Thursday, April 29, 2010

Love Song for the Broken-Hearted

Dear God,

I'm so full of feelings; they are flooding my mind. And so I would like to speak to you. I have an image in my mind and it's me but it's not me. It's an image of a girl and she's kneeling and there's a sweetness to her face and she is wearing a black Russian veil, the netting framing her face very beautifully. And she is very pale and her lips are very red and there is an expression on her face of complete serenity. Even her lips have a certain sort of plumpness and ripeness and a bow-shape that makes them curve into a heart of grace. I don't know this girl but she exists somewhere within me and this sweet, trusting girl who I have somehow placed in the shadow of a cathedral or some other house of worship is kneeling because she is praying, and she is praying because she is thanking You.

I am overcome with wonder when I consider the number of people, wholly unbeknownst to me, who have been praying for me and wishing for my joy. Undoubtedly, all of their prayers and efforts had something to do with my present happiness, and thus I am grateful to them and to You for hearing them. I confess that I have doubted you this past year, not in terms of Your existence, but rather in terms of Your plan for me. It seemed cruel and unkind and otherwise unfair. But You listened when I spoke and when I told you this had to be the last time and you made it the last time, which must mean that You agree with me that I had had enough and now was a good time to begin again.

On the one hand, I am very happy for me, but on the other hand, I am thinking of all the other people out there in the world who haven't been granted their happiness yet. I am lucky. I am truly, deeply lucky and I know I am lucky and it fills me with gratitude. There are many other girls who would like to be married and yet who are not, girls who must watch as the parade and procession of people who are younger than them churns on. And then they doubt themselves, all those beautiful girls, and they wonder: What is wrong with me? I'm no different than her- why has her happiness been granted and mine has not been? Why must it be that I am unloved or unlovable, that people would prefer her to me, that her experience is easier than mine? Why am I in pain still?

I do not mean to suggest that these pure and precious people are not happy on the account of those whom they love. I am sure that they are. But I know myself, because I have felt it, of how one can feel happy for someone and yet sad, deeply and extraordinarily sad, on account of oneself. All the doubts and worries and sadnesses parade through your mind and you wonder why the lives of others are so simple and perfect and yours is not. Of course, we cannot see into the lives of others, and if we could, it is possible we would learn this is not the case. But the fact remains, and it is a fact I know well, that all of us struggle in different ways. One struggle may be more visible on the surface, but that does not make it more meaningful.

The only thing I can do, God, is turn to you. I can request that you extend to the many people in the world who are hoping and grieving, their hearts filled with sadness and desire, the happiness that You have granted me. I wish that I could take it and cut it into bite-sized cubes, grind it up into stardust and sunshine and sprinkle it out over the heads of everyone, anointing them with my joy. I wish I could somehow find ways to make the lives of those who long fulfilled and joyous and joyful. I wish futilely, somewhat like Elkana, that I could be enough for my wife Chana. But it is not in my power to grant these wishes. They are given only to You.

Everyone needs something different in their lives. Some people truly need their life-partners. Others need academic success, financial success, emotional health, public recognition or fame, parental love or a helping hand. It is my desire that You gift everyone who longs and desires purely and who strives to work on themselves, as I believe we all do, with that which they need. I have been so fortunate as to have received it from you; it would be my greatest desire for You to bestow it upon others.

May the happiness, contentment, serenity and joy that I see inscribed on the face of that girl in my mind's eye, kneeling in the shadow of a church, be offered to those who need it. Pour the light of your countenance down over them and shine down on them, so that they too may be healed and lifted up. Journeying is painful; struggling is hard. For all your creations who cry mercy, please grant it. Please heed them and help them and allow them to be made whole, even as You have shown compassion toward me, and made me whole.

For I cannot be wholly happy so long as they are not, even as You cannot take joy in Your world when you watch your creations act in suicidal self-destructive ways. Alas, there is nothing you can do as to that, for you have granted us free will. But I believe that You can aid those who do trust in you and long for you and who desire to be complete, so please take mercy on them, for I know how they feel and I know it is a very dark feeling. I do not, of course, speak for all. There are many entirely happy, totally gladdened hearts and souls that walk the earth, no matter the societal conventions they may or may not follow. Of them I do not speak. I am speaking for the broken-hearted, the ones who cry out in silence. I remember that day in the bathroom in Arie Crown. I remember that phone call on the bus to NCSY Spring Convention. I remember my desperate attempt to snatch at fading joy and I remember the blinding, searing, totally incomprehensible pain in which you burned and purified me. And just because I have been so lucky as to have been permitted out of the furnace does not give me leave to rejoice totally, for there are many who are still burning and it is for them I ask your mercy- for they are reflections of me, too. As Esmeralda says, "I thought we all were Children of God."

