Thursday, June 15, 2006

Guest Post from a BT Yeshiva Alum and Kollel/Kiruv Rabbi

After a spirited debate in the comments of the previous post, I invited Adam Singer to write a guest post. He tailored the post to address the main themes of this blog. Rather than distract from his post and dvar torah, a first for this blog, I will reserve any comments of mine for where else... the comments section. Thank you Adam for your contribution.


Guest Post by Adam Singer

I want to start by thanking BTA for allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts with the people who read his blog. I have thoroughly enjoyed our exchanges over the past few weeks, and I hope that we will be able to continue over e-mail or perhaps on this blog.

I wrote the following is a parsha sheet for parshas Korach this year. I have been reading the postings for the last few years and they seem in a vein which I tried to address in this piece.

Like BTA, I studied at Machon Shlomo, although I think I was there for longer than he was. The complaints that he and other raised against MS, other baale teshuva yeshivas, and Judaism in general are familiar. Some of them I have had myself. I think a lot of them are important points for example, if your marriage works well, then your “teshuva-experience” will be bliss. If it does not, or you have a hard time finding a “shidduch” the life of a baale teshuva can be very unpleasant indeed. But in all truth, isn’t that true of just about any life decision? If you have a good marriage, most everything in your life is going to be better and more pleasant. If not, you are probably tied to a lot of misery, regardless of whether or not you ever even investigated Torah and observant Judaism.

Becoming observant might have made your dating experience more complicated, but it also might have given you resources and advisors who can make your marriage and your life richer and more satisfying. More than anything else, I think a person’s satisfaction in observant Judaism has more to do with the individual’s psychological resources going into the experience, his/her determination to make it work, and his or her mazal in finding good rebbes and friends than it does on anything else. And that is what I feel is my real underlying input for this site.

I think that lot of people find Torah or seek Torah because they are somehow dissatisfied with their secular lives or they are simply unhappy. Torah presents them with resources and opportunities that make them feel like their problems are solved and they can now have fulfilled and satisfying lives as observant Jews. Then new challenges develop and the old one’s somehow linger on, when you thought you were rid of them. The truth is that Torah has given them new resources and avenues they wouldn’t have had before, and more importantly, I believe they are living a better and more truthful life. But nonetheless, this is the challenge phase where I think you and many others just give up. People find the same-old hackneyed accusations to excuse themselves from Torah be it Holocaust, Genesis, or Olam Haba and then walk out. But ultimately, I really believe there are more personal forces at work. There are great historians, geneticists, physicians, biologists, and ethicists who deeply believe in Torah and a Torah life. I am happy to connect you to them if you’d like. But ultimately I don’t think that’s the real issue here. I think the real issue is that being a baale teshuva will not necessarily solve all of your problems and it might bring challenges that you never expected.

A lot of us who found Torah because of something dissatisfying, probably would have benefited a lot from some professional counseling. Indeed, sometimes teshuva should probably be the prelude or companion to good counseling. People might need to be more aware of that. Some people who are looking to become more observant might be well advised to seek good professional counseling at the same time. If you are already observant and are feeling like something’s not going right, it might be a good time to look into some counseling. You might be amazed at how much better your life and your marriage will be with some good counseling. And you will almost certainly be amazed at how much Judaism is a part of the solution, and not the problem itself. Many will make the mistake of abandoning meaning and truth for easy answers and a more convenient lifestyle. I truly believe that they are missing out and I will be amazed if there are not many times in your life when you will deeply agree with me.

With that as my prelude, I invite your comments and feedback here or directly by e-mail at ajsinger613@yahoo.com. Truly yours, Adam Singer, Savannah, Georgia

The Beginning of Wisdom

Why do you, or do you not choose to believe in G-d and the Divinity of Torah? We seldom know what really motivates us. When we consider why we believe something to be wrong or right, if we do so at all, the answer is hidden beneath layer after layer of the effects of nature and nurture. Of course it is true that murder is wrong, of course it is true that every human being is invested with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…but what makes these things true? Are there foundations to these truths? Is it just possible that we take these truths to be self-evident because we lack the motivation or purpose to truly investigate their foundations?

Investigate the inner motivations of your beliefs and you may find that a lack of faith is tied more closely to fear or even selfishness than to any challenge science or history might weigh against G-d or the Torah. There are people who are well-grounded in science, engineering, medicine, law, philosophy, and history and who live lives deeply committed to Torah observence. Why don’t you? Or why do you? Questions about the roots of our beliefs are the foundations of the future of our people. The issue of why we believe what we believe is also at the core of the story of Korach in this week’s parsha.
Korach dissented against Moses during the Jewish people’s journey through the desert. In many cases, Korach appears to be a democratic visionary. His dialogues with Moshe are replete with accusations that Moses gave preferential treatment to himself and his family. Why should Moses’s brother be high priest? Why should Moses be the leader? All of the Jewish people are holy! No one should hold more authority than any other (see Bamidbar 16:1-14). But all of Korach’s populist pandering was only an attempt to garner support for his coup. It was rabble rousing of the worst sort meant to turn the people against Moses, the humblest and most selfless leader who ever lived.
What was really motivating Korach? Truth? Integrity? A heartfelt devotion to the people of Israel? The Torah subtly teaches the root of Korach’s actions in the following verse: “And he [Korach] took Korach, the son of Yitzhar, son of Kehas, son of Levy took…” (Bamidbar 16:1). This verse is impossible to understand in its simple literal meaning. The first word of the verse is “And he took”, referring to Korach (i.e. Korach took). But the second word of the verse is Korach. In other words, the verse literally says that Korach took Korach? How should we understand these words? What did Korach actually take?

Second, we must understand a nuance contained in Korach’s genealogy. Why does the Torah list so many of Korach’s forefathers? Usually the Torah lists the name of an individual’s father, and perhaps a grandfather. Why does the Torah mention three generations of Korach’s forebearers (i.e. his father, grandfather, and his great-grandfather)?
The sages explain how to understand the verse when it says that “Korach took Korach”. What does it mean for Korach to take himself? It means that figuratively, Korach took himself out of the world. He removed himself from the list of those who would lay the foundations of the Jewish people. He removed himself from those who could have a positive spiritual impact on the world. He removed himself from everything good and important in life, and this is what it means to be taken from the world.

The definition of the Korach being taken from the world is similar to the meaning of the following statement in Pirkei Avos 4:28, “Rabbi Elazar HaKappar says: envy, lust, and honor, take a person from the world.” In this statement Rabbi Elazar HaKappar is teaching that the drives rooted in envy, lust, and the pursuit of honor will cause a person to forfeit everything that is most precious in life and thus take him from “the world”.

Indeed, envy and the pursuit of honor were Korach’s true motivation for his dissent against Moses and this is how he was “taken from the world.” The Torah alludes to envy and the pursuit of honor in Korach’s character in its description of his lineage. Rashi (11th cent. France) explains that the Torah’s extensive description of Korach’s lineage is an allusion to his envy for a position of honor which was given to his cousin, Elizaphan son of Uzziel. Elizaphan, Korach, Moses, Aron, were all grandsons of a man named Kehas. Moses and Aron were the sons of Kehas’s first-born son Amram. Korach was the son of Kehas’s second son, Izhar. Elizaphan was the son of Kehas’s youngest son Uzziel.

