Do I exist? Yes.

I see that I have been discovered. R. Harry Maryles has been kind enough to broadcast my presence  to his readership and in so doing allows me to clarify a few items.

First, as to his question – am I a hoax? I can answer unequivocally, I am not a hoax.  I am who I am.  But, I do want to clarify that as I am sure one can understand, various items have and will be changed to protect the innocent.

Second, I did not become an atheist for any of the reasons identified by R. Maryles.  My “conversion” was brought about through a deep study of Judaism and religion.  I spent about five years in kollel, have gone through shas, read as  much as  I can of Jewish literature and seriously thought about it and religion in general.  My conclusion was that god does not exist and thus religion and belief don’t work for me.  I did not become an atheist to be a ba’al taviah (to lust after base desires), the common trope. One doesn’t need to be an atheist to do so, nor does one have to abandon religion.  One can also imagine that in my position it would be hard to pull off being a ba’al taviah, eating cheeseburgers and the like.

R. Maryles asserts that I am guilty of “deception and dishonesty” because “being a rabbi is more than about making speeches – even heartfelt ones. It’s more than a job. It’s based on the desire to serve God and one’s community. How does an atheist enhance spirituality?”

Obviously, R. Maryles, in coming to his conclusion relies (much like many believers) on multiple assumptions.  His definition of a rabbi’s position – “based on a desire to serve God and one’s community” says who?  My congregants and the board never told me that, nor did it appear in the job description.  Moreover, he assumes that I can’t (or won’t) “enhance spirituality” – I can attest that to the contrary, as I mentioned in my first post, my congregants are very happy with me hence the contract renewal.  They are spiritually uplifted and no one has ever complained that I wasn’t inspiring enough.  Moreover, I agree with R. Maryles that a rabbis job is more than speeches. Speeches make up a small fraction of my job, I teach, I counsel, I volunteer, tend to the sick and needy.  All of these things I have done well enough for me to stay on.  
If I was cynical, I would note that if we examined the rabbinate to determine what is required for the position, we would find that the requirements are pretty low.  In fact, for many years (and in some instances even today) the position was not based on being an uplifting preacher or inspiring or even competent. There are authorities who hold that the rabbinate can be freely given to one’s kids whether or not they are the most qualified.  According to those opinions, what qualification other than being born to a specific person are required? 

Additionally, R. Maryles accuses me of lying in almost everything I do.  Why?  Nothing I say in my speeches, lectures, counseling etc. are rings untrue to my listeners.  The listeners, those who I am responsible to and pay my salary, don’t find falsehood, how does R. Maryles? Because my internal beliefs?  Again, referring to my first post, we don’t require people who are in the word business, lawyers, politicians, lobbyists, and the like to believe in their clients their job is to speak to or for others. Why is the rabbinate position different?  

R. Maryles attempts to compare me to the Monsey butcher, which is a false comparison.  I don’t sell something that really is one thing as another, otherwise known as fraud.  I do my job completely.  Can a non-Jew sell Kosher meat, R. Maryles?  Do we require that a meat purveyor believe in the laws of Kosher?  All those food products we eat that carry a hechsher, do we ask if the company beliefs in the torah and kosher? Is the president of Coke Cola ortho? At the risk of beating a long dead horse, the answer is no.  My job, and it is a job, is no different. 

Anyways, I need to return to my job, so that’s all for now.

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87 Responses to Do I exist? Yes.

  1. Byteacher says:

    Forgive me for being blunt, but your attempt to justify yourself is pathetic. A Rabbi is not like a lawyer (referring to your first post). A lawyer’s job is to represent a client, it is well understood by all those invovled that his duty is to his client and not necessarily to the truth. By contrast, a Rabbi is not merely a person doing a job, he is a religious leader as well as a representative of his religion. You may define your position as a job like any other, but to practicing Jews, your congregants included, it is not. The fact that your contract doesn’t say that you need to believe in God or be an honest person, doesn’t meant that its not implied simply by the fact that you are employed by an orthodox congregation.
    You are committing a a crime against the people of your congregation. I realize that you don’t care about the religious ramifications, but by misleading your congregation, you are doing much more damage than if you just walked away and did what you wanted to. People don’t like fakers, and as a preacher who doesn’t practice, you are the epitome of what a faker is. Everything you say to the members of your congregation is fake, because you don’t believe it, and this is a tremedous disservice. Personally, I am completely turned off by people who say things that they don’t mean. The fact that you lead a congregation only makes it much worse. You should perhaps rethink your theological beliefs and hopefully do teshuvah; but at the very least, it would be noble if you found another field of employment, and “kept it real” for a change.

    • EMET49 says:

      But a religious leader of a religion of faith, such as Christianity, has to set an example of faith. A religious leader in a religion of law, such as Judaism or Islam, has to be a practitioner of the law. The Orthoprax rabbi is. He is also a representative of his religion of law, since he is more punctilious in his practice of Judaism than most members of his synagogue (I do happen to know modern Orthodoxy from the inside). As to questions of his faith, I am sure that byTeacher believes that the Orthoprax Rabbi will be judged by his maker one day and let his putative punishment be as byTeacher’s putative maker determines.

