Tuesday, March 27, 2007

What Are You Looking For?

I started this blog a year and a half ago spent a good bit of time trying to find answers to some basic questions. Sometimes my basic frustration with the answers led me off on tangents such as railing against some of the truly nonsensical aspects of religious belief and frmkeit in particular.

However, I can not escape the fact that I'm happy in life in many ways because of where my adventure in frumkeit led me. My wife and I were talking earlier and she said it best: "If you find the right spouse becoming frum will make your life great, if not it will ruin your life." Meaning, you'll either have a loveless marriage or divorce, or spend years trying to find someone the "right way."

Since I don't believe in religious "truths," that makes me one for whom happiness and fulfillment are the paramount aims of life. If doing makebelieve religion got me there, so be it. I wonder, what makes you tick and what are you looking for?

And, aside from what got me here, I wonder where it will lead from here as well. Again, I've come full circle. I'm curious what sort of adventures you have been on in the last couple of years and where some of you ended up.

34 Comments:

Blogger Holy Hyrax said...

Hey man

I was racking my brains with what your wife said till I realized there is a comma missing after the word "spouse" :P

Since I don't believe in religious "truths," that makes me one for whom happiness and fulfillment are the paramount aims of life

Everyones paramount aim in life is hapiness and fullfilment. We just find it and express it in different paths. Myself, these past years have shown me that things are more complicated than I ever thought, and that is not necassarily a bad thing.

3/28/2007 12:37 AM  
Blogger NYAPIKORES said...

youre not alone. being frum is more about lifestyle than emuna. how many people stop to ask them selves the BIG questions? but its easy to be among your family, friends and shul. its easy and cozy. and if you happen top be a sceptic, rest assured that many of your fellow shul buddies are too.

5/02/2007 3:29 PM  
Blogger BlackWave said...

OMG your wife is so right about "If you find the right spouse becoming frum will make your life great, if not it will ruin your life." I am so disgusted at the whole frum system and how a few months after becoming BT I was in a state I can only describe as insane, where everything someone with a black hat and beard said I did. I was so lonely for a woman, of which I had no contact since going into yeshiva, and after going out a few times with someone they said, "love will come later" and at the same time "love is not important... that is a western myth". I never noticed the contradiction. Well it didn't come later, although lots of kids did come. Now I'm quite a few years down the road and bitter. I am thinking about divorce, not davening regularly, some days not even putting on tefillin and practically any mitzva repels me. Now what?

5/16/2007 7:09 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Hi Blackwave. I don't check back so often, so it was fortunate that I caught you recent post.

Can you give more info? It almost sounds like your post is a half-hearted satire of waht I'm doing on the blog, but if it is real, I certainly feel for you. I know I've run into a lot of people in similar straits.

For instance, how long married, do you work, does your wife relate to your questions and revulsion about judaism?

Is there anything you find redeeming? What kinds of things are going through your mind right now?

I think therapy is a must for anyone going through what you are going through. And not couple's therapy, just individual.

BTs spend so much time getting themselves into a frum "persona" that it seems many forget themselves.

5/17/2007 2:25 AM  
Blogger BlackWave said...

My post is no satire... it's real.

We've been married 10-15 years, I work.

Redeeming... I like some warm fuzzy things about Judaism. I like being part of the community of Jews. I find religion comforting sometimes. But when it comes to doing the ritual observances, including davening, something just repels me.

1 thing that's funny... I have not learned at all in many years. A few days ago I saw a notice in shul about a yeshiva that was having a shiur about general topics in a certain mesechta and I felt drawn to go. I did go and it was actually enjoyable although a bit difficult to completely follow and I was proud of myself that I was able to somewhat follow it. But today I did not daven at all or put on tefillin and I don't really remember if I did yesterday or the day before, and I certainly have not learned since then.

I've actually been in therapy for a while but the therapist is not frum, so it's hard to discuss these things with her, although I've brought it up. We've mostly been focused on the marriage issues.

As for the BT thing... I think it was problematic psychologically for me, because I feel like I died when I became a BT and a new person took over my body. I think what's hapenning now is I want to rediscover the "me" that died back then, maybe bring him back to life a bit. The "old" me would never in a million years consider marrying (or even dating) my wife even if she weren't frum. I think that was a crucial mistake, which they definitely didn't tell me about in yeshiva.

I also think the bad marriage is what ruined the BT experience for me.

Another problem I'm worried about is what do I do afterwards if I get divorced? I first have to figure out who I want to be, before going out again, right? And who knows how many lonely years that will take?

5/17/2007 9:52 PM  
Blogger bt-too said...

Blackwave, I hear and can sympathize with your problems. I am particularly saddened that you have been unable to find a therapist who can relate to youl. Davening and other rituals can be a killer, but I believe there may be ways to get more meaning into your life.

I have been reading this site and can empathize with a lot of the feelings here, but a lot of it is really poorly researched whether the ideas are in science or Torah. The fact the person offering the blog does not use his real name is a red flag to me. It seems cowardly.

The site seems to lean on popular conceptions of science and Torah and offer no real support from concrete halacha or science. I truly empathize, but there might be resources you have not tapped into yet. Hashem should help you and all of us who have been on or posted on this site.

BTA I really think you are raising the right questions and I am happy to have discovered this forum. I am disapointed that the sources for your answers seem so shallow. Am I missing something?

Please forgive me if I seem judgemental. It is my most sincere desire to stay within the goals of this blog, the pursuit of real truth and satisfaction in life.

5/28/2007 10:03 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

BT-too (Adam?), You mentioned that the torah and science ideas on this blog are "really poorly researched."