Korach was irate that he, the son of an older son, had been passed over for the son of a younger son for the position of prince of the family of Kehas. This fury from envy and love of honor were the real foundations of Korach’s feud against Moses.
Korach was a man seeking to assuage his hurt pride by undermining Moses and the system of the Torah which is the real foundation of everything good and selfless in creation. Everything he said was true. The Jewish people are holy, and indeed ideally they should not require any individual to lead them. But the shortcomings of the Jewish people at the sin of the golden calf and elsewhere showed that they needed a leader. Korach’s selfishness and short-sightedness were the greatest proof that he was not the right person to lead. It is a sad testimony that a person can know many things which are true, and use them all to lead others in the wrong direction.

None of us is really immune to envy, desire, and honor. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how we could really find motivation without these things. But we must be aware of what direction these emotions are pointing us. The sages teach that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of G-d. If we are motivated by the awesomeness of what it means to live in a world with a Creator, if we are motivated by the understanding that we and everyone around us will someday be held accountable for every one of our actions or inactions, there is much we can accomplish to build our world. If we are animated by the recognition that my ego cannot be the sole motivating factor in my life, and we take Torah as a guide for how to direct ourselves to grow to become better, less selfish people, we have a chance at gaining a real and satisfying direction in our lives. We have a chance of fulfilling our true potential, and we have the potential to truly build our world.
This week take a moment to consider something which is truly good. You choose what this is. But ask - why is this good? What do I have to gain from it and what could others gain from it as well.

May we all be blessed to be true builders of our world and may Torah allow us to find comfort and meaning in every aspect of our lives. GOOD SHABBOS!!!



36 Comments:

Blogger BTA said...

Whew! That was a long one. I'm sorry that the formatting doesn't look so great, but I tinkered with it quite a bit and that was the best it looked.

I want to comment that the counseling idea is certainly a fine idea, but it doesn't "solve" the problem at least in the many anecdotal instincas I've witnessed. In fact, of the BTs with bad marriages that I have known personally, or who have contacted me through this blog, each and every one had either been in therapy or was currently in therapy.

Perhaps we should say that counseling should be obligatory *before* going to BT yeshiva!

I completely agree that people use judaism as an escape or as therapy. Most BTs that I know, especially males, come from broken homes, divorced parents. So, I agree with this point, just not the conclusion that therapy will resolve the issues and then OJ will become quite clearly convincing. Quite the opposite.

The aforementioned anecdotal cases seemed to go the other way- once they were getting therapy, OJ was less "therapeutic" and even more abstract and irrelevant to them.

I think it's quite dangerous to dismiss arguments against belief on the basis that they are well-trodden alone.

To say, as Adam does that "people find the same-old hackneyed accusations to excuse themselves from Torah be it Holocaust, Genesis, or Olam Haba and then walk out," he is engaging in a major fallacy- that because something is commonplace, yet still ignored by the orthodox establishment, it must therefore have been asked and answered.

Yes, these issues have been asked and yes, there are "answers."

But as the saying goes: "there are two kinds of answers, those that end the inquiry and those that generate new questions..." To answer the Holocaust "Where was God?" question with "he did it because of X,Y, or Z [our sins, the sins of reform, etc.] is to let god off the hook for incinerating children by the millions! There are simply no answers that satisfy, that make god seem the least bit compassionate, merciful, or wise. In fact, if the holocaust were a modern-day chapter of the Tanach, it would justify Dawkins' characterization of Yaweh as "the most vindictive character in all of fiction."

God, for all intents and purposes did not exist during the holocaust. His chosen people were burned alive, tortured and humiliated for years, the chasidim along with the reform. And in fact, the reform seemed to fare better on balance than the chassidim, when you consider that Freud, Einstein and others escaped while the chareidim sat around putting their trust in god to save them, or just being victimized generally because of unfortunate circumstances.

Likewise, genesis poses MAJOR problems and none of the answers are proof or are credible in a scholarly way at all. The flood altered carbon dating?! Noah's ark was a true story? Please.

There isn't a single scholarly person that Adam can point to who believes in Noah's ark the way chazzal did a thousand years ago. Not a single one.

Adam also engages in a classic fallacy that you see in kiruv all the time, the appeal to authority: "people smarter than you or I, doctors, philosophers, etc. all deeply believe in Orthodoxy, therefore we should just defer to their wisdom."

I disagree. There are no "proofs," certainly not about the holocaust, where you have no sages to give the same degree of guidance as the other topics.

People become frum because of a need, that much I agree about, but where we diverge is that it isn't that they have their questions answered, it's that having "proof" is secondary to fullfilling otherwise unmet needs, to use psychological parlance.

Call it an urge to believe, call it projection or transferrence, but don't call it proof, because there is none. Ultimately, the Torah is its own proof of itself, a tautology. And there isn't a single published biblical scholar who would confirm the orthodox view of the torah's divine authorship.

Now, turning to the experts, yes, there are mathematicians, physicists, doctors, etc who are orthodox. But how many evolutionary biologists? And just how frum are the scholarly academicians?

How many frum professional archeologists are left? Of those, how many concessions have they made that would make a sage cringe?Any modern published biblical scholars? The more advanced the expertise in the torah-authenticity related field, the more scarce the believers.

In short, orthodox judaism is *hard to believe*. Hence the need for kiruv rabbis and shabbatons and shiurim of "chizzuk" and the need for daily, constant davening, learning and brachos.

There are no kiruv pros out there to convince people about gravity, or quantum physics, as difficult as those areas are.

There are no summer evolution retreats or evolution yeshiva. You don't see conservative rabbis or institutions banning orthodox books of any kind, even the ones that call reformers heretics.

Think about it. In the intellectual realm, orthodoxy doesn't have any credentials to support it at all. The very top, most frum, most learned rabbis, aka "gedolim" such as R. Eliyashev, Rav Sheinberg, Rav Pam, etc. simply had no training or knowledge of the challenges posed by modern scholarship in archeology, biology, and the like.

These avatars of yiddishkeit just ignored or banned these ideas. They forbade anyone to even debate conservative or reform rabbis out of fear that they had everything to lose.

So, Adam, I must disagree. It's true that psychological reasons can turn a person off to anything, OJ included. However, OJ in the words of Ricky Ricardo, "has a lot of splainin' to do!"

It's difficult to believe in a omnipotent, actively involved god in this day and age, when there is no evidence of him, especially not him speaking to people, turning them to salt, announcing battles and floods in advance, etc.

Strangely, that god disappeared along with the end of prehistoric mythologies.

6/15/2007 12:58 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

As for the parsha piece, it was very well done.

But you provide a perfect example of what troubles me about OJ, and which has nothing to do with the need for counseling.

You talk about Korach as if he were a historical figure. You go into detail about his motivations and character. You, following the example of the Rabbis of yesteryear, engage in close reading of the wording of this or that posuk to draw conclusions and inferences as if they were cold hard facts.

