In the beginning

In the Beginning…

There is no easy way to explain why or how the light suddenly goes on, how something just clicks, and all the disparate information that you have accumulated but have shuttered away due to a lingering sense of fear and unease in a closet of cognitive dissonance suddenly reveals itself to be the unvarnished truth. If one were a lawyer or a plumber—using my earlier examples—and you discovered that the rules governing the ways of a plumber or the “Law” were simply not true, not incorrect, but not true, then your whole life, which had been dedicated to that amorphous topic of the Law, was suddenly blank, an eraser having been taken to the chalk board of your life. Well, what if you were a Rabbi? What if that to which you dedicated your life and a role and a calling that defined you and your family and everything that is important to you was found to be lacking those crucial elements of plausibility and possibility? And that now, having finally confronted those doubts and concerns that, to be honest, have likely been festering for a while, you find yourself a Rabbi, an orthodox Rabbi, living the life of an orthodox Rabbi but no longer preaching anything remotely what you believe.

How did this happen? How could it have happened? Some of the comments to my earlier posts have focused on how I have been misleading my congregants or worse. Maybe. But more important, for me and for the general discussion, I think, is how this happened. How did it come to this? I spent 5 years in Kollel, have several Smichot, send my children to Yeshiva and, outwardly at least, observe all the halachic requirements I’ve come to learn and recognize are beyond the point. It is a rather distressing way to live, obviously, but while y’all wonder and judge and react, I would suggest you consider what you would do if everything in your life, everything you had dedicated your life to, turned out not be remotely close to the truth. For all you skeptics out there, closeted or otherwise, would you go back? Would you go back to a time when things were simple, when the world and your place in it simply made sense? Unlike Neo in The Matrix, would you take the blue pill and blissfully play out your days in a fog of certainty and conviction? 

I am a Rabbi, and that is how it started for me, in the beginning…

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146 Responses to In the beginning

  1. joel rich says:

    “You can’t go home again”
    Thomas Wolfe


  2. You Da Man says:

    You are the man Orthoprax Rabbi. You should take 50 wives and spread your “holy” seed to as many women as possible.

  3. Shira says:

    To sincerely address your post, as the first two commenters have failed to do, in my opinion, I can completely empathize with the situation you are in. When I left observance, I was single, young, without a chosen career or direction. All I had to deal with was perceived social judgment when I first stepped out the door in pants, tshirts, ate unkosher food, etc. That passed fairly quickly (as they say, aveira leads to aveira, it gets easier and easier, lol).

    And I also empathize in another way. The man I married, soon after marriage, went the observant path (oh, woe was me! I thought I had gotten away!) and now I have made various changes, none too drastic so far, to create a more consistent home for our children, given that my husband’s belief is sincere and long-term.

    Where you are is a very difficult place to be. When I was there, I felt I could no longer keep up the ‘facade’ of observing something that felt so wrong to me. I can imagine how much more difficult it would be for you to let go the facade and be what you believe.

    I have to run. kids a calling.

    • Thanks I appreciate the comment. Indeed keeping everything functioning isn’t easy, but as you note, once one comes to terms with who they are making changes for one’s spouse or job is a bit easier.

  4. Shilton HaSechel says:

    Did you become a Rabbi before you had doubts or did they kick in afterwards?

  5. Ephraim says:

    You’re a fraud. You’re not a rabbi. You’re a troll. You claim to be well learned yet this blog has no indication of any significant Torah knowledge. I doubt you even know what a יורה דעה is.

    • Is it that you can’t imagine a well learned person would reject orthodoxy that leads you to your conclusion? Otherwise I have no idea why you think I am not. Indeed I know what יורה דעה is. I have smikha and to obtain my smikha I learnt through yoreh deah. I wish I could send you my articles which have appeared in various Torah journals that you might recognize. The journals all seemed satisfied with my level of learning.
      All because one disagrees with someone doesn’t mean the other person is an ignoramus.

      • Ephraim says:

        1) I believe you’re a fraud because nothing in this blog, nor in your comments, indicates any level of scholarship.

        2) Either way, you’re a fraud. Either here in the anonymous blog world, or preaching at the pulpit.

        3) That being the case, there definitely have been many scholar-heretics. They existed in Volozhin, Mir and elsewhere… . I wouldn’t be surprised if there are rabbis out there who are “reverse marannos”. I’m just not convinced you’re one of them. But you’ve got the keyboard… prove me wrong. Blog something smart.

        4) Most heretics today are ignoramuses. That doesn’t not mean they are morons within their field of expertise. It means their philosophy and theology is worthless. For example, today’s atheist-scientists are great scientists, but lousy atheists. (The converse is also true: Many in the religious sphere are scientifically illiterate.)

      • Ichabod Chrain says:

        Ephraim’s comment shows he’s a troll

    • Those believers who have been labeling skeptics as ignoramuses all this time are now terrified that someone who has been accredited as a Rabbi – thus proving he is not an ignoramus – has stopped believing.

      “You must be a fraud,” they say “everyone smart believes in Judaism ”


      • Ephraim says:

        Nonsense. Many skeptics were geniuses. And one who doesn’t believe that… is a heretic. I also have learned from the skeptics- don’t believe incredible claims without proof. And I don’t believe our anonymous blogger is an accomplished rabbi. But I can be converted if the evidence is compelling.

    • OTD says:

      >You’re not a rabbi. You’re a troll.

      (Says the troll.)

  6. David Tzohar says:

    You call yourself a Rav? Shame on you. As you probably know one of those who has forfeited his place in olam haba is hamigaleh panim betorah she lo kehalacha. You should call yourself ” Acher” but R’ Elisha ben Abuya had the intellectual and moral honesty not to pretend he was something that he wasn’t. I sincerely hope that you will be able to do tshuva and find your way back to the service of Hashem. Until then perhaps you will think about this tochecha and think about your responsibility to your fellow Jews and ultimately to yourself. No one can live a lie forever.

    • Theorthopraxrabbi says:

      Seriously? Did you read any of my posts? Threatening me with the loss of olam ha-ba isn’t much of a threat. I am being honest with myself which for me is very important.

    • G*3 says:

      > As you probably know one of those who has forfeited his place in olam haba is hamigaleh panim betorah she lo kehalacha.… I sincerely hope that you will be able to do tshuva and find your way back to the service of Hashem. Until then perhaps you will think about this tochecha

      Suppose I told you that by commenting on blogs you forfeited your portion in the Emerald City and would instead have to scrub the floors in the castle of the wicked witch of the west. Would you “think about this tochecha?” Would it affect your behavior in any way?

