30 August 2006

V'chal Maasecha B'sefer Nichtavim - Part 2



And all your deeds, in a book, are recorded.

Indeed.

A while back I noticed something in GMail. I guess it must be part of the signup agreement.

Alongside every Email that I open, is a personalized advertisement that depends on the content of the Email.

When I get Email from Lakewood Yid, the advertisements are from places like Eichlers Seforim store. Email from other Skeptics are accompanied by ads from Talit manufacturers and Egalitarian synagogues.


Big Brother is really watching over your shoulder.

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    28 August 2006

    Kefira on JM in the AM? - Updated.

    I noticed on Hirhurim that R' N. Slifkin was appearing on the popular JM in the AM show.
    I'm surprised more was not made of this. Maybe everyone's on vacation.

    JM in the AM has a very wide range of listeners, including chasidim
    and Yeshivish and little children. I wonder what was going thru these
    peoples minds when they heard about Evolution and Ancient Earth being discussed in so an open fashion.

    If he planned it, Nachum Siegel was brilliant in his approach.
    In the beginning he started simply with the Animal aspect and slowly
    discussed the science and ban.

    Anyhow, the way I see it this stuff is inoculation to JO. By putting
    it on the table in a casual manner, I think it prevents people from
    considering it to antithetical to OJ, unless of course they dig deeper.
    The banners did themselves a huge dis-service.


    One surprise was when Slifkin said the best way to approach Bereishis and Shemos is allegorical. You might as well just called it Moses's Fables

    ********************************************************************************
    * Correction.
    ********************************************************************************


    I must retract something. On re-listening, I only heard him refer to Shashes Yemei B'reishis as being Metaphorical and Allegorical. He did not refer to Bereishis and Shemos that way. He did suggest that the Miracles in Shemos were natural events pre-scheduled by God. This was backed up by references to Rishonim .


    ********************************************************************************
    * Updated
    ********************************************************************************




    A separate point of interest, is that they had no call in segment
    with him.

    Anyhow, hats off to Nachum and the Jewish Press for broaching these topics.

    BTW, Where is everyone? The blogs are extremely quiet, unless the party just moved somewhere and no-one invited me. I hope everyone's enjoying their vacation, while I'm stuck blogging, oops I mean working.

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    25 August 2006

    Private Orthoprax - Continued.



    Orthopraxy continued from here .

    I carried on day to day without any change, like a robot.

    I didn't fully trust my thought processes. Adherence to Halacha was a form of Pascal's Wager. I like to call it Pascal's insurance. The odds of a modern day building burning is slim, but you get insurance, just in case. OJ was a lie, but just in case, why rock the boat.


    You would have thought that I would have spent lots of energy on trying to prove/disprove Judaism. I didn't do that. I was certain that would lead me off the derech. I had no desire to be any more convinced than I already was.

    I just bided my time and waited to see how things turn out.


    I threw myself into career, simchas, family, tsures, etc and was content to put up with the inconvenience of OJ practice. Which is really another reason I stayed OP. I did not find most of it terribly burdensome. A lifelong set of practices and habits remained doable.

    I even started learning again, it is a social and intellectual activity that's cool with me.


    But as I mentioned, my wife is unaware of my true opinion of OJ.

    So no matter what, how much of a Sheigets can I be in my own home? I need to go to shul or else family and friends would notice. Treife food? Certainly not at home. So I stayed completely Orthoprax. I even poured the hot water before the coffee on Shabbos.


    Now, heres the kicker. Eventually, after many years, my mistrust of my judgment wore off. Just the fact that I was able to stay completely frum for 6 years while not even believing it, refuted the Chazal's adage of Lo Uvdo Avoda Zara.

    Ironically, that realization set me free.

    Some things did fall away, like hot water first on shabbos. But nothing that would be considered a real no-no.

    To be honest, there was one extenuating halachic event that is beyond the scope of this blog. It was not done for my own sake, you could say L'tsorech Tsibbur. (Maybe one day I'll get into it if I'm in a good mood.)

