Only those who have been there know exactly what I mean. I had never heard of masturbation (yes, I was quite naive). It would take me another 6 years, until I would learn that I could actually relieve myself of my sexual tension. I was going out of my mind. I wanted sex so badly. I wanted to be touched and held. I wanted to touch another person. I am sure that these desires and obsessions where compounded by the amount of stress I was under, and by the fact that I was truly confused, and scared about who I was vis a vis the possibility of ever having sex.
I knew myself as as a social outcast and social misfit. I never knew how to participate with other people. My head was usually in the clouds and I hadn't found a way to get it to land. I had no idea how to talk to a guy, let a lone a girl. I didn't know how to talk about the most mundane of matters, let alone sex. I also had a very hard time reading social cues and I surely had no idea how to read if sex was an appropriate thing to talk about or think about under any given circumstance.
I remember thinking, that I can't imagine any greater torture. I was alone, separate and distant from most of the people I had ever known and there was only one person with whom, I felt comfortable to share my predicament. that was Avi. He seemed to understand. I also knew deep inside that it would be many years until I would get the kind of sex that I really wanted to have. That hurt so much. Somehow my mind, psyche, (neshama?) knew what it needed. It knew its true the true state of its reality. It knew that it was way behind. It knew that there was so many things that it would need to learn in order to be caught up to the subjects, ideas, fulfillment, talent that would make it to be happy to be who it is, and thus be able to connect in a wholesome manner to a woman that was also happy with who she is.
During this time, there was no doubt in my mind that I would continue to be a frum Jew but I was just suffering, so I was looking for someone, anyone who can help me, listen to me, so that I could understand what happened and how I could get some balance in my life. I was more open to hearing new ideas, and reading new things that I had never read before. I started getting in touch with some of the things that I wanted. I actually started feeling again,almost as if all those years of gemara only served to hide me from who I was and as soon as that was gone, there was the raw open wound of wanting to be me again. I started writing in English, and using small doodles in my writing. that symbolize a huge breakthrough for me since, I had been accustomed to only writing Toira, only writing in hebrew, and of course never venturing outside of the most straight forward sentence that communicated a torah thought I was working on.Now I started having a drop more fun.
I also started going away for shabbos. I was beginning to find some people outside of my family that were kind and understanding. I needed other people to talk to, fresh people to talk to. One of these families introduced me to a Rabbi that was to have a profoundly positive effect on me during these next five years.
His name was Yakov and he was very kind. He was a very different kind of Rabbi than any of the others that I had ever met before. He seemed to know a thing or two about suffering and how people change. He was able to accept me, although I was no longer that masmid that I once was. He seemed to have many more loves in life than just Torah. He also seemed to have original thoughts about how Torah could be taught. he was also open to teaching a much broader variety of people. He also really cared and that was really important to me. He had a nice big house and he cared about its' beauty and its design. I liked that. He had a knack for design. He liked original looking furniture and he liked music. I think I'd say that he was the one that got me into the music of Rabbi Shlomo Calebach. In the yeshivas I went to, we really didn't sing Shlomo's music. It was not so accepted then, in the yeshiva world (except for those two niggunim that he composed before he left Lakewood).
This Rabbi, had a big heart and an authentic fascination with music. On Motzai shabbos, he would have a group of really talented musicians come over and jam. I had never seen something like this before. In addition, I was welcomed in his home, and I needed a home. I needed a place where I could feel at home, because although I didn't know it fully at the time, but in my home of birth, I never really felt at home. His home felt like a home. His home was also special to me because I felt like he wasn't one of these Rabbis who considered himself in a league apart from the rest of humanity. He was comfortable talking about his own pain and frustration. He was a real human with a real heart, and whether he was a Rabbi or not, I needed some more real human beings in my life.
For a certain period of time, he would take me to work. I did all kinds of little chores for him, and had the luxury of spending the time with him in the car on the way in and on the way out. I needed someone to talk to and we were both happy.
One day while at his work, I saw a few things that opened my eyes. Rabbi Yaakov, had been working on a project which published pamphlets which had questions on different Jewish topics related to the heart. Topics like "Tolerance" "Forgiveness" "Love". this was one of the first time I ever saw a Rabbi write on these topics. These pamphlets were sent all over the country and communities would use them, by gathering a group of people together and noticing the texts that were quoted. Now after a moment was taken to notice the text, each member of the group would tell the rest of the group what that particular text meant to them.