      While the morality of deceiving a congregation is a legitimate issue for discussion, threatening a non-believer with the loss of his portion in the fantastical olam haboh is no more productive or persuasive than threatening him with the loss of his portion the Wonderful Land of Oz.

  7. T says:

    Where do I even begin? How do I “verbalize” the extent to which I have felt your dilemma? Perhaps a short introduction…

    The doubts began in high school. I was in a breakaway Bais Yaakov and my parents are yeshivish Baalei Teshuvah and I was one of those weird kids who actually takes an interest in their own belief and practice. It came in waves. First I embraced and rejected Chassidism, then the good old yeshivishe velt, the complicated world Hirschian philosophy, and finally Modern Orthodoxy. So many doubts and questions needed to be resolved, so I spent my time bent over the books I found in the local University Library. The Rav, Norman Lamm, Aaron Lichtenstein, etc. – these men were the only ones who wrote in a language my inner voice could resonate with. I finally found my way and flung myself into it head first.

    Of course, lurking in the proverbial shadows were books of a different nature. I discovered the world of academic Bible and Talmud. My teachers and mentors warned me against my new interests, but I waved them off. My will to believe was stronger than any academic work. Alas, doubt had been introduced to my life and I was changed.

    I suppose that at some point I made the subconscious decision to shelf my doubts and dig myself deeper into the MO world. I became a madricha in Bnei Akiva, studied in a prestigious MO midrasha for two full years, enrolled in the Talmud program in an Israeli University (yeah, I even made Aliyah!), worked in different positions of informal chinuch, etc. This was my life, and I was convinced that the more I embraced it, the less the issues would matter. I championed a quote I once read by Rav Lichtenstein that held it as a moral imperative to be able to live with unresolved questions.

    As can be expected, this life could not last. I was suffering and I knew I had to make changes. About a year ago I started on a path that is still very much spread before me. I started by not violating lo ta’asehs, but never violating ta’asehs. Then I broke little things. Finally, Yom Kippur rolled around and I woke up, flipped on the TV and made myself a cup of coffee. I felt surprisingly little guilt; I didn’t believe in God so it made no difference one way or another.

    It’s been a weird process. There are people who know and people who don’t. I’ve lost close friends. I’ve discovered that some people are significantly more tolerant than you expect. Most of all, I’ve lost my life. I still live under wraps in the general public, so I still give random shiurim or share Torah. Every time I do that I feel actual physical pain and depression and tell myself, “I could do this. I could live this lie.” Because, after all, I know I can and wouldn’t it be so much easier to just stick to what I know? But then I remember that it’s a falsehood I wouldn’t be able to survive. I need to make a new life.

    I feel your pain. I know how much it hurts to feel like everything you’ve built is crumbling down. Does anyone know? Your wife? Do you view this as a long-term solution or just something to do until you can figure out something new?

    In any event, feel free to contact me if you need to talk to someone who understands, I know how lonely it can be to be inside your own head.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I hope to clarify my positions in the coming posts. The orthoprax rebbitzin recognizes that I have changed significantly but not the depth of that change.

    • David says:

      “My teachers and mentors warned me against my new interests, but I waved them off. ”

      That should have been a pretty strong clue. When someone who calls himself a mentor or a teacher tells you that you should shield yourself from certain opinions, that ought to tell you something. Any opinion on any topic should be able to stand up to scrutiny. If it can’t, it should be discarded, not shielded. Can you imagine where science (and medicine, and civilization) would be if everyone had agreed that we should avoid looking at or considering any evidence suggesting that the model of the geocentric universe was incorrect? Or if everyone agreed that attempting to prove that little things called germs could spread disease was an immoral view that should never be discussed or considered?

      • mahla says:

        David, with those first two sentences I thought you were going someplace else entirely. This blog is really interesting.

      • Dov Kramer says:


        I don’t disagree, on the whole, but there is another point to keep in mind here. People’s brains don’t always fully work, and they sometimes come to the wrong conclusions.

        When dealing with science, or anything that is subject to testing/verification, wrong conclusions will eventually be disproven, and will cause (relatively) minimal damage (damage that would have been worse had the conclusion not been tested).

        When dealing with theology/philosophy, however, very little can be proven. Arguments can be made (valid arguments) that there IS an answer too, but not necessarily an answer that is thought of, or understood. In those cases, hearing the argument w/o hearing the answer, or understanding the argument w/o understanding the answer can change a person’s conclusion from what was correct to what is incorrect.

        That doesn’t mean we should stop questioning. It just means that not having/knowing/understanding the answer doesn’t mean there is one. And since not everyone is humble enough to internalize this, it is possible for it to be better for someone that is more likely to be swayed by a question that the answer is too complex for to avoid being exposed to such questions.

    • Eli Aaron says:

      You sound like my soulmate! 🙂

  8. Pezster says:

    Wow! Where do I begin, maybe at the beginning.

    I grew up conservative and also a Kohen and did nothing after my Bar Mitzvah. I met a woman in my thirties (divorced) and we married. She like all good jewish women brought me closer to judaism. After years of marriage we found our local chabad and joined.

    We enjoyed the spiritual side (even all the mentions of the Rebbe) and davened every Saturday. We drove and it seemed that the only religious people were the Rabbis and their wives. We wanted more.

    We then went and took classes at our local yeshivash Kollel and were Aished. We took it in and really loved it. It was spiritual and Hashem and we started taking on mitzvos. We put our house up for sale and moved into the Eruv. We followed along great and did what we were supposed to do as part of the community.

    To make a long story shorter it is the community that is closed to outsiders and what started as spirituality turned into rules about when you can do this and how to do that and it seemed that what I thought were spiritual sermons by our rabbi were now halachic discussions on everything.

    Something happened that was not good for us by the very people who are not to speak Loshen Hara and we stopped cold turkey. It seems abrupt and it was, but we miss what was started our journey because the spiritual side seemed to go away and it all became about rules.

    I dont understand why we live with a lot or Rabbinic rules from over a thousand years ago and nothing gets changed for the times.

    I think I am okay going back to be a conservative jew being a part of something that is in the 21st century and is open to people and some interpretation.

    My story.

    Rabbi, I would love to know more about what the doubts and concerns are. I guess I need to keep reading.