    Then I knew I was truly free. Free to practice or not. And I do practice, without many mis-givings about it. I have a good life so why not.

    Will I always stay this way? Who knows. If I learned one thing is that we don't know what tomorrow brings.

    (I hate Shabbos shul though, I can't take the hours.)

    I have no compelling need to practice. On the other hand, I have no compelling need to violate Halacha just to prove a point.

    Am I still stuck in a Pascal's Wager mode? Possibly. I don't think so, but sometimes we deceive ourselves.

    So I'm free; thats wonderful, right? Well not exactly, because I traded freedom for a new set of burdens.


    PS. I re-read this post several times and I'm just not 100% happy with it. I think it might come across as if I'm trying to beg the believers for permission to doubt and deny. Well I'm not. By definition a believer cannot grant me that.

    So what do I want? I want the skeptics approval for why I do not violate Halacha and I want other frum skeptics out there to know "you are not alone". BHB

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    New best friend






    YOU are my new best friend, yes even Lakewood Yid.

    Well, that's a little bit of hyperbole; my best friend is really my wife, and I mean that. But I have chosen to leave her out of a very important part of my life.

    YOU, on the other hand, are privy to my utmost secret. You are like a therapist to me, except that you don't know my name. And I don't pay you, at least not in Cash.

    Yes, I'll explain fully at a later date, why I leave my wife out of this. I have no secrets from you.

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    Online Printing Press

    In a previous post (Book Meme) I mentioned that I wanted to read Darwin but I could not imagine how I'd sneak that ino the house. I must thank SZ for doing just that. He Emailed me files from here .

    It's an amazing world. Thousands of books online - all free and even legal.

    Of course, there's a glitch. I hate reading on-line. Maybe I'll print off 10 pages at a time.

    But theres even another option. I see they even have Darwin on Audio. I got to get myself an IPOD or something. Like this I can read while I commute. If someone asks me what I'm listening to, I'll say, "Just a shiur about the Briah". They'll go right back to their newspaper.

    Thanks, SZ.

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    22 August 2006

    My best friend.










    Sorry for the brief digression, this is pertinent to my story.

    Quiz time.

    My best friend is:
    My wife.
    Lakewood Yid.
    Johnny Walker Blue.
    You.
    My Siddur.

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    Book Meme - Take 2

    I've been tagged by Jewish Atheist .

    This time for real.

    1. One book that changed your life? "A brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking. This book opened my eyes not just to the underlying science of cosmology, but even more importantly as to how brilliant Man can be to figure this stuff out. People like Galileo, Newton, Hubble, Einstein, etc make me feel real insignificant.

    2. One book you have read more than once? "A world lit only by fire" by William Manchester. This is an interesting readable book about medieval times, the Church and Magellan. It is great "light" historical reading that's interesting and fun. It is superbly written. Easily one of the most memorable book I've read. This will not disappoint.


    3. One book you would want on a desert island? This is tough. First there's the obvious such as "Boy Scouts survival Guide" or conversely "100 ways to kill yourself". Other than that and excluding anthologies, it would have to be something that would keep me busy for a very long time or something I can read over and over again. Hmmm. Maybe the Bible? Or maybe a Brief history of Time. Just this time, I'll make sure I understand every particle and Quark, which may take me till the end of time.

    4. One book that made you laugh? I can't think of any. How sad. I better get this Calvin and Hobbes that others mentioned.

    5. One book that made you cry? Jewish History books make me cry. Then there's "Love Story" by Erich Segal. This book goes way way back. What a tear Jerker.

    6. One book you wish had been written? "The Bible - The making of the worlds bestseller." Now that would be a real bestseller.

