Monday, June 25, 2018

How to Stay Sane While Dating: XII (a recap of I)

I'd like to circle back to that tricky word, "hishtadlus." 

In my original post on the topic, I applied the same premise of hishtadlus as seen in terms of parnassah. However, I had an insight recently that shows that comparison to be faulty. 

A few weeks ago, Rabbi Noson Weisz had a dvar Torah for Parshas Shlach, in which hishtadlus is discussed. The source for the concept of hishtadlus comes from Adam's curse following his sin: "Accursed is the ground because of you; through suffering shall you eat of it all the days of your life ... By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread until you return to the ground from which you were taken." (Genesis 3:17-19)

Rabbi Weisz elucidates: 
Man's bread comes from God in any case and does not grow out of his application of effort. It was man's sin that brought the curse of effort down on his head. While no one can escape this curse entirely as long as our present world endures, it is obvious that it would be the act of an idiot to voluntarily subject oneself to a curse more than is absolutely mandatory.
It says b'feresh in the Torah that mankind has to make an effort in order to eat. But it doesn't say where effort is required anywhere else.  

How did Adam find Chava? Endless Starbucks dates? Prowling through singles events? Scrolling online?

Adam desired a helpmeet. Once he did, Hashem provided him with one.
I came across this story: 
An older bachur once came to the Tosher Rebbe, zy'a, exasperated over his plight, beseeching him for a bracha that he find his bashert. The Rebbe warmly responded, "Hashem wants you to be a chassan just as much as you do." The bachur then asked, "So, Rebbe, what am I to do now?" The Rebbe answered firmly, "NOTHING!" 
What I found surprising was how the family guru had a nearly identical story with Rav Moshe.  

There is a matter of debate between the Rambam (and another one, I have to run it by Ta) about what is involved in order to marry. I think it's according to the Rambam that you have to want to, and that who you marry is decreed by Hashem (bechira has nothing to do with it). 


There doesn't seem to be any hishtadlus required in order to marry. Girls certainly don't have it, especially considering they never were cursed with hishtadlus in the first place (we just get the guaranteed pain and suffering of childbirth. No biggie). 

I think the one thing that really hit home for me when I met and married Han was how futile all those years of obsessing with "what to do" were. Yes, I wanted to marry, I was chalishing to marry, but the Eibishter was gently saying, "Not yet, mammelah, not yet."  

Obviously, holing up in your basement and becoming a smelly hermit won't exactly encourage a mate. But most of us belong to a community where people know us, and they tend to try to set us up. 

We just have to stay sane as they eat up our kishkes, though. 


Daniel Saunders said...

True, but there is a problem for those of us on the fringes of the community, not properly integrated into it. I've almost never been set up on shidduchim. I have to be more proactive or be single forever.

Princess Lea said...

Has your proactive actions shown results?

Daniel Saunders said...

Well, obviously I'm not married, so it hasn't shown really useful results. OTOH, I've got more dates from being proactive than from being set up. I'm thirty-five, and I have only ever been set up on two dates (four if you count the two that never happened because the women turned them down). It's not a great amount. Most people in my shul don't even know me, so far as I can tell, let alone know me well enough to set me up. It isn't surprising, as my shul and shiur attendance is patchy at best because of my health issues and the social anxiety means I generally keep to myself if I happen to be there for a kiddush or seudah.

To be honest, I think it highly unlikely that I'll ever get married, hishtadlut or otherwise. People as unusual and as (frankly) screwed up as I am struggle to find a partner even in the mainstream secular world; in the frum world it is, so far as I can tell, almost completely unheard of. The frum world is built for neurotypical, mentally healthy people, not screwed up anxious, depressed, autistic ones. (And, yes, someone literally just broke up with me, but I feel like this most of the time anyway.)

Daniel Saunders said...

I guess the wider problem is that I increasingly find it hard to believe HaShem really wants me to get married. Or be happy. Or possibly even be frum.

Princess Lea said...

I can assure you, on some level, you are not as alone as you think. People are very good at concealing. You don't know what goes on in others' lives. It's not about the frum world vs. secular; in the end, we aren't all that different.

Replay that theory again: HaShem doesn't want you to be frum? Or happy? Or married?

Instead of deciding what you think HaShem has planned for you, I find the answer is at the end of Koheles: Our job is to do the mitvos, in order to do the mitzvos. I read it elsewhere, nor sure where, about how singles should make their focus Kibbud Av v'Eim. That was my belief as well—that singles, because they don't have as many demanding responsibilities (usually) have an opportunity to expand elsewhere.

It is when I was banging on the wrong door that I felt my most defeated. Rather, instead of chasing after something I could not control, I would find happiness and fulfillment by pursuing what I could control.

Daniel Saunders said...

(This is too long to go in one comment, sorry!)

I don't really want to argue with you. I'm struggling right now because of depression, loneliness and the ending of a short-lived but very intense relationship that I thought was heading towards marriage ("heading" in the sense of I was working out the best time to propose). So, I may not be too coherent right now. With that in mind:

You may be right that I'm not alone. I just wish there was more openness about mental health in the frum community.

