Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Off the Derech, reframed


A few weeks ago the Mishpacha magazine published an article by Ronnie Greenwald about frum teens going off the derech and the way their parents handle it. In it he mentions that he sometimes hears from parents that they wish their child were dead rather than off the derech.
Needless to say Rabbi Greenwald reacted strongly to that sentiment and most letters to the editor reflected that as well.

There was however one letter from someone D.S. from Lakewood who staunchly defended a parents right and prerogative to wish their child dead rather than sully their soul further.
He mentions the Mitzvah of Ben Sorer U'Moreh to support the idea that the Torah would rather see an errant boy dead than alive when in fact one can deduct just the opposite from this commandment.
The Talmud says that there has never been such a case in history. The conditions are simply too far fetched. I look at this and see quite clearly that Hashem is telling us that, don't think you humans can ever decide on your own when to give up on someone. I'm giving you this mitzvah but I'm also showing you that you have no business carrying it out.

Here are some random thoughts that come to mind...

I find that there are two types of people that are "off the derech" these days.
There are the ones that we see around us, the subject of the above mentioned article. Here's how it usually happens.
Most people live inside spheres of gravity that keep their homeostasis somewhat regulated. If not for these, while we might be more free in a sense of the word, we'd also be living highly volatile lives. These spheres usually consist of family, friends and lifestyle. Think of a moon orbiting a large planet. The moon might fluctuate a little, but is kept in place by the gravity of the larger planet. Our "life" keeps us on a general path even for those that might question it here and there. It usually takes some kind of trauma, either a one time acute event or a long term festering chronic situation that will knock someone out of the orbit of family and lifestyle. This is most often the case with these "off the derech" boys and girls. Their orbit no longer feels safe, or some kind of trauma has created a situation where being inside the orbit is more painful than leaving it. Religion itself is very rarely the primary target, rather it becomes representative of the one that has caused the pain. Only someone very sick, narcissistic and controlling person would wish nothing but compassion for these "troubled" youth.

Then there are those that are off the derech for intellectual reasons, usually atheism. These are popularly known as frum skeptics. These are the old fashioned heretics and apikorsim that family members used to sit shiva over in the past.

Here's the irony.
These frum skeptics more often than not are perfectly happy living in the orbit of the frum lifestyle. They don't leave their families nor change their outwardly appearance.
They look the part of pious jew, go to synagogue, openly keep the laws of Shabbos etc while blogging online how they don't believe in God.
So this father who wrote the letter invoking the old reaction of wishing death upon his wayward child for leaving the fold might be going to shul bemoaning his fate to his friend or chavrusa or "the sheina yid" or even Rabbi who in turn might be nothing more than the true heretic of old who doesn't have the guts to live according to his true convictions.

Then I have this vision of that unavoidable meeting after 120 where he'll find his sons "troubled" soul at long last at peace at the right hand of the father who never stopped loving him, while he is suddenly confronted with that horrifying reality that is the role his egotistical and controlling nature played in kicking his son out of the orbit of Judaism.

Let me end with the words of the poet Khalil Gibran. Words that every parent should read at least once a day.

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, 'Speak to us of Children.'

And he said:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't have the guts... is that a virtue? Better to retain the outer shell or no?

February 14, 2012 2:08 PM  
Anonymous DavidOnTheLake said...

Don't have the guts...from their perspective.

What's objectively better? I can argue both sides.

February 14, 2012 3:21 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home