I’m not really sure what an ‘average frum Jew’ is but I’ve had many conversations with baalei teshuva about what they can do to have some fun and switch off that’s not completely assur (not allowed).
It’s a hard question because it often depends on what stage of your baal teshuva journey you are at. It also depends on your community and of course your need to stay sane and realise that you weren’t religious from birth and sometimes switching off is just a must. Don’t feel guilty for it, unless of course you’re using entertainment simply to avoid some real issues.
To begin with, everyone always points out that going cold turkey (aka suddenly stopping all forms of entertainment) is never advised. Don’t do it. There is no contradiction between time out and being religious. It’s just a matter of what your vehicle for the time out is. In theory Hashem has given us every Shabbos as our time to relax, unwind and reconnect. Unfortunately we’re not great at taping into this. We’ve also come from a society that says ‘to relax you have to escape’. I don’t think this is a Jewish approach (correct me if I’m wrong) but this is how we were raised so the smoothest journey will be about integrating this need with something a bit more kosher.
So, opt for something more kosher and something through which you still feel connection to Hashem.
Here are a few suggestions (add your own in the comments):
1. Outdoors: parks, community gardens, beach, lakes, mountains. You can walk, take picnics, a book. It’s great to get fresh air and it’s always a place you can feel Hashem’s presence. You can also do this alone if you need solitude.
2. Movies: this is a hard topic and frum people vary in range of what they will do. I just try to stick to kid rated movies or ones that I know won’t have topics that are completely anti-religious. Often you’ll rewatch a movie you remembered as being ok and you’ll find it impossible to watch. Our sensitivity changes and so do our range of movies as a result.
3. Ice skating: seriously fun and good for you. Most big cities have a rink you can go to. Bring a few people. Always more fun that way. Only non-kosher aspect is all the women come in pants (can’t avoid it generally anyway) and the loud secular (often crude) music. Maybe bring some headphones.
4. Bowling: always fun. There are often discounted days you can go on and you’ll always see other frum Jews there. Same as above, secular music with half naked people on the video clips.
5. Zoo or animal farms: Another one you’ll be sure to spot other frum people. A great day out and will help you appreciate Hashem’s amazing creations.
6. Kareoke: you can easily do this at someone’s house with a microphone and some popular Jewish songs.
7. Board games: it might sound boring but it’s actually a lot of fun with the right people and there’s some great games. Try Pictionary. You’ll also see people’s true nature come out.
8. Markets: I’m definitely not encouraging you to spend money but local markets are often a great way to enjoy the hustle and bustle and some beautiful and creative ideas. You could also think about presents for others.
9. Pamper yourself: becoming religious we often forgot our externals. Just remember that we can’t be a soul without a vessel and the vessel needs to look respectable enough to house our divine soul. So let yourself have a full body massage or facial every so often. It’s indulgent but you will come out more able to tackle the world. Just remember to ask for a therapist of the same gender.
10. Visit lonely people: this might not sound very entertaining but you’d be surprised how much joy you get from focusing on someone else. You’ll feel much better for it and giving is Judaism’s true definition of simcha. To be joyous you have to give joy.
11. Indoor education: exhibitions, museums, aquariums and any other place you can learn about Hashem’s magnificent world.
12. Get creative: buy some wood, nails, paints, canvas or use junk that others throw out and turn it into decorations for the house, a gift for someone who needs attention or start making succah decorations early. Be creative and you can enjoy the result.
13. Fruit picking: A great outdoor activity that’s yum. You can enjoy the outdoors while developing your appreciation for the brachos.
Just found a website that’s trying to get together a list of kosher outings around the world. A great idea. Check out: kosheroutings.com