Thoughts on Judaism

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

BT Experince - part IV - Paradise Lost

Without getting into sordid details, let's just say that our SD gets caught doing something on a regular basis that most people would consider less than ethical, downright krum. Of course, we all know that this happens with any group of people. And let's just say that our KP is a nonjudgemental and forgiving fellow, at least when it comes to the SD. This is also understandable as the KPs entire livelihood may rest on this SD or a few like him. So Noam looks on. This SD will continue to get shlishi, shvi'i and maftir, he will continue to speak about how yidishkeit has changed the world, and he will continue to conduct business out of the public eye as he sees fit. Everyone will call him up to "say a few words" at public gatherings and simchas, and stammer on about how is a pillar of the shul and the community. Said people will continue to look with distain on Noam's old dusty hat, his old suit (a little short for the dry cleaner until the end of the month), and his loud kids.

Noam begins to wonder about the philosophy that the KP and his yeshiva teach. On the one hand, he is an authority on morality and ethics. On the other hand, he has rationalized this behavior and even found halachic rationalization, perhaps stretched out of shape somewhat, to support his position. Noam begins to understand how alone he really his, how, when the chips are down, it is money and standing that count, not the ethics and morality that had been drummed into him. Perhaps for the first time, he takes an honest look at the basis on which he was convinced to drop his entire repetoire of common sense, his basic values, his ideas on what it would take to make a living without "G-d helping", his acceptance of Jewish fundamentalist and mystical approach positions, the way he had built his life on a litany of chasidic or tzadik stories, and he begins to wonder what else he had been "sold".

Clarify here that it is not that the KP does anything wrong, per se. Noam understands the "grey area" of this case (though my caricature has drawn it more black and white). What he finds is that, (and if you miss this, you miss the point), contrary to what he was taught, he is not part of the "family". He has been told that his soul will burn in hell if he eats the wrong potato chips. He has given with mesiras nefesh so that he and his family can follow this philosophy. He estranged himself from his family of his youth. who told him that his crazy philosophy would lead him to disappointment and financial hardship. And now it has, and he finds that when the magic doesn't work, his symbol of frumkeit simply darshans it out of existence. When he confronts the KP, he is told that he just doesn't understand, that he is too new to Judaism to follow the nuance, that there is something wrong with him. Noam's bubble has now burst. He realizes that he has no landsmen, his family was not all crazy when they told him that his newfound philosophy, right off of the kiruv presses, was a bit starry eyed and not livable in the real world. He realizes that he must adjust quickly.

One of four things can happen here. 1) Noam will react with anger, reject Judaism and act l'hach'is publicly. 2) Noam will meekly accept the entreaties of his KP dutifully, and he will simply continue in his bubble, rationalizing that this is just a personal thing, and he needs to get over it. 3) Noam will join the many thousands that simply drop all enthusiasm and continue to practice outwardly for the sake of his wife and children. 4) He will adopt some middle position where he still believes in the dream that he chased to yeshiva, but with the realization that he has no basis to start from, no family to rely on, no real way to discern true from false or trustworthy from untrustworthy,

Philosophically, he changes radically. He knows that "G-d will help", but he does not know what that means any longer. He knows that "right is right" and "wrong is wrong", but he doesn't know what that neans either. He doesn't know if the people that he was taught were saintly and pure also have lackeys that rationalize away their faults.

And the sad thing is that it did not have to go down this way at all, even under the same circumstances. More on that.

And enter the nonkiruv FFB. He listens to Noam discuss his concerns. Perhaps Noam considers him a friend. But, his view may be totally different.

Next, Revenge of the Myth


  • RJ, what's the point of this series? Are we also going to hear about the successful, well adjusted, happy BT's?

    I get the feeling that you have been deeply hurt by your experiences in Yiddishkeit. Is that true?

    By Anonymous Yankel, at 1:04 AM  

  • "He doesn't know if the people that he was taught were saintly and pure also have lackeys that rationalize away their faults."

    In other words, he's been lied to once too often, and now he doesn't know whether anything he's been taught by KP, etc., is true. And that includes anything taught by rabbis in the past, because, if today's rabbis and KPs behave this way, why should he believe that the Alter Rebbe of Hatam Sofer didn't act this way as well. For that matter, maybe Ezra and Moshe also lied, shaded the truth and favored their cronies over other more deserving people.