OK, I should say I feel that HaShem doesn't want me to be frum or happy, at least when I'm very depressed. I'm fairly sure about the happiness. I haven't really been happy for long for fifteen or twenty years or more. So I'm fairly sure that whatever reason HaShem put me here for, it wasn't to be happy. Maybe to do mitzvot and get reward to be happy in Olam HaBa is the frummie answer. Maybe it's true, although most of the time I feel too reprehensible to get any Olam HaBa either. Which brings me to: HaShem doesn't want me to be frum. The more I try to be frum, the harder it gets. In my last period of real remission from the depression, several years ago, I was davening with a minyan two or three times a day and doing quite a bit of Torah study alongside working. I don't really do any of that now, albeit that I do work longer hours. But I only go to shul for Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday, for Mincha and Ma'ariv on Shabbat and occasionally for Shabbat Musaf. I do daven at home, but with poor kavannah and I skip most if not all of Shacharit. And I do hardly any Torah study.

I guess the narrative I have internalised from kiruv websites and is that if you commit to HaShem to do a mitzvah, then all kinds of amazing miracles will happen to help you. This has never been my experience. The harder I try to be frum, the harder it becomes. And I never get any simcha shel mitzvah to help me along (I have spoken to a rabbi about this. He said I won't get any until I cure the depression. As I've moved from thinking about 'curing' depression to 'managing' it, this does not make me hopeful). Maybe the kiruv narrative is at fault, but it's hard to ignore it, it's so pervasive in contemporary Orthodoxy. And again, I feel I am too reprehensible for HaShem to want my mitzvahs. "When you come to appear before Me, who requested this of you, to trample My courts?" as we'll say in a few weeks on Shabbat Chazon.

Daniel Saunders said...

Part 2:

(It's probably true that, like a young child, I assume that everything bad that happens to me is my fault, because it's easier to cope with it than to assume that everything is outside my control.)

I have tried to focus on kibbud Av ve'Em. Although there are family issues that I don't really want to talk about in public that make this hard. It is hard to focus on what I can control, because I don't feel I can control anything. My life since my teens has been a prolonged exercise in just trying to hold on to things and often not succeeding.

My rabbi says to find our mission in life we have to ask ourselves what matters most to us ("What is the thing that, no matter how much of it you get, you can't get enough of it?") and work out a halakhically-legitimate way to get it, to get a high from limmud Torah or chessed etc. I do not always understand myself very well, but I'm fairly sure that the thing I want most is intimacy (even more than love). Unfortunately, my family do not completely 'get' me and I often find it hard to 'get' them and I have few friends, so I've ended up convincing myself that my desire for intimacy and hence to fulfil my mission will come with marriage. Hence my getting so excited at the start of a relationship that develops with real emotional intimacy and depth and my disappointment when, as usual, it collapses after a while for reasons that have nothing to do with my effort. I just feel powerless so I end up blaming myself, as I said above.

Sorry for having written a post of my own here!

Princess Lea said...

The typical kiruv narrative is incredibly faulty. When my mother was ill, people would blithely say, "Oh, HaShem will make a miracle." But how did she get sick in the first place? Plus the sickness she had could not even be cured by a miracle, unless she had been misdiagnosed in the first place.

I strongly recommend Esther Wein's shiur, Iyov: Akeida of the Mind. That will destroy the false premise of the kiruv narrative completely.

Being frum is different than struggling with practice. Being frum, in my opinion, means believing in HaShem. I was not saying the practice you could apply yourself in has to be Kibbud Av' v'Eim; it could be any mitzvah of your own choosing.

According to R' Nachman m'Breslov (who struggled with depression, amongst other mental ailments), the 50th level of tumah is depression. You say that you cannot do mitzvos because you are reprehensible. So the logical action is to do none, to lapse in practice? If I recall correctly, that was for those who came to serve in the Beis Hamikdash and didn't even try.

Throwing in the towel is easy. Trying is hard. Failure is painful. But HaShem wants us to try. We do not necessarily have to succeed.

Daniel Saunders said...

I wish more people would critique the kiruv narrative. I've never been intellectually convinced, but it does have a hold on me emotionally. The feeling of 'if they deserve a miracle, why don't I?'

That shiur sounds interesting, I'll look out for it.

I don't know, I think of frumkeit more as practice. I always believed in HaShem; I didn't become shomer Shabbat until I was in my late teens. I wouldn't say I was frum before that, though.

I didn't say I was being logical! It's hard to keep going though. I think it's a bit unfair to assume that I haven't tried to keep going. My mental health issues and lack of simcha shel mitzvah go back to my adolescence (at least), whereas it's only lately that I've struggled to be frum. I used to tell myself the Kotzker rebbe story about the souls that have to leap into Heaven, but somehow it doesn't help me any more.

Realistically, I guess I'm not that likely to go completely OTD. I get something out of Shabbat, even if I sleep through most of it and I'm not such a gourmand as to want to deliberately treif up my kitchen (if it didn't prompt a resurgence of my kashrut OCD). Also, this isn't such a good motivation, but I wouldn't want to be caught doing something I shouldn't be doing by a frum Jew that I respect. It's mostly davening and Torah study I struggle with, as much because of practical issues with energy and concentration levels as because of anything deeper, that and the fear I've never been able to shake that I can never be good enough for my kehillah and my rabbis, let alone good enough for some frum woman to want to marry me. I guess it's useful for me to realise that, so thank you for engaging with me enough for me to get to this point.