Sunday, March 27, 2005

Confused and sad

Last summer I was date raped by a Jewish man. Prior to that, I had casually dated some non-Jews. All of the non-Jews treated me properly. The Jew date raped me. I wandered about in a daze. I had finally found someone I thought I could trust and once again had been betrayed.

In those hot lazy summer days, when my heart was broken with betrayal, I started hanging out with a guy I once worked with. We hit it off very well. We fell in love. It was the only time in my life I've ever been in love. It was wonderful. We unfolded into each other and being with him I felt more alive than I ever had. We adored each other and deeply connected on an emotional, physical and spiritual level. There was one problem: he's a devout Christian. I'm a devout Jewess. In the fall, we broke up.

It was very painful for me and I am still not over it. I feel numb and frozen. I feel that g-d is cruel for having put those Jews into my life who hurt me and then the one person I fall in love with is a Christian. I did look into Christianity but I just don't believe that Jesus was the messiah. It just doesn't make sense to me. The whole story seems phony to me. It doesn't jive with the text of the bible. I couldn't marry someone not Jewish.

Any rabbis out there who can give some words to soothe my wounded soul? Any pastors or priests out there who can give the same?

Please, please, someone out there write something to make me feel like there's some sense to all this, like there's some hope for me. Will I ever meet a Jewish soulmate as true as the one I knew? What does g-d want from me???



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through so much. I wish there was something I could do to help.

March 27, 2005 8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure Isaiah had a hard time getting a shidduch too. He felt like an outsider most of the time and witnessed a lot of phony Jews out there.


March 27, 2005 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your feelings are all acceptable. I went through similer feelings and left judaism for a while and looked into christianity. I needed to find a God who did not me. The jewish god was owned by my parents somehow, and felt about me the way that thay did. I have this really cool pin that says, "I was not created in Your image of God."
God loves you and will help you find a soul mate who is jewish. He/She did it for me. It will happen at the right time. Meanwhile work hard in therapy. It will help you in any relationship that you eventually have.

March 28, 2005 6:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no way such reprehensible behavior can be justified. It is also difficult to see beyond enormous pain. Rationally, you realize that date rape is not a uniquely Jewish phenomenon and that all normal nice people are not Christian. Find those Jews that you sense that you can trust and hopefully time will lead you to someone within our community who will give you the love and support that you deserve.

March 28, 2005 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear your story an struggle. Unfortunately, religious training and commitment and education do not always translate into decency, honesty and integrity. There are some bad Jews out there. The Talmud itself recognizes that and says that those who are observant and learned but immoral and indecent are committing a chillul Hashem, a desecration of God's Name.

Also, I believe that there are many wonderful non-Jews in the world who are decent,loving, spiritual human beings. They too are created betzelem Elokim, in God's image.

So, for some reason, you are facing difficult challenges. What happenned is not your responsibility. But how you move forward and what you do now is your responsibility.

You remained committed to Judaism and the Jewish people. Deep down you have a sense that that is who you are and where you belong. DOn't let anyone take that away from you. don't let any perpetrator steal that faith or sense of belonging. It is too precious. And, based on your own responses, it is too precious to you as well.

Unfortunately life is not easy. The rabbis write "l'fum tza'ara agra," according to the suffering is the reward. But like a different Talmudic rabbi said in a different context, I'd forgo the reward if I could forgo the pain. But we are not usually given the option.

I know that there is great comfort and meaning in Torah. I know there is great compassion and kindness in our people (we are called bayshanim, rachmanim and gomlei chassadim: modest, merciful and magnanimous.) I know that there is a community out there that iis waiting to embrace you. And I know that there is a special someone there too.

Have faith in yourself. HAve faith in God. Have faith in the future.

It is so difficult to write to you anonymously, not knowing you, your experiences or your responses to what I am saying. Forgive me if I'm off base.

Rabbi Mark Dratch

March 28, 2005 3:18 PM  
Blogger Mara said...

Thank you all for your kind words. Somehow I feel that g-d has forgotten about me. I know that is ungrateful since I have so much, like my health and a job.

March 28, 2005 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Rabbi Mark Dratch said...

