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I'll Tell You Why A Good Kid Would "throw It Away"

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#1 goddessofdance



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Posted 13 May 2012 - 09:51 PM

Hey guys!
So I'm a seventeen-year-old girl from a "wonderful" (that's supposed to be sarcastic, cuz I hated it, but no one knew) Bais Yaakov school. I have good middos, never got into trouble, always dressed right, talked right, did whatever anyone expected...was perfect on the outside....but a complete and utter mess on the inside. I have eating issues...I alternate between starving myself and binging (then trying to purge but no matter how many hours I spend in front of the toilet sticking my finger deeper and deeper down my throat, I just can't seem to vomit). I started cutting June 19 of last year then after just about two weeks decided it was stupid, but every once in a while, when I'm desperate, I still do it...but only like once every few months and I never cut really deep. For all of those who are ignorant and wonder why anyone in their right mind would cut themselves, let me clarify...
First of all, probably cuz I'm not in my right mind (I'm pretty sure I'm bipolar), but it's always done kind of logically. The pain of the cuts feels better than emotional pain, so it's worth it for me to do it. I don't allow myself the luxury usually, cuz I don't want to become addicted and mess myself up more, but once in a while, I give in. So I cut because:
a) as I said, it distracts from any emotional pain but in two ways. One is when there is so much going on in my head and I'm so hurt that I just want to forget about it and the physical pain distracts, and two, when I just feel numb and out of my body, I cut to feel myself- kinda like a reassurance.
b.) It's a control thing. My whole life has been other people telling me what to do, how to act....etc. I felt like I had no choices of my own, and doing this made me feel like "ha! I'm doing something that I know you wouldn't want me to do, and I don't care!"
c) It was a way of expressing shame. Shame of what I felt inside, shame of who I was, shame of how I looked (I've had people tell me I'm pretty but my self-confidence is pretty non-existent so I always feel like they're just trying to make me feel good, and that makes me feel stupid...plus, I'm a bit overweight...not faaat, but I could lose a bunch of pounds.), and it was like I had to show myself for what I really was. I didn't deserve anything and I had to cut myself to show that to myself so I'd never forget.
I'm sure you're wondering what is all the "emotional stuff" I'm talking about...well, I grew up in a dysfunctional home with an abusive father,- I think "abusive father" pretty much says it all.
The thing that pushes me away from Judaism the most is the hypocrisy of it all. The way we're taught to love everyone and judge favorably, but then any jew who's in a different community who does things different is worse than you are. Most people I've met in positions of authority have play the "holier than thou" card and it sickens me. The way my community was so set on every little detail of serving god, but totally ignored most of the bein adam l'chaveiro aspects of judaism. The way they focused on the clothes that I was wearing, the things I was doing, and my test results in school instead of my feelings, my emotions, and helping me through stuff. The way that as long as I was doing what they wanted, I was good, but as soon as I changed a bit or did something a bit differently, I was bad. Did they ever ask why I was changing? Did they ever ask why I sometimes stayed at home for days at a time depressed? Did they care to know that I lived in fear in my own home and I needed a place to express myself? NO! They want to pretend that everything about judaism is good. They can't even acknowledge the things that go wrong. But I think the more they pretend, the more people will resent. Everyone goes through something, and everyone hates their feelings being unvalidated.
And obviously, the way father, a "wonderful, observant, black hat jew" who everyone in the community praised, who was a rabbi in a boys school, who was a wonderful speaker, brilliant torah mind...could abuse his wife and kids in the privacy of his house.
People don't go off the derech cuz they're enchanted by the outside world. People go off, cuz they had negative experiences with their world and the only place to run to is the "other" one. Compared to the world they're from which has hurt them in some way, the outside world looks very alluring. So why would they resist, if there is nothing to stay for?
I hate the world I'm from and sure, I know there are some people who are good, but I can't live this life. I can't look at myself in the mirror every day and hate the hypocrite that looks back at me. I don't want to become like everyone else. I don't want to be a hypocrite. And every day I live this lie, I am one.
So yes, I'm "throwing it away" this summer. Next year I'm starting new in a new place with a new name on my own to create a new life for myself. A life that I'm comfortable with. A life where I can be a good person without needing to hate people who aren't like me, people who do things differently than me. A life where I can be the person whom I've always wanted to have as a friend, and hopefully I can be that friend to others who need me.
So the world out there isn't getting stronger or more glittery, it's the jewish world that's getting tarnished. It's the gold of judaism that's been corrupted and slimed over. It's when the older generation believes that the outside world is beckoning to their teens, so they lie and tighten their chains and make the teens hate the life they have, that the teens look to the only other place that hasn't brought them pain- the outside world.
And, I haven't written this as a pity letter asking for validation of my feelings:) I don't need anyone to tell me to daven and ask hashem to help me (I've done that for four years and guess what....it didnt' work), I don't need anyone to recommend me to see a psychiatrist (I'm going to see one), and I don't need anyone to tell me that being frum is the only way to be truly happy (cuz I don't believe- and honestly, for me, being frum makes me miserable).
I just wanted to clear any misconceptions about why kids go off. Kids don't just decide "hey l wanna stop being frum"...something emotional has happened to trigger that...so don't go judging because you never know what someone's been through and judging usually makes it worse and it shows us even more hypocrisy about the jewish world.

