27 December 2009

Please join me in my study.

I think by many standards this blog has been a great success. I originally set out to tell my story to clarify my own feelings and I was quite pleasantly surprized that anyone came along for the ride. I mean, there were so many writers far more eloquent and talented than I. I got lucky. I found sympathetic readers and at the same time I had critics who challenged me to hone my positions.
At this point there's not much left to say in this blog. Sure, there's no end to bashing OJ; that's so easy to do lately, it's not even challenging . BTW, See Wolfish Musings for a great post related to this.

I'm not closing this down just yet, but, it's time to move on. (By the way, if any knows how to import my Haloscan comments into Blogger, i'd be might greatful. I really don't like the new Echo and the fact that they'e trying to force people to for an inferior experience does not sit well with me.)

I don't want the skeptic dialogue to come to halt. So last night, practically on a whim, I started a new blog and I hope you'll join me there. It's something that I had thought about before in a differnt forum but it did not materialize. Maybe, with a little effort it can work in a blog format. It's definitely an experiment because without YOUR active particpation it's not going anywhere.

(I also want to point out that co-incidentally just today I became aware of a similar effort over here. I don't view that as competetion, but rather as a Kinas Sofrim Tarbeh Chuchma.)

So. Grab a drink, pull up a chair. I hope you join me in my study.

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    23 September 2009

    The Five Tefilos of Yom Kippur

    It's time to say a final gooodbye to this blog, once again ;)

    I leave you with five teffilos I can live with.

    Kol Nidrei






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    Mad Libs

    Excerpt from Under the Banner of Shamayim Heaven about Skeptic Mormons.

    Just replace Deloy with Moshe, Colorado City with Boro Park, etc. and see yourself in the mirror.

    From a tranquil city park at the edge of Colorado City, the sheer cliffs of Canaan Mountains erupt heavenward without preamble... "My brother David and I used to sneak up here every chance we got when we were kids", says Deloy Bateman....
    Deloy is perched at the edge of this mountaintop, staring down at the town where he was born and raised. It's the end of July and the temperature is 104 in the shade. Deloy- who seems oblivious to the withering heat even though he is wearing long polyester pants, a long sleeved shirt, and the religion's trademark long underwear-is an apostate from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christs of Latter Day Saints and has no respect for it's new prophet, Warren Jeffs, but he still resides in this xenophobic community, stuck in the middle of town, and doubts that he'll ever live very far away..... Unlike most who have rejected the teachings of the FLDS church... Deloy has become an atheist.

    It hasn't been an easy transformation. "my whole life, I've had this need to believe in something", he says. "I've wanted answers to why we were put here, just like everybody else. The religion provided these answers.... This religion is in my blood.

    "even though I don't believe anymore, I'm still wearing the garment-the long sacred underwear. I try not to wear it, but I just can't seem to leave it off, even on hot summer days like this....

    In any case, it wasn't the culture's sexual customs or its lifestyle constraints that finally induced Deloy to apostatize. Rather, he says, "It just got to be where I could no longer ignore that the religion is a lie...

    Although Deloy says that he was "extremely religious" throughout his youth, he also had a probing curious mind. "Even as a young boy", he says, "I remember wondering about contradictions between what the religion taught and scientific truth. But Uncle Roy told us that the way to handle that was to avoid asking certain kinds of questions. So I trained myself to ignore the contradictions. I got good at not letting myself think about them."

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    21 September 2009

    'Wrong again' & Rosh Hashona thoughts

    Wrong again.

    I met another hidden Frum skeptic. But for me, Reuvein is different from all other skeptics I've encountered. Very very different. Reuvein is someone I know in real life outside the skeptic world; someone I have known for more than thirty years!! Someone who is fairly close to me. No, not a relative but someone between acquaintance and good friend.

    Several things about this underscores an important message to myself, namely how often I can be wrong about things.

    Firstly, I call this friend Reuvein. As in - Reuvein borrowed a hundred zuzim from Shimon ("lent" if you're from a Chareidi Yeshiva ;).

    While I did suspect Reuvein of harboring heretical thoughts, he was, like me, the perfect "Baal Habos".

    Reuvein has been a skeptic since before he got married, well over thirty years. And this destroys one of my most basic assumptions. See, I always assume that I'm a typical person. If I act one way, then my behaviour is typical. Not that everyone thinks exactly like me of course, but that I'm, well, typical. And reasonable. And that if someone similar to me (same background, personality, etc) would encounter the same set of events or circumstances as I, that we'd react in basically the same manner. And here's where I'm totally wrong. And it's not even a Chiddush to me. Yet, the lesson needs to be constantly hammered into me. Because had I been in Reuvein's shoes, I think I'd be long gone. And the long gone of my Starting Over post, is probably not as far gone as I'd really be!

    Yet Reuvein, a hardened skeptic, made the decision to stay put, practically in the heart of Chareidi-land. Not out of an Orthprax sense of idealism. Rather, he decided that for purely social reasons (parents, friends, etc), that he'd stay put and marry a (more or less) typical Bais Yaakov girl. And that is completely mind-boggling to me. So that makes me re-think my stance on what I'd have done in his shoes, had I found out before I got married. Of course, it makes not a shred of difference, but it makes me realize how my assumptions about others are very often wrong.