  2. moshe says:

    I’m very much in your corner. While I do believe in God, I don’t feel constrained to follow a bunch of silly rituals that the ancients cooked up, rituals that have no relationship to the torah. as to the Monsey butcher who sold treif, it’s a bad example. I wonder if R. Harry would feel that a pedophile rabbi is more holy and sincere than you are. I have the title of rabbi from a mail order website that allowed me to legally perform a wedding ceremony for someone dear to me. I believe that one can lead a moral and ethical life and perform many mitzvot that benefit mankind. I also believe that God is not interested in seeing me perform rituals that are meaningless.

  3. The Hedyot says:

    A related study was done which you might find interesting – “Preachers Who Are Not Believers”:

    Personally, I think that you should forget about justifying yourself to the people who get upset that you are not being honest with your congregation. They’re not the ones who would likely lose their livelihood if the truth came out. Just stick to sharing the interesting ideas and experiences this unique situation raises.

    • I intend to do just that. I feel that I have provided my justification, and, I realize that may not satisfy some, but, as you point out, that is not the point here.

      • cp says:

        Where have you provided your justification? Did you create this blog out of a sense of guilt that you knew you had to tell someone, but you just couldn’t bring yourself to tell the congregation? I was raised with the notion that, above all else, honesty and integrity are critical to a person’s middos. It’s sad that you don’t agree.

  4. cp says:

    If you really believe that you are not doing anything wrong, then why not tell your congregation? You are, without a doubt, a disaster. How can you be trusted if you admit that you have no yiras shamayim? There are only two possible explanations here: either it is a hoax, or you are so self-absorbed and narcissistic that you care solely about being in a position of authority and not at all about the falsehoods upon which you are employed. I surely hope it is the former.

    • Been Around says:

      If this rabbi is a straight person, I would trust him more than an allegedly frum person. “Yiras shomayim” counts for very little. Think about very, very frum people who commit crimes. Do they have yiras Shomayim? And even good people aren’t frum or good because of yiras Shomayim; it is usually because they have a deep sense that it is the right thing to do.
      Bottom line: The fact that someone claims to be very frum is no reason to believe that they have yiras Shomayim. And so the author of this blog has no deficiency in this regard.

    • sos says:

      You are stuck in a certain perspective. Let’s examine this from another angle. This rabbi was lied to from a young age, probably unintentionally but lied to nonetheless. He wasted years of his life on outdated ancient ideas so he could model himself into a rabbi. Now he has built a career for himself and likely can not easily change it, all because of this community, but he should give this up to fulfill your deranged set of ethics? This is not an orthodox person’s place to comment.

      However, as a fellow atheist I will throw in my objection. To you “orthopraxrabbi”, what are you doing to help the fellow atheists and agnostics stuck in the orthodox system – as you probably know it can be pretty unforgiving. What are you doing for all the children for whom this religion is not working, who still have a chance to either get out or make significant changes? Don’t you feel obligated towards those who are suffering (homosexuals especially come to mind) because of the religion?

      • That is an excellent question. Indeed, one of the reasons that I have remained in my position is because I feel that I can give different perspectives to different people. My community is very diverse and contains people from one end of the religious spectrum to the other. Thus, I am placed in a unique situation, I can provide guidence both to those who are looking for more orthodox experience, and, additionally, help those who aren’t interested find acceptance.

  5. A says:

    I also am a little skeptical about the validity of this blog, but not at all skeptical about the existence of athiest Orthodox (Orthoprax) Rabbis.

    I am not so bothered by this person being a Rabbi in an Orthodox shul. I feel he is at great risk of lying to his community depending on what he says in private or public, but assuming he is able to avoid that I would say it’s OK.

    I attend an Orthodox shul with a Rabbi who is very learned, and I believe is also very pious. Unfortunately, he is not the best at relating to the majority of his congregants, his sermons are not inspiring, and he has not infused our minyan with spirituality in very many ways.

    If I had to choose, I would rather have a Rabbi who is effective at motivating and inspiring his community, than one who says Shma with full kavana.

  6. LogoYid says:

    I don’t want to be argumentative. I’ll just make the following two points as food for thought:

    1. I can understand your view that being a Rabbi is the same as any other job. After all, you no longer believe in the foundations of the religion. In that case, the position of “Rabbi” is no different than that of a college professor or other public speaker. Your job is simply to communicate information of which you are somewhat expert. However, I think that even you can agree that for someone who believes in the doctrine of a particular religion it is important to be led by another who believes with the same, or greater, faith. For example, if you congregants knew of your non-belief they would no doubt be quite upset. You might argue that your personal beliefs do not mediate your effectiveness as a Rabbi, in the purely technical sense of the word. Perhaps this is true (though I highly doubt it). In any case, you are still engaging in a form of deceit; whether or not your contract states it explicitly, most Orthodox congregations expect their leaders to believe in G-d.

