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ADULTS AT RISK
“Will Your Grandfather be Jewish?”
by Rabbi Mordechai Becher, Rabbi Chanan (Antony) Gordon

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10/11/07

For those of us that have been involved in outreach and fighting assimilation, whether as a full-time senior lecturer (as is the case with Rabbi Mordechai Becher) or as a lay activist leader (as is the case with Rabbi Chanan (Antony) Gordon), various acronyms have become an accepted part of our mainstream “working lexicon” e.g. B.T. (Baal Teshuva), F.F.B (Frum From Birth) and F.F.H (Frum From Habit) … It is for the last mentioned category that we have coined the phrase “Adults at Risk.”

Our analyses of this phenomenon will emphasize some primary causes of the Adult at Risk crisis and more importantly, some proposed solutions. At the outset, however, a clarification of the topic at hand is essential …

What does “Adults at Risk” really mean?

Perhaps the best way to define the topic is to relay a conversation between one of the co-authors of this article and Rav Nachman Bulman, (Mashgiach of Ohr Somayach) Z”TL, a few years before he passed away. One of the most common objections to Torah heard from secular Jews is that they “… know an Orthodox Jew who was not honest in his business dealings and whose character left much to be desired …” In hearing this complaint the Mashgiach repeated the maxim that “ it’s not whether you go through Shas, its whether Shas goes through you …”

Rav Bulman, ZT”L pointed out that if a person’s learning and involvement in mitzvos do not make a fundamental change in his character, behavior and outlook, he could end up (to paraphrase the Mashgiach) going through life like an empty shell. Not only will he not have a sincere relationship with the Almighty, but most frighteningly, he convinces himself that he is a true oved Hashem…

Based on the comments of Rav Bulman, Z”TL, we may define the “risk” that is under discussion as the risk of going through life as a “spiritual zombie.” In other words, living an Orthodox lifestyle out of habit and convenience because it is a familiar routine; a good way to get off from the office a few extra days a year, and good for the kids, as long as it does not involve too much sacrifice.

While there may not be an immediate “risk” of these “Adults at Risk” going off the derech in the traditional sense, we submit that paradoxically “Adults at Risk” should present as much of a “wake up call” to our communities or perhaps even more than their “Kids at Risk” namesake. Unlike “Kids at Risk,” “Adults at Risk,” are not only unaware that they personally have a problem, but sadly, many of these “Adults at Risk,” for obvious reasons, are likely to contribute to the creation of “Kids at Risk.”

Case histories illustrating the extent of the Adult at Risk crises

In order to appreciate the magnitude and broad spectrum of the Adult at Risk phenomenon in our communities, we have outlined some case histories that we have been involved in first-hand. If any of these examples resonate or maybe even remind you of the person davening two seats away from you, perhaps you will agree that the word “crisis” is not an exaggeration:

  • Following a lecture at a recent Shabbaton in Canada entitled “If Hashem loves me why do I feel so much pain?” one of the co-authors of this article was approached by a frum-looking gentleman, who talked and dressed in a yeshivishe manner.

    His anxiety and confusion were obvious … “Rabbi,” he said somewhat sheepishly, “I’m almost embarrassed to say this but I’ve spent my entire life in mainstream Yeshivas … I have a wife and five children … why didn’t I learn this stuff in Yeshiva?”

    Further probing made it clear that some basic concepts discussed during the Shabbaton, such as the fact that “Hashem loves you more than you love your own children;” and that “there is a big difference between feeling pain and something being ‘bad;’” had never formed part of his understanding of Torah.

    When asked why he felt that he had not ever had the opportunity to get some clarity on these issues as a student, the response was all too predictable … “Rabbi, we were never encouraged to ask existential questions, and worse, were made to feel like fools if we showed interest in anything other than the classic Gemara curriculum.”

  • A scenario that is becoming all too common … One of the co-authors is asked to speak with a young man who grew up in a Chassidishe community … Again the dialogue is one that has been repeated in several other such consultations … it goes something like this: “… Rabbi I have spent my whole life in good Yeshivas in the Williamsburg area … I had to leave kollel to get a job … I was always told that the outside world was filled with only immoral and dishonest people … In my experience so far, I have found that not to be the case … If that is not unsettling in and of itself, I have been asked questions about Judaism for the first time by co-workers and I don’t have the answers … This is all very confusing … I am starting to question some of my basic beliefs for the first time … ”

  • A complaint that we hear frequently is, to paraphrase a cliché that they feel all-dressed up in Orthodox garb with nowhere to go. They are well versed in the outward manifestations of keeping the Torah, but lack simchah and inspiration in their Torah observance … “Rabbi” comes the complaint, “I grew up in the heart of [fill in your favorite frum community] and I only heard about sacrifice and mesirus nefesh. I never heard about emunah, joy, love or inspiration. … shul was always dull … and I remember my father always impatient in shul, looking forward to reading a newspaper, and rushing through the seudas Shabbos so he could sleep …”

Some of the major causes of “Adults at Risk” …

Lack of solid foundation in areas of hashkafah and emunah

Yeshivas such as Ohr Somayach and Aish Hatorah which are directed to towards students with a secular background and world view, provide a strong foundation in a classic Torah hashkafah and emunah, but equally as important, encourage and embrace questions, arguments and existential discussions.

Most students who spend time in these environments will become familiar with some of the best known English, contemporary “building block” works on hashkafah and emunah that, to quote one prominent Rosh Yeshiva’s haskamah, have become “essential reading for people serious about these topics.” Some of these publications include - Rabbi Lawrence Keleman’s “Permission to Believe;” Rabbi Dr. Dovid Gottlieb’s “Informed Soul;” Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s “If You Were G-d,” and “Living Inspired” by Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz.

We are not suggesting that our classic seforim on hashkafah – such as the Ramchal’s Mesilas Yesharim or Rav Chaim Volozhiner’s Nefesh HaChayim – can be replaced by the aforementioned contemporary works. Rather, it is often the case that a contemporary style, language and approaches designed for a skeptical beginner, may provide clarity, and on many occasions, life changing insights because it speaks in a familiar language, and confronts familiar issues that may not have been addressed in their Yeshivah education. These works and classes of a similar genre have been able to supply people with information and inspiration that they did not receive in their Yeshiva education.

In short, if Yeshivah graduates were better equipped from a philosophical, hashkafic and emunah perspective, they would not become unglued and de-stabilized when they face challenges to their beliefs, questions about Torah, or just the inevitable bumps in life’s journey.

Burnt out teachers generally produce students ripe for “burn out”

The old adage that one cannot “kid a kid” rings even louder in the case of chinuch … The phenomenon of a burnt out teacher who is not able or willing to relate to his students and disseminate the rich beauty of Torah in a manner that will build a deep foundation is often the catalyst for an “Adult at Risk time bomb” that ticks softly until a full blown crises detonates it.

We have both been asked many times to administer “spiritual emergency treatment” in the frum community to prevent another adult F.F.B from becoming an Adult at Risk. Too many of these “patients” have attributed their problems to negative experiences during their formative Yeshiva years for us to believe that such cases are anomalies. A burnt out rebbi who resorts to verbal abuse (or c”v physical abuse) in his desperate attempt to make a point when patience runs thin is planting the seeds for an Adult at Risk down the road.

Continuous negativity toward everything in “the outside world” sows the seeds of destruction

A plethora of studies in the fields of psychology and education underscore the importance of positive reinforcement and of building students’ self-esteem of students in order to ensure an all-round balanced and happy individual.

A recent story shared by a bitter, former-yeshiva student with one of the co-author’s makes the point about the consequences of being over-critical:

A yeshiva student was happily dancing at his former room-mate’s wedding, and pushed his way “to the middle of the circle” to entertain the chosen and kallah (successfully, we should add) with a break-dance (ask your teenager if you don’t know what this is). He was in a great mood, full of simchah, full of love for his fellow Jews,and feeling good about himself, until his Rosh Yeshivah pulled him aside at the chasanah and strongly criticized him for a dance step “from the street.”

What will the Rosh Yeshiva say after 120 years when he learns that his comment was one of a series of little pushes, and perhaps even “the last straw,” that eventually sent this promising student “out of the circle completely” and out of Torah observance?

On the other hand, Orthodox parents who preach to their children the importance of Torah (i.e. getting good grades in Gemara etc.) while discussing nothing but current affairs, headline news and work at the Shabbos table, are sending the type of mixed message to the next generation that will only increase their fascination with everything but Torah, by showing that the “real action is outside the four cubits of Torah.”

Our obligation to stop the “Adult at Risk” phenomenon from spiraling even more …

Before suggesting some solutions to curtail the “Adult at Risk” syndrome, a word or two on our obligation to expend the time and energy necessary to ensure that we have no further hemorrhaging within our own ranks …

The chiyuv that we all have to reach out to our unaffiliated brothers and sisters has been the topic of much literature. Aside from the Torah principle that “kol Yisrael arayvim ze le ze” and the outspoken calls to action from the time of the Chofetz Chaim, we are all aware of the recent public declarations of our Gedolim for every Torah Observant Jew to be participatein the mitzvah of kiruv rechokim. But what of our obligation of kiruv krovim?

If anything, all indications are that the obligation that we have to “stop the bleeding” within our own camp is at least as great an obligation. Apart from the devastating effect on families and communities, in the case of an F.F.B that becomes an Adult at Risk the “tinok shenishbah” card cannot be played. In addition, many readers may be familiar with one of the battle cries of the former Munkatcher Rebbe, that, “before trying to “make a profit”, one should ensure that he is not losing what he already has.” While many Gedolim disagreed with the Munkatcher’s objections to kiruv rechokim[1], there is no question that they wholeheartedly agreed with the need to preserve and guard what we already have.

Proposed solutions to the Adult at Risk syndrome …

Some general solutions are implicit in the comments above. More specifically, some approaches that have proved effective include the following:

Validate, do not castigate doubts and fears …

One of the greatest mistakes one can make is to reject a question or questioner out of hand. Our experience has shown us that for a frum person who is experiencing doubts and questioning an axiom of Torah, nothing is worse than being made to feel abnormal or crazy or to be told “don’t ask questions”, or “what are you? An apikoros!’

On the contrary, a person suffering from a spiritual existential crisis is in tremendous pain. They need to feel validated and encouraged to ask whatever questions are causing them confusion. Our prime directive is to listen to and accept without prejudice or criticism (or even reaction) any question at all on any topic.

Encourage the study of Taamei Hamitzvos …

The study of Taamei Hamitzvos, often a neglected field in standard Yeshiva education is vital to giving an Adult at Risk a sense of meaning in what he is doing. The verse states, “Taamu ur’ooh ki tov Hashem” (Tehillim 34:9) “Taste and see that Hashem is good.” Rav Moshe Shapiro Shlita explained this as an exhortation to look into the taamei hamitzvos (the ‘taste’, or reasons of the commandments) and that when one does so, one will see immediately that Hashem is good and that He has commanded us these mitzvos for our benefit. Classics such as Sefer Hachinuch, and Horeb by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, as well as contemporary works in this field abound.

Refreshing kiruv type seminars should be embraced in frum communities …

In our experience in numerous seminars and classes, people with kiruv oriented skills are often best equipped to recharge the confused and tired “spiritual batteries” of Orthodox adults suffering from burn out. In addition to the hashkafa and communication training that we have, it seems that F.F.B’s find it is less embarrassing and perhaps less threatening to speak with people who regularly confront these questions rather than shock or “lose face” in front of their shul Rabbi. Moreover, after many years in the field, there is hardly a question that will be a total surprise.

Some of the kinds of programs that every Orthodox community and/synagogue should embrace include the following:

- Project Chazon under the leadership of Rabbis Daniel Mechanic and Yerachmiel Milstein, which presents comprehensive Hashkafah seminars on the Yesodei HaEmunah to Yeshiva and Bais Yaakov high school students throughout the United States and Canada. To date, over 1200 programs have been presented to over 100,000 students in over 200 schools.

- Gateways’ staff of internationally acclaimed lecturers has had a profound effect on the lives of thousands of observant Jews who have attended Gateway’s Retreats during Pesach, Shavuos and Rosh Hashanah, as well as their advanced-track seminars presented on a frequent basis throughout the country.

Avoid a “fire and brimstone” approach

The Adult at Risk candidate should have a totally new type of learning experience dissociated from previous negative experiences. The learning interaction has to be as friendly and informal as possible with no “put downs” nor “hakpadahs” by the teacher. The text should be fresh to them e.g. something like Kuzari , Michtav MeEliyahu or Maharal, as opposed to texts that they are likely to have studied in Yeshivah or seminary. Most importantly subjects should include the Ikrei Emunah and the authenticity of the Sinai Revelation, and the Torah Sheba’al Peh, the Oral Law.

At the end of the day, our experience has clearly shown us that the feeling that there is someone

who truly cares, that one is not being judged, and that it is normal to have ups and downs in one’s spiritual journey, is at least as important as the content and information of the class. Love, warmth and friendship are perhaps the most vital ingredients in dealing with a crisis in faith.

F.F.Bs and B.Ts - a symbiotic relationship …

Much has been written about the importance of ensuring that people from a secular background who have turned to Torah and have committed themselves to Yiddishkeit should aim to become integrated into the mainstream Orthodox community. To that end, the F.F.B community plays a significant function as role models and mentors.

Paradoxically in the case of the Adult at Risk, which occurs almost exclusively within the F.F.B. camp, Baalei Teshuvah can serve as the spark that rekindles the flame of inspiration in the established frum community. Recordings of shiurim by “kiruv” lecturers, reading materials that address questions F.F.B’s so often feel too embarrassed to ask, and the popularity of kiruv type seminars in the heart of frum communities are now common sights …

If there is any positive fall-out from the looming Adult at Risk crisis it seems to be the fact that as the kiruv and teshuvah movements mature and expand, the newly observant and the traditionally observant worlds are becoming more intertwined in a positive and mutually beneficial way … After all, at the end of the day, we all report to the same Boss!



[1]Heard directly from HaGaon Rav Moshe Shapiro Shlita

The sub-title of this article, “Will Your Grandchild Be Jewish?” is a “play on words based on the title of Rabbi Chanan (Antony) Gordon’s article and accompanying demographic chart entitled “Will Your Grandchild Be Jewish?” which he co-authored with Richard M. Horowitz, the North American President of Aish Hatorah and which was first published in the JO in 1996.

Rabbi Mordechai Becher, originally from Australia, is a Senior Lecturer for the Gateways Organization. Before joining the staff of Gateways, Rabbi Becher taught at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem for 15 years. Rabbi Becher received his Rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. His latest book Gateway to Judaism was published by Artscroll last year and is now in its second printing. He has co-authored two books on contemporary issues in Halachah and has responded to thousands of legal, ethical and philosophical questions on the Ask the Rabbi website. Rabbi Becher lives with his wife, Chavy, and their six children in Passaic, New Jersey.


Rabbi Chanan (Antony) Gordon, originally from South Africa, has been a frequent contributor to the JO on topics related primarily to kiruv rechokim and Jewish demographics. Chanan has been involved in issues pertaining to outreach on a national and international level for the past 15 years and has assumed leadership positions in various capacities including, Chairman of this years’ AJOP Convention; serving on the Board of Gateways and chairman of The L.A. Kiruv Coalition. Chanan received his Rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and Pirchei Shoshanim. He graduated with a Fulbright Scholarship from the Harvard Law School and is the Managing Director of Investor Relations for East Avenue Capital Partners, a hedge fund. Chanan lives with his wife, Lebe, and their five children in Los Angeles, California.



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1. The crisis is real     10/11/07 - 1:21 PM
Anonymous

The problem here is twofold:

1. Adults don't have a strong connection to the beauty and joy of yiddishkeit.

2. The 'outside world,' with which we must engage and interact, presents all manner of tempting forms of beauty and joy. Whether it's a drink after work with coworkers, or a business trip to a city where nobody knows you, it's not just spiritual burnout that we have to worry about.

As a side point, and this is a problem that has affected me personally, the frum community in general idolizes wealth and materialism, and fosters an atmosphere of competition. With this as a backdrop, we're seeing more and more so-called choshuv people and even rabbonim falling prey to temptation, and whole industries of loshon hora cropping up to spread rumors and damaging stories. This is, in my opinion, eroding people's faith in Jewish leadership and the Torah lifestyle.


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2. Big time - 100% on target     10/11/07 - 4:39 PM
noNameFromLakewood

This article really hits home. We see this in our life with people we know, all the time.

Just to add my 2 cents. It seems that a large portion of our society has this problem, but not always will you notice it. Sometimes you wont notice it until the individual goes through some bumps in there life. Sometimes you won’t notice it because they have a strong emunah ph'shuta within themselves, however they won’t be able to transmit it to there own children. Etc. etc.

I would love for them to start a Gateways type program for us in Lakewood, I would be the first one to sign up (and will go without wearing a mask :>)).


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3. Fewer Female Adult Women at Risk     10/11/07 - 5:18 PM
Anonymous

I believe FFB women tend to be more spiritual than the men because many of the teachers at the girls yeshiva high school take time out to discuss philosophical torah topics.As a result many young women develop a deeper understanding of the "whys" of mitzvos.I agree that we need to give our boys a quality not just a quantity Torah education.Parents need to be able to answer the "WHY" questions of Torah not just the "how" questions.We must provide training for our children for their most important job of their life- being a Jewish Parent.


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4.     10/11/07 - 10:41 PM
Shuli

This is a very nice article.

As a BT I was deeply dissapointed in some aspects of day-to-day Jewish life. One (especially, a woman) is often look at and "assesed" before people even talk to you; humros are treated as halachos and one not adhearing to humros is automatically "written off", money is very important, people go to great lengths to "keep up with neighbours....

