I Wanted To Be Holier Than Dennis Prager

Listening to Dennis Prager on KABC radio beginning in August of 1988 turned me on to Judaism. I read Prager’s book The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism and by December of 1989, I had decided to convert.

With a lifelong tendency towards extremism, I initially decided that I wanted to be holier than Dennis Prager. Dennis didn’t pretend to be anything he wasn’t. He didn’t pretend to be Orthodox. He just didn’t have an Orthodox temperament. He wasn’t a saint. He’d played the field as a single man. I wasn’t going to be like that. I was going to be holier.

I gave up masturbation. Following the Orthodox practice, I refused to shake hands with women. I grew a beard and wore a yarmulke and tzitzit around my parents home where I was living from 1989-1993 while I struggled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Dennis Prager struggled with prayer. I read some books on the Jewish approach to prayer and they turned me on before I did much praying from the siddur (Jewish prayer book), when I realized how much drudgery it was. The inspiration only went so far. I decided I’d use prayer time in shul to study Torah, just like Dennis Prager does.

I started meeting girls and I gave up my chastity and found myself having a great time playing the field. I quickly saw that I was not only not holier than Dennis Prager, I was considerably less holy.

I tried to fence myself in by studying more Torah and observing those Torah laws that weren’t too inconvenient. I figured I could cheat on the sexual guidelines so long as I was strict and pious in everything else. I’d be 612 (613 commandments are traditionally ascribed to the Torah).

So did I feel any guilt about being less holy than Dennis Prager? Not really. I figured that so long as I was in the ballpark of what Dennis prescribed I was doing fine.

I came to Judaism by following the personal example of a moderate man and so I never got too down on myself until I blew up my relationship with Dennis in early 1998 (by blogging about him) and that led me to therapy and to eventual realizations about my deep-seated intimacy disorder that manifested in various emotional addictions.

Life lets you know what you’re good at. In the face of female temptation, it was quickly apparent that I was not cut out for moral leadership. Instead, like Rousseau, I found I did better at writing confessional literature.

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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