Thoughts on Judaism

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Revenge of the Myth - part V

First, a reminder that all of this story is contrived, for a purpose. We need to understand Noam if we want to keep him. Do we? Not everyone does.

After all, on the one hand, he has been handed a dose of old fashioned reality. On the other hand, he has laid down roots and he wants that part of frumkeit that he was striving for, the community, the egalite', the common goals of reaching G-d, by recognizing that we are all humbled before a higher source. He was willing to believe it was practical and achievable, but he finds that business is conducted in the frum community in the same way that it is conducted in the rest of the world, a world with ways that he spent years learning to reject and ridicule. He realizes that certain philosophical and theological problems have returned to haunt him. The beliefs that he is expected to promote are no longer the same as his true beliefs. In yeshiva, he was told that his common sense was just secular thinking, and if he truly trusted in G-d, he would proceed without calculations, based on mesiras nefesh and G-d would take care. And most of all, he realizes that he does not know who he can trust.

But, in our shteibel, there is also a non-kiruv FFB, call him Yitz. By non-kiruv, I mean that he has no real interest, other than a very mild acknowledgement of its theoretical value, in m'kareving Jews to Judaism. He keeps Torah and mitzvos and many chumras, just as he was taught since he was a child. Lack of secular education and disdain of the secular world has not enhanced his professional ambitions, but he has some holdings that his grandparents invested in for him, not much but something, and he is happy. He sits across from Noam, and overhears him telling someone about some of his concerns. He needs to go outside for a smoke, anything to get away from this kvetching.

He tries to concentrate on his brother's upcoming bris, when the family will all gather and celebrate together. His own son's bar mitzvah is coming up as well, and Yitz's father is already learning mishnayos, laining and helping the boy to commit his learning to memory. Yitz's mother, were she still among the living, would be beaming with pride. His sisters and nieces will take care of everything. None of them could be happier with all of the upcoming family simchas. And the SD always has some good funny story to lead off, often about his goyishe in laws. In-law stories are always the best.

He wonders why this Noam is such a downer lately. How could he not sense the joy in yiddishkeit? Our KPs forsake their own interests to m'karev guys like this, they take him into their home, when they have their own kids to deal with, their kids get a Jewish education, our KPs teach them how to connect with G-d, and here they are complaining about what they DON'T have. They come take our resources and then they are ungrateful. It is likely some personal problem, disguised as some question in frumkeit. It is well known that he and his wife often fight about money, he and his kids do not show up to some events when the entire community comes, and he shushes us during k'riah. Definitely, there is something wrong with that guy. If he doesn't like it here, who made him come? Let him go and stop whining. It is not like everyone doesn't have problems. We don't go whining about everything and blaming it on the next chair. Maybe he has some personal problem with the SD. WHO CARES! The guy was always a bit off.

He finishes his cigarette and returns to the room, avoiding eye contact with anyone.

Update: The first comment will testify to the point. It was entered by Shneur, the source of much fabulous information, on


  • I find it tedious to read the constant stream of complaints coming from BT's . And as such I just skim through these comments. I will just add that the following comments are not directed against individual Baal Teshuvoth, or do they minimize the pain these people feel they suffer. Everyone has their problems. Frum people have their problems too. How did it feel to be mocked by other Jews because we wore Kippoth. Some of these kids years later decided to be come BT's too when Judaism became hip. We spoke Yiddish, not only did the non-Orthodox laugh at us, but even the orthodox called this un-American.

    Did you guys ever experience being called dirty Jews because we wore Kippoth as kids? How did it feel never having pizza or eating out? Yes no pizza or other kosher junk food. How did feel to either attend public school or go away miles from your parents’ home to a Jewish school?

    How did we children of Holocaust survivors cope without extended families with open wounds festering less than 10 years after the conclusion of the War. In many cases of these communities the Germans were so to speak the shadchanim and I won't bother to explain. And our American Jewish neighbors had large extended families always visiting, etc.

