Monday, May 29, 2006

Guest Post: Can a Baal Teshuva with doubts remain Frum?

Important Preface to Readers by Jameel: One of the first blogs I was introduced to was the "godolhador" blog. I was fascinated by frank discussions I rarely heard elsewhere and eagerly followed them daily. My personal emuna was never really bothered by the questions or the skeptics, but it was very refreshing to be hashkafically challenged by the different viewpoints raised. One of the frequent commenters there, The Holy Hyrax is personally troubled by doubts... skepticism... and questions... yet what makes him different (so he claims) is that as a Ba'al Teshuva, he lacks the basis to "remain in the fold" since he did not grow up "frum from birth" -- and therefore poses his question, "Can a Baal Teshuva with doubts remain Frum?"

My blog The Muqata, is probably not the best of blogs for this guest posting for a variety of reasons, most importantly I lack the overly diverse readership as the GodolHador blog and this posting will probably not receive as wide ranging feedback on the subject as The Holy Hyrax deserves. However, since he asked if he could guest post it here and he doesn't have a blog of his own, it's the least I can do. I can say that reading his post caused me to think about my own hashkafa and my own children's education -- and I sincerely hope someone can provide answers for The Holy Hyrax to sooth his anguish.

Can a Baal Teshuva with doubts remain Frum?
A Guest Post by The Holy Hyrax.

That question has been haunting me for quite a while now. Can I, as a BT, lead some sort of normal existence within Judaism, with doubts? This past Shabbat gave me time to reflect on my present situation, as well as paint myself some sort of portrait of my future. Of course, no one knows what’s in store for me in the future, but I do know something about my present situation.

I am utterly miserable.

How does one remove these doubts from his head and build himself some sort of ideal Judaism? I don't know if other people can, but I can't. I have talked to many wonderful people here on the blogs, many of them with doubts, but none of them, BT's. All the bloggers here that are able to somehow appreciate Shabbat or some good niggun, are those that are FFB. Whether they have doubt or not, they are basically indoctrinated with a love for Judaism and a love to keep halacha (different people at different degrees). Me, I just don't care anymore. I was not raised with a Jewish upbringing, so it’s not in me to say Modeah Ani in the morning, or put tzitzis, or tfillin or just say a regular bracha. These things are not important to me because it was never a part of me, and let’s not forget the part of the doubts.

Now I have two things working against me.

My kids will be attending orthodox elementary schools soon. When my kid asks me why I don't say birkat hamazon, what should I tell her? What do I tell her when she lifts up some electronic device on Shabbat? Do I quickly run to her and ask her to put it down because it is muktzeh? I don't think so. How can I have any appreciation to keep all these halachot if it’s not inside me? Will I honestly care about the size of my son’s Peyot? Should I just let the school raise my child when it comes to religious matters? There have been posts every-now and then critiquing modern teaching -- comparing it to a time long gone when things were done differently. Will I know what good religious teaching will be? Will I know how to fix it? How can I?

I used to be a happy person. I never did drugs, or gotten drunk. I always felt sorry for those that were picked on. I have tried to tend to those that really need help. This is just part of my character. It has nothing to do with Judaism. Since Judaism came along, I have been depressed. Judaism has offered me little except for grief and tears. I ask God what’s the point of all this? Could it be so that we have come almost 3000 years only to discover we are not what we believed we were? Is the real essence of "Continuous Revelation," that we discover the truth about our Torah? Perhaps the beauty of Torah is that we DID make it up. That through our own devises, we tried to connect to you, as best as we could, because we are, after all, only human, and the system that we developed would ultimately have flaws. But I am only human too. And there is so much mental anguish that I can take. Having this hashkafa may be a way to look at it, but its definitely a lonely hashkafa. I am not part of the Reform community. My wife is orthodox, and as I see it, my children’s future will be going to orthodox schools. So how on earth can I continue like this? Not much longer. It is getting very lonely. How will I deal with my orthodox community? How will I deal with going to relatives during the holidays, pretending that I am having a good time.

Over Shabbat, I was reading the book "Off the Derech." I got to the part of where children are exposed to the "atmosphere" of the home, and how they pick up behaviors from their parents, even the most subtle ones. Then I started to think of my home. How on earth am I going to raise healthy children, when their father is always depressed? How can I fulfill my potential to be a good father and husband, when my mind is always pre-occupied by doubts and questions. This is no ideal to raising children. Children need good homes. Sometimes they have very religious fathers, but yet he abuses them. So what good is the religion? The same thing goes on now in my home. I may not be physically abusing them, but the mental abuse that they will receive from a father that is always done about religion, will be great as well. They do not deserve this. My wife deserves the husband she once new -- a happy, caring one. So if Judaism is causing me such great misery, why should I keep up with it? I just don't know anymore. All I know is that I wanted to be frum, I really did. Anyone that knows me can testify to that. But how can I go on any longer.

So my question remains. Can a BT with doubt remain frum?


Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael

90 comments:

Elie said...

HH: I am surprised to be the first commentator on this deeply poignant and captivating post. Maybe I happened to catch it just after being posted.

I don't pretend to have the answers to your (or GH's) theological and religious questions. I do think tyhat such doubts have to be able to exist - that fundamentally the universe had to have been made in a way that enables people to decide to believe in God and the Torah, or not to believe. If such belief was as obvious as some claim, there would simply be no free will.

That being said, having personally endured an utterly shattering tragedy this past year in the loss of my son, I feel I can speak about faith from a somewhat different perspective than most. My own experience was that rather than the loss shaking my faith, the faith I had was of tremendous help in weathering the loss. I can't imagine how I would have endured this past year if I didn't believe Aaron still existed, and in a better place. Maybe the strength that faith gives us to survive hard times is why God really wants us to have it.

But like any thing of value, faith takes hard work. And as you state so strongly and sincerely, your kids are worth the effort - even if you have somehow come to feel that you yourself are not.

One more comment, if this isn't too personal. I can't help but feeling that your depression goes far beyond your crisis of faith; and that in fact the latter may well be more a result of the former than the reverse. If there is truth in that perception, than perhaps help of the mental health, rather than the ecumenical variety, would be the first priority here.

Jack's Shack said...

HH,

I thought that this was interesting and figured that I'd add my nickel. My thoughts are worth more than 2 cents, ok bad joke that doesn't translate well at all here.

I am not FFB or a BT. I have looked at the derech, danced around, over, under and through it and just never made that step. I can't imagine living in a time in which we didn't have doubts about who we are and why. I think that doubts are a healthy part of life, as long as they don't take over our existence.

The biggest question to me is identifying the source of your unhappiness and then working on that. It could be Judaism, it could be something else. All I know is that in my experience the only way to improve things is to set up a plan and go from there.

Jon said...

Try orthoprax?

Passionate Life said...

Jameel,

I am with ya. I have enjoyed reading Gadol Hador from time to time because he does ask questions that people are afraid of. The problem is that he tends to be black or white. Either you believe in scientist or you are a backward Lakewood Yeshiva kvetcher. The problem is that he does not leave room for believing in science and Torah at the same time.

I have tried to engage him several times and show him that both can be true. There is room to doubt certain scientific theories and there is room to search for deeper meaning in the Torah. But he becomes too strident and dismissive if something does not fit in to his outlook. It’s sad because you can see him spiral further along down his misguided path.

The reason however that he is so intriguing because he does have some very good points mixed in with his sometimes outlandish ones. That coupled with his sometimes excellent points about the close-minded and small-mindedness of some in the Yeshivish world, makes for compelling reading. He certainly can confuse people who don’t have a strong sense of what and why they believe in Hashem and Torah. For those with shaky beliefs his blog is literally a minefield and can cause terrible damage.

Anyone who has read things on his blog and would like a different, yet open-minded, Torah perspective on any topic please feel free to contact me.

Holy Hyrax,

I am so sorry for the very clear pain and struggle that you are going through. Doubting everything you believe in can un-anchor one from our sense of purpose in life and can truly make things look black.

I can’t see any other solution then to examine closely the things that you have doubts about. Until you feel like there is a legitimate reason to keep Shabbos or do mitzvahs, how are you going to continue to do them, let alone do them with a sense of joy?

Perhaps you can find an open-minded person who can give you a different perspective on some of the issues that you have questions about? I know that some Yeshivish/chasidish people are difficult to talk to about these topics. It’s really important to find someone that will embrace your questions and doubts as ALL Jews should because the point of the Torah is to question and learn and never should we be ashamed to ask questions and struggle with it.

If you can’t find someone like that locally, feel free to contact me if you feel like exploring any topic with me.

In the meantime I wish for you much strength on your difficult journey. One of the beautiful things that I love about Judaism is that it’s the STRUGGLE that is the mitzvah, sometimes more then the actual mitzvah itself.

A quick quote from Rav Hutner. It says that Sheva Pamim Tzaddik Naful V’ecome – A Tzaddik falls seven times and then he gets up. Rav Hutner says that it’s because the Tzaddik falls that enables his great struggle and journey to rise that actually makes him into the Tzaddik. It’s the falling, struggling and overcoming that is the purpose of our journey and the point of Mitzvahs. That struggle molds and shapes us and uplifts us to a higher level of awareness and existence.

It sounds like your journey has begun. Chazak Vayamatz!

Jewelsparkler said...

I don't have answers. I only have thoughts...so forgive me while I think out loud.

Sending one's child to an Orthodox school while simultaneously violating the laws they teach seems to me a useless and futile approach. First, it will confuse the child- they say to do one thing, yet my father does something else-and more importantly, it means the children will not value the education they receive. After all, why should they learn whatever it is they are learning if it isn't practiced in the home?

On the other hand, a parent pretending to follow the laws for the sake of the child isn't necessarily a good approach either, if only because the child will realize at some point that the parent's heart isn't really in it.

Now, I have a couple questions. Did you become a ba'al teshuvah while flooded with doubts, or did the doubts develop after you resumed Judaism? If the former, why did you decide to return? If the latter, what sparked them?

Are your doubts large, conceptual issues- does God exist, theodicy, etc- or are they simply questions as to little details- why does God care if my child turns on a lamp on Shabbos? Or are they both?

I think the approach you take and the way you tackle this question probably differs based on the answers you give to the questions above. If you became a Ba'al Teshuvah while doubting, I think there is a high chance that you can persist and persevere (assuming you desire to do so) simply because you have done it before. Otherwise, I wonder what the stimulus for your change of heart or questions was.

If your questions revolve around concepts it is difficult to ever satisfy you, I think. However, if your questions revolve around details, it seems to me that, since you on the very basic level accept there is a God, etc, you can resolve those.

Anyway, there's my rambling response...

Ezzie said...

I've been avoiding commenting on this post, and HH probably understands why more than most people. (And I'm not referring to the fact that you had a guy named "Jameel" be the host of your post. HMPH. :) )

I can't really comment yet, so for now this is the best response I can think of, something I just posted on Elie's blog a few hours ago...

