I look like a typical ben Torah. But lockdown changed me
This question is kind of awkward, but I’m really confused and don’t feel comfortable discussing this with my rebbi or my parents. I’m what you would describe as “a really good boy.” I go to
minyan every day, I take my learning seriously, I’m careful about what I see and hear, etc. Or, at least, I used to do all that.
During coronavirus, I experienced a serious yeridah. I actually enjoyed being able to sleep late and daven when I wanted to and at my own pace. There was something liberating about not being tied down to a minyan. And while I continued to learn, over time, I lost some of my cheshek. Unfortunately, over the months of lockdown, I was exposed to movies. Nothing awful, but much more than I ever allowed myself to watch.
Baruch Hashem, in my town the lockdown didn’t last as long as other places, and I went back to yeshivah. I slipped back into my routine relatively quickly, but something had shifted inside. I no longer know if I’m the person I used to be.
Here’s my question: On the outside, I look the same. No one would ever know. I dress the same, have the same friends, go to minyan on time, and keep my sedarim. But inside I feel a hollowness, and I’m confused about whether the person I seem to be is the person I want to be.
I started shidduchim recently, and I’m being redt to top girls who are looking for, and deserve, an authentic ben Torah, not a confused fraud like me. I still want a Torahdig home, but I don’t want to misrepresent who I am. I’m really torn about how to move forward from here.
Thank you for this question and the raw pain it expresses. I can imagine this dilemma tears at a deep place inside.
You’re not alone. The ravages of Covid continue to be felt — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And the ripple effects have yet to be seen, may Hashem protect us all.
While we humans couldn’t have foreseen the myriad consequences of this deadly virus in every arena of life, Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, saw and knew each one — for the world, the community, and for each of us individually. And He chose to send it down with all the havoc it would create and for it to affect each of us in the manner intended for us.
Covid was/is hard. Lockdown was brutal for many. You’re unfortunately far from the only person whose ruchniyus took a dive during this period. So, as we sift through this question, let’s do it from a place of compassion for yourself and the difficult nisayon you endured and continue to face.
I feel great pain when I hear you call yourself a fraud. I’m always grateful to my high school teacher, Rabbi Binyomin Rothstein, who taught us that there’s no such thing as a Jewish hypocrite. Every mitzvah stands on its own merit, and every personal korban we bring is precious to Hashem, regardless of whatever else we do.
You’re not a fraud. You’re a person who’s struggling internally and is making the choice to keep that struggle private until you reach some closure. How that plays out in the end has the potential to affect others (namely the girls you’ll go out with), and we’ll address that soon im yirtzeh Hashem, but you need to hold your innate worth hand in hand with your current confusion. You don’t become a bad guy because you’re struggling.
From this place of compassion and clarity, let’s move into your question. From my perspective, this boils down to a question of ratzon. Let’s set aside the current state of affairs and look instead at your deep desire. This will not be a simple or pat answer if you’re being honest. It’s tempting to jump in and say, “Yes! It’s my deepest will to go back to that place and be who I was.” And maybe after much self-reflection that is what you’ll say. But you stated that something shifted inside. And we owe that shift some respect and authentic introspection.
You’re not married yet, so you may not know this, but sometimes having a fight and working through it and past it brings couples to a deeper level of connection than they had when things were bouncing along. I don’t know why Hashem sent you this nisayon, but one purpose it can serve is to enable you to redefine your ratzon in a more authentic way. I don’t know what that will look like externally, but I can tell you that it will make your connection to Hashem richer, more meaningful, and deeper.
I’d urge you to take the journey, but I would recommend you don’t do it alone. I hear and understand your discomfort with sharing this information with your rebbi or parents. I don’t know your relationship with any of them, but if they aren’t the right people, please find someone who is open, nonjudgmental, and grounded (with no agenda of his own) to help you figure out how you can best serve Hashem.
You may find that the former you is who you truly want to be and just having someone to hash it out with is all you need to get back there and continue your life and your dating on that track. Or, you may find that this nisayon has awakened within you some questions about whether this is your best way to serve Hashem.
Hopefully, the person you consult will help you find the derech that’s best for you and will guide you in taking the next steps in your dating and in your life to help you actualize your ruchniyus potential.
On a practical level, it’s OK to push off dating for a little bit until you figure this out. As you yourself pointed out, you don’t want to present as someone you’re not. Until you know who that person is, how can you know what type of girl it makes sense to date? I so respect your desire to be echad b’peh v’echad b’lev.
May HaKadosh Baruch Hu reward your honesty and desire for authenticity with clarity and lead you to your zivug hagun — the woman who will help you reach your highest self — b’karov.
All the best,
Sara Eisemann, LMSW, ACSW, is a licensed social worker and a dating mentor. She lectures on topics related to relationships, personal development, authenticity, and growth. She welcomes questions, comments, feedback, and interaction at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 762)
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