Dear Mara,

Your sense of abandonmet by God is understandable. Didn't King David himself write often in Tehillim (Psalms) about the same theme? See. for example, Pslams 27:
"7. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice; be gracious to me, and answer me. 8. Of you my heart said, Seek my face; Your face, O Lord, will I seek! 9. Hide not your face from me; put not your servant away in anger; you have been my help; do not abandon me, nor forsake me, O God of my salvation."

I spoke one Yom Kippur on this theme. Permit me to share it with you. I hope it is helpful.

Jacob’s God
by Rabbi Mark Dratch

All year long we when we recite the Shma Yisrael, we say the phrase Baruch shem kevod malkhuto l'olam va-ed (Blessed be the Name of His Kingdom forever) quietly, but on Yom Kippur we deviate from our usual practice and declare it aloud. The reason for our usual practice is that this verse doesn’t really belong here. It is not from the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, as are the other verses, but is found, instead, in the prophet Isaiah. It is part of our keriyat shma for one of two reasons. Some explain that it is the angels’ response to Moses’s declaration of absolute faith. On Yom Kippur, when we are similar to the angels in that we remove ourselves from the physicality of this world and share their unbroken faith and total dedication to God’s Will, we too recite the verse aloud.

A midrash explains that the Baruch shem kevod malkhuto l'olam va-ed has its origins in a moving exchange between Jacob and his sons, as Jacob was about to die:
"And Jacob called unto his sons, and said: Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you [that which shall befall you in the end of days]." Jacob wished to reveal to his sons the ‘end of the days’, whereupon the Shechinah departed from him. Said he, ‘Perhaps heaven forfend! there is one unfit among my children, like Abraham, from whom there issued Ishmael, or like my father Isaac, from whom there issued Esau.’ [But] his sons answered him, ‘Hear O Israel, [for Jacob’s name was also Israel,] the Lord our God, the Lord is One: just as there is only One in thy heart, so is there in our heart only One.’ In that moment our father Jacob opened [his mouth] and exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.’

Thus we declare our faith to Jacob, and to all our ancestors, and we include their response, Baruch shem kevod malkhuto l'olam va-ed.

This second explanation is as mysterious as it is moving. Imagine the scene. Jacob, as he approached death, called his children around him in order to bid farewell. He did so as a father, in order to say good-bye and to express to them his personal feelings. He also did so as a patriarch, in order to pass on to them the strength of his religious convictions as well. He intended to reveal to them the end of days, the secrets of faith and of history. He wanted to give structure and meaning and purpose to their existence but the Divine Presence abandoned him. Precisely at that moment when he wanted to cement their relationship with God with a prophetic explanation of the meaning of all of the events of their lives, the purpose of their future sufferings, and the divine role in Jewish history, the presence of God departed from him and Jacob had to speak of other things. He could not offer them understanding. He was only able to pray, to offer them blessings instead.

This alienation from God was not a new experience for Jacob. In fact, Jacob suffered the absence of the Shechinah for long periods throughout his life. For the twenty years that he spent in the house of his father-in-law Laban in Padan Aram, one of the most vital times of his life, as he built his family and his wealth, God was not with him. And during the twenty-two years that Joseph was missing, God was not with him as well. (See Rashi, Gen. 45:27.)
Why had God deserted Jacob at these critical times of his life? Rashi points out that God abandoned him in the house of Laban because as long as he lived in the evil, devious and hostile milieu of his father-in-law, there was no room for God (Gen. 31:3). And Rambam suggests that God abandoned him during his mourning for Joseph because of his sorrow and anxiety. It was not until he was brought news that Joseph was alive that his spirit was restored and he found God again. The irony and tragedy of it is that at precisely at those times that he needed God the most, God was not there! Precisely during the challenges of life in Laban’s house when he most needed moral support and encouragement, precisely during the loneliness and anguish of mourning for a lost son when he most needed God’s broad shoulder to lean on to assuage his grief and despair; and precisely while facing his own death, the future of his family, and the fate of his faith that Jacob most needed God--and each time God was not there for him.

