Many notes and an apology
I am aghast however at the vitriol from those few people who cannot seem to feel both compassion for me and faith in halacha at the same time. They seem to be experiencing some cognitive dissonance over the fact that on the one hand we are obligated to keep mitzvos and that as Orthodox people we do not feel there are any excuses for ever breaking a halacha, ever, except in cases of sickness or other danger to life . . . and yet all over the place are Orthodox people who break halachos all the time because keeping all the halachos all the time is very very challenging. Much too challenging for most people. Are there not any halachos that they, too, break in secret? Do not they, too, have something for which to repent this week? And is not our job to continue to do our best, though only angels are perfect in their service of Hashem?
And yet they have a point in the fact that I have not kept my failing a secret, I have posted it on the internet for all to see. And I have stated publicly that I do not feel guilty about this failing at this time because I know that I have reached the end of my own potential to keep this law anymore. I kept it and kept it and kept it . . . and honestly I am glad I kept it, especially when I was young and impressionable and less sure of myself, and there was the potential to be hurt and violated as so many of my non-S.N. readers tell me they were when they were younger.
And they also have a point that it is callous to break the law and write about it during the Aseres Yimei Teshuva. I will not attempt to justify or apologize for my having kissed for the first time, without being married, just before Yom Kippur. But I do agree that it was wrong of me to write a blog about it before Yom Kippur. My post obviously dredged up a lot of issues for a lot of people, perhaps about their own sins, their own sexual history, or their own guilt for whatever they are repenting this week, and by posting when I did I complicated their thoughts and made their own process a little more confusing, or depressing, or filled with anger.
So I apologize to my readers for not at least having the sensitivity to my audience to wait until after Yom Kippur to post what I did.
Also I want to say very clearly to all the S.N. people who are reading my blog: Keep it up as long as you can! It is a good and holy and pure and beautiful way to live even though it is very very very hard. Like some of my readers I do fear that there are people who read my blog and will use it as an excuse not to be S.N. anymore. Especially young people in their teenage years, when not being S.N. can really lead to things that people regret later. I have gotten so many emails and comments from people who said that their experiences of kissing (or sex, depending on how Orthodox they were or how dedicated to S.N. they were) when they were younger left them with many emotional scars because they did things before they were ready, or with people who were very bad choices for them. I pray that none of my readers will do anything as a result of reading my blog that will give them any regrets later in their lives. Please have faith in yourself and in the Torah as long as you can.
But a point of my blog is that “can” is not an easy term to define. It is impossible to live without food or air, but possible to live without kissing and hugging, and so some people seem to think that of course any single person “can” be Shomer Negiah if only their faith and self-control are strong enough. But I remind those people that there is a big problem in our society of people getting married later and later, and relationships that do not work out for one reason or another, and in particular it is a well-known problem that there are many more frum women looking seriously for marriage than men who are compatible for them. Therefore the task of remaining S.N. goes on for years and years for some people. And so I reiterate that unless you, too, are at least 35 and have never been married, you cannot possibly determine for me whether I “can” be Shomer Negiah anymore. And even if you are my age and still S.N., if you have never been inside my brain and my body and my life you also cannot know if I “can.” Only Hashem knows. Hashem will not judge me based on whether I am as pious as you, but rather on whether I am as pious as I, Nice Jewish Girl, have the potential to be. And I know, I KNOW, with my whole heart, that when it comes to S.N. I have reached my potential. Over-extended it, even. And that is why I do not feel guilty. Because I am completely, utterly shalem that in this area I did absolutely everything that is expected of me and more. My only regret like I said is in writing about it before Yom Kippur and any chillul Hashem I have committed, or any michshol I have placed before others who are similarly weak, by writing about it on this blog. For any sins committed by others as a result of my blog I am deeply ashamed and hope that both Hashem and the people involved will forgive me somehow.
A few more things before I disappear for a little while:
First, the man I have kissed is absolutely not pushing me to go any further. In fact he told me that the next few times we meet he wants to go back to being S.N. at least for a little while so that the physical pleasure does not “get ahead” of the emotional bond we are trying to build. He is a very intelligent and kind man.
Second, the people who are encouraging me to try to get a marriage proposal "out of him" in order to “test” whether he is really serious are not considering that perhaps I myself am not quite ready to get engaged to him. Yes it is true that my goal was never just to be kissed but to get married so that I will have companionship and a family. Yes it is true that I would not be dating him unless I thought that he has strong potential to be Mr. Nice Jewish Boy. And he also is taking a long view and only dates people who have the potential to be a lifelong partner for him. Neither of us considers this a game, or casual dating, or just for fun. We both have serious goals. However that does not mean that either of us has enough information to know whether getting married to each other is for sure a good idea. The point of dating is to get to know each other well enough to see if we would make good marriage partners. It has been only a month. It is a long-distance relationship. There are many situations in which I have not seen him. I have never seen him get angry for example. I have never met his family or seen how he is with them. And of course there are many differences between us because of differences in how we were raised that we need to talk about and make sure that we can work them out. There are many important things to consider before getting married and while in my circles people do get engaged faster than in general American society (usually after 3 or 4 months), I cannot be 100 percent sure that he is compatible for me until we know each other better. At this point I am maybe 80 percent sure that I could marry him but the other 20 percent will take a little longer to come. I am though 100 percent sure that he is a nice man with good values who is good to me, and if this all leads to marriage with him I will certainly not mind! I am 100 percent sure that this is the best relationship I have had for many many years. I am 100 percent sure that he is a good enough man, whom I know well enough, that kissing him does not make me feel cheap. I know him well enough to know that he is worth the risk of making myself vulnerable. There are decisions that one can make at 35 that one could not have made as intelligently when they were much younger. But one month is too fast for me to get engaged.
Third, I am definitely not blogging about my actions anymore until something major happens, like an engagement or a breakup (I hope very very much it is the former but know in my mind there is the possibility for the latter until there is a ring on my finger.) Relationships are confusing and emotional enough without 70 strangers leaving comments about their opinions on what I am doing! I am not blaming people for leaving comments since if I am writing a blog I have to expect comments, but I definitely will not do it anymore. Maybe I will write another post or two answering reader’s questions, but there will not be any updates about whether we are S.N. or not or any other details about my relationship. If something truly dramatic happens I will post it since I know that there are many people who have come to care about me and will be wondering how I am doing – thank you! But no details!
Finally, in the future please everyone make up some name for yourself in the comments section. If everyone calls themself “anonymous” then there is no way to distinguish between the commenters. It is also helpful but not required if you could write whether you are Orthodox or not so that we will better be able to understand where everyone else is coming from in their opinions. But only if you want to. But definitely make up a name for yourself. Thank you.
I hope everyone has a gmar v’chasimah tova, and to everyone who is feeling guilty about their wrongdoings in the past: Do not despair! Hashem gave us Yom Kippur specifically because He wants us to return to Him! He always takes us back with open arms. We are His children. Though we may sometimes forsake Him, he does not forsake us.