How do I know that God wants this from me?
I’ve made some choices in life recently. Big ones. I’m trying to make a project I care about full time. I’m trying to take that project to the next level. I’m trying to let go of the idea of a full time job, trying to find freelance work until one day, God decides that I was meant to be doing this.
How do I know God wants this?
And that really means, I guess, is this the right decision? Have I made the right choice, both morally and logically? Which I suppose when combined means spiritually.
How do I know? Will I ever know?
Not only that, I believe that this project I’m working on is part of a movement in Judaism, and I want to do everything I can to propel that movement forward.
A movement of Jews who don’t want to fit in the crowd because the crowd has been dictating to them for far too long that they should fit here and there, and they have a different vision deep within them.
And every day, every day, I hear, see, read messages from the world that this idea of mine makes no sense. First, morally. That I have no right to fight for this movement of seemingly rebellious Jews. That I’m leading them astray, that I’m creating a place where people are writing about sex and not fasting on Yom Kippur, and so it’s dangerous. And I’m dangerous. I’m a dangerous person because I’m not educated enough, I’m not religious enough, I’m not steeped in Torah enough to try and push forward any movement, any change in the culture of my people.
And every day, I wonder if they are right. I wonder, maybe I’m wrong? What do I know? I try to study Torah every day, I try to be a good Jew, but my brand of Judaism doens’t fit neatly anywhere anymore.
It was much more comforting when I followed all the “rules” of one community. I was a straight Chabadnik, a form of Hassid, who accepted he didn’t know as much as the leaders and definitely THE leader, and so I just wrote what was in my heart, but with a constant swing to one side, a constant swing towards the side of the rules, the cultural rules that this society has in place.
And now, I’m on my own. I listen and read a rabbi, his name Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former head rabbi of Britain, to remind myself that I’m not crazy for believing what I believe, for having “unique” beliefs, that don’t fit into one category of Judaism or another.
But I’m scared. I’m scared because when you’re in a steadfast, clear-headed group with a leader that is a visionary, a genius, and a miracle-maker, it’s so much easier to believe in what you’re doing. Because every time you write, there will be a hundred people saying, “YEAH!” as long as it fits into their worldview. And the people who criticize you, that’s just because they’re in another camp.
(To be clear, I have nothing against this way of looking at things, I just recognize it’s easier in many ways than the one I’ve chosen).
But now I feel alone. I feel on my own, because I’ve chosen to try and create a space where both in-the-boxers and out-of-the-boxers can coexist as long as they’re doing what’s truly within their souls, truly within their hearts.
And that’s what I’m trying to do, and ironically, that’s what I’m scared of. I’m scared of what’s in my soul and my heart. And I’m scared I’m wrong for asking others to trust themselves.
It’s a weird thing, to trust yourself. Because you don’t know what you’re doing, do you? You’re just a plaything of God, of the universe, of reality. You’re small and tiny and what the hell does your little brain know?
In all honesty, what I miss even more than falling into an easy-to-define religious group was falling into the prevailing secular worldview. My old life. I miss that with a kind of painful thirst.
I think because there was a sort of certainty in it, even when it was uncertain. In that world, there was a whole army of people ready to fight my side. A whole world that told me, “Yes, you’re right not to be sure about God, and you’re right to base belief on science, and…” whatever else.
It was easy back then. Because I was born into it, I didn’t’ choose it.
Almost everything I’ve believed at this point has been a conscious choice (I think, or perhaps that’s an arrogant thing to say), and that’s what frightens me. Conscious choice of a little tiny man.
And that’s, I suppose the heart of the movement I believe is happening in Judaism, the one that I’m trying to push forward: that of conscious choice. That of examining ourselves inside and out and letting out what we’ve decided is truth to us, which is why we will inevitably all have different points of view.
What right do I have to encourage others to do this? What right do I have to do something that will inevitably result in some people rebelling against their upbringing? What right do I, Tiny Man, have in the face of the Big World?
And so I come back to God, because he’s the only one with the answer to that question.
I know in reality, that God has supported many people who have gone against the grain. He seems to actually have a great love for them. Everyone from artists to spiritual leaders to scientists have changed the world for the better because they saw things differently.
But there were, of course, also those who saw things differently and made the world much worse.
So how do I know? How do I know if I’m doing the right thing, especially when the more I do it, the more I hear I’m doing something bad?
I can’t. I don’t. I may never.
I guess that makes me a personal agnostic, not sure of my own self, no matter how hard I try.
But I have things that keep me going, that make me go forward despite it all.
There are the other messages I get from people. The people who say they’ve finally found a community that they belong to. The people who tell me the site has changed their lives. The people who tell me to keep going when the haters descend.
And then there’s what’s inside.
In a previous post I wrote, I can’t even remember which one at this point, someone told me, some I very much respect, that we can’t trust ourselves. That we need to start somewhere, and that the word of God (ie the Torah) is the starting point. I think that’s a fair point. But I also think it’s wrong. I mean, I’m pretty sure it’s wrong.
Inside of me, deep inside, I think that what I’m doing is right. I have no real proof. I mean, I could give you proofs from rabbis like Rabbi Sacks. Or I could grab the quotes from the Torah itself that have taught me that my intuition, my gut, is worth listening to because it is most likely my neshama speaking. And that the Torah is an aid, really, to developing that inner sensitivity to our soul.
Yeah, I could do all that, but it wouldn’t accurately reflect what’s going inside of me. What’s going on inside of me is that I’m scared out of my mind but that there’s this voice that keeps whispering in it, that says, “Elad, you have to do this. Keep going. Don’t stop.”
It’s quite a voice. A voice I’ve been scared of for most of my adult life, especially since so many of my early adult years were spent listening to other voices in my head that screwed me all up, inside and out.
But I’ve learned to trust it more and more over time. Not really because I have a reason to trust it, but because I have no choice. It’s an insistent, if quiet and calm, voice. It won’t leave me alone. It follows me everywhere I go. I try and quiet it by watching television sometimes. But it comes roaring back even stronger after I stop.
“Do it, Elad.”
“Low bank account balance because of your choices? That’s okay, Elad. Keep going.”
“Someone you respect with all your heart just told you that you’ve made the wrong choices? I understand that you freaked out at them because you were actually scared that they may be right. But you should be confident, Elad. You shouldn’t be angry at them. Just keep going, just trust yourself, trust me.”
“Feeling extreme depression, anxiety, moodiness during the difficult moments of this journey? That’s what it means to go on a journey where the streets aren’t paved and the road isn’t guarded by fellow community members. Keep going, Elad, keep going. It will get better. The road more paved, the community stronger, more numerous.”
That voice just won’t stop, no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try to resist. When I try and self-sabatoge by taking longer on projects than I should, it comes and speaks to me loudly, even if I pretend I can’t hear it. When I’m not following it, listening to it, I’m miserable, I actually get sick at times. I’m weak, and, in truth, more alone than I ever was when I was in-the-box-religious and when I was growing-up-secular.
And so what choice do I have?
I have none. It’s a compulsion. It’s a drive. It’s a belief that comes from nowhere.
So is God with me? Does He support me?
I don’t know.
But I know that He put this voice in my head. And when I meet Him in Shamayim, if he tells me I was wrong, I’ll nod, and I’ll accept whatever I deserve for being wrong.
But first I’ll have to ask: “Why, then, did you put that voice in my head?”