    7. One book you wish had never been written? I second the choice of the Protocols of the elders of Zion.

    8. One book you are currently reading? Sorry, here's three: A) "The Language of God" by Francis Collins. Francis is the head of the government Genome Project which decoded the entire human Genome. A firm believer in Evolution and self proclaimed basher of Intelligent Design, he nevertheless tries to build a case for God. It's a great introduction to Genetics and Evolution, I finally understand the difference between DNA and RNA. Sadly, the case for God seems to be based on Jesus. I'll keep you posted when I finish the book. Maybe there's a good punchline. B) "Cell" be Stephen King. Creepy tale of something gone awry with our Cell Phone service; whoever was on the phone at the time the pulse hit, goes violently mad. Vintage King - End of civilization (remember "The Mist"). Hey, I need some diversion too! C) "Godless" by Ann Coulter. I'm still at the beginning. Wow, she really hates liberals. Why are some people so one-sided?

    9) One book you have been meaning to read? Some of Darwin's works. I just don't see how I can sneak that one into the house.


    So, please let me know if your reading matches mine in any way.


    Now is when I'm supposed to Tag 5 others to continue this diversion. I don't believe in Pyramid Schemes because eventually everyone tags everyone. So feel free to join - or not.

    JA, thanks again for the honor.

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    21 August 2006

    Assignment - Book Meme

    I've been tagged by Jewish Atheist . I feel like I'm back in high school!

    The problem with a meme like this, is I'll probably think differently in a year from now - but here goes:



    1. One book that changed your life? "The Bible". After all it defines many decades of my life.

    2. One book you have read more than once? "The Bible". My Rav would not have it any other way.

    3. One book you would want on a desert island? "The Bible". It has lots of pages full of intrigue, sex and violence. Why not?

    4. One book that made you laugh? "The Bible." I mean the New Testament! After all, that story about Joseph and Mary - Puleeze.

    5. One book that made you cry? "The Bible". Need I explain? Ever hear of Eicha? and Yirmiyahu?

    6. One book you wish had been written? "The Bible - The inside story of the worlds bestseller." Now that would be a real bestseller.

    7. One book you wish had never been written? "The Bible". Figure it out.

    8. One book you are currently reading? "The Bible" (Shoftim right now).

    9. One book you have been meaning to read? "The Bible". One day, I need to get thru the whole thing.



    OK - OK - OK - OK - OK - OK.

    I know that was cheating. Real answers coming soon.

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    12 August 2006

    Orthoprax at home

    So why does a non-believer like me stay frum - even in the privacy of my home.

    Sorry, it's quiz time again. But now we get some answers in the same post.

    I work for the Jewish Morals society and I'm trying to infiltrate the Kofrim so I can "out" them.
    Even though OJ is a sham, God put me in an OJ environment and wants me to be Frum.
    I'm afraid of change.
    I'm afraid of Lakewood Yid.
    Make up a good reason for me. Your's might be as good as mine.


    There are some major reasons and some finer points. Here's the biggie.

    I touched upon this in a slightly different context. See, Chazal were very smart. They, possibly unknowingly, implanted in me a level of doubt that took me many years to get over.

    "Lo Uvdo Avodah Zarah Ela L'hatir Lahem Arayos"

    Every school child asks the same question, and it's a great one! How can God punish me for serving other Gods if I really believe in another God?

    And the answer is brilliant, for the most part.

    I really don't believe in the other God, it's just that the other God is not as strict as Yahweh and will let me sleep around. So I delude myself into thinking Baal is the real thing. But really I know. Chazal pre-empted the intellectual excuse for leaving Juadaism.

    As a fresh apostate, my hands were really tied.

    Maybe I found this new science just so I can leave religion. In other words, unknowingly, I was pre-empting Jewish Philosopher. He accused me of deciding against OJ for emotional reasons, to follow my Taavos. And I, as a nice ehrlicha Baal Habos, was actually thinking along the same lines.

    I stayed Frum, afraid to trust my own judgement.


    Want to know how wacked out/Frum out I was? (is that a word? wacked out? maybe it's whacked out.)