    • S. Benson says:

      One thing that many forget is that the Jewish community is a community like any other. Sadly one aspect of communities is that of “in-ness” (I know that the sociologists have a technical term for it but I don’t recall it right now). The flip-side of cohesiveness is that we begin to judge others by how much they “fit in” according to arbitrary criteria. At times (and it seems to me to be a growing phenomenon) some begin to lose site of the essentials for the external forms: what yeshiva? what type of kippah? hat? sheitel? etc.
      When the rules are simply followed (the “–prax” part), then the rules can become an end in-and-of themselves. Torah is there to instruct but Torah is more than rules (especially rules like “though shalt wear a brimmed hat like your fore fathers in Europe”).

  9. joel rich says:

    To sincerely address your post, as the first two commenters have failed to do,
    Excuse me? The TW quote goes directly to the question raised:For all you skeptics out there, closeted or otherwise, would you go back? Would you go back to a time when things were simple, when the world and your place in it simply made sense?

    TW’s answer is the question is no question – you can’t go back again.


  10. Jacob Stein says:

    I have written some suggestions for hunting secret atheists. If anyone has suspicions about their rabbi, give this a shot.

  11. Jacob Stein says:

    Frankly, however, I believe the author of this blog is a Reform rabbi, probably female.

  12. Ilan says:

    Yes and No.
    Yes. I went on a gap year to Israel in the hope of alleviating my doubts and freeing myself from the despair that comes with them. The digging and the (regretted?) attempt to be intellectually honest on this mission only made it worse. There were times I lay on the grass of a park just outside Jaffa Gate looking at the Charaidim walking in out out of the old city wishing I could be ignorant of what I have learned and become aware of. The Happiness of it, the freedom from doubt and no sense of loneliness even alienation from the people I know and associate with.
    No. Perhaps it’s only stubborn pride talking, but i do value my mind. I won’t allow myself to live a life that require’s me to leave intellectual honesty at the door. It’s the tougher life, but what choice do I have? You cannot tell yourself that it’s best to not think, and belive it.

    Why is it you choose to live this (I mean no offense) fascade? Why say what you don’t believe? Doesn’t it pain you to portray yourself as what you are not?
    I don’t mean the JOB of being a rabbi, but what is MEANS and how you make yourself appear to others. I admit I’m a bit of a hippocrit in this regard and so I wish to add your thoughts on this to the debate in my mind.


  13. Shades of Gray says:

    I think part of the problem is that some skeptics rigidly and definitively identify themselves as such, instead of admitting to have , an obviously more exacerbated form of what nearly everyone has to deal with(even if people don’t admit it publicly!). Here is some advice from R. Yaakov Horowitz, which may help some:

    “Simply put, the Rosh Yeshiva wanted the bachur to reframe his thinking regarding his emunah status from ‘maybe’ or ‘no’ to ‘not yet.’ Why? Because a ‘no’ mindset results in frustration and a sense of despair that usually results in a downward spiral. A ‘not yet’ attitude, on the other hand, conveys the duality of the realization that one is far from the goal of perfection – while at the same time sending a profound message of perpetual growth while striving to reach a lofty objective. ”

  14. The Real Truth says:

    Interesting choice of words …”In the beginning…”. One would venture to say that an underlying God complex and narcissistic sense of self may be the culprit here and hence your espoused philosophy. However, I am not going to say that. I do believe though, as for yourself and any other atheist, to emphatically say there is no God is quite pompous. In all honesty, we can not know if God exists or not. If you were to say you were an agnostic, at least I could say that you are intellectually honest. When you say you are an atheist it leads me to believe that you are an individual who believes himself to be better, smarter and superior to those around you. I think you need to look at yourself, your relationships and the type of communication that you have developed between yourself and significant others in your life. I sense some serious personality difficulties here.

  15. The Real Truth says:

    Also….you did not explain how this happened. You just told us about your education…where is the personal process? what transpired?

  16. YC says:

    You can continue comparing yourself to a plumber or lawyer.

    But seems you are more like a therapist using methods you think are false.
    You seem more like a salesman who does not believe in his/her product.
    You seem like a salesperson who is selling a product that does not work.

    It is unethical.

    I thought atheists do NOT think it is ok to lie, kill or steal.
    Why do you think it is ok to lie, mislead?

    • David says:

      If I’m a therapist who doesn’t “believe” in my methods, but I see that you respond well to them, and that they give my patient a positive feeling about himself that he might otherwise lack, is it wrong of me to provide him with what he wants, even if I don’t belief it’s “true” in a wider sense?

  17. Offwinger says:

    I am sure you have posts on many of these topics planned. Nonetheless, I’m very curious about your situation and reading your thoughts. I hope you have some posts that will address the following questions:

    (1) What do you hope to accomplish by sharing your story and viewpoint as an anonymous blog?

    (2) How do you present Orthodoxy, Torah and Judaism to your children? Do you have any specific aspirations for their spiritual or religious growth? Do you care if they marry Jews or not? Do they now or will they in the future know this?

    (3) Has the response you have received so far been what you would have expected? Has anything surprised you in the attention and comments you’ve garnered?

    (4) How do you think your shul members would react if they knew “the truth” about you? What percent would be accepting? And based on this answer, if you are aware that your beliefs and personal practices might violate the implicit terms of your contract in a material way – if not the four corners of the document – have you considered whether your shul would have a legal action for contract breach or misrepresentation against you under American legal concept (putting aside how halacha treats materiality in contract situations and the rabbinic profession)?

    (5) What moral or ethical standards do you think each of us owes our clients and/or employers? Are there professions that require something more than what we’re “officially” asked to do? (e.g., police officer? doctor?) To what extent are we responsible for choices we lead others to make, whether we serve as educators, counselors, accountants, or any other advisory roles?

  18. Abe says:

    I would like to ask Ephraim if he would call Rabbi Avigdor Miller a fraud since all he did was steal a skit from Ray Comfort and plagiarize from Christian creationists, no “scholarly works” I can guarantee.

    Orthoprax Rabbi,

    When you get to the age of where you can break that 401(k), give a klop on the beimah and drop the bombshell 🙂

    • Dov Kramer says:

      He can’t ever let them in on it, because they can sue for all of the wages earned from the time he stopped “believing.”

      • Abe says:

        Fat chance. You can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he has or does not have any metaphysical framework. Unless they really hated him and wanted to waste his time (and theirs’) they would not file such a frivolous lawsuit.

      • Dov Kramer says:

        He was saying he “”klopped” on thye bimah and dropped the bombshell, i.e. admitted he’s an athiest and had them “fooled” for a while. No need to “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he has or does not have any metaphysical framework,” as he admitted it publicly.