It creates a very uninspiring picture of Judaism.

I was lucky to become religious via ppl who weren't like that, and my emuna is built on stron principles and a deep foundation which, B'H, helps me see beyond; helps me remember that there is the Perfect God, who could have given only a perfect Torah to his children.


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5. Neo-Haskalah     10/11/07 - 11:21 PM
Frum Guy

So how many are there? How many adults in the frum community are skeptics? Doubters? Non-believers? I think it's a lot more than anyone guesses. I know of so many from my own neighborhood and family that I'd have to use a pencil and paper to get an accurate count. And that's not the ones I know from online--which is plenty.

Now obviously it's not a huge number. It's not like every beis medrash is packed with secret atheists. But it's not an insignificant number either. More importantly, it's a trend. The first Haskalah didn't fill Volozhin with secret atheists--but it had its share. Volozhin had haskalah literature hidden in gemaras; today I got an email from a guy in a brand name yeshiva about Who Wrote the Bible.

We may be on the verge of a Neo-Haskalah. I'm not even sure what it would entail, but it's going to be something. The cover story of this month's Jewish Observer is about this Neo-Haskalah; they just call it "Adults at Risk." They spin it (of course) and their focus is on allaying it (of course) but between the lines you can see what they're choosing to not say very clearly: that it's big and it's about doubt.

How do the authors of the article define "adults at risk?" As "living an Orthodox lifestyle out of habit and convenience because it is a familiar routine; a good way to get off from the office a few extra days a year, and good for the kids, as long as it does not involve too much sacrifice." Notice that they don't mention beliefs or doubts explicitly in the definition. Despite the definition implicitly framing it as laziness or apathy, the article itself makes clear that it's not. For example:

"I have been asked questions about Judaism for the first time by co-workers and I don’t have the answers...This is all very confusing...I am starting to question some of my basic beliefs for the first time" "if Yeshivah graduates were better equipped from a philosophical, hashkafic and emunah perspective, they would not become unglued and de-stabilized when they face challenges to their beliefs, questions about Torah, or just the inevitable bumps in life’s journey." "Most importantly subjects should include the ikarei emunah and the authenticity of the Sinai Revelation, and the Torah Sheba’al Peh, the Oral Law."

And, revealingly, the very first proposed solution is to "Validate, do not castigate doubts and fears:" "One of the greatest mistakes one can make is to reject a question or questioner out of hand. Our experience has shown us that for a frum person who is experiencing doubts and questioning an axiom of Torah, nothing is worse than being made to feel abnormal or crazy or to be told “don’t ask questions”, or “what are you? An apikoros!’"

In fact, every single one of the proposed solutions is about addressing doubts that Orthodox Judaism is true, contra the self-serving definition. Definitions are easy fodder for spin; solutions tell you what problem they're really addressing.

So, how big is this phenomenon, according to the authors?

"If any of these examples resonate or maybe even remind you of the person davening two seats away from you, perhaps you will agree that the word “crisis” is not an exaggeration" "a word or two on our obligation to expend the time and energy necessary to ensure that we have no further hemorrhaging within our own ranks"

You can read the (almost) full article here, where Rabbi Horowitz posted it. What's missing? Rabbi Horowitz cut something from this section:

"A yeshiva student was happily dancing at his former room-mate’s wedding, and pushed his way “to the middle of the circle” to entertain the chosen and kallah (successfully, we should add) with a break-dance (ask your teenager if you don’t know what this is). He was in a great mood, full of simchah, full of love for his fellow Jews,and feeling good about himself, until his Rosh Yeshivah pulled him aside at the chasanah and strongly criticized him for a dance step “from the street.”

What will the Rosh Yeshiva say after 120 years when he learns that his comment was one of a series of little pushes, and perhaps even “the last straw,” that eventually sent this promising student “out of the circle completely” and out of Torah observance?"

In the original, the first quoted paragraph continued: "(The authors do not, of course, condone a ben Torah break-dancing or engaging in any other behavior derived from secular culture that isn't consistent with Torah value.)"

I can't be sure what prompted Rabbi Horowitz's expurgation of that bit, but I'll bet it was because of the blatant hypocrisy in criticizing a rabbi for enforcing the policy they endorse.


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6. Response     10/12/07 - 11:27 AM
Mordechai Becher

As an author of the article I would like to respond to the previous comment that R. Horowitz did not delete the comment about breakdancing. In fact, the JO placed it there without consulting me. Breakdancing does not bother me in the least. No "blatant hypocrisy," just some "frum" editing by JO.


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7.     10/12/07 - 11:38 AM
Anonymous

Was there any other editing done by JO with or without your permission?


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8.     10/12/07 - 12:23 PM
Anonymous

The Jewish Observer editors had the chutzpah to put words in your mouth?! They wrote "The authors do not, of course, condone a ben Torah break-dancing," not "the editors." That is a terrible breach of editorial ethics. Rabbi Becher, you should make them publish a correction.


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9. In listing programs...     10/12/07 - 1:02 PM
R' Micha Berger - micha@aishdas.org

In listing programs aimed at preventing people from becoming FFH (frum from habit) and entering the slippery slope downward, you overlooked our work at AishDas!

We offer programs for shuls, from yemei iyun (day programs) to scholars-in-residence and Shabbatonim to longer running programming on fostering one's development into being the kind of sacred person the Torah calls on us to be. Developing the skills necessary to choose the right thing when challenges arrive, and the wholeness of character and thought the Torah aims for.

-Micha

PS: Contact me at the included email address for more information.


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10. On Ta'amei hamitzvot     10/12/07 - 2:30 PM
efrex

While it's true that Horeb and Sefer Hachinuch are classics (The former is never far from my hand and I have a weekly seder in the latter with a chavruta), neither is a particularly good text for a questioning person.

I would suggest that it's far more essential that those who would *do* kiruv (and, ideally, that would be *all* confident frum yidden) be familiar with them, rather than simply assigning them as reading material, since neither makes for a particularly easy read. Better still, offer to look into the matter with the confused individual.

R' Becher: I concur with the previous poster. Please insist that JO apologize and correct their unethical undermining of your article.


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11.     10/12/07 - 2:30 PM
Anonymous

Rabbi Becher, do you have any response to the rest of Neo-Haskalah's comment?


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12.     10/12/07 - 2:34 PM
M

I don't understand the men in the first two examples. They are adults. They are not schoolchildren bound by a curriculum that may not speak to them. There is SO MUCH material available today. Why the surprise and sadness about topics they never learned? Why don't they go and learn them? There are books in English and many other languages. They can browse in a Judaica store, browse online. In Brooklyn there is the Torah Times which lists dozens of shiurim on all topics in several languages. I'm sure other frum communities have shiurim too.

I think that the bigger problem than adults who don't bother making the effort to attend shiurim, listen to tapes, and read books on subjects of interest to them are the adults who are apathetic and even antagonistic about learning, those who would never attend a kiruv-style Shabbaton or open one of the many, many books available. I think you need to differentiate between the different types.


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13. problem is getting bigger     10/12/07 - 4:26 PM
its all faith

Ive been perusing the blog world for a couple of years, and the number of frum skeptics that are communicating in that world is growing.

However, unlike what the authors contend here, these Frum Skeptics are very well versed in taamei hamitzvot, and the whole gamut of haskafa of the orthodox world. They also have spent many years in Torah Study. They arent only disgruntled chassidim, but yeshiva yungerliet, and Modern Orthodox.

Yet when they started exploring their questions in a public forum they found their quesions were shared by many. And most importantly, they found their questions remained unanswered by many. They found that the typical approach of Kiruv or other Rabbanim is to resort to typical responses when incapable of acknowledging that the questions are not able to be answered. So instead of confessing that there is no answer, they are told to keep looking, there is somebody with an answer. Or that you dont die from a kashye. These are cop-outs, and people are beginning to get tired of these.

Be honest, and admit its faith.


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14. Breakdancing, Neo-Haskalah, and Frum Editing     10/12/07 - 4:55 PM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

I thought that the JO article was an excellent and an important one.

My question, though, was about the last paragraph which termed it a "looming Adult at Risk crisis"? How does one determine the extent, and are there others who agree with Rabbi Becher and Rabbi Gordon?

Based on blogs, I would indeed say that there is an "underground" population which is at risk in what is called the "Charedi World", but I don't know how accurate a perception the blogs are. There are also different levels of "alienation" (ie, "mitzvas anashim milumada", can exist on different levels). There are also differences between questions on emunah, or on charedi policy.

Parenthetically, that is why I give Rabbi Horowitz credit(to whatever extent he wants to do it) for in some way "enagaging" the blogs. If one can separate the negative excesses from valid issues rasised, that would be a good thing.

As far as "frum-editing"(read:censorship), I am against it being overdone, but I understand that it's being done to protect the JO from criticism, and make it "acceptable" for different communities. I could see myself writing the disclaimer about break dancing, even though personally, I don't feel it to be necessary(this relates to the other discussion of a "free-press"), and I myself will therefore look to other publications to satisfy my interests

"We may be on the verge of a Neo-Haskalah. I'm not even sure what it would entail, but it's going to be something".

"Frum Guy" raises an interesting historical comparison between Volozhin and the contemporary Charedi milieu. Perhaps history works in cycles, and there is a comparison(and differences, of course) between the European Haskalah and today, both in terms of the issues themselves, as well as the social milieu which cause vulnerability, like a risk to a disease.

As far as "Frum Skepticism", I am not an expert on Kids/Adults at risk, but I would think that the one should not discount the intellectual factor. I quote, in part, from a Charedi educator quoted in the Jerusalem Post(11/3/05) that:

" [a certain intellectual issue] is not a burning issue for most religious youth, and that a century ago [the issue ] destroyed the spirituality of thousands of Jews... I think what truly bothers contemporary religious youth is a much more personal, existential question. The real thinkers are concerned with why they were put on this earth and what they are supposed to do here."(the above article is not the subject of this post, but I'll e mail it to anyone).

As I said, I have no idea about what the numbers are, but one should not downplay the question aspect. The Chovos Halevovos in Shaar Yichud Hamaaseh discusses internal conflicts, including intellectual ones, that could turn a person away from Avodas Hashem; it is a human, and age old issue. If I recall correctly, Rav Yeruchem Levovitz(Daas Torah, v'Zos Haberacha) writes that it's possible that the Chovos Halevavos himself overcame such conflicts(similar to Rav Hutner's famous letter about the Chafetz Chaim), and therefore wrote about them.

I think that "it's the best of times, and the worst of times". In some ways the Charedi community is in a better position vis a vis 19th century Volozhin; the historical comparison/contrast is probably a topic in of itself.


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15.     10/12/07 - 6:01 PM
Anonymous

"The text should be fresh to them e.g. something like Kuzari , Michtav MeEliyahu or Maharal, as opposed to texts that they are likely to have studied in Yeshivah or seminary."

Michtav Me'eliyahu is a canonical text in beis yaakov high schools, maharal is taught albeit not comprehensively for the most part, and BJJ girls told me that they study kuzari (i think it was taught when I was in sem too). I am not trying to nitpick, but noting this because it seems to me that the authors either threw in "seminary" unthinkingly or are not aware of what the issues in women's education are.


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16. Love     10/12/07 - 6:11 PM
Anonymous

"Further probing made it clear that some basic concepts discussed during the Shabbaton, such as the fact that “Hashem loves you more than you love your own children;” ... had never formed part of his understanding of Torah."

Can you tell us what classical source there is for this? I know that such sentiments appear in chassidic writings, but is there any prior source for such concepts? Not that God loves the Jews as a nation, or even each individual Jew (but I'd also appreciate a source prior to chassidus that says that), but assurance that God necessarily loves *you*.

It reminds me of a song that used to be popular from one of the popular jewish singers (cant remember who) that ran something like "whatever you do, hashem loves you"...and I used to wonder "whatever you do


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17. Faith     10/13/07 - 4:48 PM
Shmuel - Jerusalem

Someone wrote here about it being "faith". That hit me.

My Rav who comes from a super prominent Rabbinic family was approached by a yeshiva guy who basically said "I am not sure I believe in Hashem...what do I do?". My Rav spoke to him. Afterwards he told me somthing like this:"look, so much of this is about faith. Ultimately I believe because my father told me it is true & my granfather told me it is true....I don't have any magic solution for him."

I respect this approach a lot. I am not saying we shouldn't look for "proofs" and "reasons" that Torah is true. But I think "faith" also needs to play a role.

I listened to a tape of R' Mechanic speaking at Ner Yisroel in Baltimore. His enthusaism is great and his basic approach also seemed correct. But I kept thinking about any skeptical kids in the lecture. Because R' Mechanic's assumption seemed to be "you are all "on board" and now let me show you how we convince others that TOrah is true". I am not sure we ought to assume everyone is "on board".

I learn part time at a well known, mainstream yeshiva and after I get to know the bochurim it is often surprising & sad to hear the things they tell me. They are crying out to be loyal Jews. But they do have questions & do see inconsistencies in our world.

Like most of them don't understand Yiddish. But so much in the yeshiva is done publicly in Yiddish. I really like it....but I think it is a good question to ask - is this really the best way?

They also feel tremendous pressure because they are entering shidduchim soon - and thus I think they may hold back on questions.

But the Yeshiva pushes a huge diet of Gemara (which I think is vital). But I wonder if there isn't some way to do things just a little differently w/o being overly alternative.

More attention to each boy...to see where they are really "holding" inside.

S.


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18. Addressing concerns     10/14/07 - 8:58 AM
Yardena - EY

To Anonymous #16, Love: Good question. Probably the mefarshim on Shir Hashirim would show you what you’re looking for.

As far as editors inserting their own ideas into other’s articles: Talk to any charedi writer, and they will tell you that this is common in every publication. The vast majority of direct quotes are exactly what the person said, but sometimes the writer changes the words without permission, and sometimes the editors do so. I have a couple of writer friends of very high integrity who always have the person check his own quotes in order to avoid misrepresentation or inaccuracy, and then later call in that person in embarrassment to apologize for the editor’s changes which the writer had no idea about until the article was already published! Usually, the changes aren’t significant, and are done to cater to the readers’ sensibilities. They can’t print an apology because they can’t admit the unpalatable idea in the first place.

Just to put things in perspective: in my experience, any standard, respected non-Jewish publication distorts words far more, and far more often, than any charedi one does.

Explaining Torah principles is a tremendous challenge due to the social and technological advances and abilities of our age. Bible critics want proof that Hashem dictated the Torah as opposed to a group of human authors. Humanists want to know the difference between Bnei Yisrael’s wiping out of certain nations and Darfur. An extremely knowledgeable talmid chacham could answer these. But it gets harder. Geologists want proof of a world-wide flood—-and one that happened at the time stated in the Torah. Now you can’t just be an incredible talmid chacham, you also have to be a baki in geology and stay current on all recent discoveries, meaning you’d practically need a doctorate. The same is true in order to discuss contradictions in archeology, astronomy, and so on. It will be near impossible to find all this in one person! Really, you’d have to piece it out: this Torah genius will specialize in geology, and this Torah genius will specialize in archeology, and so forth. By the way, a woman could also do this.

But whether you show how Torah already knew what science is only saying now, or whether you show how the science itself is wrong, you need to be incredibly educated AND current. It’s a big order, but a necessary one.

And it goes without saying, this only addresses those with intellectual conflicts. Those who have been hurt by hypocrites (abusive “religious” spouse, “rabbi”, “rebbetzin” or their teachers) obviously have a whole other issue that needs addressing.


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19. Why not stick with what worked in the past     10/14/07 - 10:00 AM
Michael

The Jewish people faced a similar crisis about 150 years ago in Eastern Europe, and the one thing that worked in the majority of cases was exposure to the teachings of Chassidus, especially Chassidus Chabad. While the other Yeshivos experienced a hemorrhaging of their best Bochurim to Haskalah, Secular Zionism and Socialism, those Bochurim that had been exposed to Chassidus Chabad had answers to the pressing questions that were being asked, and, for the most part, overcame the challenge. Having grown up in Chassidus Chabad, reading the article was a remarkable read as almost question that was raised as an example of the issues that are bothering at risk adult is directly addressed in Sefer Hatanya and other Sifrei Chassidus, which are studied extensively by CHabad bochurim and girls, from the age of 12-13 and on. It is quite interesting to recall the criticism that I heard repeatedly from my friends in other Yeshivos over the time "wasted" in the study of Chassidus. I know that people will claim that this is revisionist Chabad-centric history (it is not), and they will cite individual cases of Chabbad Bochurim and girls that went off the Derech (of course this is true, but the point is the effectiveness of Chassidus in a much larger number of cases). It is unfortunate that people are not willing to open their eyes and take the medicine that will work.


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20. I was at Risk     10/14/07 - 12:14 PM
FFB/BT

I'm sorry to post anonymously but as you you know our community ostracizes people such as myself and my children would never find Shidduchim. Firstly I would like to say that the solution is out there but you have to know where to find it. When we turn to our Rabbonim and leaders, they respond in shock, disappointment, or disgust, (usually all of the above) to our questions). This is not because they are bad, it is because they are as clueless as we are. The problem though, is that they won't change their views to accommodate the new reality of our American frum society. In the past it took great leaders to understand the need for schooling for girls and thus Sarah Shnirrer was able to fight and get Bais Yaakov started. Do we have such courageous leadership today? I said before that the solution IS here. It is our Kiruv professionals. Rabbi Mordechai Becher saved my frumkeit from spiraling out of control. In the past I asked many Rabbonim, and one's answers was more ridiculous than the next's. Rabbi Becher, after a few meetings answered to my liking most of my questions, gave me books that he felt would benefit me, and for the past few years my Judaism has taken on a spirituality that I never had. Mind you, I went through the most right wing yeshivos culminating in the Lakewood kollel. I am living a constant change now. Previous held beliefs that were taught in Yeshiva that were Torah Misinai, are now only Torah Misinai if I see it in a sefer or such and not becaue a Rebbe or Rov said it is so. Therefore when a choshever Rov or Rosh Hayeshiva does something Kineged everything he preaches it doesn't shock me or turn me off anymore. Torah is bigger than one individual.

