Monday, April 7, 2014
How do I separate abuse and my family from Torah? (Part five of, "Ten Things I Needed To Learn In Order To Heal.")
I was abused on holy territory. In a yeshiva, by a rabbi and rabbinical students.
I had to allow myself to reject Judaism for a time, in order to separate Torah from abuse.
I used to wear a pin, "I was not created in YOUR image of God."
I needed distance, and I gave myself the space that I needed. Afterwards, I spent a lot of time with frum (religious) families that were nothing like mine.
I began to realize that many of my family's beliefs and behaviors had nothing to do with Torah and everything to do with trauma.
I began to be aware of the multi-generational trauma and how it impacted my family and my life. Cutting me off is one example of how cruel our behavior can become, if we hide and deny pain.
I came back to a Torah lifestyle, by finding myself in the Torah, and the Torah in myself.
We have only to look at the Torah to know that covering up mistakes, even by our most revered leaders, is not the Torah way.
I found myself in the story of Tamar who was raped by her brother Amnon. (Shmuel Bet 13)
Tamar did not keep it a secret.
The Torah does not keep Tamar's rape a secret.
I found myself in the story of Yosef and his brothers.
I have eleven brothers.
They never wanted to hear what I had to say.
They called me a liar.
They believed I was a threat to our family.
A threat to their destiny.
When I was young, "they threw me into a pit full of
snakes and scorpions.
Then they sold me down to Egypt."
They lied about what happened to me.
For many years, I suffered.
with the help of God
I am still in exile.
It's been many many years since I was sold.
It's been many years since I saw my brothers.
There is a famine in the world.
People are coming to me for food.
I am preparing food for my brothers as well.
They may need to eat at some point
with the help of God
I found myself and my family in the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim.
As a nation, we were born through trauma. We were slaves in Egypt.
We are all trauma survivors.
God shows us in the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim, what to expect in the aftermath of trauma, and how to deal with any traumatic situation that we will encounter in our future.
And there have been a lot of them.
We are commanded to remember every day that we were slaves in Egypt. Hashem knows that when we don't remember, acknowledge, process and talk about our traumas then we are doomed to repeat them.
As victims, we tend to minimize, rationalize, forget, deny...and then repeat.
Therefore, we are commanded by the Torah, to remember, to discuss, and own our trauma, to own our past and , to own our recovery. We are commanded to acknowledge just Who it is who walks us out of an abusive situation, into the desert of therapy.
Therapy after trauma takes a long time.
As a nation, it took us forty years.
Recovery is full of mistakes, and acting out, and consequences. We complained, we whined, and we wanted to go back to Mitzrayim, because at least it was familiar.
At least there, we knew what to expect.
In Mitzrayim, among our abusers, we had an identity. We were slaves.
In the aftermath, we rejected the truth in front of our eyes and worshiped a golden calf.
We denied and ignored reality.
As victims, we were so busy defending against real and imagined threats, that we could not introspect.
We could not look at our world honestly.
My family can not look at their world honestly.
A daughter and sister is treated as dead because she remembers being a victim of incest.
What a painful reality.
As trauma victims leaving Mitzrayim, we struggled to make sense of what happened to us. We forgot, and we still forget, that we are being held by God. We deny that our every need was, and still is, being cared for.
God understood, and understands that trauma victims, as individuals and as a nation, are needy, immature, and confused. We are struggling for a sense of identity. Who are we, if not victims? What happened to us? Was it really so bad? Maybe abuse was better than this lonely and confusing desert of recovery.
Mitzvah L'saper. God wants us to talk about it. Even if talking exposes our family's mistakes and embarrasses us.
For example, out there in the desert Moshe hit the rock and didn't talk to it. And he didn't make it to Israel because of this. We can learn from this to talk to even the most stubborn and hard among us.
Don't hit the rock.
Talk to it.
Engage in a dialogue.
Violence will not get us where we want to go.
We are commanded by God to never forget that we were slaves. We were victims of trauma.
And to know that now we are survivors.
We survived the years in the desert, as difficult as they were.
We did eventually get to Eretz Yisrael.
It was not without struggle and tremendous loss.
Many didn't make it.
Trust was, and is, a major issue with survivors. We struggled to trust the people there to help us, and even to trust God. The Golden Calf is a good example of this.
Every year on Pesach, we we are commanded to spend an entire evening talking about our trauma and survival, and acknowledging with our entire being, that it was indeed miraculous
and that it had nothing to do with us.
Without God, we could never have survived. It was God who took us out, who saved us, and loved us unconditionally as we healed as a nation.
It is God in every generation, who takes us out of abusive situations, who loves us unconditionally, in spite of our mistakes, and who holds us. Hashem provides for our every need as we wander sometimes for years on end in the confusing, hot, and lonely desert of recovery.
Pesach is coming!
Talking about our trauma is the secret of our survival; as individuals and as a nation, then, now, and always.