This is not about the community. This is about me. In the past I’ve written about what I think about the community and how much I think the Jewish community needs changing and all that. But lately I just haven’t been paying attention to the community. I haven’t been reading all the different blogs and keeping up on the news in Israel or the tri-state area. Frankly, I don’t care that much these days. I’ve been paying attention to myself. Call me narcissistic, but I realized I have to stop worrying about everybody else for a lil bit and start worrying about myself.
What’s my purpose? Why am I here? Like, “on this planet” here, not “sitting in front of a laptop at 4:30 in the morning” here. These seem like regular questions that everybody hopefully addresses at some point in their lives, right? And I thought I had already addressed them. Well, I really have. I know what my purpose is and I know why I’m here. My purpose as a Jew on planet Earth, in the United States of America on January 12, 2007 is to spread Kiddush Hashem and gain S’char for the next world by following the laws of the Torah that was given to my ancestors on Mt. Sinai. Simple. I mean, what else is there to it? But I decided that this was my purpose years ago while I was studying in Israel.
So why am I sitting here right now addressing this question if I already know the answer? Obviously, it can’t be that simple. I mean, the laws are hard to keep. There are study halls filled with books. There are Beis Medrishes around the world filled with thousands of people learning and studying the deepest most intricate areas of Jewish law and Halacha. I mean, it can’t be that easy to be a Yid if I haven’t finished Mishna Berurah and I don’t know all of Shas to be able to figure what to do in case something out of the ordinary comes up. So how can I go on being a Jew if I don’t even know all of Halacha?
So we try. We study what we can and we consult our Rebbeim whose lives are (hopefully) dedicated to answering the questions of common Jews like me who just won’t be able to know everything.
My purpose, which is to live like a Jew and spread Kiddush Hashem and gain S’char, depends on me living out my life and having a future that’s able to sustain such a life. Therefore, the greatest way for me to carry out my purpose would be to raise another generation of Torah loving Jews. My purpose is ultimately my future. Thus, I attend college now and attempt to work on myself in order to start a career and bring myself to a spiritual level that will enable me to support a family and sustain a future that will help me to reach my goal.
Yes, all well and good. Since Touro College is quite the joy and spiritual growth for a 22 year old male in New York who’s not in Yeshiva all day is just so easy, there must be a reason why I’m sitting here at this ridiculous hour making sure I know why I’m here.
Ok, so if I do remember why I’m here, then what’s my problem? Why am I still awake and why am I typing?
My problem is that whole future thing. That probably came out sounding really weird but I honestly just can’t really tell anymore at this point. So if I’m already losing you, feel free to just stop here.
Yeah, so how am I supposed to work on myself right now and how am I supposed to really care about doing well in school if the only reason I’m doing it is to some day be able to support a wife and kids and send them to yeshivos and pay my dues and live like a good Yid?
Ok, ok, I know what you’re all gonna say! “But you shouldn’t just do it for a girl; you should want to do it for yourself.”
The thing about that is that this is what I want. I really do want a good wife and good kids and I really do want to live like a good Yid. But why should I quit smoking now and why should I get all A’s now and why should I start saving money now. I don’t have a girlfriend and I just don’t really see my future right now. I honestly would not mind working in a bagel shop for the next five years just getting by and being able to pay off all my bills if you told me that I’m not going to meet my wife for another five years. So you can’t tell me I don’t want to do these things for myself. Of course I want to do well in school and of course I want to quit smoking and of course I want to start going to minyan more often, and as much as I know that if I do all these things now, it will be better for me now, I really just don’t see it. I know I have a future and I know my potential and those things don’t worry me. What worries me is how to live now while my future still seems too distant.
On Monday night my chavrusa got married and I was his shomer all day. As we drove around doing all his pre-wedding errands, we talked a lot and the theme we basically kept on coming back to was this idea that it’s so hard for me to be motivated about the future when it seems to be so far out of reach. His marriage is also just about as typical as it gets in the Chareidi community while I totally want to have nothing to do with the Shidduch world. So we’re two people with the same view on the future, but with completely different ideas on the path that leads to the future. As Chareidi as he is though, he totally understands my desire to have a girl friend and wanting to date a girl for a while before proposing. However, even though he sits in yeshiva and learns all day and dated a girl for a short period of time for the sole purpose of finding a wife, he still understood how I could find it hard to not feel motivated about the path to the future. We even discussed how some guys marry Mashgiachs and that whole joke. He realized that when I say I can’t be motivated until I find a girl, it’s not that I want to find a girl who’s going to be a Mashgiach, but that I just need to be able to see what I’m working for.