I personally know many people that Rabbi Becher reinvigorated with a true fire for yiddishkeit, from far left to far right of Satmar. He is a lightning rod for FFB's struggling with theological challenges. I therefore take umbrage at the writer earlier challenging his integrity. I also got a lot of love of our people as well as a love our people from the lectures of Rabbi Tovia Singer. They are available on his website WWW.outreachjudaism.org and can be downloaded for free. I learnt a lot of Navi as well as how great the Jewish people are, giving me immense pride in my yiddishkeit.

I hope my very short description of my journey will help some people out there realize that finding the solution only requires looking in the right places. Hatzlacha, FFB/BT


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21.     10/14/07 - 3:51 PM
Too long in Galus

"Previous held beliefs that were taught in Yeshiva that were Torah Misinai, are now only Torah Misinai if I see it in a sefer or such and not becaue a Rebbe or Rov said it is so. Therefore when a choshever Rov or Rosh Hayeshiva does something Kineged everything he preaches it doesn't shock me or turn me off anymore. Torah is bigger than one individual."

I believe that herein lies the beginning of a solution: First, Torah must be understood separately from the Torah observant Jews who teach it (and set community standards). Second, all mechanchim must acknowledge in front of their talmidim that they are subject to error, just as were the greatest figures of our Torah. They will earn more respect and have better results with their humility, than by inisting on being honored.


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22. Yasher Koach, "I Was At Risk"     10/14/07 - 5:03 PM
tb

Great post. Chanoch L'Naar Al Pi Darko applies to adults too. The Torah is great and mighty. There are many paths to Torah and the Torah is full of enlightenment for all kinds of frum Jews (and of course those that are not). It is sad that we lose so many because of the new trend to make Torah small and limited in nature, Chas V'Shalom. And we lose more in mindset than in practice. We lose many in their faith and enthusiasm.

I'm so glad you found your Derech and I wish it for all those who think that the only way presented doesn't fit with who they are.


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23. Michael, Chanoch L'Naar...     10/14/07 - 5:09 PM
tb

Michael, once again, the Torah is bigger than what you describe. Boruch Hashem, you have found inspiration in a specific Derech. There are many, B"H. There were 12 paths through the Yam Suf and all ended in the same place. You must be careful espousing one size fits all Hashkafa to all Jews. If it doesn't work for someone, that person is liable to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I love Chasidus and find great inspiration from it, but I follow a Rav Soloveitchik Hashkafa in my home and learning now. My husband and I find that there is great beauty and inspiration for us in it. We absolutely respect and revere Chasidus, although we are not familiar with Chabad Chasidus. What is important is to be inspired and connected in the way that you can best do that.


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24. nice sentiment but ...     10/14/07 - 7:02 PM
Anonymous

This is definitely not the forum to get into this, but it needs to be said. Chassidus (Chabad Chassidus) is not a derech. It's not a hashkafa. It's a spiritual revelation that began with the Baal Shem Tov who was taught by Achiya Ha'Shiloni (a first Temple period prophet).


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25. TO all those looking for frum shiurim dealing with issues     10/14/07 - 7:58 PM
Anonymous - giboor@gmail.com

i reccomend checking out www.torahforme.com and www.machonmeir.net for english shiurim one can also see articles on Aish.com and www.ohr.org.il . there are hi level shiurim in Hebrew available at www.machonmeir.org.il


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26. Anon 7:02     10/14/07 - 9:21 PM
tb

Is it the best path to take? Is exploring this spiritual revelation necessary for success in a Torah way of life and Chizuk in Mitzvos?


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27.     10/14/07 - 10:19 PM
Anonymous

Did anybody hear of something called EMUNAH PESHUTA ?? not always do we have to know the reasons behind evreything we do,when lecturing to BT's or ppl interested in becoming frum the approach is to show the beauty of torah umitzvos to get them interested. but for an FFB who does it Because thats how his father did it or how he was taught in yeshiva. there is nothing wrong with that. Its nice to know reasons and understand things but there always was and allways will be the pashuter yid who davens 3 times a day bekavana and does all the mitzvos cuz he is a YID and thats what hashem wants him to do. FFB's are not frum because they went to lectures to understand and hear the beauty of mitzvos its because they were born to frum parents who do and did the right things.


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28. Regarding Emunah Pashuta     10/15/07 - 5:52 AM
Yardena - EY

To a certain extent, I agree with Anonymous #27. Different personalities abound, and many people honestly don’t need all the intellectual, scientific, philosophical reasons for being frum. And they shouldn’t be looked down on anymore than people who need more intellectual backing shouldn’t be looked down on. Penicillin cures most, but poisons others.

However, the problem is that the Emunah Pashuta Path has been the ONLY derech acceptable in the mainstream. I’m not trying malign Emunah Pashuta. People with great intellectual needs and capabilities can cause a lot of damage and behave obnoxiously—if they aren’t careful. But Ba’al EP (Emunah Pashuta) can also hurt, if one is not careful.

This is kind of long and personal, but I feel it’s connected to our topic: Over one hundred years ago, my great-grandfather went off the derech because of his father, a man of great EP. His father held beautiful values: he kept his word to the letter, no matter what, and no matter how much time passed (even 10 years!). He often traveled to the rebbe, no matter the difficulty. And even though other Chassidim laughed at him for not making use of the acceptable practice of taking tips when being an occasional gabbai for the rebbe, he insisted on his refusal because serving the rebbe was reward enough! He also used to thump my great-grandfather on the shoulders when he found my eight-year-old (my great-grandfather) napping on Shabbos rather than learning. The sad thing is that he truly, sincerely felt that this was the best way to help his son fight the yetzer hara and to be an upright Jew like himself. (The mother, by the way, spent her time reading Tzena Urena, Tehillim, cooking for the sick, and listening to other women’s problems). What went wrong? Well, going off to the rebbe caused the wife and kids a lot trouble, and made my grand-father feel like his father didn’t care about anyone else, which made the family despise the rebbe for allowing it. The shoulder-thumping resulted in permanent lop-sidedness. Eventually, the rebbe-visiting stopped, and his father focused more on parnassa, and took my great-grandfather on business trips and they spent a lot of positive time together. But it was too late. Nothing terrible happened immediately. But the Haskalah was on its rampage, and my great-grandfather was an intellectual type. (In fact, even as a totally secular Jew, he continued to learn Aggadah for fun.) By age twenty, he was dancing with girls in barns on the outskirts of the shtetl, and ate a pork salami inside the sukkah. (Interestingly, a rock fell through the schach right at that moment, and hit him on the head, but he insisted that wasn’t Divine punishment, although the terrible stomach cramps he suffered all night after eating kept him away from the pork. For awhile.) Now, my children have MORE non-Jewish cousins than Jewish ones. At one family seder, non-Jews outnumbered Jews three to one. My father’s generation thinks Chassidus and its followers are a big joke, although I have managed to overcome this prejudice and my mitzvah observance has been greatly enhanced my Lubuvitcher and Breslover writings.

Emunah Pashuta can be a beautiful, strengthening middah, but it can also harm, in the wrong circumstances, just like ANY other derech, which is what many people are saying here.

And lastly, I had very similar experiences to FFB/BT and I agree with everything he wrote.


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29. other reasons for adults at risk     10/15/07 - 6:36 AM
Nechama

1. It is more fun to make people Frum

I know several Frum wonderful Jewish women who know "all the answers". They are open, friendly, warm, real people.

One went to Russia to make people Frum there. The other stays at home and does outreach.

Is it fair? There are so many young adults starting married life which is *SO HARD* and they need someone to talk to, to help them through it. But it seems to be more fun to deal with the irreligious and their spiritural needs.

2 There are a whole new set of ideas and ideologies to deal with

We adults grew up in a world that suddenly changed with the advent of the internet and cellphones. No longer is it generally true to say: Hard work=financial gain. Nor is it true anymore: Staying Frum=Community Support. Nutricious meals=Happiness. Following your ideals=fulfillment feelings. So many truisms we knew have vanished. We need guidance in this new era.

3. We do not like ourselves

When you look at pictures are you often very embarressed of the way you turned out? Not liking the way one looks is often a sign of existential embarassment (which is entirely curable, just like I could learn how to spell that word).

4. We see ourselves as a Guf and not as a Neshomo

People are Neshomos. We are a portion of Hashem. We are hidden and enclothed in our bodies. Having bodies enables us to actually DO Mitvos (or Aveiros, chas vesholom). We are further clothed in our Middos and Mitzvos, and in the situations in which we find ourselves (Custom Designed and Arranged by Hashem).

5. Life/School does NOT prepare us for marriage

School and Yeshiva is too much fun. We were not prepared by it for the real world of marriage. Abundance of friends, meals, fun, schedule, shelter, laundry, all of it was laid on for us. Marriage is extremely hard just by comparison. Everything we got as a gift, we now have to work for. For example to have a clean floor you don't have to to just put your chair on the table. You have to CLEAN IT. Dispose of the water, or put the vaccuum cleaner away. Deal with tons of consequences. All this is besides for suddenly having much less money and also having to learn to get along with someone else.

I think that the reason that the guy in the article above didn't ask existential questions before, is because they never really bothered him before. Only after marrige, in the real world, does he have questions. One solution: Blame the Rabbis/teachers/schools for not having encouraged questions.

The truth is that when kids have these kinds of questions, they are best off asking them out of class. Why? NOT because they raise doubts. But because if one kid has a question, it is usually very personal. The other kids don't usually have the same question at all. A girl in my class spent an inordinate amount of time worrying "What is my Tafkid"? Well, I wasn't bothered by this question at that time. Yet an answer to this would have meant understanding where she was coming from, why was she asking this, etc, and it could have taken at least an hour to answer her, probably ten.

Is it fair to bore the other 20 girls just because one student has a pressing question which she is embarrassed to bring up in private? But if the teacher dares say "Good question, come discuss it after class with me", the girl goes bright red, clams up, and never gets a satisfactory answer. And the ones who want to think badly of the school, say "good questions never get answered".

Hello! It is not because it is a good or bad question. It is just a personal question, and asking it of a teacher in school is not a proper way to find an answer. But schools do need to employ a mentor per class, who can form a relationship with the girls, to whom they can ask these questions. But to form a relationship with girls, you need to be spending at least an hour a day for some months, teaching about some neutral subject, and hopefully getting liked.

But back to point # one. It lacks glamor to be donating hours of your time to helping the normal good frum kids/adults to sort themselves out internally.

(For sources about situations being measured out for us from the term "Moded", and also, for "Middos" meaning clothes, see p'shat on u'vechol meodecha" in Shema - "In every situation that Hashem measures out for you". Also, in a Shir Hama'alos about Aharon Hakohen "Sheyored al pi Midosov").


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30. LOVE     10/15/07 - 6:51 AM
Anonymous

"To Anonymous #16, Love: Good question. Probably the mefarshim on Shir Hashirim would show you what you’re looking for."

Again, I'm asking for a source that says any individual Jew is guaranteed that God loves them. A source that God loves each jew prior to chassidus would be welcome also, and specifically that any given individual is included and not, say, judged a rasha.

If this is a basic torah concept, the authors should have no trouble providing sources. I'd think a basic concept would be found in chazal or rishonim.

I'm not aware that anything like this can be found in standard commentaries on shir hashirim. I'll be happy to be corrected.


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31. a pleasure to read     10/15/07 - 8:28 AM
tb

Eloquent, Yardena. Wonderful post.


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32. G-d's Love     10/15/07 - 9:34 AM
Anonymous

To #30 See Genesis 18:19 commentaries ad loc. Malachi 1:2 Isaiah 41:8 Proverbs 27:10 and Rashi on Shabbos 31a The idea that Hashem loves the Jewish people is very apparent from reading Nach. The entire Shir Hashirim is a metaphor for the love between Hashem and the Jewish people.


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33.     10/15/07 - 12:54 PM
Yehoshua

The comment above resonated with me:

"Therefore when a choshever Rov or Rosh Hayeshiva does something Kineged everything he preaches it doesn't shock me or turn me off anymore. Torah is bigger than one individual."

I also was very disturbed by the behavior and attitudes of a certain well respected Rav. It really bothered and depressed me for quite some time. Why? Because here is a person who I and others would view as a paradigm, but when I got to know him better there were deficiencies. Nothing terrible mind you, but the defects were enough to tarnish the luster of the "perfect man" which I was lead to believe a leader is. I think this attitude of mine, which was mistaken, is communicated in the mainstream Yeshiva I attended.

After some time, I realized this is just one man and everyone is lacking in some area because only Hashem is perfect. I still don't like this Rav's attitudes, but I now recognize him as a person whose good attributes much outweigh any defects I have found.

To RESPECT them more, we need to take the Rabbonim and Gdolim of the pedestal of perfection.


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34.     10/15/07 - 1:13 PM
Mikeskeptic

It's nice to see this topic being touched on by a mainstream frum publication, even if the JO is just tiptoeing around it. I wonder how many readers of this article realize what is really at stake here. To be blunt, I am an Apikores living an outwardly frum life in a mainstream frum community. I wear a black hat and still learn daf yomi, but I don't believe in God anymore. My Rav doesn't really care about me, he is focused on bigger things like making sure his congregants avoid eating bugs. But maybe he should care...

Even if I remain frum for the rest of my life, which is uncertain, my children will grow up apikorism, that is, if they remain frum at all. My wife is no longer a believer and my closest friends already have or will soon become apikorism as well. This is not a topic that is discussed openly in our community, so it's hard to know how unusual my situation is. But consider this: just one internet group for frum skeptics has nearly five hundred members, nearly all of whom joined in just the past two years. And there are many more groups out there. Obviously, I am long past the stage of caring whether the frum community is able to address this issue. In fact, I'm kind of hoping they will fail to do so.

Just watch out for those bugs. After all, it's the things you can't see that you most have worry out.


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35. The essential truth nobody has the courage to admit     10/15/07 - 1:26 PM
Avrohom - Monsey - music613@cyburban.com

One of the least appropriate and, from my perspective, destructive elements within the klal of orthodoxy is the reliance on acronyms: BT, FFB, etc. The conflict between the "requirement" to avoid making the "BT" feel like an alien being in his own world and the fact of it as an unconscious and insensitive fundamental aspect of "real life" as staggering in its universality as it is from every possible point of view reprehensible. We keep making excuses for it - which, in simple English (forgive me) is synonymous with "sticking our heads [collectively] in the ground."

My wife and I did not wake up one day and decide to be frum. It was, rather, a process that took place over many years and crystallized close to 30 years ago, or in my case, half of my life ago. And although we became chassidishe, what we came to perceive as gross discrimination, ignorance arrogance and fear, and what we thought was primarily a chassidishe phenomenon turned out to be a universal and not a "local" problem. Shtreimel, black hat, white/black socks, no socks, beard, no beard, the undercurrent of discrimination is never absent, ever. It is sometimes very subtle, and at other times blatant. And, of course, everyone defends his particular form bias with a select number of posukim from various and sundry sources.

Thus, when I read how the FFB takes the lead in making the BT an integral part of the community, my blood boiled over. Such statements, in any form, are about as far from the truth as it is possible to get.

None of this has affected my commitment, my derech, my emunah or my betochin. But it is a function of extreme discipline - one which, I observe, many within our olem at large, appears to be crumbling at ever increasing rates.

The commonly shared fear of the outside world is at the root of it. That fear is more deadly than any aveira in the Torah. We were given the Torah in order to know how to live IN the world, not ASIDE from it, or BEYOND it, or IN SPITE OF it. If BTs bring anything to frumkeit it is a knowledge of how to navigate the outside world. Too bad this is seen as "unduly influencing our holy youth to go off the derech."

My wife and I raised our children to be solid, G-d fearing frum Jews. We also raised them to be citizens of the world. This is not modern orthodoxy, or any other "ism" - I am not afraid of my peyos, I do not fear for my yiddishkeit because not everything in the world is kosher. If I am what I say I am, I can certainly find the netzitzos "out there" and transform them. I do it every day.

And so, I sit between four worlds, really: the daled amos of "our world" and the "them out there." I also sit between the Shtreimels and the black hats (either of which, to hear the ever present loshen hara, is entirely a matter of where you are at any given moment).

If we REALLY mean the genuine acceptance and integration of BT and FFB, then it needs to start at the top. Our revered rebbes and roshei yeshivas need to start talking about it and DOING something about it.

Talk is cheap. At age 60, I have no time for excuses. I still have a child to marry off, an insurmountable prejudice to deal with if I will ever live to see it happen.


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36. LOVE     10/15/07 - 1:28 PM
FFB/BT

To #30 Hashem says countless times in Navi how much he loves us. Unfortunately Yeshivos try not to expose us to Navi because we may fall prey to Haskalah. One example is Hashem asks Is it possible for a Woman nursing her cild to forget her child. Yes, it ay be remote for that o happen, but I Hashem lve my people too much, I will never forget them in their exile and will redeem them from their exile. Read Yeshaya, It's a book that may be hard to read , but you'll see how much Hashem really loves us. Listen to the lectures of R' Tovia Singer on WWW.outreachjudaism.org and you'll b amazed at the messages Hashem is conveying to us, yes us the Jews in exile, and the love he has for us. The neviim are talking to us. And to the person who spoke about emunah peshutah, you are lucky that it gets you through life, what if your father was a Christian, would that answer work? You must understand that though I wouldn't call you shallow, the Rambam specifically has in his 613 a chiyuv to understand the why what and how of Hashem.


