Harmony & Synergy

From My Life to Yours ~ Let's Build Some Bridges!

You didn’t grow up religious?

As a kid, my family and teachers told me that I was a deep and passionate person.  I didn’t know what these words really meant, but I liked them and felt that they said something about who I was.  I liked the idea of being a “truth seeker” because I was always the one asking the difficult questions.  My family told me that I was Jewish, but that felt essentially meaningless to me.  Most of the “religious” people that I talked to didn’t give me satisfactory answers and led me to believe that organized religion was the source of all the problems in the world and had nothing to offer me.

I thought that religious people were arrogant.  I knew that the possibilities in this world were infinite and scoffed at those who thought they could explain it all.  I knew that there was something beyond words, beyond our capacity to understand.  When asked if I believed in God, I answered “No.  I believe in the infinite truth beyond a human being’s capacity to understand.  Giving it a name and characteristics… no.”  In truth, this hasn’t changed at all.

I was the family agnostic.  Every family has one.  I remember bulldozing guests with questions at the Passover table.  When it was cited that “tradition” was important, I responded offensively, asking how doing things for the sake of tradition and following orders without understanding makes us any different from robots or nazis.  (Needless to say, this comment was NOT appreciated.)  I never dated anyone Jewish… when my parents suggested it I called them racist.  I wouldn’t say that I was angry with Judaism.  It wasn’t often that I was required to participate in something “Jewish” so I wrote it off as something that didn’t really affect me.  My parents brought me up to live with integrity, and encouraged my need to question everything.  Even though they didn’t agree with everything that I said or did, they acknowledged that it was logically sound.

In my early teens, my “religion” was music and science.  Both of these things taught me about infinity.  The fact that a single note at the beginning of a piece can be played in an infinite amount of ways proved to me that human beings could never know everything.  Science (chemistry was my favourite!) taught me that even though we can never understand everything, that we must continue to stretch our minds and build our capacity to understand.  I’ll never know everything, but I will know more than I knew yesterday.

Did I believe that every human being has a neshama/soul?  No I didn’t.  I knew the scientific law that energy cannot be created or destroyed.  Schelomo haMelech puts it very well when he says that there is nothing new under the sun.  So since I couldn’t see or quantify this thing called a soul, I didn’t believe in it.

My mom passed away when I was 16.  For obvious reasons, this changed everything.  I remember looking at her body and feeling NOTHING.  I remember thinking, “this isn’t my mom… my mom is somewhere else.”  This changed how I felt about a human soul/neshama.  You see, I knew that whatever essence was my mom was not there in her dead body.  Since energy cannot be created or destroyed, there had to be something beyond what I could see and experience.  Whatever made up my mom’s “essence” needed to be somewhere else, somewhere I couldn’t access anymore.  Where did it go?  You see, up until then I always believed that the physical and the infinite were separate.  Aka what is finite cannot have any connection to what is beyond comprehension.  Seeing the separation between my mom’s body and what made her my mom made me realize that there MUST be a connection between the finite and infinite when we are living in this world.

I studied philosophy the next year in highschool.  The man teaching this class was incredible.  I’ll never be able to properly thank him for what he has given me.  I learned different theories, different ways of thinking.  I stretched my mind to places that it had never gone before!  This class ended with a big project in which the last question we had to answer was what we thought… what was MY philosophy?  I remember struggling with this question, because I had found shreds of truth in every theory that I had read.  Did I have to pick one?  Did I have to make my own?  I ended up calling myself an “existential monist” meaning that I believed that everything is separate yet everything is connected.  I remember being argued with in class.  “How can you believe in two theories that contradict?  You can’t believe in both!”  This really stressed me out.  But I knew within the core of my being that these two opposing thoughts were both completely true.  I didn’t know how they could coexist, yet they did.

In the next few years I worked on this idea of contradiction.  I used to refer to myself as a “walking contradiction” and took pride in being able to hold to conflicting philosophies within myself.  But I was lonely.  To others as well as myself, I didn’t make logical sense.  I learned to keep this part of myself quiet.

Oh yeah, I also didn’t believe in universal morality.  I knew that if “right/wrong” existed, then it had to exist outside of what humans have created.  Because how can I say what’s right or wrong when someone else with just as much importance as me might disagree completely?  What makes my human opinion more important than his/her human opinion?  Unless one was willing to believe in a non-human force that knows right from wrong, then there couldn’t be any universal morality.   I didn’t like this one bit… but I remember passionately arguing with people about the fact that if they didn’t believe in God (or some outside governing force) then they couldn’t believe in morality.  I know I hurt a lot of people with my ruthless logic.  This kept me up at night, because I knew it wasn’t true… yet my love for logic made my arguments sound and I couldn’t deny them.

