Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Four Sons

What does The Wise Son say?

I love Yiddishkeit! It's so inspiring! It's so meaningful! It's so beautiful! And most of all - it's so true! There is nothing more wonderful than knowing that everything we do in our lives, from the trivial to the most significant, is according to the traditions of our ancestors, handed down to us through the ages. Even when there is no tradition about an aspect of life, we know that we can follow the example of our gedolim, and look to their behavior as a guide for how we should live our lives. And to top it off, what is most incredible about our brilliant Torah way of life, is that we have an internal checks-and-balances system, so that if the community considers any activity or idea inappropriate, even if expressed by a respected Rav, we have built-in ways to reconcile the conflict. For example, we sometimes resolve such difficulties by explaining that only certain people (on very high spiritual levels) are able to have such ideas, or behave in such ways. The rest of us, who aren't on such high levels, must follow the established practice. It makes total sense.

We learn this idea from Avraham Avinu. As we all know, Avraham was the forefather of our nation, and since it's well established that "maisa avos siman l'banim" (the actions of the fathers are signs for the sons), we try to learn as much as possible from the life of Avraham, in order to instruct us how to live our lives. But doesn't the midrash teach us that Avraham came to a recognition of God through carefully examining nature and reality and using his incredibly sharp, gemara-honed, critical thinking abilities to conclude that there must be a Divine Creator? And didn't he end up challenging the established idol-worshipping religious authorities in his time? Wouldn't that mean that we should also try to look at life with the tools we have and carefully examine any evidence we have regardless of where it might lead us? Yes, one might think that, but they'd be sadly mistaken. Because the torah also teaches us that "niskatnu hadoros" - the generations have degraded over time (also known as "They were great enough to do that. But we aren't.") We can't compare our puny imperfect selves to the righteousness that was Avraham Avinu. Only Avraham was great enough to use his intellectual faculties to explore reality in the way he did. We, unfortunately, are not great enough to think about such things in that way. Only Avraham had the right to take a personal stand when it went against the popular view. Only Avraham was allowed to challenge God when he felt that God was telling him to do something that went against his personal sense of justice (like we see at Sodom). The rest of us are obviously not at the level of Avraham and must learn to ignore the protests of our conscience when they go against what God (i.e. the torah (i.e. the rabbis (i.e. halacha))) tells us to do.

We see from all this that we must be careful in how we learn lessons from our leaders. When the example of the leader fits our accepted tradition of what's true and proper, then we can be sure that the gadol is leading us properly, and we must follow him exactly as his da'as torah instructs us. However, when the gadol is doing something that we know isn't what should be done, we must realize that only he is able to do such exceptional things, because of his unique spiritual level, just like Avraham Avinu. Only his distinctive ability to understand the true nature of what Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants of us grants him this ability to be different in this rare situation. The rest of us, as we all know, are not on such a high level, and should never be so arrogant to think that we too can behave thusly.

This is the beauty and wisdom of Torah living! Ashreinu Mah Tov Chelkelinu!

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What does The Wicked Son say?

Isn't this all a bit dishonest? I don't get it. You say you follow your gedolim, and listen to whatever they say, but you only seem to do so when it's convenient for you, when it fits into how you would like things to be. When the gadol's behavior or ideas doesn't fit with your preconceived notions of how things should be, then you pull out some convenient saying or concept to explain why their example is an exception and need not be followed: "Hora'as Sha", "niskatnu hadoros", "it's a minority opinion", "eis la'asos", "yesh al mi lismoch", "minhag yisroel torah", whatever it is, there's always something you can rely on to write off the opinions and examples that you'd prefer to avoid following. There always seems to be some idea which you can apply to the circumstance to produce the result that you want and still claim a fealty to torah concepts. You clearly have a set way that you want to be, and despite your claim of faithfully following what your leaders ask of you, your loyalty is to your own interests. I'm sorry, I know this doesn't sound kind, but it's honestly how I see it. What, you want me to muzzle myself because that doesn't sound reverent enough? I'm not trying to be disrespectful. I'm trying to be honest. Don't you want my honest opinion? Isn't speaking ones true opinions, no matter how unpopular they may be, a worthwhile value?

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What does The Simple Son say?