Thank you, God, for hearing me out and for listening.

Love from your daughter,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


If you are a friend of mine and would like details on the New York L'Chaim, please email me and I'll give you the date, time and location. Thanks!

The Hasid and the Fairy Queen

Four years ago, a kind and thoughtful blogger wrote a flattering review of my efforts on this blog. He linked my site to his. I was seventeen. Little did I know that the stage had just been set for my impending happiness. For in 2009, a singularly interesting person happened upon that kind and thoughtful blogger's webpage and found that rather overly complimentary post about me. Curious, he clicked to my blog, and intrigued, he began to read.

He read for a while without writing to me, fascinated to find that despite the differences in our respective backgrounds- mine, that of a Chicagoan Jewess who upheld the ideals of Yeshiva University, that institution which is known for its staunch belief in Zionism and Torah U'Madda, and his, that of a Hasid raised in Boro Park who was instructed in Fear of God and the primacy of Torah learning, our value systems and beliefs appeared to be on common ground. Externally, we probably couldn't be more different, but in terms of the people we were inside- well, there there was no distinction.

One day he wrote to me, and as I have done with many others before, I decided to meet him. He was fascinating. Born into a community that prides itself upon being insular, he had ventured beyond it while remaining true to its ideals. A Hasid, in his view, should be joyous, spiritually involved with God, truth-seeking and otherwise open to different ways to serve Him. And he was all these things. The mixture between curiosity, exploration and pride in his particular heritage made him unique. It would have been easy to simply determine that the lifestyle he had been given was flawed and therefore decide to do away with it completely. But he wears his hat and jacket/langeh rekel with pride, takes pleasure in explaining his background and its philosophical reasoning to others and works on himself without falling prey to simply excoriating all those who differ from him.

Which leads us to April 26, 2010, the day upon which our beloved protagonist asked me to marry him.

He did it brilliantly. I've always been Belle, as the longtime readers of this blog can attest, and he is very aware of it. There is a pivotal scene in the Disney rendition of "Beauty and the Beast" where the Beast has determined that he desires to give something precious to Belle. Cogsworth and Lumiere suggest flowers and chocolates but the Beast finally determines to offer Belle his library- a place which will fascinate and fulfill her. This is the scene in question:

After scouring New York for various places that would suit me or wherein he could propose, his efforts were rewarded. He decided to recreate that scene from "Beauty and the Beast", renting out the breathtaking and grand Astor Hall in the New York Public Library, replete with medieval gothic candelabras and otherwise elegant ambience. The physical beauty of the hall is reminiscent of the style in which fairytales appear, and the fact that it is a library makes the parallel to "Beauty and the Beast" all the more prominent.

(Here's a picture of Astor Hall taken from the New York Public Library website:

Aside from ensuring that the ambience and decor were in accord with my Fairy Queen nature, he also knew that my favorite flowers in the world are roses. So he hunted down the most beautiful, gorgeous, deep dark red longstemmed roses and when he led me inside (after telling me to close my eyes, in keeping with the scene), I opened up a box which revealed them:

And thus it was that in the midst of this spacious, grand, elegant, breathtaking hall, lit by candelabras and inlaid with beautiful patterns, my true love proposed to me. He spoke of many beautiful things, then asked me to marry him and offered me the ring (which is exquisite). And I said yes. And I was happy and there were pictures and then we danced off to Abigael's and inhaled a sumptuous meal with various delicacies in the style of "Be My Guest." And made lots of phone calls.

This entire situation fills me with a sense of appreciation that borders upon wonder. Consider how many things had to fall into place so that everything could work out just so to ensure that I would meet him. My love story was set into motion when I was 17, totally unbeknownst to me, through the kindness of a person who decided to write something sweet about me. He certainly did not know the impact his words could have. It is also amazing that the people I met during the course of my time at Stern and Revel were those who enabled me to understand, appreciate and properly comprehend the various fantastic qualities that my fiancé possesses. There are many more details which I choose not to discuss in this forum, but suffice it to say that the hand of God is evident in this match, as it is impossible for myself and my future husband to have existed under any but the most perfectly orchestrated play constructed by God.

