All you need is certainty

Overheard in Synagogue

I was sitting next to a clinically psychologist who specializes in young adults or as he calls them “emerging adults.”

He told me about the children that leave the Orthodox community but he wanted to focus on those young adults who naturally start to mirror their parent’s religion as they mature and it causes deep anxiety in their parents. It rattles the parents to see the kids acting out the parent’s doubts about the system, and acting out the parent’s hypocrisies, rationalizations, and transgressions. The parents loss their own bearing and increase their anxiety when they see themselves in the mirror of their children.

He also described those young adults who are absolutely certain in their religion, and complete in their Orthodoxy, but that they cannot bear any doubts, questions or uncertainties. When asked about their faith they say: why do you have to ask these questions? Can you just change the topic? They avoid thinking about these things. They seek any means to maintain their certainties. Any rationalization will work. Some turn to Hasidic emotionalism.

When they go off to Israel, they find certainty because some of the best Rabbis offer unconditional love, total acceptance no matter how much the kid strays. With the isolation from society during the year, their only means of dealing with uncertainty is to run to the only resource they have, that is, the rabbi who offers emotional certainty.

He commented that this unconditional love is good for heroin addicts but should not be the norm for normal kids.

He wants to write a book for the orthodox community on learning to accept doubt and uncertainty.

2 responses to “All you need is certainty

  1. I think the first two observations ,that sometimes parents and children can not accept doubt ,is due to that many Orthodox Jews identitfy as Orthodox as a tribal identity so one can not tolerate questions because they are not just theological questions but questions challanging the veracity of the tribal religious identity ,

  2. In “Stars of David”, Wieseltier said one of the most powerful things for me about ‘unconditional’ love;

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