Sunday, May 15, 2011

Welcome to my blog!

As this is the first post on my blog, I would like to begin by introducing myself and the purpose of my blog.

I am a married mother-of-three in her twenties who has recently begun having serious doubts about the validity of Orthodox Judaism and has thus joined the ranks of the orthoprax, the despised subculture of secret heretics who remain within the Orthodox community for various reasons.

I entered the frum community as a young teenager when I, together with my mother, decided to become more religious. My mother was always religiously-inclined and would have likely become frum earlier if it were not for her living in a southern town with only a tiny Orthodox community. I became interested in Orthodox Judaism as a young teenager when I realized that since I believed in Torah min Hashomayim, it was hypocritical for me not to keep the mitzvos. My mother followed me, at a slower pace, and ultimately became mostly-Modern-Orthodox. She would, and still does, break shabbos when her elderly mother calls and in other such situations.

I, on the other hand, became charedi--very charedi. I orginially became frum at the only Orthodox shul in our town, a Chabad shul. Then my mother remarried and we moved to a big city and I went to a "modern-Yeshivish" girls high school. I ended up deciding to go back to Chabad, went to a Chabad seminary, and married shortly thereafter. I took yiddishkiet very seriously and was very machmir in many areas. I kept a very strict standard of tznius, was very machmir about hilchos shabbos, and I davened and learned a substantial amount every day. I did not go to college because I thought that it was assur to do so and then I had three kids by age 23.

At that point my world began to crash down on me. I had grown up in the self-esteem generation, believing that I could be whatever I wanted to be if I tried hard enough. Therefore, despite being the intellectual type who also has severe ADD, I figured that if the Rebbe said that women should primarily be wives and mothers of large families that I could do so if I tried hard enough. After having a breakdown after the birth of my third child, I realized that is definitely not the case. Parenting is not my strong point, to put it mildly, and housekeeping is even less so. I found that I had little in common with other frum women who primarily wanted to discuss child-rearing and recipes, and I felt like the proverbial fish-out-of-water. I began to hate myself and feel like a worthless human being as I couldn't do even the minimum expected of me.

Starting college literally changed my life. I originally decided to go back to college in order to get a decent job, because I was fed up with the "bitachon method" of earning income. However, going back to college saved my self-image by allowing me to do something that I was good at--really good at. I quickly made my way to the top of my class and excelled at every class that I took (except for one class this semester, which will likely be my first college "B"). The fact that charedi Judaism tries to fit everyone into a mold, along with the economic problems inherent in the system, made me question the charedi system as a whole (I had already decided way earlier that I did not agree with Chabad), and once the questioning began, it made me realize that Orthodox Judaism as a whole is built on a very shaky foundation.

Now I feel trapped. I am married to a super-frum husband and have kids in the Chabad system. I want to be able to focus all of my energies on college because it is the only thing that I am living for these days, but I can't totally neglect my kids and my husband. I do not want to be frum at all, but attempting to leave a frum lifestyle would cause emotional and financial chaos for all involved. However, as a person who hates hypocrisy, living a lie is killing me psychologically. I also worry that if I stay then my kids will be stuck in the system and forced to fit into a mold into which they may or may not fit.

So here I am, sitting on the fence.


  1. Comment from someone who has been there: The guilt will probably subside if you tell your spouse. It will be hell, of course, but I found that it was my wife who was causing the severe guilt. I felt like I was betraying her. Now it's just very, very difficult, not torture.

  2. I have told him, and he has been pretty understanding. But it is still really hard.

  3. You and I are very similar in many ways. How old are your kids? My husband is also chabad and it is very, very hard. I end up having the stupidest arguments.

  4. My heart goes out to you. I can't even imagine how much harder things are for you being married and having little ones.

  5. My kids are between three and seven, so they are still pretty little and need more attention than I can give them at the moment. I try to do what I can and I have made it clear to my husband that I have no intention of having any more kids anytime soon (or ever).

    My husband doesn't argue with me nearly as much as he did when I was still frum but not Chabad. At this point he figures that he has a better chance of making me frummer by being super nice. I don't think that I will get any frummer but I like the being nice part :)

  6. Oh, I absolutely know where you are coming from - except my situation is much worse. I am 43 with 10 kids (!) and I see no way out of this whole I have dug myself into. I have also told my wife my doubts and skepticism, but even if she fully agreed with me (she is WAY too busy to really think about these issues clearly) there is no real way we can do much about it without some MAJOR upheaval in so many lives.
    I honestly dont know if the Torah is true and if God wants us to keep it or not (assuming there IS a God), but I do know that chessed is something we all strive to keep and help each other, regardless of whether we will get something in return.
    All I can say is - take comfort in your fellow doubters - we are here for you.