It is similar to the life story of a diamond ring. A diamond may originate as a piece of carbon, and only through many trials and ordeals is it formed into its sparkling essence, heated in the fiery furnace until it radiates light. Yet a diamond alone is of no value. A diamond must exist within a setting, within the ring that gives it form and shape. Without its setting, a diamond is beautiful, but feels lonely; the setting, while also possessing a lovely form, feels purposeless. When they unite, they abandon loneliness in pursuit of a happy togetherness and achieve their purpose. And perhaps it is precisely because of this that it is that symbol of regard which one generally bestows upon one's future wife.

So I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible and awesome power of God, who arranged details in ways I could never have envisioned, and also thank the many people who were a part of this, whether their roles were small or large. To those who have influenced me in various ways and whom I have loved, you are wonderful friends and mentors and I have gained much from you. You have enabled me to be the person who could marry someone as remarkable and unusual as my future husband is. And to he who found it within himself to write some words of praise and create a gateway, I think you should be aware that God clearly sees that you are a very special person, for it is only special people whom God uses as gateways and vessels. It's akin to the prophets, in fact. And for those who encouraged me to see past the externals that blinded me, I also offer thanks.

It is a rare and lovely day when one can see clearly their moment in the tapestry that God has been weaving, and such moments afford a mental clarity and beauty that offers inspiration and hope, which is our gift to all of you. I feel blessed and lucky and am well aware that there are many others who still wish to find their happiness or desire to achieve success. May God bless you as He has blessed me; it is my wish that you too find your moment in the tapestry.

With wishes for the continued health, success, personal growth, happiness, fulfillment and felicity for all of you, we remain,

The Hasid and the Fairy Queen

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Man in the Light-House

A poem- in honor of my friend Joseph, who likes my little compositions

The dark is wrenching; it tears the heart asunder.
It sings a song replete with present thunder.
Fatalities impress themselves upon a bruised mind;
a faint tang remaining, like discarded lemon rind.
The blood sings in my lips; it's salty and still dry;
The question is whether I fall or whether I touch the sky.

She was a girl in a glass room; she lived there all her life.
She was afraid to feel, for it's known the world is rife
with images of bloodshed and murder in a pearl;
the diadem on your head was earned by a mere churl.
She reached out and touched the lightning; it bit her fingers off;
she blazed in the world so brightly, though she seemed a simple toff.

One day the door swung open; the glass was fraught with blood,
the remainders of an ugly time when God had brought The Flood.
She recoiled in horror; she sunk into distress
and begged Him to bring her to her eternal rest.
God listened to her prayers but her request He did not heed;
she died a thousand times every time that she would plead.

Suddenly a moonbeam, cool and sweet upon the head,
A vision or a symbol of something golden on her bed.
The light danced her awake; tendrils wrapped around her arm;
They promised she was safe; indeed, she would come to no harm.
Hypnotized, she walked, through the quicksand and the bog
A tightrope-artist in disguise, crossing fallen logs.

And then she saw the Light House and the man within;
he looked out through the telescope and she felt eyes on her skin.
She looked up and was blinded; the glow could paralyze her;
he outshone all the others, mother, sister, father, brother.
Confused and touched, she climbed the stairs and waited for her fate.
Destiny came walking and it was not too late.

"Hello," he said to greet her; "hello," she said in turn.
He danced her out of darkness and ensured that she would learn
all of her true value; the beauty kept remote
to ensure those unworthy would have no cause to gloat.
"You sparkle," he informed her; "you sparkle" she said back.
And suddenly a pang of found appeared in place of lack.

He walked her through the House of Light,
lit up her eternal night.
saved her from the melancholy
that had assured her all was folly.
He gave her the keys to his domain
and assured her she would reign.

She was the Queen; he was the King;
they sealed it with his signet ring.
The ships come trembling into port
only to leave with new cohorts;
the Man in the Light House saves them all,
and his noble Queen leaves them in thrall.

They danced tonight; I saw their voices
joined with a necklace of gemstone choices.
Rubies sparked and emeralds shone,
but nothing glowed like they alone.
God was smiling as they sashayed;
no one rains on His parade.

