29 March 2007


It's been great and I thank each and every one of you who joined me on this journey.

Keep in touch,

Baal Habos


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    27 March 2007

    Ignorance is Bliss.

    I remember my Rebbi relating the following Moshol.

    A prisoner spent twenty years in hard labor in a dungeon pushing a turnstile which was connected to mill on the outside. After his release from prison and exiting the dungeon, this hardened individual fainted. He had learned that the mill was not connected to anything at all. He had managed all along through the labor until he learned the terrible truth. He had simply been walking in circles for twenty years pushing what was connected to a device that did absolutely nothing except provide resistance.

    It's too bad I don't remember the Nimshol, but I imagine my Rebbi would never have dreamed the way I'm using it now.

    It was almost a year ago that someone on TFSG, I think it was Orthoprax, asked (and I'm paraphrasing), "well aren't you happy you know the truth, would you have wanted to stay in the dark forever?"

    Some things don't change. You might recognize the title of this post as the tag-line of my blog. It greeted you every time you visited me. It has been that way since day one. And that's still the way I feel.

    No, I don't mean to say that I regret the knowledge I've gained such as the minuscule understanding of cosmology and even the knowledge of difficulties of the Mesorah. But I'd have been much happier had I landed on the belief side of the equation. It would be nice to believe in a God that intervened, miracles and the promise of a hereafter. It appears that such belief is possible - case in point: Rabbi Marroof. I don't know if people like that are fooling themselves or actually do believe. But they seem to exist.

    You can get a little background on my early thoughts by reading this post about Purpose. (I see that with all my mouthing off, I did end up telling my wife. And I'm glad to say that worked out better than I imagined.)

    I'm in a much better frame of mind now than I was way back then. I'm finally over the shock, the shock of that prisoner above who fainted. And that is why I'm ready to cease blogging.

    BUT, I still think Ignorance would have been better.

    The statement at the end of that post, still expresses the challenge I have ahead of me.

    "I will have to re-define myself and find a different carrot. The challenge is doing that within the societal and self imposed parameters of OJ observance. I got a big job ahead of me."

    I've been so preoccupied with blogging that I did not have a chance to do that just yet. Well, maybe blogging was part of the process. Either way, I don't have concrete plans; after all, I'm still heavily involved in my career. But I'm confident now that when the time comes, I'll do just fine.

    In my last post, I Said "My kids would go to an MO school, where they'd be exposed to rational thinking and they'd have the choice as to how to conduct their lives. It's certainly more fair than raising Chareidi clones that are living in a predestined generic path of closed-mindedness."

    It may be more fair to let the kids in on the secret, but I think that a life of true faith, tempered with a rational approach such as that offered by a R. Maroof, is the ideal way to go.

    Religious people are the happiest people I know.

    Being that skepticism came to me rather late in the game, I never was in that predicament of what to tell my children. And I don't envy the skeptics that are faced with that dilemma.

    And on the other hand, I came to the realization early enough in life to have some time to re-think life it-self. Imagine someone turning skeptical at age 75?

    So all things considered, I'm not complaining anymore. It could have been worse, I could have found out twenty years ago or twenty years from now.

    A wise man said:

    קוהלת פרק ה

    יז הִנֵּה אֲשֶׁר-רָאִיתִי אָנִי, טוֹב אֲשֶׁר-יָפֶה לֶאֱכוֹל-וְלִשְׁתּוֹת וְלִרְאוֹת טוֹבָה בְּכָל-עֲמָלוֹ שֶׁיַּעֲמֹל תַּחַת-הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ מִסְפַּר יְמֵי-חַיָּו אֲשֶׁר-נָתַן-לוֹ הָאֱלֹהִים--כִּי-הוּא חֶלְקוֹ.

    Ecclesiastes 5:17

    Behold that which I have seen: it is good, yea, it is comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy pleasure for all his labour, wherein he laboureth under the sun, all the days of his life which God hath given him; for this is his portion

    Now who can argue with that?


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    26 March 2007

    Starting over?

    There was once a lady named "Bright"

    Whose speed was quicker than Light

    She left one day

    In a relative way

    And returned on the previous Night

    Our resident physicist, Rabban Gamliel, will be quick to point out that it's impossible.

    But what if I could turn back the clock.

    I've been asked on several occasions what I would do had I found out the truth at the tender age of 25 with a fledgling family? I don't even recall what I answered at the time and I certainly would not be so bold as to advise others as to what course of action to take.

    But what would I do if I'd be 18? What would I do if I'd be at an early crossroad of life with the world beckoning me - full of opportunity, temptation and challenges undreamed of in my real past.