But, if Korach didn't exist and this was not historical, it's basically a myth and we could learn as much from it as a greek myth of Odysseus or the like.

So, what proof do you have of Korach's existence other than the torah scroll? How about Moshe?

Doesn't it trouble you on some level that you are talking about things as if they happened as surely as "Abraham Lincoln issued the Gettysburg Address in 1863?"

Here is a depiction of the exact words of the torah, which demonstrates just how primitive it really is:
http://www.thebricktestament.com//the_wilderness/the_second_rebellion/nm16_01-02.html

Also, doesn't it trouble you that god is so vindictive and bloodthirsty? What of all the "HaRachamon" and Rav Pam writings about how nice Hashem is.

Here is a fabulous blog post which endeavors to total up ALL the people killed by God! A difficult task indeed, since, if the Torah is a true history of the world up to the Bronze Age, well then, HaShem killed many times more people than Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot combined. (33,000,000 humans, so that doesn't include all the millions of animals killed vengefully and sacrificially as well by the Bloodthirsty One.

http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.com/2007/01/gods-uncounted-killings-revisited-with.html#flood

As a believer in the literal truth of the Torah, isn't any of this registering as troubling to you on any level Adam? If you were a philistine, amorite, jebusite, hittite, canaanite, etc, how was god any different or better than Hitler?

I don't think any of the Torah is historically true, so I'm not making an evidentiary claim.

6/15/2007 1:16 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Dawkins says it all quite well in these two video clips.

http://newsbloggers.aol.com/2007/06/14/why-cant-science-and-religion-coexist/

6/15/2007 2:55 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

This is fabulous, and worth the time, btw:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3XSpjfyFis

6/15/2007 1:38 PM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>.But ultimately, I really believe there are more personal forces at work.>>>


This is really the essence of your argument. It has no substance, is shallow and naïve and is nothing more then an Ad Hominem attack against those who dare not to validate what you believe to be true. Unfortunately, it is a line of reasoning that is typical of fundamentalists of all religious persuasions and its ubiquity is evident from even a cursory perusal of fundamentalist Christians, Mormons and Muslims,etc literature.

This approach allows for the easy dismissal of challenges, thereby allowing the believer to evade responsibility for confronting any challenges, as well as protecting him psychologically from the cognitive dissonance and existential insecurity that emanates from taking these issues seriously. I do not blame you for this because this attitude was subtly (or not so subtly) inculcated in us at Machon Shlomo and is an essential element of most fundamentalist indoctrination. I do, however, find that its use at Machon Shlomo and other BT yeshiva’s is particularly pernicious, given the fact that many of the students are in the vulnerable situation of navigating their life in a new and uncertain world.

6/15/2007 4:58 PM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>. There are great historians, geneticists, physicians, biologists, and ethicists who deeply believe in Torah and a Torah life. I am happy to connect you to them if you’d like. But ultimately I don’t think that’s the real issue here. I think the real issue is that being a baale teshuva will not necessarily solve all of your problems and it might bring challenges that you never expected.>>..

Reframe : There are great historians, geneticists, physicians, biologists, and ethicists who deeply believe in Jesus . I am happy to connect you to them if you’d like.

Tolstoy sums it up beautifully when he writes:

“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabrics of their life.”


Adam I mean not offense, but this is incredibly naive. It also represents a complete lack of awareness of the issues. Have you honestly studied the historical and scientific challenges to Judaism’s claims? In all fairness, you are not really in a position to critique others criticism of Orthodox Judaism in general or the BT experience in particular unless you fully studied the massive challenges confronting the veracity of Judaism. You seem to have uncritically accepted the Party Line without any careful and open minded study or the issues. I realize this is a major undertaking, but without this kind of research and soul searching you really lack the moral authority to question others as you have done in your post, especially considering that your critique is based on a psychological profile of people you do NOT even know.

I want you to read Letter to My Rabbi . See if you have any answers, other then the typical shallow and fallacious dishonest apologetics that are common in Kiruv. If you or a Rabbi you know can honestly address the issues raised in this letter, I would welcome the opportunity to hear the response. Another interesting read is Response to Rabbi Segal and A List of Some Problematic Issues
I hope you can approach this with an open mind. It involves deep soul searching and possibly the inner strength to admit that a life altering decision was based on error. You must constantly ask yourself – Am I advocate or Am I a seeker of truth. In any event, I look forward to your response.

I used to think like you, but more maturity, as well as exposure to the overwhelming evidence against Torah’s veracity from every major discipline –archeology, paleontology, geology, biology, chemistry, and history enabled me to grow beyond this limited perspective. I wish you well in your own search.

6/15/2007 5:11 PM  
Blogger bt-too said...

Okay, I'm starting to understand some of the imperfections of this media now. This is now the the third time I've lost the beginning of a comment while trying to navigate between the blog and "Letter to My Rabbi".

In any case, I can now definitely understand how people get addicted to these blogs. Okay, now I'm going to try to actually to respond to some of this stuff.

I poked around "Letter to My Rabbi". I did not go to the Dawkins site or the YouTube links yet. I don't really know if I will or not. I am curious, but am starting to feel a bit pressed for time.

Re: "Letter to My Rabbi" and Satyaman...I poked around the letter, did not read the whole thing. If you did, kol hakavod, it's pretty massive. The guy deserves a thorough response, but I'm not sure that I'm really motivated enough to spend all the time doing it. I definitely admit, that's probably my own shortcoming but I do want to respond based on what I saw and my own perspective.

I was a poli sci major and bio minor in colllege while becoming frum and I really feel like I did my homework before launching into this whole life. I studied a good bit of history and biology in college and afterwards. Admittedly, I've made my mistakes and had my challenges, but I feel confident in the answers that I've come to and I didn't see a whole lot on this site or the "Letter to My Rabbi" site that I don't feel has really good answers. I'm going to say it in another way...

If you or Naftali was here in person with me and we were in one of those all-night kiruv schmoozes where we dissect every issue that stands between you and the choice to move forward, I think there'd be some real bang for the buck so to speak, we'd stay up all night, we'd do the research and I feel pretty strongly that if we were both approaching this thing with open minds and an interest in personal growth we'd wind up davening shachrit together or at least mincha...but I'm sort of intimidated at the idea of going through this whole site and then feeling like those who read it will skim it, not really care, or not get the point of what I'm trying to say anyway, or just plain not care.

Soooo, I'm sort of aplogizing right here and now for copping out and not writing a thorough piece-by-piece response to that site. But I am going to try to address some of the stuff that I saw there, just so you know I am thinking and I do believe there is a strong, accurate, and believable response to points he raises. So here goes...

I the section called "Discrepencies between the Torah and "reality": Naftali says the following:

We have a well-documented history of Egyptian civilization from the late 4th millennium BCE to the Greek conquest of Egypt in the 4th century BCE -- a summary of which may be found in any encyclopedia -

I need a definition of what constitutes "a well-documented history". To my knowledge, Egyptian history was a total and complete mystery until 1799 when a tablet called the Rosetta stone gave 19th century archaelogists a way to decipher hieroglyphics. The Rosetta stone is a tablet that allowed archaelogists to translate hieroglyphics into ancient greek.

