Or so they say. Perhaps I’m not off many paths but on them. And wanting different ones, or ones that run congruent to one another, but not necessarily parallel.
It’s a journey, this being off the derech in the classical sense of the word. It’s a journey because so many things have been left behind, yet so many things are open to me that were never possible before. I feel like the woman in this painting – just left the one path that was predetermined for me as I lay wordlessly in my newborn cradle. Filled with shadows, with baggage and with equal amounts of joy and sorrow. Then there’s the path she’s taking now. The path diverges several times, there are options, but those can also have shadows.
Am I glad I left my upbringing? Yes. Definitively. Without a doubt. But I don’t know where that leaves me in many ways. One – am I still Jewish? What Jewish practices do I keep? What chumros do I leave behind? How do I reconcile motherhood when I have children in chareidi society and children who know only alef through vov?
And, perhaps most importantly, how do I stay healthy? How do I make sure that whatever path my children choose that their mother is there, that she’s healthy, that she can be a comfort when they hurt and an example for them to follow? To make sure that my children are open, honest, caring and joyful?
It starts with many paths, either off or on. Welcome to my journey.