Moses descended from the mountain;
light poured off his face in a fountain.
Originally illuminated in the reflected glitter
of a sacred burning bush unfettered.
This glow was saved and bestowed upon
the Glass-Room girl and her new husband.

The Man in the Light House stays at his post
while she's preparing wine-glazed roast;
cutting onions in prom dresses
are the beginning of many lessons.
God ravished their hearts and made them His,
then gave them eternal bliss.

So let's be happy for the pretty couple
and their singularly entertaining light-house double;
even as they shine, so does the place
that expresses the radiance of their face.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Happy Chana

Sometimes you wake up in the morning and feel like you are going to have a perfect day.
You feel safe, warm, happy and content.
You feel glad.
You feel excited.
In short, you feel like God loves you today.
It's the best feeling ever.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend

She pushes herself away from me slightly away but she keeps her arms around me. She looks down at the ground and at the blackness near her feet. She looks up. Clear water blue into pale green. She smiles, barely smiles, not a happy smile but a smile of regret. Of sadness. A smile of mistake and of misunderstanding. She speaks.
I'm sorry.
I got scared.
Why were you scared?
I was scared you were leaving me.
I'm not going to do that.
I was scared after I told you those things about me that you didn't want to see me anymore. Then I thought somebody on your Unit told you something else.
Those things don't bother me. Nothing I hear is going to bother me.
I thought they did, and when you didn't show up, I thought I knew for sure.
The only thing you need to know for sure is that I'm not leaving.
She smiles. This time it's a real smile.
Yes. Ever.
You're sure?
I am.
I don't want to be alone anymore, James.
You won't be.
I cried all day.
Don't cry again. Just think of the word ever.
She smiles brighter, wider, a smile more full of what she is, which is beautiful. Inside and out. The smile. Her. Beautiful. She leans forward and she steps to her toes and she closes her eyes and she kisses me. Long and sweet and slow. I could keep kissing her forever.
We separate. I tell her we should go. Not back, but farther away into the darkness. We start walking, hand in hand, slow steps, there's no hurry. The Woods are alive at night. Twigs crackling, leaves rustling, branches swaying. Moon sitting, clouds drifting. Shadows dancing and threatening and disappearing. Small animals fighting and chattering and foraging for food. Small animals hiding. The living wood.
As we walk we talk. Lilly needs to talk about her feelings about her worries about her fears. I let her. I encourage her. I listen to her. Though the stains of tears have been wiped away from the softness of her cheek, the cause of her tears remains alive and full not faded not yet. She talks softly and easily and without hesitation. She talks about feelings of being left in the past. By her Father and by the Boy in Chicago and by everyone she has ever cared about in her entire life. They left her and they never called and they never sent a letter, never showed her that they loved her, never came back. Not once. Not ever.
She tells about the desertion. How each time it broke her heart. How with each break it becomes harder to heal. How with each time she healed, it became harder to love again. How each time hope faded into desolation. Into loneliness and despair. Into self-hatred and self-loathing. At the beginning there was hope. It faded. At the end there was nothing.
She talks about me in relation to her life. She is seeking freedom. That is all she wants, all she desires, all she hopes to achieve. Freedom. Not just from chemicals but from the cycle of loving and losing, risking and failing, returning to that which she abhors each time returning. She thought she had lost me earlier today. With that she thought she began to lose herself. To feel doors closing on the Prison of self-destruction. She wanted to fight it but she can't fight it all. Not chemicals and her past and the prospect of a dim, solitary, isolated future. She started to need. Need the crack. Need the pills. Need something to kill the pain. She thought about leaving and she almost left. She imagined herself walking out. She was going to to go the Bus Station in Minneapolis and panhandle money for a ticket back to Chicago. Panhandle or worse. When she got to Chicago she was going to go see her Grandmother and say good-bye. Good-bye to the only Person who ever cared about her. Good-bye. There are other ways to achieve freedom. Good-bye.

~A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, pages 312-313

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Religion-Induced Emotional Abuse

Those of us who operate within Orthodox religious circles read the newspapers. We know about scandals pertaining to sexual abuse or molestation, physical abuse and degradation, and financial fraud. One area we have not as of yet discussed enough deals with the problem of religion-induced emotional abuse.