Let me ask you this, how well have you researched the idea that the Torah was written by men? Are you satisfied with the evidence given for the truth of the Exodus? Mt Sinai? Noah? Oral Law? "Redaction" of the Talmud?

I mean, come on, research isn't important to you, is it? You, like many an intelligent BT, have to turn off your mind to buy into this morass of complex OCD rules.

Alternatively, perhaps you spin your wheels trying to find the latest "research" that helps your emunah. Not I.

There are lots of people willing to jerk your chain if you like. Plenty of BT yeshivas, artscroll books, kiruv rabbis to choose from.

So, go ahead, delve into the 'research," but while you're at it, take note that the vast majority of religious-acting jews haven't done any "research" either, whether into the origins of torah or science.

The ones that do stray so far afield from widely accepted ideas in science that they are clearly putting up convenient defense mechanisms so as to believe in open and obvious myths, such as creation (actually 2 myths, since 2 different versions).

So, speaking of therapy, I think you ought to examine your own defense mechanisms, unless of course, you're very happy, in which case, I salute you. The cure for cancer or solution to energy, population, and water crises facing humankind could be solved a lot sooner if all the smart, diligent orthodox jews would spend their time pursuing those problems.

(Rather than sitting around debating how many angels can fit on the head of a pin while their wives are busy making 10lbs of challah dough and taking their underwear to a rabbi for inspection.)

5/28/2007 11:42 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Blackwave said:

"But when it comes to doing the ritual observances, including davening, something just repels me."

First off, sorry not to have responded, I missed your post until now. What you have is a case of OJ allergy. You swallowed it for so long that the minutest bit makes you sick.

It's also part of the awakening process. Your therapist doesn't understand, because she hasn't been there. She has a hard time understanding what the problem is exactly, and thinks it boils down to more common mid-life crisis ideas.

However, you and I both know that you became a BT to have a ready-made wholesome social structure. One with supernatural benefits, better yet!

However, one cannot build his castle on sand, or one day, it comes crashing down.

What worked for me may not work for you. I was less entrenched, and my wife was far more open-minded and understanding. OUr relationship thrived and we are still happy to keep shabbos in a "traditional" way. But lights going on and off or cooking something, no problem. Plus, every new freedom is great. But we will never go back to straight secular lives, watching constant TV, going out on Friday nights.

It'll be interesting to see how we raise our kids, but I'm leaning on taking them out of orthodox school, especially when I hear them learning midrashim like true facts (e.g., har Sinai was held over the jews' heads and then they said n'ashe vnishma").

"A few days ago I saw a notice in shul about a yeshiva that was having a shiur about general topics in a certain mesechta and I felt drawn to go. I did go and it was actually enjoyable although a bit difficult to completely follow and I was proud of myself that I was able to somewhat follow it."

I went through that phase, too. But once you've "seen the light" it's hard to go back. It's like breaking up with a crazy girlfriend. You have the "make-up" meetings a couple of times that lead to more fights, and finally are so sick of each other you are able to part ways. At least that's what it's like in the movies...

Likewise, you are pushing yourself to do something that will ultimately push you even further away in revulsion. (Reaction formation).

What you really need is a long break, several weeks or months, maybe totally go off the derech, and then see where you stand.

But, alas, you are married with little frum kids, so I don't know what to tell you there. I think it's important for the kids that you do not shake things up at home, and same for your wife. There are far too many details and I'm not qualified to tell you exactly what to do.

All I know is that I saw my life heading in that direction around the time I started this blog, and I headed it off at the pass, before my kids got too old to comfortably change. It's been a great process, because now I have the right balance of judaism and normalcy in my life.

I don't envy any frum person anymore, and I don't care the least about fitting in anymore. I never go to shul and find judaism terribly boring. My eyes are open to the hypocrisy of the religion and I see its deleterious effects more and more. The parshas glorifying genocide of non-jews from the land (ethinic cleansing)- how are they different than Nazi screeds? The belief that jews are special and chosen, all apologetics aside, are far-fetched and damaging.


"But today I did not daven at all or put on tefillin and I don't really remember if I did yesterday or the day before, and I certainly have not learned since then."

You need to find a smooth transition out of OJ in my opinion. You are morally obligated not to ruin your wife's or kids' lives in the process. Work it out.

I know you can. Get the therapist to help you make the transition peacefully without collateral damage.

And, I would find a jewish married male one, preferably one who knows more about orthodox jews.

Email me if you want to talk more. baaltshuvaanon@aol.com

5/29/2007 12:03 AM  
Blogger bt-too said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/29/2007 10:26 PM  
Blogger bt-too said...

Hi BTA, yes this is Adam, though I still don't know who you are, as you still seem unwilling to put a name to your opinions.

I am happy that you seem to have found a way to feel normal with your life, and your advice to blackwave to minimalize collateral damage is really important.

As far as researching the ideas of the Exodus, cosmogeny, and evolution, yes I have done a fair amount of research. I'm happy to share my reading list with you if you'd like. I definitely wouldn't say that every observent Jew has carefully researched supports for why to observe mitzvahs, but I don't know that they have to.

If you are preparing to compromise your observances and encourage others to compromise theirs, it seems apporpriate to open a book or two that addresses topics like evolution (e.g. Darwin's Black Box by Michale Behe or the more recently Canon by Natalie Angier). On Torah and it's challenges and proofs like Leib Kelerman's books Permission to Receive and Permission to Believe.

Look, I also experienced kiruv rabbis who seemed to be selling me a "bag of goods" so to speak. In many ways, I feel like I found my commitment to Judaism in spite of them as much as it was because of them. My experience has shown that if you are really looking for truth, you will find that it strongly supports Torah Judaism. I agree with you that you will also find people with their share of complaints of depression, loneliness, lack of fulfillment, etc. etc. but it doesn't mean that Torah is not true , G-d given, or the key to a successful life.

