Question

Dear Rebbetzin,

I have recently started a journey of learning and growing in my Judaism. I find that I am very inspired by the way of life that the Torah illuminates. However, I find myself being rather stifled at the possibility of living a lifestyle that is so rigid and law regulated. I am a person who prides myself in being eccentric and a non-conformist, I am afraid if I become religious I will lose my sense of individuality and will feel overly restricted.

Answer 

Dear Anonymous,

Firstly, I would like to commend you for your openness and honesty. It sounds to me as though you enjoy being free-spirited and that you are concerned that becoming more observant implies that you will limit yourself.

I would like to give you a very simple analogy which may help illustrate that the guidelines and boundaries of the Torah are freeing, enriching and empowering rather than stifling.

I was recently watching two of my kids having a jumping session on our trampoline as they were bouncing, flipping and shrieking with glee it was obvious that they felt tremendous freedom and exhilaration. I understood in that moment why a trampoline is such an incredible outlet: it allows kids to feel as though they are defying gravity in a safe and contained space provided that it has a safety net. In fact, before purchasing a trampoline I researched the benefits and learned that the highest accident rate is on trampolines that do not have a safety net. It then occurred to me how life is truly a magnificent gift from G-d however, just like the manufacturer advises against using a trampoline without the safety net, G-d gave us the Torah as a guideline to how to truly live life to the fullest.

Everything in G-ds creation has the potential to be enjoyed and explored. However, without appropriate boundaries life can be confusing, overwhelming and at times dangerous. The Torah was not given with the intention to ‘cookie-cut’ us. In fact, the study of Torah is the most intellectually stimulating and creative experience that requires a personal and individual approach. Moreover, the more one learns the more one will understand that spirituality in Judaism requires individual self-expression.

In any choice of lifestyle one is automatically viewed in a certain category. You describe yourself as a non-conformist yet even the category of a ‘non-conformist’ has its own connotations and stereotypes. G-d created everyone with unique talents and personalities which is why the observance of Torah and mitzvot has to come from personal introspection and understanding rather than superficial societal norms and values.

From a distance the Mitzvot (commandments) and an observant lifestyle may appear to be stifling, yet when one reaches a depth of understanding how to integrate Torah, it can truly elevate ones experience of life. Remember, that when looking at a trampoline from outside it may look like a cage, but only once you start jumping you will feel like you can fly.

Regards,
Sara

Wed, July 26 2017 3 Av 5777