Part of the problem is that people have a very fuzzy idea of what emotional abuse is. For instance, can someone be emotionally abusive without intending it? Are people to blame for being emotionally abusive? If someone is emotionally abusive, does that of necessity make them bad? And why doesn't everyone have the same reaction to the same stimuli?

God created a world in which there are many different creatures: animals, fish, vegetation and humans. In the same way that all of these creatures differ from one another even though they may fall into the same category, so too do humans.

For instance, in the same way that a dandelion and a Venus Fly-Trap may differ, even though they are both forms of vegetation, so too may a shark and a school of tuna differ. As such, and due to their roles of predator and prey in various instances, they will react differently to different stimuli. Thus, while a school of tuna may flee rapidly from the jaws of a shark, a shark will feel no fear in the presence of another shark. One's reaction to various stimuli is largely dependant upon one's size, role and place in the food chain.

Human beings are similar. Miriam Adahan penned a fantastic book entitled Awareness: The Key to Acceptance, Forgiveness and Growth. This book is specifically intended for the Orthodox Jewish community and discusses the role that personality type, as evidenced by Enneagram type, plays when it comes to our reactions to different stimuli, among other things. The added bonus is that Adahan offers examples specific to our community. I would highly recommend the book.

Here is an example of how people may differ in reaction to the same stimuli: Suppose that you have planned a party and something goes wrong. Is your immediate reaction to externalize or internalize the blame? Type Ones will externalize it; Type Fours will internalize it. Obviously these reactions can be worked on and overcome or redirected, but I am speaking of one's internal self; the switch to which your emotional, operational and intellectual gears are originally set. Different people will have different modus operandi. This is why two people can be placed in the exact same circumstances and yet one comes out healthy and the other one unhealthy. Due to their specific and individual personality types, they have adapted to their situations differently and have been hurt or healed to different extents.

Now, despite the fact that King Solomon advocates, "Educate the child according to his way," most people do not actually adhere to that. Our educational systems and institutions generally aim toward an ideal model of a child and strive to educate that child. In Orthodox society, Adahan writes, Enneagram Type Fives are the most sought-after commodity.
    IDEAL FIVES: IDEAL FIVEs have brilliant minds and a depth and breadth of knowledge that astounds others. They are the most mentally alert and the most curious of all the personality types. They are pioneering visionaries, perceptive observers and extremely knowledgeable experts. They are able to share their wisdom with others in order to elevate and enlighten the masses.

    They possess the qualities which are most valued by Orthodox society: they are extremely intelligent, love gathering information, love learning for its own sake, are intellectually curious, can live on very little (a minimum of food, sleep, material possessions, human contact, etc), can be oblivious to their physical environment, are excited by highly detailed, complex thought systems, and have such self-discipline that they can study with total concentration for extended periods. Their minds are extremely fertile, constantly producing new ideas. For FIVEs, thinking is in itself a highly pleasurable activity.

    ~Awareness by Miriam Adahan, page 214
Now, what happens if you are any other Enneagram Type born into a world that only (or mostly) values Type Fives? What if you are raised by parents who decide that they will make you into a Type Five, like it or not?

Well, in that case, it's like being born a baby girl in China. You might not be the victim of gender infanticide, but emotionally speaking, it's possible (especially if you are a Type Two, Three or Four, the Feeling Triad) that you will be the victim of emotional abuse, intended or otherwise. Your parent/ teacher/ advisor/ role model may intend well but his/ her actual actions may be harmful for you, undermine your sense of self and give you the impression that you are not worthy or valuable for who you are. This is in contrast to normal and effective discipline, where parents, teachers or rabbanim are trying to change behaviors but not the actual essence of a person.
Here are the Triads:

The Feeling Triad is comprised of types TWO-THREE-FOUR.
The Doing Triad is comprised of types FIVE-SIX-SEVEN.
The Relating Triad is comprised of types EIGHT-NINE-ONE.

To explain a little about the triads, I'll cite Adahan once more:
    The Enneagram consists of nine types within three triads. Each type has a unique power, or "gift," which he needs to share with the world in order to grow spiritually.

    The Feeling Triad. TWOs, THREEs and FOURs all share issues involving feelings. If IDEAL, they use their emotions to form loving relationships. If INTERMEDIATE, they want closeness, but are more concerned about their own feelings than the feelings of others. At the UNHEALTHY level, they are out of touch with people. TWOS attempt to force closeness, THREEs are emotionally suppressive in order to accomplish more, and FOURs are preoccupied with their own feelings.