Honesty is a hard attribute to find
When we all want to seem
Life we've got it all figured out

Well let me be the first to say
That I don't have a clue
I don't have all the answers
Ain't gonna pretend that I do

Just trying... to find my way
Trying... To find my way
The best that I know how

rockofgalilee said...

HH,

I think what is important is to go back to the basics. The ABCs of Judaism, the who we are, what we are and why we are.

If you can, try to focus on what aspect of Orthodoxy is depressing you. Do you want to keep shabbos, but can't because you feel that there are better things to do? Or do you feel that God doesn't care if we keep shabbos or not anyways, so why bother?

Is birchat hamazon a problem because you don't want to thank God for the land of Israel and for the food which he feeds the world, because you don't believe that God cares at all or some other reason?

If you would like to solve your depression instead of giving up on Judaism, you should write down the exact aspect that is bothering you so that you have a list of questions. Take your list to a rabbi who is very involved in kiruv, in other words a specialist. There are plenty of great rabbis who understand science and religion and how they mix together. Aish Hatorah is full of them. Or else find a friendly kolel guy who is willing to really hash things out with you. Set up a Sunday morning chavrussa to go over your list of questions. Plan on it taking 6 months to a year to resolve your issues. Don't hold back. A number of years ago I used to go to a hashkafa class and every time the rabbi opened his mouth I told him that he was using circular logic and it didn't make any sense. By the end of the class we resolved that both he and I didn't understand God, and that was ok. Even Moshe said to God, "Teach me your ways", and God said no.

Your post leaves out a lot of the pertinent facts, such as why you are a BT. Was it just because you wanted to get married to a religious girl? You might want to read StepIma's archives if that's the case.
Was it because you saw something that was missing in your life?
Was there some other completely different reason?

westbankmama said...

As a ba'al teshuva who has been observant for more than twenty-five years, I will try to answer you...with trepidation.

My overall impression from you is that you are in a lot of pain, possibly depressed, and this is coloring the questions that you have. You have questions about halachot, are anxious about your children's future, and feel hopeless.

First, even for someone who has been observant for a long time, there are always things that come up that make someone question. I still come across obscure halachot now and then that make me say to myself "whoa, that's really wierd". The question is what do you do then? Have I been tempted to stop being observant because of these questions? No, because my overall love and feeling that this is the true way to live is stronger than my questions. In your case I think that the emotional turmoil you are feeling, which can be caused by a number of things, is keeping you from seeing things in perspective.

I think it would be a good idea to find a frum therapist who can deal with both your feelings and your questions.

As far as your kids - yes, it will be difficult if Abba does one thing and Ima does another, but kids are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for, and when they are old enough to ask questions an honest and loving answer can do a lot. How you deal with the problems that you have in the context of your family might have a greater impact than your actions themselves. And, I think it is too soon for you to worry excessively that they will not be frum because of your example.

Anonymous said...

First up, an aside, to counter one of your early points: Know that plenty of "FFB"s have doubts too: You can grow up in a loving house filled with all the Torah in the world, and still not be motivated or engaged to remain as/frum, and often there's no deep explanations as to why. People need change, and not everyone is suited to orthodox practice of any kind. That's OK.

I'm not trying to put fear in the hearts of all frum parents who will now worry that their child will stray from the Derech whatever they do, I'm telling you this to make you feel less guilty about your current predicament.

As someone who grew up in a home with religiously imbalanced parents who took completely different approaches to yiddishkeit (one BT, one FFB) I would advise you meantime to focus your energies on the rituals and the family practice which you enjoy and crucially which don't require you to contemplate anything too philosophical. It may sound like avoidance of the issue, but it is in fact the opposite. As your children get older, they will have books, teachers and rabbis to turn to as they forge their own paths- it isn't all down to you, Thank G-d. If you remain honest without turning this into a drama, and practice your ritual to the best of your ability and stay passionate about the parts of Jewish practice you care about, as opposed to dwelling on the aspects which trouble you, they will be far less likely to lose respect for you OR for the religion. But they might do if you pretend to be something you aren't for the sake of the community/your wife.

I would also agree with some of the other commenters about Therapy. The internet is great venting space, but it sounds like you are letting this consume you- and you shouldn't have to deal with it alone. Think about what answers you are looking for. Good luck.

holy hyrax said...

I would like to thank everyone for your kind words. I am also planning to reply to everyone (even you Ezzie). It is just really late for me now.

Just one thing. I was not specific what my doubts are therefore many might be getting the wrong impression. My doubts are not whether God listens or not or any other spiritual matter. Its basically one of history. Is our history reflected accuratly by our mesorah? Did man make up the Torah? How much is man made? Issues with DH, and other claims within the Torah.

This is infact the reason Jameel mentioned Godol Hador. Its in his blog that most of these discussions are held. Also, onthemainline.blogspot.com is another blog that deals with of linguistical issues and history. Basically, some homework needs to probably be done to the intence discussions that are held in these two blogs, as well as others regarding Torah origins.

Good night guys.

David said...

Personally, I am inspired by your honesty and strong desire to do the right thing and not be rash by throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Forgive me if I'm reading too much into a simple thing, but the fact that you chose a name like Holy Hyrax instead of Kosher Chazir says a lot to me. Both the hyrax and the chazir have only one sign, so they're both not kosher. What's the difference?

Everyone knows the vort about the chazir who shows his kosher sign, the spit hooves, while inside he's treif as treif can be. Hypocrasy is universally denigrated.

The hyrax, though, is not pretending. He can't be hypocritical.

This honesty helps many of us become baalei teshuvah, but it is a double edged sword.

One can tend to use the honesty and integrity to be overly self critical, and disatisfied with the people around us and their fallacies. And that can make you miserable.

The solution I have found for myself is to focus on gratitiude to Hashem for every little thing. With appreciation comes the ability to be happy for what I have, and naturally I feel more positive about life, my circumstances, my family, my religion, etc.

Once you've taken the step to become a baal teshuvah and marry someone frum, HH, I don't think you'll be able to feel happy without bringing God into the equation. There are plenty of secular people who are positive and happy, but I don't think that'll work for you anymore.

So I'd recommend putting philosophy aside for a moment, and work on your relationship with Hashem--in personal conversation as opposed to formal prayer. You started off trying to find Hashem, no doubt, keep trying and make it personal, not ritual and formal.

Perhaps you could find a Rav or a frum therapist that would help, but it’s a long shot. It most likely wouldn’t hurt, unless you personally are against it. But in the end you’ve got to use your free will to choose happiness and fulfillment, and inspiration from the outside can only go so far.

I wish you much success.

Jewish Atheist said...

Holy Hyrax,

You might not want my perspective, so feel free to disregard. :-) Also, keep in mind I've never been married or had kids.

How open have you been with your wife about this? Would it be possible to find a middle ground? Maybe your kids could go to a Jewish but not completely Orthodox school, or at least a very modern one. I don't think it's a big problem if mom is more religious than dad, as long as you're not in the kind of community featured in Unchosen. There are schools that have some Orthodox students, some Conservative students, and some others, and your kids might fit in fine there. As they grow older, they can choose which parent they'd like to emulate more religiously. I have several friends who have parents with different levels of religion, or have parents who are in between denominations, and the kids usually have no problem choosing which way to go. I know a number of families where some of the kids became 100% frum and others became completely not frum, and both were okay with the parents and each other.

Basically, I think the ideal way to go would be not to live a lie, but to be honest with your wife and children. Hopefully, your wife will be understanding of this. If your kids take to the education and decide that being frum is for them then that's fine for them, and if they decide otherwise, that should be okay as well.

Perhaps the ideal is a couple that agrees on everything, but real life is often more complicated. Kids are more durable than people think and I suspect they'd be better off with two honest parents who might be struggling than with parents who hide themselves from their own family.

The other suggestion I have is to get that depression treated, pronto. Being in a tough situation doesn't mean you have to be depressed. I've found a psychologist and medication very helpful, especially when I was going through some of my difficult transition.

Stacey said...

I think the Jewish Atheist (the comment directly above) gave much good advice.

I am sorry you are struggling.

Perhaps Orthodoxy is just not for you. It will never be for me, yet I still have a strong Jewish identity (just not an Orthodox Jewish identity).

Good luck and I hope you are able to find some peace soon.

Lakewood Venter said...

Very intriguing post! It is hard for FFB to remain steadfast in their beliefs, especially if they were raised in a totalitarian atmosphere. It must be so much harder for a BT, who can so easily walk away.

Does this guest poster have a blog of his own???

Akiva said...

HH:

I really hope this helps a bit.

As a BT, especially in the 'earlier' phases, it's very easy to learn, read the stories, listen to the BT shiurim such as Aish - Discovery, and Chabad, and others, and build up this wonderful Garden-of-Eden view of Judaism. And it's sold that way, the answer to all of life's questions, the perfect system for the human being (body and soul), joyous community life with people looking out for and helping each other. The wisdom of the Gedolim directing it all, the wisdom of the Gedolim of the past the foundation for it all. It's a beautiful picture.

And, it's 100% true, except... It isn't that any of those things aren't true, but the picture doesn't show the human physical world context. Which is gritty, dirty, human, includes envy, jealousy, ego, wants and desires, conflicts with surrounding cultures, and worse.

If you read the glorious history of the great European yeshiva's or great chassidic shtetl's before World War 2, you read about the incredible heights of Torah learning, the unbelievably inspiring rosh yeshivot, the grand Rebbe's inspiring their chassidim, the committment of the students. All true. You don't read about the hunger, days when the yeshiva could just barely provide bread (and days when it couldn't!), the cold in the winter with lack of heat, the abuses of the powerful gentiles, and disease taking lives.

Which is true? Both. But on which one will you focus?

I'm not going to argue science and history here, I will note and you should note fairly, that it keeps changing. According to historians, last year King Dovid was a myth, this year they found his palace.

There's a reason the Mishnah and Gemorah are full of arguments, arguments recorded for posterity, about halacha, about agada, and about historical events. Because they're recorded by humans, redacted by humans, and interpreted by humans. It's a gritty physical world we're trying to step above, with disagreements and different interpretations.

But all in the context of G-d and his Torah. If you're looking for a shining perfect diamond, you're looking for the wrong thing, for instead of a shining thing to hold and admire, it's a path through that we're looking for and provided with.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

All - I'm just sitting back and taking in all your comments; I know that HH really appreciates your thoughts, and he'll be replying to many of them soon. (here)

Lakewood Venter: The Holy Hyrax doesn't have his own blog, which is why it's guest posted here.

Bagel Blogger said...

I'm certainly not experienced enough to offer spiritual advice.

But, I have one 'gift' I treasure.

I feel I can see people for what they are.

You're a very nice person HH.

and If I may add to the first posters thoughts.

I think you need to address your emotional needs right now.
Once these have been addressed, then you will have the best chance of fairly addressing your spiritual questions, which show such genuiness of character.

and in finishing may I quote Hillel

"If I am not for myself, who is for me?
When I am for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?"
Hillel

Shalom Aaron

Bagel Blogger said...

