One of the most fascinating people in Judaism has to be Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. R’ Nachman was a manic depressive genius chassidic Rebbe who lived about 200 years ago, at the beginning of the haskalah period, and was the closest thing to a frum existentialist I can imagine. Of course, I don’t exactly know what an existentialist is, being that Wikipedia is boring, but I assume it means to simply exist. To just be. No fate, or divine plan, or purpose to concern yourself with. Just being. You might be catching the contradiction with the frum part here.
His stories use all the classic Jewish archetypes, like Kings, princes, children, animals, forests, but they don’t match up to any Jewish morals. The king, who normally would play God, makes mistakes in these stories, or even dies. The prince isn’t having any sudden einfal to figure things out. The characters mix together and wander around, lost, with decidedly un-cosmic, human problems, and the answers given are fragmented and cryptic. Some parts of the story obviously have a point. Other parts seem to be put in randomly. Sometimes the most fascinating, fantastically described characters tell you a trivial detail about themselves and then just leave the story. It feels like the taste of an awesome fairy tale, with no main course to lose yourself in.
R’ Nachman said, “The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the main thing to do is not to fear at all.” No explanation of where the bridge is going, or why we’re on the bridge. The bridge is here, and we’re on it. That’s it. Just walk. Do you want to stay in the middle of the bridge forever? No? Then what’s holding you back? A question about the purpose of walking? That’s insane. The only thing in your power is to walk across the bridge. Worrying about why or where is pointless. And it’s just harmful if it stops you from walking. Just let it go and walk.
Where God comes in in all of this, I have no idea. But I’m starting to try it.