    • Ephraim says:

      I used the term in reference to our anonymous blogger who claims to be an accomplished rabbi. I don’t believe him. Not because the situation he describes is unbelievable- history is full of rabbi-heretics. I don’t believe it because nothing written by Orthoprax indicates an intellectual level of a scholarly rabbi.

      Now for some rambling: I’m not very familiar with Avigdor Miller. I have read a couple of his volumes and appreciate his upbeat approach. He’s more a maggid than a philosopher and thus can only reach certain people; others will be simply unmoved or perhaps even frustrated and throw his books away. I don’t know about his creation approach. I certainly condemn the (Christian) Creation Science as garbage. The Intelligent Design (i.e. Irreducible Complexity) approach is a definite improvement. However I have serious problems with it. (Some of the opposing arguments by the way inadvertently confirms a belief in intelligent design.) First, it seems that much of their (“I.D.”) claims have not held up to scientific scrutiny (examinations of irreducibly complexities have found them to be in fact reducible.). Second, I believe the general problem of proving God’s existence is ontological. I don’t think the problem is avoidable. It was a problem before Hubble and Darwin when the “steady-state” universe was the conventional wisdom. And it remained a problem after them. And if we overturn all science for something more revolutionary, the problem will yet remain. I suppose one could be convinced scientifically that evolution could only have occurred under the guidance of God- but have that same person live through the Holocaust and all the science in the world isn’t going to save his faith. In any case, I feel that all of the scientific (or pseudo-scientific) approaches are destined to fail at worst, or most be supplemented by other ideas at best. The Torah (=Law) is the word of God and so are the Laws of nature. Rejecting the laws of nature is tantamount to rejecting the word of God.

  19. Moshe says:

    Rabbi, I confess to not having read your other posts but I have a question. Would you ever consider becoming frum again? I’m sure its much harder having gone through the system and finding that it has not satisfied your needs, but are you at least open to giving it another shot?

    If so then I have no qualms and would relish the chance to speak with you at greater length. You’re not orthoprax, you’re just not yet frum .

    But ff not then what you’re doing is not right. If you have no intention of being a believing frum Jew then you are putting on a charade for personal convenience. It’s too hard to give up the life and family you know and love. But if you truly love and respect your friends, family and perhaps even your congregation, don’t you owe it to them (if not yourself) to admit who you are?

    I’m sure this blog plays a therapeutic role for you, but surely you must see that it is potentially hurtful to the people you cherish if one day your identity should be discovered (which is in fact much easier than you may believe). If, chas v’shalom, your wife was being unfaithful to you, and blogging about it, imagine the pain you’d feel when someone shows you that blog!?! Is what you’re doing any different?

    I truly believe that Yiddishkeit continues to open its arms to you (shuvu bonim, shovivim) but if you choose not to embrace it, I implore you for the sake of those you hold dear, to stop doing what you’re doing, stop blogging about it, and just walk away.

    • No, I don’t think I would consider becoming frum again because, as I mentioned and I hope to explore in greater detail, I have reached where I am today after a very long process I can’t imagine what one would add to that today and make me change my mind. Indeed, the commentators who assert that somehow I missed some philosophical point or another assume that I hadn’t consider such points before. To the contrary, remember I am a rabbi, I do this for a living, so yes, I have gone through the Kuzari, Moreh, Pesach Kron, Aish, take your pick. In the end, I have decided to go a different route.
      As to revealing myself, I have taken various precautions, including using various proxies to mask my location and other such tactics. Of course, none are foolproof and I have considered the (remote) possibility of being unmasked. But if that is god’s will what I am to do.
      You say I should stop blogging, why? Why am I not entitled to a forum? Because we may share different beliefs why can you air yours but not me? That is, I assume you are ok with the multiple traditional Jewish blogs. So they are entitled to a forum but not me? Why?

      • Dov Kramer says:

        >> But if that is god’s will what I am to do.<<


      • Moshe says:

        I didn’t see in your list of philosophical trekking any reference to chaddidut. Perhaps that arena is worth a gander?

        Regarding revealing yourself and stopping blogging; my point was simply that its quite possible that someone will unmask you. You are clearly angering some people with this blog and a kanoiy (oblique parsha reference) may well take it upon themselves to do just that. But even if they do not, is it really worth taking the chance? Of adding insult to injury if/when family and loved ones have to be exposed to this?

        I am not opposed to you expressing your beliefs I am simply urging you to play out the scenario of an unfaithful spouse. No one would deny her her unequivocal right to freedom of speech, to blog about her indiscretion to her hearts content. But we would also not deny that it is cold and heartless not to consider the pain inflicted on her spouse by publicly flaunting her ‘unfaithfulnesss’ as you are choosing to do.

        I understand you are in a difficult situation and that taking this outlet away would make things even harder for you. For doing that you would have both my sympathy and respect. But to not refrain, I ask you, is your conscious clear?

      • Confused says:

        “But if that is god’s will what I am to do.”

        Huh, I thought that is what this whole thing was about.

      • That was tongue in cheek.

      • Blogirl says:

        Interesting that you still haven’t addressed the fraudulent nature of your choices. You’re free to believe and express whatever you want. But defrauding employers and congregants (and your family for that matter) is still wrong, whether or not you do or don’t believe in God.

      • Janet says:

        That’s a great point, “To the contrary, remember I am a rabbi, I do this for a living, so yes, I have gone through the Kuzari, Moreh, Pesach Kron, Aish, take your pick.” There is an enormous amount of condescension. “If only this person knew X, they would believe like me” is such a tempting thought. A frum guy who had stopped dating me because I was too halachically liberal once came to me and confided his agnosticism to me. I mentioned a few things, and then I gave up. He couldn’t convince me that I was required to cover my hair, and I couldn’t convince him that Gd exists. It’s important to remember that we all have to respect each other’s experiences and opinions, and both the religious and secular are in violation of that respect.

      • Janet says:

        Btw, I think it’s interesting what you chose as what might give people emuna: Kuzari, Moreh, Pesach Kron, Aish. Personally, the part of my emuna that goes beyond the existence of Gd (which, by whatever fluke of neuropsychology and neshama, I happen to have believed 95% of the time since I was conscious) is often reinforced by reading R Eliezer Berkovits, hearing lectures from Marc Shapiro, Isaiah Gafni, and Bernard Septimus, reading R Abadi kashrut’s website, etc., and weakened by the usual suspects. Someone gave a link to a column that suggests bringing chozrei b’sheila to kiruv events, but nothing would make me irreligious faster than Aish. That, too, is a fluke of my religious make-up that I find flexibility and moderation elegant and inspiring. We’re all different.

