August 2, 2011
It might be my own prejudice, but there’s this really odd side to Ryan — the one that believes God sent him a message to become more religious. And then there’s the really normal side — the one that’s a sweet, hardworking accountant for charter schools in Los Angeles. Because of the latter, I found it difficult to do what I’d normally do — write him off as a kook. Because he’s not. He’s a nice guy looking for spiritual fulfillment and on a journey to better himself. When he e-mailed asking me to help him find a woman and told me he had an interesting story to tell, I was intrigued.
“A couple of years ago, I had a vision from God. I closed my eyes to go to sleep and saw the Torah as if I were watching a 3D movie. From that moment on, I felt I had to study Torah and become more observant.” A month earlier, his mother had a vision of the Ten Commandments. “I was skeptical at first, and then I had the same experience.” He wasn’t asleep yet, and he was completely sober. “I asked my rabbi if anyone told him anything like that. He said, ‘No.’ ”
Ryan’s parents, unaffiliated Jews from Chatsworth, became ba’alei teshuvah (newly religious Jews), though his three younger siblings aren’t religious. I ask how people react to hearing his story. “I’m glad I can get the message out there. In every person’s own way, God sends messages, but it’s up to you to determine what that message is and how to react to it. You can ignore it, too — write it off to a weird coincidence. But I felt it couldn’t be ignored. It was so strong that it erased all my doubts. I was an atheist up to that point. I’m the type of person who won’t do something just to do it. I needed physical proof, and that kind of gave it to me.”
He says that dating’s been nearly impossible now that he’s changed his outlook on what he wants. He wants a ba’al teshuvah who’s committed to becoming religious. “People who were born frum [religious] write me off. I don’t wear a yarmulke 24/7 — not yet — and they worry that I’m not committed. But this is something I’m committed to for the rest of my life.”
When I ask him about his hobbies, he says, “I wake up at 5, 5:30 a.m. and try my best to make it to services. I get to work at 8 and go home at 5 and drive an hour to an hour and a half to get home. I have a couple of hours to myself before I sleep and have to do it all over again. I have very little time for working out or dating,” though he does want a woman who’s in shape. “There’s a hiking trail by my house which I still do. I’m into sports — basketball. I’m a big Lakers fan. Sports was my religion, before religion.”
Ryan says he doesn’t need a girl with the same interests he has. “They don’t need to match mine. If you’re on the same page with religion, then everything else will fall into place. I know what I want now, finally.”
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Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.