30 April 2008

Lonely man of Faith?

I think not. The Rav is wrong. The real lonely man is the Frum skeptic.

And it's not just the Rav who was wrong. Mis-nagid was wrong. Or at least, he's wrong in my experience. In one of my first on-line encounters with him, I got the impression from him that skepticism runs rampant in the frum community. Well, I for one, just don't see it. And I get the same feedback from other another blogger who davens in an MO shul. Skepticism in the established Frum communities is a rarity. Even more surprising is that it's so misunderstood that when subtly bought to the limelight in a Jewish Observer article (see below), many JO readers misinterpreted the issue as simply one of people needing to learn more Mussar and Hashkafah to strengthen Emunah. There seems to be no awareness of this underground world that venerates science and history and which presents serious challenges to an educated believer.

A mere few months ago, things were really looking up for Frum Skeptics. There seemed to be a Neo-Haskala sitting on our doorsteps. First, there was what seemed to a burgeoning Skepti-Blogosphere. But there was more than that. Much more. There was that article in the Jewish Observer about Adults at Risk highlighted here and here. And then was even the story of Orthodox Rabbi David Gruber who came out of the closet.

But it all soon fizzled out. It seems to have been just a temporary tease.

Yet even if I dare to imagine and hope, difficulties arise. I must admit to myself that I have no concrete aspirations with my skepticism. After all, let's think this through. What is the reasonable best that we can expect? I don't expect Orthodoxy to simply throw in the hat. And that's for the simple reason that there is simply no battle against skepticism for them to lose! After all, they're thriving. And it seems the more right wing they are, the more they're winning. The Chareidim are winning the battle for the actions, if not hearts & minds, of the Jewish religious people. And what I see is that the actions of one generation, becomes the hearts and minds of the next.

Even if hundreds would suddenly step into the public, we're not going to see a psak from Gedolim saying it's OK to not believe. On the contrary, a mass movement of skepticism will just give more fire to the Chareidim to batten down the hatches. No libraries, no books, no TV, no Internet. No nothing. Just Torah.

Any mass movement of heresy, even accompanied by Orthopraxy, will just serve to have that whole movement labeled Assur. If Conservative Judaism doesn't cut it, if Modern Orthodoxy doesn't cut it, if Baaleh Battish is just barely tolerated in the growing chareidi world, what chance for a skeptical movement to be tolerated? It would be just another movement cast away by Orthodoxy. They might even add a 20th bracha to the the Shmoneh Esrei, this time targetted against the Orthpraxers!

It would bring me no closer to what I'd really want..

The bottom line is that I can't change the past and as I've said, I'm not walking away, not even from my right wing farfruhmpte neighborhood.

So what is it that I want?

It's to get rid of this isolation.

Yes, I've found some bright spots. There's an oasis of sanity that I've encountered through this modern miracle know as the web. I've developed a fairly large network of E-pals, some of whom I've spoken with, some of whom I've even met. Some have developed into quite nice friendships. And then there's my wife who finally really understands where I'm at.

However, being human, I always want more. I want to have my cake and eat it too. And that's the ability to speak my mind at all times. Even when I go to shul, when I go to a shiur (yes a shiur), a wedding, etc. Even when I go to work, my true feelings and beliefs need to be locked up behind my false frozen smile. Even though I have the benefit of my Oasis, my mind is ceaselessly whirring to itself most of the time. (Is this what Gay people go thru? It's awful. ) It's not that I want to run up to the Amud and contradict what the Rabbi says. It's just that I'd want to be able to chat about it in real time with people who feel the way I do. No no, not during Chazoras Hashatz of course, I'll be glad to wait for the kiddush!

Heck. It would be nice to even just know that there are people in the room who feel the same way as I do.

But alas, that just does not seem to be the case.

Sincerely yours, the lonely man of skepticism.

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    15 April 2008

    Welcome to my Paysach hotel.

    Rabbi Horowitz posted an article in defence of families enjoying the Pesach Yom Tov at a fine Hotel.

    Surprisingly, at least to me, most of the comments seem to be negative, implying that people should not be spending Pesach at a nice Hotel because it's too Gashmiusdik.

    I don't want to get into the debate itself, but I figured I'd capitalize on the situation and open a hotel to cater to the Chareidi individuals who, for whatever reason are forced to go to a Hotel and want to stick with the Ruchnius.

    Situated in downtown Philly we have the "Yetzias Mitrayim" hotel.

    The Lobby will be sparsely furnished to prevent snoozing and improper mingling

    Food will be kept to the minimum - you may have to wait on line for a while.

    Guards will be posted at the swimming pool to make sure there's no swimming CH"VSH.
    The guards will be straight out of the Haggada. Think Second makka.

