Thank you for Dixie Yid's encouragement to post the following thoughts I exchanged with him over email.
On the train ride to the Atzeres, I read Dixie Yid's reflections here on living outside the box. His personal reflection made me dive into my "box," a working out-of-town "Baal Teshuvah" heading to a event defined for the "Charedi" velt.
My experiences and growth in Torah have been a multifaceted and this year has been no different. I spent Rosh Hashanah in Uman and on Chanukah I was at a IDF base behind the green line passing my son around to soldiers. Today I was davening next to Satmar Chassidim and crying with them.
Labels are the most divisive thing possible.
I feel like my life would be so boring if I couldn't appreciate and learn from The Lonely Man of Faith, an IDF solider, or a Satmir Chassid.
The Atzeres itself was a few hours of my life that strengthened my connection to Torah and my Emunah. The Ribono Shel Olam had to have nachas from the event. This is not the place to discuss my motivations for going but after putting aside the issues, one is left with a picture of tens of thousands of Yidden davening from their hearts, many with tears on their faces. No pushing, no yelling, and no signs. Just davening to Hashem for Limud Hatorah. there was only one pre-written statement at end and the rest was Tefillah.
While trying to extract some mussar from the event, the following question was left in my head: Perhaps if we can look past the Chizonious (the issues/motivations) of the events/people, will the Penimius of Yidden looking for a deep connection to Emet will shine through?
The more we stand together from all spectrums the faster the Geulah will come.
Am Yisrael Chai!