  20. Abe says:

    In a sense the whole charade is easier for you. We all have to waste time going to shul to keep it up; for you it’s part of the job.

  21. neshama says:

    Listen, the same Hashem that gives one inspiration, can also take it away. As long as one does Mitzvos, even if he has lost that connection of belief, he is still ok. Hashem can decide to inspire you to many things: maybe to start over! Maybe the lessons learned going thru this ‘challenge’ nisayon, will be so invaluable they will be like a priceless diamond (also created by the Creator). There is nothing NOT created by the Creator. He is challenging you for a reason. One cannot see ‘nature’ and NOT realize there is a Creator. A challenge like this has happened to great sages of the past. Maybe you are a reincarnation of one of them and here to do a tikkun? If it would help to dialogue, you can write me.

    • G*3 says:

      I’m sure that you mean well, but it can be grating when you state your opinions as facts, such as:

      > One cannot see ‘nature’ and NOT realize there is a Creator.

      While you no doubt sincerely beleive this to be true, please try and understand that many people need more evidence for a Creator than a sense of awe and an inability to fathom how the universe came to be in its present state.

      • Abe says:

        We all know it’s her (?) opinion. One doesn’t have to preface every sentence with “maybe” or “I believe.”

        Maybe I should have said, “I believe we might all know it’s her opinion.” Possibly.

      • G*3 says:

        You know that it’s her opinion and I know that it’s her opinion. I’m wondering if she knows it’s her opinion.

      • Dov Kramer says:

        It’s not necessarily “an inability to fathom how the universe came to be in its present state.” For many of us that have convinced ourselves that we have an open mind yet still “believe,” it’s that a Creator seems like a much more plausable explanation than having it happen on its own.

        We see the same “facts” (our world). You may see those facts and think it’s more likely that things “got here” on their own than there being something guiding it (after initial creation) to get to this point. I (and many others) have concluded that it’s far more like that there was a First Cause that started the ball rolling, and was interested enough in what was “caused” to stay with it.

        But if you want to be respected as a person because of (or despite) your “beliefs,” or what you’ve concluded, then you must show that same respect to those that have reached a conclusion other than yours.

      • G*3 says:

        Dov, I apologize if I’ve offended you. But as stated, neshama is making an assertion that if one looks at nature one will inevitably come to the conclusion that the universe was created by a Creator. This is a standard theistic claim, and can usually be restated as either, “Wow, the universe is complicated, therefore God;” or as “Wow, look at the pretty mountains, therefore God.”

        The implicit corollary is that anyone who looks at nature and doesn’t realize there’s a Creator is either an idiot or is deliberately deluding himself.

        If the Big Bang theory is correct, there undoubtedly was some First Cause. But there is no way to get from there to an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent deity Who insists that He’s the only one, takes a personal interest in people’s lives, and handed down the Torah on Har Sinia.

        And of course there’s the problem of infinite regress. If the universe requires a Creator because of its complexity, then surely the amazingly complex Being Who created the universe requires a Creator, and the complex Being Who created the Creator requires a Creator…

      • Dov Kramer says:

        No offense taken. And you are right that concluding that there must have been a First Cause does not automatically mean that there is only one such being, or that it is still involved in creation, what other characteristics this being has (besides “creating”), etc. (There are reasons to come to those conclusions too, but the mere fact of our existance isn’t necessarily enough to reach such conclusions.)

      • Dov Kramer says:

        As far as the origins of the First Cause, only those beings limited to natural law have to contend with that issue. So yes, even though other chracteristics of the First Cause don’t necessarily flow from there being a First Cause, that this being exists outside of the rules of nature is necessary to address how things “got started.”

      • G*3 says:

        We have no idea what “the laws of nature” were like before our universe came into being. If we are to rest at an infinitely complex Being that is exempt from the laws of our universe, why not rest at a finitely complex universe the origins of which (which must have happened before it came into being) were not subject to the laws under which it currently functions, and discard the notion of God as a superfluous complication?

      • G*3 says:

        > And you are right that concluding that there must have been a First Cause does not automatically mean that there is only one such being

        Concluding that there must have been a First Cause does not automatically mean that there was any Being involved at all. The first cause could have been a mechanisitc process of whatever conditions our universe emerged from.

      • Dov Kramer says:


        So now we have a “pre-world” state that is not subject to the laws of physics/nature, including there being no such dimension as “time” (b/c if time existed, and there was still a “before,” it couldn’t be a “First Cause”).

        And this “timeless state” of “unnatural existance” was the precursor to whatever exists that is subject to the laws of nature.

        If there’s too much baggage attached to the term “god” for you to use it to describe that “timeless, unnatural existance,” that’s okay. But I hope you don’t mind if some us aren’t uncomfortable enough with the term to use it.

  22. df says:

    >Ephraim – “Most heretics today are ignoramuses. That doesn’t not mean they are morons within their field of expertise. It means their philosophy and theology is worthless. For example, today’s atheist-scientists are great scientists, but lousy atheists.”

    This is a hoary old yeshivah joke, that today’s apikorsim are really just amharatzim. “Learn a little, and then you can call yourself an apikoris!” Maybe so, but the mirror image is true about the yeshivah types (and not just about science, Ephraim.) That is, most yeshiva guys know nothing about biblical criticism, and so their emunah has never really been tested. They are thus hardly true beleivers, they are just on auto-pilot from birth. The apikoris can easily say, ” Study a little, and then you can call yourself a maimon!”

    Orthoprax rabbi – Have you concluded that there is no God, or merely that some of the laws of shulchan aruch that your job requires you to teach are erroneous? Although the difference gets blurred in charedi circles, there is in fact an enormous distinction. Concluding that chazal (ie, orthodox Jews) got things wrong does not make you an atheist. Are you so certain there is no higher power? Have there been no moments in your life when you felt the hand of God intervening? Meeting your wife, events falling into place? Do not let your learning persaude you that those moments, which you were once so sure about, were merely illusory.


    • An Old Friend says:


      Still thinking you can wipe off the rabbinic cobwebs to reveal what God actually did say up on the mountain, huh? Whatever floats your boat. Regards.

  23. Jacob Stein says:

    In my humble opinion, the secret atheists within the Orthodox community are the equivalent of hidden spies, saboteurs and traitors living secretly in a nation at war.