I'm certainly not experienced enough to offer spiritual advice.

But, I have one 'gift' I treasure.

I feel I can see people for what they are.

You're a very nice person HH.

and If I may add to the first posters thoughts.

I think you need to address your emotional needs right now.
Once these have been addressed, then you will have the best chance of fairly addressing your spiritual questions, which show such genuiness of character.

and in finishing may I quote Hillel

"If I am not for myself, who is for me?
When I am for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?"
Hillel

Shalom Aaron

StepIma said...

Jewish Atheist said a lot of what I wanted to say... I really want to second all of his (her?) comments and hope you can take something from them.

I'm also not sure about something, which maybe you made clear but I missed it... are your doubts only about how much G-d expects of us and how much of it is just silly and unnecessary -- or do they extend to a wholesale skepticism over the existence of G-d? Because I think that makes a huge difference in overcoming those doubts. And I also don't think that disbelieving in G-d (and I think even GH may agree here) necessarily cancels out meaningful observance for its own sake, if you can find that key (if that's what you're searching for).

I guess I'm asking, are you asking this question because you're hoping to snap the last thread, or hoping to find more in order to rebraid yourself a rope (sorry to get all metaphoric - it's a weakness) ;)

Anyway, I think having doubts is a really good thing. Following blindly is the problem. A lot of BT's buy the whole package and then crash and burn because they were taught (or brought themselves to believe) that it has to be all or nothing, and maybe that's what you're going through right now. And it doesn't work that way. Judaism doesn't have a Pope. We don't have one guy standing there saying this is the only truth and the only way, and everyone who deviates a fraction is wrong. We have 613 mitzvot that frankly, we can't quite figure out exactly the parameters of, and thousands of years of rabbis arguing over them. Because they had doubts. Maybe not capital-D doubts like you're describing. But doubts. An inch of payot give or take are insignificant to a lot of really really brilliant, learned, Orthodox rebbeim... many of whom have sons who don't wear them at all, and can tell you exactly why. And many of those who insist they know to an inch exactly what they "should" be, couldn't tell you what they're basing that measurement on, and secretly have those same doubts that you do and would never admit them. And I'm not saying that to be provocative or throw stones at chareidim. I'm saying it because people with brains, doubt. That's why G-d gave us brains in the first place. If you look through the Torah, there are tons of examples of people arguing with G-d. Sarah outright laughed at him. So yeah, a lot of the stuff we're supposed to do is cause for doubt -- but that's accepted, by Judaism itself, as okay.

Please don't think for a second that I'm belittling your issue - I'm not. Even though I know that taking my last "argument" as valid means accepting those Torah stories as true instead of myths, which is circular logic, which may be what caused your doubts in the first place. I get that. My point is, (and this is MY opinion, no one beat me up, but for example), shatnes is goofy. It is always going to be goofy. If your child asks you, "why can't we wear shatnes?" What are you going to say? You're going to say, "um, I haven't got a clue." Or you're going to find a reason that is some other person's validation that secretly means that they don't have a clue. There is no way around it. It's a "because G-d says so, that's why, and we're Jews, so we do it" and it always has been, and it always will be. So if you have "faith," whatever that is, you do it. Even if it's an amazing Dolce & Gabbana jacket that was on SALE and you look GREAT in it and you're NEVER going to find another one like it again. And that's just a blazer. What if there are Cossacks outside with flaming pitchforks? Do you still not wear shatnes? But people did. And I'm sure they had plenty bigger doubts than you might looking at the jacket, even if it did come in your size, and did I mention it's THIS SEASON?

So okay. All I was trying to say was, having doubts does not make you a bad father, or role model, or even a bad frum Jew. It makes you an intelligent one. If anything, I think maybe now you're on the right track to start learning and discovering what halacha really means, where all of them come from, and what they mean to you. Pirke Avot says "get yourself a teacher" - maybe the one(s) you had who brought you to becoming BT in the first place aren't working for you... not because they're not giving you answers, but because they are.

Anyhow as far as what you should do, I agree with Jewish Atheist.

holy hyrax said...

-Ellie

First of all, I am sorry to hear about the loss of your son. I really am.

I am happy that your faith helped in this time of crisis and the truth is, my faith is not lacking in this aspect. I believe in God and an afterlife. Faith is the only thing you CAN have in these instinses, since there is no evidence for or against this. But this is where faith stops for me. My doubts, like I said above revolve around the authenticity of the Torah. If it is not what it claimed to be, than it is extremely hard to lead a Torah observant life. Judaism is more than just Shabbat and Kashrut, its filled with all the nuances in your daily life, that like I mentioned in my post, have never been part of me.

Regarding the depression, I had a talk with a pshycologist (who is no my friend) and my wife. Both have noticed that there is nothing “wrong” with me. I was never abused by a rabbi or anything. My depression only kicks in when religious matters are brought to light. I have no problems with anything else.

-Jack’s Shack

I think that doubts are a healthy part of life, as long as they don't take over our existence.

You are absolutely right. The problem is, it has taken over my life. Afterall, Judaism is supposed to encompass our entire lives, from morning to night. It’s getting too difficult to scrutinize all the halachat if I should do them or not. And if I don’t do them, what kind of affect will it have on my children who will see the opposite at school.

The source of my unhappiness is the Judaism. It has been so plane in front of my eyes for so long and I have been trying to avoid it. Like I said above, I am perfectly happy and functioning with everything else.

-Jon

Try orthoprax

LOL, I think you have to re-read the post.

-Passionate Life

If you don’t mind, I wish not to talk about GH. I will let him defend his positions himself (He’s pretty good at that ;) )

I can’t see any other solution then to examine closely the things that you have doubts about. Until you feel like there is a legitimate reason to keep Shabbos or do mitzvahs, how are you going to continue to do them, let alone do them with a sense of joy?

Exactly.

Perhaps you can find an open-minded person who can give you a different perspective on some of the issues that you have questions about?

I have, they have been on these blogs. They have been great people. But like I said in the post. So many people that see the relavince of my questions seem to be struggling themselves with the same doubts. The only thing keeping them in the loop is the fact that they are FFB. If not for that, I believe a lot would have left it or committed been really depressed like me trying to be orthodox.

ALL Jews should because the point of the Torah is to question and learn and never should we be ashamed to ask questions and struggle with it.

I wonder if questioning the origins of Torah itself is included. If it is included, than that is what I am doing, and so far, its not looking too well. I was trying to commit to the theory of Prof. David Weiss Halivni, that there was a Torah given, but along the way, it got messed up and put together as best as possible and it would explain the anomalies in the Torah. Ofcourse, this theory, like I said in my post, is a lonely hashkafa and since it kind of puts a more human authorship aspect in the whole picture, committing to halacha and all the nuances, is extremely hard if not painful, since you are always questioning if what you are doing is divine, or only some mistake that crept in the Torah. You should really google Halivni to get the full thrust of what he is saying.


…..more to come right away.

holy hyrax said...

Jewelsparkler

My wife is orthodox. Trust me, if I was not married, this would be a lot easier. I would just send them to a public school or something.

Did you become a ba'al teshuvah while flooded with doubts, or did the doubts develop after you resumed Judaism? If the former, why did you decide to return? If the latter, what sparked them?

Excellent question.

My journey to being a BT was slow. You have to understand that I was always interested in our history and the fact that this Torah we have is from God and we are the “chosen” people. Basically, if all this happened in our history, than I want to be a part of it. It started with me getting my first Chumash and reading the commentaries. I started noticing contradictions in it. I talked to rabbis and all I got was some apologetic response. Some of the commentaries in the Chumash did not sound better either. Whatever I thought, and I went forward. I was introduced to Maor ( A kiruv organization like Arachim). I was shown all these “great proofs” of the Torahs origins and they kind of got me into Judaism a bit more. I started keeping Shabbat. I then started learning more with friends and we started noticing more problems with the text. We went to rabbis and got more apologetic answers. I started noting HUGE holes in Maors “proofs.” I started developing huge doubts now. I got married along this time, and we went to Israel to talk to some Rabbis in the field. It turned out I got nothing from them but more apologetics. And as you notice, I hate apologetics. From this point, I felt my bubble had burst. The history I so intrigued about turned out not to be so correct as I was told. This hurt me a lot. Fast forward to where I am now with the blogs. They have helped me much more than any other rabbi. But everyone with my question (that seriously has looked into it) sees this as issues. My doubt remains and now I am here. My questions never revolved around spirituality or theodocy. It was always about the origin of Torah without having to resort to kvetching some answer into it.

And ofcourse, all this leads to what you said about lighting a lamp on Shabbat or like what I said in my post, regarding the mundane things like saying Mode ani in the morning.

-Ezzie


I new Jameel was not the best place for this sort of stuff, but yours would probably make even less sense. The person I originally asked to post did not reply (and I understand why).

Thanks for the poem. I am in affect, trying to find my way, the best I know how.

-Rockofgalilee

I think you can read my comment to Jewelsparkler and get answers to a lot of what you are asking. I hate kiruv organizations now and if I have a chance I steer people away from entering Judaism from that door.

-Westbankmama

I still come across obscure halachot now and then that make me say to myself "whoa, that's really wierd"

Yes, I see that too. But I am aware that we have a certain system intact whether it be perfect or not. The problem is, if have problems with the foundations, it’s claims, the Torah itself… that whole system because pretty worthless to you. Do I really care about mukzeh? Do I care about having to worry about my Sukkah being so and so and making sure you can see the stars but not having the roof be too open. All of these nuance details become silly to you.

In your case I think that the emotional turmoil you are feeling, which can be caused by a number of things, is keeping you from seeing things in perspective.

Its caused by one thing. Judaism. I just can’t force myself into committing to it.

I think it would be a good idea to find a frum therapist who can deal with both your feelings and your questions.

What would he say? He would either send me to some kiruv specialist. Tell me to stop being orthodox if that is whats bothering me or give me drugs.

As far as your kids - yes, it will be difficult if Abba does one thing and Ima does another, but kids are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for, and when they are old enough to ask questions an honest and loving answer can do a lot.

You bring up a good point. But as I see, schools have a big influences on the children. How would the feel about themselves having a father that does not keep it. I would also miss out on so much part of their education simply because I have no more interest in Judaism. It’s a catch 22. I would be hurt to the fact that they can’t come to me for their religious questions without me lying to them, but I would also be annoyed by them bringing stuff to me that I totally do not believe in.

-Anonymous

As your children get older, they will have books, teachers and rabbis to turn to as they forge their own paths- it isn't all down to you

I always envisioned I could be a part of the whole thing. If I was to let the rabbis and teachers handle it all, my kids would just end being sent to Lakewood (kevyachol). In affect, the parents end up being some sort of background characters in a play. Is this fair? Is it healthy? Is that why I had children for? So someone else can teach them everything? So much garbage is in the schools, should I let them mold my kids to whatever they want? I might as well let them adopt them and that’s it.