    How did we feel when our parents could not speak English or teach us about American culture. We overcame these issues and did our best. I believe most Baale teshuva are not complainers, but others complain. Why?? Probably for the same reason they became frum to begin with, the need for attention and the desire for total creature comfort. Many will never be happy.

    No one is forcing the BT Jews to be frum. Many would probably be better people if they returned to the Messora of their grandparents of eating Chinese on Sundays and the GoodBye Columbus lifestyle. They could do their Gottesdienst at the local Reform Temple too. Others would benefit from a strong dose of Modern orthodoxy or a close relative of mine calls it "take it easy Judasim". Certainly a transition period of MO Judaism between the 2 extremes would be very beneficial. Still others may realize that Judaism calls for sacrifice its called "Ol malchus Shomayim " its a yoke not a vacation. The texts never promised anyone anything except for a hard time with its spiritual rewards.

    By Anonymous Shneur, at 4:58 PM  

  • "The texts never promised anyone anything except for a hard time with its spiritual rewards."

    But it wasn't the texts that he was dealing with, was it?

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 5:00 PM  

  • RJ, how much of this series is autobiographical?

    By Anonymous Yankel, at 5:46 PM  

  • yankel
    It is a contrived story. It is not meant to mirror anyone, but to emphasize certain points about kiruv. My autobiographical stuff is openly posted in the Hakdama to this.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 7:24 AM  

  • I've passed through Crown Heights as well as Yeshivish communities, and I really agree with the bulk of your series. I stay away from bitterness/pity, but at times it's hard to reconcile the "come on" from the reality. If you're not a wealthy B.T., you're second-class, regardless of how much you try to "pass." The proof: how many of their kids marry ours?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:49 AM  

  • I don't think marriage statistics is proof to anything. Unless, of course, your understanding of community acceptance extends to full acceptance into their families.

    Distinguished yichus is a maaleh, and it is reasonable that those in possession value it (even if there is an equivalent in dollars). The fact that some BTs feel offended by this shows that they also acknowledge that value. They are mostly not bitter about a particular kid's happiness destroyed but rather about the fact that there is a limit on how close a relationship FFBs may want to maintain.

    The limit varies, but it always exists. Say, most people would agree that even close friends should not have access to your bedroom (or bank account). But you may or may not be comfortable if they make liberal use of your refrigerator and its contents. And just because you don't mind, you can't expect others to allow this. For some of them (or their wives) it is simply out of question. That said, they may still be close friends. But friendship also stops as soon as one resents the limit imposed by another.

    I grew up in a culture where it was normal for people to call their friends at midnight, and to come visit without as much as a phone call. Here in New York it is not.

    BTs usually come from a society were marriage was much easier negotiated. Let's not hinge everything on this, just like you wouldn't loose a friend only because his wife admits nobody in her kitchen.

    By Anonymous nsker, at 2:41 PM  

  • PS Thanks for the series, this is one of the best depictions of the problem. I did not mean to be apologetic to "FFB"s in previous post, only I want to emphasize that the [inter]marriage problem should be kept separate. Not that it is really separate, it is just too emotional to many, and the resentment precludes any further discussion.

    By Anonymous nsker, at 2:48 PM  

  • This story may be germane:

    By Anonymous Yankel, at 9:51 PM  

  • yankel

    You just don't get it, do you?

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 7:02 AM  

  • rebel
    reading shneur's comment, it crystalized the difference between me and shneur. My issue with people complaining about rabbinic judiasm, encompassess FFB and BT.
    Im not asking them to stop complaining about the bitter life, im just asking anyone, with an agenda to turn rabbinic judiasm to sadducee judiasm, to please stop. (there are bloggers out there not happy about this moral issue or that, and i say, go create your own religion, leave ours alone.)

    I am also of the opinion, and i stated this on BTA blog, anonymoussettes blog and elsewhere that maybe we should get out of the active kiruv game.

