A day I expected to be fairly uneventful and possibly boring ended up being full. I have a friend who lives about an hour away that I hadn't seen in over a year. She has a two-month-old I hadn't yet met, so I thought it was about time. I called her in the morning to see if she would mind a visit. She didn't mind, so I headed on over.
It was really nice seeing her. It had been quite a while. Her kids (three of them now!) have grown up so much since the last time I saw them. As we were talking, I realized I've known her for eight years, much longer than most of my friends. We've both changed tremendously in that time. I kinda wonder what she thinks about all the changing I've done, from city to city. In eight years, I've watched her go from just out of seminary to having three kids. She's watched me move up the coast.
She was telling me about her brother-in-law, who is learning in one of the "top" yeshivas in Israel. He's not very happy about it. The learning isn't really working for him; he doesn't find it to be so stimulating. He says he can't see the forest for the trees. He also has some major philosophical issues, but can't get answers to his questions. His yeshiva isn't exactly the kind of place where you bring up questions about general faith - they're learning gemara. He was sent to speak to a prominent rabbi who does deal with those kind of questions, but it didn't help very much.
He realizes that he isn't really cut out for full-time learning, and doesn't want to be there. He is taking some college courses to attempt to branch out a bit. But his parents don't like it, and want him to continue learning in yeshiva for a few more years at least. He's tried several different yeshivot, but none of them have been a good fit. He knows he would probably be better off leaving learning at this point, but again, his parents don't want him to, so he's kind of stuck in a difficult place.
YM commented on my last post saying:
One of the things that is hard for you I am sure is that in school, and also the way you and I were brought up, is that you analyze ideas from the outside. There is you over here, and over there is the idea or concept that you are analyzing, and you have every right to agree or disagree with that concept or idea. In Judaism, it doesn't work like that at all. You are the Torah; the Torah is you. There is no having an "opinion" about it, it is emes (truth) in the deepest and truest sense. Your job and mine, is simply to identify Torah and then try to understand it, and regardless (of whether we are successful), to live by it as much as we are able. And if we make mistakes or slip on one day, to get up the next day and start again.
I find this difficult. For several reasons. One of them is probably because, as YM pointed out, I wasn't raised to accept something as truth if I don't understand it. I was raised to disagree with things at will. But another reason is that I see so many paths to Torah, so many different permutations in practice, that I find it very difficult to figure out how they can all be the truth in the deepest sense. Especially because I do feel like each person needs to find their own path within Torah, I think it makes it even harder to accept it at face value. Though I do, as YM suggests, "live by it as much as [I am] able." It's really the only thing I can do.
I think this must be part of why my friend's brother-in-law is having such a hard time. He's being given one path, and it's one that he can't walk so well, that he finds himself slipping from. But despite his attempts to walk a different one, even within Torah, he's not being given the opportunity and he is being made to feel like, at least at this point in his life, it isn't acceptable. He's struggling to find a way to accept Torah as truth and to live it, but maybe he isn't being shown the whole picture of Torah.
I feel for my friend's brother-in-law, and his struggles to find his place, and please his parents. I don't think that he wants to be outside Torah, he just wants to take a slightly different path than what he's being placed upon right now. And in that push for a path he doesn't want to walk, his connection to Torah is being damaged.
And maybe that's the key to the problem. The Torah is supposed to encompass the world, and everything in it, but it's rare that I see people feeling that different paths than the one they have chosen are acceptable. The banning of continuing education, the Internet, denim, and Miami seems silly if you suppose that Torah offers and answers everything the world has to offer, if only we live by it as best as we can. These restrictions upon restrictions that seem only to make life harder and more difficult, to pushing past the breaking point for many seems like it misses the point of Torah, and limits the Torah from encompassing everything it can. And in making what is acceptable within Torah narrower, people are pushed off the road altogether.
I wish we could get a glimpse sometimes of the big picture, because I feel like these details would fall to the wayside and become swallowed up by what's important. And what's important is what I feel like is being missed a lot. Because honestly, I feel like I've largely lost sight of it in my frustration and struggles. I can't articulate any more exactly what the point is, besides striving to serve G-d, doing the best I can each day. But I can't necessarily tell you what that means.
I do ask G-d for guidance on a daily basis. I wish His voice was louder and clearer, because sometimes it's hard to hear and sometimes I just don't listen, nor probably want to. But I think His voice is probably more accepting than the audible ones we hear with our ears.