Think about what answers you are looking for.

that’s an easy one, and I am sure you can figure it out :-)

bec said...

HH,
stepima makes a good point about BTs crashing and burning from taking on too much too soon. i know she's right because this happened to me. i became frum and then a year and a half or two years later, i was back to being my old secular self, and for many years i rejected orthodox practice. it took me several years to get back on the derech, renew my faith, and get my head back to the point where i could see clearly again and remember what i wanted and why.
it's harder for BTs because, as you said, you're not brought up to automatically say modeh ani when you get up, and many things that are natural to ffb's are so unnatural to us, at least at first, and sometimes for many years. things that are normal rituals for ffb's take a lot of time for us to remember to do (and do correctly).
it's even harder raising children to do these things naturally.
and in your case, i'm sure it's even harder to teach your children when you don't even know if you believe it yourself.
i remember learning that even if you don't get anything out of davening, you should daven anyway because one day you will get something out of it and you'll feel it. this can be applied to practice as well. i dont know how long this takes, but in all honesty,i wish that when i gave up odoxy the first time that maybe i would have just found a good rav or at least had kept up practicing in hope that i'd get that new BT feeling again. it seems that you're at that point where you begin to think it's all useless and that you're just saying words and going through the motions. maybe there's no right way to experience this or to deal with it. everyone is different.
i would have to agree with many folks here: get yourself a good rav specializing in kiruv and then bare your soul.
i think i get where you're coming from because i think i've been in a similar place.

chardal said...

The only thing keeping them in the loop is the fact that they are FFB

**cough cough**

chardal said...

The answer is in the choseness of klal Israel. Our chosen-ness is an agent of revelation itself and thus even minhagim which were NOT revealed through prophesy are imbued with sublime kedusha.

It is the interplay between standard modes of prophesy and the chosen-ness of the klal which makes Judaism and Halacha the Devine systems they are.

This is also why mystical thought is so essential for modern man, without it ...

holy hyrax said...

-David

Very nice, and I mean it. Are you a Rabbi?

Actually you are reading a bit into it. I gave myself this name simply to honor a good friend of mine.

The hyrax, though, is not pretending. He can't be hypocritical.

The irony is, its worse than pretending. I am sure you have heard about the issue that the Hyrax really does chew his cud. I will let you read: “The camel, the hare and the hyrax”

The solution I have found for myself is to focus on gratitiude to Hashem for every little thing. With appreciation comes the ability to be happy for what I have, and naturally I feel more positive about life, my circumstances, my family, my religion, etc.

You are right. The problem is, I was always thankful to God before I became religious. I have always looked at my surroundings and marvel at Gods creation. I love God. But Judaism has never added anything to it.

I don't think you'll be able to feel happy without bringing God into the equation.

Bringing God, or doing mitvahs? There is a difference.

So I'd recommend putting philosophy aside for a moment, and work on your relationship with Hashem--in personal conversation as opposed to formal prayer.

Hahaha, personal is definetly me. I have an easier time doing it more personally than a formal prayer. Infact, I would say find the blogs was Gods way of helping me out considering I asked him so much for guidance to my questions. Perhaps he did answer them. He knows my brain and what it contrives. Perhaps the discussion on the blogs was Gods way of reaffirming things I felt before, that the Torah that we have is not literally his.

-Jewish Atheist

I am very open with my wife. Infact, she has come to the conclusion that I have to be happy as well and if religion is not allowing that, then I should leave it we would work at everything together. She is amazing. I live in LA, so its definetly not like Unchosen. We are very modern and sending to our child to a more RW modern open school. If this is does not work out for us, we might send them to a more LW modern orthodox school. We might have send them to the more LW school, but the other school is the only one that is actually helping us financially.

The other suggestion I have is to get that depression treated, pronto. Being in a tough situation doesn't mean you have to be depressed. I've found a psychologist and medication very helpful, especially when I was going through some of my difficult transition.

I do not see how drugs would help since I already now what causes me the depression. Its Judaism. I am functional and happy with everything else. Get rid of Judaism, and I believe the problem is solved.

-Stacey

Thanks for the comment. Perhaps its not for me. Perhaps it never was for me. Though now, what Jewish identity is left?

-Lakewood venter

LOL. You will have a special place in heaven already waiting for you for what you must be going through J

-Akiva

I would say Judaism today is definetly sold as some packaged commodity, but to tell you the truth I never fell for it, so don’t worry. And even though people write history, that still does not explain the anomalies in the Torah that seem only be explained away by some aggadic tradition. Some rational has to fall in play. Its all about weighing the evidence.

Anonymous said...

HH - if I may put in my 2-cents. I'm a BT, although I became on at a fairly young age. I'm currently in my upper 40's, married to a wonderful BT wife and have a number of children who all went to frum O yeshivot. Reading some of these blogs - especially Gadol's and especially over the last year or so (since the Slifkin affair began) has caused me to ask some of these questions more than ever before. However, it has not caused me to doubt the authenticity of the Torah or our mesorah. This is because the Torah isn't, and never was meant to be, a history book. While growing up in yeshiva (and I attended what today would be called a fairly RW O Yeshiva in Brooklyn, these issues never came up because Frum Jews back then didn't make it a life and death issue to accept the absolute historical account of, say, the first several chapters of Bereshis or not. We were taught that science had its views, Torah had its views, they often conflict, science changes many opinions often, and Torah is about your connection to Hashem and His mitzvot. We became a Nation after leaving Egypt and wandering in the desert. Much of that stuff was Nes - Miracle. One cannot prove (or disprove) a miracle. It there physical proof that 1.2 million Jews left Egypt? Probably not. Or, not yet found. Does it matter? No, because Torah is not a blow-by-blow historical account. Children of Jacob were in Egypt. Children of Jacob were taken out by Hashem. Hashem instructed Moshe to write this into His Torah so that we can become HIS people. Shabbos is a powerful religious experience. I've been keeping it for close to 40 years. Whether 1.2 million Jews left Egypt or it was only several thousands makes no difference to me. I believe Hashem runs the world. I believe He can do miracles. I believe Miracles are outside the rehlm of science and I believe that just because science cannot detect a miracle, doesn't mean it didn't happen. So, none of these questions really bother me all that much. One day, I'll have my answers. In the mean time, I love my Torah life. I love the peace and tranquility of Shabbos and Yom Tov. I love the sense of being connected to a history and a people that is, without any doubt, 3000+ years old. I would let the digging into trenches by some of the farrer right wing of today's time, cause too much doubt. I think that you are letting the GH-type stuff get to you way too much. Youre not getting enough of the 'other side'.

Hatzlacha with your journey. It is a wonderful one with a great ending. Don't jump off the train just because of some unpleasent stops along the way.

Chaim.

holy hyrax said...

-If not now, when?

Thanks for the comment, but like I stated above, my emotional problems linger about due to the doubts regarding the Torahs origins. Nothing more.

And you are right, I am nice LOL.

-Stepima

And I also don't think that disbelieving in G-d (and I think even GH may agree here) necessarily cancels out meaningful observance for its own sake, if you can find that key (if that's what you're searching for).

So now you know that my skeptism is not about the existence of God, but even if I did not, I would not keep the halachot. I think sometimes people forget that we do not live in some desert hutt. To keep the halachat, especially when raising kids, require you to teach them along the way as well as be a part of the community. All this comes with mundane and nuance practices, that if I do not believe in God would make no sense (in my opinion) to follow. If I was on my own then I would not care about all the little things, but I’m not. I gotta look at the whole picture and how everything is going to affect everything else.

I guess I'm asking, are you asking this question because you're hoping to snap the last thread, or hoping to find more in order to rebraid yourself a rope (sorry to get all metaphoric - it's a weakness) ;)

I would say you are pretty good at those metaphors. The whole point of being part of the blogs was to rebraid myself a new rope. All I found was that there are people like me out there that lead tortured lives, but only stick to it due to family or because they can’t get out. The FFB’s stick with it because they are indoctrinated with it. It’s a part of them just like brushing their teeth.

An inch of payot give or take are insignificant to a lot of really really brilliant, learned, Orthodox rebbeim... many of whom have sons who don't wear them at all, and can tell you exactly why. And many of those who insist they know to an inch exactly what they "should" be, couldn't tell you what they're basing that measurement on, and secretly have those same doubts that you do and would never admit them.

Ya, but chinuch in schools most likely requires this while you inside don’t want your kids doing it. It becomes a tag-of-war battle with the kids. And I know people have doubts, but I doubt it’s the kind of doubts I have. These rabbis seem to doubt the way schools are run and what enfasis are placed on what. But they continue on, because looking at the whole grande scheme, they know it(torah) to be Gods word and we have a mesorah. So we screw up along the way, but its extremely close and they move on. That’s not where I am.

Regarding your other points (Shatnez and any other small halacha and me being a role model) let me offer you this.

Hyrax kid: Dad, did you wash your hands when you woke up?

Holy Hyrax: Uhhhhh no.

HK: Why not? I was tought that you have to wash your hands because your hands are tameh.

HH: Uhhh, ya, but, Daddy does’n’t, uuhh, do it, because, uuhhh, I don’t really believe in it.

::Later::

HK: Daddy, you’re going to work?

HH: Yes??!!

HK: But you did not pray, or put tfillin, I was taught this is very important. That every Jew has to do it.

HH: Uhhh, yes, but Daddy, does not believe in it

::Later that night::

HK: Daddy, why don’t you say “Shma Israel” before you go to sleep? I was taught in school this everyone has to do it.

HH: Uhhhhh.

:: Passover::

HK: Daddy, I was taught that you have to eat a “kezayit” of matzah. How come you did not do that? And how come you did not “bench”

HH: Well, it’s because Daddy does not believe in these things.

::Repeat this for a few years::

I wonder what kind of role model I will be? At least now you can understand as to the nuances of the little things around you at each corner that Doubt will affect.

Pirke Avot says "get yourself a teacher" - maybe the one(s) you had who brought you to becoming BT in the first place aren't working for you... not because they're not giving you answers, but because they are.

I have found some great people to learn from, mostly people on the blogs that I am contact with. Plus I have a couple of Rabbis that I talk to. But………

-bec

it took me several years to get back on the derech, renew my faith, and get my head back to the point where i could see clearly again and remember what i wanted and why.

What is it that you wanted?

get yourself a good rav specializing in kiruv

People involved in Kiruv are probably a small part of my problems with Judaism. They have painted this distorted picture of it all and bring horribly “proofs” to the table. Once that falls, your trust in them falls as well. They are not intellectually honost (or perhaps they think they are). I have nothing to say them more than what I have said, and what has been said on blogs such as GH, onthemainline and even Dovbear. I rabbis that I poured myself too that were not involved in kiruv only know apologetics. So its basically I am stuck with kvetchy false proofs, or apologetics. Arrrgggghhh. I found my nitch in the blogs which tend to be the most intellectually honost you will ever find. (some more than others). The problem is, in my opinion, being intellectual, and being honost has led me to the realization that Torah is probably not what I thought it was.

holy hyrax said...