It just means that for some people, perhaps many people, therapy may need to be a part of the process of becoming observant. I opine that for these people, therapy would be an important part of their lives even if they did not become observant. That may be why they became observant in the first place, and that is a dangerous thing. It doesn't make Torah less true, it just means that challenges in their life which lead them to truth remain with them.

I am going to guess that you, BTA, came to Machon Shlomo sometime after 1998 and probably after 2001. I think you would have liked Rabbi Rosenberg if you had gotten to meet him.

5/29/2007 10:28 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

BT-Too,

I responded to your post the other day. You apparently didn't check back to the same post, which was an old one. For your benefit, this is my response as to why I choose not to post my name (the invitation to email me still stands):

"Hi Adam,

Are you from Machon Shlomo? Your name sounds familiar. However, I don't see what saying your name adds. You could very easily email me at the email provided on the blog. baaltshuvaanon@aol.com

I personally am very publicly open about my views. I have maintained my anonymity because my identity isn't really the point, and b) nothing good can come from it.

For example, let's say someone were to "google" me in a professional context. Now, they might be led to reading my views excoriating religion, when my views are my business.

Moreover, I find orthodox jews are particularly vindictive people and once they could "prove" my identity (many people already know it) they would try to avenge god and defend the honor of their rabbis and religion in some inane way.

I know a former Machon Shlomo alum tried posting my name on my blog several times, anonymously of course.

Look, this blog is a diary made public, but that doesn't mean my identity is relevant at all. And, in fact, because my persona is anonymous, I am free to express myself without perhaps compromising some family member's shidduch chances, or what have you.

Still, many people know who I am. I suppose even you do. I am happy to tell you who I am via email, so email me.

Nothing I say is very original regarding judaism, but it was very therapeutic for me to vent at the times when I did. Hope this helps.

5/30/2007 4:03 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

bt-too,

You seem inhibited from speaking freely and I attribute that to your feeling that what you say could be scutinized by your peers. This is why anonymity is very helpful.

However, under this name or a new one, it would be interesting to hear whether you believe the world to be younger than 6,000 years, that the Torah is word for word written by god, that the same god who used to communicate so much prior to written history, is still "living" nowadays (and your evidence for that) despite his utter disappearance. What do you think happens if you brew a pot of coffee on shabbos or turn on a light? Or go for a drive? What happens when you eat non-kosher chicken (which apparently is indistinguishable from kosher in Monsey...)?

Do you do mitzvahs out of fear? Or, before they became habitual did you have some combination of fear and hope for just compensation for your efforts?
Have you ever read a page of the torah and thought "That is utter nonsense and must never have happened"?
Have you started to doubt whether god exists at all? Do you believe that god has a special mission for his 12million (not 20million due to WWII) Jews? If so, why does he grow muslims and christians to one billion each?

Obviously, no need to answer all of these questions, but we'd all love to know.

Now, in direct response to your comments:
The books that you cite actually make my point (above) that the "research" done by religious Jews is nothing more than an exercise in confirmation of their prior beliefs, even in spite of the opinion of the vast majority of scientists, philosophers, and archeologists.

The books you cite as "research" are no more than religious propaganda and apologetics.

Behe's book?! The guy isn't even a full professor (at Lehigh) and he's the guy who will take down every single evolutionary biologist in the world, right? Wrong. He is just another intelligent design guy. And, don't forget that the ID guys almost never are orthodox jews. They are christians who find your theology absurd. But you ignore that part, it's just a goyische kop, right? :)

As for the philosophy side, Larry Kelemen is not a serious philosopher at all. In fact, he acknowledges that nothing in his book is proof of god's existence, which begs the question *why* write/read it?

Though you cite him as a serious source, you know his main gig is teachings impressionable young BT ladies at Neve in intro to Judaism classes. These girls tyically come fresh from some inspirational summer program and are on the fastrack to marriage and just want the basic gist, not the details. And, let's face it, they aren't really *supposed* to study the details, and Larry isn't qualified to teach the details. He doesn't even seem to consider himself a *rabbi*, since he never publishes under that appellation, and in fact never publishes under the Hebrew name you used. Strange, isn't it? Moreover, the chareidim subsequently banned the idea that the universe could be more than 6,000 years old, so I wonder why they didn't just ban his book, as well as Slifkin's.


Here is a thorough, albeit boring, debunking of Larry:
http://www.talkreason.org/articles/kelemen1.cfm

A book like Kelemen's is not research, though it may be interesting reading to some, or "chizzuk" for others. Sure, there are some charts and fancy scientific words, but the conclusions Larry draws are far from scientific proof of OJ's version of creation, or of modern scholarship's take on biblical archeology, or the origins of the biblical writings.

Moreover, how many books have you purchased or read from "the other team?" Sure, the internet/blogs provide a wealth of various arguments against orthodox views, but there is far more substance in books by Baruch Halpern, Friedman, etc. If you are on this blog, thinking "I taught that off the derech BT about the Truth" well, my friend you are just trying to use me as a convenient straw man. Try reading books by the best in the field, Dawkins or John Maynard Smith on evolution for laymen.

If you must limit your testing the waters of atheism to the internet, the Daat Emet site provides much food for thought, in that it cites to all the mistakes in science of the "sages" and even connects those errors to halachic rulings.
http://www.daatemet.org.il/category.cfm?category_id=17

Daat emet also blasts the Exodus account quite nicely, especially the bit about 2,000,000 Jews leaving egypt!

