Sunday, September 30, 2007

What I've Become

There are a few new blogs which have appeared lately that address the issue of leaving Orthodoxy. One such blog, The Journey Off, written by someone who refers to herself as GGG (GoingGoingGone), brought up some interesting ideas related to Jewish identity. She asks, "...if not observant, what would I do on Yom Kippur? Would I fast, go to shul? Would I still have a Pesach seder and abstain from bread for a week?…what being a Jew means without the strictures of Torah. Are we still a people, a nation, a family, without that book to bind us together?"

Hearing her articulate these questions piqued my interest, not only because I used to ask them myself, but also because this past Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur I couldn't help noticing how much my life has changed from when I too had these questions on my mind.

This year, I didn't go to shul on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. I didn't fast on YK. Aside from meeting up with some ex-frum friends on RH for a potluck dinner (devoid of any religious connotations), and talking to a friend (who is going through her own religious transition), the days had no Jewish associations whatsoever.

And you know what?

It didn't bother me! Not a whit. I didn't feel that I was missing out, or cutting myself off from my people, or being a terrible, self-hating, turning-his-back-on-his-traditions, evil, assimilated Jew. It just didn't matter to me whatsoever.

I remember when I was first stepping onto the path of irreligiosity, how my mind would contort itself to figure out a way to fit Jewish holidays and experiences into my conception of Jewish identity in a compatible and comfortable way. I still felt they were too important to just abandon entirely, so I wanted to retain them in some way that was still meaningful to me, yet devoid of their unappealing components. But I didn't want to become one of those Jews whose most Jewish part of their holiday is the food they eat on that day. To become that would be a terrible thing, I knew. I needed to hold onto their true value, in whatever meaningful way I could. I had to make sure I still cared, one way or another.

And I look at myself now, and realize, to my mild amusement, that I have turned into exactly that person whom I abhorred so vehemently. Judaism has become, more or less, pretty irrelevant for me.

And guess what? It's not so bad. In fact, it's not bad at all. Surprisingly, my life has not devolved into nihilistic anarchy. It isn't meaningless and angst-ridden. Thankfully, I have wonderful friends and many meaningful relationships, some of which have carried over from my frum days, and many of which have formed since adopting my new life. I've discovered that there is as much (if not more) genuine goodness in the dreaded "outside world" as there supposedly is in the holy and sacred enclaves of Frummieville. My life is full of enjoyable, stimulating and enriching experiences. And I even still participate in Jewish events, when the mood suits me.

I know I'm supposed to be ashamed of who I am, of what I've become. But I just can't seem to muster up the indignity. I simply don't feel any loss for not having Judaism be a significant part of my life.

This person that I was so afraid of becoming, it turns out, he really isn't so terrible after all. He still cares about doing what's right, even though he doesn't think god has anything to do with it. He still tries to cultivate meaningful relationships, even though shabbos is just another day of the week. He still tries to be ethical, even though Yom Kippur barely registers on his mental calendar. He still tries to be generous, even though he doesn't wear a yarmulke. He still cares about his fellow man (and yes, also his fellow Jews), even though he doesn't shake a lulav. He still cares about morality, even though his conception of it doesn't concern itself with covered hair and elbows. He still cares about Jews and Judaism, even though it isn't at all an active part of his life. And when he doesn't quite succeed, he vows to do better next time, even though he doesn't swing live poultry over his head. Why should this person be ashamed of themselves?

I can't answer her question of what it means to be a Jew without Torah. Actually, I don't think I even care anymore what it means to be a Jew. I just know that I want to live a good, fulfilling and meaningful life, to the best of my ability, in all it's myriad aspects. I think that, at heart, that's what most of us really want, yet we've been told that if we give up those traditional practices and values, we're forfeiting the best chance we'll ever have to such a life. So I just want to say to everyone who feels that if they stop caring about the rituals and strictures of Judaism, that their lives will descend into a morass of immorality and meaninglessness, that no matter how much of a bacon-eating, shiksa-loving, shabbos-violating, Yom Kippur-eating person you may ever become, it doesn't affect one bit how wonderful and fulfilling your life can be.