You know how when you’re a kid you build yourself a fantasy life and then try to become that fantasy?  I always thought that I was smart and that I knew what I was doing.  I worked hard and by the time I was mid-university I had become the person that I wanted to be.  From the outside, I had everything… on the inside I was starting to realize that I didn’t know anything about what I wanted or what was good for me.  My life was empty.  The things that I wanted and had thought through so “deeply” weren’t fulfilling…

It took a lot of bravery to admit that to myself.  When you’re always told how “deep, passionate, logical and truth-seeking” you are, you start to see yourself as being that way.  So when you finally get everything that you “want” and aren’t happy, it takes a lot to remove yourself from those things.  But I realized that I had to live up to those beautiful labels… if I was going to be happy, then maybe I was going to have to let go of everything that I had built up.  When I realized that what I wanted wasn’t necessarily what I needed, I felt the most incredible freedom!  I realized that I could be ANYTHING!  But this feeling was also very scary…

So, in a nutshell, I reached a point in my life where I let go.  I let go of everything I had been told, every bias that I had, everything I loved and everything I hated.  I felt like I was falling while being lifted up at the same time.

I decided to face the things I had always hated.  I won’t go into all the things that I explored because most of them lead to the same empty dead ends.  I will say that when I let go of myself and opened up to what the world had to offer me, some incredible things started filtering in!

Many people ask me “what about you has changed?”  The funny thing is, not much has changed.  The things that I hated about religion?  I still dislike them.  I just decided to not let those issues get in the way of exploring and bringing it into my life in a way that was honest and true to myself.  I let all the doubts come out… and eventually figured out that there is synergy in contradiction.  I am so incredibly happy that I did.  I give everyone reading this a blessing that you will be given the opportunities to stretch your capacities, and that you will have the bravery to look at your life and let go of everything that you want in order to find what you truly need.

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17 Comments

  1. Eve

    That was incredibly lovely. I felt such a strong recall as I read your words, almost like I was reading my own life. I really admire your dedication to the truth despite everything, despite how convenient it would have been to lie.
    I look forward to reading more and thank you for sharing that.

    • Eve, I’ve always felt that we have more in common than our friendship has allowed us to know. I admire your integrity so much and I’m so glad that you’re reading!

  2. Marina

    I really enjoyed reading this, Andrea! I think that in a way, I am still dealing with some of the things that you have already dealt with, and reading about how you dealt with all this makes me realize that the journey to knowing myself has just begun! Lots of hugs and kisses from Marina! <3

    • Thank you Marina, I’m so glad that my story is resonating with others! I wish you tons of strength and clarity while you embark on your amazing journey… I know your path will bring you to incredible places!

  3. Jeanne

    This is amazing. So beautiful. And I love the part about letting go.

  4. Ayelet

    Andrea, I love your honest and direct style of writing. I was disappointed reading the last few paragraphs – not because of the peace you found, of course! – because I felt like I didn’t get a glimpse of your discoveries…. A sequel, perhaps?

  5. Aisha

    hi im muslim , once i saw your photo wearing hijab that made me read your article , i never knew that jew wearing hijab (scarf) , anyway i just wanna say that i enjoyed when i read your article
    thanks

  6. Shalom Andrea
    I have seen a lot of your youtube videos on how to tie a tichel, and today I realized that you have this website. I found out that you and Rivka Malka know eachother. She’s also one of my favourite youtube contributors.
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and know-how. I think that it’s so amazing today, that one person can influence so many people through the social networks.
    A bit about myself: I live in Denmark (Europe), I found God when I was 28 years old. I’m christian and I was babtized in 2003. I’ve been very much on my own in relation to get to identify myself as a christian. Sometimes I have felt a desire to cover my hair, but I was afraid of what people would say to me.
    When I was a little girl I knew an african girl, and her mother always covered her head. I’ve always found it to be beautiful. I’ve bought some muslim headwraps some years ago, but it just didn’t feel right. So I wore them at home, not out in the public.
    Last year I dyed my hair pink and purple, for about 6 months. When january came my hair was so damaged that I came up with the idea to cut it all off, and start wearing a headwrap. So during lent this year, I started wearing hats and Tichel in public.
    I admit that I don’t do it everyday now, since my hair has grown a bit, but I like to wear it. Wearing a headscarf make me feel much more feminin, and also in closer contact with God.