So, have you read those books or blogs? Regarding archeology, have you read "The Bible Unearthed"?

Have you spoken with an educated Conservative scholar, say at the Jewish Theological Seminary? Of course you haven't. Those folks are banned and you would feel tremendous guilt going to "the dark side" to see the other arguments.

You and I are taking different stances here. Your position is that I ought to have a sense of responsibility for "leading others astray," correct?

5/30/2007 5:19 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Also, Re: Rosenberg, I consider him to be an L. Ron Hubbard figure. He was an insurance salesman who took a hard-line approach to kiruv.

It is very hard to find people, other than disciples, who would say anything nice about the guy. I've seen the Rabbis at M.S. strain to come up with respectful things to say about Rosenberg, but it seems most people just acknowledged he was a tough old coot (aka "authoritarian")and of course his accomplishment of starting machon shlomo, which in spite of its downsides manages to attract a nice group of fellows each year.

As far as I know, he never published a single book. And, where for that matter, is Rabbi Gershenfeld's treatise on all things Torah? I find it so strange that he never published, given his daily bashing of Artscroll's chumash (which was strange since the footnotes seemed to mirror the shiurim quite nicely). I wonder if R.G., who would so dismissively mock the artscroll Rabbi's commentaries as dead wrong, ever wrote to Artscroll to have these misinterpretations corrected in time for the next printing...

That was one of the truly cultish things about machon shlomo- the daily reinforcement of the idea that they had the patented "correct" view of judaism and no one, not artscroll, not the chassidim, no one really "got it" but them.

You seem to mirror that approach by acting like there is some secret knowledge out there that proves the truth of this silly, mythological religion, wrapped up in a hodgepodge of tzitzit-stringed superstitions and kosher canards.

5/30/2007 5:40 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

PS- the Angier book (by a NY Times columnist) is a review of high school level science and is hardly a primer on evolution or the big bang, although I doubt she disagrees with those concepts, as you apparently do.

5/30/2007 5:41 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"Look, I also experienced kiruv rabbis who seemed to be selling me a "bag of goods" so to speak."

yeah, like EVERY rabbi at machon shlomo. Did you know how much Rabbi Gershenfeld and Rabbi Auerbach to some extent are *constantly* monitoring the emunah level of the guys at the yeshiva. R.G. in particular spends a lot of time calling other contacts back home and conferring with people and sending assistant Rabbis to try to "deal" with emunah problems of guys at M.S.

So, they are all trying to sell you a bill of goods, my friend. And on top of that, they essentially would ban you from reading off limits items. Kiruv is very cultish, especially the plan of snaring people with BBQs and Friday nights and then trying to turn up the pressure to get them to yeshiva (away from everyone and everything they know) ASAP before they change their minds.

It's very much a cult thing. Then, for single guys, especially at Machon shlomo, they learn to keep their mouths shut about any questions and focus on acheivements in "learning" aka reading and gemara skills rather than any real theological issues. They do this so as to remain viable as marriage prospects.

Once married, they are on their own, and there are plenty of bad marriages and divorces down the road, once someone is saddled with mitzvah and guilt.

I've had 4 former machon shlomo alums contact me about their truly depressing married lives and I know several others personally. I feel like I dodged a bullet, frankly!

So, I think your spiel about being knowledgeable about the "facts" before dispensing advice applies equally to the rabbis at these overzealous BT yeshivas. They are out to create more clones, but where are they in the aftermath?

5/30/2007 6:40 PM  
Blogger bt-too said...

Okay, you've written a lot, and I want to respond to it all but I don't have a whole lot of time. Regarding apikorses and other scientific and philosophical challenges to Judaism, I think I did my homework pretty well over there. I was a biology minor in college and was required to take a semester of Evolutionary biology, so I feel pretty comfortable with my knowledge there. Regarding Biblical criticism and conservative Rabbis, my best friend went to PARDES and we speak frequently about issues in Biblical criticism. I have several books by Harold Bloom and have perused them all, though I can't claim to have completed any from cover to cover. Regarding the Book of J, in particular, I had a philosophy professor in college with whom I studied Chumash sometimes. We discussed the BOok of J a bit, but I confess, I've never felt motivated to really read it. Most of the investigation I did before I decided to become observent.

I still think you would have liked Rabbi Rosenberg, if you had had the chance to meet him. Re: Artscroll and Rabbi G., a chumash class in previous years sent them a letter detailing 30 some odd errors in translation they had made. They responded by saying that they were in the process of creating the Sapirstein and had no plans to change the Stone. I'm pretty sure Rabbi G. has their response letter if you ask him for it.

Oh yeah, I also read Dawkins, I think (Blind Watchmaker, etc.) and am pretty familiar with Steven Weinberg's stuff too.

Anyway, I can hear that you got really turned off from Torah. I'm sorry about that. I know it can be a really painful process. I "went-off" for a couple of years too when I was first becoming frum (96-98). And I also know first hand about some really unhappy marriages and
unhappy people, I'm sorry to say.

But I am also personally acquainted with hours and hours and days and days that Rabbi Gershenfeld and others spend trying to help these people with their lives and marriages.

I don't think you're giving these Rabbis the credit they deserve. They work hard for something they believe in and to try to help their students have better lives. Sometimes, we all make mistakes. And some times the students come in looking for cures to psychological problems that are, well, beyond the scope of the program. Torah will give you a framework to solve your problems, but it won't solve them for you.

If you didn't find the spiritual satisfaction you were looking for, it might not be the fault of Torah. It might just be because there was something else missing. Something Torah might help you address, but might not address completely. If you chose a spouse that you didn't really love and couldn't really build a relationship with, that's not necessarily the fault of the Torah. It might be because someone, maybe even a rabbi, gave you some bad advice.

