Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Not to Do When You "Frum Out"

When you first become "religious," you're passionate. You're motivated. You're going to be the best Jew ever

This is called "frumming out." Conversion candidates do this just as much as baalei teshuva. And are just as unpopular for it.

You might just drive everyone you know crazy. You have discovered The Truth, and if everyone would just listen to what you have to say, they'd see The Light too and realize how misguided they've been. You will be at least a little holier-than-thou. If you have Jewish family, they're going to take it personally that you don't think they're good Jews (whether or not you actually believe that - but you probably do).

Avoiding alienating your friends and family is a topic for another post. Today, we'll tackle something easier and more concrete. When you see The Truth, you're going to go on a clutter-busting rampage. You're going to throw out every non-long-sleeve shirt you own. (And you'll discover that you now own only two shirts...what a great excuse for a shopping trip!) You'll throw out your secular music because you want to allow only kedusha (holiness) into your ears. You'll clean out your bookshelves and computer files too, probably. You'll delete half your Facebook profile. You might even decide to "trim" your list of friends.
An alternative cause: This is an OCD dream. Even better, when you're stressed out and conversion politics make you think your conversion will never happen, you will be ecstatic to have something in your life that you can control. This is not unlike many eating disorders, though a very temporary form. You feel out of control of your life, so you exercise over-control on the things you can control. If you feel this being an issue with you (as opposed to an ideological opposition to the items), research stress-relieving techniques and healthy routines.

In most cases, you will regret your Martha Stewart-worthy spring cleaning. You'll realize layering and shells could have salvaged almost your entire wardrobe. And you'll miss your favorite shirt. Worse, you'll realize you accidentally threw out a school book you need for another class. Or your favorite CD. I think you can imagine how much you might regret forever deleting pictures and memories off Facebook, not to mention prematurely ending friendships.

What will you do when you suffer these regrets? On top of the all the money you spent replacing those items with "holy" things, you'll go out and spend even more money to replace all those "secular" things you got rid of. And you will be annoyed. Majorly annoyed. And you will hate yourself.

Here is my advice. Do your sanity and your bank account a favor. If you're inspired to throw/give away significant amounts of your belongings, you should wait. Go through the items just like you want to. Put those items in a box and label it with "Open on X" and set the date for 6 months in the future. Six months is enough time to let the initial glow of frumminess fade into a routine. A year is even better. You'll know more, and you'll know more about your hashkafa. That means you'll know whether some items are salvageable and/or aren't as offensive as you initially thought. Digital music/files are harder to "hide away," but I suggest doing the same cleaning out process, but placing the files into a separate folder. You then exclude that folder from your music program's library. Out of sight, out of mind. Until you change your mind. If you do. Maybe you won't. Then you can get rid of the items with a clear conscience and know it's not just a rash decision.

A less-clear issue is that you'll also throw out all your religious items/jewelry/etc from any prior religion(s). This is necessary eventually, but probably not today. I suggest using the same boxing technique. You never know, maybe you'll discover a make-or-break issue with Judaism (or the Jewish people) and decide to go back to your former practice. 

Another side note: You may not have this stage. You're still normal. You're just more practical than emotional. Or you're flat broke and know you can't replace that stuff, so you'll make do. 


  1. It's possible that there's a better guide out there than this classic, but I haven't found it:

  2. Regarding stashing digital music: dump the files on a flash drive or two and stick them in the box. Then you can remove them from your computer.

  3. This is absolutely one of the best pieces of advice for converts. Put all that stuff in a box, don't look at it for a few months, then reevaluate. Several of my (still) favorite outfits avoided the gemach this way.

  4. You speak truth, my friend! This should be a sticky on your website ;)

    When I first started the conversion process I read an article about a BT who basically said she gave up everything and lost herself. She warned against losing yourself in the process of becoming religious. I took her advice to heart and though I still had to go throw all the layers of the process--I remembered to never give up on being me. I wish I could remember who wrote that article so I could thank her now.

  5. Facebook is a terrible farse anyway. I've deleted 'friends' from over 150 to, like 20. This is because if they were actually friends, they'd have my phone number and meet me and discuss things. With exception for a few people over-seas, facebook is a good way to demise all true social intuition. Also the site just profiles us for advertisement. Treifbook!