Many of us, at times of personal crisis, are like Jacob, feeling very much alone, very much abandoned by the world and very much deserted by God. Specifically at those times when our lives are the toughest--we find that faith is the hardest: as we lie in the hospital rooms or stand near the beds of family or friends for whom the doctors have no cure, as we struggle during difficult economic times to provide for ourselves or our families, or as we stand over the abyss of the opened graves of loves ones. We reach out our hands to God for support, and our hands remain open, extended and empty. At times we do not even have the strength, or the will, to extend our hands and they remain stiff at our sides. How tragically ironic that it is at those times in our lives when we are bonetired, emotionally weary, and psychologically dreary, that we feel so spiritually spent.
Yet, strangely, it was precisely at one of these moments of spiritual crisis that Jacob blessed his sons. It was precisely then, the Zohar states, that everything that Jacob wanted to reveal, he did reveal. And, most strangely, it was precisely at this moment of divine silence, that Jacob’s children declared to their father their faith in God. .
How had Jacob succeeded in passing on his faith to his children? What had Jacob taught them?

Jacob’s secret lay in the fact that despite God’s absence, Jacob persevered; despite the immoral influences of laban’s house, he refused to yield; and despite his grief at Joseph’s loss, he refused to yield. Jacob’s secret lay in the fact that, despite it all, he refused to accept a Godless reality.

In Laban’s house he lived a fine, upstanding Jewish life of Torah and mitzvot. In this den of iniquity, he was moral and ethical, a man of principle. Despite the loss of his son, he never lost hope, he never abandoned faith. And on his deathbed, when the divine Presence departed from him, he invoked the Name of God and offered blessing and prayer. It was because of his pain and it was despite his pain that he continued to believe. The greatness of Jacob’s spiritual character was that he was able to reach out to God, and leave his hand extended--even if it remained empty, even if his gesture remained unanswered. It was not only what he said and what he did that made Jacob the man of faith that he was, but it was especially when he said it and when he did it: during moments of despair and trouble. Jacob taught his children, by personal example, that it is at those moments when it was hardest to pray that true prayer is needed the most and the best prayers are formed. Jacob taught his children, by personal example, that it is at those moments when it is hardest to believe that true belief is needed and true convictions are formed.
Thus, Jacob’s persistence did not go unrewarded; his prayers and beliefs sustained him through long and difficult times. Jacob’s persistence did not go unanswered; after each lapse he reunited and reconciled with God. And Jacob’s persistence did not go unnoticed; his children, specifically at a time of uncertainty and transition, declared Shema Yisrael! They were able to sustain this conviction because they had a role model, a great Man of Faith. A man who relied on the potential of God’s greatness, even though it seemed remote and unattainable; a man who continued to pray and live according to God’s Will, even when he felt estranged and cheated and deceived; a man who was able to believe in God, even in His absence--and who was therefore able to pass on that relationship to his children. Thus, Jacob’s was an offer of thanks. Jacobs’ was a sigh of relief. And Jacob’s was a prayer of rejoicing.

For some of us, the loud of the Yom Kippur may be the response of angels to the perfect, complete, and unwavering faith of the Shema Yisrael. But for some of us, ours is the longing prayer of Jacob’s deathbed, the yearning for the ability to believe, our quest to find God.

There are many people with whom I have shared conversations about crises in faith. People who have asked those questions about God for which we have no answers. And some who may be sitting through the prayers a bit cynically, or who may even question their presence here altogether. Such feelings can and do exist, even in Orthodox synagogues. Even such a biblical great as Jacob had such struggles. But I urge you to follow Jacob’s path-- never despair and never, never give up! Learn from Jacob that while, at times, God may be difficult to find, in the end He will be found. Learn from Jacob, that the pursuit of the divine itself is ennobling and uplifting and edifying, that spirituality is a muscle that must first be exercised and strengthened, and that can then, and only then, be redeeming. Learn from Jacob, to work your way to the Shema, despite the dreariness, despite the loss and despite the depression. Learn from Jacob to fulfill His mitzvot and study His Torah and recite His prayers--despite it all, and you will find that they will absorb you, and be absorbed by your children, and that they will be sources of strength, of support and of spirituality.

March 29, 2005 7:25 AM  

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