As can be imagined, although I started seeing there was something wrong, and that there were things I could do to change the situation, I still would not give up. That summer I became a learning Rebbe at a camp in the Poconos. Somehow I thought that teaching instead of actually learning would calm my mind. I was wrong. At this point, my mind was wired to only see all learning as a path towards respect and towards security that God would give me a good life. I didn't realize that there was nothing I could do to undo that. I was t eaching mishnayos brachos, and I literally had to force myself to prepare my lessons because my body was having such revulsion towards it. It was during that summer that I really started feeling all of my life and aspirations fall apart. It wasn't as if, I thought that I had any other option. It was just that my body, my left shoulder in particular would hurt so much, and my hands would shake or tremble ( to some degree) when I got close to a gemara, or thought about learning it. I simply had no choice. Of course, I had been feeling pain and stress until now as well. I charted up to the difficulty that a person must experience to become a gadol in Torah. Now, the pain was so great that I had to stop. I had begun to feel my grip being forcefully loosened from it's addictive hold on learning gemara, so in a desperate measure to hold on to my advantage of getting ahead of my friends. I made a solemn oath to myself that, for the rest of my life, no matter what would happen, I would learn two halachos of shulchan aruch a day. That would be my saving grace. There came a day, a moment, in the middle of July of that summer that I could not even keep this very small commitment. No, of course that didn't mean that I was giving up on my life long dream of being a ben toirah, and a magid shiur, it just meant that I simply couldn't do it anymore.
To this day, I am amazed at how much the body can endure before it becomes too much. I had endured 3 to 5 years of it being nasty, terrible, disappointing, scary, depressing, stressful, agitating, and impossible, before it literally became impossible. Somehow the body yells too loudly when something is threatening its existence. I feel that we can ignore it for some time, but there seems to come a moment when it's impossible.
Many people have asked me, "why did you go off?" and they don't understand when I say, I had to. I had no choice. I really do mean that. I was addicted. I had all my connections in the frum community. I only left because I had no choice. My body would not let me.
Since I was 10 or 12 I had been drawing the same face. It was the face of a yeshiva bachur, looking at him from the side. He was young and sweet. Then his beard started growing in just a bit. Then his beard got longer. Then it got even longer. Then his face began to wrinkle. Then he got really chashuv (important) looking. This is the way I saw myself. This was the cycle of life I had hoped for myself. I wanted the youth of a yeshiva guy who spent all of his moments learning. That's what I had. I aspired to the life of a koilel yunger man, who spent all of his days in the beis medrash. I hoped that after some time, I would be accomplished enough to give my own shiur, and then I hoped to be a rosh yeshiva, to have my own yeshiva. I knew I could. I remembered how hard it was for me to learn how to learn. I remember all those sad days of staring at my Rebbe's face, and wondering "what the hell is he talking about?". I remembered how I had attained the desire to help others learn, to be the one who can always explain the gemara in a way t hat was easy for everyone to understand. Somehow, I knew in me that I had what it took to be that leader.
I remembered how good I felt, as I finally began conquering the world of learning "Wow!! I'm actually getting good at this" and started realizing that my dream could come true. All I needed to do was continue learning the way, I was and I would end up where I wanted to be. I had a pretty consistent and solid feeling that I was doing the right thing and that I was on the right path.
One shabbos, in eretz yisroel when I was coming up the stairs to the dorm from a late night of learning, I had a spiritual experience. There is no way for me to understand what happened or what to make of it, but I can say that I felt like I was literally with God. For that moment, all the issues and destruction in my mind went away, and I knew that all would be alright. I also knew that all that I was doing was right. I never told anyone about this moment until now, because I didn't know what to make of it. What I knew was that that moment was one of the only peaceful and tranquil moments that I had ever felt in my life, and according to my studies, that was a gift from Hashem for how I had been learning or a level of spiritual strength I had achieved. For better of for worse, that moment, was one that inspired me in my commitment to become a person who is only close to hashem all the time. IN some ways, that moment, destroyed me, because I wanted that moment back. Please come back I need you so badly, now I knew that I could experience joy and for now, I had thought that the only way I could get that moment back is through the merit of limud hatoirah (torah study)
Now, this whole world of aspiration and imagination, was crumbling, before my eyes. The images, the hopes, the aspirations were still there. The gold was just a couple feet away, but, for a reason unknown to me, whenever I reached my hand out to touch it, I felt a sizzling electric current, shoot through my body.
10 years of hard work just collapsed before my eyes. I didn't know of anything else in the world. I didn't know of anything else inside me. I just knew that the only thing that I was permitted to do was learn Toirah, and that that was the only thing that was impossible for me to do now. "Would I ever go back?" was the only question in my mind. "How did this happen?" "Where did I go wrong?" "How did I not see this coming?" "What could I possibly do now, if I am only allowed to learn toirah?" "Will I ever get better?". I had never heard of this happening to anyone. "What was hashem thinking right now?" "would he be happy with me?" "would he understand?" "How do such bad things happen to such good People?".