    This is a problem which of course goes back to ancient times and the rabbis added a blessing to the Amidah for them:

    For the apostates let there be no hope. And let the arrogant government be speedily uprooted in our days. Let the noẓerim and the minim be destroyed in a moment. And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be inscribed together with the righteous. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.

    In addition to prayer, we must also make all practical efforts to identify these people and expel them from our homes, schools and synagogues.

    • ksil says:

      expel them? there is no such law

    • Atheist says:

      “The secret atheists within the Orthodox community are the equivalent of hidden spies, saboteurs and traitors living secretly in a nation at war.”

      “For the apostates let there be no hope. And let the arrogant government be speedily uprooted in our days. Let the noẓerim and the minim be destroyed in a moment. And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be inscribed together with the righteous. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.”

      Another shining example of the love and tolerance and peace and humanity and logic of religion. Disgusting. Reeking of ignorance, superstition, and partisan hatred. Wake up, grow up.

      You should be ashamed of yourself.

      Atheists cannot MAKE themselves believe. We do not, cannot believe. Because the claims of religion are nonsensical and unproven. That’s all.

      Comments like yours make me grieve for humanity.

      • G*3 says:

        Jacob Stein’s comments should not be taken as indicative of the opinions of the frum community. I don’t know how to describe him nicely: the best I can do is to say that his actions may be the result of a personality disorder rather than, as they seem, outright malice.

      • Jacob Stein says:

        “Atheists cannot MAKE themselves believe. We do not, cannot believe. Because the claims of religion are nonsensical and unproven. That’s all.”

        Sure. By the same token, Holocaust deniers cannot MAKE themselves believe. They do not, cannot believe. Because the claims of Jews are nonsensical and unproven. That’s all.

        Atheism is just an excuse to live a guilty free life of selfishness. You don’t believe because you are totally corrupt.

        Atheists who hide within the Orthodox community because they want to enjoy the warm God fearing community while doing whatever they want to when no one is looking are like lice hiding in people’s hair. They must be combed out and thrown away.

        Here is a practical guide.

  24. Ephraim says:

    “Maybe so, but the mirror image is true about the yeshivah types (and not just about science, Ephraim.) That is, most yeshiva guys know nothing about biblical criticism, and so their emunah has never really been tested. They are thus hardly true beleivers, they are just on auto-pilot from birth. ”

    Well said. I would ads that it’s not only a lack of real knowledge of academics that leaves faith untested. It’s the “easy” life. What I mean, is that it’s easier to be a Jew in the U.S. then it was in previous generations. Thank God, we don’t have the kinds of tests of faith, that a poor Jewish immigrant had back in the 1920s.
    I guess that different people are challenged by different ordeals. For some, it could be something purely intellectual- as we’ve discussed above. For others, it could be seeing unethical behavior of so-called religious people. Others, may be bothered by theodicity. And some drop out due to the banal struggles of everyday life whether the financial or sensual…
    Is there a problem that a Yeshiva guy never heard of Wellhausen, Darwin etc? No- not unless you think it’s a problem for a married man to never meet a woman who is more beautiful than his wife. Or a person who’s never seen a headline in which some black hatted criminal is hauled off to jail. Or the financially secure who never had reason to lie and steal. Not a problem at all, indeed that’s what we pray for every day: אל תביאנו…. לא לידי ניסיון
    My question is the following: If we take an approach in which we introduce challenging scholarship to otherwise insulated Yeshiva guys, should we also force them to confront all other experiences that may strengthen (or destroy) faith?

    • Dov Kramer says:

      Great comment.

      Nevertheless, the question really isn’t whether we should force others to be exposed to things, but whether someone seeking the truth must expose him or herself to these things before being able to make any comclusions.

      Is everything in life “TBD,” since we will eventually learn more about it, or can we act upon “preliminary conclusions” since waiting for “final conclusions” means paralysis?

      • David says:

        Dov Kramer,
        We all can and must act on our prelimary conclusions, at the very least to choose who we are going to marry.

        Why would anyone seriously seeking the truth NOT want to expose themself to certain evidence?

        A serious truth seeker will find all views for and against and weigh up the preponderance of evidence.

        The more we use our reason without quarantining the ‘faith’ part of our brain, the more faith ebbs away.

      • Dov Kramer says:

        It’s not the exposure that’s being avoided, it’s taking the time to read every non-believer’s argument. I don’t know about you, but my time is limited, and mu “to-do” list gets longer, not shorter.

        I’d rather spend the time learning Torah than reading another DH hypothesis (for example). The notion that the Creator can’t speak from more than one perspective is ridiculous (even people can/do), so going through every example of differences is not (IMO) a valuable use of time. The other “inconsistancies” are valid if you don’t think G-d is the author, but not a big deal if you do, so don’t really speak to the issue either. I’ve seen enough quotes from people like Kugel and Cholent, pulled specifically to raise these issues, to know that even if there some interesting points made, there’s no reason to expect that reading their books would be a valuable use of my time.

        There are real issues to deal with (some of which I don’t have a fully satisfatory answer for), but I do not think that my brain is powerful enough to say that just b/c I don’t have such an answer, there must not be one. When issues come to my attention, I do look into them, but I’m not going to spend my time looking for counterpoints. Just as I’m sure most OTDs aren’t going to the library or local Judaica store to see if anybody’s written anything that will change their mind, although I would hope if s/t comes their way they would look into it as well.

    • David says:

      Ephraim, these comparisons you bring are red herrings. They are just not directly relevant to the personal life of the Yeshiva guy. Whether he knows of these social phenomenon in his community may affect his emuna but would not in of themselves have a fundamentally decisive effect on it. While reading about the Documentary Hypothesis certainly could critically affect ones emuna, and did for me.

      Although I personally think it is character building to be able to meet a woman more beautiful than ones wife and to handle it rather than hiding behind walls and rules in an artificial environment where all forms of femininity are suppressed.

      Would you rather a group of halacha drones carefully shielded against the truth, or thinking people contemplating the real challenges? Which of these is more sustainable?

      • Dov Kramer says:

        >>I personally think it is character building to be able to meet a woman more beautiful than ones wife and to handle it rather than hiding behind walls and rules in an artificial environment where all forms of femininity are suppressed.<<

        It shouldn't have to be one or the other. Mature, serious individuals build their own walls (when they deem it necessary), and try to tear down the ones built erroneously. Not because they don't agree with "the system" (because if they don't, they have no business trying to change the structure of a "system" they don't subscribe to), but because they believe in the system and think it is being misused/misapplied.