This is all aside from the fact that I obviously want to marry a girl who sees my potential and who sees what kind of life I really do want to live even if it’s so hard for me to act like that right now. But like I said, I feel like if I see what I’m working for I’ll be more motivated, so once I do find the girl I’ll be able to really work that much harder. But now I’m gonna go off on a complete tangent about how it’s a vicious cycle and how I’ll never meet the right girl if I continue acting the way I am now so then I’ll never be motivated enough to work on myself so I should just stop my moaning and just go work on myself, but this wasn’t even my point.
I don’t even think I can remember my point.
So then if I’m not working on myself right now and I don’t care that much about school these days, what am I doing? I’ve actually been doing things that make me happy. Some of those things are kosher, some not so kosher, some very not kosher, and some totally ossur. But the truth is, even after all this confusion that I’ve been going through lately, I have been smiling a lot. And this is what bothers me and I think this is what I originally wanted to write about, but writing at this hour can do that to you. See, if I’ve been doing all kinds of things lately that make me smile, but I haven’t really been working on myself, then I’m probably not growing, and all these things I’m doing probably aren’t the best things for me to be doing. Ok, I know this is all vague and completely pointless without any sort of examples or whatever, but try to bear with me for a just a sec.
For the longest time, I was always annoyed that I had no hobbies and I wasn’t really that good at anything. So lately I set out to spend some more time on things that I have an interest in, basically, things that make me happy. One thing I started doing is rock climbing. I’ve fallen in love with it. Every time I go rock climbing, no matter what kind of mood I’m in before I go, I always walk out smiling. That’s an activity, a hobby that I’ve picked up, that’s totally kosher that I really enjoy. I also started exploring my interest in art and I’ve always loved all types of interesting music. So I’ve been going to some random art events and I’ve really dug deep into my interests of certain types of art. One area of art that particularly interests me is street art, which can involve forms of vandalism. Now, besides immodest forms of art, street art can also come out not being so kosher. There are also other things that I enjoy that I know are ossur and I know I can go without them, so those I don’t worry about as much, even if they really do make me smile. But it’s mostly those grey area interests that bug me out.
So I’m a frum 22 year old guy, but I love going to hip-hop concerts and enjoy graffiti and these things make me smile. But I’m a FRUM 22 year old guy, living in New York, with the city just 30 minutes away and I reallllllllly enjoy these things, so what am I supposed to do? I mean, I don’t see my future just yet, but how can I associate with all types of people that are certainly not conducive to my growth as a Yid? Ok, so we already went over my purpose in life, and my purpose in life is NOT to smile and enjoy things and be happy, and believe me I’m not some crazy Chareidi yeshivish HS rebbi or something, and I’ll be the first to say that being happy and enjoying oneself in life are definitely things that are important to ones mental and physical wellbeing. But where am I in all these things that just don’t mesh 100% with frum ideals, and where do I fit my interests into minyan three times a day, and keeping kosher, and shabbos, and living and acting like a Yid?
Well, I finally realized where I fit in. I fit in where every other Jew in this world fits in to each and every one of their specific situations and stages in life. I struggle. I struggle like all Yiddin in this entire universe struggle. I fight my urges and desires like all Yiddin fight their urges and desires. So this is my struggle right now, but I am not alone. Because I am a Yid no better or worse than the next Yid that struggles with his or her Yetzer Horas. But what I need to remember is that when the Tzaddik and the Rasha both die, they both cry. The Tzaddik cries because when he sees his Yetzer Hora, he sees that it was as large as a mountain and he’s overcome at the thought that he was able to battle that mountain. The Rasha cries because when he sees his Yetzer Hora, he see that it was as small as an eyelash, and that he didn’t even have the drive and will power to overcome something as small as an eyelash. So I’ll struggle with the things that make me smile, but why will I cry?