    But hey, that's okay.

    Noam doesn't have any money anyway, so KP won't have to worry much about losing him. (Although KP's brother may bitch a bit about losing Noam's kids. After all, Noam paid tuition, unlike KP, KP's brother and their cronies, so there will be some pressure on KP to replace Noam – or, rather – Noam's kids.)

    By Anonymous Shmarya, at 1:11 AM  

  • Yankel –

    I get the feeling that you've been deeply hurt by ba'alei teshuva who have, with the greatest inconsideration for your feelings, exposed you to these problems of Orthodox Judaism. Your pain is evident and needs to be dealt with so you can heal. Perhaps you should consider getting some counseling to get over this very real pain?

    Don't get me wrong. I empathize with you. I really do. Your pintle yid is suffering. But it's just better to sit down with a mental health professional and work things out.

    You're too important to let yourself suffer like this.

    Please, for your own sake, seek help you so clearly need.

    By Anonymous Shmarya, at 1:19 AM  

  • Keep going with this series, BRILLIANT!!!

    By Anonymous BT gal, at 4:27 AM  

  • take care in shaping characters, please. Keep going!

    By Blogger Tzemach Atlas, at 8:23 AM  

  • Interesting...suspense...I'll be staying tuned.

    By Blogger Cosmic X, at 9:28 AM  

  • Yankel
    Please review the hakdama of this series and you will see the purpose. Ultimately, we want a deeper understanding of why BTs who leave say that they feel "misled". In understanding this, I think that the frum community can do much to stem the tide. This has nothing to do with any particular personal experience of my own.

    Your defense mechanism ha kicked in and it is exactly as I describe in this series. I am not after assigning fault, only finding a better way.

    I will also reiterate to all that this situation is FICTIONAL and CARICATURE. No real BTs were harmed in the writing of this series (that I know of).

    PS to SR - Now now. Play nicely. ;)

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 9:28 AM  

  • Shmarya....I rest my case. One look at your blog was enough to convince me. I understand that you have been hurt, and your blog represents that primordial scream. BUT that doesn't necessarily mean that the words used to express that scream are necessarily factually correct or even rational.

    RJ, I think you too are screaming in pain. You feel let down and hurt. Misery loves company, so you assume that your feelings are shared by so many BT's. From my experience, they are not.

    I am not denying at all that problems exist. Every society has them. It just seems that you are projecting your own issues onto others.

    By Anonymous Yankel, at 9:16 PM  

  • Okay, Yankel. Perhaps you'll understand this: You are in denial. Worse than that, you deem those BTs who speak out to be ill.

    As for my blog, I source my work. I report facts. Don't like my spin? Fine. But, again, I report fact and source it.

    By Anonymous Shmarya, at 1:28 AM  

  • I am Noam. Thanks for this RJ.

    By Anonymous onionsoupmix, at 2:33 AM  

  • Yankel and SR

    You have absolutely sustained my origianl feeling that my scenario is very typical. Yankel fits right in with the "there is something wrong with them" mentality. He cannot even accept that my story is what I calim i to be, an analysis. It must be the railings of a bitter person. He will be disarmedly surprised at the conclusion.

    Nonetheless, he cannot accept that BTs who discuss these issues are abberations or somehow broken. Look at some of the people right here in blogland, FFB and BT.

    Mis-nagid, BTA, Shmarya, DovBear, Hayim, Ben Avuya, Anonymousette, the mavenyavin 4, onionsoupmix and dozens more. Read their thoughts. You can't just right ALL of them off as malcontents, can you? Their conclusions are so different, how can you just put them all in a box and label it?

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 3:34 PM  

  • rebel
    what about me, happy!

    By Blogger happywithhislot, at 11:44 AM  

  • Sorry for the summary inclusion. I think you are in my blogroll, but there are so many now that it is hard to keep up. You certainly belong there.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 2:05 PM  

  • Mis-nagid, BTA, Shmarya, DovBear, Hayim, Ben Avuya, Anonymousette, the mavenyavin 4, onionsoupmix and dozens more. Read their thoughts. You can't just right ALL of them off as malcontents, can you? Their conclusions are so different, how can you just put them all in a box and label it?

    RJ, that's a bit of a mix. Some in that list are very turned off to yahadut and some are very into it - just a mystical-free version. I'm not sure it's meaningful to lump everyone together.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:40 AM  

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