  7. 1) Chabad Judaism is not the only legitimate form of Orthodox Judaism.
    2) Both Chabadniks and OTD's will try to convince you, either openly or subtly, that it is.
    3) You will then be told to make a choice: either give up your misgivings and embrace "Orthodox" Judaism (really just the Chabad form) or stop believing entirely because there is no middle ground.
    Don't believe either side. There is plenty of middle ground where you can have your belief and live a fulfilling life.

  8. Garnel: Your point 2 is rubbish.

    FS: Welcome to the blogosphere! I am a father of two(almost 3 and 7!) and a sel-called 'Undercover Kofer'. I blog on I am de facto orthoprax but hope I don't have to stay there forever.

    Good luck!

  9. I also got myself into Orthodoxy (and believed it very strongly) only to discover, a few years down the road, that I couldn't sustain the belief, and found little (if any) comfort in the practice. Fortunately, my wife has been reasonably tolerant. I recognize that (like your husband) my wife bargained for a frum spouse who was going to stay true to frumkheit. I do feel somewhat guilty about that, so I go through the motions... At least you now have college; you can modify your life somewhat, and maintain outside interests. This will make the frumkheit a bit more tolerable.

  10. Chaynobody -

    It must have been hard for you (and your wife) to deal with this at such a late stage in life. However, in a way it makes the decision somewhat easier. You really can't go anywhere without seriously harming your older kids.

    As for me, I am feeling guilty keeping my kids in a society that will seriously limit their options while they are still young enough to leave. Right now I am just hoping for a workable compromise where they can stay frum but still have the option of going to college before marriage, etc. My husband is agreeable to that in order to save our marriage, the bigger problem is that their schools won't be.


    Of course not. I have spent the last couple of years trying to find a form of Orthodox Judaism that I can comfortably live with, however at this point "minor details" like Torah M'sinai are getting in the way.


    How do you think that you could leave?


    I am trying to find outside interests, but I am finding that a bit hard to do at college because I am considerably older than most of the other students. Hopefully going to grad school will solve that problem.

  11. ...and thanks for inspiring my latest blog post! :)

  12. Welcome to the blogosphere.

    For me, where to send my kids to school was (and is) the hardest part of being Orthoprax. On the one hand, since I’m the one who changed, I feel that I have to abide by the implicit agreement I made with my wife when we got married that we would live as Orthodox Jews. On the other hand, I don’t want my kids learning the crazy things I did as a kid.

    My good-enough solution was to find a liberal school outside of NY. My oldest is starting school this coming year. We’ll see if this works out. Is there such a thing as a liberal Chabad school? Would your husband be okay with sending your kids to a RWMO school? While Modern Orthodoxy is not a perfect solution (the “little details” like TMS), as a group the MO community shares the same values and much of the same epistemology as most skeptics.

    I’m lucky in that my wife is pretty liberal and is much more into the social and ritual aspects of Judaism than she is into theology.

    Best of luck to you.

  13. Welcome, friend. There is always room for one more in the OTDisphere.

  14. There is absolutely no way that my husband would be willing to consider a MO school.

  15. Oh, and I just added you to my blogroll. I can't wait to hear more from you, and I can tell you are going to be great!

  16. The difficulty you'll face both during and after "leaving" is a pittance compared to the difficulty you'll face living a lie until your last day.

    Welcome to the OTD blogosphere! I think your introductory post may have inspired something new of my own.

  17. oh boy, oh boy, You have my sympathies.

    I am 53 and have been living the lie for over 25 years; starting soon after marriage My wife knows about it for 15 years but has no understanding of my challenges and is still grieving and hopes i will see the light. My kids, i think, have figured out my duplicity and each has chosen their own way. I often think i should have outed myself so many years ago. Unfortunately there is no easy answer regarding what to do. I think it depends on your relationship with your spouse.

    I am not lubavitch and have a college and post-graduate education, so at least i do not feel that they system cheated me in that way.

    My feelings go out to you.

  18. Hi! Sorry to hear you are so conflicted- hope things take a turn for the better. Whether you decide to remain frum or not is up to you- but always keep in mind the different options. Perhaps you are having doubts because the Orthodoxy presented to you is so stifling and narrow. I am in my low twenties, Orthodox, and a graduate of Bais Yaakov schools (yeshivish, even) and camps but I am also a college graduate and am currently working towards my masters- college for me was always a given, and I never saw it (or was taught) as aussur.