Monday, January 23, 2006

Good Night and Good Luck

Well, we've come to the end of the road together. It has been a cathartic and intellectually stimulating adventure. I hope I've given all of you 1/1000th the food for thought you've given me.

I started this with one principle aim in mind- to make as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time... er...- to gain clarity as to whether and how judaism and my life dovetail together/apart from here on out.
For those who don’t know, I was a secular atheist who became a BT and got married and started a family in rapid succession. I put aside my tough questions because I was enthralled by the family and community benefits that orthodox judaism present for the modern world. Since that time, I became hooked on Shabbos as “an island in time,” as Rabbi Donin called it in “To Be a Jew.” I even see the hidden benefits in keeping kosher and taharas mishpacha.

But, also I was roped in by the kiruv world, where the ends justify the means, and they want to add as many intelligent, successful Jews to the rosters of the BT yeshivas irrespective of whether the ideas they teach have any objective evidence to support them. The yeshiva world is a castle built on sand. I think orthodoxy works so long as you don’t get too ambitious, promise too much, and build the castle too high. In other words, Orthodoxy is easily crushed under its own weight. Simple, straightforward questions don’t jibe well with it. Because, when a tradition is given over with such gravitas, like the emperor demands deference to his new clothes, only contorted, convoluted answers that obscure the question will do. "Do not trust your instincts, for they are your yetzer hara." "Do no trust your intellect," because a lot of the jewish intellectuals end up with nothing close to the communities we have, and not even jewish grandchildren if you look at the statistics.

So, what’s a Jew like me to do? Who knows, I might keep you posted. But I want this blog to stay up as long as Google can afford to keep the lights on. Hopefully, they won’t go the way of and have to sell my blog to the bankruptcy trustee for pennies on the dollar...

I want to thank all of you (not to be too grandiose- I only have around 6,000 hits, half of which are probably me) who have contributed. But seriously, I gained some valuable insights from the very smart, good natured Jews of the Jblogospere, especially, Mississippi Fred, Holy Hyrax, Chardal, Happy With His Lot, Responding to J Blogs, Mis-nagid, JakBlack, RebelJew, UnorthodoxJew, Kelsey, SL Aronowitz, Ben Avuyah, Ezzie, Jewish Atheist. There are others I’m sure.
Mostly, the "true believers" stayed away. Perhaps they thought my kashas were "klutz kashas," or perhaps they just didn't want to add any credence to any post questioning the mesora. That's too bad. I think Orthodox Jews got painted into a corner by indifference of that very nature. A lot of the real frummies questioned my lack of "respect" for chazal or the mesora. Of course, some played the "am ha'aretz card." But they were usually trumped in short order by one of the skeptical Rabbis or yeshiva grads who lurked most of the time here. I think the die-hards got it partly wrong. I do have respect for what we have, I just don't think it is divine. I see no evidence and have no need to make a leap of faith. Oh, and I am not in a foxhole.

And I must thank Godol Hador, although he never posted a single time here, he really started the skeptical blogging phenomenon for me. I’ve worked through and vented (which is valuable too) on his blog too many times to recount.

So here is my hope for the many hours of blogdom recorded here. This blog should remain as a buoy in a sea of sheker. It doesn’t have all the answers, but it has all the questions. Take them to your kiruv clown, or to the rabbis that demand so much of you. Hopefully, that should be enough to let any BT know he wasn’t the only one to feel he was sold a bill of goods. Once that’s off his chest, hopefully he can get on with living, and perhaps live with some of the valuable ideals of our tradition as his guide.

Also, I hope as the kiruv campaigns get underway, with their focus groups, slick movies, their logically deficient “proofs,” and utter distortions of science, that hopefully someone circumspect will acknowledge that it’s wrong to lie to potential BT just to get them to keep shabbos. Let the good stuff speak for itself. Let people go at their own pace and if they like it, great. If not, leave them with something to think about, and they can always come back to it again at a later time, with a clean slate.

A buoy, not a beacon, assures my salvation,
and guides my way more than sunlight.
If I’m to stay afloat and safely reach shore,
I can cling to the buoy all night.