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37. Apikorsus     10/15/07 - 1:35 PM
Adult-Beyond-Risk

I second MikeSkeptic's sentiments. I too am living a frum lifestyle but no longer believe. I have no problem eating treif or being mechalel shabbos or eating on Yom Kippur. And I am by far not an anomaly. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, like me. The frum community would do well to take stock of itself if it cares about such phenomena spreading.

For me it started with the curiosity about whether the assertions of Judaic dogma can be shown to have basis in rationality. When a friend convinced me that they can be ("the Rambam has a totally rational approach that proves everything"), I delved into it and realized how mistaken that notion was.

People like me, since we have so much vested in our lifstyles, will always keep it secret. Which means that to frum people this threat will remain insidious -- a direct result of their inability to deal openly with such difficult matters.


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38. kudos to you MikeSkeptic     10/15/07 - 1:44 PM
Nechama

Well done for writing. It seems like you are afraid you might influence anyone for the bad, yet you are convinced of the bad and do not see why the entire world of Frum Jews should be living a lie.

I am not taking sides here about whether Hashem exists or not - because I really do not know. I have never met Him (except possily before I was born, but I am not aware of that). I have seen in the Torah that He makes promises and then does not seem to fulfill them, at least not immediately or as understood by the casual reader. Such as Avrom when he went to Eretz Yisroel, and found a famine there, and he had to go to Egypt.

Actually, if I were Hashem, I'd leave out this Parsha. It's not exactly complimentary to Him.

Yet, I think Hashem has set up a precedent of being able to examine things from a very critical viewpoint. This passage is known as one of the tests of Avrom, and he passed. I don't know which of us today could have such confidence in Hashem.

But just because we are not SURE He exists, or we are extremely dubious, does not mean He does not exist. Many of us are only like 10% confident in His existance and in that of the long awaited Moshiach.

Although you call yourself an Apikores, I am not sure you are. Like I might say I don't believe in quarks and nano-particles, but that doesn't make them go away. If presented with enough convincing evidence, I may be swayed. Same with you, if someone managed to convince you of Hashem's existance, you would start believing. Not the same as an Apikorus, who has scientifically ruled out the possibility of His existance.

But why don't you make telephone contact with a better Rabbi? Just because yours got appointed by virtue of his being medakdek in Mitzvos, and has never yet been challenged by questions in faith, does not mean that he and his indifference to individuals are the last word on the subject. Are you yourself indifferent to your own G-d attitude (and its prospects for the present and future) or are you interested in discussions with more thought out people?

Best wishes - I don't hope you "see the light" (grin), nor do I hope that Hashem should give you a sign that He exists, but I hope that you see: that the goodness you and your wife and your children possess, your kindnesses to each other and to your friends, is but a reflection of the One who made you. Random accidents could not have produced such wonderful people.


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39. Moderation needed     10/15/07 - 2:34 PM
JR

How about if the cynical, denigrating comments about mitzvos, like the prohibition against eating bugs, and the frum community, are reserved for blogs for skeptics and heretics and do not taint this blog?


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40. Silencing dissident voice     10/15/07 - 2:46 PM
Anonymous

JR, So what you're saying is that we should continue to bury our head in the sand about these people? The silencing of questioning voices is what created these people in the first place.


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41.     10/15/07 - 2:49 PM
FFB/BT

TO: JR That is the problem, because we shouldn't shield ourselves from this any longer. If the problem is met head on and the cynicism is felt may be the sleeping giant of the educational system will wake up and re-examine its priorities. This blog is for critical self analysis, JO is for protection of your sensitivities.


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42. what's your (or R' Horowitz's) limit (if any)?     10/15/07 - 3:14 PM
JR

Can we make fun of those who are medakdek b'mitzvos as suckers? Laugh at those with emuna peshuta as naive? Snicker at those who spend hours a day studying Torah as fools wasting their time and parasites? Roll our eyes at those who starved in the camps or in Siberia rather than eat treif and denounce mesirus nefesh as lunacy?

Does the cynicism help anybody? I bet people feel good about allowing heretics to vent. Makes you feel tolerant and open and all. Other than that, I don't think it has any redeeming value.

There is no reason why the problem cannot be addressed without people using this blog to mock Torah and those who practice it. It's just that people are chicken to set limits. Rabbi Horowitz - what does your rav say about this particular point? Is it anything goes?


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43.     10/15/07 - 3:30 PM
FFB/BT

JR: I'm sorry you feel offended, no one was snickering this is his quote: "My Rav doesn't really care about me, he is focused on bigger things like making sure his congregants avoid eating bugs." Sounds to me like a voice crying out in pain. Why can't you hear that. I'm crying with him. He just feels the Rabbonim are eating soup with a fork, whats the point of caring about bugs if the mispallelim eat Chazer? There was no put down of anyone in all of the posts. It's called self criticism and it's the only way we can save neshamos. If you disagree, may be you don't belong here.


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44. Restraint, please     10/15/07 - 3:33 PM
Yakov Horowitz - Monsey NY

Dear Readers:

Due to the demands on my time, I am unable to track and read all comments posted on this website.

As you know, I strongly feel that the issues raised on this essay and others are of great importance, and I do not want to step in and edit/delete comments that are posted or put in place a filtering process to hold comments until they are reviewed.

Having said that, I ask that all those who post comments do so in a way that discusses these important matters in a way that is respectful to our Holy Torah, Rabbonim, and Klei Kodesh.

This is not a 'blog' in the typical sense, as I affix my name to this site. I ask that our readers please respect my wishes and show restraint.

The fact that a frum-from-birth person feels disconnected or leaves a Torah life entirely is very worthy of discussion. So are the reasons for him/her doing so.

However, negative comments are not OK on this site, and I reserve the right to edit them.

Please write your posts in a manner that will allow these critical issues to be discussed b'koved rosh.

Thank you.

Yakov Horowitz


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45.     10/15/07 - 5:46 PM
Anonymous

I think that Rabbi Horowitz is the best thing to happen to yiddishkeit in decades. I don't mean that as hyperbole, I mean that in the utmost seriousness. Decades of cruft has built up in the frum community, choking its vitality and dimming its power. We desperately need mentchen like Rabbi Horowitz to be brave enough to face down the nay-sayers like the ones here in these comments and say what needs to be said. Rabbi Twersky, to his great zchus, did it from one type of social ill (addiction), but we need more, MUCH more. Our yeshiva systems are rotten to the core, turning out uninspired, unimpressive frum-by-habit knownothing who implode on the first contact with adversity, doubt or challenge from the outside world. Materialism has gone beyond rampant and is now bedrock. Crises like tuition, drugs, and science/emunah go un-dealt with while the rabbinate churns out ridiculous bans that get snickered at. There's so much kindling that a spark could turn into a blaze as one discontent enables another, but it's ignored because it's just fuel for a fire, not fire itself.

If Rabbi Horowitz can't save frumkeit, we're all in big trouble. Hashem should bless him in his efforts.


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46.     10/15/07 - 6:51 PM
M

A pity you don't know the numerous boys and girls who emerge from our system that are idealistic and inspired and go on to live idealistic, inspired lives.


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47. Developing Faith     10/15/07 - 7:04 PM
R' Micha Berger - Passaic, NJ - micha@aishdas.org

The first thing to realize is that emunah isn't the same thing as philosophical knowledge. The latter is thought, an intellectual excercize. Emunah, like bitachon (relying in G-d having a plan for all this), is a middah, a character trait.

Once you realize this, it is easier to see that we need middah-changing tools to build emunah, not philosophy books. Yes, we need the Kuzari, Michtav meiEliyahu, 19 letters, Moreh Nevuchim, Emunos veDeios, etc, etc, etc... but not for emunah.

Emunah isn't knowing about Hashem, it's about knowing Him. The way Tevye the Milkman (captured also in Fiddler on the Roof) has a real relationship with the A-lmighty; Hashem is a real "Person" to Tevye in every sense of the word.

There is an old thought in Mussar circles that when you are having troubles feeling love for someone, give to them. Still having problems? Give some more! So much of Torah is based on the idea that not only do actions express feelings, but they create them. Similarly when developing love for the A-lmighty.

Emunah doesn't come from more study, it comes from more attempts to relate. Eventually a positive, upward, cycle develops.

-micha


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48. God's love     10/15/07 - 11:08 PM
Anonymous

"To #30 See Genesis 18:19 commentaries ad loc. Malachi 1:2 Isaiah 41:8 Proverbs 27:10 and Rashi on Shabbos 31a The idea that Hashem loves the Jewish people is very apparent from reading Nach. The entire Shir Hashirim is a metaphor for the love between Hashem and the Jewish people."

The question was explicitly not about the Jewish nation as a whole, but rather about individuals. All these sources you give are about the nation as a whole.

Two parts to the question:

A source prior to chassidus that says that god loves each individual would be desirable. I don't know of such a source, but it may well exist.

A source that says that any given Jew is assured of this individual love (i.e. and not judged a rasha) I think no such source will be found outside of chassidus.

Since the authors identify this as "Basic torah concept" I'd expect to see it in chazal or rishonim, but certainly it should be in some nonchassidic source, or else it is an idea specific to chassidus.


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49. Love     10/15/07 - 11:44 PM
Anonymous

in the above comment -

"A source that says that any given Jew is assured of this individual love (i.e. and not judged a rasha)"

should be and if judged a rasha, still loved

"To #30 Hashem says countless times in Navi how much he loves us. Unfortunately Yeshivos try not to expose us to Navi because we may fall prey to Haskalah. One example is Hashem asks Is it possible for a Woman nursing her cild to forget her child. "

1. Again, I was talking about individuals, not the jewish nation as a whole.

It is very striking that so many commenters fail to grasp the distinction.

2. If the yeshivas dont teach navi b/c of haskala, how is it that navi is taught in the beis yaakov system? Why is the Israeli system not weak on navi? Answer: Because outside of some chassidic enclaves, the reason navi is not taught in yeshiva is because the yeshivas are modeled on elite institutions like Volozhin, where students arrived already knowing nach and with experience in gemara. Today, the students dont arrive with the knowledge, and the yeshivas operate on the often-flawed assumption that students will learn this material on their own.


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50. Nuance     10/15/07 - 11:55 PM
Anonymous

"In the original, the first quoted paragraph continued: '(The authors do not, of course, condone a ben Torah break-dancing or engaging in any other behavior derived from secular culture that isn't consistent with Torah value.)'

I can't be sure what prompted Rabbi Horowitz's expurgation of that bit, but I'll bet it was because of the blatant hypocrisy in criticizing a rabbi for enforcing the policy they endorse."

It seems to me that "Frum Guy" must be the kind of guy who likes to make sure baalei teshuvah know every time they make a mistake or tell guests at his shul on Shabbos they should have left the purse/pen at home.

Just because something is a good policy doesn't mean that one should alienate people to implement it. The notion floating around the blogosphere that this editorial comment "undermines" the whole article is absurd. Some things are important enough to stand up and make one's voice heard, others may be worthwhile but not at any expense. One doesn't need to feel that breakdancing is appropriate at a simchah in order to object to poor treatment of a breakdancer.

It would have been appreciated, I'm sure, if JO made it clear that the comment was "editorial" rather than giving the implication it was the personal opinion of the authors...but the comment does not undermine the message and I do not think they can be faulted for wanting the pieces printed in their opinion oriented magazine to reflect their opinions.


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51.     10/16/07 - 9:24 AM
yoni

Torah mentions that the nation is "culam tzaddikim" and that every single jew is as full of mitzvos as a pomegranate. Both of these quotes are talmudic, although I do not remember where they are from. Also from a halachic standpoint it is exceptionaly hard for someone to be judged a rasha, as that requires, in the words of the shulchan aruch, someone who has two peices of identical meat before him, one kosher and the other not-kosher, and he rejects the kosher one infavor of the non-kosher one, which means that he has to defy hashem with that being is sole objective, Not taiva, not pain, not anything. Otherwise while it may be a sin, it is not sufficient to judge him a rasha, because hashem excuses him.

From this it would be apperant that at least if you are accepting that the only people that hashem hates are rashoyim (which is apperant from tehillim and other places) then it is exceedinly unlikely that anyone any of us have ever known is actualy a rasha, and thefore it follows that hashem loves all of them. All of this based on talmudic quotes.


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52.     10/16/07 - 9:40 AM
Anonymous Veibel

Thank you, Rabbi Horowitz, for enabling discussions about topics that are usually swept under the carpet.

I don't have much to add, but I did want to make my voice heard. I'm another closet skeptic living an outwardly frum life style. On the outside, I look and behave like a generic frum woman, and you'd never guess this about me. It's not an easy life choice, but I have decided to stay for the sake of my children. I will tell you what might finally push me completely out, though: incessant and needless chumros, the empahsis on naarishkeit, such as senseless tightening of arbitrary rules, banning essential technology, such as the internet.


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53. Jewish Skeptics - but only derabbans     10/16/07 - 11:03 AM
A. Schreiber - Big City - proivate@private.com

Mikespetics comments above should be modified. He writes of Jews outwardly acting frum, for now, but who no longer beleive in God. No doubt the number of such fplks are substantial, but there are far more people, I contend, who still beleive in God and in the fundamental principles of the Torah, BUT, no longer buy into the derabbans which really shape Orhtodox Jewry.

Orthod Jews are trained to think, and there are a great many who are asking questions like this: Why are we still keeping yom tov sheni, 1700 year after the invention of the calendar? Why are we keeping 12 days of niddah, when the Torah itself only said 7? Why are we treating honest , g-d fearing Christians with laws put in place in pagan times almost 2000 years ago? Where on Earth did we come up with the bewilderng galaxy of bossur bichalav laws that are not mentioned at all in the Torah?

The latter is a perfect example. How many people still believe that when God prohibited boiling a goat in its own mother's milk, He really meant to say, Don't drink milk for six hours after eating some chicken. I mean, come on! Who really believes that? It makes no sense at all, and no honest person would deny it.

That, as I see it, is the bigger problem. Yes, there are real apikorsim who eventually will come out of the woodworks. But it's the no longer tenable derabbans that are really creating the problem. I see another conservative movement brewing.


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54. Regarding Hashem's love for the individual     10/16/07 - 11:08 AM
Yardena - EY

Great answer, Yoni.

Here’s my two cents:

To Anonymous, Love. Sorry your question wasn’t answered specifically enough. It is an important one. All of the following sources directed their comments toward the individual:

Duties of the Heart, The Gate of Self-Accounting, Rabbi Bachya ben Yosef Ibn Paquda “He will link…his love to Hashem’s love…” The Gate of Love of Hashem: “You will bind yourself to His love…”

In general, I’ve found that Jewish sources describe Hashem’s love rather than announce “I love each of you individually.” These comments are still directed at the individual: Duties of the Heart, The Gate of Repentence: “He has…directed you on the course that leads to your good, out of compassion for you and to guide you gently…He acts toward you with lovingkindness…” The Gate of Self-Accounting: “…the smallest of His favors toward you would overweigh, many times over, all the good work of all who dwell on the earth…the abounding favor and many graces He bestows on you each day.” The Gate of Love of Hashem: “He guides you, He has compassion on you…He stands by you and draws you near.”

Path of the Just, Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, The Manner of Acquiring Watchfulness: “…and the gift of repentance will be given to sinners with absolute lovingkindness…”

I was overwhelmed by the all-encompassing love of Hashem toward each of us, as expressed in The Palm Tree of Devorah, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero.

I realize that this isn’t satisfactory for what you’re asking. To really answer your question fully, a concordance or CD-ROM of Torah sources with a good search engine is needed, neither of which I have access to.

P.S. To tb: Thanks for your words. Maybe if my great-grandfather would have had a welcoming, knowledgeable couple like you and your husband around, he would have more than two descendants (as far as those of us who are alive today) married to Jews today.


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55.     10/16/07 - 11:18 AM
Anonymous

"Torah mentions that the nation is "culam tzaddikim" and that every single jew is as full of mitzvos as a pomegranate. Both of these quotes are talmudic, although I do not remember where they are from."

the gemara lists all the jews who are not tzadikim immediately following the mishan that quotes this. The fact that even raykanim are full of mitzvos doesnt tell us anything about Gods love - that too is a national statement, jews have so many mitzvos that everyone, even raykanim, have some.

"Also from a halachic standpoint it is exceptionaly hard for someone to be judged a rasha, as that requires, in the words of the shulchan aruch, someone who has two peices of identical meat before him, one kosher and the other not-kosher, and he rejects the kosher one infavor of the non-kosher one, which means that he has to defy hashem with that being is sole objective, Not taiva, not pain, not anything. Otherwise while it may be a sin, it is not sufficient to judge him a rasha, because hashem excuses him."

that is a distinction between a mumar leteyavon and a mumar lehachis

"From this it would be apperant that at least if you are accepting that the only people that hashem hates are rashoyim (which is apperant from tehillim and other places) then it is exceedinly unlikely that anyone any of us have ever known is actualy a rasha, and thefore it follows that hashem loves all of them. All of this based on talmudic quotes."

this is what we human beings use as a standard, it doesnt tell us anything klapei maala.


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56. the rules changed     10/16/07 - 11:43 AM
musicjd2b - California - a3maven@yahoo.com

I became frum through NCSY 25yrs ago and I volunteered to work in the kitchen at events ( so I have an insider's view of how things worked)nobody washed strawberries in dish soap back then and nobody had "light boxes" to check for bugs. In the 2 main yeshiva high schools in my town the kids looked like kids from the local public school with yarmulkahs (jeans ,t-shirts etc) and were encouraged to have "normal" social lives (NCSY,Bnai Akiva etc) What in the hell happened? If the Orthodox community in LA back then had all the chumras it does today I would of never gotten involved.Yiddishkiet used to be fun now it is a pain in the ass.


