Elul 5759 – Relating to Others After Returning From Seminary

15 Elul 5759

Dear Chana,

Upon coming home from my year in Israel, I recently heard from a friend that the rumor circulating about me is tha I have ‘flipped out.’ One huge lesson that I’ve learned [and shared with this person] this year is that I am not the boss of my life. There is something greater that is in control of me. I don’t know how to deal with ‘friends’ thinking this is something to laugh at. I spent a year in Eretz Yisroel immersed in a beautiful lifestyle full of learning and kedushah. I truly believe, and from the bottom of my heart, love everything that I do and everything that Judaism is about. I feel like I have seen and lived truth and my life has an intensely greater purpose now. This statement that I have ‘flipped out’ hurts like nothing I’ve ever felt before. It takes my whole year, all the emotions and feelings and trivializes it.

I really am very careful not to impress my feelings on anyone else. but it’s so hard not to share them. I hate the fact that society has this need to label everyon as ‘Religious’, ‘Orthodox’, ‘Modern-Oorthodox’, and so on. For example, if a boy is wearing a white shirt and black pants, he is ‘frum’ and if he is wearing a T-shirt and jeans he is ‘Modern-Orthodox’. It’s as if feelings and each individual’s personal relationship with Hashem have been taken out of the picture. How can you label something that comes from the heart? I do know that however much I would like to deny the existence of these labels, they exist and I’m not sure of how to handle them. ………..I feel like an outcast to all of these groups.

I also don’t know how to deal with American Jewry in general [maybe it just exists in NY, or maybe I’m very over-sensitive] I feel as if the most holy things about Judaism are brought down. There is so much competition here about stupidity, such as who has a bigger house and a nicer car. Many people don’t take a minute of their time to enjoy nature and all the beautiful things that Hashem has given us. It kills me that I’m being so judgemental, that is probably half of my problem, but I can’t stand it. I would love to make Aliyah and live a life of Am Yisroel, Toras Yisroel B’Eretz Yisroel in my near future, but right now I’m in NY. The truth is, every day I am growing and learning and trying to become a better person. But, it’s just not the same as in Eretz Yisroel.

I would love some advice on how to deal with ………..well, all of this. Thanks so much, I really truly appreciate it!

[Name and seminary withheld to protect privacy]

It is always so wonderful to hear from a girl who has truly utilized her year in Eretz Yisroel, has struggled and grown, and continues to grow!!!! Good for you! Of course – life offers us continuous Nisyonos, and we are invited to share in the turning of our potentials into actuality, an awesome gift, though sometimes quite difficult. It seems like you have run into some challenges that you now must face and deal with. See it as more opportunities for enhancement.

It is so good that you are acknowledging your feelings of hurt and pain that you are experiencing because of what others think of you. To sort things out in your head and deal with your emotions is a very terrific thing.

A few things to realize as you are meeting up again with the people in your community:
You’ve changed so much. The growth has come in small increments over time, and has been gradual, as you have thought things through, and incorporated them into your life. But these people are seeing you after some time, they see the differences in you, and assume as you say, that you have ‘flipped out’ – as if it was all instantaneous. Which of course is not the case at all.

Also, The possibility of jealousy exists. When people see a young woman with her head on straight, with the right priorities in her life, it should give them pause to think about themselves and their families and contemplate where they are headed. But, unfortunately, it can lead a person to inaction, jealousy, and the need to ‘put down’ that very individual.

I am just trying to give you an idea of ‘their’ perspective, and help you see where these things might be coming from.

Can you see that it is precisely these comments and rumors that can perhaps get you to absolutely crystalize and clarify where you truly stand? This situation can help you to even more appreciate that you know the direction you want to go in life and that you have found true purpose and meaning in your existence. Which leads us into the labeling that you mentioned. Right or wrong – as you said, they exist. Outer clothing is not the total person, of course – but these symbols have become somewhat of a yardstick. When a person wants to align themselves with a certain hashkafa, they need to conform in certain ways – so that their true essence can shine through. The mistake that people make is when there is so much polarization and dislike for whoever is not ‘like me.’ You say you feel like an outcast from all of the groups – but that can’t be true! Wherever it was that you went to seminary, they must have given you hashkafa and hadracha as to how to proceed in your life, and from what you write, you definitely feel that you have experienced the Emes. So, you most certainly fit in somewhere, — think about it.

Yes, the world isn’t as it should be. Lifegoals and ideals on the grand scale are truly twisted. But, as I’ve mentioned before, you can be who you need to be, anywhere in the world. Hashem has given you all the keilim that you need to make the most out of yourself, and you can, as you said, continue to grow and be the best YOU possible. The things that you really feel are wrong or sheker, in the daled amos of your life, work to change them, on whatever scale you can. As you heighten yourself and become a role model for others, more of the Emes can be uncovered. If we only realized how much each of us can change the world by working on ourselves………. kind of like moving that proverbial mountain! Each of us really can change worlds!

Best of everything to you as you go forward to meet your goals.