47 comments:

B. Spinoza said...

be careful about over generalizing based on your own personal experience. I'm sure bloggers such as Orthoprax and evanstonjew would strongly disagree based on their feelings. Who is right? Neither. Because the whole discussion is mostly subjective.

The Hedyot said...

Generalizing on which point?

B. Spinoza said...

I was referring to your last point:

no matter how much of a bacon-eating, shiksa-loving, shabbos-violating, Yom Kippur-eating person you may ever become, it doesn't affect one bit how wonderful and fulfilling your life can be.

The Hedyot said...

That's what I figured you were referring to, but I don't see why it's a generalization. Why would it affect one's ability to live a full and enjoyable life?
Are you referring to the guilt? Because while I acknowledge that guilt would prevent enjoyment and fulfillment, I don't see that as inherent in the activities.
What I mean by that is, if someone is told that they won’t be happy without torah and mitzvos, that I think is a crock of shit. But if they were told that they won’t be happy because they will feel guilty for not observing torah and mitzvos, that might be true (depending on how deep the indoctrination goes), but it’s the guilt that’s preventing the fulfillment, and that is a whole different story.

GoingGoingGone said...

I don't deny that a person can have just as meaningful an existence while not practicing Judaism by the letter of the halachic law. But to me, there is a part of myself that I don't know will ever give up on the idea of being Jewish, of that part of my identity, and what I'm struggling with is figuring out how to balance that feeling with non-belief. I don't know if Jewish observance makes you a better person (probably not in most people's practice anyway) but there is something to be said of being proud of one's heritage and honoring your roots. That's more what my post was about rather than whether my life is fulfilling or not.

B. Spinoza said...

There may be numerous reasons why a person feels happier keeping Torah and mitzvos despite feeling it doesn't have a supernatural origin. One reason may be they feel a deeper connection to the Jewish people by following the traditions of their forefathers. Another reason could be that they value being part of the community and that the mitzvot brings the community together. Another reason could be that they feel comfortable using the mitzvot to elevate themselves spiritually.

Or perhaps eating pork simply makes them feel uncomfortable, not because of guilt but because it's simply not their way, just like eating cockroaches isn't your way. There doesn't have to be a rational reason for it.

If you want better explanations you should speak to the bloggers I mentioned above. or you can read the works of Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan who created the reconstuctionist movement with the idea that people can find greater meaning by following the traditions without believing in a supernatural God.

You may still disagree but like I said, it's a highly subjective argument.

Orthoprax said...

Not to put you down, but just because you don't care doesn't mean that there isn't anything worth caring about in Judaism.

The Hedyot said...

Spinoza -

I agree that what brings a person fulfillment is all very subjective, and for many people, the mitzvos might be something they enjoy, regardless of how they view their origins. I was referring more to how some people think that they will necessarily be more miserable because they are giving up on something they might consider a Divine imperative.

Also, a lot of what you describe is a benefit which is a result of the mitzvos (community, spiritual feeling, etc.) but not a benefit of the actions themselves. And that’s part of my point – a person can get those benefits in other ways, and need not feel that without those particular experiences he can’t possibly have those benefits in the same way.

But I agree, it’s possible that for some people, there can be a deep satisfaction that may only be provided by observing torah and mitzvos. For those people, I’d have to qualify my statement.

The Hedyot said...

> Not to put you down, but just because you don't care doesn't mean that there isn't anything worth caring about in Judaism.

No offense taken, but you're misreading me. I specifically said:

"He still cares about Jews and Judaism, even though it isn't at all an active part of his life.

I feel there is a lot in Judaism that's worth caring about, but I can express that appreciation in a way that I feel is appropriate for myself.

The Hedyot said...

