Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Crisis In Faith

Ignorance, the saying goes, is bliss - and that much is true.  But sometimes bliss isn't enough to go on.  Sometimes you need to confront the reality, however unpleasant it may be.

A commentator recently asked me if I was going through a crisis of faith.  My first thought upon seeing the question was to dismiss it out of hand.  But having taken some time to reflect on the matter, I can't help but wonder if perhaps he is right.  Perhaps I am going through a crisis of faith.  If faith is a byproduct of ignorance, then I am certainly going through a crisis of faith.

We have all seen examples of Jews who failed, in a very public way, to live up to the Torah's standards of ethical behavior.  We've seen examples of rabbis who steal.  We've seen examples of rabbis who molest children and commit other sexual indiscretions.  We've seen examples of rabbis who are corrupt and either follow the money or power when it comes to communal policy.  We've seen rabbis make outrageous statements that defy logic and comprehension.  We've seen rabbis who are far more concerned with minutiae such as skirt lengths, wigs, music and the like rather than seeing that people can get a Jewish education or making good communal decisions.  We've seen rabbis who seem to be far more interested in dividing the Jewish community between their own "correct" enclave and the "Other" portions of Orthodox Judaism -- to say nothing of the vast majority of non-Orthodox Judaism -- than in bringing Jews together.  We see rabbis who seem to want to advance their own personal agendas in a "my way or the highway" fashion in the areas of marriage, divorce, conversion, etc. rather than reach out and form a halachic consensus that is workable for everyone. 

And we have whole communities that are willing to march in lockstep behind these rabbis, whether they are right or wrong, without giving even for a second considering the possibility that these rabbis just might be wrong.  We have whole swaths of our community who have granted leading rabbis a de facto status of infallibility, whose words are not to be questioned or commented on.  And we have seen how those very same "infallible" rabbis can be manipulated by people who have personal agendas by using partial truths or outright lies to form communal policy, disrupt the livlihood of people engaged in perfectly legitimate occupations and so on.

People like to say "Don't judge Judaism by the Jews."  As with the popular expression that I mentioned earlier, there is a certain amount of truth in the saying.  Jews, like the rest of humanity, are only human.  Like all other human beings, we have our failings and there will be those of us who engage in misconduct that brings shame on the community.  It's unfortunate that it happens, but as long as we're human, it will happen from time to time.  And you can even expect that rabbis, too, from time to time, will misbehave as well.  They are subject to the same basic human temptations that the hoi polloi are subject to.  You would think that rabbis should be held to a higher standard than the common man, but not to a standard of perfection.  But yet, we have seen in the last few years, rabbis engaging in bad behavior in incidents that are becoming far more numerous than any that I can remember in my lifetime.  Perhaps all this went on all the time and I was merely ignorant before -- but now that I know, I cannot "unknow" it.   This is not to say that there are not rabbis out there who are saintly human beings, who work tirelessly for the communal good and work on fixing K'lal Yisroel's problems rather than creating new ones.  I'm certain that they're out there and I'd even venture that they are the majority -- but just as a single skunk in a patch of a thousand roses can overwhelm the plesant scent of the flowers with his stink, so too one bad rabbi can cause more damage than the good works of many good rabbis.  And the stink of the skunks is getting harder and harder to tolerate.

If I could say that this crisis of faith that I'm having is limited in its scope to the behavior of some lay individuals or rabbis, I could perhaps find it much easier to resolve.  But it runs far deeper than that -- it also runs into the areas of community policy, attitudes and theology.

Orthodox Judaism has been experiencing a "slide to the right" for a while now.  Things that were perfectly acceptable in some circles thirty years ago are now deemed "beyond the pale."  As an example, someone recently said the following to me:

An ehrlich yid would not agree to a shidduch where seperate [sic] seating was not a given.

Keep in mind that mixed-seated weddings were fairly common in the Orthodox community in the past generation or two.  But according to this commentator, all those people are just not ehrlich (i.e. honest, virtuous)-- and neither are a lot of people today, it seems.  No matter how honest you are in your dealings, no matter how meticulous your observance of the mitzvos, no matter how careful you are in dealing with the feelings of your fellow man, if you agree to a shidduch where there is mixed seating, you're just not ehrlich.

And the attitude goes far beyond simply mixed seating.  It seems like it's almost every month that some new ban arises in the community -- whether it be concerts, fish, the Internet, media in general, books, clothing colors and styles and on and on.  As a community, we are imposing ever stricter guidelines on people, both through official channels (i.e. community rabbis, schools, other institutions) and unofficial channels (if you don't conform in even the most minute way, your kids will have difficulty getting a shidduch).  And while higher standards can be a good thing, it must be balanced by the ability of the community and it's people to be able to happily live within those standards.  Chazal recognized this over a millennium ago with the idea that a decree, no matter how valid, warranted or needed, cannot be enacted if the community cannot (or will not) live under it and abide by it.  Today, however, we seem to have remembered the need for communal decrees to address new situations that arise, but we've forgotten the part that any solution must be one that the community will accept and live by. Perhaps the reason for this is because these bans and decrees come from people with an agenda to push and by well-meaning rabbis who are given misleading and false information and are out of touch with the common people.

If I could say my crisis of faith goes even to the area of increasing standards, perhaps I might still be able to ride it out.  But it goes even further than that -- it also goes to the attitudes that are prevelant in some parts of our community.

Frankly, I am appalled by some of the attitudes that are present in our community, but perhaps the most important underlying cause is the refusal of our community to move forward.  We seem to be stuck in a Middle-Ages mindset -- and based on the rules that some of us have adopted, we will always be in that same mindset.

A while ago, I engaged in a debate about whether or not statements made by and attitudes expressed by rabbanim are influenced by the environments in which they lived, or whether such statements are, in effect, made in a vacuum and therefore unalterable by time or place.  I posted about this a while back with regard to a statement by the author of the Torah Temimah about the lack of intelligence in women.  Many in our community seem to take the position that because a rav in place X and time Y made a statement that it applies in all places and all times and that there is no possibility that his own personal biases, upbringing, surrounding culture and environment could have had an input into his attitudes and statements.  So, if the author of the Torah Temimah says that women lack intellectual stability, then it's true of women in all places and all times.  What would such a person say to the fact that it can easily be seen in today's world that women are, in fact, intellectually stable and can achieve in almost any field of intellectual endeavor?  Nothing.  They simply close their eyes and repeat the mantra of "Toras Emes, Toras Emes."   Ignore the evidence that's right in front of your eyes.  Perhaps this was best expressed by Rabbi Uren Reich a few years ago when he said:

If the Gemara tells us a metziyus, it’s emes veyatziv. There’s nothing to think about. Anything we see with our eyes is less of a reality than something we see in the Gemara.

