Leaving For Secularism

My friend David Kelsey writes:

…There was a time, long after the fundamentals began to shift beneath my feet, when secularism was already mitigating even a “traditional” lifestyle that I began to suspect that I was not in just for a fall, but rather, a sustained, slow motion swan dive. It was at this time that I promised myself that I would always continue to keep Yom Kippur, and fast accordingly, and refrain from melacha at least on that day. At the time, I thought it would be to say that I was sorry it had worked out like that, but recently, I have instead internally defended this commitment as demonstrating to myself space for allowing for some meaning and aspects of truth even if I rejected the bulk of the mesorah itself.

What do you do when you have never regretted any move away from observance? But only regret you had not made the change earlier?

What do you do when you find every brake you press for the sake of observance has an annoying and debilitating effect on your life, replete with resentments and little or no payoff?

What if you prefer a secular lifestyle, and know that will never change, as long as you are single?

What if you are probably still single at least in part because you don’t want to have to make profound and even terrible choices about how to raise your kids in terms of Jewish education and ritual?

I am not yet at this most minimal expression of Torah Judaism.

But I’m getting there.

It seems to me most “successful” BTs come in as couples, often with young children. To be single and frum is difficult. To be a single BT, and to be one for years is next to impossible, demanding sacrifices greater than most of us can give. Perhaps my biggest regret is that I made that sacrifice. No one can give me back those years. No one.

[First noticed on Luke Ford’s blog. And a big Hat Tip to WD as well.]



Filed under Haredim

18 responses to “Leaving For Secularism

  1. Avraham

    First time Ive seen this ehh, blog, and all I can say is this guys musings and assumptions are downright stupid, not subjects to be discussed, but just rantings that the crazy man in the street says to himself all day.

  2. gross


    Stop trolling for controversial blogs. Validate your “superior” choices in a more productive fashion, by setting a postive example, instead of taking the easy and rather ignorant way out by simply labeling people crazy.

  3. The Beadle


    What about David’s views are stupid?

    How many similar crazy men in the street do you think there are?

    How many single ba’alei teshuva do you think remain so?

  4. D

    “To be a single BT, and to be one for years is next to impossible, demanding sacrifices greater than most of us can give.”

    Well, that is the rub, isn’t it? Seems to me that going the BT route entails an intent to enter marriage and have family in the near future. There are far too many pressures on an unrooted person to engage in the old behaviors again once the BT “glow” wears off.

  5. Many of us who are intellectual honest and spiritually sensitive are confronted with this painful reality. I was plagued with the pain described here for many,many years. My good fortune in marrying a wonderfully sensitive chiloni Israeli pulled me through that black hole. She taught me how to live, love and enjoy this world.

  6. Tziporah

    However, not every frum person gets married, so the community needs to support unmarried individuals.

  7. Michelle


    I was a single mother of three small children and a BT in the middle of the desert by myself with no kosher anything around for more than four years before I married. Yes, we need to do more to support unmarried people; yes, it is hard to be BT–but if you are doing it for yourself and not for the promises of marriage or career or some other thing, I don’t think it is harder to be BT when you are single than it is for other people. Maybe it is harder if you are a man? Maybe it is easier if there is no one Jewish around you? I don’t know. It wasn’t that difficult for me.


  8. hashfanatic

    I literally believe I narrowly escaped with my life….

    I still feel as though I was spiritually raped.

    How are the negators who commented above in any way intelligently and morally capable of addressing a situation such as mine, in a halachically acceptable manner?

  9. Yochanan Lavie

    I am middle aged, became a BT in my early teens, and have always been single. I am not 100% Orthodox anymore, but I am still pretty observant. I can’t speak for others, but for me the purely secular life has little appeal. It seems empty to me. I need to believe in something, and I actually enjoy riutals. At the same time, the “black hat” style of Orhodoxy, which is becoming the norm, is too extreme for me in the other direction.

    As for singlehood, I always was family-oriented, but it just never worked out. I resent pressure to get married at any cost, but fortunately most of my frum friends are supportive. I agree that singles need to be accomodated in a more humane manner.

