Note: This is part one of a two part series on rebellion. Stay tuned for the next post, coming tomorrow.
Pull up a chair, friends, and let me tell you a story.
It was a few months before my wife and I would move from Israel back to America.
And I was in pain.
I had all but stopped going to shul (synagogue). I was angry, frustrated, with the Jewish world. With the leaders I had trusted. With the betrayal I felt I had undergone.
There were rabbis I trusted, rabbis I believed in, who I felt had lied to me. They seemed like they knew so much! They seemed like they understood it all!
But it was all a sham.
And now, I was sitting in my living room in Katamon, a part of Jerusalem, and staring at my computer. On it was my blog, Pop Chassid.
At that time, it was a blog I cared deeply about but hardly updated. When I did, it was usually analogizing movies to Hasidic concepts.
I loved the blog with all my heart. It was my place on the web. It didn’t matter how much I wrote in it. It didn’t matter that so few people read it. I was attached to it, and I cared about it almost like a child.
But now… now I hated it. It was an extension of everything I was so angry about.
For so long, I was careful not to say anything too controversial or crazy. I wan’t to be buttel (nullified to something greater). I wanted the words of the Rebbe, of the rabbis throughout history, of the rabbis I trusted in my life, to speak through me. So I restricted myself. I held back. My ideas were rubbish, what I needed was to be a pure channel of light.
But now I didn’t feel that way. Now I felt that for all that time I had been holding back for no reason. I trusted people that told me to hold back, and they were wrong.
And as I stared at the screen of my computer, I looked up at my wife and I said: “I need to change this. I need to change everything.”
She looked at me with a look of surprise and asked me what I meant.
“I haven’t been saying what I really want to say. I’ve been hiding my true feelings. I want to be honest. I want to be real. I feel so restricted. I feel so lost.”
She understood what I meant and simply said, “I support you.”
I spent the next few weeks rebuilding my blog. I searched out for a new design. The whole time, I kept thinking that I didn’t just want a nice design. I wanted a design that fit me. That expressed who I was.
That’s the design you’re looking at today.
Then I meditated on what I wanted to write. Meditated for a while. Meditated all the way back to America.
In the meantime, I was starting to feel reenergized about my connection to Judaism. I went to shul more. I studied more Torah. I got back into the swing of things.
I was still bitter about my rabbis. Still bitter about some experiences I had in Israel. Still bitter in so many ways.
But reaccessing my desire to write, turning my writing into something that was both mine and G-d’s, freed me so that my happiness as a Jew wasn’t tied to my leaders. I could abandon them, find new ones, and not feel like less of a Jew.
And when I finally did start writing, and almost immediately my new posts became more popular than anything I had written before, I realized that I actually felt more like a Jew.
And as I let out those painful emotions, even if my readers didn’t realize it, I felt more and more free. Felt more and more me.
Pop Chassid has led to so many good things in my life the past few years. It’s led to the jobs I’ve gotten, literally causing me to be more blessed with money. It’s opened so many doors for me. It’s connected me to amazing people. It’s allowed me to be a part of the Jewish arts scene here in Brooklyn. And it’s helped me access my Judaism in the way I had been dying to achieve.
In other words, G-d has blessed me from the moment I decided to rebel. From the moment I decided, “Forget it. I’m going to stop being a mouse. I’m going to be strong, I’m going to say what’s on my mind, whether it ‘fits’ what others think or not. It’s about truth, about what G-d wants, not what some rabbis, or rabble rousers, or commenters want.”
And that’s when I realized to be buttel doesn’t mean being nothing: it means being you in the best way possible.
My rebellion was the best thing I ever did. That moment, sitting in that room in Katamon, was one of the turning points of my life. Even finding a new design. All of that was part of the process of me reclaiming my life, my Judaism, and my G-d.