Dear Dr. Yael,
I sit on the floor with the other women, and my friends sit near me while we mourn. I forget to not say “Hi” to someone that I know as she walks by me. I wear the proper clothing, and – most of the time – only say the proper things. I talk to Hashem all day, and most of the night, because I am of the age of “no sleeping” or “trying to sleep.” I sit in shul and watch the young couples with their children, families with their zaydies and bubbies and think, “That will never be me.”
I am a baalas teshuvah and never realized that “coming back” would be so hard. Dedication to Hashem is easy compared to the emotional baggage I struggle to carry each day. Many FFB (frum from birth) women look past me as if I don’t exist. They purposely look down and away if I try to smile in their direction. I long to say, “Why do you sit on the floor, if I have become Bar Kamtza in your eyes?”
We are told that baalei teshuvah stand on a higher level than talmidei chachamim. If that is true, how can frum people read this with their eyes, yet shun me as if I am an insect?
I will never go back, no matter how hard it is, but I would like to send a message to those who may recognize themselves from my description: I am here to stay. Please do not teach your children through your actions that I am beneath you. You hurt me and when you do that, you hurt yourself. We are Klal Yisroel.
Anonymous in NY
I find it painful to read your story, but I thank you for having the courage to show us how hurtful people’s actions can be! I hope, as you said, people will recognize their behavior and open their eyes to what they are doing.
Unfortunately, there are others besides you who suffer from either being ignored or from nosy and painful questions. I am speaking, of course, about couples who struggle with infertility and older singles. It doesn’t matter if they are baalei teshuvah or FFBs, the suffering is the same.
Whatever the reason, pain is pain and ignoring someone is sinas chinam, the reason the second Bais HaMikdash was destroyed and the reason why we are still in galus. Ahavas Yisrael is what will bring the geulah and I hope that reading your letter will help people find a greater sensitivity in the way they treat others.
As to your current situation, this may sound extreme, but have you considered moving? There are many warm and friendly frum neighborhoods where people are accepting of others and you can feel at home. Perhaps you can contact me privately and I can be of some help in this area.
Dear Readers, Has this ever happened to any of you? What are your thoughts on this type of behavior? Any ideas on what you feel we can do to ameliorate this situation? We would love to hear from you.
Dear Dr. Yael,
I read your column every week and appreciate that as a frum therapist you incorporate Torah-true hashkafa in your therapy. That is why I took exception to the letter you published from the woman who had found mistakes in the kesuva from her first marriage. She urged you to ask readers to check their kesuvos after a rav advised her that it was possible that her failed marriage resulted from the mistake-laden kesuva.
Let’s put aside for the moment if this truly causes marital rift. Surely, you will concede that some marriages with 100% kosher kesuvos suffer, while others with no kesuva thrive. I know that as a therapist you recognize that people have a tendency to look for the easy way out and blame others rather than look within themselves for the cause of relationship problems. And frum people like to look to the nistar, kabbala, and the mystical when they can’t rationally understand why they are suffering, whether it be illness, lack of parnassah, shidduchim problems or family strife.
And, although you did not expressly endorse her theory, your publishing the letter and using it to remind your readers to check their kesuvos is a tacit endorsement of her proposal. As a therapist, I submit that is not your job or the right use of your platform. I believe your column should be used to dispense therapeutic advice and you should leave the non-therapeutic and non-scientific “why me’s” to rabbanim.
All the best,
Perhaps you are correct that this was not the right forum for the letter; however, it just might help someone else in a similar situation.
As noted many times in this column, marriage is work and couples must be willing to put in the time if they want their relationships to be happy and successful. And, of course, professional help is something we always recommend.
However, I appreciated the writer’s sentiment and have learned to respect other people’s opinions and ideas. Hatzlocha.