Spinoza -

To clarify my point, I don’t think anyone has to, or even should feel they have to, violate any laws to be happy. But if they feel that they want to take a step, and are afraid that by doing so, they will be negatively affecting their life, that’s where I think they should realize they are probably mistaken.

Obviously, if they are uncomfortable violating something (e.g. eating on YK), there is no reason to do that if they don’t have any pressing need or desire to do so. But oftentimes, a person is totally ok with doing the action, yet they are afraid to do so because they feel it will prove just how awful a Jew they are, and will lead them down the path to becoming someone that they’d be horribly ashamed of. To them I say, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Liorah-Lleucu said...

Surprisingly, my life has not devolved into nihilistic anarchy.

Did you know that "anarchy" can be a sign of evolved community consciousness? It can. I found this reading about Celtic faeries (nature spirits): "Trooping faeries' social and political organization is not like any known to our human cultures. In Ireland and Scotland, the Tuatha de Danann and the Gnomes have a hierarchy of kings and queens, but most faery bands seem to rule by consensus, if there is any rule at all. It is more more likely that faeries live in a state of anarchy. This is not the anarchy that modern societies fear in which there is mass mob rule and violent deviations from accepted norms. That is not anarchy. That is chaos. Anarchy simply means "without law," and in no way does it imply living without conscience or self-responsibility. Faeries living in this manner have evolved far beyond human beings. Each one accepts the tenet, aids other faeries, and is able to live in a faery community without the faery police hiding behind each elm leaf looking for violators of arbitrary and controlling policies." (from A Witch's Guide To Faery Folk by Edain McCoy) This vision of a faery community sounds messianic - all fit together and do what is needed of their own initiative so well that no law is required. Anarchy is not inherently bad or necessarily an inferior way of living.

The Hedyot said...

> But to me, there is a part of myself that I don't know will ever give up on the idea of being Jewish, of that part of my identity, and what I'm struggling with is figuring out how to balance that feeling with non-belief.

I guess what I meant to say about this was that I still feel about myself that I'm a pretty good Jew, and that I've realized that one doesn't have to practice or believe certain things to still feel that Jewish identity. One can still feel pride in one's heritage, see value in the practices and rituals, and yet not have it be a significant part of their life.

An analogy is how I see art. I don't like making it and for the most part I usually don't appreciate viewing it. But I still see the value in it, I'm grateful that there is art in the world, and I'm glad that there are those who pursue it.

Like religion, I don't generally have it be a part of my life in any significant way, but I still believe in it's value and importance.

The Hedyot said...

Liorah, pretty fascinating. Thanks.

B. Spinoza said...

I agree with Liorah regarding anarchy.

The Hedyot said...

After some feedback, I want to just clarify that what I wrote above is most definitely subjective and based on my personal experience, and I don’t mean to imply that everyone will, or even can, necessarily have the experience I did.

A better way of thinking about it is along the lines of how we encourage each other by saying, “You can do it! Don’t listen to all the negative messages meant to scare you from achieving what you can accomplish!” Of course, the reality is no, not everyone can “do it” successfully. But that reality doesn’t make the encouragement any less worthy, does it?

And just to be clear, this is not about encouragement to leave. It’s about encouragement for those who have already decided they want to leave (or who have already left in some sense), but are frightened of taking further steps as a result of all the negative repercussions they have been told will befall them if they do so. The encouragement is aimed at them, to go for what they want, because those fears are so often unfounded.

Ephraim said...

UH-MAYN!!
I couldn't have expressed it better. In the early days after I left I struggled with what it means to be Jewish without God commanding all these things of me. I have found that the trappings of religion are only as important as you think they are. I find it no more difficult or easier to be a moral and good person without ortodoxy leading me along. If only my wife could see....

Baal Habos said...

the Hedyot,

I don't doubt for one minute that what you claim, guilt free living and fulfillment, is possible without a Jewish lifestyle.

I think a different question might be, why give up your heritage? Not in a religious sense, but in a cultural sense? Puerto Ricans, Germans, Irish, and countless other ethnicities that are not bound with religion attest to the good feelings and fulfillmet that heritage provides.