    I was so frum, that a short while later, I stopped learning. Huh? Frum? Yes, I stopped learning. Because, I don't remember where it says, "Oros Shebah machzirin L'mutov". The light in Torah returns one to Hashem. But that's as long as one is not learning L'kantair. As long as you're not learning to find find fault with Torah. And I was. Ever since my switch, everything I learnt was to ask a Kashia, critical and looking for problems.

    My life was an emotional roller coaster.


    To be continued.....


    Comments not necessary till conclusion of Post (unless you insist).

    Shabbat Shalom.

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    Airline security?

    Is it just me?

    Yes, it is great that the latest plot was foiled. But it was due to intelligence and not something detected at security. So now, after the cow is out of the barn, the TSA institutes new regulations prohibiting liquid carry-ons.

    Sept 11 was attributed to a "Failure of the imagination". Supposedly no-one imagined that suicide hijackers would attempt something like that. That's not really true, but let bygones be bygones. You would think we'd learn out lesson.

    The capability of liquid explosives has been around for a long time. An attempt was partly successful many years ago using liquid explosives and resulted in a fatality, I believe somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. A large plot was even foiled several years ago (Manila?). So why does it take a new, luckily failed attempt at destruction, to clamp down?

    What other security exposures are there just waiting to be exploited?

    Disappointed Baal Habos.

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    11 August 2006

    Second Letter to the editor.

    Here's the second E-mail from an amateur psychologist attempting to categorize my intellectual opposition to Judaism as something else.


    Reading your blog a little more, I noticed this:

    If you had a troubled child, what's the right way to handle the situation. Do you throw your child out? Do you to smack him senseless?


    What's interesting is that you seem to believe that Jews are "troubled children" being abused by God. I wonder why you feel that way? Most people understand that after a certain age we are adults and we are responsible for our actions. Bad deeds have consequences. Sometimes crime justly carries a harsh punishment. So where did this abused child come from? Were you abused as a child?


    "I love Shukkling in Shul for hours on end.

    I love three day Yom Tovim when all we do is eat, daven, sleep, visit friends,

    eat, daven, sleep, friends visit us, eat, daven, sleep, visit friends."


    Sounds to me like the whole thing bores you. Or at least that's as much as you want to tell us about why being Frum bothers you.

    Devarim: VS Any secular book on Jewish History

    Why do you assume that any book critical of the Torah is true? Because scientists are so smart they are always right? What about Freudian psychoanalysis, scientific racism, scientific Marxism, social Darwinism and eugenics - also always right?

    Anyway, that's about as much sense as I can make of it; please correct me if I'm mistaken.


    ***********************************************************************************
    And here's my reply:

    I do appreciate your Email but once again you are totally mistaken.

    You seem to look for things where there are none. I specifically keep on stating that Judaism was a good life and I still stay with, albeit as un unbelievers, because even in my dis-belief I can tolerate it well.

    You take my statements out of context. It was in my Tisha B'av post and had to do with sin and that God punishes us with Hester Panim. To me it makes no sense. Of course, I never thought of it that way 10 years ago, but that's how I see it now.

    I had a wonderful childhood and I was not abused.

    You seem to take many of my statements out of context and deliberately mis-interpret others.

    >Devarim: VS Any secular book on Jewish History
    >Why do you assume that any book critical of the Torah is true? Because scientists are so smart they are always right? What about Freudian psychoanalysis, scientific racism, scientific Marxism, social Darwinism and eugenics - also always right?

    The Secular History books about Judaism, that I've read, are not critical of the Torah, they barely discuss it. It's only the Frum books that are have Jewish History as being dominated by Rabbis. These books (Science, History, etc)from my five books of Baal Habos) simply present a radically different vantage point of life that I decided makes more sense that the OJ perspective.


    Why can't you just accept that I was happy with Judaism?

    When the Gemara discusses the apostasy of Ben Avuya and Acher do you also look for hidden unstated reasons?