I'm a pretty big believer in personal responsibility, whether you are religious or not. I'm happy that you feel like you've dodged a bullet and you feel good about yourself and your life. We all should merit such simcha.

If you needed to go off the derech for a while to do that, well, what can I tell you? I know this is just a sort of public diary and therapy session, but don't make it seem like kiruv rabbis are out to mess up your or anyone else's lives. It's just not true. And don't make it seem like science and Torah are just cut and dry, because if you've read any of the stuff we've talked about, you know that it's simply not true.

5/30/2007 11:48 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

BT-T,

Excellent response, thank you. I didn't intend to say Rabbi G was malevolent, just irresponsible. You have to remember that under the beards and credibility and years of training, they are BTs who walked away from the "real world" and in my opinion have been trying to justify it ever since.

That has probably made them better people than most, so don't get me wrong. They are on a mission.

The problem is that there is no evidence for anything they believe in the supernatural sense, yet they speak of it that way.

If I hadn't already met enough intelligent believers in orthodoxy, I would be amazed that you would go from the Blind Watchmaker to the Behe book, but that is a choice you are making. I think the blind watchmaker is incredibly compelling, and found Dawkins' insistence on making Paley's argument as strong as possible before proceeding a sign of true credibility. Also, think back to your evolutionary biology days- did you think it was all bunk back then or only once religion gave you an agenda?

Let's be straight here, you don't really think god spent all the time and "design" necessary to make the thousands and thousands of species of life (plant and animal) that became extinct *before* humans ever appeared on earth, do you?

You don't seriously believe that god also intelligently designed all the species that are becoming extinct each year, most of which will never be discovered? Or highly specialized cave creatures that men did not know about until the last 5 years?

Behe, like schroeder and other religious guys tries to confound the issue with molecular biology jargon. There are no experts in the field changing their minds anytime soon based on his book, and his I.D. ideas haven't been published in peer review journals to my knowledge.

Re: the artscroll story, thank you for that tidbit, it's very interesting. That still doesn't change my opinion that that shiur was filled with pure doublespeak and chareidi propaganda about gedolim to chassidim-bashing and on and on. But you did set the record straight that at least he tried out his chiddushim on artscroll, albeit to no avail. And they didn't make use of these corrections in the sapirstein, I take it?

But actually, you made my point: *Rabbi G* didn't send in the corrections, his disciples did!
Now, if someone was laining the torah and misspoke, Rabbi G would call out the correct pronounciation for kavod ha'torah, no? So, why didn't he feel compelled to send these "corrections" in? Could it be that he knew they were just apologetic tools?

But let's not miss the point. Because, we know, the worst thing about Artscroll wasn't the mistranslations! It was the constant indoctrination and convenient falsehoods. For example, Avraham serves meat and milk together to the melachim who visit after his bris. Artscroll makes the point that the milk was served first. Give me a break. Such factual accuracy. How about establishing any evidence whatsoever of an Avroham ever existing? How about addressing myriad absurdies per every page of the torah (god invents the rainbow as a zecher of the flood, etc).

So, this topic encapsulates the problem of kiruv rabbis. They are brainwashing people daily, but emphasizing minutiae of translation and punctuation in this primitive (yes, very primitive) prehistoric scroll and not delving into the evidence for the claim of its supernatural authorship.

Just think for a second about how amazingly miraculous it would be for us to have a book actually written by a god who created the universe, DNA, life!

Would such an omniscient being write such a primitive cave-book? See my earlier post about the "unintelligent design" of the torah itself. I mean, this "instruction book to life" fails to mention the afterlife, the oral law, the 39 melachos? C'mon, man, you can't possibly buy that a god so amazing would write a book so poor that it still needs thousands of commentaries just to attempt to make it coherent.

http://offthederech.blogspot.com/2006/10/unintelligent-editing-best-proof-that.html

The absurdity couldn't be more staggering, so it's no wonder they spend so much time on distractions.

Just to respond to what you said:
"And don't make it seem like science and Torah are just cut and dry."

Insert "koran" "new testament" "greek mythology" "scientology" "book of mormon" for Torah. This is a well-known point that atheists make:

You (the orthodox Jew) are an atheist about all the hundreds of religions mankind has followed over the eons. I am just an atheist about one more than you.

You would have me believe that you found the one, the only, the perfect religion.

5/31/2007 2:32 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Random question:

Why do Orthodox Jews need constant "chizzuk?"

Why do their most esteemed rabbis ban sources of information such as books or the internet?

5/31/2007 2:33 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

"If you chose a spouse that you didn't really love and couldn't really build a relationship with, that's not necessarily the fault of the Torah."

Actually, I married my wife despite the advice of a real moron machon shlomo alum that I shouldn't but rather I should go to yeshiva and would meet a "better selection" there of women who were on the "same page."

The guy's a fool. No, I don't blame "the Torah." How could a blame a silly old book for anything. And, as I made clear, I have a great marriage, so nothing to blame. The things I saw happened to others. I was actually treated very nicely by the folks at machon shlomo. They are nice, hardworking people.

But they are cultish, and it is the orthodox mentality that I think is harmful, not the bible.

As dennis prager is fond of pointing out, you can't judge a religion by its practitioners, as there are different modes of interpretation.

For example, orthodox jews in temple times executed people for sabbath violations. Today, thanks the the Shifting Moral Zeitgeist, that doesn't happen anymore.