Even with the Rosetta stone you still have the major problem of how civilizations document their histories. Most civilizations slant their histories to suit political purposes. If the story of the Jews in Egypt does not appear in Egyptian history, you have to ask yourself first, why you would expect the Egyptians to record it in the first place. What's more it's hard to envision anyone who would think that we have anything that could possibly be considered a thorough history of that time period. So I think that challenge is bit specious.

Indeed, most of Naftali's challenges regarding ancient history are based on citings from the Encylopedia Britannica (EB). Now I am a big EB fan and grew up with the stuff, but I wouldn't really quote it as dogma. If EB dates the shifts in language to 2100 BCE and this conflicts with the Torah's description of when we expect the Tower of Babel to have occured, we've got to come to some understanding for why the EB folks are coming up with this date. Often times these dating systems can be pretty subjective. The Gregorian calendar we use only started in 1582 (I confess I got this fact from Wikipedia). That leaves 3,000 years when time might have been calcluated according to inumerable different systems. Pinpointing exact dates in the ancient world is really tricky. So, this is also a bit hard to see as a real challenge.

Regarding Chu-Carrol and other attacks on Behe, I have perused the blog-o-spehere and there seem to be a lot of kind of ad hominem attacks and disputes on both sides of the issue, but I don't see anything that's concise enough to really bother paging through. If someone can give me a reference to a clear and concise opposition (say 1 page or less) or something from a mainstream journal or by an accomplished PhD in bio or biochem I'd be really interessted in seeing that.

Regarding my article, it really wasn't an arguement at all. It was my sharing what I feel is a soul-searched response to my experiences here. As I said before and have shared in brief here and in other places, I don't think there's any shortage of really good answers to all of the complaints raised about holocaust, history, or biology. I just don't think that's the issue.

If someone really sincerely tells me, man I really want to believe in G-d, I really want to keep Shabbos, I really want to follow Torah, but it just kills me that G-d would let so many innocent people die in the Holocaust, I will happily go through any of several well-thought-out and ethical answers to that issue. As I think I have on some issues. I just don't feel like that's the crowd I'm dealing with here.

Correct me if I'm wrong but this blog and others are basically forums for people who've stopped observing mitzvahs and are trying to assuage guilty consciences and support each other in the dangers of a life-style which thousands of people living with happiness and fulfillment. Correct me if I'm wrong over here.

Okay, I need to go to bed now. Again, thanks BTA and I hope our conversations will continue.

-Adam

6/17/2007 12:38 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

I'll just address your parting shots.

"Correct me if I'm wrong but this blog and others are basically forums for people who've stopped observing mitzvahs"

Yes, because all they got at the outset were kiruv guys who tried to take them to all-night coffee shop discussions, so this is their first time to vet fact-based, non-emotionally manipulative discussions.

"and are trying to assuage guilty consciences and support each other"

I think, yes, there is a guilty feeling at first, but then as things return to normalcy and detoxification/deprogramming has run its course, guilt is hardly an issue.

"in the dangers of a life-style"

Dangers? Kiruv scare tactic alert! There's no danger whatsoever, so why pretend there is? Why do people like you call teenagers who question this archaic faith "at-risk" along with the drug-addicts?

"thousands of people living with happiness and fulfillment."

Again, I agree. A few thousand truly happy (not secretly harboring doubts) people among a million or so frum jews sounds about right. Ignorance for that fraction is bliss.

Sleep well.

6/17/2007 1:54 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

One other comment, Adam, is that this seems to be a pattern with all committed OJs who tiptoe into the realm where doubt is expressed.

The read watever skeptical literature trying to disprove it along the way. Your illustration of this was a humorous one, btw. But, in truth you are side-stepping opening yourself up to possible doubts and disproofs.

Satyaman and I both went thousands of miles from home, forgoing career advancement, doing whatever we needed to do to seek what we thought at the time was possibly true.

We came away not believing it was. I never would have gone if the yeshiva had been accurately disclosed as anti-questioning.

It was a place where guys learned how to fit in and adjust to a new lifestyle, with little or no emphasis on the factual underpinnings of the religion. It was strange and cult-like.

Many guys, despite the yeshiva's stated aim of having them there for 2 years and then sending them back to the working world, could never again reintegrate into anything other than charity-supported kiruv and kollel situations.

We all have our biases, to be sure, but if you are making a living off of kiruv now, I don't think anyone can expect you to honestly assess the facts.

What you are doing is the polar opposite of what Satyaman and other yeshiva-bound BTs did. They postponed or abandoned careers to seek the truth, then learned enough to doubt the whole thing and abandoned it, whereas your career path depends entirely on maintaining belief or at least the impression of belief, or you're out of work. And now that you spent all your post-college time in yeshiva or as a Rabbi, your resume would probably not attract too many offers if you were to become a non-believer and went to seek a job.

6/17/2007 2:07 AM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>>I feel pretty strongly that if we were both approaching this thing with open minds and an interest in personal growth we'd wind up davening shachrit together or at least mincha...>>>>>


After having studied these issues for 10+ years it is obvious to this blogger that your responses reflect a very dilettante and pedestrian understanding. It is very clear to me that you DO NOT EVEN KNOW THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW. Hence, I am left wondering if you even have the capacity to acknowledge that maybe what you were taught is not true. This kind of humility, which is a prerequisite to a real honest search, appears to be absent and as such any claim to
“approaching this thing with open minds and an interest in personal growth”
is disingenuousness. That to you Torah’s truths are a forgone conclusion is evident from your statement “I feel pretty strongly that if we were both approaching this thing with open minds and an interest in personal growth we'd wind up davening shachrit together or at least mincha..” This statement belies any claim to an “open mind.” Can you really honestly even entertain the possibility that it may not be true? If you want to be taken as credible, YOU need to be honest with yourself and others about your willingness to entertain the possibility that Orthodox Judaism in general and Machon Shlomo in particular fails to corroborate the claims it makes and the views it represents.

How do you know if you are being intellectually honest? Well, for starters, let’s examine your motives by asking a few questions:

What do you have to loose if Frumkeit is false? Do you loose your family?

Do you have a substitute for the comprehensive set of ideas that has shaped your consciousness and guided your actions if they are proven false?

Did you become Frum in part to escape? Are you escaping from all those pressures that pervade upper middle class secular Jewish life? Maybe you, like many of us, come from a family with a very successful father, mother, or sibling, etc and Torah life provides a convenient cover for your inability or unwillingness to live up to their standards? It is in this way that many hide behind prolonged yeshiva study or kollel life.

Did you become frum because you are emotionally ill equipped to deal with a world of subtlety and nuance and find comfort in the black and white mindset of fundamentalist cheredi Judaism.

Are you emotionally capable of admitting that such a life altering decision was made in error? Would the embarassement in front of friends and relatives be too much to bear?