    2. On a similar note, when you provide counsel to congregants I’m sure that your advice is sound and logical. However, consider the case of a doctor ho prescribes medication for a patient that he himself will not take. Though the medication may be perfectly helpful, I would guess that the patient would think twice before taking it himself. In the same vein, your congregants might be wary of spiritual advice from someone who does not share their beliefs. Again, you may argue that your belief does not effect the soundness of your advice. Perhaps. But you are still conducting a deceitful practice.

  7. BobF says:

    Isn’t it dangerous for you to have this site? Even if you change some items to hide your identity, you could mess up and let your identity be known. Also, based on your IP address, if a congregant is somewhat PC savvy, he may be able to identify your computer. Since that is the case, why are you doing it?

  8. Abe says:

    “The listeners, those who I am responsible to and pay my salary, don’t find falsehood, how does R. Maryles? Because my internal beliefs? ”

    This is unfortunate. I thought there might finally be an Orthodox rabbi whose Shabbos drashah is not completely inane (you know, the usual midrashically based ethnocentric ahistorical crap.) Instead, you seem to be saying that your drashah doesn’t match your internal beliefs. I hope you can develop a style that suits both your audience and your internal moral compass simultaneously.

    • I hope to use this forum to show that contrary to your assumption, I don’t limit myself to vapid derashot. Whether or not one believes, doesn’t matter when it comes to speaking there are a variety means to convey ideas.

  9. My skeptical sense is tingling… If you are for real, WTF. Go to therapy. Make an exit plan. Line up a new career. And then be completely honest with your congregation about why you are leaving the Rabbinate. Maybe you’ll save some kid who’s been taught he’s an abomination or stop a young atheist from marrying a frummie and spending the rest of his life hiding.

  10. Rabbi, if you are real then I can only wish to have pleasure of ever pretending to davin in your shul.

    Then again, for all I know, I might already have.

  11. moom says:

    I’m pretty sure that if your employers knew the truth you’d be fired. So not telling anyone is dishonest in that respect. And you could be telling people the truth about religion as well. But maybe you think people are comforted from hearing what they want to hear and that you can do that well and you provide a useful service in that way. I’m an academic researcher. I don’t promote ideas that I think are scientifically incorrect. I spend my time fighting them. Of course, I have to be diplomatic in order to not put people off unneccessarily from my message but that is a different level. But if I was in your position I would quit.

  12. FriedFalafel says:

    If you’re for real, then you have my full support.

    I’d like to hear in future posts about what you think the value of Jewish ritual/culture is despite the lack of a spiritual need for them, or if they have any value at all.

  13. Lady-Light says:

    You say you are an atheist. This means you don’t believe in the existence of an “almighty power” who created the universe? Then, can you explain your view of why mankind exists, how life began, and how Judaism was able to exist for thousands of years intact? Is Judaism “true,” or is it a ‘fake’ religion, just like (say) Christianity and Islam?
    What is your view on the major defining event in Judaism, the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai, seen by a million people? How do you explain it? Do you think the Jewish people were delusional for their emunah all through the centuries? Do you believe in mashiach times? That the State of Israel is the beginning of the fulfillment of a prophecy from the Torah?
    I am not being sarcastic; I really want to know your view.

  14. Holy Hyrax says:

    >Why is the rabbinate position different?

    Because we Jews, maybe due slightly to our history, find being a rabbi NOT to be like some job. It is supposed to be on a different plane (so to speak). So yes, a lawyer does not have to believe in his client because a lawyers job is simply there to make his money, and do his job. Is this all a rabbi has become nowadays? If you are keeping this a secret, then clearly you know your justification is a tad bit stretched since you know your congregants would not be to pleased. A rabbi should mean more than stam doing his contractual obligation.

    In regards to this statement:

    “Obviously, R. Maryles, in coming to his conclusion relies (much like many believers) on multiple assumptions. His definition of a rabbi’s position – “based on a desire to serve God and one’s community” says who? My congregants and the board never told me that, nor did it appear in the job description.”

    Come now. Now you are simply kvetching to come up with some justification. This sort of thing does not need to be spelled out black and white, its simply the essence of what a rabbi should be. If you want, you can say ‘the hell with it’ but lets not pretend that Maryles is coming out of left field here.

  15. Holy Hyrax says:

    on top of that, I would like to ask you this question if you don’t mind.

    Before you became an atheist, did you think being a rabbi is no different than any other job, like being a plumber or lawyer?

  16. Jacob Stein says:

    Dear Orthoprax Rabbi,

    I am curious to ask you, as an atheist, how do you explain the existence of life? I find that Darwinian evolution to be both impossibly improbable and contradictory of the fossil evidence.

    In addition to that, how do you explain the origin of Judaism? I cannot find a plausible, detailed atheistic explanation.

    Finally, as an atheist, how do you explain the feeling that you are not your body and the feeling of free will?

  17. Jacob Stein says:

    In addition, as an atheist, how do you explain man’s religious instinct?

    Also, doesn’t man’s lack of a soul imply the need for a radical change in our criminal justice system?

    These are all questions regarding atheism to which I have not yet heard plausible answers.

    • mhmm says:

      Wait, so since you haven’t found any “plausible” answers to all of these questions you have, the tenants of Judaism seem to be the most likely answer?