It comes down to how the religion is practiced, and in BT circles, several cult-like means are employed:
1. distance the person from their family
2. encourage major lifestyle changes
3. get the person away from their "old patterns"
4. outright brainwash them, e.g., that Noah isn't a silly old recycled mesopotamian myth, but rather a grand truth dictated by god himself.

Now it's funny, because you mentinoed Rabbi Rosenberg again. There is an essay about him on the web, in one of the silly chareidi websites, and he follows the brainwashing pattern to a "T!"

Read this:
"The student then goes on to describe everything that he has done in the past six months on the checklist he worked out with Rabbi Rosenberg: (1) severing all personal relationships standing in the way of progress as a Jew; (2) moving to a religious community; and (3) maintaining a daily learning schedule, even during his residency, and regular davening so that almost every free moment is directed towards spiritual development."
http://chareidi.shemayisrael.com/archives5759/nosso/features.htm

I could go on and on about that little checklist, but it speaks for itself. C-U-L-T L-E-A-D-E-R.

5/31/2007 2:46 AM  
Blogger bt-too said...

I still think you would have liked him. In any case, and I am reassured that you actually allude to an argument from Dawkins. Most of your posts seem to be ad hominem attacks at authors and Rabbis without a lot of information.

To address a couple of issues:

Re: observent Jews writing science books, I think there are quite a few. Lee Spetner has one called "Not by Chance", he was a research scientist at Bell Labs, I think. Then there are Aryeh Kaplan's books and there is no shortage of observent doctors, and professors of physics, biology etc.

Regarding my biology training. I had a lot of inspiration from biology, even before I ever came into contact with observent Jews. To be honest, the closest I ever came to anything which could be called an epiphany was studying DNA. It is so awesome. So sophisticated. Such an amazing way to pass information. I really felt like I was staring into the eyes of G-d.

I found evolution troubling. It was compelling as a theory for the adaptation of species, and Miller's experiments in organic chemistry were also compelling, but I just felt like there had to be G-dliness somewhere. Perhaps that is and was my bias.

Then there was a class in molecular biology where the professor was teaching about protein folding. DNA codes for base sequences which translate to RNA which ultimately translate to chains of proteins called polypeptides. The problem is that even with a perfect code from DNA the polpeptide chain which is produced is useless unless the protein folds itself into a very specific pattern. Now for just about every polypeptide chain there are about a gazillion (this is a technical term :) ) different possible folding patterns it might assume, and only one which will actually work. For a complex molecule like hemoglobin to randomly assume it's appropariate folding pattern in an evolutionary model, it would take longer than the age of the known universe (that's the 6 billion year figure, not the 6,000 year figure). For me that was kind of a tip off. This was a very secular biology class, but these were the facts. I am not saying I don't trust science. Far from it. I just think that science is really deep and really complicated, and so is Torah.

I'm really surprised that you didn't walk away from MS with at least some appreciation for the Oral Torah. I know you're going to hate this, but it just makes a heck of a lot of sense.

Okay, I have to go. I have to bentsch and daven mincha. I'll try to write more tomorrow before Shabbos.

I am happy we are having this dialogue. I feel like it is usefull for me, and I hope it is useful to you too.

All the best,
Adam

5/31/2007 6:34 PM  
Blogger bt-too said...

BTA, I'm starting to get the sense that you really didn't spend a whole heck of a lot of time investigating these things. Were you at Machon Shlomo for more than a couple of weeks?

It's certainly not a crime if you didn't, but it would explain a lot of your posts. It kind of seems like you've picked up on a lot of the common questions people raise about Judaism (e.g. holocaust, woman's role, and evolution) and didn't really do the investigation to find the answers to those challenges. Am I incorrect over here? I see a lot of dissatisfaction, but not a whole lot of facts.

6/02/2007 11:42 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

bt-too,

You're a bit of a broken record by now, and fine, I'll take the bait. You wouldn't know a "fact" if it bit you on the tushy.

Anyone who thinks Aryeh Kaplan is an accomplished scientist, with his Masters in physics and no work in the field, frankly, is naive. You are behaving in a most naive way.

The most mature rabbeim (some of whom I've met in Jerusalem) admit having *huge* doubts in the very areas you cite above. The holocaust- what, you have a good answer for god's allowing jewish children to be incinerated by the millions? Such theodicy is idiocy. No respectable rabbi has a good religious answer for the holocaust that makes god seem remotely moral.

But, I have a great Occam's Razor answer- it just happened and there is no god.

The "role of women". Yes, I've read the artscroll version of why we thank god for not being women, and heard Rabbi G's explanation for the woman of beautiful form not being as bad as it looks! Hey, if you buy that, no problem, it's a free world and all kinds of people believe the cockamamie things you do. Just don't read the tanach, where all the halachos are totally ignored even by supposed neviim.

Evolution isn't a big problem for orthodox creationism? Well, not for you! After all, you have Behe's book, you're set! (Nevermind that not a single full professor of biology endorsed it, they're all brainwashed atheists with no "facts" either.)

But, let's face it, if you were concerned with truth and facts, there's no way you would have been duped into orthodoxy in the first place.

You probably just have an emotional need that orthodoxy was supposed to fill. The majority of guys at M.S. came from broken homes. Was that the case for you? And you were hoping for a ready-made perfect solution to "the marriage problem?" That's how they get most guys.

The others are just looking for good wives or fall for the reverse psychology of "this is too hard for most people..."

Bottom line: You have been brainwashed into thinking the people who doubt the veracity of orthodox judaism are the ones with the burden of proof.

Sorry, but it's the believers who have the burden, just as it would be for those who would have us believe in christianity and islam- things that you find laughably deficient in the evidence department, no doubt.

