Sara Einfeld says that “A hole in the sheet” saved her life.
The 25-year-old former Gur Hasid and mother of two from Ashdod said in an interview in last weekend’s Yediot Aharonot that she was choking in her life, “a carbon copy of masses of other ultra-Orthodox women, all about kids, cooking, husbands, and meeting friends to talk about kids, cooking and husbands.”
Then she discovered the Internet and began blogging anonymously at “Hor Basadin,” literally “A Hole in the Sheet.” That, she says, “was when redemption came.”
In the past two years much has changed for Einfeld, the article reveals.
She ran away from home, got divorced, earned driving licenses for auto and motorcycle, started a job as a messenger, got a few tattoos, was disowned by her parents, and became something of a virtual guru for other ultra-Orthodox women.
Her blog grapples with issues around Orthodox women’s restricted lives, including depression, frustration, confusion, and forms of rebellion. “Ultra-orthodox women always want to please,” Einfeld writes. “First their parents, then their husbands, but mostly God. But really, they don’t really know what they want from their miserable lives.”
Einfeld’s rebellion began while a Bais Yakov high school student when she dared to wear thinner socks than usual and read non-Jewish books. At 18, she came home one day and her mother told her she found a match for her. Einfeld spoke to the boy for two hours, “and the next time we met was under the huppah.”
Over the next four years, Einhorn did what she was expected: had two babies, and lived the hasidic life, but battled depression. To cope, she began to blog in early 2007, and discovered many women felt the same way. A year later — faced with the harrowing prospect of a third pregnancy at the age of 23 — she decided that she could no longer live a double life and, taking her two children, ran away.
Einfeld is now not at all religious — “I drive on Shabbat, and eat on Yom Kippur, but I cook a Friday night meal and light candles,” she reports — and her blog attracts throngs of readers. While some attack and others to “return” her, many express a sad yearning, commiseration, and immense gratitude for the forum.
Last weekend’s public “coming out” in Yediot, which included a provocative photo of her upper back with nothing between her skin and the camera other than a shoulder tiger tattoo, a nose ring, and her snood, caused a huge stir in Israel.
Hasidic writer Eliezer Hayoun calls it “The Sara Einfeld Carnival” and claims that she is really on her way “back” to being a Hasid. Tali Farkash, a religious writer at Ynet, wrote, decries “the nasty habit of confronting the past by turning all haredim into miserable people in a closet,” which “has become a bit pathetic.” Though Farkash concedes that, “contrary to what the many haredim who read the article will say about Sarah, every word there is true.”
I’m sure there are many happy Haredi women out there, whatever happiness means. But the debate over whether Orthodox women are “happy” always reminds me of the “Happy Slave” from Plato’s “Lysis,” — the idea that even in oppression some people seem to be okay does not take away from the fact of their oppression.
Einfeld concludes her blog with a heart-wrenching poem written by one of her readers (translation here from Hebrew, as throughout this post, is mine).
I still cry when I remember
A young women who tried to explain to a yeshiva scholar
Who sat across from her
Next to the dark wooden table in the living room.
Who made charts and asked, So what’s bothering you?
And wrote down:
That we don’t pass objects from hand to hand
That you don’t call me by name
That we have intercourse according to predetermined times because that ruins everything.
And then I was embarrassed
To tell him that I want
Him to hug me tight, to give me a little kiss on the lips and say,
I love you.
And when I tried to tell him, I felt dirty.
And how I cried one day so hard until I banged my head against the wall over and over again
Harder and harder.
Closed the steel door quietly
And in fast steps with his hands folded behind him and his face locked to the ground
He went to the Shteibel
Learned Gemara, or an hour of halakha.
And I wanted to die, I wanted to die, I wanted to die.
Because our sages (or rather, his sages) also said, “O hevruta o mituta,”
Either in a pair, or death
Einfeld responds to this poem: “There are women in this country who have never flown on the wings of love … Everybody thirsts for love.”