Yeah, sure I love Yiddishkeit. It's wonderful knowing that we're living our lives properly, acting according to Hashem's will. Yeah, it's true, sometimes the things we're supposed to do don't really seem so appropriate to me, but that's ok, because whenever I speak to my Rebbe, he shows me just how to make sense of it all. It's my fault actually. I get confused too easily. Because I don't try hard enough in gemara class. After all, doesn't the gemara say, "If you didn't succeed, you must not have really tried hard enough!" So, I know I'm just not at the level to always understand things properly. Like, the other day, when I learned in yeshiva how we should always follow the example of our gedolim, and I decided to try to be just like Rav Levi Yukelovich who I had just read was always friendly to people on the street (I read it in the new Artscroll biography about him). I figured, hey, that's a good thing to do, I like people, why not? So the other day when I was on the bus going to yeshiva, I decided to chat with the shvartza woman sitting near me. She seemed nice and was reading a book I had heard about so I asked her about it. We had a brief but pleasant conversation about it, and I thought I had just done a pretty cool thing, but later on that day, Rav Shmuel, the principal, called me into his office to talk to me about it. I'm not sure how he knew about it, but I think I noticed Chaim Yankel Friedman was on the bus too and he must have said something. Anyway, Rav Shmuel explained to me that I shouldn't be talking to goyim, ever; that it was best if I didn't even look at them. I asked him why, and he told me that they could be a bad influence on me. When I told him that that couldn't be true because the book said that Rav Levi talked to strangers all the time, he explained to me that I had misunderstood what the book meant. First of all, he explained to me, Rav Levi probably only talked to strangers who were frum Yidden. (That made sense. I'm not sure why I didn't think of that.) And additionally, he said, Rav Levi only did this sort of thing when he was older and could protect himself from their negative influence, not when he was only a young yeshiva bochur. Back when he was my age, he no doubt only spoke to people from his frum neighborhood. You see, this is why it's important to have a rebbe who you're close to, so he can explain to you when you're not understanding things right. It's so important. And afterwards, when I asked the principal why Rav Levi would have to protect himself from the negative influences of strangers, if they were anyway frum Yidden, he told me that if I would only try as hard to understand Rashi and Tosfos like I do his own words, I would most definitely be at the top of my class, so why was I being lazy all the time? He's right, I guess I am lazy. That's another reason to have a close rebbe, so he can always encourage you to try harder and strive for gadlus. Like Rav Levi Yukelovich.

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What does The Son Who Does Not Ask say?

He doesn't say anything, just sits there quietly, thinking to himself, watching those around him, trying to make some sense of the contradictory rhetoric that he hears from everyone around him. Should he speak up? Last time he chimed in, his brother reprimanded him for not speaking with the proper respect. How was he supposed to know that you have to refer to the rabbi a certain way?! He was just trying to make sense of the man's commentary. Oops, did it again! Can't say that! It's not just "some man's commentary" - it's "the heilege Ramban"! Well, he didn't care who the guy was, the explanation just didn't seem to ring true to him. And the other time he spoke up, he wasn't trying to take a position, but his other brother pounced on him for being so gullible. Why is he so cynical anyway? All he did was mention how he liked the way the writer explained the issue from a psychological perspective and his brother laughed at him for taking things so literally. Geez! Why say anything that's in his head anyway, he thinks to himself. He knows that to really be accepted, he'll have to toe the party line anyway and stifle the thoughts that are really running through his head. If he really expressed himself, he's be thrown out of yeshiva for saying the things he believes, so why should he risk opening his mouth? Better to stay low, pretend to everyone like he's fully on board and bide his time until he's free to make his own choices. Of course, he's aware that course of action might not work out so well either, as evidenced by the recent goings-on with his friend Moishy. He grimaces inwardly as he reminded himself about that recent fiasco. Moishy's brother had just started attending college in the city. Now Moishy's sister was having shidduch problems and Moishy's father had started going to another shul. "Why'd his idiot brother have to go ahead and do that?!" he thinks to himself. "Now my family is always whispering about the Schwartz's and I'm not allowed to hang out with my best friend anymore." Selfish bastard. "Why can't his stupid brother just suck it up and go along with the routine like everyone else does? If I can fake it my whole life, and keep my mouth shut about what I really think, why couldn't he?"

"Yes," he thinks to himself. "Better not to speak up at all," he concludes, as he nods along politely while his family continues their discussion.

26 comments:

Maggid said...