    One thing is for certain, I can't answer this question from the perspective of an 18 year old. I bring with me decades of experiences and I'm looking back through the bifocals of middle-age.

    Looking at it with my current wisdom I would have to say I would have chosen a very different path in life. I would have had issues in not wanting to disappoint parents; and that hurts. But there's no way to get around that.

    There are several issues issues facing me now.

    A) Purpose in life

    B) Chareidi lifestyle is a bit(?) onerous.

    C) My children moving even further to the right.

    Of course, life is funny, if these angles would be perfect, if I could go back in time and engineer life to address these issues, I'd have other just as vexing issues is my life. But I can only address the current questions at hand.

    (The following is all dis-jointed, so bear with me)..

    Let me say this, there's no way I would want to cut off my heritage. Not only is it a beautiful heritage but I find there is great utility in it. There is the camaraderie. I really do enjoy it. I don't even mind attending shiurim. I might be wrong but I don't think other groups really have this camaraderie outside of the daily grind. Sure, they'll take a golf trip with their work buddies, but Frum people, seem to have real camaraderie.

    Even now, I'm comfortable with most of the role I play in life; it's just that it's all so extreme and getting worse. (Check out R' Maryles blog. I love that). So there's no need for me to toss it all.

    Each if us is only several web clicks away from some of the worst that the world has to offer. I'm not knocking the Internet which is virtual. But it opens a window into the reality out there, I'm just using it as an example of showing you how close the big bad wolf is. I think that a moderate religious background is not a bad thing to keep your life and family intact. I for one, don't relish the though of my kids coming home from school with green hair. Is Green hair so bad? Maybe not, but that's what I was saying above, I'm still "me" now, looking back at my crossroads, and I am bring along the values and hindsight that I've accumulated over the years. If I really *would* be twenty, I might just want to chuck the whole thing and head out for beckoning pastures.

    Another issue is that of "purpose". When I choose a profession I discussed it with my Rosh Yeshiva. I selected a degree that I could pursue while remaining in Yeshiva Full time. The career was not intended to fill my life with purpose, as the Torah and the Jewish life-style would be doing that. The objective was financial and something I would enjoy doing. So in concert with selecting somewhat of a different lifestyle, I think I'd have pursued a career in medicine. This is not out of altruism, but simply a way of making a living while feeling good about yourself, while contributing to society in a meaningful way. So what if I wouldn't have become the multi-millionaire that I am now ;) ? Without the notion of finding fulfillment in Judaism, looking back now, my career seems somewhat empty. Maybe it's just a case of the grass being greener on the other side.

    The way I see it now, I would find a place for myself in a very MO community.

    Part of my objective in staying involved would be to make sure I'd have family continuity, enjoying things like Shabbos meals, etc. The dilemma of course, is what kind of education and beliefs I'd want my kids to have. That is really a very thorny question. Moving too far to the left, and there's the very real chance that the kids would drop it.

    A few years ago I had a conversation with a non-Frum Jew at work and mentioned to him that I wasn't thrilled with the extremes my kids were moving towards, i.e. full time learning, disdain for higher levels of secular education, etc. His reply was interesting, "that's what you get for sending your kids to Yeshiva". The interesting thing is this guy has almost no relationship with his kids who are off who knows where. So I'd rather be in my shoes than his.

    Is it fair to indoctrinate kids with something you don't believe in? I don't know.

    Is it fair to raise kids in a manipulative manner and plan your life for the sake of relationship with children? Why not, as long as they're not coerced? I don't know.

    Then again, is it fair to have children at all? Some would say that having children is really a selfish act.

    There's so much to discuss but I lack the right words for it.

    So I'd probably end up living in some town like Teaneck or Boca Raton. Or maybe in Monsey in Jewish Philosopher's town. After all he did say "You should check out my shul, seriously. It's a 30 something crowd. Half the women look like models and half the guys are gym rats. "

    My kids would go to an MO school, where they'd be exposed to rational thinking and they'd have the choice as to how to conduct their lives. It's certainly more fair than raising Chareidi clones that are living in a pre-destined generic path of closed-mindedness.

    Or is it? I'll discuss that in my next post.

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    25 March 2007

    I know the Truth - Redux

    Warning - Kol Isha alert and in general this is a post for skeptics.

    I wanted to do this for the longest time and it's now or never.

    This is a repeat of a post which generated lots of comments at the time. I've added a link now, so with it, the lyrics might have more impact.


    The quality is not great, but I think this is recorded on Broadway.

    The lyrics are of a haunting song in AIDA. It is sung by an Egyptian princess who recognizes that she wasted her life and is looking for unrequited love. Maybe it has to grow on you, but it's one of the most beautiful broadway songs I've ever heard.