    I have nothing to hide, I'm anonymous. If I didn't want to state my story, I would not have done so. You can either take my life story at face value or invent a story on my behalf. But mine is the truth.

    BHB

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    A letter to the editor

    Someone sent me two separate Emails, I guess he did not want to post them on the blog for some reason. I think it’s really germane so I’ll post it (without his name).

    Here's the first one.

    From: -----------------
    Date: Aug 9, 2006 3:00 PM
    Subject: Hi!
    To: BAALHABOS@gmail.com

    I was reading over your blog a little more.
    The impression I get is something like this:
    Your parents and teachers wanted you to be Frum however you never really liked it. Davening is boring. Learning is boring. Shabbos and yom tov - ditto. You liked your parents, you wanted to please them, so you swallowed it. You even read positive books about Yiddishkeit to get more into it. But bottom line, you just never liked this whole thing.
    Then a few years ago, you started reading some books which were critical of Yiddishkeit. And suddenly a light went on - "Hey, I really don't need to do all this stuff. There are plenty of brilliant, educated, nice people out there who think it's all crap. Sure, I can continue doing some Jewish things if I feel like it; why not. But that BURDEN is now lifted. It's all really just made up; there's no obligation. Great!!!"
    Is this about right? I'm just really curious.
    [Of course, I would argue that the opinions of a lot of brilliant, educated, nice people is in and of itself meaningless. How many brilliant people followed Zeus, Jupiter, Jesus, Mohammed, Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao? Brilliant people can have very poor judgment. I want to judge the facts for myself.]
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The above letter is wrong on many accounts and I’ll address each and every sentence separately.
    > Your parents and teachers wanted you to be Frum however you never really liked it.
    I’m not sure how you got that impression. On the contrary, if anything I was slightly more frum than my parents. I fit in like a glove, camp, rebbeim, they loved me, I loved them. I never had an aversion to Yiddishkeit until my Epiphany (As Daganev calls it).
     >. Davening is boring. Learning is boring. Shabbos and yom tov - ditto.
    I can’t deny that Davening is boring, but I think most FFB’s find it that way. We are all obligated by Judaism to pray. Even most Yirai Shomayim would tell you they’d rather be learning than Davening. Maybe you look forward to repeating the same exact mindless words thrice daily, and listening to the Shats repeat it. But almost no-one else does. So much so, that they had to assur Learning during Chazoras Hashats.
    Learning was never boring. Was it on my top list of things that I wanted to do? No, I’d rather watch TV, but I learnt, because that’s the correct thing to do. It wasn’t something that I did to please anyone.

     >You liked your parents, you wanted to please them, so you swallowed it.
    Yes, I liked my parents, but being a good yid came naturally.
    > You even read positive books about Yiddishkeit to get more into it.
    No, I was never into reading books about that stuff. I did the right thing like any good Ben Torah.
     >But bottom line, you just never liked this whole thing.
    I had no problems at all and never found anything about it too burdensome. .
    > Then a few years ago, you started reading some books which were critical of Yiddishkeit. And suddenly a light went on - "Hey, I really don't need to do all this stuff.
    I don't believe that to this date, I've read anything directly critical of Judaism. Maybe you can recommend something?
    > There are plenty of brilliant, educated, nice people out there who think it's all crap.
    As I stated in one of my posts, all of my feelings that OJ is false, came about indirectly.
    Sure, I can continue doing some Jewish things if I feel like it; why not.
    Some? You mean ALL!

    > But that BURDEN is now lifted.
    First accurate thing you stated. But, by remaining FRUM, it just created another, even more serious burden. A burden for which there is no ultimate reward.
    > Is this about right? I'm just really curious.
    [Of course, I would argue that the opinions of a lot of brilliant, educated, nice people is in and of itself meaningless. How many brilliant people followed Zeus, Jupiter, Jesus, Mohammed, Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin and Mao? Brilliant people can have very poor judgment. I want to judge the facts for myself.]
    ******************************************************************************
    All in all, what the writer is trying to do is to frame my decision making process as a result of a pre-existing dislike for Judaism. Nothing can be further from the truth.
    Shortly, in a future post, unless I get sidetracked again, I will prove it.