Sure you can build a life without Judaism, but is it necessary for your fulfillment? Unless you specifically need to burn some demons, why would you want to?

Of course, given today's reality of a shrinking Yiddish culture (in the absence of some religion), that is easier said than done.

I'm not in your shoes, but assuming I'd be as free as a bird, I don't think I'd want to willingly divorce myself from the
affiliations of my Jewish heritage and that has nothing to do with guilt. It has to do with maximizing my human experience.

The Hedyot said...

> ...why give up your heritage?

What does it mean “to give up your heritage”? If I still value it but don’t practice it or make it an active part of my life, am I giving up on it? Some would say so, others not.

In whatever way a person might want to “give it up”, I’d suggest it only because it's a source of negativity, frustration, and an obstacle to further growth. I'm not saying to give it up just because it's a part of one's past. I'm only saying it should be discarded when it's preventing one from proceeding where they'd like to go.

> ...why give up your heritage? Not in a religious sense, but in a cultural sense?

This is actually a very hard distinction for most seriously indoctrinated frum people to achieve. As I'm sure you know, a typical yeshiva educated person doesn't think about their heritage in anything other than religious terms. In fact, the cultural aspect of our heritage is often mocked as irrelevant (since that’s often the part which is emphasized by irreligious groups). In any case, I agree with you, that it’s a worthwhile aspect to focus on, and most people I know who left frumkeit try to maintain some cultural connection in some way. I was mainly referring to abandoning the religious aspects.

> Sure you can build a life without Judaism, but is it necessary for your fulfillment?

For some people, it really is necessary to do so in many ways.

> Puerto Ricans, Germans, Irish, and countless other ethnicities that are not bound with religion attest to the good feelings and fulfillmet that heritage provides.

There are plenty of people from those backgrounds who can tell you about aspects of their culture and past which they are more than happy to discard. You’re romanticizing the Other. In any case, the degree to which most other cultures might intrude on a persons behavior, values or psychology doesn’t compare to the all-encompassing intensity which ultra-orthodoxy does on a frum person. See this post for more on that idea.

The Hedyot said...

> I'm only saying it should be discarded when it's preventing one from proceeding where they'd like to go.

Correction:

I'm only saying it should be discarded when it doesn't actually hold any real value for them anymore and it's preventing them from proceeding where they'd like to go.

Baal Habos said...

>I'm not saying to give it up just because it's a part of one's past. I'm only saying it should be discarded when it's preventing one from proceeding where they'd like to go.

I think we basically said the same thing. If there's a need to burn bridges, to somehow get over it, that's a different story. And I even agree with you that it may be necessary for some people.

But it's still that person's loss. Imagine a lapsed Christian not buying a Christmas tree just because he needs to get over his past. It may be necessary, but it's still a loss.

Again, it's easy for me to say, but even if I'd be a totally free bird, I think I'd still go to some sort of services on major Holidays. And it has nothing to do with guilt, God or anything. Just a feeling of imbibing in my past.

>As I'm sure you know, a typical yeshiva educated person doesn't think about their heritage in anything other than religious terms.

True, because there's no need to.

In fact, the cultural aspect of our heritage is often mocked as irrelevant (since that’s often the part which is emphasized by irreligious groups).

Sadly so. Even worse, I suspect it's often used as ONLY a tool for Kiruv.



>For some people, it really is necessary to do so in many ways.

Understood.


>There are plenty of people from those backgrounds who can tell you about aspects of their culture and past which they are more than happy to discard. You’re romanticizing the Other. In any case, the degree to which most other cultures might intrude on a persons behavior, values or psychology doesn’t compare to the all-encompassing intensity which ultra-orthodoxy does on a frum person.

Sure, but then again that's the religious aspect of it.

B. Spinoza said...

>As I'm sure you know, a typical yeshiva educated person doesn't think about their heritage in anything other than religious terms.