While his comments address the Gemara specifically, I would not be surprised to find that he would expand that to include anyone in the accepted gedolim throughout the ages.  I would find it hard to believe that Rav Reich would take the opinion of a twenty-first century scientist over a statement of Rashi, the Vilna Goan, R. Akiva Eiger or the Chazon Ish.

But such thinking leads to warped communal policy and dysfunctional communities.  Rather than looking at the fact that women are obviously capable of advanced academic learning and perhaps we, as a community might benefit from additional people learning Torah from a female perspective, we simply repeat the mantra of "women aren't able to learn Torah" and forbid them from even opening up a Mishnayos, let alone a Gemara (or, in the case of some communities, even a chumash!).  Rather than considering the fact that the concept of mesirah is obviously an artifact of another time and place where conditions were much different than in the present-day United States, we actively shelter child molesters, thieves and other criminals in our midst, where they are given more opportunities to commit crimes.  And so on.  As a result, we have dysfunctional communities that are increasingly out of step with modern social realities and will only continue to cause further tension both externally with those outside of our community and internally as those modern realities seep through the walls that are being erected (and yes, they *will* seep through).

If I could say my crisis of faith goes even to the area of communal policy, perhaps I might still be able to ride it out.  But it goes even deeper than that.  It goes even to the theological core of what is being presented.

It's very clear from the scientific evidence that the world is far older than 5770 years.  It's very clear that the world wasn't created in six literal 24-hour days (although at one point, I presented a possible way to say that the world was created in such a fashion).  It's very clear from the available evidence that there was no global flood some 4000 years ago that covered the entire earth and wiped out all animal life excepting eight humans and two to fourteen of every non-fish species.  Valid questions can be asked about the Exodus, Mattan Torah and the Conquest of the Land.  The idea that the Torah that we have today is a letter-perfect copy of the one that Moshe received on Mount Sinai grows more doubtful in my mind every time I think on the matter.  The idea that an entire corpus of oral law was somehow passed down from generation to generation unwritten, unchanged and unaffected/uninfluenced by the biases, agendas and beliefs of the people who engaged in that transmission sounds more and more ludicrous to me every day.  Even the seemingly simple concept of Yeridas HaDoros presents major difficulties for me.  And for any of these points which, to me, are supported by either physical evidence or simple reason, I can, in essence, be considered a heretic who is to be shunned by the community. 

Some people, it seems, seem to be willing to be bliss in their ignorance, ignore the evidence (or worse, claim that it's faked or part of some vast conspiracy to discredit the Torah) or impugn the credentials or intelligence of the people presenting the evidence (i.e., if only the PhD in physics would read the essay penned by the religious high school graduate, he would see that the entire scientific endeavor is a fraud.).  But I cannot do that.  I tend to believe that someone who has a PhD in physics knows a thing or two about the subject.  And that an entire community of physicists working together and in competition with each other know more about the subject than people who lived before the field was seriously studied.  I tend to believe people who can produce repeatable observations and experiments over those who assert something as fact but cannot (or will not) produce the evidence to back it up.  How can I maintain faith in a system that seeks to present fiction as literal truth and mistaken information as scientifically accurate?

Even if it were only on theological grounds that I had difficulty, I might be able to dismiss those difficulties or push them to the side.  But at this point, I'm having difficulties on all the items presented above and others that I've chosen not to mention.  I can no longer be ignorant.  I can no longer be in a state of bliss.  I cannot unring the bell and pretend that I have not heard the sound it produced, nor would I want to.  I would far rather know the truth, however ugly, than be blinded by a fantasy.

So, yes, I guess you could say that I'm suffering a crisis of faith.

The Wolf

67 comments:

Dave said...

People like to say "Don't judge Judaism by the Jews."

That has never made sense to me.

What else are you going to judge Judaism by?

Baruch Pelta said...

After struggling with the fact that I no longer believe the Torah to be Divinely given and true, I recently went agnostic. More recently, I did a vlog post where I asked at the end why certain rational, intelligent people I know of who have demolished the kiruv proofs -- Gideon Slifkin, R' Student, Wolfish Musings -- still believe in God and living Orthodox.

When it comes to personal faith, I've never much been troubled by many of the communal policy, behavior, or attitude problems you mentioned. I mean, you're Modern Orthodox anyways, so it's a completely different ideology. Moreover, you can have a community have the right ideals and be acting crazy due to a refusal to change...that's just lack of teshuva. No, it's the theology that gets me. Why feel compelled to believe in Torah? It's cool the Jews have survived for so long, but do we really believe that Chazal could resurrect people or that people could do kabbalistic magic or that witches existed or that astrology (based on outmoded astronomy) worked? Do we really believe that all of the troublesome doctrines -- which were par for their time -- are just allegorical? If only for the theological problems, Dayyeinu!

Nate said...

Do you know that Islam's response to suicide bombers is also "Don't judge Islam by the Muslims"? Irshad Manji, in her book "The Trouble with Islam Today", tears down this argument quite powerfully. I will attempt to do the same:
Many ideologies can seem wonderful in the ideal. The real test comes when it's put into practice. Take communism; in the ideal it's a wonderful ideology, most people agree. The thing is that once you put it into practice it falls apart, and thus people now recognize it's not a good ideology (there are still some diehards that go with "if only it was practiced properly..."). Same with Islam. Most moderate Muslims will tell you that the suicide bombers don't represent real Islam, that it's ideals don't condone voilence. But I say bullsh*. At some point you got to place some blame on the religion itself, not on the practitioners. So when I see so many religious Jews doing stupid things, it also impugnes Judaism. Yes, people are a lot to blame, all true, but it's not the whole answer. A moshol: say you hear about the best doctor in the world, and he has the most perfect medicines possible to treat all diseases. The treatment is a little hard to follow, but it works like a charm. Then you start hearing how a good portion of his patients did not get better. So if it's one or two, you can say they didn't follow the treatment properly, but after that you have to start wondering if the doctor is all that good. We claim that the Torah is the most perfect manual, and the Judaism is the most perfect religion, given to us by a perfect God - yet its success rate is so poor, it throws the whole claim into the garbage. And though I see secular society and all it's ills, the big difference is that they don't claim that their culture and systems are perfect, and that there's no room for improvement and change. Few people will tell you that capitalism/democracy etc is a perfect system, but it's the best we have at the moment, and it works for most of society most of the time.

G*3 said...

> I tend to believe people who can produce repeatable observations and experiments over those who assert something as fact but cannot (or will not) produce the evidence to back it up.