I don’t know you but I hope that I can be a catalyst for your own self- discovery. You, as well as those contemplating attending Machon Shlomo, would be well advised to reflect deeply on their desire to embrace Cherdi fundamentalist Judaism. You and others may find that it is rooted in deep emotional needs that may have predicates in harmful and pathological beliefs that may not be on the surface nor easily seen and may require more professional probing to uncover.

6/17/2007 1:59 PM  
Blogger satyaman said...

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6/17/2007 2:57 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

As is obvious to anyone who has read my prior postings, I agree with Satyaman 100%.

A. Adam has not (yet) demonstrated a willingness to study in depth the kind material that addresses these issues. Feldheim/Artscroll books alone won't do.

B. Maclone Shlomo has a very clear policy of accepting guys who have "signed on," have little basic knowledge of judaism and who are not.

I think the place will change and may already have with the advent of the internet and blogs like talk reason and to some extent this blog. But it is more likely that MS will evolve and adapt more than change its core nature.

It will still seek to transform via a cookie cutter process, nice, smart secular guys into well... McClones.

I've often wondered what the blogs have done to MS. Anyone know?

6/17/2007 3:56 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Also interesting is that of the MS alum who go into kiruv instead of "the real world" most seem to get abandoned by Gershenfeld to a great extent, unless they have great fundraising potential.

These folks tend to wait around for the kiruv crumbs to fall from the table of Maclone Shlomo. They have little power, because the ones Gershenfeld panders to are the ones whose parents are rich or who are (less often) independently wealthy. I've seen this abandonment of MS alum who become kiruv pros in several cases.

It's too bad they've strayed from Rosenberg's stated vision of getting guys back into the real world after a year or two, but I think Robert Gershenfeld, having adopted the chareidi view that learning all day is the most important thing. The fact that he left a Yale law school education (as he mentioned dozens of times along with his fantastic SAT scores) behind and his parents were Professors, probably solidified for him that getting more guys to be like him was all the more validation for his life choices.

6/17/2007 4:04 PM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>. I was a poli sci major and bio minor in colllege while becoming frum and I really feel like I did my homework before launching into this whole life>>

What does any of this have to do with doing your homework? You studied bio- great but this is completely irrelevant to the core issues. You say you studied history –okay tell me about the time period of the flood. I am sure you must be familiar with the over 1 million artifacts in Mesopotamia alone, not to mention the even greater number of Egyptian artifacts. You must also be familiar with how artifacts are dated and how they age is corroborated by multiple independent methods. For example a tablet that records sales of grain is carbon dated to 3,000 bce and interestingly enough that same tablet notes an eclipse in that year, an eclipse that, surprise, could only have occurred during the exact same time period in which the tablet has been carbon dated. Wow. And also the tablet is found in a strata where hundred of other artifacts are found - - all carbon dated to the exact same time. How come for the 500 years before during and after the flood, the was massive evidence, such as just noted that shows the presence of a robust civilization throughout the world –China, Mesopotamia, Egypt during that entire time period. Moreover, during this time, well before Bavel, the Chinese spoke Chinese and the Acadians Acadian,etc. NO ONE EXCEPT A FUNDAMENTALIST BELIEVES IN THE FLOOD AND BAVEL! There is positive evidence it never happened in every field of study in the modern world. If you know the issues and did your homework as you say, how come you have no idea about the time period of the flood.


Even Dr Gerald Schroeder, when asked in a discovery seminar (at the time he was discussing relativity - -which by the way has already been debunked even by Frum Physicist as a complete misuse of the principles of relativity) about the flood flat out said “I don’t deal with that.” Can you believe that! His expertise is in geology and he won’t even answer this basic question. Ask our Rosh yeshiva if he believes a flood actually happened. If he asserts that a global flood occurred 4,000 years ago he is either a fool or a liar. My guess is he won’t touch the question; he will obfuscate.

Listen well to what I have to say: NO educated scholar, even orthodox ones, believes a worldwide flood occurred 4,000 years ago. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. PLEASE READ Marc Shapiro, a modern orthodox scholar on the Flood.
See also http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CH/CH550.html.

6/17/2007 7:42 PM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>>but I feel confident in the answers that I've come to and I didn't see a whole lot on this site or the "Letter to My Rabbi" site that I don't feel has really good answers.>>>

G,d are you naive, gullible and ill – informed.
>>>I need a definition of what constitutes "a well-documented history". >>>

As stated above, how about millions of artifacts. Good g,d – you really need to familiarize yourself with the voluminous scholarship on the issue and develop some understanding on the historical process.


>>>To my knowledge, Egyptian history was a total and complete mystery until 1799 when a tablet called the Rosetta stone gave 19th century archaelogists a way to decipher hieroglyphics. The Rosetta stone is a tablet that allowed archaelogists to translate hieroglyphics into ancient greek.>>>

We also knew very little about modern physiology in 1799, but we can fill libraries with millions of books on the topic today. Your comment is a complete non-sequitor.



>>>Even with the Rosetta stone you still have the major problem of how civilizations document their histories. Most civilizations slant their histories to suit political purposes. If the story of the Jews in Egypt does not appear in Egyptian history, you have to ask yourself first, why you would expect the Egyptians to record it in the first place. >>>

No - -you have to ask yourself why their diehard enemies, who were wanting for the opportunity to attack them did not. After all Edgypt army had been demolished in the yam suf and its economy would have suffered severe dislocation with loss of 3 million slaves. Not only did the enemies not attack Egypt, they did not even mention in their very detailed accounts that anything had even happened. This is very strange because we have their enemies diplomatic accounts that are usually very detailed on such occurrences.

6/17/2007 7:43 PM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>> Indeed, most of Naftali's challenges regarding ancient history are based on citing from the Encyclopedia Britannica (EB). Now I am a big EB fan and grew up with the stuff, but I wouldn't really quote it as dogma.>>>


He cites the encyclopedia not as the source but as a representative source, that is easily accessible to most people. He could just as well cite hundreds if not thousands of scholarly papers on the topic.

>>> Regarding my article, it really wasn't an arguement at all. It was my sharing what I feel is a soul-searched response to my experiences here. As I said before and have shared in brief here and in other places, I don't think there's any shortage of really good answers to all of the complaints raised about holocaust, history, or biology. I just don't think that's the issue.>>>

“No shortage of really good answers.” I hate to belabor the point but you are really naïve and ill informed. You assumed there were good answers –that’s all. Most physicists, biologist etc that you mention have very niched or abstract specialization that is completely unrelated to biblivcal scholarship issues and most know next to nothing about the historical process or basic historical context of the bible.. Really you’d be surprised. When I started asking such people basic questions I was shocked at how little they knew and even more shocked that most never even asked these basic questions.

6/17/2007 7:45 PM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>are trying to assuage guilty consciences>>
There you go pathogizing again. Remeber don't hrow stones when you live in aglass house.

>>>> support each other in the dangers of a life-style which thousands of people living with happiness and fulfillment.>>>

No I am trying to give people the benefit of my experience and knowledge because they can not count on places like Machon Shlomo to make a full and fair disclosure regarding orthodoxy. If it makes you happy Kol Ha kovod, but don't think for a minute that it is morally acceptable to be complicit, even if unknowingly in presenting Judaism under false pretenses.