-Chardal


The only thing keeping them in the loop is the fact that they are FFB
**cough cough**


Oh please. I was specifically talking about the fact that one cannot be a BT with doubts. You ARE a BT, but you don’t have Doubts, at least not with a capital D.

And you should take something for that cough. LOL

The answer is in the choseness of klal Israel. Our chosen-ness is an agent of revelation itself and thus even minhagim which were NOT revealed through prophesy are imbued with sublime kedusha.
It is the interplay between standard modes of prophesy and the chosen-ness of the klal which makes Judaism and Halacha the Devine systems they are.
This is also why mystical thought is so essential for modern man, without it ...


That’s all nice of course, but if you doubt the foundation, then all the minhagim are useless, and in affect tend to aggravate a person more.
You are able to accept the the small things that you deal with on a daily basis that are NOT from Sinai because you believe in the foundation and therefore “surrender youself” (kivyachol) to everything else that has been attached throughout the centuries. You also have the means to “repel” anything stupid that you believe does not fit since you study a lot and know the sources. I don’t. And I can’t get myself to because, once again, my foundation is too rocky. Every book we have is based up certain teachings, like, for example, that studying is the greatest way to connect to God since we are physical, and Torah represents the spiritual. Well, if you don’t believe in that Torah, than all that is usless. It’s really nice, and really beautiful in all seriousness, but when you have to live your life according to it, it just does not flow.



-Chaim

However, it has not caused me to doubt the authenticity of the Torah or our mesorah. This is because the Torah isn't, and never was meant to be, a history book.

People that say that already believe it to be a divine book and therefore give themselves the ability to believe that. I am trying to come into it weighing all evidence. Saying its not a history book seems to be a cop-out. Then I can easily say that 1.2 million did not happen and there was not Egypt or anything else. Its all a way for us to get close to God. So where does all that end? You just end up on a very steep slope. If it does not bother you than all the power to you. But for someone that came into the BT game due to our unbelievable history only to say it does not have to be real does not sit too well with me.

I believe Hashem runs the world.

So do I

I believe He can do miracles.

So do I

I believe Miracles are outside the rehlm of science and I believe that just because science cannot detect a miracle, doesn't mean it didn't happen.

So do I

So then my question is, why do I need to keep halacha?


I love the peace and tranquility of Shabbos and Yom Tov.

So do I, but if touch muktse or not daven or not say Kiddush at its allocated time, will that tranquility disappear?

I love the sense of being connected to a history and a people that is, without any doubt, 3000+ years old.

I tried keeping halacha for the sake of that. It did not last long.

I think that you are letting the GH-type stuff get to you way too much.

GH has nothing to do with this. Everything he is going through I have been going through before I discovered him. All he is doing is putting to words what I have always been thinking.

Youre not getting enough of the 'other side'.

I can’t let the emotional aspect fool me. I know myself, and I will crash eventually. Some people love the beautiful part of Judaism and the way it makes them feel, but I am not like that. I will just collapse much quicker and harder if I go that route.

Don't jump off the train just because of some unpleasent stops along the way.

I did not jump. The train crashed a long time ago. I have been just hanging around too long thinking it would move again, but it won’t.

chardal said...

You are able to accept the the small things that you deal with on a daily basis that are NOT from Sinai because you believe in the foundation and therefore “surrender youself” (kivyachol) to everything else that has been attached throughout the centuries.

Wrong,

There is more than one avenue of revelation of G-d's will. The Torah sheBichtav is not the ONLY such avenue.

One of the problems is that the word Torah has multiple uses. It simultaneously means a particular revelation and in a broader sense also means "All the ways God communicated His will to the world" The halacha allows us to apply the Torah practicaly to our lives and the revelation of the Halacha through the practive of the Jewish people is the agent that defines the kedusha of those halachot.

Your belief in the choseness of the Jewish people puts you closer to this hashkafa than you realize. You just have to "unlearn" the hashkafa that says that Hashem's will is ONLY synonomous with that which can be historicaly traced back to Sinai.

Holy Hyrax said...

One of the problems is that the word Torah has multiple uses. It simultaneously means a particular revelation and in a broader sense also means "All the ways God communicated His will to the world" The halacha allows us to apply the Torah practicaly to our lives and the revelation of the Halacha through the practive of the Jewish people is the agent that defines the kedusha of those halachot.

So would I be able to take away the Torah-she-bchtav part out of the equation and just live by the ideas that God revealed himself in more than one way.

Also, would this work for other religions as well?

curlysue said...

Holy Hyrax

I think your brain is fried in the literal sense. I think you have let this issue consume your life and what you need is a good break. Some down time for yourself. It sounds like you are beating yourself too much which will not get you anywhere. Even blogging, although is a good place to vent as someone mentioned, can get to be too much.

You mind need a rest. The smartes student, if studies too much and pull an allnighter studying can do horribly on a test, becuse his brain is too tiered to function properly.

Take some time off. Call it a mental vacation.
Take a relaxing hobby, like drawing for example. Once you let yourself rest, you'll see you'll be able to take like in more perspective and perhaps not let this consume as it looks like its doing.

StepIma said...

If it's okay for me to come back, to respond to your response to me...

I don't like your scenario, because I think it's a false one -- I think it's a setup.

You're basically saying, What happens if I chuck everything, and then raise kids having chucked everything, and admit to them that I think it's all bogus - will that screw up their faith and ability to be frum Jews?

well, um, duh.

But that's not the original question you were asking. I thought (and especially if you're agreeing that you're hoping to strengthen your faith so that you can once again practice wholeheartedly or at least mostheartedly) that you were asking how you can get to a place where you can answer the kids with the right answers. So I know that you recognize that your scenario doesn't represent in any way how you would respond. That in the absolute worst-case scenario, given a question you can't answer, your choke-answer would be far more likely to be "ask your mother." ;)

Reading your responses to the comments is giving me a much clearer sense of who you are and what your crisis entails than your original post did, so I see how and why it's an issue for you -- and I hope I didn't take it too lightly. But even if you were firm in your convictions and never had a crisis of faith, if you have smart kids, they would still hit you with uncomfortable questions. About why you believe X and the nonreligious (not to mention nonJewish) kids across the street believe Y, for example. Or what if your daughter (if you have one) gets frustrated with being stuck behind an iron-clad mechitza but doesn't want to leave Orthodoxy, or feels trapped by other issues that face frum girls who want a voice in the community?

As a parent, you need to be able to help. You don't get the nihilistic luxury of shrugging your shoulders and hoping they'll just share your angst. You need to be able to articulate a stance, one way or the other. "I don't know, son" sounds good onscreen right now as a narrative device - but the reason you know it's not a good answer to your child is the reason you're struggling... because you know you actually need a good answer for your child. Because if you know they will be coming to you with questions, then you have to have the answers. If you truly are looking for a way to not set them up for asking uncomfortable questions, by finding a way to buy the whole Orthodox farm... I don't know how to give it to you. Because your response to my comment says that you're already setting yourself up mentally for a future in which you're acting in a way that will make them ask those questions. You won't even allow yourself a future of "going through the motions" for your kids' sake. Which may be admirable from a spiritual standpoint, I suppose, not to be a hypocrite. But if you're worried about raising kids who are committed to Torah, then you know the party line, and you can talk it, and do what's necessary when they're around, and rely on the basic truth of Judaism, which is "this is what the Torah says," (and the offshoot, "this is what the Shulchan Aruch says") and let your wife handle the hashkafa. Because it matters to her. And part of shalom bayit is not interfering with that. And hopefully, through learning with her, and her own love of Torah, she can help you get back to a place where you can feel comfortable in the skin you're wearing, while you work toward not "wearing a skin" at all.

In my own personal experience, when two people in a marriage are not on the same page religiously, it can be very dangerous. You don't have to believe the same things. You don't have to practice the same way. But you have to be on the same page, and be okay with where the other person is, and support their beliefs. And if you are in a different place now than when you got married, it's good that you're talking, and it's wonderful that she's supportive. But when it comes to raising the kids, there are certain expectations that she will have and that your doubts may now be endangering -- and you need to follow her lead and advice when it comes to that, because you're the one who is threatening to change the game (for want of a better term) since you married her. And if that means playing along and lying to the kids about how you really feel about religion and even quoting from the artscroll (ack!) until they're old enough to grasp the idea of varying viewpoints, that's what it means.

I know that's harsh. And that your own path is a tough one right now. And I don't have any more thoughts off the top of my head - but I hope you can find a solution that brings you peace of mind again. But in my opinion, you don't have the right to screw with your kids' heads in a way that might damage their faith, just because yours doesn't feel like it's level. You owe that to your wife, and you owe it to them. I fully grant you that "because G-d says so, that's why" isn't a satisfying answer when you have lasting deep-seated doubts. That it's the sort of answer that only mollifies childish minds. But when you're dealing with children's minds... that's exactly why those are among the words you use.

chardal said...

So would I be able to take away the Torah-she-bchtav part out of the equation and just live by the ideas that God revealed himself in more than one way.

Chas VeShalom, never out of the equation. Just realize that it is only one component of knowing what Ratzon Hashem is in the world. And as far as halacha goes, it is the smaller component by far.

Also, would this work for other religions as well?

What do you mean? Are the other religions chosen?? :)

Seriously, if your starting point is that we are a chosen nation. Then you next have to come to an understanding of what that chosen-ness means. What I am saying that every bit as much as Torah Min Hashamaim is an ikkar of our faith, so is the fact that the Jewish people are an agent of Hashem's revelation. Each of these is an independant concept and one is not dependant on the other for its legitimacy. The point is, that for an halachic act to be ratzon Hashem, there is no need to historicaly trace it back to maamad har Sinai. See Purim and Chanuka as just some examples.

curlysue said...

stepima, you said
"because you're the one who is threatening to change the game (for want of a better term) since you married her. And if that means playing along and lying to the kids about how you really feel about religion and even quoting from the artscroll (ack!) until they're old enough to grasp the idea of varying viewpoints, that's what it means"


I hope not to come off too harsh but the whole thing about chaning the game, THATS LIFE!!

When you first get married, life seems one way. Every child changes the game, every year changes the game, every marriage changes the game. That's the game.

It's like the mother who promised to take the kid to disneyland but woke up sick the morning of and the child tells her ,"But you promised"


Maybe your answer can suit some, but lying to kids in my opinion, never works. Even when they are little kids are good about knowing whats genuine and whats not. especially when it comes to a love for Torah.

I just think that being yourself is what works best.

curlysue said...

just a side note, what I meant by "every marriage" is children getting married and dealing with in laws

holy hyrax said...

-Chardal

I'll take care of you later ;)


-Curlysue

True, my brain is fried, but whats the point of taking a mental break at this point? I will only come back to this same spot , only later on, when its probably more dangerous. I believe this is the time to ride this out to the end, no matter where it takes me.

curlysue said...