      Talk about confirmation bias!

      Speaking personally, just because I don’t know how life came to be, or the factual historical basis for various groups, doesn’t mean that the myth of the Jewish Torah must by necessity be correct.

      Just because you or anyone else can’t answer these questions does not mean that the only plausible answer is that an invisible all powerful being created everything just so he can love us and wants us to be happy. Of all the improbably explanations, that certainly does not seem to be the most likely to me anyway.

    • Jacob Stein says:

      And why can’t anyone answer my questions about atheism? Because there are no answers and atheism is a scam.

    • Jacob Stein says:

      Atheists don’t believe in invisible goblins, so again atheists have no answers.

      • Jacob Stein says:

        Put it like this. Let’s say you would ask a rabbi “Rabbi, how does Judaism explain the fossils?” and the rabbi answered “I don’t know what the fossils are or where they came from, however that doesn’t necessarily mean that Judaism is false.”

        Would atheists be very impressed?

      • Joseph says:

        The rabbi’s answer is nonsense times two.

        First of all it’s nonsense because saying “I don’t know what fossils are” is as absurd as saying “I don’t know what a cow is.” Are you a moron? It’s a physical, tangible object that one can examine and extrapolate ideas from (within certain limits)! If there was an object in front of him that looked like a cow, behaved like a cow, smelled like a cow, and did everything that cow’s do, what would you think if he said, “I don’t know what this is?”

        Secondly, to say “it doesn’t necessarily mean that Judaism is false,” is also nonsense, because it’s a simple matter of comparison. If you know an idea X is central to Judaism, and you know this object implies that idea X is false, then it DOES necessarily imply that Judaism is false.

        By the way, this has nothing to do with being an atheist. It’s a simple matter of logic and facing the facts. Plenty of frum people do not have a problem with believing that fossils are what scientists say they are, from when they say they are from. It’s simply resolved by saying that the torah is not a literal, factual record of history. (It goes without saying that also applies to midrashim and cryptic statements of chazal.)

  18. G*3 says:

    Welcome to the blogosphere. If you’re unfamiliar with it, you may want to poke around a bit and get to know the players.

    Your situation sounds… difficult. I find it impossible to give a vort without chocking on the words. Robbed of their mystical theological underpinnings, most shmoozes just sound silly. How do you feel week after week expounding on Jewish mythology, having to pretend as though it were historical and empirical fact?

  19. David says:

    Wow. Well, this promises to be interesting. I look forward to following this blog (as, I would imagine, do lots of other folks).

  20. Shades of Gray says:

    I am reminded of an insightful comment by the late Rabbi Joel Titelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe. Commenting on the differences between the American and European Rabbinates, he said, “vas in der heim ruffed mehn ah **shlock**, duh ruffed mehn a **ruv**”(that which in Europe we called a “shlock”, a simple item placed on the roof, here ,in America, we call a “roof” or “Ruv”, a Rabbi of a congregation). So if you do exist, the state of (some, certainly not all) of the American Rabbinate has already been predicted by the Satmar Rav, of blessed memory.

    On the other hand, I feel for “orthoprax” people, and strongly believe that many of them, deep down, have strong spiritual strengths and would make wonderful Jews. It is to our detriment that we do not have a R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg who could reach out to a Professor Samuel Atlas of Hebrew Union College, a Rav Kook who brought back the “Nazir” from the Maskilim, or a R. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchiv to be melameid zechus, or advocate for everyone.

    Here is a link to two columns by Dr. Yael Respler, who in the spirit of the above-mentioned rabbis, offers encouragement to those struggling with similar issues:

    • tesyaa says:

      Dr. Respler does not address skepticism at all. She seems to think that people who don’t observe as fully as they used to view observance as a “chore” and need to start “enjoying being frum” again. She does not veer anywhere near issues of skepticism and belief. While her columns may be helpful to some people, they are irrelevant in this discussion.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        You are entirely correct that she does not address the intellectual aspects of belief; I also agree that people are different, and that it is an insult to the intelligence to completely “psychologize” skepticism and put it entirely in psychological or emotional terms(or only in terms of ‘”ta’avah”).

        However, my point is that a person has 1) intellectual, 2)emotional, and 3) spiritual dimensions(assuming, of course that God does exsists 🙂 ) , and there still is a wanting to belong to a community– an emotional aspect which humans have, and for that, besides the intellectual aspects, the Seredei Aish’s friendship with Prof. Atlas of HUC was important.

        Dr. Respler, similarly, displays understanding and empathy which is *one* part of being helpful to many, at least. Similarly, Rabbis Becher and Gordon write in “Adults at Risk” in the Jewish Observer:

        “a person suffering from a spiritual existential crisis is in tremendous pain. They need to feel validated and encouraged to ask whatever questions are causing them confusion. Our prime directive is to listen to and accept without prejudice or criticism (or even reaction) any question at all on any topic.”

    • G*3 says:

      > On the other hand, I feel for “orthoprax” people, and strongly believe that many of them, deep down, have strong spiritual strengths and would make wonderful Jews.