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57. more love     10/16/07 - 11:51 AM
Anonymous

Yardena, None of those sources speak to the issue at hand. The individual binding himself to god does not tell how god relates to individuals, much less any individual; it's a statement about how you as an individual should conceive of *your* obligations to god. That the course of the torah is compassionate, or gods ways are compassionate is similarly not relevant to the statement the author made in the article.

"In general, I’ve found that Jewish sources describe Hashem’s love rather than announce “I love each of you individually.” "

just so, and no, you cannot just extrapolate from one to the other as though the concepts were the same.

"I realize that this isn’t satisfactory for what you’re asking. To really answer your question fully, a concordance or CD-ROM of Torah sources with a good search engine is needed, neither of which I have access to."

You're not obliged to answer the question, but if the authors (one of whom was reading the comments at least earlier in the conversation) can't come up with a source without going through a CD, then they are not describing a "Basic torah concept" (or not in a position to describe things as basic torah concepts).


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58.     10/16/07 - 1:11 PM
Yehoshua

For Anonymous Veibel:

I think you may benefit by focusing more on a direct relationship with God than on the latest Chumros. Stick to the essentials and build your relationship up. As an adult, find ways to ignore the "other stuff" that is going on today. Why let that stuff bother you?


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59. re: Love     10/16/07 - 1:12 PM
Anonymous - NY

I hate to be heretical, but "Hashem loves you more than you love your own children;" sounds alot like what I routinely hear on the subway from preachers of other faiths.


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60. God's love for the individual???!!!     10/16/07 - 1:38 PM
Skeptical Jew

I second Skeptic's comments. On the outside, I lead a fully Frum lifestyle, and am respected in my community as one of the "lamdanim". Inside, though, I doubt all, including the existance of God as such. I don't say God does not exist; he well may - I'm agnostic, not atheist. But let's look at it - why would some all-powerful being create creatures like man (and all others, for that matter)? What need would he have for them? Is he like a child playing in some cosmic sandbox, creating us to see what will happen? If he's all-knowing anyway, he knows what will happen with his "toys"; is he just some kind of sadist, causing pain to his "pets" just to see how we'll react???? Saying God created man to serve him and be rewarded is nonsensical - do you write a computer program to serve you, then reward it if it does a what it was designed to, and punish it if it does not (putting your fist through the computer screen does not count)? Any faults of the program are the fault of the designer, not the program itself.

I've seen a number of supposed answers to these questions, and I have to say, none of them are intellectually satisfying. Can someone here please try to prove me wrong? I'd honestly appreciate it.

another skeptic


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61. to: 'MikeSkeptic'     10/16/07 - 3:54 PM
Yakov Horowitz - Monsey NY

Can you please drop me an email at yhdarchei@aol.com?

I am the only one who reads those emails.

No mussar schmuz. Promise.

Thanks.

Yakov


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62. re source     10/16/07 - 4:24 PM
M

Yardena mentioned Chovos Ha'Levavos. In the Shaar Ha'Bitachon he says:

In R' Bachya ibn Pekuda's Chovos Ha'Levavos, shaar ha'bitachon, he writes:

If we knew we had a friend who:

1) never ceases worrying about us 2) is able to fulfill our wishes 3) knows our exact needs and what is good for us 4) controls all the people and powers in the world and does not allow any of them to harm or benefit us without his consent 5) is overflowing with kindness and compassion even if we are undeserving

we would totally relax and stop worrying about ANYTHING.

Hashem is merciful and gracious; He neither slumbers nor sleeps, He is your Father, He made you, Hashem is good to all and His mercy is on all His creations etc.

This tells us how G-d r relates to individuals which is, as our dearest friend.

Even if people cannot come up with the Chazal or early source that backs up this point, it does not mean it's not a basic concept. As you know, it's a concept promoted by the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov innovated concepts that are fundamental to Yiddishkeit such as this one and the understanding of hashgacha pratis, that even a leaf blowing in the wind is by direct, individual, divine providence. Also the basic concept which is a popular children's song, "Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere," which we take for granted today but was revolutionary in its time and was vehemently opposed.

Parodoxically, or perhaps not, while the Baal Shem Tov presented chidushim that revolutionized Jewish thinking, it is all sourced in earlier sources in some form or another such as the quote in Chovos Ha'Levavos.


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63.     10/16/07 - 4:25 PM
Too long in Galus

Just wondering, the article on rewards and prizes in chinuch was one of the best, well thought out article I've read in a long time. Do we get to know why it needed to be pulled today after just a few hours?

(ADMIN: The article is temporarily unavailable, due to our inadvertantly publishing before all the writer/publisher's copyright requests were satisfied. We expect to have it back up shortly, as we received verbal approval to post. Thanks for your continued interest in our site and articles.)


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64. agree/preachers/NCSY/d'rabbanan     10/16/07 - 4:58 PM
JR

I agree with Yehoshua. Why give any of your attention to the latest chumros and narishkeiten? Why not focus on your own avodas Hashem while finding role models you can respect?

as for the anonymous comment about preachers of other faiths - sigh, must we drop EVERYthing that belongs to us because others usurp it? Because countless numbers of people think "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want" is not Jewish, we should expunge it from our Tehillim?

to skeptical Jew: The medrash tanchuma on parashas Naso says, "Nisaveh lo yisborach dira b'tachtonim" - G-d has a taiva for a dwelling place down here. The saying goes, "oif a taiva fregt men nisht kayn kashos" - you can't ask questions on a taiva. Why do I want this? Because I want it! G-d has zero need for anything. He doesn't need anybody to serve Him. He created the world because He felt like it. That doesn't satisfy, does it? Tell me, would it satisfy you to have G-d reduced to human-size? To have Him understood and understandable in human terms? I think a problem we have is wanting to make G-d in our own image, to have Him think and want and act as we do, so we can make sense of Him, yet G-d says, "your thoughts are not my thoughts," which is eminently reasonable considering that He is G-d!

to musicjd2b - sounds like you're mixing a number of things together. The prohibition of eating bugs is Biblical and applies to one and all. It's not a stringency. Yes, many years ago, the frum world was not as knowledgable about bugs as they are today. Furthermore, insect infestation changes and perhaps strawberries were not infested then.

As for "normal" social lives, sounds like you mean boys and girls mingling and interacting. That may have been normal for NCSY and Bnei Akiva but that was not normal for Bais Yaakov girls and Black hat yeshiva boys 25 years ago. So what are you comparing? NCSY is still co-ed. Fun is subjective. Plenty of irreligious kids are turned on to yiddishkeit in single sex environments such as day camps and sleepaway camps.


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65. d'rabbanan     10/16/07 - 5:00 PM
JR

(Something's wrong with the formatting. I'm pretty sure I didn't make all that bold! Just wanted to highlight the person's name)

A Schreiber - Are you going to tell me, with a straight face, that Jews can't get over the fact that we still keep yom tov sheini?! I highly doubt it.

Have you really met a single Jew whose entire Yiddishkeit hangs by a thread unless he understands why a nidda cannot pass a tissue to her spouse? I don't believe this Jew exists. I think that these questions are not on the radar screen of most disenfranchised Jews and that they are being thought up after-the-fact, i.e. a person is disillusioned and then he looks for reasons to explain why.

I believe that there are Jews who have authentic questions about Yiddishkeit and how halacha works and the role of the rabbonim, who are not about to ditch the Oral Torah and become Tzedokim, and "yogaata u'matzasa taamin" - if you put in the work, you will find what you are looking for.

A conservative movement brewing? I see more Jews than ever moving to the "right." Many from homes where they grew up wearing pants and the mother did not cover her hair are now married, not wearing pants and covering their hair. The conservative movement was a washout and that's plain for all to see.


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66. Rewards article     10/16/07 - 5:00 PM
Yakov Horowitz - Monsey/NY

Please accept my apologies

Dr. Sorotskin submitted that column for publication and asked me to wait until it is published to post it.

As the kids say, "My bad."

Yakov Horowitz


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67. Response to JR (# 64)     10/16/07 - 5:04 PM
Skeptical Jew

JR,

Unfortunately, your response is typical of the pithy but meaningless answer that are all to commonly used to dismiss questions like those I raised. Thanks for trying, though.

Skeptical Jew


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68. The Oldest Trick in The Book     10/16/07 - 5:41 PM
Mendel Zilberberg

In reading the various comments I am remindrd of the Yetzer Horah's opening move - namely lets make it (Eitz Hadaas)more stringent and thereafter (when hy fail on the freshly minted chumrah)clip them (Chavah & Adam ) in the knees and watch them fall.

This methodology presupposes that people inherently take an "all or nothing" attitude.

The varied comments suggest that nothing has changed. Lets face it, not understanding, buying into, or even being interested in a particular chumrah can not and should not ever be equated with apikorsus.

We should not let the Yezer Horah win with - literally, "The Oldest Trick in The Book"


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69.     10/16/07 - 6:19 PM
Anonymous

"Ive been perusing the blog world for a couple of years, and the number of frum skeptics that are communicating in that world is growing."

It's the same crowd of people talking to themselves. There is almost not a new face in the crowd. I don't mean there is literally no one new, but there is no steady increase.


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70. prove you wrong     10/16/07 - 6:32 PM
JR

skeptical - it's easy to dismiss something as meaningless

I can dismiss your questions as stupid and typical of an am ha'aretz. That's not a way to have a meaningful dialogue. Nor does it demonstrate any intelligence.

Please tell us what would be meaningful to you, specifically what you would accept as proof that you are wrong, which is what you asked for.

foolish of me to even bother posting a comment to an anonymous person who will shoot down anything as meaningless, without hearing what will be considered meaningful proof to you


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71. To JR (70)     10/16/07 - 6:51 PM
Skeptical Jew

JR,

What I mean when I say it is meaningless is that it is clever wordplay to say that God had a Ta'ava to create us, and one can not explain a Ta'ava, but it does not answer the question. One would hope that God, as an infinitely superior being (should he exist), would have a good reason for creating man, since he is purportedly so far above the foolish temptations that we of the flesh are subject to. My rejection of your answer was not personal in nature, and your response should not have been either. Your response is all to reminiscent of the type of "how could you think of asking something like that" answer that turns off so many who have serious questions, and is not particularly helpful. I'd value a logical, convincing response, not something that sounds good to a cheder yingel.

As to my not using my real name, if you were in my position, wouldn't you post anonymously?

Skeptical Jew


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72. Doubters & Skeptics     10/16/07 - 6:52 PM
BR - New York, NY

I feel the questions raised in this thread are legitimate. I come from a secular background, and have relatives who began as Modern Orthodox and have become progressively more observant. I believe it is legitimate to question the tradition, as long as it does not lead to hatred of others. In my experience, knowledge of what others think of us is important, which includes a thorough understanding of anti-Semitism. From my perspective, this is what prevents me from getting upset when observant Jews disagree with the viewpoints I espouse. I have heard it asked by a rabbi how we can know someone is religious by the clothes he wears. This is a good point, I believe, and raises the distinction between religion and observance. People can disagree, I think, about what constitutes proper observance, though to condemn observance per se is to invite hatred of Jews and Judaism. In my opinion, it is important to learn and to be able to think critically, and the endurance of the tradition thus far is evidence that it cannot be damaged by the doubts and denials of a few. To those who believe otherwise, I would say: have faith.


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73. Feelings are Feelings     10/16/07 - 7:06 PM
FFB/BT

TO JR DA MA SHETOSHUV. I think you need to study that maxim before you engage in this verbal give and take. Disenchanted Jews get so by the lack of understanding such as your own. This is not meant chas vicholila to hurt you, it's just the reality. Just because you don't understand the other guy's positions doesn't mean it ain't so. Please, accept another's feelings, they can't be argued with.


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74. To FFB/BT (73)     10/16/07 - 7:13 PM
Skeptical Jew

Thank you for your response (and no, I'm not being sarcastic). I'm not offended by JR's response, I'm used to that as typical of those who are not used to dealing with hard questions. Out of curiousity, would you have any logical responses to the points I've raised? If so, I'd love to hear them.

Skeptical Jew


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75. The problem is us, not G-d and Torah     10/16/07 - 7:24 PM
Elliot Pasik - Long Beach, N.Y. - efpasik@aol.com

I question the depth of the so-called apikorsim among us. Instead, I sense a weariness of the orthodox scene among a fair number of Jews. I call it the meraglim attitude. There's a sense of defeatism, negativity, and cynicism. We're the problem, and not G-d nor Torah. Our leadership's approach to various ongoing communal problems breeds this hostile attitude, in my humble opinion.

The latest edition of the Jewish Observer is another case in point. In addition to the two noteworthy articles about adults-at-risk and molestation, there is still another article that deserves comment. That is the article discussing a modern orthodox rabbi's response to Noah Feldman, the off-the-derech, intermarried law professor, who wrote a NY Times manifesto about his quarrels with orthodox Judaism. After the JO article author says some nice things about the MO rabbi's written response, he then gets to the meat-and-potatoes by sharply criticizing one point the rabbi made. The criticism is so sharp that the JO author actually calls into question the continued existence of modern orthodoxy as a legitimate movement under the orthodox Jewish umbrella. He asks, Will modern orthodoxy go the way of other Jewish movements that have disappeared?

I'm a JO subscriber literally for decades. I see this all the time. It wears on the soul, its deeply disappointing, and its just plain wrong. I see it in Yated too. When will this petty sniping end? Don't they see the damage it is causing?


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76. To Skeptical Jew     10/16/07 - 7:30 PM
SH

You seem to be under the assumption that you, as a mortal being, need to understand why Hashem does what He does. I, as a father, understand that my children don't, and can't understand everything I understand (our minds are limited in relation to Hashem just as their minds are limited in relation to our minds) and I still expect them to do what I tell them to. You do many things, such as breathing etc., although you don't exactly understand how and why it works. Just the fact that He created us and gave us this wonderful world we live in, this should suffice as a reason to listen to Him even when we don't understand everything with our small minds. "Trust" that He knows what He is doing and one day when it will be u'Malah es haaretz deah es Hashem will we see how wonderfully everything makes sense.

You might want to read this inspiring article on the FrumSupport.com website.


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77.     10/16/07 - 7:31 PM
FFB/BT

To Skeptical Jew, Actually, I was exactly in your shoes for many years, and Rabbonim and people like JR looked at me with disdain for even considering these questions. The truth is they don't know the answer and are more comfortable with the familiar territory they live in. As far as your request, though I would consider answering, I would prefer that you spoke to someone better equipped to answer these questions, if you want I can point you in their direction. I read 2 books by Lawrence Keleman that were great, Permission to believe and permission to receive. They both answered a lot of the questions you had. Believe it or not, I still have questions, but I know now that all they are are questions and not "Shlogg ups". I usually find the answer (though not always) and I find that I then become a greater maamin and closer to Hashem. If you want to continue this I can give you my email address. What ever you do, there is one truth that we can all agree on, Ein Simchah Kihatoras Hasfeikos!! Bihatzlochah!


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78. skeptic     10/16/07 - 7:39 PM
yoni

I would like to point out to you skeptic that your question is a simple one, and one that philophers of every age have struggled with. In its simplest form, it is "where did we come from and why are we here?"

Now, it would be prudent to point out that noone can give you a satisfactory answer to this question, it does not exist. Science does not have an answer to this question (ask a scientist where the thimble full of matter and energy that formed the universe came from and he'll look at you as if you've suddenly spilled out all your brains on the floor and danced on them) nor does anyone else. There is, alas, a certain chasaron to science in and of that it clearly requires that the material it is working with (either matter or energy) already exist, and in order to do that one must posit the continual existance of matter, which then begins the obvious question "where did it come from?" and the only thing they could tell you is either the pompus lie that "its always been here" or the honest and truthfull "i don't know."

So secular culture has no better answer for your question than anyone else. If all these answers bother you so much, I promise you that you will be haunted, harassed, and left no peace from your question untill the day you die. Some things are not ment for men to know.

This is comming from a purely secular perspective.

Further more your rejection of these ideas is laced with logical falicies. Firstly, Just because someone posseses foreknowledge of how things will be, does not mean that one does not have to actualy create the world. Additionaly our sages have rightfully pointed out that hashem's knowledge is as if in actuality, (because if he knows what will happen it is as if it is happening and has happened) and from this point of view, For hashem to even consider creating a world necessitates that it already be created. This is a logical extention of the belief that hashem is omnicient, which if you posit a creator (as is logical) then you, perforce, must assume that he has knowledge of the creation.

So that is one answer to your question, that his consideration of a world and its factual existance are identical.

As to your rejection of hashem creating a misserable world, people speak about the dira b'tachtonim, and that hashem desires it. You then opine that he already knows what will happen (see my above note on knowledge vs. existance), and so we should posit that hashem does not want to reward us with anything other than our closenss with him, IE the purpose of creation is is simply to be good. Hashem creates us with free choice, although he knows ultimately what each of us will choose (the two are not logicaly contradictory, imagine someone going forward in time and seeing what you would choose to do of your own free will, and then coming back in time. He does not control your actions, but he knows what your choices are.)

That is a partial answer. Offer questions and I will answer them, from even a secular standpoint if you would like, I am not unfamiliar with it.


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79. To SH (76), FFB/BT (77), and Yoni (78)     10/16/07 - 8:33 PM
Skeptical Jew

Thank you all for attempting to honestly answer my questions. Now, to respond to the points you made:

SH - your point about a father knowing what is best for a child is a good one, but the analogy is not quite right. As a father, you know what , in general, will be best for your children, but you can not know with infalible certainty, like a supposedly omniscient being, what, exactly, will always happen in a given circumstance. If we are the creations of an all-knowing God, we are more like his robots, not his children. Asking me to therefore just "trust" that he knows what he is doing is not enough.