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 03:33 PM

Thank you for your post. You're 100% correct that kids don't go off because the secular society is attracting them but rather they are experiencing some kind of trauma that is pushing them away from the frum society. R. Berel Wein made that mistake about 10 years ago when he said that kids going off the derech nowadays is nothing historically new because many more children went off the derech to become Maskilim or Zionists etc. His mistake is that all those times the going off was because people were going to something that attracted them. Nowadays people are not going anywhere - they are running from frumkeit. Many off-the-derech kids ruin their lives, abandoning school, living in squalor, but to them it is worth it because they are getting away from the source of their pain, i.e. their families.

Yes, we've always had people go off the derech, but we never before had so many people being chased away from frumkeit. It was always some promise of idealistic or material benefit that caused people to go off. Now it's simply because they'd rather not be on. The whole situation is terribly sad.

Now if I may ask you a favor: I once wrote an article, many years ago, about why kids go off and how parents can prevent it. I'd really appreciate if you would read it and let me know what you think, because a lot of what you're saying I wrote about. I had other ideas too and I'd be very interested in your feedback. You can see it here. Especially the part at the end where I list the things most likely to make a kid go off the Derech. I'd like to know what you think of the article.

Until then, just one thing: Nobody is asking you to hate anyone. I am probably one of the most fanatical rabbis you've ever met - to me, Modern Orthodoxy is nothing more than a total distortion of Judaism, Zionism is idolatry, and I don't allow any newspapers or magazines into my home (including, by the way, the Jewish ones). But hate? No. A person has to learn to separate the sin from the sinner (except where the Halacha requires not to). I detest communism. But do I hate communists? Two different things.

But let's forget religion for a second. Do you have any siblings (especially younger ones)? Do you think they are safe from the abuse that your father perpetrated against you? Do you think there is anything we can do to protect them from it?

But please be in touch. Especially about the siblings. I'd hate to think that other kids would be going through the pain you describe you went through.

#3 goddessofdance



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Posted 02 July 2012 - 11:30 PM


Thank you for your response; although I am a bit surprised since I've gotten an email a while back from one of the moderators who said that she, as well as you, were hesitant to have my post posted since you both didn't want anyone to get wrong ideas from it, which I totally understood. So this was unexpected since I didn't even realize that my post was up. Okay, I'll respond to your post, then get to the article.

