What Am I Missing?

By Chaya

I recently received a mass email from an old (non-Jewish) friend announcing that she is leaving town to start graduate school at a prestigious university. The message, an invitation to a good-bye party was filled with inside jokes and language specific to the young hipster enclave where she has lived for the past couple of years. I felt a pang of loss and resentment.

I am 25 years old. I became religious at 18, met my husband a year later, and married him four years ago. My entire adult life has been defined by mitzvah observance.

I am grateful. I have single BT friends in their forties. I know how much easier it is to make it in the frum world, and indeed the world in general when you have someone to love and support and to support you.

I am thankful as well for the serenity of feeling G-d’s presence in my life. On most days, I feel like an instrument of His will. I don’t regret the past and I’m not scared of the present or the future. I don’t feel stress on any deep level, even when I am very busy. I am interested in helping people. I get along with my family. I don’t think any of these things would be true, to the extent that they are, if I wasn’t Torah-observant.

But when I get these little flashes of what other young people are doing, the things I never got to do, eat, experience, going the places I never got to go, sometimes I feel a sadness that seems completely illogical and incompatible with the rest of my being.

Even as I type these words I know that these are common feelings for baalei teshuva. But I don’t know what the proper antidote is. I put a lot of time and energy into my spiritual growth. I also listen to all kinds of music and maintain close friendships with non-Jews. But are those things helping me keep a balance, or just dangling in front of me what I can’t be or do? I really don’t know.

12 comments on “What Am I Missing?

  1. Chaya,

    Great post! To me, it doesn’t matter that you have friends that are not Jewish, or listen to all kinds of music, though of course you should have Jewish friends and listen to Jewish music, too! What matters is that YOU feel that you’re Frum, and getting more Frum every day, that’s what matters at the end of the day.

  2. Chaya ,in response to your post header question : EVERYTHING . There actually exists though an OTC antidote for alleviating the missing out on all the fun stuff annoyance. Its 1000 mgs pretty large bitter pill (looks like the glucophage pills for all you pharmacists out there ) to swallow and its marketed under the brand name label “right idea wrong religion Inc” (aka/ IMJO there is no antidote).Theres also the generic trite version available, marketed under the “How to have “fun” and still be religious Inc ” label.Mostly though its all in the labels and how the stuff is marketed .Then its how you perceive stuff and what you classify as meaningful which you would then by default classify /perceive and feel as MorE important.The missing out on fun stuff issue will keep resurfacing and loves begging for attention and rightfully so.

  3. Dear Chaya,

    When you made the decision to become a BT you closed the door on your old life and opened the door to a new life. Don’t think what if. Instead, think how much you would have missed if you hadn’t made the decision.All the advice you’ve been given in the other postings is good advice: listening to shiurim, tapes etc. I’m going to add one more bit of advice. Read some tehillim. It does help. May you go from strength to strength.

  4. Tzura is right. Every choice both opens and closes doors. We second guess ourselves because we’re people, but we work to refocus and do what’s best in the present because we’re Jews.

  5. Jacob Heller-well stated. I was, for 8 years, heavily into the Punk/Alternative scene. It’s banner cry of “go against the grain and express your individuality ” wore off after some time in yeshiva. As I look back, most of my friends only expressed their “individuality” within defined perameters.

  6. As I get older, I’ve starting thinking “what if” thoughts about how my life could have been. Such thoughts come up not just in regard to my level of mitzvah observance, but also in regard to my profession/education, my choice of where to live, and who I did/did not marry. The decisions on Torah observance loom large in the minds of many BTs, but I find comfort in knowing that the “what if” thoughts come up in almost every facet of life, and in every type of person (ranging from totally secular to thoroughly FFB).

    I know people who are, or have been, burdened with a feeling of impotence in determining their own life course. Keep in mind that your feelings of regret are a direct outcome of the fact that you took active steps in shaping your own life!

  7. B”H


    As you can see Chaya – you are not alone – most [if not all] BTs can empathize with you.

    A former co-worker [non-Jewish] at Microsoft once shared with me what he termed the “Chocolate Bunny Syndrome”:

    “In America and all that is available [and chased after] in today’s society is like a chocolate bunny – it’s big, looks delicious -rich, dark chocolate that just makes your mouth water as you imagine just how rich & creamy it must be – then you take a bite:


    [and this is a non-Jew commenting on society!?]

    FWIW – I think Jacob H. was dead on when he said “your LIVING what they theorize.”

    Rabbi Levi Goldstein compared American culture to “soda pop” whereas a Torah life is “living waters”………

    I would also recommend the tape “How to Obtain Happiness from Life” by RABBI EZRIEL TAUBER where he deals squarely and practically [i.e. avodas Hashem for “regular” people] with the issues you raised.

    [btw – he is simply amazing – 20 years ago, he decided to cut out all contact with the media to honor the tragic passing of one of his relatives – and replaced that time with Torah tapes, books, shiurim etc. Today he is a successful businessman and a riveting lecturer to both BTs & FFBs]

  8. It’s hard to avoid deep pretensious and self-centered types in “hipster” enclaves. This may not apply across the board but it seems a constant hobby is “out-cooling” the others.

    One “neighborhood” I frequented in hipster country were the Grateful Dead-heads. What struck me was that while they oft waxed lyrical about the simple joys in life and the existential joy of just “being” they weren’t too far removed from trying to “Out Deadhead” each other by arguing who had the larger collection of bootleg tapes or who travelled more to see more shows, ad infinitum.