FFB/BT - Thank you for your suggested reading; I'll try to find these, and see if they change my mind. I agree that there can be questions without answers, as there are with science as well (like I said, I'm an agnostic, not an atheist), but I've seen nothing to date to convince me of the existence of an almighty God. In reponse to your e-mail offer, if you'd like, you can post your address someplace and I'll try to contact you - I'm understandably reluctant to post mine on-line, since I really don't want to deal with the flames I'll likely receive.

Yoni - I appreciate your analysis. I agree that science does not have all the answers, and agree that there could be a God, but why, just for the sake of discussion, must one therefore presume that the God of the Torah is the real one, and that he therefore gives a darn as to how we live our lives? Is there some reason that I should prefer one flawed hypothesis over another? Instead, I just admit that I don't know, but see no reason to believe one side just because the other side is flawed too.

As to your discussion regarding knowing all vs. Bechira Chofshis, the explanation you give may satisfy some, but does not do it for me. It reminds me too much of the medival Christian discussions as to how many angels fit on the head of a pin - nice in theory, but fundamentally flawed. As to rewarding us with "being close to him", do you reward your pet robot with keeing it close to you? This really gets back to by initial point - why the heck would some allmighty being bother creating a miserable creature like man? If God truly exists, then the Chachamim had at least the first part right when they concluded "Tov lo l'adam shelo nivra", but I have to say that the conclusion of their statement is not nearly so sound.

Jewish Skeptic


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80.     10/16/07 - 9:10 PM
yoni

"must one therefore presume that the God of the Torah is the real one, and that he therefore gives a darn as to how we live our lives?"

Personaly? I have a number of observations for you (which rely on certain rishonim and other midrashim which are nolonger particularly popular, but bare with me.)

I will prefece this by saying that for simplicities sake, I'm relying on the ramban's and rav saadiya goan's shitta of an old earth, which is quite illuminating if you think about it.

Firstly I will start with more pshat. They state openly that the "the creation of the world is a secret which those who know it are obliged to conceal, not to be aprehended from the verses at all. (ramban, first comment on bereshis bara elokim es hashemayim...). He later posits that there world extisted in times before creation, and therefore pins the creation of the world on the "creation of man". AT the same time there are numerous midrashim which mention the existance of "preadamic men", when then sets the stage for the observation that the creation of man al pi torah and mesorah coincides rather neatly with the estimation of the biological sciences of when man's evolution last occured, IE Approximately 6000 years ago (the margin for error on this statement easily exceeds the three hundred years necessary to make it match up, and therefore the difference between the two is not statisticaly segnificant, according to modern statistical methods.) Curiousity of curiosity, the half life of the famous carbon 14, which is used to date things in the archeological sciences, is 5700 years.

Later on the torah establishes an approximate date for the first cities, about three generations after adam. This coincides with the bibles date for the same, IE about 5500 years ago. Further the date for the first blacksmithing activity likewise coincides with the torahs date for it, which is only a little after this date.

Likewise the comments in the torah concerning the times of the exodus, for instance the statement that at 1300 BCE there was a massive famine in canaan is factualy true, the hittite world was being utterly destroyed by famine at this time, as were other groups in eretz yisroel. Shortly after this date the hittite world completley dissapears from the archeological record exactly has the torah says it did, and is replaced by the phonecians somewhat to the north of biblical boundries.

But let us examine the creation story in detail shall we? There are several things that I will state upfront. The ramban, while at the same time asserting that the shishas yemei bereshis are to be remembered in our actions as actual days (I believe in his coment on yom echad) he later states that they are aslo represented in the course of the world, IE deviding it in to 6000 years, and he then draws paralells to this and the torahs account of the world. Later he mentions that this same principle also applies to the yoivel cycle of seven shmitas, which eh states represent the days of the univers, and each of the seven shmita cycles represent the existance of one world that was "created and destroyed". His student, rabbi yitchak of akko (as testified by no less than the towering goan rabbi aryeh kaplan) testifies that to these years one should apply the principle of "each of hashems days is as a thousand years to man" which gives you an age of 2.5 billion years for this world, which is very close to the scientist's opinion of how long life has been on earth (rabbi aryeh kaplan, sefer yetzirah, first perek) Based on the afformentioned ramban (at v'yechulu hashemayim) this period should be devided in to three days, in each of which certain animals were created. When one does this there is an interesting find, IE that the animals that were created on these days where factualy created in this time in history, save for the birds, which confuse me, but don't let that distract you from the otherwise facination parellels. Our sages say that everything was created in potentiality on the first day. acording to science these bacteria were created at what would be classified as that "day", IE 2.55 billion years ago. Factualy the first plants were created on their day (ie the fourth day, or 1 billion years ago). Animals as we know them today were created on the sixth day. The only wrench in this explanation are the birds, which I will admit I do not understand, yet I do not let this take away from the rest of the disturbing corrolations.

As for the objection that hashem created the luminaries on the fourth (third?) day, it would be worthwhile to point out that untill about the time plants were created the world was covered with increadible cloud cover according the the scientists, which almost completely blotted out the sun.

Take these explanations according the the ramban or leave them, but you cannot ignore the disturbing corrolation between them and modern scientific scholarship, in all but a very few instances.

Which brings me to the disturbing statements of the cheit ha eitz hadaas, which I will point out to you, according to the secular historians, prior to the development of agriculture, people were generaly well fed and quite happy, with abundant spare time (it rather reminds you of gan eden) and it is curious to note that the torah's curses attributed the the cheit haeitz hadaas, all became inflicted upon man on account of the cheit ha eitz hadaas (including inequality between men and women) at it is most curious to note that one of the identities suggested for the fruit was wheat, the symbol of agriculture.

Curious no? This is all conjecture, but not particularly unreasonable given the statements in the ramban, and in midrashic sources. For one to be able to derive all this information as it follows in modern science is most remarkable and extrodinary, and certainly, in my mind, testifies to its worthwhile character and possible divinity, as there is NO WAY that ancient man could have known this so well, short of prophecy, and to say that these are simple coincidences boggles the imagination!

DO you want another answer for why to accept torah as opposed to something else?


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81. To Yoni (80)     10/16/07 - 9:36 PM
Skeptical Jew

Yoni -

I agree that this is all very interesting, but there are a few flaws:

1 - The opinions of the Rishonim you cite are far from universally accepted, and numerous additional Rishonim take exactly the oposite view. Therefore, would you posit that the Rambam's interpretations of the Torah and Halacha are correct, while all the others are wrong? With the number of obscure Rishonim that existed (and no, the Rambam is not obscure, but most of the others cited are), there are bound to be some that said something that, in hindsight, seems to fit almost perfectly with modern scientific thought.

2 - While these Rishonim may have had some inkling as to the age of the universe, what about all the other scientific issues that the Gemara has wrong? As an example, the Gemara's understanding of reproductive biology is clearly not correct - it states that all white matter in the body (skin, bones, teeth) are from the father, while all red matter (blood, flesh, etc.) are from the mother; it states that the determining factor of a child's gender is who reached climax first; and it states that a child born in the seventh or ninth month of gestation are likely to survive, while one born in the eighth month is not. Nishtane HaTeva is a cop-out if you try to use this to answer these points.

3 - I never stated that there can not be a God, I merely said that there is no compelling reason to believe that he exists. You're right, the points you make are interesting, but they are not convincing by themselves.

Skeptical Jew


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82.     10/16/07 - 10:02 PM
yoni

I'll give you the answer that the talmud tells us, IE that they relied on the sceince of the time.

Most rishonim say that, its only modern narishkeit that says anything different.

However you point about the climax statement is not correct. Doubtlessly this is what they ment, but the scientific truth of their litteral statement (ie that when he emits seed first the child is female, and when she emits seed first, the child is male [women do not emit seed when they climax, they only emit seed in the middle of their menstrual cycle]) is indisputable (their own missunderstanding of it not withstanding). (Look it up in a reproductive physiology text book, it is quite illuminating.)


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83.     10/16/07 - 10:04 PM
yoni

and I will point out to you that you are making comparisons between ancient kaballa (not to be confused with modern shtussim) and science contained in the talmud (as it was quite relevant to torah law) are not a valid comparison. our science was not any better than the non-jewish science of the time, but that has nothing to do with halacha, kaballa, or agadda.


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84.     10/16/07 - 10:19 PM
JR

Not surprisingly, you did not answer my question that would facilitate meaningful conversation. I was not asking you to use your name. You missed my point there.

I since had charata about posting any response at all to you, not only because you are obviously not interested in real dialogue and will say "yes but" to anything anybody says, but because this blog is not a forum to discuss questions of faith and this particular article is about the phenomenon of "Adults at Risk."

If you've made up your mind, Keleman's books etc. are a waste of time. If your goal is to have someone prove you wrong (no parameters provided) and change your mind, to me that says that you are not coming into this with an open mind. In that case, I won't waste my breath. I wish you hatzlacha, mostly in genuine yegia, because "yogaata u'matzasa taamin."


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85.     10/16/07 - 10:44 PM
FFB/BT

JR: Every time you write I cringe. I was where he is now and people with your attitude only made it worse. He wants to believe more than anything else, but his questions are very real. You're just angry at him for having questions. People that with their words will push someone further away from the emes will have to answer for that one day. Drop it. He is way ahead of you with his questions, and they are deserving of an answer. The more we understand the problems and deal with it with empathy the better chance we have at success!!!!


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86. To Yoni (82 & 83)     10/17/07 - 12:31 AM
Skeptical Jew

Yoni,

First, thank you for your intellectual honesty. I concede your point on the "issuing seed" issue; I am familiar with the pH changes at different points in a woman's cycle and its influence on the relative motility of sperm with either an X or Y chromosome. That being said, the remainder of my points stand - the Chachamim, both in the Gemara and in the times of Rishonim, had only contemporary knowledge of science, not any "superknowledge" that you could point to and say yes, such knowledge must have come from some supernatural source. The Chachamim were, without a doubt, brilliant individuals, but to attribute divine knowledge of the secrets of the universe to them, at least based on what has been presented so far, is not convincing. Yes, they were sometimes astonishingly right, but they were also sometimes astonishingly wrong.

To take this a bit further - the ancient Greeks also had some amazing knowledge of the natural sciences, including the knowledge that was lost in later generations. As an example, we all know that Columbus was the first one to assert that the earth was a globe, right? Well, not quite. If you look at ancient Greek statuary, including all images of Atlas, you'll notice that the earth is always represented as a ball (though they did, of course, get the idea of how it was supported a bit wrong). That seems similar to the Chachamim - sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but not necessarily divinely inspired.

Thank you again for taking this seriously.

Skeptical Jew


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87. To JR (84)     10/17/07 - 12:40 AM
Skeptical Jew

JR,

Thank you for at least making the initial effort to answer the points I made. At this point, though, the discussion seems to have moved beyond your scope, and your comments are counterproductive. Accordingly, and with no intent to be insulting, can I respectfully ask that you not respond if your intent is only to tell me how wicked my thoughts are, and that because I am such a hopeless case, I should just crawl back under the rock I came out from under before I pollute the minds of other readers of this thread? If you have no questions in your own mind, I am truly happy for you, but please indulge those of us who find this discussion useful. Thank you.

Skeptical Jew


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88. To FFB/BT (85)     10/17/07 - 12:47 AM
Skeptical Jew

FFB/BT -

Thank you for your response to JR; I do appreciate both your consideration and sincerity. I'm not sure I'll end up where you now are (I'm FFB, but at this point, far, far, away from being a BT), but it's a good to discuss the topics on an intellectual level. I'm glad you, at least, have come to a modus vivendi where you feel you can truly believe.

Skeptical Jew


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89. Chazal and genders     10/17/07 - 4:00 AM
N

The statements Chazal make are not easily taken at face value in our generation, but remember that they had to be worded in a way that would be meaningful to all generations.

With regard to knowing whether a child will be male or female: Well, modern biology has yet to come up with a decision on this one. If they would there would be no more rejected Chinese girls, and everyone Frum would have 7 boys so that they can go straight to Shamayim (no, there is no source for this, and I doubt it is true!)

But with regard to what Chazal wrote, they said (to quote Yoni) that it depends on who emits seed first.

This cannot be taken at face value since everyone knows, even then, that women DO NOT HAVE SEED, (there are no references in the Torah to women having seed, only men).

Secondly, any physiology textbook will tell you that the gender of the child depends entirely upon the X or Y chromosome of the one tiny seed (from amongst millions) of the male that "happened" to fertilize the woman's egg.

According to textbooks nowadays: Whichever specific seed is the hardiest or the luckiest is the one that fertilizes the egg. Hmm. Well according to my understanding of Chazal, the position and hardiness of a seed depends on who initiated the passion. This factor will affect physiologically exactly how the seeds are positioned, for man and woman, and will determine if the child is boy or girl.

Skeptic: The reason I am writing this is to show you that there are often ways to understand Chazal that may only become apparent in 100 years time. We see so much masses of positive, helpful wisdom, that it is OK to shelve the issues we don't understand, or that seem to contradict contemporary science. Our understanding is not what makes it true or not. But it is our deep love for Mitzvos is what makes them alive or not.

With regard to our, human relationship to Hashem, we are like individual females and Hashem like a male. That was the marriage contract enacted on Mt Sinai, according to Rabbi Tauber.

The connection is there since then even if we do nothing about it. We could just appreciate to be allowed to be born a civilized Jew nowadays and not a barbaric African tribesman. But we can also go further and try to say Brachas with concentration - believing that the fruit we eat was custom grown on a tree, by Hashem, for me. In this way, we are "initiating the passion". The resulting Mitzvoh is known as a child (as in "the main fruits of a Tzaddik are his Mitzvos), and it will be a strong, male child, very dear to both us, and Hashem.


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90. To Skeptical     10/17/07 - 7:47 AM
tb

Dear Skeptical, I've written here before about the approach to Torah taken by the Y.U./Stern community. It did wonders for me. I was raised FFB (loathe the term) in a black-hat family attending middle of the road Yeshivish girls' schools. It wasn't until I attended my first lecture given by someone in the Y.U. community that I felt truly inspired. I had always had nagging questions, no answers. I wasn't interested in making enemies or arousing suspicion or causing disappointment in me by my teachers and family (familiar drill) so I didn't prod and challenge them. When I respectfully asked questions from time to time, the answers were simple and unhelpful. What I was being presented didn't match my personal needs in the pursuit of Avodas Hashem and for a long time I had no idea that there was any other way. The logical approach works best with me. I have found in recent years the Y.U.Torah.org website to be a wonderful source of information and inspiration. Now there are real-time online Shiurim being offered. I just got an email about those. Some are at night. Overall, I will probably always have questions in certain areas that remain unanswered, but I have chosen to dwell on the intellectual beauty that is Torah and the warm, rich,enveloping lifestyle that following Torah affords me and my growing family, B"H. There are many paths and I don't want to diminish the importance of your concerns by proseletyzing to you about mine, I do just want to let you know that I understand.


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91. skeptical of man... not G-d     10/17/07 - 8:29 AM
fed up

I haven't read the entire comment thread just the original post so forgive me if I write something that's already been said.

The tone of the post hits me this way: We are a couple of guys so enamored of our own manifest fame, success,education and fortune that we are not only smarter than the average BT/Kiruv bear but have much to offer the great unwashed (re; superficial and primitive) masses of FFBs as well.

All the Roshei Yeshiva, Rabbonim, Admorim, Mashgichim, Mashpi'im, Rebbeim and Morohs are a bunch of ... who, if Batei Dinim took such cases, should be defendants in a class action malpractice suit. We, your humble(also) knights in shining armor are here to save the day!

Not only are you a couple of self-promotional shvitzers your conflict of interest slip is showing. Absent "Gateways" et al "seminars for the frum" and a good part of their funding dries up. If we can't inflate our Kiruv numbers enough what better way to wring more funding out of the "sleeping giants" than by convincing them that they need us too! (EDITED by ADMIN)


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92. more skeptical of man... not G-d     10/17/07 - 8:35 AM
fed up

Further, I think the authors are biting the hands that fed them. When Rabbi Bulman was educated all his mentors were FFBs. The founders of Aish, Sha'ar Yoshuv, Ohr Somayakh, Neveh, Mechon Shlomo and Diaspora wre all either FFBs or students of FFBs.

Where would the stirring inspirational talks of the stars of the kiruv lecture circuit be absent the works of the Mahral, Ramkhal, Rav Dessler, Rav Soloveitchik, Rav Hutner and Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz be? Who'd they be quoting ; Franz Rosenzweig and Hillel Zeitlin(please Google if you've never heard of them)?

Methinks they can klop "Bogadnu" with increased fervor next year.

Shameful and disgraceful...really.


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93. more skeptical of man... not G-d     10/17/07 - 8:43 AM
fed up

Stop pretending that you've discovered the wheel. Sfeikos in emunah have been with us from time immemorial. It's part and parcel of bechirah chofshis. When it happens to a young, uninformed adolesecnt the at-risk label makes sense. Applied to an adult it is a complete misnomer except in this vein:

Ther is an old arch-gallows humor Yiddish aphorism that goes Tzait der Malach Hamuves iz du oif der velt is ah mentsh nisht gezichert mit dem leben transaltion : Since the angel of death appeared on the scene no one can be sure of his/her own life!

As the gemra in Bava Basra reveals that the Yetzer Hara is just another facet of the being called Malach Hamuves the same can be said about all of us waging incessant battle against an enemy that would kill our souls as well as our bodies.

We are, each and every one of us, including the authors of this post, at risk...all the time...until we breathe our last.


