I write this blog because I read the blogs.
I’ve enjoyed others people’s writings my whole life (except for six years of my childhood and three years after immigrating to this country). Then, after settling in the US, I neither spoke nor wrote English at all. Now B-H I’m trying both. Before that happened however, I read blogs by other people.
One of them is the blog of Hershel Tzig (my neighbor), called Circus Tent. I don’t even remember for how long he has written it. Even though I have disagreed with his opinions and conclusions countless times, I have enjoyed it for many years.
He is alumni of the Spinka Hader (a stream of Satmar, for those who are not familiar) who became Lubavicher; I’m a ger who is Satmar-affiliated. I never had much exposure to contemporary Lubavich, besides studying Tanya on a regular basis with one of Bnay Maluchim (sort of Satmar-affiliated Lubavichers, for those who are not familiar).
Although I often disagree with Hershel Tzig, I never posted my comments on his blog because of my poor English skills. He doesn’t even know that I exist, but I like his writings. Why? The answer is simple: I see him as genuine seeker of the Derech Hashem (path of service of G-d) that is proper for him.
From time to time he hosts other writers who post their articles on his blog. Most of the time, I enjoy those essays, too. Last week Reb Hershel posted an essay by an individual calling himself Meyer Shimanowitz. I read this essay with the great sadness and pain. The flow of words and ideas served only one reason: self-justification of the author’s weakness, going as far as threatening the world with a self-pitying suicide.
I’m certain that author of this post is highly intelligent person; his English skills are superior. His ability to observe the world is truly unique. Unfortunately he uses his talent to justify his own moral degradation, blaming his faults on a lack of scholarly freedom and intellectual inability, and, more than that, on intellectual slavery by the members of frum community.
He writes supposedly about himself: “His eyes are wide open; a Heimishe yingerman’s olfactory receptor cells have picked up tantalizing scents of fresh intellectual pasture.”
But soon he describes his conscious submission to desire. Men of all intellectual levels have these desires, the strongest ones in our bodies. He actually suggests the one was the result of the other: that his intellectual struggle and striving pushed him straight to the open arms of a woman who is not the mother of his three daughters.
Then he describes different types of human characters, suggesting that in fact there is no difference between adherents of Torah and, let’s say, big game watchers. Among both these and those are some who are fans, some who are to a certain extent skeptics, some who are intelligent observers, and some who stay where they are just for the comfort of being there.
I have to admit that his observation of different characters and temperaments is brilliantly and skillfully described. He dreams perhaps that no one before him did this job of classifying and categorizing humans. He must enjoy his writing as I enjoy mine. Does it make us equal?
Like him, in certain moments of my life my “olfactory receptor cells have picked up tantalizing scents of fresh intellectual pasture”--or pastures, rather. I read and read and read. Everything. From classic and existential philosophy to social philosophy. I read theology and history books and then the history of theology. (Rarely classics of world literature, as I saw them too diluted with ideas, but nevertheless I enjoyed some of those works as well.)
I went through these pastures in all possible directions, but I was not content with what my eye could grasp on the surface; I wanted to know more. I cannot make the claim that I left no stone unturned in this field of ideas and ideologies, but I certainly can make the claim that I picked up all the major stones, regardless of size and weight. I ended, and in part went through this adventure with my wife and three kids.
Today, I wear a shtreimel and shainy beketche on Shabes. I know, it is only outward, it does not necessarily represent the value of the person inside the beketche. I may be naïve, but I’m not an idiot. But I chose it carefully and after years of observation.
I learned Mussar Sefurim, the best descriptions of human characters and personality... books which open my inner eyes to see myself--who I am and what life is about. Hey, Shimanowitz! When you’ve stuffed yourself with these strange grasses, let me know what you found there that I did not.
Or maybe it is not the pasture that attracts you …