HH

The point is to save yourself from a breakdown. A rest just means being able to better assess the situation once you can think better. It's looking at things from a clearer perspective when now you seem confused!

holy hyrax said...

Stepima

Where do I begin.

First of all, that scenario was not exactly to be taken at face value. Certianly I would not respond to my child like that. It was more a representation of my mood right now and I how I feel the gap in between us will be. There would be much more discussion along the way. I am not there yet so I can’t exactly portray a 100% accurate picture for you.

But that's not the original question you were asking. I thought (and especially if you're agreeing that you're hoping to strengthen your faith so that you can once again practice wholeheartedly or at least mostheartedly) that you were asking how you can get to a place where you can answer the kids with the right answers

Ofcourse that question still remains.

But even if you were firm in your convictions and never had a crisis of faith, if you have smart kids, they would still hit you with uncomfortable questions. About why you believe X and the nonreligious (not to mention nonJewish) kids across the street believe Y, for example. Or what if your daughter (if you have one) gets frustrated with being stuck behind an iron-clad mechitza but doesn't want to leave Orthodoxy, or feels trapped by other issues that face frum girls who want a voice in the community?

Listen, of course the kids can all sorts of questions. But don’t you see the difference between the predicament that I am in right now compared to being a believer. If I was a believer I would have all sorts of sources and tools to try to explain to them their questions as best as I could to their age bracket. They may accept it or not, but I could be at least be a good role model and show that even though there are issues, we go on. With my situation, its even harder and that should be clear to see.

when two people in a marriage are not on the same page religiously, it can be very dangerous.

well, um, duh :)

But when it comes to raising the kids, there are certain expectations that she will have and that your doubts may now be endangering -- and you need to follow her lead and advice when it comes to that, because you're the one who is threatening to change the game (for want of a better term) since you married her. And if that means playing along and lying to the kids about how you really feel about religion and even quoting from the artscroll (ack!) until they're old enough to grasp the idea of varying viewpoints, that's what it means.

That’s ridiculous. Like Curlysue said, things change. That’s life. What would you say to a secular family that on of the spouses became religious. Would you tell that person that they have to eat pork and drive on Shabbat in front of the kids so they won’t get confused and then secretly practice Judaism in their room? It does not work that way. All this will cause is even more misery and lead to worse shalom bayit. I think you have to go back and read the post. I specifically said that its Judaism that is causing me the depression. And now you are telling me to live an entire lie? You think when they are old enough they will be accepting to what you have to tell them? More than likely they will feel resentful of you for lying this entire time and resent Judaism at the same time. You advice would cause much more anger built up that would eventually explode. I don’t suppose you ever read the blog of A hassid and a heretic (shut down now). Where this poor soul has to live a lie infront of his family. That’s healthy? Its not that I don’t have a right to screw with my childrens heads, that’s irrelevant, it’s the fact that pretending to be frum will cause more damage that will be felt constantly in the home.

You started by explaining the complexity of the situation and then ended it by simplyfing everything to this. That’s smart. How many people would be able to live like this being happy I don’t know.

I fully grant you that "because G-d says so, that's why" isn't a satisfying answer when you have lasting deep-seated doubts. That it's the sort of answer that only mollifies childish minds. But when you're dealing with children's minds... that's exactly why those are among the words you use.

I agree that at a young age you have to speak more simplistically and put aside all the philosophical stuff till a later age, but there is a difference between that and coming one day and saying that I actually don’t believe in any of this and I only did this not to screw with your head.

holy hyrax said...

It's looking at things from a clearer perspective when now you seem confused!

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I am not confused


Ofcourse, I am still confused as to how to deal with the childrens aspect of it all :)

Jewish Atheist said...

Holy Hyrax:

I wonder what kind of role model I will be?

I think you're being too hard on yourself. There are behaviors to model other than observing every nuance of halakha. My friend's father is a very prominent member of his MO community, yet I know for a fact -- and moreover, his kids know -- that he doesn't really take the stuff seriously. Sometimes, when the phone rings on shabbat, and nobody's home but family, he'll go into the other room and answer it. So he's a terrible role model if the only thing you're worried about modelling is perfectly halakhic behavior, but he's also a sweet, wise, responsible, and generous person.

You don't need a role model to follow halakha -- if you want to follow it, all you need is someone to tell you the rules. But to learn how to become a good person, a good father, a good employee, etc., then you need a role model.

Model the behaviors you value, not the behaviors in some old books. If halakha has no rational basis, who cares if your kids become good people who don't strictly follow halakha? Let them learn to be good people.

Incidentally, by being honest with them, you'll be modelling the fact that there are different ways to live your life, and that lifestyles are not one-size-fits-all. You'll be modelling integrity and intellectual curiosity.

Think about the upsides, and not just the downsides. It's good that your wife is onboard. I'm sure things'll work out just fine.

holy hyrax said...

Jewish Atheist

You are right of course. The only thing that I am worried about (besides the other thousand things) is how will the schooling interplay with the home life. It gets a point where they are more in school than home and they will pick up alot of stuff.

I think the only answer to that is to get my wife to start blogging so she can start disifering some of the un-balanced crap that is taught in schools. :)

Howard Roark said...

sounds like you jumped in to fast. you have to be ok with yourself, pressure from other people will do what you write about. why is there that pressure for people to follow a pattern, you'll find many people who are not happy with their way of life but they do it because that's all they know or because they want to fit in.... nothing really said...

daat y said...

Is there anything about Judaism that you enjoy doing?Start there.But I'M HEARING YOU WANT SOMONE TO PROVE TO YOU SCIENTIFICALLY THAT ITS 100% CORRECT.

curlysue said...

Hey HH

If your kids are not in school yet why are you jumping the gun?

Wait, worry when you need to worry. Plus home influence is definetly stronger than school influence.

Holy hyrax said...

-Howard

If anything, I felt I took this realy slow.

-Daat y.

Is there anything about Judaism that you enjoy doing?Start there.But I'M HEARING YOU WANT SOMONE TO PROVE TO YOU SCIENTIFICALLY THAT ITS 100% CORRECT.

I enjoy its history, but when taught correctly without revisionism. I am not that crazy to ask for 100%, but it does seem that the other side tends to have the evidence against us.

-Curlysue

Plus home influence is definetly stronger than school influence.

HA! Maybe in the beginning, but I have a strong feelin once they are in school more than at home and talking to their class chums, most of the influence is going to come from them.

Ezzie said...

HH - I'm still staying out of the real discussion, and you probably can guess why. I may e-mail you separately, I may post later.

I was joking about the hosting of this - I actually think it makes far more sense to host it on Jameel than just about any other blog [including my own], particularly those who you originally wished to.

Anonymous said...

HH,

Hi, you don't know me, I'm a random Jewish blog reader. I was a BT and hard core black hatter about it for 8 years before I cracked. Luckily I didn't end up married before it all went pearshaped because I thought I was gay.

I was reading your guest post and fairly sympathetic, pretty much until I got to your replies. So here goes nothing...

I too suffered deep depression when the rosey glow of frum life started to fade. I thought the answer was to toss it all in the bin, to go back to the world I used to be a part of and forget about it - just chalk it up to 8 years of experience I could now let go and get on with my life.

Guess what? Once I get over the WOOHOOness of not having to "do" anything anymore - I was just as miserable and depressed. Why? Because I was depressed, not because Judaism had let me down - I just couldn't see that from where I was at the time.

Deal with the depression FIRST. I had a frum therapist, that didn't do jack for me. I went to a regular doctor, we tried a couple of things and then when it worked I could see things without the fog.

It's a whole different world. Once I could think straight again I realised I *missed* all of it. There was a gaping hole depsite all the dismissals and rationalisations I had thought up about how I had been misled, how it wasn't what I was told it was - this that and the other.

Judaism isn't about whether or not it's true exactly the way they sold it to you. It's about YOU being a Jew and YOU figuring out what is important about that in the life you have made with your wife and children. Hashem doesn't need us to do all these things for His sake - its for ours. So quit saying why you CAN'T do anything anyone else has suggested, sit your bum in front of the mirror and have a good long talk with yourself. Then talk to your wife. Then talk to Hashem.

But deal with the depression first, it will all still be there if you can manage to pick yourself up enough to do that.

My two becoming frum again and engaged shekels -

Mort

StepIma said...

me again - even if I'm only sticking my foot in my throat deeper, but I'm only trying to clarify...

I wasn't talking about forcing yourself to live a lie - G-d forbid. This isn't about being forced to eat pork (in your backwards analogy) for the kids' sake. Only that if you and your wife have agreed to raise the kids a certain way, and you're raising them that way (and THAT's my point, that's the lever), then if the kids ask questions you should choose your words in such a way that won't interfere with their faith while it's being formed. That whatever your actions may be, whether you are still practicing or not, you need to be careful how you answer their questions. If you haven't agreed after all, that's another story, but it doesn't change that you need to be able to talk to them in way that doesn't undermine their mom's message. Otherwise you're not just disagreeing with her about religion in their eyes - you're also disrespecting her as a parent. I agree with curlysue's comment to me - "lying to them" was phrasing it too harshly. But religion is a tricky thing, and being indirect with kids who can't understand bigger concepts of multiple faiths possibly being "right," isn't a terrible thing. It's much more important for both parents to agree about what to teach them when, and to stick to that as best as they can. Even if the lesson is "mom believes this, and dad believes this," it has to be a coherent message that both parents can voice, and agree to.

In other words, my comment was about language, not practice. That I hope you can find yourself in a place where you're comfortable in your practice again and it won't come up that way... but even if you don't, and you find you can't keep living a frum life, you and your wife need to be able to teach your kids in such a way that the message is one that she can agree with. Ideally the way she has always wanted them raised. That's what I meant when I said you changed the game... she has expectations, and while "things change; that's life" is a hard truth, so is "people get divorced." I don't think that her expectations should be invalidated if they can be accommodated. And it's good that you're both willing to compromise. Because what's most important when it comes to teaching kids religion is that they see that their parents share the same answers - even if they disagree with one another about the details. That you can respect one another's choices, and articulate them if the kids ask. And that's what I meant about being on the same page. It's the same as coparenting on so many other issues. Talking to them about death. Or about sex. Or even about being grounded. Knowing that if they go from one of you to the other, even if they get another message, it won't be so totally different from what you believe that you feel you have to have a closed-door meeting with your wife to do damage control.

And you're welcome to disagree with me again - it's just my opinion :) -- I just wanted to make it clear that I wasn't saying you should shove yourself into a box and go through the motions and pretend to be who you're not. That would only make it worse for everyone, including the kids. I have too much respect for faith to ever suggest to anyone to do that.

Jack's Shack said...

HH,

I just want to say that I appreciate your position and your putting it all out there. It is not easy.I think that one of the most honest remarks any of us can make is about feeling doubt about raising our children. Personally I am more concerned about the people who never worry about whether they are doing a good job.