    All profits will be directed to Kupat Ha'ir - the charity of the Gedolim

    Have a great Pesach

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    10 April 2008

    Choose your Godol

    Choose your Godol

    The promulgators of the Pashkevil below:
    (See here for the astonishing details)


    The author of the poster below

    (See here for the full details).

    I don't know about you but I vote for Rabbi Horowitz.

    I guess I was wrong in yesterday's post.

    There is some real goodness coming out of the Chareidi world.

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    09 April 2008

    Fundamentally speaking

    Note: Skeptic hat removed for this post.

    "Fundamentalist movements are embattled forms of spirituality which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis. They are engaged in a conflict with enemies whose secularist policies and beliefs seem inimical to religion itself. Fundamentalists do not regard this battle as a conventional political struggle but experience it as a cosmic war between the forces of good and evil. They fear annihilation and try to fortify their beleaguered identity by means of a selective retrieval of of certain doctrines and practices of the past. To avoid contamination they often withdraw from mainstream society to create a counter-culture. Yet fundamentalists are not impractical dreamers. They have absorbed the pragmatic rationalism of modernity and under the guidance of their charismatic leaders they refine these fundamentals so as to create an ideology that provides the faithful with a plan of action.

    Karen Armstrong - The battle for God (as quoted in "Under the banner of heaven").

    This passage was quoted in a book about the Mormon faith. Yet it instantly brought to mind the Chareidi/Lakewood culture that materialized in the last twenty five years or so. Today's Yiddishkeit is no longer the same as the Yiddishkeit that I grew up with. What changed? I see it as being due to the undue emphasis on "Talmud Torah Kneged Kulam". This retreat into learning was the direct cause of a great increase in Torah Scholarship. But it was also the catalyst for the acceleration of a trend that was documented and explained as the retreat into a textual world as opposed to inherited practice.

    I don't need to bring proof, it's open for all to see. Yiddishkeit was not always as it is today.

    It has changed right before my very eyes. And I'm fearful for my children's future.

    As a point of comparison, let's take a brief look at the accomplishments of the post war, Baaleh Batish, era that burgeoned out of the ashes of the holocaust.

    They built a society that offered everyone the opportunity to be a self supporting, educated, realistic and a fully committed practicing Yid. They established Mosdos, charities for those who fell on hard times and a full sustainable infrastructure for continuity. At the same time, they produced doctors, lawyers, scientists, businessmen and rabbonim who contributed to the general well being of the community and society as a whole.

    They stood at the precipice of being a people that could be the Ohr Lagoyim, "A light unto the nations".

    The future was bright.

    And all this was accomplished without resorting to Daas Torah or a Chareidi Mindset.

    And now?

    I know there's a lot of individual good in the Chariedi Community. The individual members are for the most part extremely well intentioned and hard working too. But other than building some wonderful Mosdos of Torah, what have they accomplished at the community level? Please don't bring up the hundreds of Gemachs that they run. It's beautiful, but I don't see it is a great social advance.

    Furthermore, it seems that not a month goes by in which the Chareidi world does not face a new internal crisis and black eye.

    Without thinking too hard:

    Indian Sheitels , Strawberries, Bugs in water, Shevach meat Kashrus scandal, Boro Park Chareidi riot (Schick), Shidduch Crisis, Burkas in Beit Shemesh, Chaim Berlin Sheitel showdown, Kids at risk , Tranquility Bay & Rav Aaron Schechter, Sex abuse/Torah Temima, El Al boycott, Internet Crisis, Kids can't get into Lakewood schools, Slifkin Ban, Botched Concert Ban, Rioting in Israel / Gay parade, Making of a Godol fiasco, Parnossah Crisis.

    The Chareidi world lurches along from crisis to crisis as it retreats into it's own little world of an imagined past.

    Fundamentally speaking, something is terribly wrong.

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    08 April 2008

    Even the learning's not the same.

    So I decided to write this song

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    04 April 2008

    Strange events - just for the believers.

    This Emuna story caught my eye. Not so much for the event, but for the attitude.

    Money Quote:

    There is a verse in Tehillim
    that says, “Min hameitzar karasi Kah, anani bamerchav Kah.” “From the straits I
    cried out to Hashem, and He answered me with expansiveness.” No sooner had he
    finished his tefillah to Hashem than the PA system came on with another
    announcement. “We regret to inform you that one of our
    flight attendants has suddenly become ill.
    As an emergency precaution, we
    will be forced to return to the terminal, even though it will involve losing our
    place on the runway. We apologize for the inconvenience.”

    Inconvenience – this was a
    miracle! Hashem had heard Eli’s prayer.

    Not one word of concern for the poor flight attendant or wonder that Hashem would use this exact mechanism to get him off his flight.

    Ah, She (he) was probably a Goy, who cares about them anyway.

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