All the evidence they need is that the Torah (in the broad sense of the term, including everything from the chumash through the latest weekly d’var torah sheet) says so. In their eyes, you’ve been corrupted by goyishe values that make you think you’re somehow qualified to judge for yourself whether an assertion is true rather than trust in the Torah and rabbonim. As the mishna(?) says, if the rabbonim tell you that left if right and right is left, you are michuyev to believe that it is so.

> And for any of these points which, to me, are supported by either physical evidence or simple reason, I can, in essence, be considered a heretic who is to be shunned by the community.

Depends on which community. My friends know what I think of religion, and aside from the occasional interesting theological discussion, it doesn’t make any difference. Most of them half-way agree with me anyway, but (like yourself) hold onto certain concepts like God and the divinity of the Torah. On the other hand, were I ever to tell my extended family what I really thought… well that would be a very different kind of interesting.

Jewish Atheist said...

I always thought you seemed to reasonable to stay Orthodox once you started thinking about this stuff. :-) Of course I thought that about Gil Student at first too, so I could be wrong.

Jon said...

Looks like I'll be the sole apologist:

-Yeridat Hadorot is actually a mahloket in the gemara - one side says yerida, the other says aliya.

-And the same with all the other issues you mention. All the things you have a hard time believing - I don't believe any of them in their strictest senses. Yet I'm still Orthodox (I think.) So what's giving you so much trouble, I think, is that you don't hang out with the right people.

Anonymous said...

You need to find the rabbi who is the right spiritual guide and confidant for you. Struggling with these questions on your own will get you into an endless loop.

Garnel Ironheart said...

There is the ideal and there is the implementation. Yes, the implementation is geting royally screwed up in many places bu you are forgetting 2 things:
1) when the ideal is implemented, it doesn't make the newspapers. The ehrlich guy who works hard, davens hard, loves his family and balances Torah with derech eretz never gets reported by anybody. But that guy is the majority and the guys you are hearing about are the minority.
You want a real life example from American history? Go back to 1972 and look at popular culture, what people were saying about politics, etc. Seems a given that the Democrats would wipe out Nixon in the election but who won? The silent majority that never gets noticed but shows up for work every day. And it's the same for us. Look around for the decent people and avoid the assh--les.
2) If the ideal is being implemented poorly then it meants guys like you and I have to work that much harder to fight for what's right. As Hillel said, in a place where there are no man, strive to be a man. Strive to stand up for what you know is right instead of worrying that lots of "important" people don't think that way. We are right. They are wrong. And in the end we know in our hearts we are closer to what God wants.

Dave said...

Garnel:

But you can judge the "silent majority" by how they treat the wrongdoers.

Given the lavish honors and celebrations given to criminals (so long as they dress the part and share their ill-gotten gains with the appropriate charities), why shouldn't the entire community be blamed?

Anon1 said...

It's not clear how many are involved in lavish honors and celebrations. Most are trying to lead honorable lives.

Dave said...

Given the Rabbis involved with the honors, how are you going to excuse the entire community?

Baruch Pelta said...

"...the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality."

--JFK, who misattributed the quote to Dante

tesyaa said...

I'm with Jon. When things are going well, it's easy to dismiss the obvious inconsistencies in the dogma. When things are so screwed up, it's much harder.

Former MO said...

One modern orthodox blogger after another are going orthoprax, agnostic, or atheistic.

Shira Salamone said...

You haven't lost your faith in HaShem, just in some of his wayward servants. I'm with Garnel in quoting Hillel: In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.

Jon said...

Former MO - I've been noticing the same. But then, I think that's part of the nature of the blogosphere - you don't start a blog about theology or Jewish politics or whatever unless you need some sort of outlet that you can't find in real life.

Regardless, can you help with the list? I'm not too well acquainted, so I only know the long story of Gadol HaDor, this guy, and Baruch.

Anonymous said...

Why are you writing him off so soon? He has questions but from my reading he has not gone orthoprax, agnostic, or atheistic, at least not yet.

Wolf, can you clarify?

squeak said...

"As an example, someone recently said the following to me:

An ehrlich yid would not agree to a shidduch where seperate [sic] seating was not a given.
"

FTR, the person who said this to you was none other than the explosive Josephf- no doubt for the shock value, like most of his other extremist comments.

I replied to him that an erliche yid doesn't use multiple screen names (to make his extremist views seem like they are shared by multiple people - this is dishonesty, which is the antithesis of ehrlichkeit), but of course the comment was censored out.

Former MO said...

squek - What even makes you think that comment was addressed to him (other than it immediately follows his)?

Jon - don't have it off the top of my head, but it is the general sense. As fas as the reasoning, personally I think it is they started out so close to the border of Orthodoxy, and focused on perceived or actual negatives, that they fell onto the other side.

Anonymous said...

A very fine article. I think we would all do well to remember that the Jewish people have suffered a trauma unlike any other and that trauma creates lasting damage. The damage has been transmitted to the new generation and it is as we say an inability to create true relationships based upon trust...because there can be no trust in a world like this. It is the ultimate unreligious thought, but veiled by traditional clothing!

Miami Al said...

What does it mean to be Orthodox. My wife's grandparents were "Orthodox," meaning they kept Shabbat, Kashrut, and went to an Orthodox Shul. They have nothing in common with the nutjobs telling us what it is to "be Orthodox."

Literalism -- small mindedness. Oral Law from Har Sinai has nothing to do with word for word transmittal -- that's a foolish invention of people whose understanding of Judaism never left grade school. Rambam's explanation traces the court's line, which people use to childishly say "they passed the oral law along." Yes and no. If you look at what is said, it's not a "two Torahs were given, only one was written down" that's just stupid. Moshe Rabbenu had authority over the Jews by devine right. He passed that right to his 70 man counsel of elders. You trade the court through it's leaders, NOT because you need their "notes," but you need their authority.

Rather than a human manifestation of Hashem (i.e. Ra in Egypt, or Jesus in Christianity) -- the authority was vested in the Court that later became the Sanhedrin.

Most Jews are honest, well meaning, well intended people. The same is true of Orthodox Jews (just lacking a little in the table manners department). The total scumbags you find are associated with a certain part of the Jewish world.

The modern Yeshiva system traces it's lineage back to the invention of what the Yeshiva was like in Lithuania. It is a modern invention, and as you point out, it has empirically failed. If Yeshiva education was a good thing, then Universal Yeshiva would have elevated the Jewish people, it has not.

That doesn't invalidate Judaism, it invalidates what was done to Judaism in the past 50-60 years.

Anonymous said...