I know exactly what you mean. I never would have dreamed of it when I left yeshiva. In fact I was shocked when I first found the blogosphere and saw people like Orthoprax

Anonymous said...

>>Judaism has become, more or less, pretty irrelevant for me.

Come on give me a break. I think that most of what you've written is important and valid, however, in this one statement you are deluding yourself. If it were irrelevant you wouldn't have a blog which is so heavily involved with discussing Torah and the frum world. You can't detach and go along your merry way, you are one of the bigger names in the frum blogosphere, albeit on the other side. In your blogs you write TO frum people about their world. If it were irrelevant then you would truly leave and cut your umbilical cord.

>>Actually, I don't think I even care anymore what it means to be a Jew.

Then why so much time and effort writing about it to us?

Anonymous said...

>>Each one accepts the tenet

Then it isn't anarchy because they accept a common guideline. Another term for guideline or tenet is law. Using masking terminology doesnt' change the idea.

Anarchy is everyone following their own personal dictates, some good some bad... When everyone accepts a common idea then there is no difference between that and everyone accepting US law or Torah law, meaning it isn't anarchism.

The Hedyot said...

>> Judaism has become, more or less, pretty irrelevant for me.

> Come on give me a break....If it were irrelevant you wouldn't have a blog which is so heavily involved with discussing Torah and the frum world.


I've written 3 posts in 4 months. You really consider that heavily involved? Anyway, just because I still have strong opinions doesn't mean that I'm still very involved. But if you prefer to see it as relevant to me, it's fine too. Don't care either way.

The Hedyot said...

> But it's still that person's loss.

Sure, I'd agree. It's a loss in some sense. But then again, "loss" is a relative term. Only when you see something as having some significant value, do you consider not having it a loss. If a person doesn't really value Judaism at all (which is not true in my case, but is for some people), he probably wouldn't consider it a significant loss not having something he doesn't value in the first place.

Orthoprax said...

"What does it mean “to give up your heritage”? If I still value it but don’t practice it or make it an active part of my life, am I giving up on it? Some would say so, others not."

The real point is whether you care enough about it to see it passed onto the next generation. Whether you actively reject it or simply let it die through neglect amounts to the same thing in the end.

In one sense, as I see it, one's heritage is not only about what it does for you, but that through receiving you are tasked to maintain it - if not to try and enrich it for the future. We do not own our heritage but are only stewards to see that we pay it forward in the quality in which we received it with the additional interest accrued from our generation.

Judaism holds the cumulatively acquired wisdom of centuries of Jewish thought. Not all of it is gold, but there's a lot of great stuff in Judaism if you're willing to pierce through the outer populist shell.

The Hedyot said...

> The real point is whether you care enough about it to see it passed onto the next generation.

What is "it"? Ideas? Practices? Identity? Beliefs? Rituals? Customs?

Orthoprax said...

"What is "it"? Ideas? Practices? Identity? Beliefs? Rituals? Customs?"

Yes? All of the above.

You can define it practically for yourself, but there's a certain critical mass made up from all those things that you need to meet in order to successfully transmit it meaningfully from one generation to the next.

Appraise yourself objectively, how well do you think you meet that criteria?

I mean, it's one thing if you just don't care, but do you want your kids to be Jewish or not? Do you want your grandchildren to be Jewish? That's hard to accomplish when you keep all of what's meaningful in Judaism at arm's length.

David said...

Wow. I am an ordained Orthodox rabbi, who served as an educational administrator in an Orthodox high school, and while there, one day decided that it didn't add up. I went through much soul searching and research, and today I am living happily as person whose ethnic identity is Jewish, but I do not observe Halacha at all, as I do not believe in God. Fortunately my wife and kids have joined me in our new way of life, and we are all in agreement. It meant leaving one life behind, and starting a new one, but it was worth it.

I write this because I could have written your piece. It is astounding how you have described exactly what I feel, and the feeling is great!

The Hedyot said...

