed from yeshiva to yeshiva, because nobody wanted to ruin their lives by marking them as members of a sick, disgusting club.

The thinking here, of course, is that some girls don't count, because they aren't really pure anymore.

I have heard stories that religious men visit strip clubs and sometimes keep girlfriends on the side, so that their wives can stay chaste.

Last week threw me for a bender, even after all of that.

I had heard about the case of a yeshiva principal in Australia who fled to Israel to escape trial for the female students who accused her of sexual assault. As of this date that trial still hasn't happened.

And just last month, a young woman released a video about the abuse she says she suffered at the hands of a female counselor, over an extended period of time. It started out as psychological, she says, and ended with bleeding and threats.

I was very shaken up when I saw that video, and so were the people I showed it to. Even as I write this my hands are shaking.

Because it is bad enough that the yeshivas have perpetrated abuse among the faithful, but the thought that innocent girls, seeking to return to Judaism as full-fledged ba'alot tshuva could be victims of "target practice" by girls who are frum from birth (FFBs), and who therefore think they are somehow entitled, truly disgusts me.

I was raised religious, but I suffered from this mentality as my parents' families -- both FFB, but one Chasidish and one Litvish -- enjoyed making jokes about which side of the family was better. Chasidim are always late, and Litvaks have no heart, yada yada yada.

All fine and good, if it's only a joke. But unfortunately jokes are serious.

When perfectly good kids go out to be matched up today, they have to meet a litany of requirements, and often they have to show a literal shidduch resume. There cannot be a single thing wrong on that piece of paper, no blemishes, no scuffs -- and this is a culture that feeds directly into the kind of sexual abuse that can easily take place at a girl's camp. (Note: all people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.)

When you have a caste of people called "frum," who grade themselves as "triple-A kosher" based on their yichus, whether a boy is learning in yeshiva, what yeshiva he went to, how much money the family has, and so on, of course you are going to get a caste of people who are labeled "B," or "C," or worse.

Of course you are going to get a silent epidemic of sexual abuse and exploitation, as people try to prove they are holier than holy, and take out their urges on kids who are innocent and trusting and scared of being found "unkosher" by others.

Of course you are going to get drug abuse, and cutting, and people hanging out on the streets, kicked out by their families, confused and struggling and exploitable, with literally nowhere to go.

Of course you will end up with domestic abuse.

You'll have children living secretly and ashamedly in poverty.

Of course you are going to get suicides, with people wringing their hands and saying, "Why her? Why him? It makes no sense, they seemed to be getting it all together!"

My friends, this thinking that some people are the Ikar and some are the Tofel is disgusting, and wrong, and impure.

It is not true that some Jews are better than others.

It is not true that White people are better than people of color.

It is not true that English speakers are better than Spanish speakers or speakers of other foreign languages.

And guess what, it isn't true that Jews are better than Muslims, or Christians, or Buddhists, or atheists, or anyone.

None of this is true.

It is all disgusting, sick and evil thinking.

The only thing that makes you better is your behavior.

If you are using other people for "target practice," you are evil and you are going straight to Gehinnom.

__________

Copyright 2017 by Dr. Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own. This post is hereby released into the public domain. CC0 Creative Commons photo via Pixabay.

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