Sounds more like a state of depression to me.

Anonymous said...

Wolf, is this post related to your previous one?

NarrowBridge said...

These issues are nuts and bolts. They hold together the building of yiddishkeit. It seems that in general hareidi Torah does not have functional nuts and bolts. These issues are approached more honestly and dealt with more successfully by the Yeshiva University or dati leumi type of a person.
Then there are the issues that are "spiritual" and emotional, such as a deeply moving shalosh seudos or a rebbe, or just a feeling a emunah, of a focused yeshivish or shtiebel davening. These things can often more easily be found in the hareidi world.
In Israel, there are those who try to bridge this gap and are called "Torani."
Perhaps Mr. Wolf is in this middle group, and will have to work with drawing from each camp the intellectual truth and spiritual experience that fulfill his search.

Lion of Zion said...

WOLF:

"I'm suffering a crisis of faith"

i'm sorry, but it seems to me more like you're suffering a crisis of geography.

open up your eyes. there is a whole (orthodox) jewish world out there that is nothng like the one you know. i'm not minimizing what the problems of this other world are (jewishly and in general), but the issues you mention are irrelevant. e.g., for the purim seudah a high school friend of mine who has since escaped from brooklyn invited me to his brother-in-law in flatbush. somehow the conversation moved to literal creationism and i watched my friend fall off his seat. he later told me how surprised he was that people beleive this.

the point is, open your eyes. i personally look forard to shavuot every year because i go away to a camp for a bnei akivah program. it reminds me and makes me happy that there is still a MO out there (although that may not be your particular cup of tea)

all though at this point you're probably screwed because you're stuck in brooklyn, but just don't forget there is whole world out there.

i find your post depressing not for your sake, but for mine. i may also be in brooklyn for the duration and i hope i don't wake up one day and like you one day and think brooklyn judaism is all that exists.

in the end you'll come around and be fine. you're an intellegnt, independent-minded guy with a diverse background and diverse interests, but i wonder how someone can do this to their kids and raise them exclusively in such an environment like this. i know that sounds preachy and not my business, but it's actually more self-reflective.

best of luck

efrex said...

I agree with pretty much all of what LoZ said, although I'd call it "crisis of community" rather than "crisis of geography." Many Orthodox communities stress halachic adherence without compromosing intellectual honesty; yes, even in Brooklyn. Being Orthodox doesn't mean checking your brain at the door.

I don't want to minimize the importance of the questions that you've asked, but I believe that every last one of them has a long history of intellectually honest discussion in chazal. These are not "modern/conservative" sources; these are universally accepted gedolim. Examples off the top of my head:

* The same Torah Temimah who was (not necessarily accurately) quoted ridiculing women's learning also described the daughter of the Volozhin Rosh Yeshiva as engaged in study of a wide range of texts, including mishnayot and aggada (see note 5 of this article, and the Mekor Baruch (the Torah Temimah's sprawling collection of random torah thoughts and family memoirs))

* The idea that the events in the early part of bereshit are not historical/scientific fact is one that has a long genealogy. See R' Slifkin's work, or Professor Leo Levi, or the Tiferet Yisrael, or R' Hirsch.

* The idea that there are errors in our written tanach is not at all heretical, unless you want to count Tosafot as heretics. (by the way, nowhere in the gemara does it suggest that Moshe received the entire chamisha chumshei torah at Har Sinai).

* The idea that the amora'im were infallible in matters of science is one that is not shared by the majority of rishonim and acharonim (see the tiferet yisrael, R' Hirsch, and R' Slifkin.

behatzlacha!

Anonymous said...

efrex, your points are worth noting---but they do not change the overall picture. True, many of these questions/challenges existed way back when, but so too did much of the narrow-mindedness; probably it was far more institutionalized (that's why those enlightened views so often did not prevail). Intellectual & ethical greatness aside, the Rambam, the Vilna Gaon, the Chofetz Chaim & Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi would probably all have reacted with the same outrage to any layperson with the temerity to challenge accepted 'frum' truths of the day using "scientific" or rationalist data. The Rambam---darling of everyone today who tries to challenge the status quo---may have been a brilliant, courageous thinker, but I strongly suspect he was no egalitarian.

Many disgruntled people (I do it myself) choose to, very inaccurately, blame "today's" orthodoxy---as if the overall history of Jewish orthodoxy was one of broad, open-minded scientific inquiry & fearless individualism. Wrong! That's ridiculous, and often, it's based mostly on each complainer's highly personal, subjective deductions from the fact that THEIR grandfather wore a white, not a black, hat... and THEIR parents socialized in mixed company... and no one in THEIR neighborhood worried about cholov yisroel. In other words, they're using 1950's America, for example, as a representative model of Orth. Judaism over the centuries. Do they honestly think anyone in a chassidishe European shtetl, or in the yeshivos of Volozhin or Kletsk or wherever, would've dared challenge the concept of literal Creationism? Or the idea of the Tanaim & Amoraim et al, right up to the contemporary major rebbes, being Right, even if they're wrong? Please. The tilt toward finding specific chumras and mishegas'n may be newfangled; general narrow-mindedness & hostility to change are as old as religion.

Lakewood Falling Down said...

Wolf- First, years ago, I don't think that many, for lack of a term, "simple Jews" cared that much. The times were different, and most European Jews were more interested in feeding their families and not getting killed than theological debate. Granted, the rabbis in our times seem to be given almost unlimited power in their decrees, and the way that they are blindly trusted by the community as if they were a Tannah from the gemarah is ridiculous. It’s also ridiculous that they blindly trust only those around them as opposed to being aware of what is actually going on within the community.
I also think that access to the news, internet and radio over the past say, 50 years makes the world a smaller place. So if rabbi A in town B is convicted of an offense you’re likely to know about it the next day whereas if a rabbi in a small community somewhere in Europe committed an offense first they would be a lot less likely to be known, as well as better protected by a smaller environments and more insular community. My point in this is not saying that it’s not a problem, just that we as a community meeting globally are a lot more cognizant of what is happening. In a way to me that’s comforting because I’m not so shielded. And neither re they ( child molesters, money launderers, ponzie schemers). I want to know what’s happening in other communities so that we can better protect our children, and better protect those that are being taken advantage of.
That is not to say that you have not raised very legitimate issues. However I do need to point out in your post you mentioned such things as “skirt lengths, wigs, music” in a dismissive sort of way as if these things don’t matter. I’m not saying they should be the entire focal points but, I have sat in front of Yeshiva’s picking up kids or going to functions where there are “Hot Chani” moms that are coming to pick up their kids dressed in a completely inappropriate way. We do need a constructive way to address how people are dressing if it is completely inappropriate. I think I myself and in the minority in the fact that I would consider wearing pants or jeans that cover the appropriate length tzius, but according to the yeshiva world, you would be better off wearing a tight skirt that comes to your knees. I believe that’s part of the hypocrisy that angers you and me to . You’re right, the fact that yeshivas and for lack of a of a better term the “silent minority” are dictating who can go out with who, who will get a shuduch, and how people are look that in general is creating a problem rather than solving it.