    Just replace the variables and arguably we can find countless similar scenarios involving punk rockers, goths, artists, poets, radical cause groupies, etc. Don’t mean to be too cynical, but any vestiges of “community” among those types are merely an illusion or at best an ephemeral symbiotic relationship of self-aggrandizement.

    That said, perhaps one tip is realizing that if you’re playing by the hipster “rules” of measuring fulfilment, it ain’t gonna work and it’s a prescription for frustration.

    Some “re-framing” was done. Hope it was the correct approach.

    First, while learning in Yerushalayim, I found that even the most “mainstream” lifestyle there far outweighted anything “bohemian” as far as living a groovy life on the edge.

    I think raising a family with (bli ayin hara) has the bragging rights over hipster ‘hoods in accruing an adventurous life, the beauty of self-denial for the sake of others (one’s children, spouse and kehila) is more real and fulfilling than musing on the topic in some avante garde basement coffee shop after one of the participants dabbled into some essay about some Eastern mystic.

    In other words, your LIVING what they theorize.

    I found Chizuk in a very unexpected place. Another blog site included an autobiographical sketch of a 21st century young Yiddish poet who hoped to rekindle the Haskala. A reader responded that such an idea was doomed to fail unlike the original “Haskala Movement” 200 years ago which was a “modernist” reaction to what they saw as the anachronism of Yiddishkeit, today’s Orthodoxy is a “proactive” reaction to the banal and meaningless excesses of modernism.

    With all due respect to Ora’s otherwise insightful response, I happen to see the potential problems of “dangling forbidden fruti” of former acquaintances, music,etc, all powerful mediums.

    Not suggestion go cold turkey, but perhaps a slow down is called for.

    It’s nothing new how a moment of temptation can shake foundations built on years of Torah and Mitzvos. This doesn’t indicate anything lacking or defective with the Torah or the adherents; it’s built into the Creation.

    Hatzlacha Raba Chaya!

  9. Dear Chaya,

    What an honest post. You bring up thoughts that most of us have from time to time.
    As for your question: If you feel comfortable, ask a Rav you’re close with.
    It’s hard to balance between our life as a BT and friends from the past. Remember you are not missing anything.
    Rav Shimon Schwab (the late Rav of the Washington Heights community in NYC) wrote that each BT is hand picked by Hashem to come back to Torah Judaism.
    By the tone of your writing, it seems that your old friends respect your lifestyle change, which is great. Keep in mind that you chose your path because you realize that Torah is emes (truth). Hopefully your music choices and relationships with non-Jews will indeed keep you focused on the privilege of being a Bas Torah.

  10. Sounds like a great 3 point plan. I would add that one of the most difficult things we have to do in our lives (and not just BTs) is enjoy life, not despite being a Jew but spefically because we are Jewish. Obviously like all aspects of emuna, this is cannot be given over in a a soundbyte but is a life long journey. The key thing I guess is that we realise that this is a crucial part of our avoda and not some minor problem I cant shake off and the realisation itself is a major part of getting to the destination.

    To sum it up, I would see that it is essential to realise there are countless “kosher” ways to enjoy life. Making the things we used to do and enjoy kosher may well be crucical to our happiness (some BTs cope by cutting them out) but we can only know this with some self introspection as well as guidance from Daas Torah.

    My tip? Well, one source of endless encouragement in understanding who I am and my purpose in this world (which I discovered about 3 years after I became frum, went to Yeshiva, began work and got married!) are the tapes and books of Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt’l. In short, I’d say that He had a unique ability to make us constantly question the way we see the world compared to how the Torah would like us to. The result – if you read one of his “ideology” books and hear 2 or 3 tapes you cannot but end up understanding the profound thanks we ought to have not only for the myriad lessons Hashem gives us every day but even for the many tests we face in golus.

    You can often find his tapes in a Torah tape library. Of his 3 books on hashkofo, I’d recommend “Awake my Glory” but they’re all good.


    Be warned, the truth may be not easy to accept, but then again the easiest way to hear it is from a Gadol B’Yisroel.

  11. Chaya, your post just reminded me of my last trip to America, a couple of years ago. I met up with some old friends and we went rock-climbing, which we had done regularly back in the day. And even though I was very happy with my decision to move to Israel and spend a year learning Torah, I definitely felt jealousy and a bit of sadness as they managed even the most difficult climbs, while my skill levels had fallen far below what they once were. Anyway, that’s just my story, and not a solution.

    Personally, I deal with feelings like that by accepting them and then putting them in perspective. I admit to myself that it is a loss, and that there are many things that I can’t do (I wouldn’t say that there’s anything I can’t “be,” but my activities are limited for sure). Then I remind myself that that’s just part of life. There’s only so much we can do. For example, when I chose to learn piano as a child, it meant that I didn’t choose the flute, violin, or oboe. Tormenting myself with thoughts of “what could have been” (maybe I could have been a concert oboeist!) would only detract from my enjoyment of the skills that I do have. All the more so with a Torah life, which, unlike the piano, is qualitatively much better than the alternatives.

    Basically, it’s a three-step plan. Step one is being sad, because trying to deny emotions is the best way to get them to stick around. Step two is reminding myself that life is about choice, and I’d go nuts if I focused on everything I haven’t done instead of what I have. And step three is thinking about the particular choice at hand–do I really regret the path I’ve taken? 99 times out of 100 the answer is no.

    As for your choice to listen to diverse music and hang out with diverse people, I wouldn’t call that “dangling in front of [you] what [you] can’t do.” In fact, I think the opposite is true: unlike living in a hipster enclave or keeping up on inside jokes, good friendships are something that you would genuinely regret giving up.

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