I became observant quite a few years ago. I found this new lifestyle to be just wonderful. Shortly afterwards I was introduced to a great man; we got married and started a wonderful family. The problem is that I'm now beginning to lose interest in being observant. It just seems that something is missing. I feel like I am suffocating by trying to appear observant when it just isn't something that I feel inside.

Shabbat is a special challenge for me. I spend so much time preparing, only to have two meals that go by in about twenty minutes each. The holidays are not much different, just longer.

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What a difficult situation to find yourself in. To feel like your spiritual life is suffocating must feel truly intolerable.

Yet, when you became observant, you found this lifestyle to be wonderful. What has happened in the interim?

Like with anything meaningful in life, we need to work on what we have rather than take it for granted. For example, we need to constantly work on a marriage in order for it to continue to grow and flourish. Without working on ways to become closer to one another, the marriage doesn't only stagnate, but it becomes stale, cold and unfulfilling.

The same is true with an observant lifestyle. We cannot just take it for granted and assume that we will continue to feel its inspiration. You work hard to take care of the physical needs of Shabbat or the holidays, but it seems that you are lacking the meaningful spiritual and emotional side of it.

Of course, if you prepare all day and then eat the meal in twenty minutes, it would make you feel unappreciated. Who would not feel that way?? (By the way, nowhere does it say that you need to slave over the Shabbat meals! Prepare a simple but special meal that you can enjoy rather than become tense, worn out and exhausted over. And get your husband and children to help! Or, if available in your community—introduce some kosher take-out into the menu...) Now suppose you worked hard on a meal and spent hours enjoying it in the companionship of friends and family over interesting conversation and good discussion as well as meaningful insights, I am sure it would change the perspective, it would suddenly be worth the effort.

You need to look back and remember what you found so beautiful about Torah and Judaism—I'm pretty certain it wasn't cooking... Was it classes, meditation, companionship, prayer? Refocusing on these areas will introduce the soul back into what apparently now is a lifeless and unattractive Judaism.

You don't mention where you live or what type of community you are a part of. But I would think that communal life would add interest and variety to your life and provide enjoyable social and spiritual outlets. Can you get together with other families? Attend classes and social events, go for outings together with other families, eat over at other's homes, etc. Is this at all a possibility?

Think about what you can do in your life to add greater meaning to the rituals that have become oppressive and empty. An observant lifestyle can be extremely fulfilling and meaningful, but only if the rituals are not observed as mere rituals, devoid of their real meaning and purpose.

Chana Weisberg for

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