    The Doing Triad: FIVEs, SIXes and SEVENs have common issues which involve anxiety about doing. If IDEAL, all three types can make great achievements. If INTERMEDIATE, they still accomplish a great deal, but are handicapped to some extent by anxiety and insecurity. If UNHEALTHY, they are paralyzed by anxiety. FIVEs tend to substitute thinking for doing. SIXes are too conflicted to act, or they act impulsively. SEVENs overdo to escape anxiety.

    The Relating Triad: EIGHTs, NINEs and ONEs share issues concerning relating. If IDEAL, they relate to others positively, often becoming leaders in the community and in politics. If INTERMEDIATE, they tend to relate more to things, principles and formulas rather than people. If UNHEALTHY, EIGHTs and ONEs over-control in a punitive fashion, while NINEs under-control and under-function.

    ~Awareness by Miriam Adahan, page 36
Now, some of these types can be unhealthy for other types and can impact them in very unhealthy ways. At an IDEAL level, if people are actualizing their good qualities, then each type can complement one another. However, if one person or the other is at an UNHEALTHY level, they may end up harming others, especially emotionally. This has to do with the way that each of these different people see the world.
    EYES: Different types have different "eyes," because they focus on different aspects of the world and people.

    TWOs see who has a problem and what can be done to solve it.

    THREEs focus on outer appearances and are aware of who is accomplishing the most and doing the best.

    FOURs are mystical, see the inner spiritual meaning in events and pick up the subtle emotional cues being transmitted on an "extrasensory" level.

    FIVEs see the hidden meanings and patterns within the information presented to them.

    SIXes focus on loyalty or disloyalty, safety or danger.

    SEVENs see the possibilities for fun, excitement and adventure.

    EIGHTs see who and what can be controlled or protected, and how to do so.

    NINEs focus on the good in events and in people, seeing how best to create harmony, unity and peace.

    ONEs focus on cleanliness, structure and strict "piety," noting if people are dressed correctly, if the spelling is correct, if things are clean and orderly, and what needs to be fixed.

    ~Awareness by Miriam Adahan, page 33
Religion-induced emotional abuse occurs when people fail to realize that all people are God's children and thus all have specific skills, abilities and pathways to Divine service. A child's talents may not fall into the specific skill-set or personality type Orthodoxy most values (Type FIVE) and a child should not be punished for that. Even statements such as, "Not everybody is cut out for it," or "Those who aren't cut out for kollel can go into business" are dismissive and imply that the child is lacking due to the fact that he doesn't, for example, enjoy learning copious amounts of Gemara at all times. Rather than deciding that the ideal is to learn Gemara and we should feel bad for those who don't, we should focus on what is shining, worthy, important and beautiful within that person and the way that he can best serve God.

Especially in the Chareidi world, many educational systems and schools are geared not toward developing a child's full potential and illuminating his strengths in order to determine how he can best serve God, but rather toward creating a certain mold or cookie-cutter child who fulfills all of that society's ideals. This is the 'Learning Boy' and 'Kollel Wife' archetype. Modern Orthodoxy often has a more diverse and all-encompassing approach to education; the problem in their institutions is that many times the children are receiving mixed messages (they are taught one thing in school and see something entirely different practiced or not practiced at home) or have not been educated appropriately as to why they should value the things they are being taught to value. Thus, Modern Orthodox dayschools may produce individuals who have developed more of their talents, but their talents are not necessarily being used in service of God.

The ideal in an Orthodox society would be to have a school which focuses upon each child's unique talents and abilities, hones and polishes them and nonetheless also focuses upon spiritual values and teaches a child to utilize his talents in service of and in appreciation of God.

Religion-induced emotional abuse begins when one does not value a person for who they are. The representatives of religion then emotionally blackmail, seduce, bribe, flatter or otherwise manipulate the person in order to make them fit a certain type of mold which is 'better,' 'higher' or more worthy. (This problem is exacerbated because there are traditions within Judaism that are meant for certain types of people that are often expanded beyond their focus. For instance, the Musar approach, per R' Chaim of Brisk can certainly heal someone who is already ill but has the potential to make someone healthy ill. The fact that there are sources that support trends or ideas that can be used in inappropriate, ineffective or abusive ways make teaching a position of great power and responsibility.) The victim of religious emotional abuse may react to this in one of two ways. Dependant on his personality type, he may internalize or externalize the comments being made about his entire essence and being. If he internalizes them, he may feel a sense of guilt for not living up to the ideal his teachers desire of him or may feel unworthy, lacking or bad. If he externalizes them, he may feel a sense of anger, rage and frustration with a system that is so blind to the truth. If a person internalizes these feelings, it is more likely that he will stay within Orthodox practice, whereas if a person externalizes them, it is more likely that he will leave Orthodox practice.