Best read out loud at the seder.

Anonymous said...

I sense a feeling of annoyance and disdain?

The Hedyot said...

That all depends on which son you're identifying with.

Ezzie said...

More cynical than usual...!

Anonymous said...

I felt that your "four sons" adaptation cleverly portrayed and contrasted four categories of responses to the insufferable charedi community/mindset that many of us can relate to. I certainly could recognize a piece of myself in each of the sons, although I dont think that I feel the same level of bitterness anymore. For this reason, I'd like to propose an alternative son- one that can internally recognize the flaws of frum world (and there are many, as we all know) as well as the vast holes in the frum way of thinking (e.g. "the Torah is completely, literally and unquestionably true, and the gedolim are always rightgeous and correct," blah blah etc) and YET someone who at the same time can respond to individuals within the community calmly, politely, and with a more balanced view (e.g., "I disagree with you and your beliefs, I have no desire to be part of your community or to participate in your way of life, and I will not stand for your mistreatment of myself or others, BUT at the same time I can recognize some positive aspects and can appreciate why some ppl might find your way of life meaningful, even though I personally do not. I will speak and behave respectfully towards you EVEN THOUGH I realize that you may not always be respectful of me and my choices in life. When in your presence, I will try to be polite and do my best not to speak or act in an overtly offensive way, although I still retain the right to be genuine and to speak honestly about my thoughts and feelings. I will not follow halacha simply because you want me to, and I will not pretend to believe or do things that no longer feel authentic. However, I will not "act out" or "rub things in your face" simply because I am angry at you, because I realize that tantruming would only reinforce your ridiculously negative and 2-dimensional steriotypes of "off the derech" individuals (e.g., that they are all emotionally disturbed, or were "traumatized," or are simply impulsive hedonists, etc) and therefore is ultamitely counterproductive for me. If I show up at your seder, I will conduct myself appropriately, even if I chose not to recite the entire haggada or to eat a full kezais of marror or whatever, etc, etc. You get the idea). Basically, a "Wicked But Resectful Son," if you will. Of course, in practice, this son may look an awful lot like "the one who isnt able to ask," because the "Wicked but Respectful" son realizes how fruitless it often is to engage frum ppl in discussions sometimes, especially when the conversation begins with an honest question about something that the frummie believes to be unquestionably true. So- it isnt that we "arent able to ask," its that we simply dont feel like provoking an onslaught of defensive divrai torah and endless "proofs" etc. So- a "Wicked (Wise?)But Respectful Son who knows better than to ask too many questions of the wrong people." There, how's that for a son?

The Hedyot said...

Proposal accepted. Now, I'd love to hear how he can be "polite and do his best not to speak or act in an overtly offensive way", when at the same time, he "still retains the right to be genuine and to speak honestly about his thoughts and feelings". To so many devoutly religious Jews, just stating your beliefs is considered an insult, when those beliefs are contrary to traditional values. A person who was once frum, and now is not following halacha, regardless of the reason why, is to them, already a serious insult, in some way.

Anonymous said...

Hey! Sounds a lot like my family!

Anonymous said...