> ...it's one thing if you just don't care, but do you want your kids to be Jewish or not? Do you want your grandchildren to be Jewish? That's hard to accomplish when you keep all of what's meaningful in Judaism at arm's length.

I think that you're putting the cart before the horse. If one defines what being Jewish means (to them), and they have that in their life and in their family, then to them, their kids will be Jewish. Maybe not halachically, but that's a definition which might be irrelevant to them.

And if a person really doesn't care at all about Judaism, then why would they care if they're kids or grandchildren are Jewish? People want what they value, and if one doesn't value Judaism at all, I wouldn't expect them to care if their kids are Jewish or not.

> ...it's one thing if you just don't care...

I think the phrases "don't care" or "irrelevant" cover a broad spectrum, and for most people when they use that terminology, they aren't intending it in an absolute sense, but rather something more understated than the typical "care" which people have for their faith.

The Hedyot said...

David, thank you. It's heartening to know that what I express does resonate with other people.

Orthoprax said...

"I think that you're putting the cart before the horse. If one defines what being Jewish means (to them), and they have that in their life and in their family, then to them, their kids will be Jewish. Maybe not halachically, but that's a definition which might be irrelevant to them."

I wasn't talking about Halacha. I meant it as a meaningful Jewish identity. And I was also asking you personally whether you think what you have now is sufficient to maintain a meaningful Jewish identity.

"And if a person really doesn't care at all about Judaism, then why would they care if they're kids or grandchildren are Jewish? People want what they value, and if one doesn't value Judaism at all, I wouldn't expect them to care if their kids are Jewish or not."

Precisely - that's what I was asking you. Do you care or do you not care?

Don't answer for my sake but make sure you are honest with yourself. This can be a key decision that colors the way you are going to live your entire life.

The Hedyot said...

> ...that's what I was asking you. Do you care or do you not care?

I thought I was pretty clear when I kept saying that I do care about aspects of it. Although to be honest, I don't actually think I care too much if my kids are or aren't. I think it would be nice and make life a lot easier for everyone if they were, but I don't think it'd really matter too much in any case. I don't yet have kids so it's all speculation, but I think I'd want my kids to live a life of goodness in whatever way is genuinely meaningful to them. If they didn't care about Judaism at all and did not want to have anything to do with it, I'd probably be a bit disappointed, but I don't see myself being too choked up about it. And if they took an interest in it and wanted to pursue it seriously, I'd be happy for them too.

It's kind of turning your perspective on it's head, no? You thought I was claiming I didn't care at all and would reveal that to be false by showing that I'd still want my kids to be Jewish. But the reality is that I do care about it somewhat, but don't really care about in the way that it matters to me if my children were also Jewish.

I guess I don't see why something that matters to me has to matter in the same way, or even at all, also to my children.

Orthoprax said...

"It's kind of turning your perspective on it's head, no? You thought I was claiming I didn't care at all and would reveal that to be false by showing that I'd still want my kids to be Jewish."

I thought that was a distinct possibility, but I was more seeking clarification than any particular perspective.

To go a step further - do you care about intermarriage? Would you be unbothered by a hypothetical wherein Jews no longer exist as an identifiable group in 100 years from now?

"I guess I don't see why something that matters to me has to matter in the same way, or even at all, also to my children."

That's what a heritage is. It's power lies in its being passed through the generations and means much less when you're the last link in the chain.

I understand that many people don't see things as I do but I find it mildly amazing that people can be so nonchalant about it.

The Hedyot said...

> ...do you care about intermarriage?

Not really.

> Would you be unbothered by a hypothetical wherein Jews no longer exist as an identifiable group in 100 years from now?

No, I wouldn't like that to happen. But I don't think that my choice to do so, or thousands of people's choice like mine's, to intermarry will not prevent there being a thriving Jewish community 100 years from now.

Did the thousands of people who intermarried in the early 20th century stop there from being a vibrant Jewish community now?

sechel said...

What you have become is a self-hating Jew who needs to prove that his past has no effect on him now.

The Hedyot said...

"Sechel"?!