6/17/2007 7:49 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

I am relocating this post for jacob because he posted on one of the first posts on this site and not too many people are likely to see it and respond. It happens to be right on the topic in the comments section.

Jacob said...
uncertain 1

I was considering going to Machom schlomo and I saw the whole rode show going on. Yet I found somthing special about the rabbis teaching there, and I feel there is things I can learn about life from them. Yet I have no idea if I believe in god to begin with. the way it sounds is that this place does not adress questions like this. I orginally thought I could learn from these people just how to become a better person, a more giving person. Yet now im told there not really there for questions. Just out of curiosity from all you people who did go to machom shlomo, what did you get out of the program? am i correct that it is possible to go there and get the self improvement techniques out of these rabbis and then not become religious? What should I be thinking when Im trying to figur out if I want to explore Judism more

6/18/2007 10:24 PM

6/18/2007 11:34 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Jacob said:
"Just out of curiosity from all you people who did go to machom shlomo, what did you get out of the program?"

Each person will have his own opinion. I think if they told you it's ok to come and improve your character- something very worthwhile- without becoming a religious zealot, that would be ideal!

However, that is not their cup of tea. They probably won't even let you in if you admit to having serious doubts even after being exposed to their "road show" as you put it.

The rabbeim are certainly very well-mannered and intelligent and warm (as long as you defer to them about reality). However, if you go there, you will probably find a cult-like environment where you are forced into a cookie-cutter roleplaying situation.

There are other places. I've heard of Chapell's. Also, I wonder if there are any conservative places in Israel yet? Most BT places are pretty nutty and conformist. I'd say that if you really want that kind of guidance and experience to better yourself, again and ADMIRABLE GOAL, you might want to explore other options. I wish I knew of a place that wasn't so dogmatic.

Btw, there are certainly guys who went there with doubts, kept them to themselves and still liked the experience. I just think if you stick to your guns about not believing all of the silly religious dogmas, you are going to be very unhappy there.

"am i correct that it is possible to go there and get the self improvement techniques out of these rabbis and then not become religious?"

I suspect that is the case with at least 1/3 of the guys there, although most won't admit it. Still,such a path is potentially going to be very grating on your nerves.

6/18/2007 11:41 PM  
Blogger satyaman said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/19/2007 12:20 AM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>Yet I found somthing special about the rabbis teaching there>>

There is something special about many of the Rabbis there, and I say this despite my criticisms above. On a personal level I have very fond feelings toward many of the students and faculty and I am grateful in this respect for having gone to Machon Shlomo. But the truth is you would meet just as many special people in any religious community setting, especially one that is geared toward orienting the newly religious, whether this would be a born again Christian Bible school in the south or at an Ashram in California. I am not recommending you become a born again, I just want to point out that that special something is really just the result of being in the company of spiritually oriented people.

>>I can learn about life from them.>>

You can, but you can learn the same from many different places.

>>Yet I have no idea if I believe in god to begin with.>>
Even if you believed in G,d, as I do, I still would not recommend going to Machon Shlomo unless of course you want to be a fundamentalist Jew and I don’t necessarily mean that in a pejorative way. It does provide a meaningful life for many. It is also a nightmare for many.


>>> I orginally thought I could learn from these people just how to become a better person, a more giving person.>>

You could, but as stated above you could learn this in many places

>>> i correct that it is possible to go there and get the self improvement techniques out of these rabbis and then not become religious?>>

Not really. The people I have seen that refined their character in a major way from the experience were true believers. The belief itself is vital; it provides that extra umph that is so necessarily to changing character. No doubt it can be done there and I had seen some amazing transformations, but these people are the minority. Most people really do not change that much and some are surprisingly just as arrogant and self centered as they were before the experience.

6/19/2007 12:46 AM  
Blogger satyaman said...

Please read below a classic example of the harmful nature of pathogizing that is an essential part of cheredi indoctrination.

It really does shock the conscious. I feel for the children who experience this kind of emotional abuse; It is a grotesque violation of the very humanity of those for whom the Cheredi world claims feelings of compassion and it is unfortunately an all too common tactic to keep the masses, particularly children in line.


> its-parents-fault

"At the encouragement of his former mashgiach, a young adult wrote a very moving and eloquent letter relating how the difficulties he had with his parents led him to abandon Yidishkeit. At first, the periodical rejected the letter. After some pressure was brought to bear on the editor, the letter was indeed published, but only in a censored and heavily edited manner, which portrayed the letter writer in a very negative and distorted light. In fact, the editor implied, based on virtually no evidence, that the writer had a serious problem with his perception of reality. It was a classical case of trying to deny the message by killing the messenger. When the young man's therapist wrote a letter of protest in order to set the record straight, the editor refused to publish the letter because of concern of "causing additional pain" to parents of rebellious children. Similar concern for the feelings of the unjustly maligned youngster was not expressed.”

So Adam, I know you are well intentioned and that you sincerely believe in Yideshkeit, but please refrain from pathogizing. As adults, me and others can handle the abuse, but be aware that its use with adults has repercussions well beyond the immediate context of its use. It contributes to creating an environment that eventually leads to those less responsible doing this to children.

6/19/2007 11:26 AM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>>.>>>.I poked around the letter, did not read the whole thing……. I'm not sure that I'm really motivated enough to spend all the time doing it >>>

This is basic stuff. To really be educated on the issues you should probably be reading at least 1500 to 2000 pages of similar material. If you are not willing to even read this, how you can even pretend to be genuinely and honestly committed to the truth. This *limitation* is very consistent with my understanding of the type of men that go to Machon Shlomo. Most of the guys had accepted convention when they were secular by going to all the rights schools and considering all the right professions, etc and they just as easily accepting of the convention of fundamentalist cheredi Judaism in its place.In fact, I do not even think Rav Gershonfeld would accept a real questioning type. I have first hand knowledge of a case when a moodus candidate appeared not to be accepted because he dared to question orthodoxy as he saw it. This person had enough of a background in Hebrew, Tanach and ancient near eastern culture to be able to spot problems, from a modern scholarship point of view, in the presentations at Moodus. When sincerely questioned on these matters, the Rav and other Rebbeim would evade the questions by intimating, sort of like how you do, that emotional consideration be explored. This obfuscating, by way of insidious emotional manipulation, is really inexcusable and irresponsible>>>

6/19/2007 3:37 PM  
Blogger bt-too said...

Okay this really is a lot of fun.

Here's my question Satyaman, maybe a couple of questions. First, what does Satyaman actually mean. That's sort of parenthetical.

More importantly I have a question about this post:
"don't think for a minute that it is morally acceptable to be complicit, even if unknowingly in presenting Judaism under false pretenses."

I don't know that I present Judaism under false pretenses. I think I'm pretty clear about what I do and don't know and what I find as uncertainties. I'm really interessted in your understanding of morality. Do you have some kind of scale for what is and is not moral? Could you write something about that?

Thanks,
Adam

6/19/2007 9:47 PM  
Blogger BTA said...