  25. Annie says:

    For those who believe that an Orthoprax, but atheist rabbi cannot fulfill his duties, what about the story of the four sages who entered Pardes? Acher (Elisha ben Abuya) came back an apikores, he would ride his horse on shabbat, and R. Meir would run after him to ask questions and learn from him.

  26. Shades of Gray says:

    On a somewhat tangential note, but related to the topic, the following is the fascinating view of R. Yechezkal Abramsky, of blessed memory, on the phenomenon of yeshiva drop -outs, as quoted on pgs 124-125 of Millin Havilin IV, in an article by R. Menachem Hacohen(linked below):

    “I once heard an interesting interpretation of this very point, from Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky, when I visited him in his home in Bayit Vegan soon after he settled permanently in Israel. Rabbi Abramsky told me the following:

    In this generation, perhaps more so than in previous generations, we have to work hard to ensure that yeshivah students, particularly those with ability, do not abandon the world of Torah. In previous generations, although a young Torah scholar might abandon the religious lifestyle, even after having studied in yeshivot, he would turn into a Bialik, or Achad Ha’Am, or Klatchkin and others like them.

    These days, when a yeshivah student leaves the Torah world for secular culture, nothing comes of him. Why? Because, in earlier generations, when yeshivah students were caught reading secular literature, what were they hiding on their shtenders, their reading stands, under the gemara? Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky! But, these days, what do they hide under the gemara? Ma’ariv, Yediot Acharonot, Haolam Hazeh, and Hamodia [Israeli newspapers]. If, heaven forbid, they leave the world of Torah, what will become of them?”

    • Eli Aaron says:

      What does this even mean? The problem with yeshiva dropouts these days is that they are not reading Tolstoy? Give me a break. This Rav represents the ignorance of many Charedi gedolim.

      Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of the Charedi World does not offer real life options for their children that do not want to be Charedi. If parents choose not to give their children a proper education, what will their kids do when they reject the Charedi life?

      • Shades of Gray says:


        1) I believe R. Abramsky died in the 1970’s, and the comment could be dated.

        2) I think his comment is a cogent observation regarding the differences in generations. The generation of Haskalah was idealistic and revolutionary. That is good, as a drop-out could read Tolstoy and have the literary benefits of Achad Ha’am. The more harmful element is that the idealism could lead to intellectual or ideological-based non-observance.

        Today, there is less idealism, and some would argue, that as a generation, there is more danger from apathy and from loose sexual mores; at the best end, there is a lack of intellectual content and creativity shown by people only reading Yediot, as R. Abramsky argued. That’s also good in a way, however, because there might be less intellectual investment in kefirah, but bad, in that the “street” is less-productive and idealistic.

        And as far some of today’s “internet Maskilim” , l’da’aveinu, they are neither Bilalik nor Tolstoy, but as I said, I believe many have very strong spiritual, intellectual and creative strengths which would make them eventually wonderful believing and practicing Jews. On the other hand, I wish that there was a Seridei Aish or a Rav Kook to engage them (and I suppose myself, too!) adequately.

        I suppose there is both yerodos hadoros and aliyas hadoros operating here 🙂

    • OTD says:

      Shadesof, why pick on OTDers? Yes, our generation is less intellectual than ones past (I actually don’t agree with that, but for the sake of argument). We don’t pore over Tolstoy all day. But is the frum world much better? Do they spend all day studying philosophy and theology? Do Orthodox men learn anything but gemara?

      If you want to accuse society of being not intellectual enough, by all means. But don’t pick on OTDers.

  27. as an OTDer I guess I have a question of a somewhat different nature…how is it that you find it morally acceptable to have a job in which you contribute to the indoctrination of people into a religion that you realize is false? Yes, it can be just a job…but just like I wouldn’t have a job at Boeing, programming missle to kill people, because I would find that job morally repugnant, I find the idea of spreading a false religion to be morally repugnant. If it’s a matter of being “stuck” in that life, there are many other avenues besides a pulpit rabbi in which you can earn a decent salary while using your knowledge, or you can train for a different job, but why stay in that profession when you know it to be actively harming people by spreading a false consciousness?

    It’s nice that you seem to have brought many OTDers and orthopraxers out of the woodwork though, hello all! 🙂

  28. Ahavah says:

    I would be inclined to second DF’s inquiry above:

    Are you SURE it’s God you don’t believe in, or is it UO/Chereidi Rabbinic Judaism you can’t stomach anymore? There IS a big difference between pre-Babylonian and post-Babylonian Judaism, regardless of all that “min har Sinai” stuff the Chereidi bandy about, not to mention a similarly huge gulf between the current trend toward every “strengency du jour” as I call them, versus reasonably recent historically authentic Judaism. I no longer believe that God is an anal-retentive OCD control freak – but I certainly believe most UO/Chereidi Rabbis are. Have you considered that perhaps you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Even simple thinks like avoiding pork (hideously unhealthy for you), shellfish (contaminated with mercury and other sea-bed toxins) and eating red meat and dairy (waaaay too much cholesterol for meal) have scientific basis in fact. God was a good scientist – the Rabbis, not so much.

    • Eli Aaron says:

      God was a good scientist and the Charedi Rabbis were not???????

      Respectfully, this is an ignorant statement and it does not belong in this forum. Chazal were some of the finest scientists of their day. Seeing as how the Torah was authored by intelligent mortals, how would you say God is a good scientist? If you believe in an omnipotent and omnipowerful God, then of course God is a good scientist.

      The problem is the current Charedi Gedolim are not scientists, and many of them are anti-science. R’ Moshe Dovid Tendler, a controversial figure indeed whom I am neither disapproving of or endorsing, is indeed a scientist and a highly respected rabbi (in some circles). The Charedim have tried to run him out of his town for his attempted reforms, and genuine concerns about certain barbaric practices performed by the mohel during bris milah that are potentially harmful to the 8-day-old’s health. R’ Tendler has very good reasons for his p’sakim and the Charedim/Kanoyim of his town tried to run him out for changing a 2000+ year-old antiquated ritual. Personally I am not taking any sides as to whom was right. I do not know enough of the precise details.

      L’chora it is mutually exclusive to be Charedi and a scientist.