Are you f*@king kidding me?!

Puh-leez!

Orthoprax said...

"Did the thousands of people who intermarried in the early 20th century stop there from being a vibrant Jewish community now?"

It's surely less vibrant than it would have been otherwise. Furthermore, when you step out of the fold you're just handing over the reigns to the more dogmatic and reactionary among us.

"No, I wouldn't like that to happen. But I don't think that my choice to do so, or thousands of people's choice like mine's, to intermarry will not prevent there being a thriving Jewish community 100 years from now."

But you won't contribute to it.

It's also a classical approach to issues to measure your actions as if everyone were to follow suit. If you wouldn't like the conclusion if everyone were to act as you were acting then something isn't right with the choices you've made.

The Hedyot said...

I think you've taken the discussion far afield from where it started off, and I’m getting kind of tired of this, but I’ll try to wrap things up.

> It's surely less vibrant than it would have been otherwise.

I don't think that's provable (maybe if there were more irreligious Jews like Michael Steinhardt, David Ben-Gurion, Andy Warhol, or Bob Dylan things would actually be more vibrant), but even if it were true, fine. Something being less vibrant than what it could be is not something that I feel has to directly affect my personal decisions.

> ...when you step out of the fold you're just handing over the reigns to the more dogmatic and reactionary among us.

Firstly, I tried changing things from within, for a long time. It just can't happen. I only left when I recognized that they'll never change in a way which will accommodate me. More importantly, don’t you realize how crazy that argument is? You’re saying a person should remain part of a group that they find oppressive because if they leave then they’re just handing over more power to those abusive power-mongers. Do you not see the absurdity? Following that argument, Sharansky should have stayed in Communist Russia, and homosexuals should remain in hostile and repressive environments.

> But you won't contribute to it.

Sure I will. Just not in ways which you seem to value.

> If you wouldn't like the conclusion if everyone were to act as you were acting then something isn't right with the choices you've made.

I find that to be a ridiculous line of reasoning. If everyone had the experiences I did and felt about it the way I do, then I would think it absolutely right if they all reacted how I did. But I don’t think they should do that because they are not me. I’m acting based on my own personal experiences. I don’t think every Jewish person should do as I do, because not everyone feels about things as I do. I think it’s just a silly argument in general - Do you think that your career choice is invalid because you wouldn’t like how the world would look if everyone was in the same field as you? Hell, even if I was totally religious, I wouldn’t like it at all if the whole world was also religious like me.

Sorry, but I think you’re really stretching here. What’s your point anyway? That I should be more involved because if I don’t then I’m betraying the Jewish people and contributing to their demise (sorry, contributing to their “reduced vibrancy”)? Fine, ok. I don’t think that’s quite fair or accurate (everyone, even frum people, prioritize things to some degree, thereby minimizing those things with lower priorities), but even if it is true in some sense, then that’s ok with me. By choosing things other than Judaism to focus on in my life, I’m contributing to an increased vibrancy in other areas. And more importantly, I don’t feel anyone is obligated to contribute to those things which they personally don’t value as highly as other things.

Orthoprax said...

Oppressive? Granted there are forms of Orthodoxy that are hard on people but to liken all of coherent Judaism to an abusive government? Please.

"Sure I will. Just not in ways which you seem to value."

If you say so. What ways? Do tell.

"I find that to be a ridiculous line of reasoning."

I guess I explained it poorly. The point is that you are acting contrary to your expressed desire to see a continuous Jewish presence. You want others to pick up the tab.

This is different than with respect to occupation because no matter one's specialty, the give and take of society means that everyone provides a share. A more apt analogy would be between those who work and those who choose not to work.

You're probably right. Judaism can soldier on into the future without you, but it's a terrible waste for you to sit on the side wishing us good luck when who knows what you could contribute? Every loss is still a loss.

Nomo said...

DH

thanks for posting again, you have said eloquently what many of us are going through, and it is important to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

i also think that your posting on frum issues is totally consistent with who you are, in other words it does not reflect a weakness or wavering of belief, rather being jewish or frum will always be a part of you in some way.

