letter to my brother

28 Sep

To my dear brother,


Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I’m trying to figure out how we got to this. Was it when you took your ‘departure’ from normality at the age of 15 and decided to become religious? Well, at the time I was running in the opposite direction and heated debates evolved (I forget their content, I just remember those arguments) about your life choices and mine. You went to Yeshiva in Israel and my parents tried to accommodate as much as they could – turning the kitchen over, making the house acceptable, even building a very expensive succah in order that you could follow your religious dictates.

And then, wonder of wonders, your very own dear sister decided to join you on your journey and for once, it was bliss. The two of us were praying togethere for the misled souls of our dear parents, davening that one day they too, should see the light. I had my reasons for becoming religious; something to cling on to, a comfort, a promise of family values – a backlash to the void of the secular world. Yes, and you had something to do with it, dear brother as it all started when we visited you at Yeshiva in Israel.

So, like you, I married, had children. You got married at the same time as me to a girl so attached to her home town that you ended up staying there, rather than coming to Israel and you ended up following the dictates of a narrow, extreme community and living comfortably from the support you got from your fellow ‘villagers’.

When I announced my divorce you were shocked and dismayed. How could this perfect world be shattered? You called with your pious concern and continued to pray for me in your shtieblech. Was it then that it happened? Maybe it was then. Maybe I was an uncomfortable reminder that chareidism does not always have the answers for ‘shalom bayis’ or maybe you chose to keep your opinions to yourself on the matter.

And then, as I drifted, and God opened my eyes to the world beyond a construct of dogma and lies I felt your voice become faint. Once, I really looked up to you, dear brother. You were the pious one, the learned one, the one who put torah learning above going out to work. A praiseworthy stance! But as I started to settle into the normalcy of wider society I started to see you differently. You hadn’t changed, it was me.

But maybe you did change. Your dewy-eyed idealism has been traded for an ego-stroking incestuous strangled version of dogma in the extreme. Your ideas and beliefs are no longer your own but belong to the ‘psak’ or ‘eitza’  of some yiddish speaking hag who took a detour from reality decades ago. You too, I suspect. Your family has grown, and so too has your ability to extricate money from whatever source possible, be it holy or unholy, Jewish or Gentile. I know your health has suffered. Why? Because the fact that your life is so void of God and that you have replaced God for something which is worse than idol worship because it is just plain arrogant to boot, your intestines are literally eating themselves up. 

My dear brother, even when you pray and learn your soul does not find it’s rest. And running away to your holies won’t help either.

Because your holies have caused you to pull yourself away from your only sister on an issue which is not even an issue. Because you are tainted by the fear that your children may one day find an escape route over the high walls of the stieblech and that, like me, you will lose them too. Because your black and white outlook has caused you to be blind to the fact that we, am Yisrael are ALL brothers and sisters and beloved by God; even those you classify as the ‘sinners’, those whose faces you wish to delete from any material that enters the house, those whose very existence causes you too toss and turn at night.

I know the love of God; it is with me all the time. And you – obviously, as you turn your back on me in disapproval, are not familiar with who God is and who He is not.

As you donned your kittel on Yom Kippur and opened your machsor you begged the baal for forgiveness; but His is not the forgiveness to give until you remove your garb of arrogance and you ask yourself…..what does God have to say about all of this? What does God want from me?



3 Responses to “letter to my brother”

  1. Eddie October 7, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Thank you for sharing your pain. I too miss my sibling (my sister) because she has locked herself away in an ultra-orthodox community.

    Let’s remember, they are not ‘bad’ for doing this. They are looking for God where they think they will find him. We are all lost without direction from God. I’m trying to remind myself that just as I have to accept myself (and forgive myself) for my own failings, so too must I learn to accept (and forgive) the failings of those I love (which should really be all people). We are all trying.

    I don’t believe it is religion per-se, or Torah per-se that is wrong. I believe the problem is just with our level of consciousness — how far have our souls evolved or not? As far as I can tell, Torah is a holy book. The problem is, it reflects to us according to the spiritual evolution we have reached.