You have some very big decisions ahead of you and not much of a roadmap to follow. My unsolicited advice is wherever possible to break it up into bite size pieces.

If you can find time to step back for a moment and just enjoy some time where you are not stressed about this you may find new perspective. That may lead you to walk away from Orthodox, or it may not. But if nothing else it does sound like you could use a day or two of not worrying about this.

If you have a supportive wife I am confident that you'll find a solution that works for your family. Good luck, whatever that may be. P.S. If I didn't misread this, you are a fellow angeleno. Enjoy this fabulous weather, it is my favorite time of year.

rockofgalilee said...

HH,

I can see where you are coming from a lot clearer now. A lot of us don't read blogs such as GH, Dov Bear and others. So we have never heard your arguments for or against anything.

I'd like to start at the beginning. We agree that there is a God and he created the world. We even both believe that he runs the world and on occassion causes a miracle to change natural events.
I don't know where you come by this belief, but we'll accept it as a given.

The main questions that religion is supposed to answer is:
a) why did God create the world?
b) what are we supposed to do here?

Our tradition, passed down unbroken throughout the generations, is that in the Sinai experience God told us exactly what to do in the Torah.
In the weekly parshah a couple weeks ago it says explicitly, If you follow what I tell you then good will happen and if you don't follow in my ways then bad will happen.
A couple months ago I met with an accountant and told him some off the wall way that I wanted to run a new business. He told me that I couldn't do it. This week I met with a different accountant who seemed to indicate that if done correctly it could be done and was a very good idea. I have to do more research now (or pay the accountant a LOT of money to do it for me) to determine what how to toe the line and run a legal, yet "out of the box" business. However, until I'm an expert on accounting I have no way of telling the first accountant that he was wrong and obviously doesn't know his own business. He could very well reply to me that the second guy is leading me astray and the tax authorities will see right through the legalities anyway. He could even say that in his experience, neither the tax authorities nor the courts care about the legal technicalities of the law and will prosecute if they don't like the way it's done.

This is similar to my personal take on the Torah. I might not understand exactly how the Torah is formulated. I may come up with a question that I have never seen in any book. The way that I understand what it is saying may not make any sense to me. That is because I am not, and I accept that I am not, an expert on the Torah. I know how to read the experts, and often I can understand what they are saying, but I myself am not an expert. For example, I don't know the Kuzari inside out, do you? The Rambam was an expert on Torah, as was Rashi. They also may have had issues that they didn't understand, but they may have also accepted that compared to their teachers before them they also we re not experts. The gedolim of the past believed that this was true even though they looked at the same text that you are looking at. Until you fully understand the Torah at an expert level on all subjects it is very hard to say that since you lack the ability to determine its authenticity (not that you can prove that it is not authentic, you just have questions) you will ignore the viewpoint of thousands of generations of Torah giants that it was authentic.

I remember one conversation in high school as a bunch of guys sat on the banks of Lake Michigan with a small bonfire burning and one guy suggested going to Burger King, because kosher sounds very hokey and God doesn't really care if we eat from this cow or that one.

The answer that was agreed upon (and no one went to Burger King) was "yeah, but what if it is true"

rockofgalilee said...

Also, have you tried talking to Rabbis like Slifkin who had the same type of questions as you? He put in many years of hard work to try and figure out how the Torah works with modern scientific knowledge.
One of the haskamos he got was from Yisroel Halevi Belsky http://zootorah.com/hyrax/mainframe.htm who says "I will say a true thing - until I examined this book I had leaned towards the precious explanation that my friend R. Meir Lubin... However, the author overcame this with his proofs and demonstrations. Even though the matter is still undetermined, my view leans towards this approach."

What he is saying, as a Torah leader, is that he doesn't understand the pasuk. I think it is valid to ask someone like this, if feel that this pasuk has a lot of problems (He obviously doesn't accept either explanation that he heard as absolute truth), how can you believe in the authenticity of the Torah?

Jack's Shack said...

The answer that was agreed upon (and no one went to Burger King) was "yeah, but what if it is true"

That is what the missionaries say to me when I tell them that I don't believe in jesus.

rockofgalilee said...

jack,

There is a big difference between asking that question before stopping doing something that you have a tradition and deep roots and asking that question before starting something new.

For example, on the same wavelength as the missionary question is, "What if it's true that if you send this email to 5 people with your name on top that you'll earn $7 million in 3 weeks"

On the same wavelength as the stop being religious question is, "What if it's true that smoking really does cause cancer?"

It certainly doesn't hurt to send the email, or buy new magazines or join a new religion or cult.
It does hurt to stop what you were doing if it is potentially dangerous because you don't know for sure.

rockofgalilee said...

"It certainly doesn't hurt to send the email, or buy new magazines or join a new religion or cult.
It does hurt to stop what you were doing if it is potentially dangerous because you don't know for sure."

That didn't come out right.

njd said...

I have read through all the different comments to your original post and wanted to add a different perspective.

You write about doubts about the authenticity of the Torah and how that impacts on your observance. You also write about a general feeling of insignificance (Does it really matter to God if I do this act or not?). These are two very different issues.

On the second one I suggest reading the book of Iyov. He was troubled by your very feelings. What difference does it make whether I observe or not? Does it really matter to God? Will my actions or inactions affect Him in any way?

You will find by reading the book that his friends spend many chapters giving him lots of advice. And in the end God says that all their talk was worthless.

You might not find the resolution of Iyov's problem to your liking, if you can find a resolution at all. If you'd like to discuss it, let Jameel know and he can give you my email address.

The autheticity of the words of the Torah is a tricky matter. There is no proof one way or the other. But what I think is the more practical matter is how that impacts on our observances. After all, whether 1.2 million or 2.4 million or only a few thousand people left Egypt really isn't that important. I think your question is, and please correct me if I'm wrong, how does the book we have impact on what we do? And how do we know that that is really what God wants of us anyway?

On that last point there is a remarkable story in the Talmud, the oven of achnai. The specifics aren't important; it's the dialogue that is crucial. The rabbis of the Talmud are arguing the finer points of purity and impurity vis-a-vis a particular oven. Rabbi Eliezer brings many proofs to his position, which is rejected by the majority of those there. He then starts bringing miraculous proofs (rivers flowing backwards, trees uprooting themselves, the walls of the Beit Midrash collapsing). Rabbi Yehoshua, leading the dissenters, is not impressed. Finally, Rabbi Eliezer summons God to his defense. And a heavenly voice corroborates that Rabbi Eliezer is in fact correct. To which Rabbi Yehoshua says, in much more polite terms, "Umm, God, not your decision any more."

Rabbi Yehoshua was saying that God's opinion about what is right and wrong in halacha doesn't matter. It's what we understand to be right and wrong. The way we interpret the Torah is law. And God goes along with what we decide. Because that's the system He set up.

Is the Torah we have the exact one He gave to Moshe? If He wanted it to be He certainly could have made it that way. I think you will agree with that point. And if it isn't then He's still going along with what we are figuring out from the text we have. Because what we have is not significantly different from what the rabbis of the Talmud had.

Jewish law is only as strong as our acceptance of it. The community, however you choose to define it, exercises great power in that regard. Which puts a great burden of responsibility upon us. Perhaps that is what chosenness is all about, understanding and accepting that burden.

You might then argue that the majority of Jews does not accept the Orthodox understanding of halacha, and does that mean that Orthodoxy is therefore not correct? It's a good question. I would argue back that in order to be a valid opinion one must accept the system under which halacha has developed over the millenia, because after all that is the definition of Judaism. If you want to reject the whole system of halachic development don't call your religion Judaism. It's something else. (The Soviets had "elections" for years but no one would call their system democracy; likewise for Egypt today and many other countries).

What I'm trying to say is that the path the text of the Torah took to get to us isn't what is important. The one assumption I am taking is that somewhere, at some time, God did tell someone what He wanted. And that after that He let us run with it.

If your doubt cuts that far, to even wondering whether God expressed His opinion in some form as to His expectations then I'm afraid all that I have written won't really help.

But if you agree that God did reveal something, in some form, to humanity, then what we are working with is an extension of that. And while our entire tradition is based upon that assumption and has developed and expanded based upon it, so that the whole argument might be a giant self-defining circle, the bottom line is that that is how Judaism is defined. By the way we have been observing it for centuries. By the community accepting as binding the opinions of those they decided to follow. And that the rabbis of the Talmud felt that so long as w ework within the system that has developed we are following what God really wanted of us.

holy hyrax said...

-Mort

I appreciate the comment but I don’t know why everyone thinks I need therapy. I was never depressed before I became religious. All the doubts and trying to find answers to things I might not find has led me to this depression. If I go to a therapist, he will most likely tell me what I already know in order to make me happy. Dump Judaism.


-Stepima

Agreed.

It’s a good thing you were clarifying before that foot went down deeper.

-Jacks shack

Thanks for the comment. I have already taken a long break before. It turned out that while I was forcing myself to take a break, I thought about it harder.

Ya, the whether is great, except for living in the inferno of The Valley.

-Rockofgalilee

The main questions that religion is supposed to answer is:
a) why did God create the world?
b) what are we supposed to do here?


Yes, that’s the other slippery slope. If you believe in God creating the world, then it must have a purpose, he must have shared that purpose with his creations, and so forth.

That’s the nice slippery slope, but the other is much steeper and more dangerous. Often enough, you ride them both at the same time.

Our tradition, passed down unbroken throughout the generations, is that in the Sinai experience God told us exactly what to do in the Torah.

Its not unbroken, but there is no way I can get into this right here. You are free to email me and we can discuss your entire Accountant metaphor and Slifkin.

-njd

Does it really matter to God if I do this act or not?). These are two very different issues.

I don’t think I ever asked this, and if I did mention it, you are probably misunderstanding what I meant.

But what I think is the more practical matter is how that impacts on our observances. After all, whether 1.2 million or 2.4 million or only a few thousand people left Egypt really isn't that important. I think your question is, and please correct me if I'm wrong, how does the book we have impact on what we do? And how do we know that that is really what God wants of us anyway

It is important because there is a point in my life at least when you want to know whether the history is correct. If Chazal and our Mesorah says millions left and it turns out only a few thousand, it puts a dent on some of the credibility of the mesorah. Also, it puts a dent on the pshat of the Torah where it says millions left. This is the problem. This is what I am talking about when I say it seems Judaism is up against the wall trying to defend something that rational logic has won over. My question is not how it impacts our book, but if this book is legit in its claim.

On that last point there is a remarkable story in the Talmud, the oven of achnai.

Yes, I have heard it many times. Its actually very amazing. It just goes to show me the power that we have. That it is our system now and we shall interpret it as we understand it. It also lends to the idea that mistakes can creep in, which is not a bad thing. We are humans. God would know to whom he gave It to and knows mistakes come in, but its all part of the system.

Jewish law is only as strong as our acceptance of it.

