Sunday, October 30, 2011

To Your Own Self Be True--Or Maybe Not?

? אם אין אני לי, מי לי
? וכשאני לעצמי, מה אני
? ואם לא עכשיו, אימתי
"If I am not for myself, who is for me? 
And if I am only for myself, what am I? 
And if not now, when?" (Avos 1:14, translation from

These famous words of Rabbi Hillel have been going through my head quite frequently. They seem so wise and so obvious, yet so hard to fulfill in practice. 

If I am not for myself, who is for me? 

When I tell people my story, I often get the response "How can you live this way? You have to be true to yourself".

I see their point. Living a double life is hard--very hard. I feel awkward in the frum world, like I am pretending to be someone whom I am not. I feel like a hypocrite when I tell my children that they may not play with a muktzah toy on shabbos--then go into my room, lock the door, and use the internet. I hate having to lie to my children to hide my aveiros, and having to explain everything to the rest of the world.

I can't help but wonder what it would be like to live life honestly--on my terms. I could be myself without needing to hide anything. Avoid the hassles of observance, the fights with my husband over religious issues, and the lies.


And if I am only for myself, what am I?

My decisions affect others. 

Throughout my life, I have consistently been labeled as selfish. While I try to be a good person, I have never been the type to go out of my way to do chessed projects. I am terrible at cleaning and am therefore constantly called selfish for not doing my "fair share". (This is despite of the fact that I do far more than my fair share of things that I am good at. When I work on group projects at the school, the other people often end up being the group while I do the project).  

To an extent they are right. When describing myself, "selfless" is not the word that would come to mind. Especially in the midst of this crisis, I find that I spend way too much time considering my own needs over those of my children and husband.

As I know that I have this fault, I realize that I need to try to rectify it by focusing on the needs of others. And I just can't justify breaking up my family in order to avoid feeling like a hypocrite. What kind of person would that make me?

On the other hand, I wonder if staying in this environment is in fact hurting my children. When the very act of telling my children that the petrified log in front of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is 200 million years old sparks a huge argument, maybe staying in this environment isn't the best thing for the kids. 

Or maybe I can find a balance, a way to live my life, educate my children, and maintain shalom bayis. How? I don't know.

And if not now, when?

Who knows?