I hated the fact that I had been born a Jew. To me it was a web of restrictions and curses which ended up destroying a mans life in this world and the next. I couldn't imagine a worse kind of predicament. I had wished, at times, that I could find out that I was actually a non Jew and didn't need to abide by all these laws. In a way, I wished that I could jump out of my body, into that of a non Jew. I was tired of all the stress and all the pressure, always wondering what would happen, if I was doing something that shamed God for which he would punish me. I just wanted to live and breath and laugh and explore and the Jewish God seemed to have put me here to suffer, and die and think about death all the time. I wanted out.
One day I went to the beach. I wanted to talk to a non Jew, perhaps he would give me some perspective. I wanted to see things differently. Was there a way. I found a man sitting on the beach, long dreads, and long beard, which was all knotted together. I had never seen anything like this before. I wanted to talk to this man. He seemed to have joy and he was obviously non Jewish. I wasn't wearing a yarmulka, so that I could start freshly. I didn't want anyone to know I was a Jew. I hoped that I could leave all those evil memories and associations behind me.
He sat on the sand while I stood and spoke. As the conversations wore on, he says " I sense that we are family. Are you Jewish?" At that time, I was not sensitive to the fact that a Jew looks different, and may be recognizable by certain features. I was shocked "how did he know?" I was scared "I thought I disguised myself pretty well?" I was angry, " why can't I get away from all this?" I hate being a Jew. I had this idea that if I could be recognized, I could be found. I remember reading in the Torah that Hashem will find you. No one can hide from God. I could never get away from him, if I sinned. I wanted to know that I was safe, that I could indeed get away from God if I needed to. I was scared that he had found me. I had tried to get away and have a conversation where no one would know that I was a jew and here I was found out.
To make matters worse, he said " My name is Refael Yakov (a jewish name) and I'm from New Jersey" I was a little annoyed. I had hoped to meet a non Jew, and here I was stuck with a Jew again. Turns out we spoke about music. He played the guitar. He was a hippy. As we walked away from the beach, he played me a song, that I had never heard before, but which cracked open my brain making me wonder so much about all of who I had become and all of what had happened to me. It demanded forth a storm of questions without answers in sight.
He sang Debbie Friedmans " and you shall love the lord your god with all your heart" It as so beautiful, and as he sang, it sounded, felt that he actually had a loving relationship with God. I had no choice but to wonder, what was wrong here? How could he sing about loving God when I hate god? Is it possible to love God? Please tell me it's possible!! But how can it be. God said, I shall pursue, you and catch you and torture you and beat you"? Can it be that he loves us. I wanted love. I liked that word. I wanted to feel love. I wanted to feel safe and at peace. Was that possible? He sang about love. He seemed to love God. Oh, how I wished that I could turn back the clock, and undo the pain of the last 15 years. I wished that I could forget all that I had seen and heard. I really wanted to be a jew, I wanted to be a happy Jew. what happened to me? How did this all happen?
Based on what I was taught, it seemed that my reaction was sound and normal "praised is the man who is always in fear" said king david. That was me. Would I not then be considered among the righteous for being so scared all the time? Didn't god tell us in parshat nitzavim that we would be chased and running and scared all the time. Was that not me? Was I not living his precise predictions. How could I possibly dare think that I would escape Gods sound predictions?
Still. I still hoped that perhaps it would be possible to have peace, to have love, after all, there were some it seemed that had a love for God. I did not know how that was possible, but I assumed that it was because they lived in a world of naivety where they did not know the law, they did not know what awaited them for every single moment of bitul torah (time wasted, doing other pursuits other than Torah). They were blind, but soon their destiny would catch up to them. There was no escaping the fury of God. Who do you think you are messing with?