Yes, I understand that no one is asking anyone to hate anyone. But it is implied in words, actions, facial expressions... I completely understand that you can hate something someone does, but not hate them. As you said, two different things. But much of reality is sadly different. It's not only the Jewish world that's like that; it's human nature. Simple example, people hating on celebrities. Yes, I understand that you do not like her acting skills, vocals, whatever it may be, and if you feel the need to go so far as saying you HATE her acting skills, vocals..etc. then fine, I won't deny you of that. (Although I do hate the word hate since I feel it is way too strong, yet altogether too general, and never does any good.) But to say that you hate a singer or actor is ludicrous! If you've met him (or her), spent time with him, gotten to know him, was wronged by him, and through firsthand experience can genuinely say that he is not the nicest human being, then, and only then, will I understand if you say you hate him. But a lot of people mix up talent, brains, looks, colors with hearts, feelings, and personal morals. However, being Jews, spreading goodness, doing G-d's will, we should be a lot better than that. I feel that if parents and teachers are enforcing upon us, teens, dress codes, behavioral habits, and the like, which is supposed to "lead to being a better person", then they should be better people. But from where I stand, that is definitely not the case. How sad that we preach something, yet at the same time, do the very thing we preach against. And I include myself as well. I am human after all. But I try. And all I wish for is that everyone would be willing to try. From what I've seen where I come from, it's much easier to hate, to judge, than to try and understand people and the emotions that run in their veins.

No, I do not have any younger siblings. My parents have wanted more children for a long time, and I prayed long and hard every night that they would not. Well, that's one thing I prayed for that actually happened. Although a G-d that puts children into brutal hands, is not really a G-d I'd want on my side. I do have one older sibling though. A sister who is nineteen. She's sweet, amazing, the 'good' one. There is definitely as much nature as there is nurture. She's more submissive (That has a negative ring to it, but I don't mean it that way.), doesn't like fights (Neither do I. I'm generally an introvert and I absolutely abhor conflict. However, if I am attacked repeatedly, I will stand up.) and is extremely careful about torah and mitzvos (Which obviously I'm not.). I love her dearly and we're on great terms.

Now, to your article. It was very interesting and I pretty much agree with it all. I've read "Off The Derech" by Faranak Margolese a couple of years ago which is an enormous book that basically expands on everything you've written in your article. You write "Many parents do not love their child; they love the person they think is their child." I cannot agree more. Often times, parents live vicariously through their children, trying to achieve the dreams that were denied to them in their childhood, whilst the child is strangled and shut in an airtight box without any room to move, let alone live as a free, functioning member of society. The parent loves the child for hitting that home run and fulfilling a childhood dream of theirs, for acing that test, for satisfying the parent's need for acknowledgment of being a good parent (Look at my child and what he's done.).

I just wanted to say that I loved this line! 'Telling your child, “I accept you for what you are” says something positive about you (that you are tolerant) and something negative about the child (that he needs to be tolerated)'

One last thing. You wrote a lot about spending time with your child...asking about their day...making small talk...
Have you ever read the book "The 5 love languages" by Gary Chapman? It describes in detail how there are countless ways to express love which narrows down to five key categories, or five love languages. Every person identifies primarily with one of the five languages.
The five categories are:

Physical Touch (likes snuggling, hugging, holding hands, a pat on the shoulder, a massage, wants a hug after a long hard day)
Receiving Gifts (likes getting pretty much anything. It's not how much it costs, it's the effort and thought that went into it. A $500 vase begrudgingly given will not be appreciated, but a nice note written on a napkin that he finds in his lunch bag will make his day.)
Words of Affirmation (a compliment will put him on cloud nine; but beware, for a bad word can send his self-confidence crashing.)
Acts of Service (This person will feel loved if you take out the garbage, help wash the floor, put the kids to bed. If you fold the laundry for her, she will feel like you love her, that you're taking care of her, and you are the best. )
Quality Time (This person feels loved when he has your undivided attention. Tv off, cell in the next room, just you and him. You can do an activity but do something he wants to do, even if you hate it. That way, he'll know you want to spend time with him, despite the activity and he'll feel loved.)