      I can’t speak for all Orthoprax Jews, but I would guess that many of them ARE wonderful Jews and that most don’t believe there is such a thing as spiritual strengths (at least, not in the way you seem to mean).

      And while it seems you’re trying to be understanding, the above quoted sentence comes across as condescending and insulting. With a few substitutions, perhaps you’ll see what I mean:

      I feel for “orthodox” people, and strongly believe that many of them, deep down, have a strong rationalist sense and would make wonderful skeptics.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        I did not mean to be condescending; in fact, I am understanding because, I too–for better or for worse– have a questioning nature(as I’m sure many “shena yidden”, distinquished Jews, have as well, but understandably, do not admit in publicly!), and therefore am not “talking down” to anyone, simply trying to be positive, hopeful, and allow for religious growth–even for skeptics!

        While, of course, there are degrees and differences in halacha regarding questioning and skepticism, Dr. Avigdor Boncheck writes on page 141 of “Religious Compulsions and Fears: A Guide To Treatment”(Feldheim, 2010) regarding a normal stage:

        “Certainly a normal, thinking individual[as opposed to the OCD phenomenon] may also have such thoughts about his faith. As we grow up, we begin to be aware of other perspectives on many life issues. As this happens, it is quite usual for a maturing Torah believer to question the validity of his faith. Such questioning is neither obsessive nor sinful. It is for this reason that the Rambam wrote Moreh Nevuchim…So investigating and questioning one’s faith is a natrual stage into developing into a faithful believer in Torah and Judaism.”

        Prof. Marc Shapiro also discusses this on a Torah In Motion Audio(“Shapiro and Kellner : Are There Things A Jew Must Believe”; 36:56 on tape):

        “Plenty of people including, I have no doubt, great sages have harbored doubts about all sorts of things…”

        (Of course, hopefully, a religious person can come to some sort of resolution!)

  21. Baruch Pelta says:

    Yeah, we really have no way of knowing if you are who you say you are, although I too am skeptical (looking back, I should’ve been more skeptical about the “Authentic Judaism” blog, which I now suspect is a hoax….but I digress…). But if you put up thought-provoking posts, nu, that will stimulate some interesting dialogue.

  22. Shilton HaSechel says:

    Welcome to the J-Skeptosphere! Looking forward to hearing your views on things.

  23. Menashe says:

    Welcome. I’ll certainly be following your blog with great interest.

    A couple of questions:

    1. What do you do when confronted with a congregant expressing legitimate doubts about his/her faith? Do you attempt to play the kiruv role? I’d be interested in knowing how you handle that because, while not a rabbi, as an Orthopraxer with a kiruv background, I occasionally find myself in that position.

    2. Given your atheism, do you still find the rabbinate a rewarding career, or would you leave it if you felt you could?

  24. MalachHamovies says:

    Orthoprax Rabbi,

    I was wondering , what happens if one of your congregants confides in you that he has a lack of emunah and needs some chizuk and advice ?

    What would you say to him ??

  25. The Hedyot says:

    It’s funny that people seem to think that if a rabbi is not totally open and honest with his congregation about his views then he is deceiving them. I’m willing to bet that any rabbi worth his salt holds at least some views that his kehilla would find unacceptable. XGH often blogs about rabbi friends of his who confide things to him in private that they would never admit from the pulpit. When chareidi people want to show how open-minded chareidism can be (hah!), you’ll often hear them say their liberal idea prefaced with, “I heard it from a rav who prefers to remain anonymous.”

    Most thinking people, even if they don’t go all the way, comes to certain realizations which are incompatible with the party line, and if they want to remain part of the community, choose to stay silent about their views. Maybe such a person indeed is a deceitful liar, but if so, your own rabbi probably is one too.

  26. Chaim says:

    Based on your answer to SOS which I reproduce below you are a “mesis umeidiach” which if you truly learned in a kollel for 5 years you know this is the lowest of the low. By your admission to SOS you take those who are very vulnerable in their belief and lead them off the path to G-d. Your congregants expect just the opposite from you, to strengthen their belief and help alleviate and remove their doubts, not to confirm them! You are a tragedy for yourself and your hapless congregation.

    You are worse than a garden variety apikores. The sheer hypocrisy of what you are doing is mind-boggling, and is something even the average aetheist will judge as evil or amoral. At least they stand up in the open and proclaim clearly their choice of belief, while you are a stealthy wolf in sheeps clothing.

    Hope you quit your position, or better yet come to your senses and do teshuva.


    ———————–SOS and your response to him below—————-
    SOS wrote:
    However, as a fellow atheist I will throw in my objection. To you “orthopraxrabbi”, what are you doing to help the fellow atheists and agnostics stuck in the orthodox system – as you probably know it can be pretty unforgiving. What are you doing for all the children for whom this religion is not working, who still have a chance to either get out or make significant changes? Don’t you feel obligated towards those who are suffering (homosexuals especially come to mind) because of the religion?

    theorthopraxrabbi says:
    June 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm
    That is an excellent question. Indeed, one of the reasons that I have remained in my position is because I feel that I can give different perspectives to different people. My community is very diverse and contains people from one end of the religious spectrum to the other. Thus, I am placed in a unique situation , I can provide guidence both to those who are looking for more orthodox experience, and, additionally, help those who aren’t interested [to] find acceptance.