True, but I am sick of the majority of the communities concerned with the most superficial aspects of Judaism. Tzniut, head coverings, TV etc. These things are important to bring up, but they should be put in perspective, but its put too high up on a pedastal. And the people that know how superficial this is are generally silent lest they anger the gods of their community.

The one assumption I am taking is that somewhere, at some time, God did tell someone what He wanted. And that after that He let us run with it.

Like I said, that’s the other slippery slope, the nice one, the one I like. But its against a loosing battle with the other slope.

holy hyrax said...

HH - I'm still staying out of the real discussion, and you probably can guess why. I may e-mail you separately, I may post later.

Ezzie

I can guess why and I don't want to hear it. Not from you man. Not from you.

michal said...

From reading your responses to all of the commenters, you are clearly very smart - you have an answer for all of them. And if you go back and reread your responses, you'll see a common thread: "Yes, I thought of that already."

So, you are turning to the blog community for advice, and none of us is as smart as you are. Or you are asking for our help, and we are letting you down because we are only taking you down the same tired paths you've already explored, because you're better travelled. Or maybe you are only looking for straw dogs to beat down, and we're serving that role nicely - you ignore the bits that might help you in favor of addressing the bits that you can say "been there, done that" about and move on. You say again and again that FFB's have it easier than BT's because they are "indoctrinated," so even if they have doubts, they can just stick to praxis. That's insulting, but if there's truth to it, it also means that there's comfort in the ritual for them/us. You reject that too. Every answer is not good enough. It's like every commenter here is being chewed up and spit out by your wisdom and experience.

Your initial post sounded like someone who is desperately hoping for a rope to cling to. Your response to the commenters sounds like someone who wants to beat down anyone who tries to throw it to him, because it's not good enough.

People are suggesting therapy because you sound depressed. I think you sound depressed too. Not because you are gloomy or sobbing or other signs. But because you don't seem to want the help you are asking for - you seem to be revelling in being right about not being helpable. That is a classic sign of being trapped in a hole.

That's what depression is.

And just like all the hashkafic and torah arguents before you, you dismiss it completely. You don't need therapy, because your problem is: your problem. If only your problem would go away, you would be fine. But that's what therapy is all about. Talking about what's troubling you. And maybe that's why subconsciously it's so important to you to refuse. If you don't go, you can't say: this is why it won't work (that's also a very typical sign of depression, BTW - there's a comfort in staying "right," because there's a fear of the last bit of hope being shattered). You are not smarter than therapists. You can't self-diagnose your problem. You can't dismiss it out of hand when you haven't tried it - that's what alcoholics who don't want to help themselves do too. They're smarter than AA. Because they don't have a real problem.

This is not "just Judaism." This is a central issue in your life. It affects your life and it affects your kid's lives and it could affect your marriage too. You might function just fine outside of this problem. But there are functioning alcoholics too. And they say they're fine too.

Based on your responses to the commenters, now you may be ready to say that that's not a good analogy, because knowing the dates when the Torah was written is an intellectual matter that people throughout the ages have debated, not just you. And alcoholism is a disease. So now you can dismiss my whole comment. But you're still in denial that you have a real problem, and you're still arguing with everyone trying to help you by saying you know better, and you're still saying you don't know how to get help, when you need help. And it is affecting your mental state of mind.

No one can help you except you.

You can keep saying no to everyone who is trying to help you, and you will ALWAYS find holes in their arguments. The torah is full of holes. That's why people have been debating torah, and gemara, and halacha, and chumras, for centuries. If you really want help, stop looking for the holes in the arguments and start looking for the pieces you can use. A safety net is nothing but holes strung together.

Ezzie said...

While I disagree with much of what Michal said, for various reasons, including having met HH... she brought up a couple of interesting points. [See, now I get involved...!]

stop looking for the holes in the arguments and start looking for the pieces you can use

I think that may be the most important one. It's impossible to find the answers to everything. If we could, there wouldn't be debates on whether or not God exists, whether Judaism is the right religion, etc. There *are* holes in the Mesorah, and some are easily identifiable. Much like you, I had quick responses in my head to many of the points people were making above. And I recognize the difference in the way I (or Chardal, or Jameel, or GH...) can approach this as FFBs versus how you can as a BT. But I still think you're approaching this from the wrong direction.

I also think the best advice anyone gave here was remarkably simplistic: Take a step back for a bit.

Here's something I wrote to someone else yesterday: [HH] got real, heartfelt responses by people who aren’t used to spewing rhetoric. It’s much more valuable that way. I think the best comment may have been the person who advised just forgetting about it all for a while – sometimes, getting away from it all lets you see it more clearly.

Good analogy: Play a game of chess. It’s much easier to see the board from the side than it is from behind your pieces, or especially if you’re one of the pieces on the board. Sometimes, looking at everything from the outside makes it that much more clear.

In your case, I think taking a couple months off thinking about this stuff is a good idea. I also don't think the blogs are where you're going to find your answers: Not only are the . Afterwards, come back with a different approach - looking for that which *does* make sense, not by eliminating what does not but by evaluating what's there. Recognize that not all the answers are out there - no matter which way you approach it from. If skepticism were a religion, people would have trouble believing in it, simply because it's got so many holes.

I don't think religion is measured by how many or few holes it has. It's measured by the content of what it does have, instead.

[See, you were only partially right in your assumption of what I'd say. :) ]

Ezzie said...

edit: That should be "Not only do the blogs lack many serious experts on Torah, but a blog by nature generally debates and debates without coming to a conclusion."

Jack's Shack said...

Ya, the whether is great, except for living in the inferno of The Valley.

I love the Valley. Let me guess, we probably pass each other at Cambridge Farms.

I am the guy with the beard and black hat. Ok, no beard now, but there will be again and my hat isn't black.

For that matter, I am probably in shorts and a t-shirt.

Anyway, sounds like you are on your way to making a decision and that in itself has got to be a relief.

njd said...

HH- you wrote:

<<
It is important because there is a point in my life at least when you want to know whether the history is correct. If Chazal and our Mesorah says millions left and it turns out only a few thousand, it puts a dent on some of the credibility of the mesorah. Also, it puts a dent on the pshat of the Torah where it says millions left. This is the problem. This is what I am talking about when I say it seems Judaism is up against the wall trying to defend something that rational logic has won over. My question is not how it impacts our book, but if this book is legit in its claim.
>>

(I can't get the darned ialics to work in this post)

The mesora of our history is different than the mesora of our halacha. Halacha developed over centuries of rabbinic discussion. The history either happened the way it is recorded or didn't. Why should the one impact the other?

I understand wanting to know what really happened in our past. It gives a very firm sense of grounding. But look at events written in the Torah itself and you will see different perspectives. Take the spies for example. The version in Devarim is totally at odds with the one in Bamidbar. Is it two authors? Is it one author casting the events from different points of view? Is one more right than the other?

To look at it more globally is there any absolute truth? Or is it all a matter of the perspective of the observer?

So the events themselves happened how they did. We can never, ever know what really went on. Even if we assumed that the words of the Torah are the exact words of God without even the slightest change. Many of the commentaries on the Torah take that as a given and yet still argue as to what actually happened.

So to hinge your entire religious observance on wanting to know what really occured at any point in history will always meet with failure.

And none of it really has anything to do with the practice of the religion. It is a rare exception where a halacha is based on how an event transpired. Halacha has to be logic based. A prophet can not decree halacha, because it is not butressed by the logical underpinnings of the halachic system.

I agree with you that many communities expend excessive energy fighting minutiae. Is that the community in which you want to live? There are many well-balanced Orthodox communities that do not have the hang-ups of the groups you find distasteful. Perhaps you need to find a group whose perspective is more along the lines with what you consider important. There are Orthodox communities that fit that mold.

Ba'alat Teshuva said...

I don't have time to read all the comments, so I hope I am not repeating something that has already been said. I don't think continuing to be frum in the face of doubts has anything to do with being FFB or BT. I think it has to do with self control and determination. If it was important to you to say modei ani, to keep kosher and observe shabbat, then you would, even if you had doubts, if only to cover your own behind just in case you are wrong. But if your doubts have become so pervasive that you no longer care about those things, and are sure you are right, then you will chuck all the aspects of your frumness.

curlysue said...

Nice to know others are suffering from the valley infreno except for me!!

I think Michal does have a good point that you are quick to dismiss everyone's point because in a way that gives you a shield to stand behind: "oh I've tried that and it doesn't work."

Maybe you should try a session of therapy, it can't hurt. But honestly I think more than advice, you need time off from worrying all the time, and as much as you like to blog, eezie is right that blogs will not lead you to any conclusions but just get you thinking more, which does not sound like something you need to be doing right now.

Eliyahu said...

HH, would you send me your email address?

mother in israel said...

I have a different way of looking at it, which I don't believe has been addressed. Let's leave your wife out of it for a minute and say you were solely in charge of their upbringing. Is it important for you that they live a Jewish life and raise their own children as Jews? Because outside of Israel (and even within) the prevailing secular or Christian culture is so strong that parents who don't actively offer an alternative to the general culture do not have a chance. I have an online friend who happens to be married to a Jew. Her Jewish identity consists of feeling uncomfortable walking into a church and not celebrating Christmas. She can take or leave going to a seder. Her husband is even more assimilated. That's not much to pass on to your children. A lot of her identity she received through osmosis from the Jewish clan she grew up with, but her children are one generation removed from Yiddishkeit. Fortunately she decided to send her children to a Jewish school for now but I don't know if that will be enough. Do you want your chldren to know Jewish history, holidays, Jewish ethical teachings, texts and so on? Or would you be happy if they grew up to be moral and self-sufficient individuals, but not very Jewish? If it's important to you that they continue the Jewish chain, I think you might need to choose to continue to observe Jewish traditions in the home as much as possible, despite your doubts. And not leave it all to your wife. Early childhood experiences are very powerful. If not, well, I guess you will have some tough choices. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of Judaism, and I believe the problem is solved.

Holy Hyrax- A week on, I've just re-read the entire thread. And it seems that you don't appear to be looking for answers at all: You are quick to dismiss anyone's valid points. I suspect that you have already written your own narrative for the future and you are hiding behind it.

The more I read your responses, the more your predicament and state of mind is becoming clear to me. I do not believe you when you say that your attitude to Judaism is the only problem in your life, whatever "evidence" you have from talking to random psychologists. Well here's some advice from another random therapist: You need help, and fast, to sort out your very serious issues. If not for you, then for the sake of your family. I would avoid a "Rabbi who specialises in Kiruv"-as that is clearly the last thing you need. Instead, get a decent therapist who can help you work things out, and stop hiding behind this problem and confront your true fears. Drugs don't have to enter the equation, but nothing is going to happen for you unless you start being honest with yourself.

All the best.

Anonymous said...

Hi there. Doubt and struggling with same, and asking the questions you are, are part of the human condition. It's the people who don't have any doubts that really scare me. That being said, I would also look into ways of dealing/alleviating the depression. It's something I've struggled with too, and it can cloud everything. Hang in there!

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