Originally published Dec 26, 2005
What do you do when you start running out of mitzvot to take on? Do you just become more machmir on everything you’re already doing? Is it wrong to stop in a comfort zone and just stay there? What happens when you lose that good feeling you get every time you daven, and you stop feeling like Hashem cares about every mitzvah you do?
I don’t know if it would be accurate to call it a “plateau.” As Newton’s first law states, a body in motion stays in motion, and I think this applies to religious growth as well. But where does all this newfound spiritual energy go when you hit a dead end?
I’d call this the point where one backslides, where one can easily go off the derech. It’s when we realize that Orthodox Jews are human, too, and not some group of super-perfect beings whose every action is in line with Hashem’s Will. It’s probably the most dangerous time in one’s teshuva process.
If when you reach that plateau, which is really just a much slower incline, you’re happy religiously and stay that way the rest of your life, Baruch Hashem. I often imagine that’s how FFBs live life, never having to question their practices, and always feeling secure in their beliefs. Then there’s the rest of the BT world, who have to figure out what they need to do in order to continue on their spiritual journey.
And then a bigger question- is there just one point of decline, one hard struggle that you go through and then you learn how do deal with those times of religious dissatisfaction? Or do you keep on encountering them, again and again, when you least expect it? And then what?
As I’m writing this, I realize that I am not sounding very encouraging. Maybe it’s because I’m at one of those points right now, and I’ve been there for the past year. So I can’t say how long they last, or that people get over them (but they must, because pretty much every BT I’ve ever met has seemed inexplicably happy all the time) or that there’s a strategy for getting through them.
But I can say that you’re not alone, and you’re not a bad Jew, and you’re allowed to have periods of doubt. I can say that growth isn’t linear (and for those who think it is, watch out) and that everyone has their ups and downs. It’s kind of like a graph of the stock exchange. Your amount of faith or devotion may vary from year to year (or day to day) but overall it’s a trend upwards. Just don’t forget that Hashem cares about you, wants you to come closer to Him, and will help you when you need it the most.