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94. more skeptical of man... not G-d     10/17/07 - 11:14 AM
fed up

well I'm glad that at least the administrator read my comments and thank him for not editing more heavily.

As you may have noticed I'm furious.


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95. Another Look At Questions     10/17/07 - 11:31 AM
Baruch Horowitz - Brooklyn, NY - borhowitz@yahoo.com

"We are, each and every one of us, including the authors of this post, at risk...all the time...until we breathe our last."

Agreed. Al taamin batzmacha ad yom moscha. Of course, as far as emunah in particular, the specifics depend on nature(rational vs emotional), nuture(one's environment), and bechirah chofshis(what one decides to read, think about).

No one compares themselves to anyone else in this area, perhaps for good reason, just as people don't compare themselves in the area of sexual thoughts and feelings(perhaps for modesty and other reasons), but it doesn't mean that the thoughts aren't there in many people, becuase they aren't publicly discussed.

I saw Rav Yerucham's writings on the Chovos Halevovos(quoted in comment #14; the reference is to Shaar Yichud Haamesh in general, not to any particular issue) this past Rosh Hashana, and I think it can give some chizuk.

I am a rationalist(to the best of my abilities), and proud of it, whether or not it is very popular in today's environment(there might be understandable reasons, and it's a discussion in of itself).

Now, I am not so naive to think that merely referring to the Chovos Halevovos' own thought process will help everyone, after all, I give value to rigorous intellectual discussion in of itself. But it can be helpful to some people. See also R. Dr. Aron Hircsh Fried's quoting of the Mabit in his article in Hakirah.

It can also be helpful to view such thoughts as any other anxiety, where resisting, instead of welcoming and acknowledging the thoughts makes them worse. This is a psychological and meditative concept(and also found in the writings of by R Y Salanter), which has broad applications. I think this is also the idea behind R Horowitz's "Not Yet" article(Mispacha # 169).

Again, as a ratioanlist(or semi-rationalist), I do not devalue the intellectual or questioning aspect one iota, or think that this works for everyone, but a psychological understanding can be of value to some, if not many.


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96. To Skeptic     10/17/07 - 11:56 AM
FFB/BT

Dear Skeptic, Though I appreciate your predicament on a personal level, I can only say that I think you are really fooling yourself. Your latest post seems to indicate that you are way past hope. Saying that means that you are not going forward with an open mind. When you hear another's response to your questions your brain should be in the let me try to understand mode rather than thinking how I can answer his point mode. Anything other than that is disingenuous. You have every right to believe what you want to, but then you can't say that your an agnostic and not an atheist.

If G-D forbid you are diagnosed with cancer do you throw up your hands and give up. If someone tells you of a great doctor in another town do you think of 10 reasons why you shouldn't go? Or do you exhaust all options? Remember, if you're right, you lost nothing by trying, but if you're wrong, you lost everything in perpetuity. A Christian Scholar Pascal, called it Pascal's wager. This is by no means a reason to believe, this is a reason to sincerely give every opportunity the proper respect it deserves. And remember, as you're always a member of the tribe I will alway love you. This more than anything else, is what Hashem exhorts Israel in Golus, not bittul torah etc. Bihatzlacha.


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97. To FFB/BT (94)     10/17/07 - 1:05 PM
Skeptical Jew

FFB/BT -

I understand what is being said, but am raising issues that seem to contradict the point that is being made. Is not rigorous Shakla V'Tarya the preferred way of Torah learning? Please accept my comments in the spirit they are offered - not aggressively, but with a true intellectual search for knowledge.

Skeptical Jew


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98. to skeptical Jew     10/17/07 - 1:09 PM
fed up

Have you heard the presentations/ recordings of Rabbis Becher and Gordon? Have they helped you come to true emunah? Just wondering...


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99. To Skeptic     10/17/07 - 2:10 PM
FFB/BT

Agreed, Rigorous searching for truth, shakla vitaryah, means an open mind, willing to give a fair shot even though you're predisposed to think you shouldn't. You can't write off all of the religious world, and that includes thinkers of all religions, with a been there done that attitude. The sea of knowledge is truly that, a vast sea, don't drown. I know at the end of the day you want to be happy, I am. I hope you will too, whichever way your journey ends. But be honest with yourself, you owe yourself that. B'hatzlachah!!!


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100. To Fed Up     10/17/07 - 2:16 PM
FFB/BT

You are one angry guy. Well to answer your question to Skeptic, if not for Rabbi Becher and his efforts, I wouldn't be a G-D believing Jew today. And I know many others in similar predicaments as myself. So save your frustration and heap your insults on those that may deserve it, not those that give their lives up tirelessly for our nation, with very little material renumeration to show for it.


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101. For Skeptical Jew     10/17/07 - 2:19 PM
Yehoshua

You wrote: "I don't say God does not exist; he well may - I'm agnostic, not atheist. But let's look at it - why would some all-powerful being create creatures like man (and all others, for that matter)?

In your mind which is the stronger question? Does God exist or why did He create the world? They are different questions and demand different answers.


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102. responding angrily to FFB/BT     10/17/07 - 2:41 PM
fed up

not those that give their lives up tirelessly for our nation, with very little material renumeration to show for it

That would describe most of the people working in Chinuch, obscurely and humbly, with no groupies, no fame and fanfare, who were pilloried in this post.

Just go about your job without denigrating the work of others.

BTW how poor is Rabbi Gordon who "graduated with a Fulbright Scholarship from the Harvard Law School and is the Managing Director of Investor Relations for East Avenue Capital Partners, a hedge fund. "


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103. To Fed Up     10/17/07 - 3:05 PM
FFB/BT

You're absolutely right. I apologize, I never thought of it that way. Now I'm angry:-( By the way should I be angry at the regular Rebbeim also?


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104.     10/17/07 - 3:06 PM
Anonymous

#63 re source.

The quotes from chovos halevavos do not make the point the authors made as I've already explained.

"Even if people cannot come up with the Chazal or early source that backs up this point, it does not mean it's not a basic concept. As you know, it's a concept promoted by the Baal Shem Tov. The Baal Shem Tov innovated concepts that are fundamental to Yiddishkeit such as this one and the understanding of hashgacha pratis, that even a leaf blowing in the wind is by direct, individual, divine providence"

The concepts the baal shem innovated are fundamental to chassidus, an important movement; however, the audience for this article is largely composed of students of yeshiva movement founded by students of the gra, and as such, all ideas unique to chassidus would have to be clearly labeled as such and not as "basic torah concepts." The concept of divine providence extending to leaves is not accepted by most nonchassidic authorities, even those who accept that divine providence extends to all individuals (itself not the view of the rishonim).

"Also the basic concept which is a popular children's song, "Hashem is here, Hashem is there, Hashem is truly everywhere," which we take for granted today but was revolutionary in its time and was vehemently opposed."

Why do you think it is not revolutionary today? The song is popular because it's understood in a non-controversial fashion, much as "melo kol ha'aretz kevodo" is understood by most people. There is no acceptance of teaching panentheism to kindergarten children, any more than we are teaching them tzitzum kefshuto - you are mistaken if you think this song indicates that we are teaching such concepts to all OJ children.


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105. Fed Up     10/17/07 - 3:12 PM
Andy - Wesley Hills, NY

The fact that Rabbi Gordon makes a good living (we hope) outside of his teaching only enhances his greatness and dedication. He could be doing only the "rat-race", as many of his contemporaries do, instead of taking the time to lecture and write. Your comment seems to indicate that you don't "fargin" his success. I hope that's not the case.


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106. to Andy     10/17/07 - 4:17 PM
fed up

I fargin him his wealth and fame. I don't like this post which, to me, reeks of self-promotion.

"The system is broken I /we are the visionary saviors."

Or do you approve of miskabed b'klon khaveiro?

How's this for a suggestion: How about cutting down on home redecorating, winter vacations and Pesach at resorts (and for that matter the obscene-in-their-excess and almost entirely superfluous Gateways Seminars for the frum) and redirecting those funds by doubling or trebling donations to Yeshivas to increase staff salaries and benefits. Maybe then you'd attract better talent and not "burn out" the existing talent through decades of just scraping by, drowning in spiraling debt and who, after toiling for two plus decades as marbitzai Torah, find they can't get their daughters dates with serious b'nei Torah because they haven't got the resources to support a Kollel couple for many years after the wedding. "No thanks" comes the reply to the shadchan "know any nice daughters of some hedge fund managers?"

And these selfless "geniuses" who've got it all figured out think that lack of literacy in contemporary Hashkafa works is what's causing burnout?


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107. skeptic     10/17/07 - 4:32 PM
yoni

he Chachamim, both in the Gemara and in the times of Rishonim, had only contemporary knowledge of science, not any "superknowledge" that you could point to and say yes, such knowledge must have come from some supernatural source.

I am going to point out to you that you are conflating different areas of jewish study with your statements here. There is a general principle that we have to rely on the sciences of the time, especialy with medicine, and especialy when making new psak dinnim on novel issues, and naturaly the sages relied on the science then available, for this one cannot fault them.

However, there becomes a clear distinction between what were theological arguments and sources, vs. clear secular arguments and sources. It seems clear to me that you are conflating these points, whether because you do not realize there is a distinction, or because of emotional necessity I do not know.

I think it necessary to throw out the sources that are clearly greek science, as that didn't happen to be their idea anyway, and they were, after all, simply relying on what was available at the time, vs. more theological issues in which they often stand on better ground. We should remember that the science they use is NOT a necessary part of our religion, and has always changed with time. Please do not be so foolish that you look to find fault with them for areas of study that they did not themselves take personal responsibility for advancing and simply gleaned the benifites from.


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108. to Skeptic     10/17/07 - 5:15 PM
Mrs M

OK, here's another shot at your question, Why did Hashem create the world. But obviously, for this you have to presume there is a Hashem, OK? A disclaimer: I am a humble BT who received her answer to this question in the first stages of questioning and learning over 20 years ago, so I cannot quote sources, but I can pass along the answers. BTW there are sources, and if you like I can get them for you.

Hashem is omnipotent, all powerful, He has no needs. He is all good. Even the seemingly bad in this world is done for our benefit, ie why we say Boruch Dayan Emes, which we will only understand after 120.

So why did He bother creating man? Part of being all-Good means being a Giver. Goodness=Giving good to others. Hashem has no "needs," but in some existential way (our language does not have the appropriate word for this) He "needs" to give ie His essence is Giving.

To give in an ultimate way, how would He do this? If He is the source of all goodness, then a recipient's ultimate pleasure would be attachment to this goodness, ie attachment to Hashem Himself.

BUT, if He were to just create something to give goodness to, and create it already attached to Him, which is the simple way to create something and give it goodness (which is the question "why didn't He just create us already in Olam Haba?") the giving would be deficient due to the "bread of shame" moshel: it is more pleasurable for someone to earn his bread than to be given it. It is a boucha to receive a gift for nothing, it is an embarrassment to receive charity. It is more pleasurable for a creation to earn the pleasure of attaching to Hashem through free choice, than to just be placed in Olam Haba. ie Olam Haba would not be as great until and unless the creation were given the opportunity to earn it.

So Hashem created a human in Olam hazeh with free choice and a yatzer hara, so that we can choose the path of Hashem while we are in this life, in so doing attaching ourselves to Hashem to a limited extent in this world and more fully in the next. Pashut, there is simply no answer to your question unless we deal with and accept the reality of Olam Haba.

Basically, the answer is G-d created us to give us pleasure, because that is His essence.

How's that?


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109. my poor partner     10/17/07 - 9:02 PM
JR

FFB/BT and Skeptic,

You say you'd like to be treated in a kinder way, while insulting me. Oh well ... Guess I should tell my Partner in Torah to stop our 7 year chavrusashaft since I'm obviously an angry, cruel, intolerant person who would have nothing worthwhile to say to a searching Jew.

Why skeptic, you choose not to define what would prove you wrong, which would be the logical basis of any discussion with you, I won't venture to guess. But since you have persisted in this refusal, I will reiterate, anybody who bothers responding to you without gaining that information, is wasting their time.

Rigorous searching for truth, shakla vitaryah, means an open mind, willing to give a fair shot even though you're predisposed to think you shouldn't. You can't write off all of the religious world, and that includes thinkers of all religions, with a been there done that attitude.

I agree, but if I wrote the identical comment you'd say stop the preaching, stop telling him what to do, stop putting him down ... That's all right. I don't expect otherwise from you.

Mrs M - the response to your post is ... "YES BUT". Wait and see :)


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110. God's love for the individual???!!!     10/18/07 - 1:19 AM
Anonymous

"Saying God created man to serve him and be rewarded is nonsensical - do you write a computer program to serve you, then reward it if it does a what it was designed to, and punish it if it does not (putting your fist through the computer screen does not count)?"

Your analogy fails because we do not create things which have emotions. We to train animals, which is loosely similar. A better analogy would be if you found a whole string of useful code, which after all is just a combination of letters (or better yet O's and 1's in machine language) would you assume that it was produced by chance just because you could not find significance in certain sections or personally didn't care that much about the function it performed?

Motivations are notoriously difficult to pinpoint in human behavior, yet we're supposed to intuitively understand G-d's motives. Yes G-d is a benevolent G-d. Is it always easy to understand? No. But 1)G-d's existence isn't predicated on His benevolence (but vice versa) and 2)Most of us really like life when its all said and done. The benefit outweighs the challenges.


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111. yes but     10/18/07 - 1:00 PM
Anonymous

jr im just curious why your responses dont fall into the category of "yes but" Youre convinced your arguments carry the day, and anyone who disagrees is stubborn. Do some introspection and tell me how you are any different?

discussions are not won by predicting that the other person wont agree, and therefor that makes your position superior.


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112. re fed up     10/18/07 - 2:40 PM
anonymous613

(Please ignore the rating; it's irrelevant.) I haven 't been able to follow this discussion well due to the lighting on my computer, I'm working on it.

It is very hard to function in today's world without going cyncical, and yes, at times angry. It's something I try to fight because when it comes to raising my kids, I'd rather not infuse them with cyncism. Rabbi Frand has a wonderful essay/tape on cyncism that I highly recommend.

And some days, my mantra is, As long as we're in golus, the world's going to have imperfections. And if I'm at all spiritual those days, a little prayer: Ribbono Shel Olam, please let me get through this with my faith and enthusiasm intact.

R. Horowitz, and the authors of this article, may you all go maichayil l'chayil.


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113. touche anonymous 613     10/18/07 - 3:06 PM
fed up

A. I haven't written a word about Rabbi Horowitz

B. OTC I think it is the original post that reeks of cynicism and skepticism. The "old order" is not to be trusted and must be overthrown. Those Rebbeim are all burnt out. The authors of the post cut no one any slack and afford no one the benefit of the doubt.


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114. touche anonymous 613     10/18/07 - 3:11 PM
fed up

please let me get through this with my faith and enthusiasm intact.

Be careful what you pray for. Misplaced faith and enthusiasm are, arguably, more dangerous than skepticism and apathy. In extremis we call misplaced faith and enthusiasm Avodah Zorah.

?? ??????, ???????? ?????-??????; ????????, ?????? ??????????.

" The credulous believes in everything; but the prudent man understands clearly."


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115. Judasim Today is a Product of the Information Age     10/18/07 - 3:33 PM
Lubab No More - lubabnomore@gmail.com

I think the chumra-obsessed part of orthodox Judaism is pushing many people away who then look for answers on the net. At the same time I think this emphasis on chumras in orthodox culture is actually a product of the modern world. See post: http://lubabnomore.blogspot.com/2007/10/getting-rid-of-bad-internets.html


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116.     10/18/07 - 3:34 PM
Yosef - Israel - jdishinger@gmail.com

First of all, the nasty responses to Skeptic's questions are totally out of line. Skeptic, for what it's worth, Kol haKavod for keeping such a civil tone with your questions. I appreciate your self respect. I'm also a BT who's gone through a lot of haskafic learning. It's also true that it isn't always easy finding satisfaction in the "frum" community at large. The ultimate conclusion that I reached is to stop thinking so much about the community, and to remember that no matter what the community, we all ultimately need to be individuals as well. We are all descendants of Avraham after all. An amazing sefer that discusses the reason for creation and the "system" in general in Derech Hashem by the RamChal. That is the most common source for the articulated idea that Hashem created the world and human beings in order to share his goodness. I am aware that in some of the kabbalistic literature, this is even more specifically articulated as Hashem's desiring to ultimately reveal His compassion. It follows that it is ultimately through going through the crazy things we all do in life, and passing through this world will all it's suffering and tests, that ultimately, in the days of Moshiach, we will see everything that happened from a perspective that truly and powerfully reveals this compassion. As the Navi says, "VaYimale Ha'aretz deah es Hashem, k'mayim al hayam m'chasim." Another book that I found fascinating in the depth and light it sheds on many difficult, or even foolish seeming statements of Chazal is the sefer Gevuros Hashem by the Maharal. I can only highly recommend it, it is fascinating. In Prague during the Maharal's lifetime, a Jewish apostate in collaboration with the local church put out a pamphlet collecting seemingly inane statements from the Gemara and mocking them. This sefer was the Maharal's response. It's a very beautiful sefer and profound in it's depth. The greater the person, the greater challenges they face, and the more we have to overcome. This can be internal, external, emotional, intellectual, communal or familial. I think that what Hashem actually wants from us is our sincerity in honestly searching for the truth, not being satisfied with stones unturned. Perhaps the "faith" that is called for with the types of questions you have is not one that would silence important questions, G-d forbid, but rather one that there are answers, ultimately. That the world is not left to chance. If you sincerely search, you will certainly find, but what you will find also won't necessarily mean that you now can just be the same as you were before. It doesn't mean you'll have a perfect community. Closed-mindedness exists everywhere. But try this- give Hashem and the Torah a chance to exist outside of the cultural box that is placed around them within the Jewish community sometimes. Hashem is so much "bigger" than anything we can imagine. I honestly have really admired your midos. G-d willing you'll find what you need. Just don't give up hope.