    And here's another shocker to me. I happened to see him in action, in shul. And this just really blows me away. Unlike me who spends a lot of his shul time surveying the shul or learning something , he usually is literally sitting and looking in the siddur, practically following along line by line. (What's going on in that big brain of his, I don't know, but it's definitely not Perush Hamilos). And that destroyed an important assumption of mine which is that I'd easily recognize a fellow frum koifer in shul.

    So that's good news and bad news. The good news is there may be others out there; but the bad news is they're not be so easy to find.

    Reuvein, unlike me, has no interest in blogs, computers, etc or other skeptic companionship. He had long ago "given" up on society and does not follow skepticism the way many of us do. I.e. he has no fixation on skeptic issues, such as DH, Philosophy, etc. It's pure science for him. That's another case of "Al Hatam V'all Hareyach".

    Another bit of disheartening news is I'm the only full blown Frum skeptic that Reuvein has ever met. Maybe that's because Reuvein is not on the prowl the way I am. Still, thirty years is thirty years.

    Wrong Again & Rosh Hashana thoughts.

    The upshot of this post, is how wrong I can be about things. And it's not just me who is often wrong. It's amazing how often popular thinking, even scientific thinking can be wrong. For example, a recent article explains that a long held assumption about the evolution of dinosaurs was destroyed with the discovery of a smaller T-rex with the same features as larger ones. And scientific assumptions like this come tumbling down almost every day.

    And that leads to an important question which is: "Am I wrong about OJ?".

    Unfortunately, the answer is still a clear and resounding no.

    What these turnabouts do, at least for me, is turn me into a more critical thinker, not a less critical one.

    No matter how many mistakes and false starts science makes (and unlike religion, admits to), the indisputable advances of science testify to the credibility of the scientific method.

    The only thing religion will get you is peace of mind and a good social circle. I'm not knocking these, but they're clearly subjective.

    Rosh Hashana thoughts

    As an exercise, the next time you lain the story of Akeidas Yitzchok, try inserting your own son's name instead of Yitzchak. I guarantee you that Sarah Imeinu would never have passed failed the Nisayon.

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    13 September 2009

    More 'great literature' angst!

    The Oilam is shouting. All together.

    ויעבור יהוה על-פניו, ויקרא, יהוה יהוה, אל רחום וחנון--ארך אפיים, ורב-חסד ואמת

    But it seems people have been faking it for ages.

    The President leaned forward and, with a touch, released a delirium of cymbals and blown brass, a fever of tom-tomming.

    "Oh, he's coming!" screamed Clara Deterding. "Aie!" and it was as though she were having her throat cut.

    Feeling that it was time for him to do something, Bernard also jumped up and shouted: "I hear him; He's coming." But it wasn't true. He heard nothing and, for him, nobody was coming. Nobody–in spite of the music, in spite of the mounting excitement. But he waved his arms, he shouted with the best of them; and when the others began to jig and stamp and shuffle, he also jigged and shuffled.

    OK, Without doing an Internet Search, Where is this from?

    A) Huxley, Brave New world
    B) Dostoyesvski - Notes from the underground
    C) I love Lucy - Episode 76
    D) Dickens - The mystery of Edwin Drood
    E) Pasternak - Dr. Zhivago
    F) Stein J. - Why I am not a Christian
    G) Name your own book and author
    H) Create your own book and author

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    31 March 2009

    It's that time.

    It's time to clean out the Chometz (cookies) from my computer lest I get outed by the Yeshivaleit who'll be monopolizing the computer any moment now.

    And being that I desperately need a nice long break from this Blogging Meshugas, now's a good time as ever to take an extended vacation.

    Andrea, what a voice.



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    28 March 2009


    It just came to me suddenly as I was contemplating the produce section in my local supermarket.

    How did Rabbinic Judaism, ever get off the ground on the first place?

    Imagine, if you will. Chaim Yankel comes home from the First Congregation Anshe Yavneh Shul around 10:30 Shabbos morning in the year 101 AD.

    "Shprintze, I'm home.."

    "You're so late!"

    "Well," he said, "we had a new Rav in shul today, and he made us repeat the shmoneh Esrai"

    "You're kidding. What for?"

    "He called it chazoras Hashatz".

    "Hmmm", she says as she re-arranges the table.

    "You can't do that"

    "Why not?"

    "That's Muktzeh!"

    "What's that?"

    "Err, never mind..."

    She rushes to kiss him.


    "What's the matter?"

    "You're a Niddah!"


    "You're a Niddah."

    "No I'm not. I'm a Zavah."

    "Not anymore you ain't. And we now have Harchakos."

    The next day, Chaim Yankel, whose kids were all married off, found himself signing up at the "Second Congregation Anshe Yavneh".

    The Reish Gelusah is not getting to first base with his mispalelim, no matter what kind of believers they are. It's my experience that even the believers are skeptics to new concepts, gezeiros, etc.

    But! The Resh Gelusa will have success in introducing this "stuff" to the kinderlach in yeshiva.

    It is the kinderlach who look at the bowl of fruit and refuse to eat the strawberries.

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