    I think its become somewhat of a career .
    Passive kiruv is better. When you chase someone, they eveutally run away.

    By Blogger happywithhislot, at 11:56 AM  

  • HWHL

    Agreed. At the same time, I take issue with those who take the curious mix of fundamentalist tripe and later minhagim, mix it with new age magic and nonsensical apologetics and call it rabbinical Judaism.

    Your conclusion about kiruv is exactly where this is all going.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 12:44 PM  

  • rebel
    see my comment on the mentalblog post you reffered to.

    we may be agreeing.
    I would have to hear speficifs about the "tripe" before i conclude we are.

    By Blogger happywithhislot, at 1:02 PM  

  • HWHL
    Having read this and other comments and posts of yours, I would conclude that we do mostly agree.

    By fundamentalist tripe, I mean what I have called "mystical approach" here in the past, the notion that outdated science is somehow mystical or affects reality. The denial of proven reaities is one of the things that the Rambam dubs "foolishness" in Moreh. GH discussed much of this. I think I am just a hair to his right, but not too much.

    By Blogger Rebeljew, at 2:03 PM  

  • Rebel,
    on a side note, i disagree, (and taking a line from a Few good men) maybe i disagree firmly, that daat emet is simply a anti frum site. Its much more. Its a anti jewish site. The owner of that site, in answers to some questions would prefer to not have his humanistic side tainted by having any semblance of jewishness, or even a jewish state.

    By Blogger happywithhislot, at 11:48 PM  

    From: Tuchman, Aryeh
    To: ''
    Sent: Friday, October 15, 2004 10:37 AM
    Subject: Daat Emet

    Dear Mr. Asper,

    Thank you for contacting ADL about Daat Emet. We are aware of the site and of the two others you mention. Attacking Judaism by distorting its own teachings and texts is unfortunately common. We have composed a brief response to some of the more popular accusations in our booklet The Talmud in Anti-Semitic Polemics, which is available here:

    Thanks again, all the best.

    Rabbi Aryeh Tuchman

    Assistant Director, Civil Rights Information Center

    The Anti-Defamation League

    Phone: 212-885-7859

    Fax: 212-885-5882

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Yisrael Asper []
    Sent: Friday, September 10, 2004 11:12 AM
    To: webmaster
    Subject: A Jewish AntiSemitic Website

    To whom this may concern
    There is a Jewish AntiSemitic Website called Daat Emet It is the website of a Jew Yaron Yadan who attacks and distorts and makes up his own version of Judaism then to attack it and the Jewish people. It is quoted extensively in Gentile AntiSemitic Websites like and
    Thank You

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:24 PM  

  • My posts amongst others:

    It is even guilty of forgery (See on Talk reason for "Naftali Zeligman"-No Chareidi and perhaps Yaron Yadan) like on his "Guest Column" "New on the Site:

    Letter to My Rabbi
    A letter from a Charedi intellectual
    who lives between two worlds: reason and faith"