  27. tell it like it is says:

    My conclusion was that god does not exist

    Is your conclusion based on any scientific, philosophical or other evidence, or is it based on your lack of proof of G-d’ s existence?

    If the former, I would sure like to hear the proof of G-d’s lack of existence.

    If the latter, you’re no atheist, you’re just a dude who doesn’t want to believe in G-d unless someone proves it to you.

    So, either prove you’re an atheist, or just sit back down among all the other lazy Jews out there.

    • G*3 says:

      Technically, if you answer anything other than “yes” to the question, “Does God exist?” you’re an atheist.

      • tell it like it is says:

        Yeah, anyone can say he is an atheist. But who can truly and honestly say he is an atheist?

      • The Hedyot says:

        Yeah, anyone can say he is a believer. But who can truly and honestly say he is a believer?

      • G*3 says:

        ‘tell it like it is’, I have no idea what you mean. Could you elaborate?

      • Lady-Light says:

        Wrong. You could be an agnostic, and not be sure that G-d exists. You can believe that it is unproven, and impossible to know.

      • OTD says:

        LL: >Wrong. You could be an agnostic, and not be sure that G-d exists. You can believe that it is unproven, and impossible to know.

        Here’s where Dawkins comes in. Are you an agnostic about the millions of possible other gods? Is it not okay to say you don’t believe in Ammon or Mithra? Am I “agnostic” about the question of a celestial teapot or talking aliens? Not really. It helps to answer yes or no to questions, and a claim of atheism is simply an answer of “no” to the question of whether or not I believe in God. So while atheists don’t deny that God is possible, they deny that it is probable.

    • OTD says:

      Tell it like it is: You’re so stupid your IQ probably doesn’t reach double digits.

      The default position is not that God exists. The default position is that it does not. The burden of proof rests with the one making the claim, not the one ignoring it, scoffing at it, or denying it. You aren’t expected to believe in Jesus (not in this century anyway), or in Zeus, or in a million other beliefs. NO, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy, or unintelligent. It simply means you don’t feel a need to believe in all kinds of nonsense. Those who wish to believe in Jesus, or pagan gods, or myriads of beliefs are free to do so. But it is the height of arrogance for anyone to accuse anyone of ulterior motives for not sharing the beliefs they claim to believe in so strongly. Belief in God is no different. It is an unproven assertion that you can never prove and requires faith. If you want to believe in it, by all means, gezunteheit, enjoy yourself. But don’t condemn those who don’t.

      A great American put this point beautifully:

      “Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

      • Jacob Stein says:

        “The default position is not that God exists. ”

        The default position is not that evolution created us. Atheists have to prove that.

      • G*3 says:

        > The default position is not that evolution created us. Atheists have to prove that.

        There are so many things wrong with that. Let’s all say it together now: STRAWMAN

      • Jacob Stein says:

        I agree that a Jew must prove that the Biblical God does exist, which is fine, I can.

        However it works both ways. Likewise, atheists must prove that evolution created us and they cannot.

      • OTD says:

        >The default position is not that evolution created us.

        Perhaps. But neither is God’s existence the default position, nor that she created anything. The default position is “I don’t know.” In other words, agnosticism, which is a polite word for atheism.

      • tell it like it is says:

        “it doesn’t mean you’re lazy, or unintelligent. It simply means you don’t feel a need to believe in all kinds of nonsense. “

        Thank you, my rambling friend, for missing and proving my point, both at the same time.

        You, OTD, have clearly taken offense at the fact that you cannot justify your stance more than by simply stating, “well, if I don’t want to, I don’t have to, so there!” If you want to live your life on the same level as my 4-year old, well that’s just your prerogative. In order to believe what I believe, I want to know that it is correct, not just that the other options are less appealing.

        But alas, I wasn’t referring to people like you, I was referring to specifically the author of this blog. If Rabbi Orthoprax grew up in the system, spent years in kollel, went through semicha, and now has concluded that G-d does not exist, I would sure like to hear his logical/philosophical/other “proof” that has lead him to his presumably objective conclusion. For, anything less than objective, I claim – given this author’s background! – sounds very suspiciously like some form of laziness or apathetic attitude, one whatever level.

      • Jacob Stein says:

        There really is no default position about how we got here, however Jews must prove that the Biblical God did it and atheists must prove evolution did it.

      • G*3 says:

        > There really is no default position about how we got here, however Jews must prove that the Biblical God did it and atheists must prove evolution did it.

        Evolution is not the Atheist god. Which is why your argument is a strawman. Atheism and evolution are not at all related, except insofar as most atheists ascribe to a materialist worldview and evolution is a materialist explanation of biodiverstiy.

        But then, you knew that already.

      • Jacob Stein says:

        Evolution is the god of atheism. This is why atheists worship Darwin and his stupid little book and froth at the mouth any time evolution is criticized.

