JUDAISM DIDN’T FIX MY LIFE, I NEED TO DO IT

By Mindy Rubenstein

I thought I was broken. It was an emotional pain sometimes so deep it consumed me.

I thought that when I discovered Torah Judaism 12 years ago, it would fix me. Those thoughts that exist in your mind that tell you that you’re not enough, you don’t have enough; I had believed them. And so I searched for meaning in life and authenticity and G‑d and structure. And during a beautiful Shabbat dinner at a Chabad rabbi’s house, I felt that I had discovered the answer, the cure. That if I lived like them, life would be good.

And so I jumped in with both feet and my entire being—already 30 years old, married with two children—into the world of Torah Judaism.

And it was, it still is, magical. I began keeping kosher, observing Shabbat and family purity, and dressing modestly. But I also judged others who couldn’t or didn’t want to keep up with my frenetic pace towards religious observance. My husband saw my passion and agreed, hesitantly at first, to embark on this journey with me.

And our journey that began with us growing up around the block from each other in the Tampa Bay area of Florida has brought us to Maryland, Georgia, Virginia and now back to Florida. Our goal has always been to find the best Torah community and schools. As “BTs” (baalei teshuvah or “returners to the faith”), that seemed like no easy feat. Even those raised in observant homes struggle to find the right path. But I didn’t know that.

Now that we’ve landed in a new community, people ask us how we like it. And I didn’t like it, at first. The places we came from seemed so much better in many ways, except while I was there.

So I tell them that I have learned that every community, every school, every person, has its pros and cons. If you look for the good, that is what you’ll see. And so that is what I am doing now. I am, with G‑d’s help, training my mind to be positive. To trust that everything is a message, and it’s all ultimately for my good, even if I don’t realize it in the moment.

Someone recently gave the most beautiful analogy. That our world is like a vast needlepoint, beautiful and vibrant. From the bottom, however, it looks like random knots. That is what we often see—knots, pain, chaos—but G‑d sees the real picture.

I remember as a little girl watching my grandmothers create their needlepoints, which now hang on my walls. And each time I look at them in all their detailed and delicate beauty, I try to remember that it’s all good, even if it doesn’t feel that way.

And I have discovered that it’s not a weakness to seek help. I’m not sure why more people don’t talk about this. We can tell someone we have diabetes or back pain or migraines, but not that we seek therapy or coaching. There is no shame in seeking self-improvement and growth, or acknowledging that you need help.

I thought finding Torah would fix me. And in many ways, it did help me create a beautiful, religious life for my family that includes weekly Shabbat family meals and a dedication to something meaningful. But I also needed to learn to hear my own, inner voice—to trust the innate health that is my birthright. I pray that as I learn to develop this inner stillness through prayer, diet and exercise, things will continue to get easier. But life isn’t meant to be easy.

For now, I’m being patient with myself and trying not to judge. My nature, though it has caused me struggles, has also fueled my passion for writing, helped me earn a graduate degree and have a career in publishing.

There are ups, and there are downs. This is the situation G‑d gave me, so I’m admitting I need help, seeking it and trusting that those along my path are all part of the bigger picture, leading me where I’m meant to be.

Which is right here, right now, in this moment. I am whole. I was always whole. I just didn’t know it yet.

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