Adam, welcome back, though we lost you!


You said:
"I don't know that I present Judaism under false pretenses. I think I'm pretty clear about what I do and don't know and what I find as uncertainties."

Really? You tell prospective BTs that you have doubts or that you don't have much factual support for the claims and beliefs you have? If so, kudos to you. Could you share some of those doubts here?

"I'm really interessted in your understanding of morality. Do you have some kind of scale for what is and is not moral?"

We can all agree that lying is not moral. I also think the trusty Golden Rule applies quite well. When you go to a teacher who claims to have all the answers and wants you to change your whole life, possibly abandon your family for years, wouldn't you expect that person to in fact have all the evidence and facts that he pretends to have?

That would be moral. I just took a scuba lesson. I'd hate to get into the deep end of the pool go under water and find out the tank was empty only to surface and have the instructor sheepishly admit "I never said I knew how to fill the tank!"

Likewise, you have spent very little time on the issues raised by the Letter to my Rabbi. I think Satyaman raised a valid point- as a kiruv pro, you owe it to prospective "converts" to have read 2000 pages of material such as Baruch Halpern's David's Secret Demons (which surveys archeology, history and biblical criticism)

How about you start with that book and then check back with us? That would be fantastic.

On the other hand, are you perhaps worried that, 2,000 pages later, you might have the emunah of Carl Sagan and be totally confused and depressed? Even a little worried?

Glad to see you back.

6/20/2007 12:51 AM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>.I'm really interessted in your understanding of morality. Do you have some kind of scale for what is and is not moral? Could you write something about that?>>>

Before we discuss what is moral, a question that has been asked, by every society in every time period since the beginning of time, I would appreciate it if you would answer a few questions first so that I can get a sense of how you view moral questions in general. In order to do this I need to pose a few questions and then posit a few hypothetical situations.

First, how do you feel about the Western concept of equality before the law? What do you think this concept is based on? Is it based on Jewish ideals? Or is it based on enlightenment ideals?

Do you agree that it is moral that in our society, I, as a Jew am accorded the same dignity and rights as any other human being? If you agree, as I’m sure you do, I want to know why you think this is just or moral. I also want to know how you would feel if laws were different in America, if the laws were more like Nazi Germany in the late 30’s before they actually started genocide. I mean the Nierenberg laws.

An example of such inequitable Nierenberg type laws would a criminal code that decrees that a Jew would be executed for accidentally killing a gentile, whereas a non Jew would only pay damages. Does such a law seem moral or just?

What about a law that prohibited a Non-Jew from saving the life of a Jew? What if that same law also made it a crime, subject to the death penalty, for a person save the life of a Jew, unless he could prove in court that not saving the Jew could result in a loss of American gentile life due to Jewish animosity. Would this be moral? Would this be just?

Lets illustrate the moral dilemma with an example: Imagine, an old Jewish man on a cold sub zero night in the middle of what happens to be an almost all non-Jewish city. The old man slips on the ice, breaks his hip and cracks his head. He lays there for hours, crying in the freezing cold, in pain, and deeply afraid. Imagine that he lay there suffering for 6 or 7 hours before finally dying. Imagine that during this whole time dozens of people walk by and ignore his pleas. Could you do this Adam? Would your heart bleed for the poor old man? If yes, where does this kind of feeling and sensitivity come from? Does it come from any set of laws external to yourself or does it come from something innate within you, something that seems to be hardwired into you own humanity? Would you consider such laws to be moral?

How do think, from a cross cultural perspective, human beings throughout the world would view such cold, cruel and heartless laws. Myself, having lived in more then a dozen countries and having worked with people in every major continent in the world, would feel comfortable saying that universally most people would find that these laws shock the conscience; it would deeply offend their own innate and hard wired moral sense. What do you think?

Let’s discuss another scenario. Lets say that a murderous and truly evil non –Jew was about to kill a nice Jewish women for no reason other then for the thrill of it. Let’s say a witness, in this case, another non Jew, follows his conscious and kills the pursuer. Now, would it be just if American law would execute the good Samaritan non jew for murder. After all the law says that one can not kill a fellow gentile to save the life of a Jew, even when the gentile has no valid reason to engage in such an act (e.g. self defense). Would this be just? Would this be moral?

Now let’s take this hypothetical one step further and pretend that this imaginary society considers the nature of the Jew to be of a completely different species - -one really akin to an animal, and that this attitude has its roots in an ancient and sacred tradition; a tradition with many venerated and holy sages. On such sage, Mr. Ra'avad, when discussing the nature of the Jew writes:
"for the Jews are like animals…and one who thinks of them as something [worthwhile] will gather the wind in his fist." Another sage writes “'You (Non-Jews) are called men and the Jews are not called men.” A third sage, named Mr. Abe Issac Kook, writes: "The difference between the Non Jewish soul, in all its independence, inner desires, longings, character and standing, and the soul of all the Jews, on all of their levels, is greater and deeper than the difference between the soul of a man and the soul of an animal.”

Adam, what would you think of such a society? Does it sound sort of the Nazi literature that dehumanized jews?

I would appreciate your take on this before we proceed. It is a vital element of any discussion on morality.

6/20/2007 12:58 AM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>.don't know that I present Judaism under false pretenses. I think I'm pretty clear about what I do and don't know and what I find as uncertainties.>>

OKAY do you disclose to kiruv prospects that nature of the Jewish relationship to non-jews such as the halachas below:

A Jew passing gentile graves or seeing a multitude of gentiles must declare: "Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert" (Jeremiah 50:12). A Jew passing a church (and according to one opinion any gentile residence) must say: "The Lord will destroy the house of the proud" (Proverbs 15:25).

6.2) The injunction against harboring hatred in one's heart applies solely to Jews.

6.3) A Jew is not required to mourn (e.g. sit shiva) for his gentile brother, sister (that is, the offspring of his father from a gentile woman), son, or daughter (that is, his offspring from a gentile woman). A proselyte doesn't have to mourn over his gentile mother and father.

6.4) In respect to a gentile, the law permits revenge and rancor. Similarly, the commandment "Love thy fellow as thyself" does not apply to gentiles.

6.5) The injunction against slander applies only in respect to slandering a Jew.

6.6) It is forbidden to give a gift to a gentile unless one is familiar with him and can therefore expect to get favors in return. This law does not apply to gifts given to an unfamiliar ger toshav -- it is permissible to give him a gift unconditionally.

6.7) It is forbidden to praise or bless a gentile.

6/20/2007 1:06 AM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>.don't know that I present Judaism under false pretenses. I think I'm pretty clear about what I do and don't know and what I find as uncertainties.>>

OKAY do you disclose to kiruv prospects the unconscionably discriminatory and inhuman laws that apply to Non-jews. If not why not? Don't you think they should learn about the fundamental nature of Jew and non jew. Should'nt they be taught the nature of the goyim is like those "whose flesh is the flesh of donkeys" (Ezekiel 23:20. A good way to help them understand non-jewish inferiority would be to discuss the laws that G,d himself has ordained for them vis a vis the Jews


1.1) In principle, every person practicing idolatry (whether a gentile or a Jew) should be put to death by a court of law. Idolatry is attributing divinity to any object (physical or spiritual) other than the one and only G-d, whether this is done through ritual (such as prayer, offerings of incense, or the like) or by a mere statement of faith.