Even if the child stays within Orthodoxy and doesn't outwardly demonstrate his unhappiness or discontent, that does not mean he is healthy. For example, if he is part of the Feeling Triad, he may now conflate criticism and the desire to change him as an expression of love, and thus may be more likely to enter into an abusive relationship. If he is part of the Relating Triad, he may copy what he has seen done and use religion as a form of control, dismissing those who do not meet his strict standards. If he is part of the Doing Triad, he may try to distract himself by engaging in pleasure-inducing or exciting behaviors that long-term are harmful to try to replace the emptiness and lack of love he feels.

Religion-induced emotional abuse does not only occur within Orthodox Jewry. Anyone who has read Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man can attest to that. Rather, religion-induced emotional abuse is an all-too-common side-effect of living within a strictly orthodox society. It is unfortunate and wrong. Perhaps if people can be educated about the fact that they are innately different, by nature are geared to react to the same situations differently and can accurately assess their strengths and weaknesses, such situations might be avoided. Parents, Teachers and Rabbanim especially should be educated in this regard. The effects of the emotional abuse we inflict upon our children or youth, even unintentionally, do not disappear. Indeed, they linger and entrench themselves further. Unless a child is willing to do a lot of work in order to try to become a healthy person, it is possible that they will suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Prisoners of My High Sanctity

On the bed, I was a lone, absurd figure in the history of my times, a sleeper in the century of ruthless law, of bombers over suburbs, of artillery barrages destroying the gaily painted walls of kindergartens. In my bed I dreamed of military science classes, imaginary troop movements, and the portraits of boys slain in Vietnam hanging from library walls. In these dreams I satisfied my own sick and overextended need to be my own greatest hero. I had a passion for the undefiled virtuous stand and a need to sacrifice myself for some immaculate cause. I knew this and hated myself for it and could do nothing about it. Ah, Annie Kate, I will marry you and adopt your child because I’m so good. Ah, Bo Maybank, of course I’ll be your friend and accept your soft towels because I’m so kind. Ah, Tom Pearce, of course I will ease your journey through the plebe system because I am so saintly. Ah, Pig, of course I will defend you before the honor court even though you have been dishonorable because I am so noble. Who else would I take as prisoners of my high sanctity before my life was over?

I tried to think of Pig during this time but it was hard. I can seldom judge how I feel about an important event in my life as it happens. There is always a time lapse before I am sure exactly what it is I feel. I did know that my refusal to rise from my bed upset my roommates and alarmed my classmates in R Company. They thought it was my finer sensibilities and my greater love of Pig that put me in the bed, that separated me from the rest of them. I secretly enjoyed my honorary role as chief mourner. They thought well of me because I was not like them, because I was unable to carry on and incapable of blocking the horror of that suicide on the tracks.

“Too sensitive,” they would whisper as they conferred with each other in the alcove. They did not know I was Pig’s avenger and cadreman, not his chief mourner. I would open my eyes and smile at my friends, then return to the business of sleeping. I kept my hatred secret behind that smile as I always did. That smile was the weapon to keep your eyes on. I should have warned my friends never to turn their backs on my smile. But I was not talking in those days. I was looking for something. In daydreams, I saw myself cut down by firing squads in sun-bleached courtyards as I screamed out the word Libertad to the small tyrant who watched from the palace window. I threw myself on hand grenades, and charged into the machine-gun fire aimed by impregnable gunners. But I was not looking for that so I slept some more and could not move very well in those days or participate in the life of the campus, which continued undisturbed as it always had and always would. Nothing could still the coming of reveille, the gathering of platoons, or the striking of flags at retreat.

~The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy, pages 444-445

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Dustfinger Is An Honoree!

My fantastic sister is being honored (for about the fourth time this year, in fact!) and I am super-proud of her.

So huzzah for Dustfinger!