    These lyrics comes very close to expressing some of my deepest emotions through all of this. In my next post I'll try to depict a portrait of - never mind, you'll see in my next post.

    Lyrics only slightly modifed(highlighted) by yours truly to fit the situation.

    How did I come to this?
    How did I slip and fall?
    How did I throw half a lifetime away
    Without any thought at all?

    This should have been my time
    It's over, it never began
    I closed my eyes to so much for so long
    and I no longer can
    I try to blame it on Taiveh
    Some kind of shift in my heart
    But I know the truth and it haunts me It’s grown a little too clear
    I know the truth and it mocks me
    I know the truth and it shocks me
    It's grown a little too clear

    Why do I want it still?
    Why, when there's nothing there?
    How to go on with the rest of my life
    To pretend that I care
    This should've been my life

    It's over-It never began
    I closed my eyes to so much for so
    long and I no longer can

    I try to blame it on Taiveh
    Some kind of twist in my fate
    But I know the truth and it haunts me
    I learned it a little too late

    Oh, I know the truth and it mocks me
    I know the truth and it shocks me
    I learned it a little too late - Too late

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    23 March 2007

    The Baal Habuste

    I must be the single worst blogger in the world.

    I can not begin to tell you how often I post something and the feedback goes off in every direction except the way I originally intended. But the final straw came in this last post. You see, it was supposed to be my last post.

    Don't you get it?

    So, my brothers, if I'm not with you in mind, you're all still in my hearts.

    And this ??

    "M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E "

    Where were you raised? Afghanistan?

    And Balloons ???

    Do I have to spell it out for you?
    I guess so.
    Ok, so how come I'm still here?
    No, I did not change my mind. But the few people I mentioned this to reminded me I had a few things to wrap up. "Your Public Needs You", one also said.
    It did make me feel good, but it's really past time for me to move on.
    So one of the issues is - "What's doing with the Baal Habuste? How have we been doing since I spilled the beans?"
    The answer in short is we're doing fine. In a way it's almost anti-climactic. Things are very normal and almost nothing really has changed.
    Here's the scoop. We hardly discuss skepticism. We came to a working agreement where we do not discuss any issues. I don't want to introduce her to nuances of science and history that will get her started, and she doesn't want to go there. And it's not so easy to discuss skepticism when your hands are tied, when I'm holding back.
    "Why don't you believe"?
    "Do you really want to get into it?"
    "No, but it doesn't say anywhere in the Torah that the world is only 6,000 years old".
    That's as far as these conversations go. I don't want to get into Kuzari, history, DH, Evolution, etc. I'm sure she has never even heard of DH.
    The truth is she doesn't even have a full grasp of how deep my skepticism runs. It's all a vague cloud that I'm a Koifer.
    Yet, she doesn't want to lose faith.
    She knows I'm not a wishy washy kind of guy who changes his mind yedden Muhntig un Dunershtig (Every Monday & Thursday). Come to think of it, all of my life I've been steady as a rock in everything. I'm not saying I don't change, but I'm as far from "flighty" as can be. So she realizes this is serious stuff and I'm not just being flippant about this .
    In a recent discussion I came to the realization that we had very different motivations about religion. Maybe it wasn't very noble, but my carrot for religion has been - the carrot. In other words the reward. Both here and in the hereafter. And so, to me, the loss of my religious beliefs was really nothing short of devastating. I don't exactly know why that has become my motivation (known as Slavish devotion as opposed to Filial Devotion) but I think that's the message we get from our Rabbonim. At least I do. I hear talk of nitschious, Onesh, Yenneh Machle, Poverty, Tsunami, constant Tehillim to keep away the big bad wolf, etc. Daven for this, etc. Give To Hatsulah so they won't carry YOU away on a stretcher, give to Tomchei Shabbos, so they don't deliver packages to YOUR door. Gog and Magog is coming soon.
    It's a very cause and affect message that I hear everyday. I am not saying this is the only message I get, but it is where the emphasis lies.
    It was not like this back in yeshiva days, but that's what it's like now as a Baal Habos.
    This has nothing to do with my skepticism and if someone brings this up, they will be banned. I do not want to discuss the psychology of skepticism/Atheism anymore.
    But my wife has a different take on it. She does good simply because that's what she believes "Hashem Wants". She is not as hung up with Reward & Punishment as I was.
    With that in mind, I really don't understand what's so bad about losing faith? I would have assumed she would take the attitude of "Really? Tell me exactly what you know, etc? I want to know too". But that's not what's happening and I don't want to push the issue.
    Still, she is none too happy about my situation and every now and then reminds me so.
    What we have here in our marriage now is a compromise. She knows how deeply involved I am in this, Blogs, speaking with others like me, etc. But she does not want to get involved - at all. She does not even view my blog unless I specifically show her something. (By the way, she is quite impressed with my writing. And, I might add, she would have definitely gotten the Mickey Mouse shtickkel, not like you people out there who have no imagination.)
    So although I don't have to hide from her anymore, I don't have a partner in skepticism.
    And that my friends, is the state of the union.
    I have a few other things to wrap up and I'll try to get that out before Pesach so I can enjoy my vacation.

