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Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 3/17/06

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Dear Rachel,

I am a young wife and mother who is starting to fall off the derech. I am scared and don’t know where to turn. I am also on medication for depression for the last two years – and in the process of recovering from a long battle with anorexia. However, my problem lies not in my eating disorder as much as in my thoughts on Judaism – and my belief, which has gone down in the past year or so.

I don’t exactly know what triggered it, but I have encountered different situations that have lessened my emunah. For example, I am deeply troubled by the things that I see going on in a “frum” office that I work in – which are contradictory to what we are taught. Yet, there are feelings inside me growing stronger I find myself looking at other men. I guess you can say that I’ve been struggling with the yetzer hara ever since I got married. My attraction for my husband has been on and off.

My mind and soul are in constant distress since I know it’s wrong, but the temptations and decline of spirituality in my life are increasing. I am deeply frightened. You might tell me to speak to a therapist, but I have been seeing one for years. I just don’t feel comfortable sharing with her to this extent, which includes a recent encounter with a non-Jew who works at a local restaurant that I frequent often. He has approached me about going out and also said that he is crazy over me and that he can’t sleep. I was shocked and petrified. I told him I’d get back to him, not knowing what else to say. My mind is racing as I type. I have not told anyone of this, and every time I think about it I get sick.

I am afraid and feel so alone. I look around at the people in my community and feel distant. What have I done and where am I going? I feel that Hashem is disgusted with me, but I am hesitant to turn to Him since I don’t know where I am headed. Please don’t talk down to me, since I feel terrible already. But I still have this strong yetzer hara and don’t know what to do.

Please publish this. I may not be the only one in this situation, and maybe I can draw on strength from something or someone.

Dear Embarrassed,

For a young woman, you have been carrying quite an oppressive load. Depression, in itself, is enough to wear one down. Compounded with the trauma of your ordeal with anorexia – and a shaky marital relationship, the situation you are finding yourself in is hardly shocking.

Extreme physical distress and mental anxiety can precipitate seeing things in a negative light. Hashem is not disgusted with you at all, my dear. It is you who is critical of yourself (with the goading of your yetzer hara). You are never alone – G-d, who created you and endowed you with the intellect to differentiate right from wrong, is aware of your suffering. We may not understand why things happen as they do, but it helps to remember that the hardships we are dealt are within our capacity to withstand them.

Right now, your first order of the day is to stop frequenting the restaurant where you’ve obviously communicated the message to at least one person that you are vulnerable and easy prey. Regardless of his persuasiveness, this devil in disguise can only worsen matters for you, chas v’shalom. Surrendering to temptation will lead to more misery. The further down you sink, the more self-disgust you will feel – and the more difficult it will be to emerge from the darkness.

On a positive note, you recognize the gravity of your circumstance. In your agonizing dilemma, you understandably experience emotions of fear and distress. Try viewing yourself as a beautiful structure, a castle that houses treasure troves of jewels. An outsider, using all the tools of his trade to break in and rain havoc on the premises, has managed to set off your elaborately installed alarm system – which will now serve to rescue the home and protect its valuable contents.

Temptations have been ours since the beginning of time. Your frantic appeal to be thrown a lifeline signals your concern – for yourself, your children (who look upon you as a role model), and your very soul. You have the power to lift yourself out of this black hole. Instead of dwelling on the shortcomings of others, channel your energies in healing yourself – keeping in mind that retaining your self-respect means keeping the yetzer hara at bay.

Since you are on medication for the past two years and have been seeing a therapist, your med regimen is hopefully being monitored appropriately. (What a shame to be spending hours in therapy with an analyst whom you are reluctant to confide in!) You say that your “attraction” for your husband has been “on and off.” The hurdles you’ve strived to overcome must have taken a grueling toll on your marriage. Marital counseling together with your spouse may be just the prescription for reinforcing the “on” of your relationship – a most worthwhile undertaking for you both.

Above all, don’t ever hesitate to turn to Hashem. He awaits your entreaties and is eminently proficient at leading you to safety.

Small, simple but powerful acts can reawaken your emunah: Humbly acknowledge Hashem’s benevolence in restoring your neshama, with Modeh Ani on your lips as soon as your eyes flutter open each morning; recite Birchas haShachar – the blessings which express your gratitude to Him for all your faculties, and say the 121st verse of Tehillim daily; pour your heart out to G-d in your own language whenever and slowly but surely, you will begin to heal….

I wish you much Hatzlacha, and a speedy refuah shelaimah!

About the Author: We encourage women and men of all ages to send in their personal stories via email to rachel@jewishpress.com or by mail to Rachel/Chronicles, c/o The Jewish Press, 4915 16th Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11204. If you wish to make a contribution and help agunot, your tax-deductible donation should be sent to The Jewish Press Foundation. Please make sure to specify that it is to help agunot, as the foundation supports many worthwhile causes.


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