    Are there people like that, who don't believe in OJ because of emotions? Probably, but they would have been gone from Yiddishkeit decades before my age.

    And if he’d read my blog, instead of “reading into it” what has not been stated, he would know better.

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    08 August 2006

    Why I haven't come out of the closet. (No, not that closet.)

    It ain't a bad life - If you can tolerate it


    In reality, its quite complex; and it's not always easy to recall the exact sequence of thought processes from several years ago, but here goes.

    The truth of the matter is that my public display of religiosity is a combination of three major factors.

    1) As Daganev points out, I don't want to rock the boat. I've got a whole life built around Orthodox society, so why change it? But there's a little more to it.

    2) Crucial to keeping the status quo, is that I'm more than complacent in that status quo. I'm really happy with most of it.

    Think about it; supposedly, most "at risk kids" are that way because of problems in school or family. They don't usually make a reasoned decision that Judaism is false because of Theological reasons; it's just that they don't in one way or another fit in. So they leave to find greener pastures.

    On the contrary, I fit in very well, socially, scholastically, emotionally and every other possible way, except for intellectually.

    My family life, kids, shul, friends, learning (yes learning), shabbos schedule, interaction with my Gentile co-workers as a God fearing individual, is all by now a deep ingrained way of life. These are not just tolerable. They provide for a major source of satisfaction. Tossing that for some unknown, at my age, is really risky.

    Let's put it this way, if I had to find a new community for whatever reason, I'd probably opt for very similar community to the one I'm coming from.

    There is definitly sacrifice here. Kosher is a pain, Shabbos can be a pain, Rabbi's are a pain, etc. Davening is a super pain. But there's reward to most of it.

    Now before I get to the third major factor there are some minor ones. Among them is a serious character flaw that I have - I care way too much about what people think of me. Another related issue is not wanting to "let down" certain family members. I'm not talking about embarressment that they'd go thru, just simply letting them down of expectations they have of me. It's very similar to me looking for their approval, but not quite.

    3) No for the grand finale . I know that OJ is a long chain of mis-steps upon mis-steps. After so many years, and in retrospect this is somewhat of a shock to me, I'm still very much observant even in private.

    So why would I come out in public as not religious?

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    04 August 2006

    Fog






    Where were we? Ah yes. On a flight home from Israel. I've read descriptions of others in my shoes. It's been called the moment of apostasy.

    I was in a fog. I had to decide what it all means. For me, my wife, kids. Everybody.

    I didn't want to do anything rash. I kept on telling myself there's no rush to make any decisions. Anything I might do today, I can do next week.

    I've heard of others who just chucked it all. Family, community, friends.

    After deliberating for about 2 seconds, I knew I wasn't going to do that.

    OK, listen up, Quiz number 2.

    Why didn't I take a trip to the Statue of Liberty and toss my Tefilin as so many others had done?

    I enjoy getting ripped off and paying extra for Kosher food, Tuition and filtered water.
    I didn't want to upset my Talmidim.
    I'm afraid of Ferries.
    I'm afraid of my wife.
    I love Shukkling in Shul for hours on end. It's like getting dizzy on a roller Coaster.
    I want a Large Yarmulka to cover my bald spot.
    I enjoy having to struggle to find a vacation spot with Kosher Food.
    I love three day Yom Tovim when all we do is eat, daven, sleep, visit friends, eat, daven, sleep, friends visit us, eat, daven, sleep, visit friends.
    I enjoy giving my boss explanations, such as "I have to leave early to attend a feast for the "redemption of my Firstborn". Boss says "huh?" or "Sorry, I can't call the client at 6:30, I have to eat a Purim Seuda", "What? I thought you said it's like Halloween", "er... Never mind, just call as soon as you're finished."

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