        The key difference between evolution and God is that evolution has no intelligence. Therefor it can demand nothing and we owe it nothing.

      • Apikores says:

        I think Bertrand Russell was English.

  28. OTD says:

    I too would live to see the rabbi continue blogging. However, I don’t doubt the frummies will leave no stone unturned to blackmail and threaten him and threaten that they will out him, and as much as I’d love to see this blog be matzliach and go on for many years k’nayna hara, I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that this is the last post we’ll see.

    • No says:

      A commenter on Harry’s blog identified him already, I won’t write the name here as if he’s wrong (I doubt it) it would be pretty bad for the person named.

  29. SJ says:

    Skepticism, doubt, and perhaps a little bit of going OTD is a healthy thing. What kind of a person just takes what religious leaders say without any kind of questioning?

    Further, Experiencing the world around you to a sane extent will only add to one’s depth, not take away.

    That being said, there’s tons of Bible apologetics out there on the Internet if one bothers to look.

  30. Vox Populi says:

    This seems like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm waiting to happen.

    But seriously, I don’t really see the problem of a rabbi not disclosing his lack of belief to his congregants if they’re satisfied with his services. Would they object if they found out? Sure. But that only proves that their preference is irrational. I can understand that you would assume a rabbi that didn’t believe would not do a satisfactory job, but once you have one that’s doing it well, what do you care? It’s like wearing a toupee to work. You might think that an employee with a full head of hair is more dynamic than a bald one, but if you discovered later that he was a bald guy wearing a toupee, you’d be pretty superficial to fire him.

  31. Holy Hyrax says:

    >But that only proves that their preference is irrational. I can understand that you would assume a rabbi that didn’t believe would not do a satisfactory job…you’d be pretty superficial to fire him.

    Because you are falling for the same fallacy as he is. You are making a rabbi into no more of a job than an AC repair man. Afterall, what difference does his belief make as long as he fixes the AC. You do realize, that in life there are exceptions to rules and in this case the exception is that a rabbi job IS different than other jobs. A belief in God is a priori and he obviously knows this since as much as his congregants are MO, they still have some standards from their shul leader.

    • Vox Populi says:

      >You do realize, that in life there are exceptions to rules and in this case the exception is that a rabbi job IS different than other jobs.

      Why is it different? Why does a rabbi need an a priori belief in G-d? In what way is anyone being hurt? Are his speeches worse? Is his counsel less wise? Would G-d punish the congregants of a shul whose Rabbi was, unbeknownst to them, a faker? What should shuls do? Run inquisitions? Maybe you can argue that G-d would be angry at the congregation, but the Rabbi doesn’t believe in G-d, and he certainly doesn’t believe that.

      If anything, just saying that something is different because it is different is a greater fallacy.

  32. G6 says:

    While I too, am more than a bit skeptical as to the integrity of this blog, I will just comment that while a purveyor of kosher meat need not believe, the Shochet does!
    (and while the lawyer need not believe his client, he most definitely should believe in the law)
    Your analogies, like your blog, fall a bit flat with me.
    Methinks thou doth protest too much.

    P.S. All good rabbonim that I know, have spiritual advisors and rabbonim of their own. If in fact what you say is true, and I’m sure that Rabbonim, just like every other serious Jew, struggle with their emunah from time to time, why have you not confided in your OWN Rov instead of fanning flames on the internet?

  33. S. Benson says:

    Interesting premise. I look forward to seeing how your blog, and the conversation it inspires, goes.
    You remind me of my college literature professor. When asked if the interpretations we had discussed for a particular work were true, he answered “it doesn’t matter whether it is true or not as long as you can pass the test.”

    Ultimately, in life you must have both: you need truth and you need to pass the test.
    Good luck on your chosen path. I hope that you find what you are seeking.

  34. Zu Halacha says:

    What i find most interesting is your statement in the opening post that you “answer “she’elot””. How can you do this? Why wouldn’t you just be Maikel in every instance and how do you know that you are not letting your own non-beliefs and biases resolve the question in front of you? In other words, if you find the entire Halachik system to be nonsense, how can you legitimately pasken?

  35. JB says:

    Prior to the advent to public use of the web, such conversations did not exist. Guys like us had nobody to reveal our innermost beliefs to. Orthoprax Rabbi you deserve a hardy congratulations for providing to those of us who are trapped in the cult some degree of validation. In my life I have yet to eat lobster or pig which I feel is due to cultural inhibitions. I say that I am trapped as I am still compelled at time to participate in hogwash like “fake bentching” or “fake mincha” at a wedding or other type affair.

  36. Goldstar says:

    As a fellow chozer l’sheilah, kol ha’kavod. I’m looking forward to your future posts.

  37. meir says:

    You write:
    “His definition of a rabbi’s position – “based on a desire to serve God and one’s community” says who? My congregants and the board never told me that, nor did it appear in the job description.”
    You’re absolutely right. And I would argue that that’s part of our tsoris. Like good Americans, more and more we relate to our religious community as customers and we want a rabbi who will service us – an inspiring speech here, some well-timed pastoral comfort there, an interesting class – and we’ll happily consume it. Of course, it means that no one is leading, no one is developing us, no one is challenging us hard to serve G-d and our community.
    I don’t know you, I only know the bit about yourself that you’ve presented. Based only on that, I respectfully wonder whether you’re the rabbi we want, but not the rabbi we need.
    Good shabbos.

