As I write, I know that I am mostly brainstorming and getting ideas out. This may or may not be coherent but I feel this is too important for me to let it be dormant -as it tends to be.
I was telling a friend of mine about the blog about the Hassid and the Heretic. Its about a guy (?) who for whatever reason just stopped believing. Nevertheless, he still dons all the right clothing, wears the right hat, says the right things, etc. Basically, he is like a shell. All the exteriors were "right" but the interior was missing.
At first I wanted to giggle a bit about it, but as I spoke and thought and thought and spoke I began to realize that many people -including myself- are prone to this shell-like behavior.
When I first became religious, I was so full with idealism, zeal, joy, will, etc. Everything was done with kavana (devotion). Each mitzvah was a big deal. Bentching (grace after meal) was inspiring! (can you believe that!) Any man with the title rabbi was revered. However, slowly slowly, as I assimilated into the culture, I realized my rose tinted glasses was getting me into trouble. I had to take them off and confront many things.
All around me there was great emphasis on taking on chumras (stringencies) it felt a bit like peer pressure. Those who were lenient on things were looked down upon. Everything was dependent upon how chumra-dik you were. People may not eat at someone's house because of the length of that person's skirt! Some will say, "can you prove this?" I can't prove it, but I know that I felt it. I know that I saw it happening. I know that others felt it because we've talked about it, people joke about it. Its like its in the air but nobody wants to confront it head on.
Certain things I could never get an answer on. Questions such as why is mehadrin hechsher A better than mehadrin hechsher B? Though I didn't know the answer, there were some hechshers I knew I mustn't be caught eating. Even though I personally felt absolutely nothing wrong with them. In addition, rather than finding the usefulness or good in something, it seems that folks have so little confidence in themselves that they rather assur (forbid) things. Now, having a computer in the house is questionable, using cell phones that aren't MIR phones is questioned, not to mention the countless bans in many sects.
There is one scene from the Body Snatcher (?) Movie that seem to pop up into my head a lot these days. The scene where most of humanity have been 'body snatched' and droids (looking like the very same people they body snatched) are walking around. This guy and girl who think they are the only real ones left take on a droid behavior so as to not get caught -and snatched. On their way up some stairs, in their droid-like fashion they get confronted by another droid. They try not to show any emotions but one of them slips! They both falter wondering what to do since surely they are caught..but the third droid slumps his shoulder and says, "Thank goodness, I'm not alone!" He was also a real human!
Sometimes, that is how I feel. I walk in very tzneut (modest) clothing. If someone asks me how am I, I respond robotically, "baruch Hashem" (Thank God) --even though that answer bothers me because it doesn't say how I am really, but I guess nobody cares really. My children are almost turning of age to be in school. Many chareidim ask me constantly, "so where are you sending your kids?" Eventually I have to choose between the Beit Yaakov (which means I'm "in") or anything else (which means I'm out of the circle). I try to think of the proper school, but I admit I do feel the peer pressure coming on. B'ezrat Hashem I will do the right thing.
But I go on, in my droid-like fashion all the while looking for hints of 'normalcy' in people around me. Waiting to put my guard down and relax. I don't want to conform out of peer pressure! I don't want to become a droid! I don't want to be just a shell....
to be continued...