I guess what I mean is that that while its certainly true that some (many?) frum people might find our very existance as post-orthodox individuals to be "insulting" (as you correctly pointed out), I've found that people tend to respond more negatively to me when I appear to be "starting up" with them than they do when its clear that they are the ones initiating the discussion. For example, if I volunteer my dissenting opinions unprompted (e.g., like the original "wicked" son in your post), people tend to become more defensive, argumentative, and judgemental than they would be otherwise. In contrast, when I simply do my own thing in the least obtrusive way possible (e.g., dress however I want at work and play, but dress "appropriately" at the family seder; sit politely through kiddush but choose not to bentch, or whatever)and THEY choose to start up with me, "Hey- I saw you on the subway without a yarmulka/skirt- what gives?" or "So, tell us why you dont believe in Hashem/Torah/literal interpretation of Pesach narrative anymore?"- then I already have a different role in the conversation- I've become the "one with tbe answers" (since I'm the expert on my own experience, if nothing else) and THEY become the ones who are reaching past their comfort zones to broach these sensitive topics, and in doing so, they have accepted on some level that the conversation is going to be an uncomfortable/ difficult one. Sure, some of them may take a condescending tone if the conversation starts to not go their way, and some of them might also get frustrated/angry/defensive as the conversation progresses, but in my experience, their attitute is ever so subtly more accepting/curious when THEY have to do the inquiring (since, whether they like it or not, asking questions of us implies that they have conceded on some level THAT THEY HAVE SOMETHING TO LEARN FROM US), in contrast to when they are immediately put on the defensive by us when we deliver unprompted critiques of their beliefs, lifestyle, and deepest sense of identity. That's why I kinda like my hybrid "Wicked but Respectful" son- he's see small steps forward in his family's acceptance of him and his lifestyle, even though they would still "ideally" like to see him "change his mind" and reenter the fold. It may take a little while, but eventually his family's pain/anger/bewilderment will begin to wear off (or at least fade into the background), and evenutally they will grow into an "as good as it gets/live and let live" dynamic which would allow him to be himself while still making his family feel that he loves them and cares about their feelings, even if he wont allow their wishes and desires dictate his actions. At least, in my experience, it has taken a long time for my family to distinguish between my rejection of their beliefs and lifetyle and a rejection of THEM (since their beliefs and lifestyle are so intertwined with their sense of identity). However, over time, I have been fortunate enough to clear away many of the misunderstandings, and my family and I have become close again- WITHOUT any "pretending to be frum" on my part. Sure- I'll bet they still pray every day that I'll "do tshuva," but they're increasingly accepting outwardly and have given up trying to pull kiruv stunts and interventions. We've all made it pretty clear with one another that we love eachother even if we deeply disagree about important things. Over time, I've even witnessed an evolution in their own thinking- its become more insightful and honest and less "Artscroll approved." Most of them have even admitted to me that they share some of my doubts and concerns, but are too attached to "the good" to make the same leap that I have. By now, my post-orthodoxyness almost feels like a non-issue in my family interactions (even if on some level it remains a bit of an elephant in the living room). Bottom line: I honestly dont think that I could have achieved this level of acceptance from my family if I argued with them at every opportunity, or if I responded defensively to every little hint of disapproval that they initially showed me. Its taken a LOT of patience on my part, but since I'm the one who moved their cheese, I can understand while they all initially freaked out. I dont think that poking at them could have beem nearly as effective in the long run as showing them patience and attempting to convey to them that I understood why they're were so scared and upset. People need to feel heard and accepted- especially people who (whether they'd admitt this or not) on some level may also recognize that their way of life is a little absurd.

The Hedyot said...

All very true. I'll just point out that the wicked son's answer may just as well have been prompted by a query, and not just be a "let me just rant about how stupid I think your beliefs are" rant. I'm not sure why you thought of it as that. I actually had in mind that they each are responding to some dvar torah point that they they just heard. I suppose that wasn't very clear.

I try very hard to be always respectful of my family's norms and am never in their face about my views. But sometimes it just can't be avoided. Eventually the elephant will be noticed.

The Hedyot said...

It turns out the Silent Son was right. According to this week's South Park, the lesson of Easter is to keep our mouths shut and not ask questions. You can see it for yourself here.

Enigma4U said...

Nice post!

I'd ask where the four daughters are and what they might have to say, but as we all know, they are in the kitchen, where women belong, grating the horseradish and watching that the meringue in the oven doesn't burn

Resh Lakish said...

Anonymous, you better start your own blog. Very interesting and wise perspective. Although, as DH points out, often easier said than done.

How's about setting up a little blogeleh and setting your philosophy out in a little more detail?

Anonymous said...

Daas Hedyot-

Sorry for taking up so much space on your blog! To be honest- your blog is one of the very few that I read regularly and is the ONLY blog that I've ever actually added my thoughts to... Unfortunately, I'm a huge technophobe and feel unequipped to start my own blog up (though I was highly flattered by the suggestion, Resh Lakish!). Also- Daas hedyot is so articulate about the post-orthodox experience that I generally feel satisfied nodding along to his posts and simply adding comments here and there. Like other readers, though, I was struck by the unusual tone of this particular post, and so felt compelled to respond.

