Dear Rabbi Teitelbaum,
I heard you on the Zev Brener show last night and fully agree with everything you said. I only wish all yeshivas and rabbeim would think like you do. Let me tell you my story perhaps it will help explain things.
I come from a very religious home and as a young boy I was a very good student in yeshiva. The main reason I am no longer religious is because all my yeshiva ever taught me was that everything was forbidden. We weren’t permitted to go to the local pizza shop because supposedly it was a hangout – which by the way it wasn’t. I had a very good voice and enjoyed music. I very much wanted to be in the Miami boys choir but the yeshiva told my parents that the yeshiva’s policy wouldn’t permit it. My grades were excellent and I just couldn’t understand why the yeshiva wouldn’t allow me to join when my friends who went to other yeshivas were in the choir. I felt no joy at all in being religious. They would never take us on any trips etc. It was all a negative experience from early morning till late at night.
When I once lost my yarmulke, I went to school with another one which was a little smaller. When the rosh yeshiva saw me wearing the smaller yarmulke he asked me no questions but went over to me and grabbed it off my head in great rage and threw it on the ground making some very uncomplimentary remarks. I can never forget that embarrassing moment which happened in front of my friends. I was so hurt that I wanted to cry but I held it back. From that moment on it was all downhill. My davening wasn’t the same anymore and my learning began to suffer. As much as I tried not to let the incident effect me it didn’t help. One thing led to another and soon I just did the mitzvos by rote and there was no self-satisfaction – absolutely no joy. Unfortunately the enticing world out there soon got hold of me and bit by bit my life changed. First I skipped putting on tefillin one day and then another. Next, off went my tztzis and I soon forgot I was a Jew. In order to get some joy into my life I began hanging out with neighborhood kids who came from a far more modern background than I did. They took me to the movies and introduced me to the Internet and other things I’d rather not say. This past summer I was one of those who hung out with hundreds of other boys and girls just like me doing what we call “chilling out.” The rest of the story you’ve read in the papers.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid I’m already lost and I highly doubt things will change, but you never know. I only write you in order to tell you to keep up your struggle and try to change things otherwise I’m afraid there’ll be many more like me going off the deep end.
I’m glad that there are still people like you and Rabbi Horowitz out there that understand our problems. I only hope you succeed in your uphill battle.
From one of your many secret admirers,
YH from brooklyn
Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum replies.
I fully understand your great pain and inner hurt and suffering. Please realize that many times in life G-d gives us trials and tribulations. Avrohom was tested by being asked to take his one and only son whom he loved very dearly and bring him for a sacrifice. This went against all Avrohom’s beliefs. Avrohom preached that G-d was kind and merciful and would never ask for human sacrifices. It also contradicted Hashem’s promise to make Yitzchak into a great nation. Can you imagine the great shock and pain a father has when told to slaughter his dearest beloved son? Avrohom should immediately have throw in the towel and said if this is what G-d wants of me then forget it. I’ll join all the heathens and dance and sing and have a good time like them. Yet, Avrohom didn’t allow himself to fall into this trap and did as he was told despite the consequences.
We all go through life having much smaller tests which we must pass. While I cannot justify how you were treated, you must look at it as a test and learn to overcome your emotions. People make mistakes and great people can make even greater mistakes. We must learn from Yosef Hatzadik who forgave and forgot all his brothers did to him.
No one is ever lost. Great people have great tests while smaller people have lesser tests. Don’t trade in the temporary pleasures of this world for the far greater pleasures of the next world.