But I don’t want issues in and of themselves to be swept under the rug. Let’s take music for example. Growing up, and even now, I love listening to Floyd, Zeppelin, Classic Yes and others. As a matter of fact, Elder of Zion had a great post of Jethro Tull working in Hatikva. Treppinwitz had a posting a while back about the great time he had at a recent Elton john concert. My son is 11 years old. Do I want him listening to what crap the pop culture has to offer? Would I have problems if I decided to let him listen to classic rock just as an example? Again I’m not saying it should be the focus of schools and the community specifically, but to dismiss it completely is not being intellectually honest in my opinion. You are influenced by what you listen to and what you see. I think that part of the problem is that the current rabbinical structure is too focused on the wrong targets. I think one of the reasons you find it, and I find it offensive when these decrees are made is the fact that the people they are making the decrees for are the same people that won’t bother to listen. You and I do not need to be told how to follow simple halachah. It is therefore offensive when these blanket decrees are rolled out. Keep the faith, and keep on taking those pictures!

efrex said...

Anonymous: I disagree strongly. The combination of secular insularity and complete vilification of the "modern religious" is a very recent invention, and, with the exception of certain groups in Hungary, did not exist in pre-war Europe.

Volozhin certainly produced many ideas that are anathema to the contemporary charedi mindset (see the aforementioned Mekor Baruch, or the Netziv's analysis of the avot in his Ha'emek Davar, or his responsum regarding communal separation, or the stories of R' Chaim Brisker acting on behalf of his non-religious congregants).

Many of these ideas were simply not discussed in the European yeshiva world, but when they were, they did not fall along contemporary charedi lines of thought. The Vilna Gaon noted chazal's errors in calculating pi, and the Chafetz Chaim noted that women needed to learn more torah than in past generations. Rabbi Akiva Eiger, in probably his longest talmudic gloss, notes a dozen or more places where the gemara has a different text than the tanach, and even Artscroll acknowledges the possibility of transmission error (Shabbat 55b, if memory serves).

The important points are:

(1) the contemporary charedi mindset is, historically, no less significant a deviation from pre-war Judaism than is "Modern Orthodoxy."

(2) The rationalist, individualistic approach favored by "Modern Orthodoxy" may not have been universal, but it was championed by universally accepted gedolim (R' Saadyah Gaon, the Rambam, the Tiferet Yisrael, the Rama), and cannot be dismissed as being "outside the mesorah."

(3) We live in an era of unparalleled intellectual knowledge and freedom amongst the laity. Questions such as Wolf's are going to be raised time and again, and squashing them by declaring them heretical creates further schism in our communities at a time when we cannot afford it at all.

Miami Al said...

"Do they honestly think anyone in a chassidishe European shtetl, or in the yeshivos of Volozhin or Kletsk or wherever, would've dared challenge the concept of literal Creationism?"

Probably not, but that was the primitive backwater of Judaism. By their own celebrations, the people there weren't observant, the Rabbis there lived in their own world and were ignored by the people, writing book upon book that was ignored, until picked up in 1980s America and declared "true Orthodoxy."

"Or the idea of the Tanaim & Amoraim et al, right up to the contemporary major rebbes, being Right, even if they're wrong? Please. The tilt toward finding specific chumras and mishegas'n may be newfangled; general narrow-mindedness & hostility to change are as old as religion."

Yeah, people tend to be conservative, scared of change, and rejecting of challenges. The "people in charge" don't like to be challenged by the masses. That's why are various points, 90% of Jews threw off the "yoke of heaven," generically stifling leadership.

So what, that hasn't changed. How does that affect your life? Live it how you want, do what you want, and be happy that the religious leadership of today has limited temporal authority.

The fact that they prey on primitive superstitions and fears doesn't mean you have to let that affect you.

G*3 said...

> My son is 11 years old. Do I want him listening to what crap the pop culture has to offer?

Sturgeon's Law: Ninety percent of everything is crud.

No doubt your parents thought that the music of your generation (what you call classic rock) was garbage. And their parents thought that Elvis was the devil. And their parents thought that swing was corrupting the youth. And their parents decried the unholy influence of ragtime.

Lakewood Falling Down said...

G*3- I bevieve you would have to admit that sexual content has been upped continualy. That is really my my main point. True, generationally parents think their kids music is crap, but can you guess who's dad started him listening to the Beatles? ;)

Lakewood Falling Down said...

G*3- My son can only "rock out" so far on his clarinet! I did seriously ask one of my friends whats a good age to take him for a real concert, but each kid matures at his own pace. I personally want him exposed to a variety of music. Hearing Steve Winwood is different from hearinf Joe Satriani and different again from hearing Dizzy Gellespi. Each has something different to appriciate.

Anonymous said...

I think practice, not actual belief, is what people really care about. People are very comfortable being MO and identifying the Rav as their rebbe. Yet the Rav was quite a strict fundamentalist in his view of Tora miSinai, the mesora, and the authority of Chazal. If you try to take apart his teachings you don't end up much farther away from some of the chareidim. Yet people who wouldn't be comfortable living in a chareidi community are comfortable in MO communities that have been influenced by the Rav and YU.

Shira Salamone said...

Wolf, sorry about the title of that linked post, but with a blogger name like yours . . . I think you're enough of a science-fiction fan to have heard the phrase "Resistance is futile." :)

I did say, in my linked post, that criminal behavior wasn't the only Jewish-community issue that you were concerned about.

As some of my own regular Modern Orthodox commenters keep reminding me, one does not have to be Chareidi(t) to be Orthodox, unless one wishes to be. Stick to your guns, not to mention your hashkafah/religious perspective.

Bmore said...

@ The Wolf:
One of my own favorite parts of Judaism is the love of questions even if there are those that squelch the pursuit. I could go on a point by point rebuttal of you faith issues but that wouldn't be prudent. You see, I learned a long time ago that each person needs to find their connection to Hashem and that one answer won't work for all people. That much is clear from the Moreh Nevuchim, Tiferet Yisrael and even today that Aish Hatorah Discovery program. Have no fear, even having these doubts you are still warm and welcome in the folds of Orthodoxy and try not to burden yourself with such heavy matters.

