Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bilbulim - Confusions


"There are so many confusions among the Jewish world today, a friend of mine from Mea Shearim loves to say. Plenty of Jews come back to religion but they don't really find their path. Instead of jumping into Chassidut they should rather study Judaism from scratch. I cannot dump a Streimel or Kaftan on me when I don't know anything about Halachot or prayer. I have hardly any Torah knowledge but I insist on being called "chassidic". How can that be ?"

My friend is absolutely right and, as we can read here, some serious Baalei Teshuva do have the same opinion. A Baal Teshuva or convert to Judaism should first study Halachot and Torah before making a decision which way to go. How can I put on a Kaftan and call myself Boyan, Satmar or Karlin when I don't have any detailed knowledge about those groups ? The pretending person wasn't even accepted into the group, and, in some cases, is not even halachically Jewish. Only seeing some "strange exotic" clothes in haredi areas and getting wild fantasies about a "perfect" lifestyle is totally out of a realistic place.

I can understand those people and maybe I also got influenced by certain attractions in my past. Being new in the religious frum world and coming to Mea Shearim does awake some of those fantasies. Of course it goes wrong when you just jump into something  you have no idea about. Newcomers love to call themselves "Bochur" (Yeshiva guy) and throw around with other Yiddish words but have basically no idea of what they are talking about. "Yeah, Satmar sounds great and I am against the State of Israel anyway, so I must be Satmar !"

To any newcomer: Satmar is much more than anti - Zionism. Has anyone of you ever read the Torah commentaries written by Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum z"l ? If you understand them you may  understand more about Satmar. And I wish you all the best because those commentaries are brilliant but not at all easy to grasp.

It is so easy calling myself Satmar or keeping a Satmar custom but what about the real group life and intense studies ? Today I can run to Satmar and tomorrow to Amshinov or Erloi but where am I ? This is exactly the reason why I would not join any group. Because I cannot bind myself to ONE Rebbe. I like to jump from here to there; call it "lack of taking responsibility". However, the difference is that I am not proudly and in an arrogant way announce that I AM SATMAR.
I am not, so what !
I don't put on a haredi clothing style because I am not entirely haredi. What I do keep is some customs and sometimes I may know more about a group than a guy calling himself whatever without being part of a group but living his fantasies.

Chassidic life is not a fantasy but work. Not everyone is able to lead a chassidic lifestyle and countless people fail. I once learnt from a Rabbanit at my Yeshiva (seminary) that, as soon as someone jumps into religion without looking left and right, will hardly remain religious but get fed up very quickly.

I also met people whose goal is to show off. "Wow, look at me, I am chassidic now and go to Mea Shearim".
I don't need to tell you that this kind of behaviour is stupid and won't get you anywhere. Keep on playing games and live in your imagination.

On Purim I met a chassidic Mea Shearim family who I personally was very closed to years ago. Then I got my crisis and left without saying a word. I was just too ashamed to let them know all my doubts. A year or so later, I sent them a postcard from Berlin and made up a kind of excuse. After making Aliyah almost ten years ago, I haven't had the guts to call them up and explaining myself. On Purim, I met one of their neighbours in a certain Synagogue and she called the woman of the family over. I was completely embarrassed but it went more relaxed than I thought it would. A lot has changed since I saw them last. The kids, for instance, are mostly married off.
I told the woman that I am not really like that anymore but different. She, on the other hand, gave me her phone number (which is still the same) and invited me for whenever I feel like coming. Also for Pessach.

I was very moved but haven't decided what to do because I am afraid of making the same mistakes from years ago. Namely, to JUMP.
In the meantime I am restricting myself a bit but did phone her up.

What I would recommend if there is a female person interested in becoming seriously chassidic is to look for people who were born into society. They can teach you a lot and tell you the truth. Rather than hanging around with other Baalei Teshuva only. Take it slowly and learn Halachot, prayer, Torah and whatever you can in an organized programme. Look around into different groups and directions and maybe you end up different than you first thought.

Once I met a young student and she desperately wanted to become chassidic. Chassidic and that's it !
In the end she got married to a litvishe guy from the Vilna Gaon Yeshiva in the Arab Quarter and seems to be happy.

1 comment:

  1. i agree, if you are drawn to chassidus, then great, but get yourself into a mainstream yeshiva or sem and start learning torah full time. For Shabbes and shachris or any free time off the shcedule of the yeshiva, put yourself around the chassidic groups and see if you find a home, but don't change levush and think your a chusid, when you can't read chumish rashi without the artscroll. this way you will integrate into the society better, as they see you grow in Torah and do it in a balanced way. Otherwise people write you off as weird

    Life is about TORAH, gemora, chumish, rashi, toisfois..... not the colour of your beikshe - although i agree this can also be important when the time comes... but the foundation, torah, torah, torah