So where are your powerful "facts" and *what* is your proof? A torah scroll that you have a tradition as having been written by god? And a complementary oral tradition, passed down by word of mouth to explain the written torah's many contradictions?

I mean really, those kiruv guys really got you didn't they? But then again, why lurk on this site so much rather than spend your time delving into the many mysteries and wise points of chazal all night?

There can only be one of two explanations:

1. my critiques cause you a lot of cognitive dissonance so you are just trying to expose me as revenge, hence your transparent questions about how much time I spent at your Guru's feet, etc.; or

2. you have a lot of doubts but are looking for a role model to help you find your way out of yiddishkeit, and you want more of an authority figure than I can be for you. Sorry to disappoint if that's the case, but I could point you to some more authoritative rabbis if you like.

Perhaps it's a bit of both. What I can tell you, my friend, is that I could name 10 maclone shlomites that you probably know a few of who act frum but believe very little.

Ask yourself why there are so many smart guys living this lifestyle with no proof. Ask yourself whether they really even buy into most of it. (They don't). And I have another tidbit for you- there are several *rabbis* at machon shlomo who more or less have admitted to myself or others that they have very little faith and adhere to the lifestyle and intellectual stimulation more than anything else.

If you really wanted to get to know me, you could have emailed me. So, I guess our dialogue is over. When you grow up and are willing to state your true motivations,and want to talk straight, let's do so.

Otherwise, enjoy yourself with the wisdom and "facts" of judaism! And get your nose back into a gemara, ASAP.

6/03/2007 12:54 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Adam- nice try. How do you explain the guys that were at machon shlomo for 2 years and are off the derech, praytell?

How do you explain the people that loved it there that are off the derech anyway?

This blog is not about machon shlomo, it's about the deceptive BT kiruv culture, which includes books and arguments just as much as yeshivas.

You are just another maclone,that much was obvious from the begining. You pretended to have doubts, but haven't admitted a single doubt so far, so your posts were disingenuous from the start. All you wanted to know from the start was my identity, as if that mattered. Debate the ideas, if you can. (And clearly, you can't).

So, you finally admitted your true purpose, to defend the honor of your alma mater. You can't respond to any comments I've made, so what good has your fabulous frum education done for you? The best you could do was say you wanted more "facts" and then you quoted titles of some kiruvy books. Mazel tov.

You aren't the first person from machon shlomo to try to "out" me, which says even more about your fraternity mentality. But I don't do this for you, I do it for the several other machon shlomo guys that are miserable and found my blog and got in touch because they couldn't agree more. And mind you, they enjoyed MS very much, they just don't buy it. I met several others like that at the yeshiva. They could be good friends of yours and are total non-believers.

There are about a hundred skeptical blogs, go troll there from now on. You wasted enough of my time. Have a nice life.

6/03/2007 10:21 PM  
Blogger bt-too said...

You sound really angry. I am sorry for that. I am really not out to get you. As I said before, I really have enjoyed our discussions, and actually get a lot of emmunah from discussions like this.

It's really interessting to me that your impression is that I haven't brought any ideas out to discuss. I feel like that's not really true. You had mentioned my training in biology and I had talked about protein folding. You talked about a lack of observent Jews writing about ID, and I mentioned Lee Spetner and Not by Chance.

It also seems like you removed my post that said you weren't yeshiva-educated. Is that just my impression, or is that post missing? I stumbled onto this post by mistake, then I posted because I enjoyed our conversations, and still do. But I'm sensing a lack of integrity here and I don't think you want to address it. Please forgive me if I'm a bit critical.

But you seem to have an agenda of self-congratulation and affirmation, where there should be an honest exploration of ideas.

Sorry if I'm on your bad side. As I said before, I think you're raising good questions, I just don't see answers that seem well thought out.

6/04/2007 1:57 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

"You sound really angry."

I'm not angry, don't worry. Just stop trying to sneak in biographical details about me in your comments and I won't delete them.

I can handle your specious arguments and condescending points, trust me.

"I ...actually get a lot of emmunah from discussions like this."

Of course you do. You get emunah from everything, even blogs.

"You had mentioned my training in biology and I had talked about protein folding."

Well, you took bio courses before becoming frum and now because of [insert watchmaker template here] you think things are too complex to have come about "by chance." You claim to have read Dawkins, but if you did, you didn't get it. You certainly haven't made much headway in refuting evolution.

Also, debates are give and take. I don't hear any concessions from you about judaism, or about any difficulties of yours. I find that difficult to buy, since I know Rabbis who admit to such doubts all the time, while remaining frum.

Why is it so difficult for you to come clean about your doubts?

"It also seems like you removed my post that said you weren't yeshiva-educated."

Yes, I removed it and will remove any posts that try to put in biographical information about me. Given the more vindictive people in the OJ world, it could affect members of my family. I personally am very open about my views to everyone in the community in which I live. Respect that, or I will just delete your comments.

"But I'm sensing a lack of integrity here and I don't think you want to address it."

Integrity? Puh-leeze! You wouldn't know the first thing about integrity in this context. And I promise I have more integrity than the people you deify, in terms of being a good husband, father, charity-giver, son, etc in private as well as in public.

"Please forgive me if I'm a bit critical."

It's your opinion, based on your prejudices and limited background.

"But you seem to have an agenda of self-congratulation and affirmation, where there should be an honest exploration of ideas."

Huh? Where's your honest disclosure?

"I think you're raising good questions, I just don't see answers that seem well thought out."

So, go ahead, show us some "well thought out answers" please. I tend to shoot from the hip, but I'm on very solid ground in my critiques. You are the one whose theology depends on denying the biological, archeological and astrophysical establishments.

