The sect of orthodox Judaism that I was brought up in is called Lubavitch. There were many leaders of this sect over the years and the one who was active at the time I was growing up was Menachem Mendle Schneerson – also known as The Rebbe.
Judaism holds that in each generation there is one person who is destined to be the Messiah. There are members of the Lubavitch movement, myself included when I was still religious, who believe the Rebbe is that Messiah.
I thought about him a lot when I was younger. I collected pictures of him, watched videos of him, sang songs about him. When I reached my teens and found that I no longer believed in God, one of the hardest transitions to make was to think of the Rebbe as just a human being.
This period highlighted to me the manner in which the people in my life, especially peers and elders, were the ones who reinforced my belief in God. Becoming an atheist, required that I lose faith in the people in my life as well.
One thing I’ve always been fascinated by is, if I’d remained religious, how would my relationship to the Rebbe have changed. Would I have kept up my childlike adoration by maintaining the notion that he’s infallible?
If so, how would I have maintained belief in everything he said, and everything that was said by the rabbis in my life, and still naturally mature to question ‘authority’. Is this just something I wouldn’t have done?
I still have pangs of regret for giving up on religion, as I would love to know how it would have played a role in my life as I’ve grown older. Which is another way of saying, I feel an absence in my adult life of one of the most important elements of my childhood.
And the Rebbe is one of those absences. Or more accurately, the belief that there are people out there who are divine, who know all the answers, who can offer comfort to any anxiety.
As I’ve previously discussed, just because I like the idea of believing again, it doesn’t mean I can. I can’t force belief. Whether it be a belief in God, or a belief in divine people. I think it would be dishonest for me to pretend and insulting to those who genuinely believe. If, you know, anyone would actually care.
Of course, many would say, losing faith isn’t really such a bad thing, or a big deal. It’s just something I miss.