Several contemporary religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism, are undoubtedly considered idolatry. As for Christianity, there is a dispute among Halachic authorities, but the vast majority consider it idolatry as well. Islam, on the other hand, is not considered idolatry.


It is permissible (and even commanded) for anyone to kill idolatrous Jews (and those Jews, including atheists and agnostics, who publicly reject the divine authority of Halacha) anywhere and anytime it is possible. However, contemporary Halachic authorities have ruled that this law doesn't apply nowadays.

1.2) Killing a gentile (even an idolater, without a court hearing) in peaceful times is forbidden. (According to most opinions, during a war any person from the gentile enemy nations may be killed.) However, a Jew who murders a gentile (even in peaceful times and even intentionally) is not punishable by death in the human courts (under normal circumstances). According to some opinions he is not punishable at all (under normal circumstances) by the human courts. But a gentile who kills a Jew, even purely by accident and unintentionally, must be put to death. This applies to a ger toshav as well. There is a single opinion according to which a ger toshav who killed a Jew by accident is not put to death, but only goes into exile (like a Jew who killed by accident).

1.3) It is forbidden to save a gentile who is in mortal danger or cure him from a fatal condition, even for payment, unless there is a danger that a failure to do so will cause animosity towards Jews. According to one opinion it is permissible to save a gentile in mortal danger, but one doesn't have an obligation to do so. This law doesn't apply to a ger toshav, whom Jews have an obligation to sustain.

1.4) A Jew is forbidden to assist a gentile woman in labor. If a Jewish woman works as a midwife, she is obliged to assist in the childbirth to avoid antagonizing the gentiles, but only on a weekday and only for a fee. A Jewish woman is forbidden to breastfeed a gentile baby (except when this is vital to her own health). It is permitted to assist a ger toshav woman in labor (on a weekday) and to breastfeed a ger toshav baby.

1.5) It is forbidden to desecrate the Shabbat to save the life of a gentile, unless there is a danger that a failure to do so will cause animosity. There are different opinions whether this law applies to a ger toshav.

1.6) A gentile woman in labor must not be given assistance on Shabbat, even if no Shabbat violation is involved. One is allowed to assist a ger toshav woman in labor on Shabbat, but only if no severe Shabbat violation is involved.

6/20/2007 1:15 AM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>>First, what does Satyaman actually mean>>>>

I am actually embarrassed to tell you, but I came up with it on the spur of the moment when I was creating the blog. I really could not think of a name so I decided to create one that reflected my love for Shabbos. The name is an acronym that is supposed to denote the sanctity of the Sabbath where a MAN can rise to great heights of holiness. At the time I loved Shabbat. I probably still do today, just not as much. Anyway, the name, which I haphazardly wrote, was supposed to be an acronym for SaturdayYouAre(a) Man. By the time I realized how stupid this was it was too late. I already had the name. In any event, please don’t laugh.

6/20/2007 3:47 PM  
Blogger Holy Hyrax said...

Can I join in?

6/29/2007 2:26 PM  
Blogger satyaman said...

>>>I was considering going to Machom schlomo and I saw the whole rode show going on.>>>

Did you just come back from Sinai Retreats?

7/02/2007 11:30 AM  
Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Satyaman, to be fair, I believe I read and responded to the Letter to My Rabbi, at least in an abbreviated form. I recall a pleasant email exchange between us, perhaps about 5 months ago.

7/02/2007 7:17 PM  
Blogger satyaman said...

Rabbi Joshua Maroof

I still look upon your well thought out response with fondness - - because of your intellectual depth and congeniality - - and appreciation - -because of the time required for such a response.

The section that you responded to, however, was not among the more important issues that I wanted to bring the Posters attention to. I mentioned the Letter to highlight issues of historicity, such as the flood, as well as the many historical anachronisms in Genesis (Ur of the Chaldeans, Philistines during Abrahams time, etc) and moral dilemmas of Chazal’s attitude toward non-Jews. You may not be as concerned about these issues given your more open and liberal approach to the Torah’s interpretation. Whereas you give serious consideration to modern scholarship, even where you disagree, the Poster glosses over the many issues that such scholarship raises in a most unthinking manner.

The BT yeshiva we all attended - -Machon Shlomo - - subscribes to a Cheredi fundamentalist version of Torah. Part of their approach includes not only the glossing over disconfirming realities, but something far more insidious; they impugn the character of those who take exception to their very narrow perspective. Look at he way the guest poster depicts those who have come to question Torah Judaism: “I think the real issue is that being a baale teshuva will not necessarily solve all of your problems and it might bring challenges that you never expected.” Did it ever occur to the guest poster that maybe, just maybe, one could sincerely question orthodoxy as a matter of principle!? That maybe its *truths* are far from obvious even for those who make an earnest effort to investigate.

With regard to your critique of Zeligman’s section “Tradition -- is it reliable?”, I believe that you made many valid points. I do not however, think that your comments undermine any contention that Kuzari type arguments do NOT prove the truth of Torah. Much of this has already been addressed by XGH. Maybe some time in the future, when both of us have more time, we can discuss this and related issues; I have cancelled my subscription to Machon Shlomo’s Cheredi version of reality, but I am always open to other points of view that conform to reason and common sense - - from a spiritual, as well as an intellectual perspective.

7/03/2007 12:04 PM  
Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Satyaman, I would certainly be open to having such a dialogue with you. You seem like a genuinely reasonable and open minded person that I share enough common ground with that discussion would be fruitful.

7/04/2007 7:55 PM  
Blogger prof said...

hello
vous pouvez inscrire votre blog sur jewisheritage.fr
shalom

7/12/2007 7:09 AM  
Blogger dihirod said...

Adam is one of the first (possibly the first) person to have had the guts to publicly proclaim what I have been ranting about for years - so maybe we're both wrong! I'm not going into the debate portion of his article because it would take too long and has been well discussed. I mean here the first bit about counseling for BTs. I've got nearly 40 years of that behind me and seen an awful lot of water (and other effluence) go under the bridge in that time. I've also spent most of that time learning. If you care to take a deep look at the so-called mussar works of the 11th-13th century and also their authors' other contributions, one consistent point crops up repeatedly: these guys were deep into psychology - mediaeval, aristotolean psychology, but psychology it was. It is clear that they held that one cannot begin to work at the mussar books without first having a good grounding in how to look at your innermost self - and we've got to allow for the mediaeval habit of only writing the barest minimum and leaving the rest for the mentor to fill in face to face. My personal opinion is that every institute for BTs should include qualified psychologists on its staff, and that this is more important that trying to get the kids to put on tefillin or keep shabbes. Since the vast majority of our thinking is a result of our mood, which is a result of our food etc, if we really want to sort ourselves out, we must begin at the very bottom of the pyramid and work up, or risk the probable danger of being a starry-eyed looney.

7/20/2007 6:22 AM  

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