    This is how I understand Hoshea 14:10. “Whoso is wise, let him understand these things, whoso is prudent, let him know them. For the ways of Hashem are right (straight), and the righteous do walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.”

    We can only try, and then turn to God. When we are ready, and we have realized how much pain we have caused ourselves and others, our hearts will break, and then we will hear in the quiet of our despair, the true God calling to us… and we will listen. (that’s what I think anyway) 🙂

    Incidentally, I mentioned that I think the Torah is a holy book… I believe the other nations of the world, also have access to truth in their faith systems. I don’t believe it’s a function of which faith tradition is right, I believe it is a function of how deep do you go when considering your faith system. Can you see truth, or do you see what your ego wants to show you?

    Best wishes


    • insearchofdivinity October 7, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

      Hi Eddie,

      I’m happy that you’ve found my blog. Your posts seem to be in the spirit. You seem to be at a similar stage that I was a year or so back, feeling some kind of attachment to mitzvot but feeling that the ‘actions’ is not necessarily where it’s at.
      I do not say shema twice a day any more, but whenever I look at the words, I understand how simple it all is and wonder how we’ve made it all so complicated. For example, the mitzvah of ‘chinuch’ on a parent (I don’t know if you are one or not) is to teach a child to love God. That’s the foundation and that’s the whole thing. If a person understands who God is, and develops an intimate relationship with him based on love, on being in ‘shabbat’ (ie. with a calmness and serenity of spirit that comes from complete faith in God) then all the other details follow. Hashem gives us a protocoll for how to deal with others (we don’t need a shulchan aruch for it) God loves unconditionally, so should we, God thinks of us before we think of ourselves, thus we should put the needs of others before ourselves etc etc.

      I like what you write about the ego. You have developed an understanding that some of my ‘religious’ friends still haven’t yet grasped ( I do not wish to sound arrogant – I am just as much a victim of my own ego as anyone else). Knowing where thoughts and reactions are coming from is half the battle. There are so many kinds of egos material, parental, the ego of wanting to be right, pride and even the trickiest of all, the religious ego.

      It would be nice to hear more from you. Do you have a blog? Are there other like-minded Anglos out there? I have to date connected more with Israelis and a few French and Russians that I can talk to and are ‘in the spirit’.

      I’m glad you’re following the blog. I don’t always write, or my laptop isn’t always there when the thoughts come into my head but I try to blog whenever I can.

      • Eddie October 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm #

        Thank you for welcoming me to the blog.

        Yes, I do have children (two of them).

        I don’t have a blog at this time. I have considered it though. I think I’m still organizing my thoughts, and also trying to determine what exactly would the goal of my blog be? Is it to help me clarify my own thoughts? Is it to provide a place where like-minded people can share ideas? Is it to present ideas (to challenge people’s ways of thinking)? If that’s my goal, isn’t that just my ego talking… me trying to prove that I’m right. Depending on my goals, I may or may not want to identify myself while writing the blog — something I’m conflicted about with regards to which way I should go. Then there are also the doubts — who am I to be writing about spirituality (and something you have alluded to) who am I to be flying in the face of ‘conventional wisdom’?

        For now, I’m still trying to solidify my convictions. Especially, as they seem to fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Truthfully, I do believe they are pretty solid. I do try to rely on the small voice inside… not believing everything I am ‘taught’ by the religious community which ultimately seems to be built around a power hierarchy. Something I am weary about though, is the proverbial “throwing the baby out with the bath water”. This is where my thoughts of, “it isn’t Torah per-se that is the problem… it is the lens (i.e. our ego) that we use to look at the Torah that is the problem” comes in. Like you mentioned in one of your posts… commenting on the different ways of distorted thinking… the black and white distortion, it is too easy to reject everything religious just because a new spiritual outlook has entered.

        Anyway, that’s where I am. Trying to see the truth through the falsehood. Like you, I believe in finding quiet inside and letting truth emerge. I’d be grateful for another friend on this journey of truth.

        Best wishes


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