    I found Hashfanatic’s comments to be very poignant. My motto is believe and let live, and I’m glad you escaped with your sanity. As with single heteros, Gays need to be accomodated, too. They don’t choose their orientation & they’re not going to go away. A narrow interpretation of the Torah, whereby only male anal sex is prohibited, should be adopted. The torah doesn’t speak of “orientation.”

    Hashem knows that not everyone fits the same cookie-cutter mold. It’s time that the Orthodox community acknowledge this fact.

  10. Jerome Soller

    Shmarya, sometimes when you write comments, it is hard to tell which comments are yours or someone else’s. Anyway, are your comments, “Perhaps my biggest regret is that I made that sacrifice. No one can give me back those years. No one.” If so, I hope that you can make peace with the situation. A wise friend said to me that as one becomes more observant, it should be done slowly (at the person’s comfort level). If one makes any dramatic and sudden change in one’s life, one may come to hate the reason for the change.

    As for me, I may not meet the definition of Baal Tshuvah (at least not yet), but I am becoming more observant in a slow gradual process. I find it is easier to do this as a single man than married friends that are following a similar path. With the married couples, both parties must want to achieve the same level of observance and have the same comfort level. As a single person (hoping to eventually get married), you have complete control of your path.


  11. Neo-Conservaguy

    I recently spent Shabbat with a curious (and fun) mix of chassids and Israeli Modern Orthodox folks. The Israeli guys and I sat around outside enjoying some beer and good conversation about life, the meaning of life, and the meaning of being a Jew. At one point in the conversation, they became quite upset as they discussed their feelings about haradim back home that “learn” all day, refuse to work, and refuse to serve in the military. Interestingly they don’t place Chabad guys in that category and pointed out they had seen many Chabad guys both serving in the army or being pizza and tefilin up to the front lines during battle.

    When I asked what they thought the answer was to the question of finding a rational middle ground that satisfied both faith/halacha and intellectual reason – unlike the haredim they despised – they gave a curious answer. They bent down and showed me their kippot, which were variations on the “classic MO” style of a white background with blue or other colors forming a ring around the edge. I showed them that I, too, wore this type of kippa. “That – what you are wearing – is the answer”, they said with seriousness.

    To them, rather than conflict, they saw their lives as a seamless integration of religious and secular understanding and commitment. They may wear short sleeves, but make no mistake about it, they davened that Shabbat with kavanah – and then played basketball and partied in the hot tub with beers – no hekhshers required. My kinda guys – they’ve found the radical center.

  12. Avraham

    His comments on marriage for example, I fit the category of every type he says would not last in a marriage, but near 20 years and counting and my love for my wife grows constantly every day. She is my eishet chail. Seeing as how he regards marriage, maybe he should look there to see where his problem lies.

  13. Avraham

    And ya Gross, if he wants to whine on the internet thats too bad if someone like me takes him for a schlemiel miten esek.
    He posts this kind of stupidity and you wonder why eeehhh. He needs therapy and thank God the constitution allows me to say so even if you pasken different

    1. Is A Torah Jew Allowed To Swear While Receiving Deep Tissue Massage?

    Today when I was receiving my torture, a beautiful thing happened. A young intern walked in the room and started to give me a fondle (while the elder inflicted a brutal form of Japanese torture she must’ve learned during her days as a comfort woman). As I turned to look at the beginner, I was blinded by the whiteness of her teeth.

    When I whimpered over the next 20 minutes, the young one apologized while the old one laughed.

    When I got unwanted erections, I thought of my dead mother.

    I See Dead People

    I find walking down the street terrifying. I keep seeing horrific accidents about to happen — drivers and pedestrians not paying attention while they barrel ahead towards disaster. Yet nothing ever happens.

    It must be my medication.

    I’ve Been Impersonating 14yo Girls On The Internet

  14. Neo-Conservaguy


  15. The Beadle

    a little less crack would make Avraham a much happier bunny.

  16. Paul Freedman

    yo avraham: very funny. “the young one apologized while the old one laughed” a hoot! you are this generations der frummer Ezra Pound…

  17. Plagiarist

    Avraham ripped those lines off Luke Ford. http://www.lukeford.net

  18. Paul Freedman

    Plagarist–ty: well, then Avraham’s made his point–still a hoot tho’ (I see Dead People indeed)…

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