I think this is something that people should know about. What you've described in your article does not work for everyone. I know firsthand. When I was younger, every day after school my mother would drill me. (I think of it as drilling but to another child it would have been love.) She would ask me how my day was, make small talk over a snack.....and I hated it!!! I was a tomboy and hated sitting still! I dreaded the time of day when my mother would want to know what teachers I had that day, and did I get any projects in school, and what was the best part of my day, and what was the worst part of my day. To my mind: WHO CARES!!!! It was annoying and frustrating for me. I don't love making small talk for I see no use in it. There was so much I wanted to do while I was forced to sit on that couch by my mother who believed that she was loving me and caring for me and doing the best for me. She was loving me, but in her way. A way that did not make me feel loved at all. When I found out about the five love languages, I took the quiz to determine what my main love language is. It turned out to be receiving gifts. Now, my family is by no means comfortable financially. More like, struggling desperately. So gifts weren't something that really occurred in my house. Who needs chanukah presents? Well, for a child like me who feels loved when receiving something, I felt unloved. My mother loves me; but only at seventeen did I finally understand the different ways we show love and why the love wasn't really computing with the other. So everyone needs love, but I believe it is the parents' duty to find out what love their child needs. The child that is always picking dandelions for their mother has a Receiving Gifts kind of love. The child that is constantly climbing into someone's lap is Physical Touch. The child that tells their doll "I love you" is Words of Affirmation". The child that offers to clear the table is Acts of Service. The child that keeps trying to get you to come to their room to see what they made is Quality Time.

Oh, I forgot. This is just random but I thought I'd write it. The location of a family definitely impacts the way a child's "rebellion" will go. I'm pretty sure that if I lived in New York, I would be addicted to drugs, drinking...and who knows what else. For the simple fact that it's easier to access those kind of things. I have a few friends in New york who smoke weed regularly (while doing special k, coke...as well). They've gone out to clubs almost every night since they were fifteen, drinking their lives away. If someone would have offered me drugs, I'm pretty sure I would've tried it. I don't want to ruin my life and I don't want to make stupid and dangerous decisions, and I'm quite thankful that I live where I do, since I don't have easy access to drugs or the like. I know that if a teenager wants something, they can definitely go out and find it, but I wasn't seeking to destroy my future. I just wanted the pain to stop. (Hence the cutting which doesn't cause the problems that drugs and drinking do, yet still, pathetically, eases some of the pain. Although the scars are extreeeemely annoying. I have stopped cutting, by the way.)

So thanks for reading, and I hope that has all made sense.

#4 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 11:12 AM

I'm glad you liked the article. Here's another one to check out.

A few things though. First, when I wrote in my article that parents need to know what's going on in their children's lives, I was not referring to the type of witness-stand interrogation you describe you went through. I was referring simply to parents knowing who their children are. You can know someone without interrogating them constantly.

There is one more important thing I wanted to mention. I understand perfectly that you went through a lot of pain. And I also understand, as you say, that going through pain can cause someone to go off the derech. In fact, Chazal say it. We know that when the Jews were being chased by the Egyptians and came to the Yam Suf, the water, at first, did not want to split.

"הללו עובדי עבודה זרה והללו עובדי עבודה זרה" "The Jews are idol worshipers just like the Egyptians are, so why should I split for the Jews and kill the Egyptians?" the Yam Suf asked.

Hashem answered: איך אתה מדמה שוגג למזיד ואונס לרצון - "How can you compare the two? The Jews were forced to worship idols, whereas the Egyptians do it willingly."

Question: Who forced the Jews to worship idols? It says nowhere that the Egyptians did such a thing. The Egyptians made us slaves, but it does not say that the Egyptians had anything against us practicing our religion or that they tried to force us into idol worship.

The answer is, because of all the pain the Egyptians caused the Jews, because of all the physical and emotional trauma they put us through, the Jews that went off the Derech - i.e. worshiped idols - are considered "anusim," "forced," and not accountable.

There are those who can serve Hashem even through great physical and emotional trauma. But those who go off the Derech because of it we cannot judge. Only Hashem knows if they could have done differently - וה' יראה ללבב - and at the Yam Suf Hashem paskened that they could not.