    My letter amongst so many that got Daat Emet blasted off of so many sites
    Daat Emet should be dropped as a link from your nice site. Daat Emet believes in prohibiting the propagation of Judaism and is used by AntiSemitic sources such as According to Daat Emet you if you really are observing Halachas are doing something bad as Judaism is to it evil and the Jews are to be ashamed of their history and and deserve to be mocked for preserving their culture.* Daat Emet is an AntiReligion Religion with its own version of Halacha, Science, Judaism, Rabbis, Chazal etc. Everything it says has to be backed up by quoting sources or else is worthless. I don't remember when was the last time Daat Emet has had a verifiably genuine letter put up for its Questions and Answers section. Its "guest column" is presented as from a Chareidi person torn between two worlds but if you look at the "talk reason site" you will see that he was before that article not Chareidi.Regarding its "science" here are at least some examples of his distortion. He says that "Never is life spontaneously created from inanimate materials." Scientists though say that the conditions for the origin of a species requires life from nonlife. Questions of ultimate origins he claims are meaningless. They are not meaningless to scientists.
    Daat Emet also rejects creation from nothing not from anything in physics but out of his own outdated view of science. Creation from nothing is nowadays believed in thanks to Einstein and is challenged only by those who wish to reconcile it with Quantum Mechanics in a way that would eliminate Creation from nothing. Their efforts have not amounted to Orthodox science as it has come to nowhere except to help towards a grander picture of some future theory to come. More properly speaking since time and space came into being through the universe and would die with the death of the universe the universe has a first moment but no moment before. By definition there was nothing happening before the Big Bang because there was no time and so no before to be had.
    He says Parthenogenesis is sexual reproduction, but that "the female provides the impregnating material to the egg she produces." He is wrong despite the fact that the Rabbis he challenged found out about it from scientific writings. Parthenogenesis is not sexual reproduction. On the contrary Parthenogenesis is defined as reproduction from an unfertilized egg. Fertilized eggs by definition are eggs that have been fertilized through sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction by definition involves male and female reproductive contributions whether from two beings or plants etc. or even one.
    Below are just some tamer examples of his views on Jewishness. "Questions and Answers
    Answer: Publication date: 23-08-2004
    Title: Charedi communities follow rules which contradict the Israeli legal system
    Content: Dear Tzvi,
    The Charedi communities continue to follow the customs and practices of Diaspora days and ignore the reign of the law. In their opinion the Israeli legal system is like a foreign government, and to protect the Charedi community from that which would cross their border (like connecting a home computer to the Internet, for example) they punish and threaten, based on an overarching Halachic permission which allows rabbis, based on their own judgment, to punish and even to kill. Thus is it written in the Talmud: "It has been taught: Rabbi Eliezer the son of Jacob said: I have heard that the rabbinical court may impose flagellation and pronounce sentences even where not [warranted] by the Torah; yet not with the intention of disregarding the Torah but in order to put a fence around it. It once happened that a man rode a horse on the Sabbath in the Greek period and he was brought before the court and stoned, not because he was so liable, but because it was required by the times" (Sanhedrin 46a).
    We will cite a story from the Talmud which well illustrates how rabbis tend to belittle, mock, and lie to foreign governments and punish and kill without judgment.
    Rav Shila administered lashes to a man who had intercourse with a gentile woman. The man went and informed against him to the Persian government, saying that Rav Shila had passed judgment without the permission of the government. An official was sent to summon him. When he came he was asked: Why did you flog that Jew? Rav Shila lied and said: Because he had intercourse with a she-ass, and act which is forbidden by the laws of the Persian government. They said to him: Have you witnesses that this Jew did indeed have intercourse with a she-ass? He replied: I have. A miracle then occurred and Elijah the prophet came in the form of a man and gave evidence. The Persian judges said to him: If that is the case he ought to be put to death. Why did you not do so? Rav Shila replied: Since we Jews have been exiled from our land, we have no authority to put to death; do with him what you please. After the Persian judges considered the case and were convinced that Rav Shila gave due respect to Persian law, they gave him the authority to pass sentence. When he went out the Jew said to Rav Shila: Does the All-Merciful perform miracles for liars? Rav Shila replied: This is no lie. Gentiles are called asses, for it is written: "Whose flesh is as the flesh of asses."
    He noticed that the Jew was about to inform the government that Rav Shila had called them asses. When Rav Shila saw this he struck him with the staff and killed him, arguing "If a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first" (Berachot 58a).
    Therefore do not be surprised that today's rabbis allow themselves to threaten and hit in contradiction to the word of the reign of law. They have learned this from the Talmud itself. What can be wondered at is the Israeli society which supports and encourages the learning of texts which permit acting in violation of the reign of law.
    Daat Emet" "Question: Publication date: 13-12-2005
    Title: The philosophy of Daat Emet
    Content: It is most unfortunate that I had not encountered Daat Emet two years ago when I made the difficult decision of leaving the Haredi environment that I had grown accustomed to. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Semitic languages and Ancient Near-Eastern literature (with an emphasis on Classical Hebrew and the Hebrew Bible) and am finding the information on this site of great interest.
    Of course, this is all by way of an introduction to my question. Nobody in their right mind would devote their entire lives to something that they despise and, from the high academic level of much of this site's content, it is evident that your contributors do indeed devote their lives to this study. What, exactly, is your philosophy concerning the relevance of the material that you debate? I realise that Daat Emet is no theological organisation, so I am not asking whether or not you affiliate with any given denomination. I merely want to know how you 'feel' about the Torah that you critique. Should it have, in your opinion, a continuing relevance to people?

