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Isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The World of Difference between Submitting and Conforming

I read something last week that got me thinking a lot, and I think it even fits into the Pesach theme. It was written by a female baal teshuvah who was trying to figure out how to fit Torah into the life she had already built for herself. One of her main struggles was how to maintain her individuality within the framework of Torah. It was definitely something I could relate to. The most profound statement she made, that really struck a chord with me, and has kept me thinking for the past several days, is that she had realized that she must submit, rather than conform, in order to bring Torah into her life. Reading that, it struck me as the absolute ideal - to submit to halacha and Hashem's will, but not to conform to those external standards that are often imposed upon individuals in an effort to force people to "fit in." I found this to be an extremely important distinction, and one that I wish I had thought of much earlier, though to be honest, I think that is the path that I have been trying to form for myself for a long time. It is an ideal; I won't say that I am there, or even close. I often have trouble submitting to halacha; there are those things that I just have a hard time bringing myself to accept. Many times I will follow the halacha, because I know that is what I am supposed to do, but in my heart I know I don't really accept it. When I was first becoming religious, it was something I did on my own. And I hesitated for a long time because I saw the importance that many put on conformity, and it really bothered me. I couldn't become a cookie cutter model of others. But it was something that I wanted a lot, and so I forged a path for myself, wavering sometimes, strengthening others, hopefully growing a lot in between. And I don't imagine that I have finished yet. And there are also times I find myself conforming to standards that are not necessarily Torah, because as much as I strive to be an individual, and need to be an individual, it is hard to always be on your own and to stand alone. I think this ideal takes a lot of knowledge and not everyone desires to put the effort in. It is so much easier to just follow the crowd and not ask questions. But I don't think that it is the true spirit of Torah. It takes courage and guts to stand apart, especially within a certain framework. But I think it is important to realize the difference between submission and conformity, because Hashem created each of us with our unique talents, attributes and skills. And I don't think He would want each of us to be the same and subdue those individual gifts. Instead, to actualize the differing potentials in each of us, it gives flavor and color to the beautiful world that Torah can be.

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