One more clarification regarding my previous posts- the only reason I assumed that the "sons" were "starting up" (e.g., initiating the conversation) is that this is the way the Haggadda presents them. I certainly did not mean to imply that I imagined Daas Hedyot picking fights with his family or otherwise randomly ranting! In fact, one of the ways that Daas Hedyot distinguishes himself from among the sea of disgrunted frum/exfrum bloggers (at least from my perspective) is his obvious respect for multiple points of view and his ability to thoughtfully critique without "bashing." My hunch is that one of the reasons he gets quoted and cited so often (especially by the "concerned kiruv crowd"!) isnt simply that he's a gifted writer- its his ability to carefully and respectfully clarify his position in such a way that it can no longer simply be ignored or dismissed. Even frummies can't just write him off as "another angry ax-grinding ex-frum blogger"- he's too thoughtful! He makes too much sense! He's simply too reasonable to be easily writen off! And so-whether they like it or not- they're forced to acknowledge him and grapple with his existence. Bottom line- my soapbox rant about behaving respectfully was NOT geared towards Daas Hedyot himself, but to his audience.

SO- to all of you ex-frum individuals out there: Consider the possibility that we'd be more effective as a group if we'd re-invent our tone... the whole angry, bitter, and wallowing thing SIMPLY ISNT WORKING FOR US! Sure- its catchy and attention getting, but its also harmful in the long-run. Let's try to learn from Daas Hedyot and maybe change it up a little every once and a while, k? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. It was brilliant!

And Enigma4U, I laughed out loud at the comment about where the women are. So true! Oy vey.

Disgruntled Geress

The Hedyot said...

anonymous -
I've never before had such effusive praise. Thank you muchly. I hope my writings continue to live up to your standards.

Disgruntled Geress -
Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

DH-

Sorry that my last post got a little gushy! (It was sincere, though).

Also- totally dumb question that will instantly reveal the extent of my computer illiteracy, as previously mentioned: I really like what a lot of your readers have to say, and when I click on their usernames, I'm told that- yes, they have a blog, but.... no indication whatsoever of how to access it. So-I'm lost! (Isnt that embarrasing- I feel positively Flinstonian!). Is that totally unfair of me to want to read other reader's blogs even if I dont have one of my own yet? Sorry! I just get so excited to see how this stuff resonates with so many people! (Ok- gushing again, sorry! I'll just stop there for now instead of going on and on like i did in my previous posts).

Anonymous said...

Me again-

Clarifying computer question:

I WAS able to figure out how to access blogs of anybody who had those helpful blue "links"(and was ridiculously proud of myself for doing so!) but most of the time, I hit a dead end. ("Not found," or other such unhelpful message). THAT's where I need help. See- I just KNOW all these guys are out there writting cool stuff all over the internet- I want in! I feel like that kid with his nose pressed against the glass window of the candy store or whatever.

Anonymous said...

Anon, it could mean that they have taken their blogs down, but they still have a "Blogger" identity with which to sign in for commenting. If you couldn't find their blogs, then it means they don't exist anymore.

Disgruntled Geress

Anonymous said...

Thanks Disgruntled Geress!

Anonymous said...

". . .little blogeleh" Rofl. Hope you don't mind if I start using the term.

Good post DH. BTW, where is it written that you only post once every two months?

Ichabod Chrain

Dovid said...

Hey DH,

I have to say that this post was most disappointing to me. It is all well and nice to critic Charedim, but do you have to make them look so stupid as opposed to the articulate Rasha and Don't Ask? You were positively bitter, with no compromise.

I am happy to say that I am Modern Orthodox, and have different challenges than those stated in the four sons. These issues just don't really register on the map for most MO people.

If you cannot clearly state someone else's opinion in a respectful, thoughtful manner, it just makes you look worse for it. Obviously you have a negative view of Charedim. Great. Thanks for restating that. Obviously you think that they are wrong. Fine. I do too. However, your rejection in the words of the Rasha and Don't Ask of everything good bothered me. They are the only smart ones, and everyone else follows lies. Come on, man. You sound like a petulant child complaining.

The Hedyot said...

But I am a petulant child!

Get a grip dude.

Ben Sorer Moreh said...

Sorry to be so late to the party. Re Anon's "wicked but respectful" son. He's actually already in the Haggaddah. He's the one asking the question, which is so easy to "embellish" and so hard to answer correctly and truthfully.

He's the one who doesn't ask about "kitniyot" or "gebrokts", about how much matza you "must" eat and how fast whether religious paranoia trumps living as a community (for those Haridim who won't visit their friends on Pesah)

He asks not "what are the rules which Rav Shmiel came up with last week"?