6/04/2007 3:26 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Bt-too,

I have an idea. All sarcasm aside, I'd like to give you the opportunity to do a guest post.

You can do it on anything you like and I'll post it on the blog. You can critique specific mistakes in reasoning I've made, or tell about your wonderful yeshiva experiences, or discuss why you believe in creationism/Intelligent Design or debunk evolution, anything you like.

You will email it to me and I'll give it a separate post. Sound good? I look forward to reading your best points, as I'm certain others do as well.

Let me know if you accept m

6/04/2007 3:30 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Let me know if you accept my offer here in via email. Thanks.

6/04/2007 3:34 PM  
Blogger bt-too said...

Sounds fine. I will send an e-mail too.

6/04/2007 4:52 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

http://potw.news.yahoo.com/s/potw/41/left-behind

This fundamentalist sounds a lot like a Ba'al T'shuva/kiruv rabbi.

6/05/2007 1:17 PM  
Blogger Holy Hyrax said...

For example, orthodox jews in temple times executed people for sabbath violations. Today, thanks the the Shifting Moral Zeitgeist, that doesn't happen anymore.

Actually, just for pedantics sake, this was probably never done. During first temple times, there was a constant trend of idol worship and prophets trying to lead the nation away from that. Clearly there was no beit din back then that would bother with Sabbath violations when they had bigger problems. Not to mention the splitting of the kingdom. This is basically the main thrust of Nach and there is no outside evidence that executions were carried out. By the time second temple times roll in, you already have the beginnings of Rabbinic Judaism, which bascally did away with the death penatly.

6/10/2007 4:01 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

As I went to moderate comments, I found that there was a comment that was originally made last October, that never got posted. Sorry to Seaslipper.

It turns out the comment is very apropos so I'll post it below:

seaslipper has left a new comment on your post "Are You In a BT Yeshiva?":

"I went to Machon Shlomo for two years. Your description is accurate. In the summer program, they are fairly easy going. Lots of sports and barbecues. They coax you to Israel with promises of an "Ivy League" caliber program. Once you are stuck in Israel, they pound you with indoctrination. They didn't allow outside speakers, discouraged touring of Israel, and didn't allow dating. Most of the rabbis there were so arrogant. I had never seen anything like it before, even in my actual Ivy League school. The founder of the place was once an insurance salesman and his approach to Torah outreach reflected his background.

One of the rabbis embarrassed me before all of my classmates on my very first day for asking a question about the mesorah. The view there is that questions, particularly philosophical ones about the tradition, are irrelevant. All you need to do in life is study Tosfos on Baba Kama.

They were very controlling in nearly every way. They assign seats. They don't allow black hats. I still can't believe that I allowed myself to be treated like that. They do hold shiduchim over one's head and that's a big part of how they controlled me.

I wanted to leave, but they promote this view that Machon Shlomo is the only legitimate Yeshiva. I hate those idiots. They got my Torah career off to a bad start.



Posted by seaslipper to Ba'al Tshuvas Anonymous at 10/30/2006 2:19 PM"

6/10/2007 6:26 AM  
Blogger truthbtold said...

BTA,

I have one thing to tell you, and I'm not here to walk into your trap or puppet show where you finally get to pull the strings and play God.
I'll tell you straight what your problem is, you are a huge asshole! I don't want to sugarcoat this, like a lot of other guys who post here.......you are a huge prick and I will never apologize or feel bad for saying that! The saddest thing about all this is you will never hear that comment, because you are too big of a prick.
How do I know you are a prick, cause I am one too, and I can recognize a prick like a fat kid can recognize a smarty.
It is so painfully obvious that this whole website is just a cry for help.....you are not being noble and revealing the hypocrisy and falsehood of judaism, you are simply screaming and throwing a tantrum like a baby because you were unhappy with your experience. Could it be more obvious?! You have no regard for the people who you are hurting through this site, although that is understandable because you are hurting deeply.
Maybe you should go back to yeshiva, I hear its a good place to deal with difficult emotional problems, maybe the best place in the world to be.
Later Asshole.
Peter

9/07/2007 1:44 AM  
Blogger rachel said...

I do not know if anyone is going to read this. I am an off the derach BT who went to Neve and Eyaht. My house of cards collapsed and my faith in the entire oral torah, rabbis just unraveled. The story is too long for a blog and there is also a part of me that is very embarrassed because I am not sure how I bought into it? Anyways, I am hysterically laughing that 2 machon schlomo guys are “duke-ing it out.” I remember calling the Shadchan at Machon Slomo because I really wanted to meet a man from your Ivy League Yeshiva. I thought you guys were more normal. (Remember I went to Eyaht where they peddled the concept that your husband has to learn in kollel and you have to live in poverty, but at least your husband will be a Talmede Chacham; so normal is relative.) Anyway, I absolutely regret not meeting the Shadchan because the truth is, all I want is my own BIG PRICK and if I had only known that machon shlomo was full of them, I might have not left Jerusalem!

10/15/2007 2:47 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Hi Rachel,

LOL at your comment. I had to leave up the previous comment because it was so crazed. He didn't go to machon shlomo as far as I know.

I've heard your sentiments expressed by many different BT gals. The problem is that they almost never write blogs of their own. I always encourage them to.

I think the fact that most of the information and experience of Orthodoxy centers around males, women feel reluctant to post. Especially if they have no belief in the so-called mesora. They know the minute they cast doubt on it, unless they're biblical scholars, some frustrated frummie is going to have a field day with them.

check out the new blog in town, by another machon shlomo alum now OTD:

kiruvawarenessnetwork.blogspot.com

10/15/2007 2:55 AM  

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