This way of studying Torah (and for that matter anything) Blew my mind and was so antithetical to the way I had been taught. In our Yeshiva, the goal was just to amass large amounts of information and here this Rabbi, had created a format where each participant in the group got a chance to say their own OPINION!!!!!!!!!! as to what the text meant to them. What a concept. I had never heard of something like this and as soon as I did, I felt a renewed excitement about Torah and the possibility of me finding a way to live and enjoy being a Jew in the Torah world. I would create and lead workshops that allowed people to offer their own opinion, their own interpretation of the teachings of the Rabbis and how it applied to their lives.
I must admit, that all the while, there was something that I had been hoping to ask this Rabbi, that I had not yet developed the courage to ask. To me it was very personal and scary and I had no idea what he would say. As I had mentioned, I was thinking about sex a lot. All I knew from my yeshiva experience, was that we didn't really speak about those things. We didn't either speak about it at home, and I didn't either speak about it with my friends (when I was in yeshiva), but now it felt like a really important topic. Looking back I just wanted to speak about any of it with anyone because I knew nothing about it. Like this big obvious monster living in my pants with whom, I'd like to have a conversation, but find it impossible. Is there a special code? What do I say? what do I do for you? who do I talk to? It was like a secret that everyone seems to know but I didn't. Like a game, where no one is allowed to tell you the next move to make but that stick in your pants demands that you make one.
So, I must admit that on some level, I saw this relationship between I and the Rabbi as one that, when I felt safe enough, I could broach the topic of sex. I had barely discussed this with anyone in my life. I don't know how long it took, but eventually, during one of our drives together, I brought up the subject. My first concern was actually the fact that deep inside, I knew that it was unrealistic that I would be getting married any time soon. Knowing that I wasn't supposed to have sex until marriage, left me in a predicament of dramatic ramifications. I had no idea what to do. Knowing my urges, I didn't see any way that I'd be waiting until marriage. I just couldn't see that happening. It seemed like the only halachic option but I just didn't see how I could possibly hold out that long. (I was finding it hard to hold out for five minutes)
At that time, dressing all deep personal issues under the neat veil of a halachik, inquiry, I told Rabbi Yakov about my obsessions and desires, and asked him if he had any ideas. I told him that I really wanted to touch a woman. I asked if there was any way withing the confines of halacha that I was allowed to do so. I was hoping that since he and I had a rapport, he could find me some kind of heter, or that since he know my predicament and that it was unlikely that I would be getting married, perhaps he would be more with me (as if he is, was god's last word on the matter). To my hurt and disappointment, in response to the question as to whether I could touch a girl, he said "No, that too is a chiyuv krisus".
I was so angry. I knew in me the degree of my desires. I was angry at everyone. I was angry at how unfair life was. I knew the Toira was the way I needed to live my life, and I knew that if I touched a girl, i was f*cked. I knew that it was serious. I knew that it was the study and keeping of the Torah that connected my soul to it's highest place above. I also know that one touching of a girl would sever, slice, forever my connection with God and who knows? Perhaps I'd have to come back to this earth and roll in dog Sh*t to finally merit a spot next to the all mighty god. I was really scared now. It had taken so much courage to ask such a deeply personal question of Rabbi Yakov, and now I regretted doing so. Not only was I now angry at him, for not having more compassion on my pain, I was angry at God for creating such an awkward situation where I'd want sex so badly, see my friends get married and get laid, while I was left behind to suffer.
My anger was ablaze. Inside, I heard my angry heart yelling, sacrilegious insults at the Rabbis and the toriah and hashem. "Now I see the way it is, you really don't give a sh*t about me, and my experience and my feelings, or my suffering. All you really care about is whether that word, that halacha, is kept or not. That's it!! what happened to noting the individual....hello? No one home." All that made a difference was whether it could be found in siman alef or siman beis. My heart, my pain, made no difference.
This predicament was one that began to eat away at what I had perceived until now, as the sane, balanced, perfect world of the Toira. It was around now, that at least on some level, I allowed myself the thought "Is the life of Toirah, truly as perfect as we have been taught? Is it doable?"