Anonymous said...

I find your post amusing...in the sense that it portrays you - or,I should say, betrays you - as an ignorant boor...perhaps too strong a word...but certainly ignorant...I am (still)(somewhat) Orthodox...but travel widely in non-Jewish, and non-religious Jewish circles. For Jews of any stripe, fasting on Yom Kippur is seen as a value...I'm constanly amazed by the number of totally non-practicing Jews that sacrifice greatly - even non-halachically - to fast (they aren't obligated to, and shouldn't fast,)...you have no ideas, you have read nothing, evidently, of the works of great geat minds who have struggled with these questions - I refer to non-religious giants of the mind and the spirit...it's all subjective with you...you do no reading, no research, and live life in a vacuum with no input other than what exists in your own brain...of course if Judaism doesn't speak to you, then you're free to go your own way...it's a free country, but for God's sake (well, not for His sake..) get an education...better yourself...read something other than your own blog and those of your fellow bloggers...then...maybe...maybe...you'll have something original and creative to say...

Hasidic Rebel said...

Anon: what a thoughtless and narrow-minded attitude!

Those Jews who do fast may have good reason. But you didn't cite any. And despite your mouthing off about all those "great minds", you couldn't name any, let alone recite a coherent position. (And please do tell me, who decides who's a "great mind" anyway.)

And if you ask me, I'd say most non-religious Jews who fast do so for mere sentimental reasons. (At least that's the impression I get from those I've asked.) People want to feel connected to heritage and tradition, but don't want to be burdened by it every day of their lives. So what better way than doing one very difficult thing once a year? You feel like a good Jew, you've done something "big", and your conscience is free to live like a goy the rest of the year.

But some of us might just have a clear conscience without a day of meaningless self-deprivation.

Anonymous said...

Hasidic, you are obviously another ignoramus par excdellence...the point I was trying to make is that "fasting" on Yom Kippur is something done by a wide array of Jews...and no< they are not sentimental about Judaism...many non-Jews that I've spoken to over the years likewise see fasting as purifying, as helping achieve an altered state of conciousness...the point is that you and Hedyot and anyone else are free to eat as much as you want whenever you want...but your points of view are so self-referential...it's laughable...the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, etc. movements have produced some great thinkers...it's unbelievable that you are not aware of anything...start with Geiger...then move on forward LEARN SOMETHING BETTER YOURSELF KNOW THAT SMARTER PEOPLE HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU...be a little more humble...

Shlomo Doe said...

This has absolutely nothing to do with the discussion at hand except that every time I find myself in the midst of a very enjoyable Seder with my chavrusa I think of this Blog and feel very sorry for those who missed out on the opportunity to "enjoy" learning. Someone once told me a story which I have come to understand. There was a "meshugane" in a Yeshiva who was found smoking on Shabbos while learning a blatt gemoroh. When questioned, he answered "what's the problem? I love to smoke and I love to learn!". To those who understand the joy of learning Torah and have left Yiddishkeit, I'd like to know if there is any parallel in the secular world.

Skeeta said...

This is exactly what I went through. I started out admitting I didn't believe in God, but thinking that it's still a good religion (mostly b/c i hadn't been letting myself think). gradually i started respecting it less and less, until now i think it's ridiculous and wonder how i could have believed it for so long.

i had it ingrained in me that halacha is there to discipline you. so i didn't want to drop everything just because i had an excuse not to do it. but when it came to spending an hour davening just to prove i wasn't undisciplined, i wondered what i had been thinking. it's so wierd to think how rapidly i've changed just in one year. anyway, i sympathized very much with what you wrote. but i think it's something a person just has to go through himself, instead of just accepting your word for it.

The Hedyot said...

> i think it's something a person just has to go through himself, instead of just accepting your word for it.

Probably true. My words were meant more as encouragement that it can be done than as a claim to just take my word for it.