I understand that. I've been saying this for many years. (In fact, the similarity between my article that you read and Faranak Margolies' "Off The Derech" is not be just a coincidence - look me up in the bibliography.) But that said, do you think it is perhaps a bit of an overindulgence to paint the entire Jewish people with such a wide brush? Yes, you did say there are "some people who are good." But still, that's a pretty sweeping judgement.

The Gemora says that people tend to see the world through their own experiences. סבר כי היכי דההוא אביק ביה כולי עלמא נמי אביקו (Avodah Zorah 14b). So I have a question: Let's say that you are right, that there are some people who are good. My question is, had you been brought up in a family of such people, a functional, loving (and in your case, gift-giving), wholesome, nurturing family, do you think you would still look at the frum world in the same way as you do now?

So yes, the absolute main reason people go off the Derech is because of painful experiences, for the most part, in the home. And yes, nobody goes off the Derech because of "enticements" of the so-called "outside world" (I hate using that phrase as much as you hate using the word "hate"). There is, almost invariably, something pushing the person away. Yes. The question is what we can do about it.

#5 shira



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Posted 06 September 2012 - 05:41 PM

Hey. I cud totally relate to that. I wish I had the guts to go off. But see to me I have always had a close relationship with god, he's my best friend and I wud talk to him all the time since I was as young as 4 yrs old. But frum, Judaism, yiddishkeit, all of that is so cliche and fanatical to me. I've had the worst high school experience, as u wud see, if u read my other posts. so I cud leave Judaism but I cud never leave god, because despite the hell I've been through, he never left me. But going off, I've been waiting for the day that id just say that's it, barge out of my school show them, externally, with peircings and tattoos of all the pain they forced me to suck up and keep on looking like the clone of a bunch of two faced, 'perfect' bais yaakov girls.

I cud never do that to my parents, though. My dad, just seeing him cry to me when I don't wear socks, kills me. Literally. I wish sometimes he wouldn't care, caul then I won't feel so guilty again, if I need to attemp IT again. I live in NY, trust me,
I wish I had the guts to join the group of pain stricken teenagers, who are so desperately searching for love and comfort from our horrific experiences. I'm only 17. And when adults tell me it only gets harder, tell me why that should encourage me, to continue ?

#6 goddessofdance



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Posted 25 December 2013 - 06:30 PM

Hey Shira!


I just came back to my post from a year and a half ago...insane deja vu! Anyways, wow, so much has changed for me in my lifestyle and outlook in life...


But just read you post - and since it's from a year ago - I'm sure much has changed for you too. Haha bout piercings btw. I got six ear piercings, a nose, and a lip ring :) I understand bout your dad crying about socks. When I first started changing how I dressed, I wore leggings under my skirt with bobby socks, and my mom would cry about the inch of skin showing by my ankles. And that hurt me. But I came to the point where I realized that no matter how much I cared about other people, I needed to start living for myself to make sure I was okay, before I could make sure other people were okay. So yes, I went "off the derech", and yes, I have piercings and whatnot...but as a person - I am so much happier than I was a year ago! I hated myself, my life and everything back then. Now, I'm happy most of the time, I have amazing people who support me, and I'm building up my life. Back then, I swore I would never, ever be religious. I hated God with all my guts. But now, I'm slowly building up on things I choose to do. And I do think that one day I will be modern orthodox. I don't think I'll ever get to the ultra-orthodox point of religiosity that I came from, but I will live my life the way I believe. But the first step is being okay emotionally. 


You don't need to "rebel" in the typical sense of the word to search for love and comfort. Have you ever heard of project extreme? It's an organization that helps jewish youth. I've been to their summer program for the past two years and am going again this year. And plan to be a counselor for many years after that. I go to all their shabbatons and programs...and basically, my entire support system and all the people who love me are from their programs. They've helped me so much! I suggest you contact them. Or reply here if you have questions about it...


From what you wrote, you're about my age. I live in Brooklyn. I would love to meet you. You sound so strong.