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    22 March 2007

    A moment of my own

    Yesterday, JBF recounted an embarrassing moment in a tanning salon.
    Well, I had my own this morning. On my ride to work, I was just minding my own business, when the woman next to me nudges my leg. Not once, Twice. No, I was not getting lucky. I opened my eyes to see like a dozen people looking at me.

    I usually listen to a book on the train (great use of technology). In the spirit of staying away from debatable issues for one day, I was listening to some real great music instead of my books. Well, apparently I was singing along. How embarrassing. That ever happen to you?

    I'm going back to my Kefira books.

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    21 March 2007

    A change of pace - Updated.

    This last comment of mine in my prior post is so important that I wanted it in a separate post.

    Jewish Philosopher said

    However having God involved in my life is a huge problem for most people and they don't want to deal with it.

    And this is my reply:

    Yes, weve been over this, and you know there are people who dis-agree. So let's just leave it at that.

    See any good movies lately? Read any good books not about religion? I'll even settle for a gut Vort (not prosletyzing though). How's GHI (I think), tell us about your Job, your boss, your wife, anything. Anything but the same mantra over and over again about how Athiests just wanna have fun.

    Yes. Today is a non religion day. What's on your mind?

    OK I'll start. I recently read "Carrie" by Stephen King. I think he's a great author how he slowly sets the tone and lets you "feel" for the protagonist.

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    17 March 2007

    Various Unrelated Random thoughts

    This past Shabbos we had a double parsha, so Leining was sooooooo long.

    As I'm listening to the Baal Koreh all I could think of is the countless hours he must have spent in preparing the leining. And that brought me back to one of my earliest skeptic memories of davening.

    I remember thinking, how? How could it possibly be not true? How would God let us spend so many hours davening in shul, day in and day out, if this didn't have any real meaning? How could that possibly be? How could all of my ancestors spent hundreds of hours learning Torah if there was not some magical force behind it? How could we all be duped? How could all this sacrifice be in vain?

    The answer, I realized even then, was in the Church down the block. But I thought, "NO!" They spend what? Maybe an hour once a week in Church, we spend may 10 or 12 a week!! And look at all the learning we do.

    But just do the rough math. Counting roughly 3 Billion Muslims & Christians it is clear that as a group they (3 Billion hours a week) sacrifice much more than we do (100 Million?). You think we're frum because we daven three times a day? Well Muslims pray 5 times a day. We go to Yeshivas, they go to Madrass, etc.

    Look, there's Moishe. He never used to wear a hat. And now during Kedusha, his Tallis is over his head. Externally, he looks just like me. Except that I'm looking around Shul, and he's standing there - hands open in supplication, eyes closed and face turned towards upwards to the heavens . Who'd of ever believed it?

    It's so easy to get me to cry like a baby.


    Do secular jews get emotional over this kind of stuff?

    So, my brothers, if I'm not with you in mind, you're all still in my hearts.


    M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E

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    15 March 2007

    Lean on me

    A few weeks ago Miri asked

    BHB-while yes there is a strength in numbers, I don't see why findinglike-minded people should logically support your new beliefs. after all, when you stil believed, there were lots of like-minded ppl around you, and yet you later came to the conclusion that they were wrong. Why should the fact that other ppl believe similarly to you affect the logical soundness of your new beliefs?

    Miri eventually sharpened her question to this
    "...if the erosion of trust in the system is a by-product of the gradual realization of the fallibility of our authority figures -parents, teachers, the ppl we always assumed knew everything -trust moves into the self bc it has nowhere else to go. however, if one looks at the situation from an objective point of view, there's no logical reason why trust in oneself is better placed than trust in anyone else.barring situations wherein authority figures are abusive or clearly stupid, or in situations where perhaps an individual's judgements has long been established to have a more grounded value than those of said authority figures, what is it in the environment that should lead me to believe that I am a more reliable source than those who have already tried to be my sources?"

    Several individuals weighed-in in a set of questions and answers that went through till 02.13.07 - 6:26 pm

    It is worthwhile reading, especially in light of XGH's recent change of attitude.

