A Rabbi in Palo Alto connected me with a Rabbi in LA. They told me that I could stay there for a night while I settled in. I detested the fact that I had to come onto the compassion of a Rabbi to have a place to stay. I knew all too well, what that meant. They would want something in exchange for my soul, in exchange for my ability to follow my own dream. I needed freedom not slavery. I needed to the total freedom to follow every whim and wish. How do I get myself out of this.
As I drove down the 10. I saw a sign for Santa Monica College. I was so excited. I thought about College girls and parties and freedom. I just wanted to have freedom now. I had enough of bondage. To me College symbolized, everything fun, evil, decadent and outrageous, and I was ready for all of it. They had always told me how bad it was, and now I wanted to know and experience first hand the worst of its bad.
I pulled into the Rabbis driveway at 12:00 at night. I had told them I would be late. Was anyone up, or would it be another night in the car. I really wanted a bed. I had spent many hours winding down the dizzying cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway and being baked by California's hottest. I needed a bed.
I knocked on the door, there was no answer. Knocked again, still no answer. I walked around the back and there was a light on. The Rabbi was talking to his wife in the dining room. (NO, no smooching). I was shocked at what I heard. He was actually demeaning his wife. He was talking in such a hurtful way. I cursed my destiny. I had come so far, and traveled so long to get away from this kind of behavior. I wished that I could find a better place to say. I was tired of yellers, shouters, and all those kinds of agressors. I needed a break. When? How would I get it?
Eventually someone answered the door. I was shocked that in Los Angeles there would be a Rabbis home that looked just as orthodox as the Rabbis homes in my home town. I had wanted so badly to get away from anything that reminded me of that world. Why was this happening to me? How can I possibly shake this off? This is like some evil bad dream that is latched on to my neck. It won't stop until it has robbed me of my personality, stolen my free will and taken ownership of my heart, my soul, anything I held, hold dear.
That morning, I was woken up at 6:00 AM. The Rabbi needed a minyan. I was livid. this is exactly the kind of treatment I was used to. Not only did I utterly despise davening, I was dead tired and I needed my sleep. Wasn't that common sense. "The guy just drove 10 to12 hours yesterday maybe he needs some rest" Not even an issue. We need a minyan, here's a body, get the f*cker up. That's it.
I arrived at the minyan.What could I do, he was my host after all. I must admit, that at the minyan I did meet some really cool and interesting characters. One was this tall surfer dude, with long curly hair. I couldn't understand how he got there but he and the Rabbi would go out to the water and their boards or boats. There were other odd, and peculiar people. why they came to shul I didn't know, but I did get the idea that although the Rabbi was black hat, he still had many more colorful sides to him than the ordinary black hat man, but I must still admit, he was still hard core, and my skin crawled when I was around him.
My relationship with him changed through the years. On the one hand, he was kind, and had a good heart, on the other hand he had the same rotten, stubborn attitude about ritual that I had always hated and had the worst associations to. He refused to imagine that another's destiny may fly beyond the limited confines of halacha. It also took him many years to realize that regardless of whether the Torah had any truth to it or not, my mental associations with it were so painful that I could not do it regardless. As I had found consistently with orthodox clergy, and "counselors" They rarely were able to fathom a life outside of the confines of halacha, they couldn't see that I needed to move away from it. That tendency of their being consistently poised on moving me closer to it, was like a sharp knife that consistently sliced away at any kind of trust that could have possibly been built with even the kindest and best intentioned Rabbis any frum people.
On the other hand, I must admit that this same Rabbi, as the years went on, went from being a hardened, bitter and judgemental Rabbi, to a man undergoing many levels of self reflection, relaxation, and acceptance. After he began acknowledging some of his own imperfections, he became humble enough to accept the imperfections of others. As I learned more and more about his family dynamic, I realized how much stress he must have been under at that dark moment on that dark night when I strolled into his driveway. I still keep in touch with this Rabbi from time to time. He has become a much more pleasant person to be around. He had a huge heart, a lot of compassion and many great traits which I learn from. As the years moved on, and and I would occasionally hear his talks, even those once mundane shabbos talks took on deeper and richer proportions. As he began doing his own healing, his speeches spoke way more about the human experience today than the experience of those that bore our name in the very distant past.
Meeting him, taught me some things about how anyone can heal. That inside every nasty bigot, there is a man or woman that can heal, that can learn to admit that they are human, and that humans change.