Of course, what it all comes back to is the true essence of Judaism -- Bein Adam L'chaveiro. We have the Torah as a guidebook to live decent lives both to ourselves as well as others. If you devote yourself to this aspect of Judaism, no matter your proclivities with religious leadership or qualms with Biblical literalism, you will live a fulfilling life as an erhliche yid.

I too struggled with my own loss of bliss when I discovered what happens in the kashrus industry and read R' Blech's book on kosher food production. Even so, I remain a devoted Jew with a loving family and values that I don't think I could have gotten anywhere else.

Now to the other posters (on lighter matters)

@ Miami Al
I'll take offense to your table manners comment, my copy of Emily Post's guide to Etiquette sits next to my Rambam on my shelf and it's pages are worn for many readings :-)

@ Lakewood Falling Down
Yes, I too let myself believe that American morality has flushed itself down the toilet, but I think the jury is still out on that one. I just recently listened to a song "Turn off your light Mr. Moon" from nearly 100 years ago and it's about a couple asking the moon to go away so it will be dark enough for them to "get busy" You can read the lyrics here: http://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/t/turnoffyourlightmrmoonman.shtml

On a completely separate topic, although I don't post often, I an enamored of this realm of the Jblogosphere and Upstanding Modern Othodoxy (as best as I can describe it). Perhaps we could arrange a get together some time to meet our fellows? (You're all welcome to stay by me in MD)

efrex said...

Anonymous: Again, I strongly disagree. Rav Soloveitchik's views are generally very nuanced and variable, but he was unquestionably not a fundamentalist in his views of the mesora or the authority of chazal. See, for example, his assorted practices in davening and tekiat shofar, which differed significantly from previous tradition; his willingness to criticize the Vilna Gaon in his 1958 Moriah talks; his extreme emphasis on individuality (too many sources to count: the 1958 Moriah talks, his 1956 RCA convention address; his introduction to Lonely Man of Faith, Worship of the Heart...); his open support of women's gemara learning; his direct and indirect incorporation of non-Jewish philosophers into his religious analyses; his open and long-lasting friendships with non-Orthodox clergy; his Zionism... true, he was fully committed to halacha and cautious about sweeping hashkafic changes, but he was far, far from charedi, and it takes a willful intellectually dishonest selection of his life and teachings to say otherwise.

ksil said...

lakewod falling down, your comments about women's dress habits are very telling.

This obsession in the frum community (men!) borders on maniacal.

we need to stop sexualizing women when they hit the age of 9 (or younger)

BrooklynWolf said...

Wow. I certainly didn't expect this type of response. Thank you to everyone who wrote in.

I don't know that I can respond to everyone, but I'll try to address some points:

I mean, you're Modern Orthodox anyways

In some respects. I actually don't self-identify with any one particular "branch" of Orthodoxy. I posted about that a few years ago.

I always thought you seemed to reasonable to stay Orthodox once you started thinking about this stuff. :-)

Well, I'm not giving up on Orthodoxy just yet. But there are things that trouble me -- and I suppose that was the point of the rant. :)

You haven't lost your faith in HaShem

That is true. I have never lost sight of the fact that I believe in the existence of God.

He has questions but from my reading he has not gone orthoprax, agnostic, or atheistic, at least not yet.

Wolf, can you clarify?


Not the first and certainly not the latter two.

FTR, the person who said this to you was none other than the explosive Josephf- no doubt for the shock value, like most of his other extremist comments.

I've long known that several of the posters are the same person. See here.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...

i'm sorry, but it seems to me more like you're suffering a crisis of geography.

Possibly. However, there are two answers to this:

1. Due to circumstances, I am pretty much stuck in Brooklyn. So, if it's a crisis of geography, then it's still the same crisis.

2. Many of the things that I ranted about occur outside of Brooklyn too.

The Wolf

Lion of Zion said...

WOLF:

"I am pretty much stuck in Brooklyn."

well that sucks for you and more so for your kids (feel free to throw that one back at me)

"So, if it's a crisis of geography, then it's still the same crisis."

i fail to see how it's the same crisis. your problem is not with jews or judaism, but rather with brooklyn jews and broolyn judaism. the fact that you're stuck here is not god's problem.

"Many of the things that I ranted about occur outside of Brooklyn too."

come on, you know i wasn't talking about lakewood or kiryas yoel.

Baal Habos said...

I like the build-up of this post, "Lo zoo, af zoo", and I suspect that's its the end points that really have you down. The first items are cynicism and cynicism leads to skepticism. Welcome to my world. Ignorance was bliss.

SubWife said...

Wolf, there are times when I certainly feel the same way you do. Unfortunately, I feel this way more and more often.

Anonymous said...

efrex:
just to clarify: you may have gotten the idea I was disagreeing with Wolf---not at all. What I said was really not aimed at his comments (with which I almost totally identify)---but at this phenom of people constantly framing these issues as a new/recent problem, rather than one that's, inevitably, intensifying exponentially, as the larger world becomes more and more."progressive" (for better or worse)---and we, basically, don't.

efrex said...
"The combination of secular insularity and complete vilification of the "modern religious" is a very recent invention"
In any case, efrex, you're giving very specific, anecdotal examples to bolster your case that until recently, Judaism welcomed inquiry and consideration of other perspectives. But again, these are sort of b'deved examples where certain rabbonim showed impressive broadmindedness---but surely you don't think any of the rabbonim you mention had general philosophies that would meet any modern standard of "broadmindedness" vis-a-vis, say, women, blacks, science, etc. I'm not judging them, same as I don't discount Thomas Jefferson's overall accomplishments because he had slaves.But it is what it is, and Judaism, and its leaders, whatever it has been, it has not been an egalitarian, open religion, that welcomes personal interpretations and innovative thoughts from just any sincere person.
Put a bit differently: THEY might've floated ideas about this or that portion of the Torah PERHAPS being non-literal, but they would not have taken kindly to some regular joe standing up and giving a litany of common-sense reasons why it's far-fetched to think the story of the nachash in Gan Eden or krias yam suf is 100% historically accurate.

efrex said...
"Questions such as Wolf's are going to be raised time and again, and squashing them by declaring them heretical creates further schism in our communities at a time when we cannot afford it at all."

Exactly. And it seems obvious to me that most of the rabbonim you mention would've applied the term "heretical" far more easily than you seem to want to believe.

Anonymous said...

According to you your kesuba is probably pasul. Every kesuba mentions the date according to the counting from bri'as ha'olam. This year is 5770.

Joel said...

Asei Lecha Rav ve'histalek min Ha'soffek

efrex said...