    My answer to Miri's first question and my take on OJ has not changed. I'll recap briefly:

    I was a doubting skeptic in isolation for many years, afraid to trust my judgement without having a venue to exchange thoughts, hear potential answers and weigh them. It was almost exactly a year ago that accidental exposure to other skeptics clinched it for me in a matter of months. It is not a matter of numbers, rather it is a matter of validation of thought processes.

    In answer to her re-framed question - my initial beliefs about OJ were completely uncritical and unthinking. Like most Frum people, it was based on blind trust. When subjected to analysis, I no longer found it credible. (Of course your mileage may vary).

    We can discuss that more, but I'd like to get back to my own transformation, which is what this blog really is about, experiences. Namely the fact that I needed some sort of validation for my thought processes. Think of it as Scientific Peer Review. I now know that I am not the only one out there like that. I've had Email conversations with at least two others, who have described the same experiences. And I consider both of those to be much more knowledgeable in Judaism & Science than I am. So it's not an issue of facts but beliefs.

    I would suspect that what happened to me is typical of skeptics. But of course, I don't know unless you tell me.

    I would like to take a little poll here.

    For the Confirmed skeptics:

    A) Did you fully trust your skepticism without input from other "Frum Skeptics"?
    B) If someone like Mis-Nagid would begin to believe would it change your mind? It would not for me (Sorry, Mis-nagid).
    C) If every skeptic would begin to believe, would it change your mind?. (It would give me serious pause, but truthfully, without concrete evidence, I can't imagine ever going back to believing status.

    For the Believers:

    A) If your own Rov or Rosh Yeshiva would turn into a skeptic, would that cause you to re-examine your beliefs? Of course it will never happen, but "what if"?
    B) What if your Godol would falter? What would that do to you?
    C) What if many Gedolim would start to question and deny? How would that affect you?

    I'm not trying to suggest things here or point to historical events. I know it has happened, but in the big scheme of things, it is quite rare for Rabbonim to go OTD. I'm simply trying to gauge how Support comes into play for beliefs.

    For the Baalei Tshuva & Converts:

    Here's where it gets tricky, if you were actively searching for a spiritual change, for whatever reason, these questions may not be applicable.

    A) Did you come to be interested in OJ without a support system?
    B) Did you come to accept OJ without a support system?

    In short, how much weight is to be attached to external support systems in modifying and accepting beliefs? I don't see it as a weakness in my skepticism. I know someone may try to compare this to a Galileo and claim that if our skepticism was warranted, we should not need support, we should be able to firmly proclaim ""Eppur si muove" ("And yet it moves"). But I say it's not the same.

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    05 March 2007

    Monsey Herald

    You must read the prior post first

    Monsey, NY.

    March 4, 2007

    Police have identified the victim of a murder as Alfred E. Neumann. Mr Neumann is well known as the Founder and editor of the ever popular Mad Magazine.

    Mr. Neumann was found stabbed to death, apparently while celebrating his Purim Feast.

    There are reports that he was stalked earlier in the day and apparently had words with his assailant.

    There are conflicting reports as to the nature of the conversation.

    Some report the assailant as having screamed "Atheist" and Mr. Neumann responded with "No! I'm agnostic".

    Another eyewitness describes the assailant as yelling "Amelikite!" & "Letz" and brandishing a large knife. He is purported to have yelled "I'll be the first to kill you!" Mr. Neumann is reported to have mumbled something that sounded like "No San hed rin! No San hed rin". These words are apparently of a foreign origin and are being investigated.

    One witness, who identified himself only as XGH, reported hearing "I will plunge the knife in and enjoy seeing the blood gush all over".

    The assailant is described as tall, slender & muscular wearing dark clothing and a white shirt.

    Police questioned 46,613 people matching this description but eventually narrowed it down to an unnamed man who described himself as a Philosopher. The unidentified Philosopher was released after questioning. He provided an alibi as having been with a Mr. Ed.

    Ed, from the Lakewood N.J. area corroborated the fact that the Philosopher was dining with him on Sunday Evening. Witnesses recall a wild masquerade party with many drunk men in attendance all holding Beer Steins. There were many women in evidence at the party but they all seem to be domestic help.

    These bizarre events are further being investigated.


    Happy Shushan Purim all. You Too JP.
    But JP, NO! I'm not telling you my name!

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    04 March 2007

    The time has come.

    I just can't take it anymore............................

    The pressure is getting to me.......................

    I've bared my soul...................................

    Now it's time to bare my face..................................................

    And give you my name...................................................

    Yours truly,

    Alfred E. Neumann

    Happy Purim

    (Does anyone under the age of forty know who Alfred E Neumann is?)

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