The following is a letter I received from an individual who reads my blog. After reading my post on Orthodox Atheists, he was inspired to write me of his own life experience. With the current discussion about Rabbi Dessler’s position on the need to sacrifice many individual Jews for the greater good of producing Gedolim, I thought it to be very poignant. The letter speaks for it self and needs no additional commentary from me. With permission by the writer, here it is in its entirety:
I've read your blog with great interest. While I do not consider myself an athiest, I think you'd be interested in hearing why I am somewhat off the derech, as you seem to take an interest in these stories.
I am in my late 20s and I barely daven or learn. I keep kosher, but I feel as if I have very little spirituality.
As a kid, I attended a chareidi yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY and I sensed from about age 12 that they were full of garbage. The moment they told me that my suede yarmulke was no good, I knew something was fishy. As a result, they lost all credibility. Also, I remember the rabbeim talking about kollel being the ideal and all, but then kissing up to the richies.
In high school I was miserable, not necessarily having to do with religion, but I tried to be a good kid and daven and learn, thinking that these things would make me happier. They didn't. When I stopped wearing a hat at 15, I got snobbed out in shul. My parents didn't let me go to movies (although they themselves went and would probably be considered centrists my most), and it was a horrible era for me.
Then came Israel at 18, and I discovered that I had little interest in learning. I also noticed the chareidi agenda rear its ugly head, but I had no choice as my parents would not have sent me to an MO place.
In college I stopped davening regularly. I was in bais medrash for a couple of years but was so miserable there that I left. I found that when I did daven I was miserable in shul. It was meaningless. When I sat down at a gemara shiur, it brought back memories of high school, where I hated every minute.
Got married and had major parnassa issues. A lot of it I blamed on the rabbeim that I had listened to, who told me to get married despite not having completed college and having a stable source of income. They said not marrying was not having emunah. Then I went to rebbehs, mekubalim, and was told to increase my davening, learning, etc. I did just that, and of course, it didn't help right away. By all accounts, I was sold a rotten bill of goods. And then I started evaluating why Hashem gave this one money and this one not. I was borderline suicidal.
That lasted four long years. I was incredibly depressed, and medication and therapy did not help. I turned to Hashem and nothing (or so it seemed). Then I looked around and saw corruption within the frum community and I was sickened. Like I said, borderline suicidal.
Well, things did turn around and finally I started making a living. I always thought that once that happened, I'd be happier, more appreciative towards God and thus, would daven and learn besimcha. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. It's just the opposite - I go to shul and it brings back bad memories of those years of hell when I struggled and struggled.
Now intellectually, I know that people have had it worse (holocaust survivors) and yet stayed true to Hashem and did even better. I also know that money isn't everything, and at least I was healthy, I had my wife and kids, etc. Yet emotionally, I feel like Hashem neglected me for those years and put me through living hell. And the same way people say, "Oh, we can't judge those who went through the Shoah and went off the derech," I say, I had an emotional holocaust for four years, and it wasn't as if things were always great growing up either.
I know the argument can be made that Hashem put me through it for reasons known only to Him, but I associate frumkeit with what I've seen here in Brooklyn, and with the way I felt going through hell on earth. I feel peace of mind when I'm not in shul. It's when I go to daven that everything comes back.
I know it's probably wrong, but I feel that God neglected me for all those years. And I can't help but look at the richies in my neighborhood who are horrid human beings, yet get a great deal of material wealth. Yes, I know money isn't everything and all that, but I'm still traumatized from that time in my life.
So here I am, spiritually bankrupt, but hoping that my children will find their way back to Hashem and do things right. Because deep down I know that Hashem is emes, and the Torah is emes, but I can't get too into it myself.
That's my story, and I'm sorry it was a little long-winded.