He asks not "what do you do because you saw someone else do it"?

He asks not "what new practice was born on a pashkvil on the mikvah wall?"

He asks "What (and of what significance) are the rule which God has commanded? God. Do you really know? How do you really know?

The "wicked but respctful" son is in the Haggadah. He is the Hacham.

A good summer (& Shabbat Shalom).

Anonymous said...

Ben Sorer-

I like your take.

But- what if the son wants to leave "God" out of it altogether, since he isnt so convinced that a supernatural being of sorts is busy supervising human history and intervening at whim, giving over commandments on tablets, etc. What if the son thinks that our ancestors made a lot of understandable-but-faulty attributions, in keeping with the limited information that they had access to back then. Not terribly hard to imagine- all the other ancients did it too! Again- that DOESNT mean necissarily that the son disregards the cultural significance of the bible stories (e.g., yitzias mitzraim as an important element of our identity as a nation, etc)- indeed, its very possible that real events inspired the myths that are now being taken literally- and its very difficulty to tease out the "actual events" from the "favorite family story" phenomenon (e.g. grandpa and the GIANT FISH"). We have no idea how much time passed between the events themselves (assuming they happened at all) and the writing of the narratives with which we are familiar today in the form of Tanach. Our very own generation has witnessed the bluring of fact and fiction, where the imagination and wishful thinking of the authors of, for example, the "Artscroll biography series" have generated modern day myths -despite the fact that people are still around who actually KNEW the "gedolim" in question, and can attest to the exaggaratory and highly slanted nature of the myths perpetuated about them- because of a misguided cultural obsession with "sterilizing" the truth for the benifit of the masses (?). Any attempt to provide a balanced view of events is put into cherem (insert your favorite example here, as there are many to choose from). Another startling example of how real events can evolve into myths WITHIN OUR OWN LIFETIMES and these myths begin to take on a life of their own- snowballing into a situation where fantasy begins to over-ride reality in the memories of even the most highly eduated, brilliant, and well- meaning of people... is what happened to chabad in 1994. If ONLY the "miraculous" stories get perpetuated and printed, and ONLY certain types of attributions and conclusions are considered culturally acceptable, than it becomes possible for a great man to become a "larger than life" Rebbe in his lifetime and and even "larger than life itself" mythical figure within hours of his death. The stories that swirl around this man have truly taken on a life of their own, and anyone who has watched the evolution of chabad for any length of time can easily imagine how very possible it could have been for Moshe Rabbenu- or "well-intentioned" followers in his name- or indeed any of our beloved leaders of old- to convince a large number of people (over time) of, well, pretty much anything- NOT because they were trying to hoodwink them, but because THEY THEMSELVES interpreted events through supernatural lenses, as did pretty much everyone in ancient times. I mean, if things like this could happen TODAY, with all of our access to media, science, etc, how much easier could it have been for our ancestores to be convinced of things that may not actually have happened quite the way that they were told.

Anyway, the intention of this post was not to play Richard Dawkins- I certainly dont wish to provoke a "does G-d exist" debate on daas hedyot's turf- I'm just suggesting that not all sons are starting with the same assuptions regarding "givens" as the "chacham" seems to be.

That aside- I cetainly agree with Ben Sorer that EVEN if G-d really did "command" something regarding pesach, what gives today's religous Jews (esp charedim) the idea that their "modern day" version of "pesach observance" has even the slightest relevance to the "original" mitzva. How many of them have given any thought to the evolution of pesach from its biblical "lamb dinner and matza" form into today's rigid practices. Do they care that pesach observance was revamped during Greek times to resemble a Greek symposium (including the first introduction of the formalized seder, which we still use today)duing the age when those were in vogue. Try explaning that to your kids, in between lessons on "chukas hagoyim."

Anonymous said...

This was GREAT. Found myself laughing out loud and it pains me, too, to realize how true some of these things are.

Though thankfully, for me, I don't belong to this world, and in MO this is not the norm, still the ideas of daat yachid and et laasot as being relevant only to Gedolim, are too prevelant and it is indeed Et LaAsot!

Thanks for this - keep writing!

Ben Sorer Moreh said...

Anon: But- what if the son wants to leave "God" out of it altogether

The question "what...did God command" is asked of the father by his son. It forces the father to examine what he believes God (if he exists) truly wants.