Dear Rabbi Brody,
I really don't trust anyone – especially rabbis – but somehow I do trust you. I hope you can help me, especially since nobody else seems to be able to. I'm seventeen and a half and I've been religious all my life – now all I want is to drop the whole religion business. Sure, I still believe in God – it's not like I think Torah isn't true – I just don't want it. Plain and simple. Leave me alone, I'll do what I want, who cares what will happen. So I won't be religious – oh well. But I didn't always think like that. Two years ago I would have thought whoever wrote the above was crazy. I used to love Judaism. Really. I wasn't just going with the flow and doing what I was taught – I loved it and believed in it with all my heart. I was probably more than just your typical religious girl. Now I hate religion and rituals with a passion. I'm almost crazed by this desire to be as bad as possible, to get as far away from the word "Jewish" as I can.
My parents are devastated, my school kicked me out and everyone is very angry with me (to put it plainly). All they can do is yell at me that I should change back to what I used to be, and ask me thousands of times over WHY DID U CHANGE!!!! Believe me, I have absolutely no desire to change. I don't want to be that religious goody-goody I used to be. And I tell them that – I just want OUT!!! So stop preaching at me about why being Jewish is so good – because I don't see it. At this point I don't even want to see it anymore. But their question of why did I change I have no answer for.
Maybe you'll just think I'm a complete idiot – like the rest of the world doe s- but I really hope you don't. I don't think I'm an idiot. I'm a smart person, I won't usually do things without a good reason – but this I really have no answer for. I don't know why I changed. I just know that it wasn't another person that changed me. It just happened gradually and I have no idea why. My parents and school will blame different people but I know inside that there is no one to blame besides me (not that I am blaming myself – I'm happy I changed). Is there some reason that a person would change drastically for no apparent reason – that they themselves don't even know why? Yours, "Linda" from the USA
I certainly don't think that you're an idiot; on the contrary. I receive loads of letters every day, many of which are from young people in your age group. Your seriousness, depth of character, and intellectual honesty ranks among the top 10% of young people with whom I correspond. I thank The Almighty that you had the tremendously good sense to write me before you cut loose on a wild weekend to be "as bad as possible". Be careful – too many vultures would pounce on such a delicate turtle dove as you, Heaven forbid.
For the time being, I want to respectfully request from your teachers, your parents, and the entire religious community to please get off your back. G-d gives free choice, and no one has the right to take that away from you. Preaching never helps, only personal example. If your teachers and parents have failed, maybe it's because you don't want to be like them. Therefore, let them correct themselves before correcting you. I allow you to tell them that in my name.
Now, let's cut through the garbage and get down to the nitty gritty. Linda, Amalek – your evil inclination – is grabbing you by the neck. He's got nothing to offer but shortest term cheap thrills and long-term misery. I've been down just about any of the roads that you dream of traveling. I've back-packed the 4 corners of the world, been through party years at the University of Maryland, through plenty of blood-sweat-and-tear years in the Israeli Army, and through personal growth and rebirth years at Yeshiva and in my subsequent years as a rabbi and emotional counselor. True, there's plenty to learn in the outside world, such as dedication, commitment, etc. The problem is that you might get killed – morally, emotionally, or spiritually – while you're learning it. I'll be happy to show you that anything you'd like to learn is in the Torah.
Linda, a king's daughter doesn't have to step in the manure of a cowshed to fetch a glass of milk. Besides, by throwing away the benevolent yoke of Torah and mitzvot, you won't gain freedom; you'll only become a slave to Amalek (who really runs the show in the USA; "Amalek" and "dollar" are the same gematria, 240), social pressure, peer pressure, and your own evil inclinations. You'll do plenty of things that deep down are against your wishes and against your better judgment. Liberal promiscuous society turns innocent young women into something on the level of toilet paper – you get used then thrown away. Is that what you want? I don't call that freedom of spirit.
The king’s daughter doesn’t have to step in the manure of a cowshed to fetch a glass of milk – there are plenty of servants that can do that for her…
Your desire for change is the result of small but gradual and persistent doses of Hollywood, TV, trashy books and magazines that you've been peeking at, the web, and other anti-Torah mental junk food that's been penetrating your heart and brain like drops of spiritual toxins. Eventually, the toxins accumulate in your soul, and… All of a sudden, you've become enamored with the outside world – its speech, its dress, and its warped idea of love and sex, and the Judaism you once loved – by your own testimony – has lost its glamour.
You wake up one morning, look at yourself in the mirror, and say. "Hey, I'm a nurd! I want to be cool and foxy like Britney Spears!" Let me share a little secret with you – Britney and her friends are miserable. They're trying to be like the old Linda. One of Hollywood's most famous TV stars is a brutal, miserable alcoholic who has blown four marriages. How do I know? He came to me for counseling. If you don't believe me, I'll let you contact his agent who was the go-between. Madonna and her buddies are all looking for spirituality too, but unfortunately, they're knocking on the wrong doors.
Linda, you ask the question, "Why have I changed? Who has changed me?" Here's a bombshell for your parents and teachers: Hashem is changing you. Hashem is using your bad decisions for your own good, because He loves you so much. He doesn't want you to be a shallow Jewish girl that discusses wigs and clothes styles all day long. Since you haven't developed a personal relationship with Hashem up until now, He wants you to do so by starting from scratch.
Hashem agrees that you should do what you want. But, when you really love someone, you want to do their will also. You can't love someone without a personal, intimate relationship. Hashem wants you to have such a relationship with Him. How? By talking to him in your own words for an hour a day…
For the time being, I don't care if you don't pick up a prayer book, just so long as you speak to Hashem every day. I want you to read The Garden of Emuna – it will teach you things that you never learned in Beis Yaakov.
Feel free to open up to Hashem – cry, laugh, and pour your heart out honestly, with no holds barred. Tell Hashem your innermost feelings. I do ask one thing from you: While you're making your spiritual search – which you have every right to do – don't do anything that you'll regret for the rest of your life. Continue keeping Shabbat, eating kosher, washing your hands in the morning, and dressing modestly. These four mitzvas will keep your brain clear and help you to find truth.
Linda, feel free remain in touch, and avoid arguments with people. Meanwhile, I would strongly recommend that you consider a fresh new path, such as learning in a women’s seminar for Baalot Teshuva in Israel.
May G-d bless you always and lead you on the path of truth and inner peace. With blessings always and prayers for your welfare, LB