  38. Janet R says:

    Almost 50 years ago, someone already wrote a book along these lines _How to become a bishop without being religious_. I found it while dating a pulpit rabbinical student, and thus in training for a rebbetzin role, and it rung true to both of us, and was constantly reinforced in conversations. The book has a good point, and it’s not just a satire. All rabbis do minor things that they may not believe in for the sake of reinforcing their rabbinic identity, such as not wearing shorts or sandals ever, or avoiding certain foods/hashgachot they believe to be kosher and would eat if they weren’t a rabbi.

  39. MS says:


    I grew up Orthodox and am non-practicing and an atheist/agnostic.

    I think you are rationalizing your deception. You may not have broken any contracts, but you are deceiving your congregation. But if there is no material difference, I agree, this deception might not be the biggest moral emergency.

    What is much more concerning however, is the effect this will have on you. You will not be a fulfilled human being if you keep this up.


  40. Quote: “My conclusion was that g[*]d does not exist and thus religion and belief don’t work for me. ”

    My reply: Atheism is not based on logic and science.

    According to science our universe has a beginning.

    It is a fundamental law of physics (causality) that every physical occurrence in the universe has a cause. Since space-time has a beginning there was a first physical occurrence. Every observed physical occurence has a cause. By induction also the first physical occurence has a cause. The fact that space-time has a beginning implies that this Prime Cause is non-dimensional and independent of space-time.

    I recommend a read of an article in my blog ( It contains a formal logical proof, based on scientific premises (no pseudo-science!), that proves the existence of an Intelligent, Orderly and Just Creator; and it also proves that His Instructions are found in Torah, and that His purpose of humankind is for us to practise those Instructions in Torah.

    Having determined that Torah contains the Instructions of the Creator, Torah requires humankind to do their utmost to practise those Instructions non-selectively to their utmost (including being honest (it is not honest to proclaim oneself to be an Orthodox רב and at the same time keeping the mitzwot selectively (i.e. rejection of mitzwot, which is logically equivalent to rejection of all of Torah, since Torah is a wholeness))); including to not to cut ones beard shorter than a certain length: ; including not doing melakhah on Shabat (according to a formal logical Halakhah-definition: ) ; including not teaching that goyim only are required to keep seven mitzwot (all of humankind are required to keep Torah non-selectively:

    Anders Branderud

  41. Daniel Schwartz says:

    I don’t intend to argue theology with you. Nor do i intend to impugn your integrity, although I do question it for the reasons stated below. Perhaps you are trapped in your situation. It could very well be that your family, who you love and cherish dearly, does not know of your atheism, and you do not want to jeopardize your place there. Perhaps you have no other marketable skills other than those associated with the rabbinate and cannot leave. Life is full of difficult dilemmas, and we don’t always have the luxury of consistency.

    Do you consider Morechai Kaplan to have been a intellectually honest person? Like you, he too concealed his admittedly un-Orthodox beliefs from his schul. His diaries from 1917 on are replete with references to it. Ultimately he could not contrain himself and began to preach his heretical views ex cathedra, leading to his resignation from the Jewish Center. We can never second guess history, but perhaps had he been more candid earlier on, Judaism might have been spared the silliness of Reconstructionist Judaism as well as the internecine strife Kaplan created, both within Orthodoxy as well as the Conservative movement. Had he been more forthright, he might have resigned from the rabbinate sans any scandal, and had a very nice life and career at JTS. Do you see yourself in Kaplinian terms?

    But beyond historical precedent, I think that what most offends people who encounter your blog is the spiritual double cross you’re pulling. Harry Maryles didn’t express it correctly. A rabbi is a spiritual role model. I think you know that, even it was not set forth in your contract (although I’m certain that your contract has a morals provision.). People look to their rabbi as a beacon, an ideal almost of how to believe and how to live within that belief in a very confusing and troubling world. This is all the more true when a rabbi is popular in his congregation. RABBI!!! people look to you, look up to you. They consider you to bean example of a religious persona, the emulation of which they should aspire to. Do you really think they should aspire to your situation? Do you really want them to be haunted and live a “double life” as you do? You may have concluded that there is no god. But there are still people, no?

  42. EMET49 says:


    I have a question. suppose a mature young person (aged 18 to 25, say) comes to you and says “I have tried and tried but I cannot believe. My parents and my siblings are all devout in their beliefs in different ways. But I cannot believe through prayer, study, or dialogue. I would like to believe, but cannot”. What would you say? I think I have a fairly good idea what most modern Orthodox rabbis would say but you are in a rather different position. Would you subtly encourage his doubt?

  43. baldtraveler says:

    Every time you say Adonai and your congregation answers ‘amein’, You cause a bracha levatala. A Rabbi is a like a shephard, leading their flock in a specific direction. Do you really want to continue in the same direction as your flock?

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