Okay, first things first: If you're going to comment on a blog, PLEASE use a distinguishable name. I have no idea how many "Anonymouses" are responding here:

"In any case, efrex, you're giving very specific, anecdotal examples to bolster your case that until recently, Judaism welcomed inquiry and consideration of other perspectives. "
I'm saying no such thing, and I'm sorry if I gave that impression. "Inquiry and consideration of other principles" is anachronistic for much of European Jewish history, where communities lived in isolation from each other and the secular world. What I am saying is that the contemporary isolationist, super-machmir, my-way-or-no-way, "da'as torah has all the answers" approach of the contemporary charedi world is not an accurate continuation of "authentic" Judaism, even according to the canonized charedi gedolim.

"these are sort of b'deved examples where certain rabbonim showed impressive broadmindedness---but surely you don't think any of the rabbonim you mention had general philosophies that would meet any modern standard of "broadmindedness" vis-a-vis, say, women, blacks, science, etc. "
It's even more absurdly anachronistic to seek out their views on "Women, blacks, and science" - these were not issues that were relevant to them. The idea of allegorical interpretation of tanach was simply not part of the regular discourse in the Lithuanian yeshivot. In historical communities where such issues did come up, however, many gedolim had no problem promoting that viewpoint. I'm not aware of anyone suggesting that the views of Saadya Gaon, Avraham ben Harambam, the Rama or R' Yisrael Lipshitz were heretical. They may have been ignored and deemed irrelevant, but they were not outrightly denied.

More importantly, I was not bringing up b'dieved examples. The Netziv's and R' Chaim Soloveitchik's views on interaction with non-religious Jews, the Chofetz Chaim's views on women's education, the gemara's views on the transmission of Tanach, or R' Moshe Feinstein's views on disagreeing with gedolei yisrael are not "one-off," isolated, selective readings - they are essential, documeted, and inarguable parts of their worldviews, and they completely conflict with the contemporary charedi mindset. Now, there may well be intellectually coherent reasons given for the change, but it remains a change nonetheless.

Mark said...

Wolf - If one is not allowed to have an honest self-appraisal of himself, then what's the point of any other opinion he may have?

Everyone is allowed to have an honest self-appraisal. In fact, there is no way to prevent it. Sure, most people don't broadcast it to the world, but neither do we broadcast many other truths to the world to avoid additional strife.

This comment thread is excellent and I have little to add, but will mention a few brief comments.

* Rabbis are people, just like all the rest of the people. The only difference is that they are perhaps more educated and sometimes become leaders of a community. But religiously they are nothing special and have no additional privileges/obligations (as Cohanim and Leviim do have). Realize this and internalize it, and many of the antics of Rabbis today will bother you much less than they do now.

* New York Orthodox Judaism is a sickness. It is destroying people, and especially destroying their children. It will grind up your children so much that by the time they are married and have their own children, you might hardly recognize them anymore. It is so bad that there is a chance that that particular form of Judaism may be transformed into a new religion in a few generations. What I generally recommend to frum NY Jews is to do whatever you have to do to get out of there. I left NY about 20 years ago and am shocked at the changes in most of my family that remained there. At this point we have almost nothing at all in common ... and it isn't me that changed.

* In general, the best thing to do is to live your life as a good Jew in the best way you know how to do that. I think that is the main thing that HKB"H wants from us.

Daniel said...

Wolf -

This self-analysis that was prompted by your commenter, caused you to realize all this? Or it simply caused you to verbalize it?

Does this change your life perspective?

If your views are incompatible with Judaism, is that a fault of Judaism, or something - perhaps - that ought to prompt you to reconsider your own views?

Larry Lennhoff said...

I agree that a large part of the problem is that the everyday good stuff (like that kid whose Bar Mitzvah you recounted) doesn't get nearly the publicity that all the bad stuff does.

I have a tag on my blog called 'Tales of HP' (not Hewlett Packard, but the town I live in). Most of them are upbeat stories of rabbis, machlochets, spiritual moments, and chesed.

Hope this helps, and Shabbat Shalom

G*3 said...

> * Rabbis are people, just like all the rest of the people. The only difference is that they are perhaps more educated and sometimes become leaders of a community. But religiously they are nothing special and have no additional privileges/obligations (as Cohanim and Leviim do have). Realize this and internalize it, and many of the antics of Rabbis today will bother you much less than they do now.

Assuming that we all agree that Rabonim are not the angelic demi-gods they’re made out to be in Artscroll hagiographies, I think that rabbonim who are criminals may cause people to question Judaism because we’re told that learning and mitzvos make one a better person. These rabbonim are people who spend the majority of their time learning, yet clearly it didn’t make them better people. It’s empirical evidence that the “Torah makes you better” claim is, at the very least, not a sure thing. And if this part of Yiddishkeit just isn’t true, then maybe other parts also aren’t…

Mark said...

G*3 - I think that rabbonim who are criminals may cause people to question Judaism because we’re told that learning and mitzvos make one a better person.

Shouldn't bother anyone. Obviously they were "faking it" and didn't really learn what they were supposedly learning. And mitzvot? They can't even keep the basic ones listed in the 10 commandments, so they don't score to highly there either. So they weren't practicing Torah, they were putting on a facade for some reason or another.

Shavuah Tov everyone!

Commenter Abbi said...

You're having a crisis of faith in charedism, no Judaism.

Mike S. said...

Wolf:

Let me address two points, in addition to those things mentioned above.

1) Literal readings of The beginning of sefer Breishit and parallel passages in Tanach are not required beliefs, and didn't become so until some rabbis became aware of Christian fundamentalism. Look at the first Rashi in Chumash; it does not say that the Chumash starts with creation because we are required to believe that it happened literally as presented, but so that everyone would recognize God's authority as creator. It is true, perhaps, that suggesting that Breishit not be read literally would be looked askance in 19th century Volozhin. However, Volozhin was a scientific backwater, and this was not the attitude of rabbis in Germany, like R. Hirsch or the author of Tiferet Yisrael who were more familiar with contemporary science. And for that matter, the cosmology of the 19th century was very speculative, and hardly worth addressing (speaking as a physicist who is quite familiar with the history of the field.) Until nuclear energy was understood (radioactivity was first discovered in 1895, 2 years after Volozhin was closed) physical models for the age of the Sun couldn't be reconciled with geology or evolution. No 19th century model could keep the Sun illuminated long enough.