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117. Maharal     10/19/07 - 9:59 AM
Anonymous

Actually the sefer is Be'er HaGolah, and it was in response to Christian scholars' questions. Gevuros Hashem is about the Exodus


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118.     10/20/07 - 9:55 PM
Steve Brizel

I think that the authors are correct to a point in pointing out the dearth of hashkafa related shiurim, as opposed to what they call the classical Sifrei Musar. Rav Soloveitchik ZTL pointed out that when we say Slichos, we end with a long set of verses from the Neviim to underscore the fact that every Navi had a different approach and message. In my opinion, when one approach is posed as the answer, it not only ignores other approaches that may work for others but it also in effect denigrates the validity of other approaches within the Mesorah. Let me be a little blunt-Chasidus, Musar and Machshavah all appeal to different people with different emotional , spiritual and psychological orientations. I think that one of the biggest pedagogical errors that abounds is that one approach fits all.


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119.     10/21/07 - 8:13 AM
Ora

I think to fight this phenomenon, we need to remember (although it may sound trite) 70 panim l'Torah. IMO the "70 faces" of Torah doesn't necessarily refer to Satmar vs. MO vs. Hardal vs. Litvak etc, but rather to the individual's approach. Some people connect more to the idea of love, others to Hashem's greatness, etc. Some need Torah learning, some need meditation, some need to give their lives to others. Each person has their own ideal path. IMO a lot of the people feeling frustration and burnout are mainly feeling disconnected because their particular derech (ex. a community where full-time learning is considered the only true path, or where there are many chumrot) is not working for them. That leads to a feeling of being out of place, which leads to frustration, at which point people start thinking "maybe the whole thing is wrong."

Personally I know that many parts of certain communities--urban life, for instance, and the pressure to sit in yeshiva--would not work for me or for my husband. I work best in a more rural setting, and he does best working in a helping profession. If we were in a setting where my only chance to see the greatness of nature were in pictures and he was rejected for not learning fulltime and we were both rejected for being below-average income--I'm not sure what would happen, but it would not be optimal in terms of our observance, to put it lightly.

As many have said, we need to separate rejection of Torah mitzvot from rejection of d'Rabanan from rejection of modern-day decrees (not that any rejection/skepticism should not be taken seriously). Someone who has trouble understanding why Hashem wants us to do anything needs to spend time in philisophical study, while someone who has trouble understanding the kashrut laws in the Gemara needs to study the Gemara itself to see the rabbis' reasoning, and someone who has trouble understanding why we need to soak strawberries in soap is completely sane and IMHO doesn't need to learn/do anything, except perhaps find a different rabbi (which is not to disrespect rabbis who promote soapy strawberries, but their way is not for everyone).

I didn't go through the orthodox school system, so I don't know if/what the problems are regarding the teaching of philosophy. I do think that questioning/skepticism is a normal and healthy phase of a young adult's life (not every young adult, but many), and for many people is the only way to come to Torah observance and love of Hashem from their own free will and not due to force of habit. Skepticism gives every FFB a chance to own their spirituality and to fully know "I choose Hashem and Torah." So even the best school will turn out some skeptics, because only through skepticism can they come to true belief.

On a somewhat different note, I get the sense that a lot of orthodox adults are afraid to make waves, whether by voicing their true feelings or skepticism, or pursuing their own path regardless of what the neighbors think, or by curbing their purchases (including the purchase of an insanely expensive day school education for the kids) based on what's best for themselves and not what's expected. I don't mean to be harsh, but I really don't understand this. If you are older than 14, you should be fully capable of ignoring what others say to do your own thing. Why risk living an unhappy and unfulfilling life full of hidden feelings and social pressure just because of what the neighbors think? Maybe I'm overestimating the scope of the problem, but I hear so many people saying "I can't give my name, my kids won't get a shidduch" or "I can't pull my kids from school X, they won't get 'the right' shidduch" or "I can't have such a simple wedding, it's just not done here," etc etc etc. What is this, middle school? Of course you can do it, you are an adult, it's your life. And if you are unhappy in a particular community, why worry so much about getting your kids "the right shidduch" that will just keep them in the same community? Again, maybe this isn't such a widespread issue at all, and 99.9% of religious adults are living as they would like while for the most part ignoring social pressure, in which case forgive my rant. I just feel that for those who are giving in to pressure, the pressure and the unhappiness with their life will inevitably lead to the "at risk" feelings described here, and it's such a shame, because they might have been so happy (and so happy with their observance) somewhere else.


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120. Keeping up with the Goldbergs     10/21/07 - 1:39 PM
Yehoshua

For Ora: I agree with your last paragraph. As adults we can make our own choices of what is best for our family within the scope of Halacha. There are real consequences though and it requires courage to face those consequences. Look at the criticism even R. Horowitz is receiving for speaking the truth. But what right must be done. That is part of Bitachon!


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121. no reaction?     10/22/07 - 11:11 AM
fed up

I'm still fed up. Especially since BeyondBT.com cross posted this


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122. to fedup     10/22/07 - 1:51 PM
confused

I reread your initial comments and some of the later ones and ... well, you wrote them when you were furious. Now that you've calmed down (I hope), can you sum up what bothers you? I'm afraid I don't quite get it. You think they're inventing a problem that doesn't exist? That what they describe is normal? That their solution has been implemented all along in our schools?


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123. i'm an adult off the derech     10/22/07 - 2:55 PM
zvi

i asked Rabbi Yosef Reinman from Lakewood where does it say in the Torah that God loves us & he showed me 3 places in Devarim ( there is now real mention prior to Sefer Devorim) a good book for skeptical Jew that i would recommend, "The secret Life of God" by Rabbi David Aaron of Isralight- it deals with all the issues you mentioned.


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124.     10/22/07 - 3:30 PM
Anonymous

God’s love for us. To me this idea is basic and obvious because it is something that I was brought up with and heard from my father. I also went to a Chabad high school, so it was something I heard there as well. I have heard this idea from the mashgiach at ITRI, Rav Asher Rubenstein and from another teacher, Rav Yoel Schwartz (neither Chassidic, by the way). This is something that rings true to me, and certainly is supported by countless statements in the prophets (some cited earlier in a comment) and by the entire book of Shir Hashirim, describing the relationship of God and the Jewish people as that of a man and woman in love, and in our prayers. The actual statement in the article that “God loves us more than a father loves his son” is actually a quote from the Ibn Ezra on Chumash in Devarim 14:1-2 (Cited by the Ramban also) The verse states “You are the children of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a special people to Himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.” “Since you know that you are children of God and that He loves you more than a father, do not cut yourselves…” The idea is also found in Duties of the Heart Ch. 5, Shaar Avodat Elokim – but not as explicit A simple reading of the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot 3:14 is that God loves everyone, every single, individual, one of us because we are all in His image, and as Jews we are all called His children – and this is probably a source for the Ibn Ezra and Ramban’s comments as the Mishnah quotes the same verse. Here is the Mishnah “He [also] used to say: beloved is man in that he was created in the image [of God]. [it is an indication of] abundant love [that] it was made known to him that he had been created in the image [of God], as it is said: for in the image of God He made man. Beloved are Israel in that they were called children of God [it was an indication of] abundant love [that] it was made known to them that they were called children of God, as it is said: You are children of the Lord your God.” Look at our tefilot (prayers) in the blessing before Shma in the morning and evening we say “You love us with great love”, “With eternal love You have loved us” “Blessed are You, Who has chosen his people Israel with love” In festival prayers we say “You loved and desired us and elevated us above all people” I suppose the skeptic would say this and think “this does not apply to me as an individual, but to the community of Israel”. I doubt if I can prove or convince him otherwise, however to me the basic and simple understanding of these prayers is as I said. [For further sources see also the Ohr Hachaim in Bamidbar 14:14 and 22:11 who states that God loves us – implication of his words are that God loves us as individuals. Also Midrash Rabba Devarim 3:15, 5:7 and Esther 4:2 and Song of Songs 5:7 on the verse “Many waters cannot extinguish the love”] Granted the Talmud states that there are certain people that “Hashem loves” and people that “Hashem hates”. However these are referring to a special love beyond that which Hashem has for the Jewish people, and a hatred that is an exception to the rule for certain people. But even regarding a wicked person the verse states, (Yechezkel 33:11) “Does God want the death of the wicked? Rather that he should return from his ways and live”


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125.     10/22/07 - 8:21 PM
Anonymous

thank you #124 for those sources


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126. why I'm still fed up     10/23/07 - 1:00 PM
fed up

You think they're inventing a problem that doesn't exist?

Not at all. I think that they'rw treating an ancient problem as if it were something brand new and mislabeling it to bring greater glory to themselves.

That what they describe is normal?

Absolutely.


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127.     10/24/07 - 9:55 AM
M

You mean you would have wanted them to put it in historical context?

How is it mislabeled?

How do they get glory?

in short - how would you like the article to be written or do you think the issue is not worth addressing?


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128. answering M     10/24/07 - 10:30 AM
fed up

>How is it mislabeled?

See comment 93

>How do they get glory?

See comment 106


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129.     10/25/07 - 1:12 PM
Yosef

You're right that it was Be'er HaGolah, thank you for correcting that.


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130. adults at risk - and these people call themselves frum???     11/3/07 - 10:58 PM
Anonymous - gittys1836@msn.com

A friend of mine recently forwarded to me over 50 postings made on the website "Craig's List" personal section, in which "frum" adults, mostly married according to their ads, are looking for other "frum" married people with whom to have affairs, fun, etc. They are listed from Williamsburg, Ocean Pkwy area, a couple from Boro Park are looking for a married girl with whom to have "fun" as a 3-some, ads such as "my wife is away for 3 hours, if you are available now, meet me at the Wmsbg bridge". It's enough to make you nauseous! And these people probably show up in full garb in shul, and no one knows who the father of these women's next baby is!! This is a far more "adults at risk crisis" than not knowing what to answer to questions posed about our religion in the workplace. Why isn't there a "himel geshrei" about this terrible situation, all made possible through the use of the internet?


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131. A Himmel Gishrei     11/4/07 - 7:54 AM
Andy - Wesley Hills, NY

To Anonymous - gittys1836@msn.com: It seems to me that there were numerous "himmel gishrei"s about the internet including gatherings, kol korehs, etc. Just because the rabbonim were circumspect, in public, as to some details of the iniquities, doesn't suggest that they are not aware of all of them, which they are. Those who rail against those anti-internet rabbonim should take heed, as "Anonymous - gittys1836@msn.com" has reported. The situation is bad, very bad.


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132. Access to Torah CD and search engine (Sort of off topic)     11/4/07 - 8:53 AM
Yoel B

Yardena, you were saying you didn't have access to a CD and a search engine. Actually, you do (or, will in several days.) The library at Spertus College (http://spertus.edu/asher_cja/) in Chicago has the Feinberg ECollection which includes the Bar Ilan CD set. IIRC it cost about $25 a year for the membership which gives you access. You have to download a Citrix client appropriate for your computer. At the moment, the collection is offline since the library is moving into a new building; it's supposed to be back up on Nov 12. Spertus is not a frum institution.


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133. historical perspective     11/12/07 - 5:06 PM
Anonymous

My husband read the article in the Jewish Observer and his opinion is the frum world has gotten what it deserves. He is looking at the phenomenon from the historical perspective and he observes that R' Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz provided a wide array of classes in Torah Vodaas. R' S.F.M. himself taught Tanya, Nach, and was eclectic in his reading, enjoying Chassidus and R' S.R. Hirsch, among others. Torah Vodaas wasn't Gemara-only. It was Tanach, historia (with R' Rottenberg), and hashkafa. There were shalosh seudos gatherings with niggunim. R' Hutner also saw the need to provide the bachurim with talks and an atmosphere, not Gemara-only, in his yeshiva.

Then came R' Aharon Kotler and other Litvishe gedolim and the tide changed. Gemara-only became the ideal. Those who promoted other things were looked down upon as second-rate. For example, Rabbi Wolfson's followers were called "moonies" derogatorily. Lakewood became the ideal, the elite. Singing? Dancing? Feh! Mir darft lernen! Rabbi Avigdor Miller, who taught a myriad of subjects in addition to Gemara, such as Chovos Ha'Levavos, was not a mainstream 'gadol.' Those who were his followers were not the elite of the yeshiva world, as the Lakewood-Briskers were/are.

The token daily 15 minutes allotted to mussar in yeshivos is not the solution, obviously. The "better" boys had a Ketzos under the table during mussar seder anyway ... The famous mashgiach in Lakewood, who is extolled in articles, had about a 1% attendance at his shmuzen ...

So what do we have? Bachurim who grow up and become adults who are uninspired, whose hashkafos are shaky or worse.

But nobody dares to say the empereror has no clothes. The J.O. would not print a letter or article to this effect because (although the editor went to Torah Vodaas) the rule is, you have to say that all the Torah leaders were right, eilu v'eilu etc. Nobody is allowed to say that Gemara-only was wrong, that their so-called daas Torah is a farce and has led to the mess we are in today. The article is not even written by local yeshiva-leit but people from other continents. So now what? Rabbi Horowitz, care to comment?


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134. To Yoel B: Thanks!!!!! I really do appreciate the info.     11/15/07 - 8:05 AM
Yardena


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135. So Much Torah, But How Does It Relate To Me?     7/12/08 - 11:43 PM
Esther - Passaic, NJ

There is one big problem in the frum community these days, and that is that despite the huge, unprecedented abundance of Torah learning, we fall short in our ability to APPLY the Torah to real-life challenges. The last time you were dealing with a marital problem, did you have a trusted rav to call for advice? If you did, how hard was it to get a hold of him?

For Orthodoxy to remain viable, we need a Living Torah which will guide us through life's daunting ups and downs rather than merely sounding profound during shiur.


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136.     7/14/08 - 3:12 PM
Anonymous

I don't understand what you mean. You refer to being able to apply one's Torah knowledge to personal situations. How does learning Gemara, Mishnayos, Tanach, Hilchos Shabbos and Hilchos Shemiras ha'Lashon enable one to know what to do in a marital or chinuch situation?

Then you go on to ask if people have a rav to call for advice. Well, some do and some don't.

connection?


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137. re comment 124     10/29/08 - 9:48 AM
M

I am reading the Artscroll biography about Rabbi Pam z'l. On p. 222 it says that Rabbi Pam said, "Each and every Jewish child is like Hashem's only child. The intense love that we have for our own children, and the feeling of appreciation we have when someone helps our children, as intense as it is, does not come close to the love that Hashem has for every Jewish child."

By the way, since this is a chinuch blog - I recommend Rabbi Pam's book for those who work in chinuch. Rabbi Pam sounds like he was a master teacher and there is a lot here about his educational approaches.


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138. congratulations to a historical perspective     11/25/08 - 2:41 PM
Anonymous

To "a historical perspective" well said. But I am afraid you comments will fall on deaf ears. Let me explain. I live in a blacker than black charadi town in Eretz Yisroel whenever I challenge people about the issues that you raised. For the most part they answer the yeshivisher party line like programmed robots, trying to explain to me why I am wrong. People do not something about the situation because people would rather continue as they are even though it may be unpleasant, painful or wrong rather change. The unknown is very scary. This idea is explained about by Rabbi A.J. Twerski in his secular books. This goes along way in explaining why nothing changes.


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139. A final point     11/25/08 - 2:45 PM
Anonymous

I just forgot to add there is an excellent book published by Atrscroll called In Black and White. The stories are very thought provoking and although fiction are undoubtedly based on fact afflicting the charadi world today.


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140.     2/21/10 - 12:52 PM
Anonymous

"Apart from the devastating effect on families and communities, in the case of an F.F.B that becomes an Adult at Risk the 'tinok shenishbah' card cannot be played."

It's all water under the bridge now, since no one's even reading this piece anymore, but here's my two cents. While it is true that that 'card' cannot be played - and I think it seldom should be, considering it's profound paternalism - R. Yehuda Amital has written of ways such people CAN be addressed; http://vbm-torah.org/archive/values/16values.htm


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141. re #124 and #137     5/6/10 - 7:40 PM
M

A source is Keser Shem Tov of the Baal Shem Tov in the Hosafos Siman 133 about the great love Hashem has for every single Jew like for an only child.


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142.     5/26/10 - 1:19 PM
openmind - monsey, ny

For those of you who mock people who respond "yes but" to your welcome but unhelpful (so far) attempts to help us:

We DO NOT close our minds. we DO NOT like being like this. imagine if you were confused and doubting and it was making your life miserable and NOTHING ANYONE SAID COULD HELP. who would want to feel like that all the time? it's depressing to live like this. we keep going on, day by day, hoping that maybe the next person will say something that will ease the pain a little bit. we WANT to hear something that feels right and true to us. but how could we give parameters - how could we possibly know what that right thing will be until we hear it?

There may be some who don't really want to believe and use their doubts as an excuse to follow their taavos, but these people are not the majority.

We are Jews in pain. Our lives are a sham. we should be happy just to be alive but i think it's better for man to never have been created.


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143. Preparing our Children to be Adults     5/28/15 - 10:56 PM
Anonymous

Finally an article that addresses this topic. I have always encouraged my children to supplement their Yeshiva and Bais Yaakov education with hashkafa material designed for kiruv or written by kiruv professionals or baalei teshuva. In fact, my girls have attended the Post Shalheves summer program in Nevei Yerushalayim, which is taught by kiruv professionals, for just this reason. I believe that this has made their understanding of yiddishkeit deeper and stronger.

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