    God bless you
    Line

  7. Shalom, Andrea,
    Like Line, I, too have been following you and Rivka Malka on YouTube and just discovered your website. I was raised in the Episcopalian church, but 9 years ago discovered that my grandmother was Jewish, but adopted as a child by a Christian family. She never talked about it, which makes me sad. When my mother met my husband, who is a non-practicing Jew from Haifa, Israel, my mother started speaking to him in Yiddish!! That’s when she told me about my grandmother’s ancestry and story. The funny thing is, in my early 30’s I began to feel something indescribable in my soul. Slowly it happened–a desire to understand my spirituality, and with that led to my feeling an unusually strong connection to the words and teachings of Judaism. You see, I also asked too many questions, and when I couldn’t find answers in my church of youth, I stopped believing. I decided at the age of 16 that organized religion was “brainwashing” people to believe in mythical cults. Now, I believe exactly as you do (only I would NEVER have been able to explain it as eloquently as you have!), but I do not go to temple or worship God in an organized way. Sadly, my husband is much older than I and was raised a Zionist with the kibbutzim of his day and will not believe in God, nor accept that I do. Now we are living separately and I can feel free to further explore my religious spirituality (too bad at this expense). I am so happy to have discovered you and Rivka Malka, who share your wisdom and guidance with half a “ba’alat teshuva” like myself. Thank you for wanting to reach out and build bridges, because I am here yearning to connect with you! Shalom and God bless you,
    Jennifer Langer

    • Wow – what an incredible story. I am thinking of you and wishing you lots of clarity and connection on your journey. I would love to be in touch and hear how you are doing!

  8. Thank you for sharing so honestly about your beliefs, struggle and how you reconciled the contradictions. I have always identified as a spiritual atheist. I too don’t believe in the big guy sitting on a cloud theory but I know in my soul how infinitely connected we all are, from a molecular-physical stance. I have struggled with a label for a long time and eventually converted to Judaism (Reconstructionist) because it’s there where I found like souls. Your writing inspires me to continue to be ‘connected’. PS I also love your tichel-videos.

  9. Yaelli Perlman

    Hi Andrea,
    I just need to tell you what a truly uniquely precious person I feel you are. From the few videos I’ve seen of you and the way you express yourself in writing, I feel you are so special, in your thinking and living and ability to combine different elements and integrate what is genuine to your essence in an honest and courageous way. I am just inspired by you and charmed by your chein! I look forward to reading more and learning from your ideas, thoughts and suggestions. I am blessed to have Rivka Malka as a sister in law in our family as well.

  10. Rachael

    Hi Andrea,
    I loved reading this! You are a fantastic, inspiring and truthful writer! I enjoy reading through all the posts and comments as i have always felt a connection to the Jewish faith and had a deep respect and almost envy of what i know of Judaism and also my lovely muslim friends. I am catholic but left to my own devises in regards to my level of commitment to the church as my mother is not religious. I am adopted amd last hear came to find out about my biological father and it turns out he was a German immigrant and google tells me his last name is derived from the old german jewish last name Elrod but google is not gospel so who knows! Now i finally have something to research to try and fill the void i felt growing up… I had a wonderful upbringing and i am very blessed, although i always felt in my core i was part of something beautiful… Culturally or religiously i cant explain it! I have always wanted to cover my hair but have never had the courage to do it in public… Its almost as if i was told ” yes your father is Jewish” its a permission to cover, learn and embrace Judaism lol im so sorry for the rambeling – i just had to get these thoughts and feelings out! Sorry i took it out on you ha ha :)

    Thank you
    Rachael x

    • Sounds like your journey has been incredible and will continue to be!!!

  11. Lisa Ann Maynard

    Hello.Andrea, I found your site through watching a hair wrapping video. I wanted to know more about this kind spirit speaking to me with so much love so I checkex out the drop down box which led me here. I myself have been a truth seeker just like you. Struggling with “orginized” religions but always had such a deep deep spititual connection to the higher power which I choose to call God. This led me to go on a very personal spiritual seeking, studying many different religions (to an extent) just searching for my “place” I was raised Lutheran but only attended services on Easter Sunday & even that was short lived. It seemed as if my family just lost interest in it. But this afforded me the opportunity to seek out my own path & it took me down many. From Aethism to Wiccan to Buddism to for a short & confusing period of the Hara Krishna faiths (which I still hardly understand) I’m still in limbo at this time. I do not say “lost” because I know where my beliefs lie, where my heart resides. I’m just so desperatly needing a “family” a place to study,learn & worship in fellowship. My question is, is it considered inappropriate or frowned upon for someone who is not Jewish,actually far from (Italian, German, Dutch & Irish) to convert to Judism? Through all my studying, searching, I’ve found it to be the one true religion. The Holiest of Holy! I feel drasn to this passionatly. As you can tell from my writings here, I do still have so, so much left to learn but what I do know about the faith is that this is where I belong on my path. I’ve already been to the fork in it & it has taken me full circlr always back to the one true faith! Please do me a great favor & contact me about this at jlmaynard2008@gmail.com. Also! anyone else reading this who feels they have something to say to me to help with this, please feel bred to contact me as well! I will be eagerly checking my mail daily in hopes to hear back from you!! (Please excuse the typos. I don’t see that well at times & my Nook has no spell correction) Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Many blessings to you and yours! Lisa Maynard

  12. I know that seeker thing too well.

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