I found this Facebook note from a Facebook Friend of mine, Eli Klatsky, and after reading it, I thought it was a perfect first hand follow up on my encounters with OTD people post. Copied with permission from Eli Klatsky. (A few minor edits by me).
People often question my belief in the torah, Judaism, and mitzvoth. They don’t understand my love for my life and for God, and for learning. They tell me that a person like myself doesn’t become more religious without losing my personality. So I must not be sincere. Interesting. Thanks everyone. Your kind words of inspiration and motivation go a long way.
Yes, I became more religious in the past year and a half. It’s not because I hit my head and my brains fell out. No one brainwashed me. I didn’t go to an NCSY Shabbaton and all of a sudden everything was clear to me. I took things one step at a time. I didn’t set any goals, and I made no commitments. I just followed my soul in the direction it was dragging me into. If you really want to know what triggered it, you can ask. But its really not that important. So please, don’t tell me I don’t know anything about Judaism, don’t tell me I’m fake. Stop challenging me in my beliefs. If you don’t want to be religious that is fine with me but why do you have to start up with me on it because I want to be? You are not changing me, I love Judaism, and I love learning torah. Its always been that way and its not going to change.
On the positive side, many people ask me a lot of questions about why I am religious, what it means to me, and why I think other people should be religious.
So here are my thoughts on being a torah following Jew.
I had people at my house for Shabbat this week. Two young men in their twenties. Both from very frum yeshivas, both wearing button down shirts and black kippot. After our huge meal I suggested we all take a walk together (I’ve known both of them for a while) and so we did. We get across the street from my house and out comes the cigarettes and lighter. I found this situation humorous. I used to do the same thing when I was sixteen… here are these grown men looking to get married looking to start their lives, acting like a sixteen year old angry girl. They then proceeded to check out the bars, and decided on going to the movies instead. I went home. But first I took a long walk in the slush and snow to get my thoughts together.
What is it about Judaism that makes us not want to keep it. Millions of answers are given. I’m telling you there is only one answer and it is that – we just plain don’t want too.
There are other reasons given that seem to make a lot of sense so I will go through them and explain why I think they are wrong.
1- The laws are too hard. Ok even if we agree that the laws are difficult, how do we explain for almost 6000 years of people being able to keep them. Even in the concentration camps and in communist Russia, Jews still tried to keep Shabbat and kosher and paid for it, we on the other hand just throw it away.
2- There is no God. We live in a beautiful world with amazing things happening at all times. How does a tree grow? How is a baby born, the human heart & circulatory system work? Who watches out for us when we are in danger (no atheist in a foxhole) and who do we thank when things go right. Trust me, I have seen my mom in the hospital too many times, myself get out of too many near death experiences, and coincidence after coincidence has left me unable to deny God. Don’t make him have to show you in this way also.
3- My school, Shul, Rabbi, camp, parents… ok, so I happen to agree with this one the most. Yet still do not believe it actually makes someone not want to be a good Jew, rather its an excuse used to display how the person really feels inside. Even if your parents, school or anyone is pressuring you and pushing and you feel like you just cant take it anymore- you still have the ability to surround yourself with different Rabbis, and different people who can help you. You also have the ability to shut yourself out from what they are saying. But most people don’t do this. In fact most people listen vey carefully waiting to hear something that angers them.
4- It just doesn’t make sense. I don’t believe in religion. I’m yet to hear or come up with a good answer for this one all I can say is.. Pretty admirable that you don’t believe in something that people have believed in one way or another since the creation of time. (idolatry, sun god, river god, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam are all forms of religions) good luck with that one.
5- It is more fun to be not religious. Meh. Been there, done that. Not really that much more fun. Non-kosher food isn’t that much better, having a Saturday with no work isn’t really that oppressing, and waiting until marriage to screw a boy really isn’t the end of the world. Are there fun times when you’re not religious. Of course there are, there are fun times when you do anything. Your life is in your hands, its not really so cool to blame religion for your lack of ability to have a good time.
6- I don’t feel any connection with Judaism, it doesn’t mean anything to me. R’ Nachman of Breslov had this problem. His solution was that he immersed in a freezing mikveh every morning, meditated, learned ridiculous amounts in a day, and prayed, prayed, prayed crying to God to help him. He became one of the most spiritual Tzadikim, who is an inspiration to all those looking for spirituality in his life. OK that’s a little extreme for us now a days, but in the Siddor, in birchat ha Shachar- morning blessings there is a a paragraph- Ailu Devarim- these are the things. And it says these are the things that a man enjoys in this world, and remains intact with him in the world to come. They are. Honoring your mother and father, acts of loving kindness, being early in the beit midrash, having guests, visiting the sick, providing for a bride, escorting the dead, absorbing yourself for pray, bringing peace between two men…vi Talmud torah kineged kulam= and torah study is like all of them. Work on these.
7- My life just sucks so much I cant believe in God and Religion. First, analyze if your life actually sucks. Chances are you’re being a little over dramatic. And again, an excuse for how you really feel inside- you just don’t want to keep Judaism. But if you are really suffering I don’t have an answer for this. If this is you, I’m sorry your life sucks if you want to talk about it, give me a call or something.
So this all comes down to one thing. People don’t keep Judaism because they JUST PLAIN DON’T WANT TOO. In this world today where we are in control of almost every thing in our lives. Its hard to serve something we cant see, touch, hear. It’s even harder to serve something that doesn’t enforce us. There are no lightning bolts, there are no repercussions. There is only your soul, and the damage you do to it. make good decisions. Learn from the bad ones.
Please, smile, and be happy with your life. HaShem loves you.
Also I’m really sorry I don’t mean to offend anyone with this.”