    Answer: Publication date: 13-12-2005
    Title: The philosophy of Daat Emet
    Content: Dear Aniboker,
    We were very glad to receive your letter. Without intending to impinge on your anonymity, we will nevertheless venture to ask you several questions, naturally for the sole purpose of inquiry into Jewish social statistics. We would like to know what country you live in, what kind of family you grew up in, your personal background – primarily in terms of your relationship with religion. There is absolutely no need to identify yourself; then again, if in the future you wish enter into closer contact with us, we will be more than happy.
    And now a few words in reply to your question.
    Our relationship with Torah and all that it entails is very simple. We are firmly convinced that it was created by man and should be studied rationally rather than theologically – the same as any other work of ancient Eastern literature that falls within your professional domain. As far as we are concerned, it contains nothing supernatural or metaphysical. At the same time, there is no doubt that it has had a profound influence on the evolution of several cultures, above all the Jewish one. For that reason, unlike many other ancient books, it remains more than relevant in a number of aspects – from the theological to the social. In this respect, it retains its relevance for us as well: we believe that Judaism is extremely harmful to modern Jewish society, above all to Israeli society, and endeavor to curtail its influence from within. At the same time, we carry out research into the deeply intriguing subject of Jewish culture, primarily its ancient elements, which is inseparably linked to classical Jewish religious literature. In our opinion, there is no need to regard the Torah as divine revelation in order to have a deep appreciation of its value. I think you will easily understand our position.
    Sincerely yours,
    Daat Emet"
    Yisrael Asper
    "Answer: Publication date: 18-11-2003
    Title: The Jewish nation has survived for 3000 years
    Content: You are correct about the wondrous historic phenomenon of Jewish survival from at least the Hashmonaic period to now (the Jewish nation in the Biblical period was significantly different in custom and command than we are now). Even researchers in history have admitted this; the great British historian Arnold Toynbee, who developed a theory of history according to which nations and cultures come and go on the human field. According to his theory, the Jewish nation should have disappeared from history in ancient times, like all the other nations and cultures in the region. For some reason the Jewish nation broke the rules and survived to now. Therefore the historian described the Jews as "the appendix of history" -- an odd survivor from an older period of evolution which has no more role to play nor justification for existence.
    This historical fact is not praise for the Jewish nation, it is a denunciation. It is the way of human creatures to move from one form to another, while the Jewish people continue with the same old clothes and patches instead of developing and changing. What would you say if you saw an old man wearing the clothes of his youth and he explained "I remain loyal to the tradition of my youth"? What would you say to the old man who still has his baby pacifier in his mouth and says "I'm keeping the customs of my childhood"? You'd mock him.
    Similarly, a nation which zealously, even to the point of self-sacrifice, guards traditions which have lost their usefulness, ancient laws of inequality and racism (see The Status of Women in Halacha, Morality in Halacha) should be mocked.
    Daat Emet"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:54 PM  

  • Daat Emet's last above mentioned paragraph is found below and is quoted in my letter but I didn't see how to be able to post the link on this site because it pasted on it a <...>

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:03 AM  

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