Rabbs: The Power And The Glory

From last Monday night’s Torah talk:

Luke: “How was your Rosh Hashanah?”

Rabbs: “God awful. Seventy three straight hours of going out of my mind. I absolutely hated it. Brutal.”

Luke: “What do you have against going to shul?”

Rabbs: “I suffer from agoraphobia. Fear of too many people. Claustrophobia. Both. It’s hard for me to get out of my apartment to go to a place. I can’t set foot inside a shul filled with people.”

“When I was at my nephew’s aufruff, it was a shul. I wanted to be there when he got his aliyah. I was out in 30 seconds.

“The wedding was a different story. It wasn’t at a shul.”

“I was in yeshiva for years, 24/7. Davening. Learning. At some point, I overloaded. I’ve never been a person who likes to be seen doing things in public.”

Luke: “What about a football stadium? Do you feel agoraphobic?”

Rabbs: “No.”

Luke: “What about a strip club?”

Rabbs: “Never been in one.”

I’ve been reading Rabbs’ book and found this: “My daily routine is only a mere shadow of what I was once doing years ago. It is so obvious to me that being alone has slowly killed all of my desires to learn, daven, go to shul, and run to fulfill commandments.”

“I have been hit on by more than 1000 women in the frum community in less than the past two years. That’s right, more than 1000. Of those women, more than 99 percent of them want me to be the father of their kids and/or stepfather of their existing kids.”

Here’s more:

When I was younger, I spent Shabbos as a guest of various families, but that became old real fast. First of all, I got tired of being the only single person seated at a table full of married people. That always felt awkward. Second, I don’t like being around babies and small children, and frum families usually have boatloads of them, and so do their other invited guests. I recall once hearing a hostess with her hands full and looking for somewhere to dish her child off to say, “I am sure Hershel wants to hold the baby” and moving towards me with her kid, hoping to put it in my arms. Well, guess what? Did she ever ask Hershel? Because I know him pretty well and feel quite comfortable providing this news flash: Hershel doesn’t want to hold the baby! And, if that hostess never sees him back in her house again, she will know why.

So, I stopped going to married people for Shabbos meals a long time ago. That forces me to eat by myself at home every week, and I don’t know how to cook. This is going to sound selfish, lazy, and perhaps even sexist, but I assumed all along that I would be married by now and I was hoping my wife would bring her culinary skills into the marriage. Hence, I never bothered to learn how to prepare meals for myself. I guess I didn’t realize that I would be on my own forever. So, whereas I go to eat from a wide variety of gourmet cuisines at a plethora of fine kosher restaurants here in Jewtown all week long, they are all closed on Shabbos, leaving me with only canned tuna sandwiches for the Sabbath. Hence, my worst meals of each week are on Shabbos.

But, wait there’s more. I also stopped going to shul years ago. Why? For numerous reasons, one of which is that I can’t deal with standing out as single while surrounded by married men my age and younger, nor can I deal with being in a room full of singles, but being twice as old as everyone else.

…I am extremely tired of being asked the rude question, “where do you daven?” by so many Jews that I meet. No one should ever ask that to a stranger, because doing so inquires into one’s private life. What could be more personal to an individual than how and where one chooses to pray? I should not be put into the awkward and humiliating position where I must confess to total strangers where I pray or whether I pray at all. Those subjects are strictly between G-d and me.

…Getting back to the point, because it is too awkward for me to go to shul, and because I will not eat by families, I spend almost every Shabbos by myself. Because I am not allowed to drive a car nor ride a bike, I spend almost the entire Shabbos at home. Because I am not permitted to watch TV, nor listen to music, nor use a computer or phone, nor write, nor work out on my Nordic Track, I spend almost the entire time going out of my mind, bored to death, with nothing to do, no one to communicate with, and nothing but canned tuna to eat. For me, it is 25 hours of pure hell spent in solitary confinement in which I climb the walls thinking about how much I hate my life and how much I look forward to being dead already.

…Sometimes I venture outside of my jail cell to go on a walk for an hour, but doing so often leads to more mental anguish as I see frum Jews in my neighborhood. Almost all of them walk with their spouse, their family, or in a group of friends. When I see them, I am reminded of how alone I am.

…Basically, I try to avoid any situation where I will feel like the older single loser guy, and in this community where it seems no one else my age is still single, such situations happen quite often. So, to maintain my sanity, I tend to remove myself from the community.

…I cannot express enough how deeply upsetting it is for me to constantly celebrate everyone else’s joyous occasions while knowing that I will never have my own.

…My problems might appear to skeptics as nothing more than shyness, laziness, and low self-esteem. However, those critics would be mistaken, because I believe what plagues me is most likely what a psychiatrist once diagnosed as a psychotic form of paranoia, which might be most accurately described as agoraphobia on steroids. Basically, what goes on in my brain is not normal nor average, and is so profoundly warped that I sometimes wonder if I might be nuts.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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