2) The study of Torah does improve one's character and ethics; at least, I have found it so. But it doesn't do so by magic, and Chazal knew it. You have to approach it with that goal and attitude That is the meaning of the Mishna in Avot comparing the one whose learning precedes his fear of sin, and probably the one about he whose learning exceeds his deeds also. Chazal say two things about learning "shelo lishma"; once they say it will lead to learning lishma, once they say it is better if the person were never born. The latter refers to someone who learns to prove how much smarter he is than anyone else. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon. And the view that Judaism is some sort of magic to get God to do what you want is an old one;l the Neviim complained about it throughout bayit rishon. Wer just have to over come it and work on Torah and Mitzvot purposefully to improve our behavior and our middot.

Miami Al said...

Mark,

You wrote, "New York Orthodox Judaism"

Drop Orthodox from that statement.

The non-Orthodox New York Jews are equally obnoxious, self important, and willing to do anything for a bug.

This also means that leaving your Derech will not help.

Shalmo said...

The oral Torah can be refuted by anyone who knows the story in 2 Kings chapter 22

Why did the King tear his clothes when discovering Deutoronomy? If the myth of the oral Torah is true the entire horror story of 2 Kings 22 would not be possible. When finding a new scroll of Deutoronomy, why would anyone need to inquire of Hulda, a prophetess, that this scroll really was part of the Torah? Their own supposedly infallible oral Torah would already have all details for them since it has commentary for Deutoronomy.

Why? This story proves there was no such thing as a min har Sinai transmission of an oral Torah. If there was an oral Torah to tell them the commentary on Deutoronomy, then there would no shock in discovering it because it would only have repeated what they already knew in the oral torah to begin with

Shalmo said...

"Don't judge Judaism by the Jews."

The problem is other religions whether Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc do no claim their adherants are special in anyway. They all accept their adherants are sinners

Judaism however claims its followers are the chosen people and a light unto the gentiles. All gentiles are bishoeval yisroel, aka made for the jewish people. Jews have a neshama that gentiles don't.

You would think then they act the part. If Jews are just as wicked as the rest of humanity, then how can they be the chosen people? With others religions this is not a problem, but since superiority is what Judaism claims for its adherants its frankly a very good refuting point when they do not meet the part

Anonymous said...

Maiami Al: You are falling into the same trap as the haredi and those who see the world in black and white and stereotype everyone when you say: "The non-Orthodox New York Jews are equally obnoxious, self important, and willing to do anything for a bug." I have come to expect a more sophisticated and nuanced analysis of issues from you. To the extent you were trying to defend observant jews by saying that non-observant jews are also bad, but in a different way, that is a pretty weak defense.

garfieldcat3 said...

it's good that you've come to realize how much nonsense is in what passes for Judaism these days. I don't think you have a crisis of faith since you do believe in God. You just have sincere doubts about those who pretend to understnad or know God's design. To me a more important question is what you will do about your children. Do you want to continue to expose them to what you know is false or is it time for them to get a true education?

Miami Al said...

Anon 9:04,

Nah, I don't like New York Jews. They are generally self important and obnoxious. This is true whether their wives where baseball caps and turtlenecks, neo-burkas, or tank tops.

I think that regional behavioral norms have more of an impact on the behavior of Frum Jews than their expressions off Frumkeit.

I wasn't trying to defend non-observant Jews. I was agreeing with Mark, get the hell out of dodge.

The manifestations are different on the Orthodox, Chareidi, and Heterodox sides, but the same underlying behavior is the same.

Getting your non-Jewish wife a boob job so you can impress your friends isn't really any different then supporting your son-in-law in Kollel, they are both ostentatious ways to show off your wealth, are both done for the same reasons, and are equally immodest.

Calling the latter holy doesn't make it so.

Shalmo: right, the written record is completely inconsistent with how we "teach our children" Min Har Sinai, yet both the written record exist AND the Min Har Sinai legend exists.

From this we can reach two conclusions: Jews have ALWAYS been crazy, illiterate, and self delusional. OR, Min Har Sinai transmission means something different then the contemporary Yeshiva told you it meant, despite the text being completely at odds with that explanation.

Shalmo said...

straw-man. religions all start for a number of reasons

the oral torah myth started because after the destruction of the temple, jewry needed a way to survive. The myth of an oral torah gave the rabbis what they needed to succeed the prophets in power

Miami Al said...

Shalmo,

I disagree. I think that the oral law myth was MUCH later.

The Oral Law claim is the claim to legitimacy of governance for the Pharasee/Rabbis over the other claimants to authority.

By tying their authority to an Oral Torah, that gave them authority now that the Priesthood's authority was wiped out.

I just think that the silly child-like claims of notes etc, from Moshe Rabbenu would come much later, or the story of Moshe Rabbenu and Rabbi Akiva's class would never have been recorded.

d said...

MA et Shalmo,

The way I see it, an oral law existed from time immemorial. In fact, likely there was only an oral law until the first “Torah” was written, probably the scroll “found” by Khilkiyahu in the Temple.

Likely, the whole period of the early prophets consisted of “Torah” law as promulgated by the prophets. All orally. And not necessaily in totally agreement with each other. The current oral law, of course, was introduced by Khazal, as they took religious authority from priests and the Saduccees.

robert said...

"...I can no longer be ignorant. I can no longer be in a state of bliss. I cannot unring the bell and pretend that I have not heard the sound it produced, nor would I want to. I would far rather know the truth, however ugly, than be blinded by a fantasy."

I believe that the mahut of being MO is that you realize that life is a tempest. "shalva" is not the goal of MO. L'mashal, an EKG that is always going up and down may seem chaotic, but is actually healthy and represents vibrance and vitality. A nice, straight,"calm" EKG is actually a sign of death.

Woodrow said...

Here's info about one MO shul in Brooklyn, though I don't know if its anywhere near you

http://www.thejewishweek.com/features/hottest_neighborhood_brooklyn

Anonymous said...

One of the things that bothers me is the fact that according to the current hashkafa nothing that you do really affects anything.

If someone punches you in the face you should not be mad at the person because it is from Hashem (see the sefer hachinuch on the miztva of lo tikom). If you make a lot of money it is from Hashem. Your income is fixed on Rosh Hashana.

It makes life into a meaningless exercise. There is no cause and effect. You can work hard or not work hard and you get the same amount of money. The doctor isn't healing you Hashem is (of course no one has explained why life expectancy is so much higher today if Hashem heals and not the doctor).

Anonymous said...

You left out Yetzias Mitzrayim. According to all the evidence there is no way that 600,000 male adults (3,000,000 people)left Mitzrayim. Those numbers are indefensible given what we know of ancient population numbers.

Given that Yetzias Mitzrayim is the cornerstone of our faith and no one that I know of says that the numbers can be interpreted allegorically IMHO it is a bigger question then the age of the world.