The other day my mom and I were talking about what personal failures we were most afraid of committing. I told her the thing that worried me the most was that I would turn out to be a fake. That at the end of my life, many people would think I was an observant Jew, a good person, a good wife and mother, intelligent, etc, etc. But that I would know that I was none of those things. Of course my mom being my mom was incredulous that I could think I was anything less than fantastic.
I think this fear of being a phony might be common among BTs. I imagine that people who are frum from birth perform mitzvot as if they were born knowing how. But for me, I always feel I should tell people, “I’m not learning to become an observant Jew, I just pretend to be one on the internet.” Every time I say a bracha or pick out kosher food at the market I feel as if I will soon find out that I have been doing some aspect of these mitzvot incorrectly. In part this is because of my own insecurity in my “status” (somewhere between secular and observant) and incomplete knowledge, and in part because I am disappointed that I have not progressed as far in my observance as I had hoped.
Of course, my mom being my mom, had a wonderful bit of wisdom to share with me. She said, “You’re only fake if your intentions are insincere. If someone assumes you are Orthodox because, for example, you don’t wear pants and you dress modestly, then that’s not your fault so long as you dress modestly for sincere reasons. The fact that you can’t yet completely kosher your kitchen doesn’t mean that you’ve misled that person, it means that you haven’t progressed to that step yet.”
Then I came across this quote from Rabbi Shalom Arush that confirmed that my mom was exactly right:
We must all know one thing: Every setback in life – even a setback that results from our own mistake – comes from above!
Therefore, one should never torture oneself. There’s no room to blame oneself or anybody else for troubles in life, and certainly not to fall into despair and depression. The important thing is desire; falling means nothing, as long as a person maintains a desire to do better. Never abandon your desires, for Hashem looks first and foremost at our desires. The best way to counter a fall or failure is to declare a new beginning and get back up on our feet as fast as possible. We desire to do better! The fall means nothing if we get back on our feet swiftly and with new resolve.
I’m not a fake Orthodox Jew. I am someone who is working towards a goal that I have not yet fully achieved. I haven’t completed all the steps I need to complete, in part because of poor decisions I have made, and in part because of things outside of my control. But I can declare a new beginning because I desire to do better.