      • Ahavah says:

        Chazal were some of the best scientists of their day? Really? The moon used to be as big as the sun? Not hardly. Mermaids that can mate with human men? Nope. Lice that spontaneously generate from sweat? Ummm, still no. Mice that spontaneously generate from dust balls? Still no. If a dead carcass falls into a miqvah, the water is still clean, because a miqvah makes everything clean, even putrefied flesh? Go ahead, drink it – I dare you. And so on and so forth. The complete balderdash being passed off in the Talmud as science is incredibly embarrassing for educated people, to say the least. It’s this type of “science” that gives Judaism a bad name – and it certainly was NOT always the case that observant Judaism and being a scientist were incompatible. Just since people who are AFRAID of it took over.

      • G*3 says:

        > Chazal were some of the best scientists of their day? Really? The moon used to be as big as the sun?…

        While it is true that all of things you mentioned were believed by chazal and have been disproven by science, I think the important words were “of their day.” At the time, everyone believed these things to be true, or at the very least, didn’t know that they weren’t true. Was Ptolmy less of a scientist because Copernicus disproved his theory?

        That said, I’m not sure that it’s true that chazal were scientists.

  29. Shades of Gray says:

    The following was the preceding paragraph of the Milin Havivin article quoting the Chazon Yechezkel, and puts it in context. Note, that my view is not at all critical of the world-class scholars and leaders produced by the Torah Only world; rather I argue that the TIDE-like worldliness of scholars such as Rabbi Abramsky, can, in part, relate to the people of, and mitigate(or at least prevent) some of the Off- the- Derech phenomenon:

    “Notwithstanding the fact that the Torah scholars of previous generations
    were constantly involved in the study and interpretation of halacha
    and spent their days in Torah institutions, they were still familiar with
    what was going on outside the walls of the beit midrash and were aware of
    the social and cultural trends developing in the outside world. Lithuanian
    rabbis and Roshei Yeshivah (although not their Chassidic counterparts),
    and even many of the students, had a thorough knowledge of the works of
    secular writers, particularly the works of contemporary Jewish and non-
    Jewish writers. (Rabbi Yehezkel Abramsky, who headed the Va’ad
    Hayeshivot and Yeshivat Slobodka in Bnei Brak, and Rabbi Shlomo Yosef
    Zevin, the editor-in-chief of the Talmudic Encyclopedia, were able to
    quote by heart from the works of modern Hebrew literature, classical
    Russian literature, and the great works of world literature. Rabbi Herzog,
    the Chief Rabbi of Israel, was well versed in classical English literature,
    and even wrote articles on it.)”

  30. I continue to read with fascination (and I’m starting to believe you’re real.)

    I know I can never go back because I can’t stand living a lie and I can’t imagine believing again knowing what I now know. You just can’t unring that bell. Once you stand up an atheist and look around at the world with those eyes, you wonder how you ever believed in Orthodox Judaism to begin with.

    I was lucky in that I went OTD right after college. I didn’t marry an Orthodox woman and I didn’t have an Orthodox career. I am free of all that, except for the occasional compromise to maintain relations with my parents and family. (They know I don’t believe and I live openly as a secular person who does not keep shabbos or kosher, but I will wear a kippah and go to a kosher restaurant with them so that we can share a meal. I will not say words I don’t believe, so if there is benching, I don’t pretend to mumble along like so many Orthodox do. I sit silently and politely and wait. If I’m at a wedding and someone tries to rope me into a minyan, I absolutely will not go. Occasionally wearing a kippah is as far as I’ll go, and I feel very uncomfortable even doing that, as if I’m being complicit in the Orthodox mishugas.)

    If this blog continues, I think the chance that you will be unmasked approaches 100% pretty quickly, FYI. If you’re serious about your privacy, I’d consult with an internet privacy expert. (I am a computer programmer, but I’m not expert in that area.) Perhaps unconsciously that’s what you want, to have someone force you out. I suggest coming up with a better exit plan, although I can’t provide one. Hard time to be looking for a new career. 😦

  31. Eli Aaron says:

    Jacob Stein,
    What would you propose to do with a PhD Microbiologist that spent several years in yeshiva, who believes in Hashem, and who thinks that all religion is man-made, yet finds a tremendous amount of meaning and depth in yiddishkeit?

    Do you want to throw this guy and his family out of your community?

    • Jacob Stein says:

      Well, it’s not me. It’s the Talmud and Talmudic law.

      The Jew who has studied the Torah and then rejected it is not merely a Jew who is imperfect or who has sinned or who has a problem. He is an anti-Jew.

      See for example the Chofetz Chaim 8:5. It is obligatory to hate people who deny the divine origin of the Pentateuch, the legal portion of the Talmud or any part of them.

      We are required to curse them three times daily in the Amidah prayer.

      When he dies, his relatives celebrate his death (Yoreh De’ah , 345, 5) .

      In the afterlife, the Talmud (Rosh haShanah 17a) states he will be punished in hell forever.

      • Eli Aaron says:

        Jacob Stein,
        You should review what it means to “hate” a fellow Jew. You should also read the Rambam’s perush to Mishnayos Sanhedrin Perek 10 Mishna 1. Also review Rav Huna’s first statement in Eicha Rabbah.

        I am also somewhat suspicious and have my doubts to the authenticity of the poster. He just does not seem that learned or well-written. I would expect him to sound more educated on paper. Even if our Orthopraxy Rabbi is a fraud, I am certain there are many people like him in Orthodox rabbinical positions. I see many Orthodox Rabbis using their positions as “medieval welfare”. Unfortunately there are many fakes around us. I personally am looking for more Orthopraxy people/communities that believe in the Borei Olam, but recognize the mishugas of both the Orthodox and non-Orthodox worlds.

        Jacob, personally I think you are spreading hatred on the internet, but you probably grew up in a close-minded unintellectual yeshivish home. It is time to open up your mind and ears to reality my friend.


  32. Jacob Stein says:

    To me, honestly, this entire blog sounds highly suspicious.

    The reason why is because for someone to have switched from learning in kollel for years, getting semichah, etc to being an atheist would be a huge emotional upheaval. I feel certain that such an individual would feel a huge amount of anger at the parents and teachers and community who he now believes basically destroyed his life. There would be snide comments, ridicule, obscenities flying in all directions. Check out all the other ex-Orthodox bloggers out there. Almost all start frothing at the mouth when Torah is mentioned. Yet here we find someone who quite serenely is going about his business as a “rabbi” and seems perfectly fine with it.

    It think a Reform rabbi (probably a woman because he/she seems so polite) is writing this.

    • S. Benson says:

      Frankly, having read your replies, you seem to be the one “frothing.”
      Orthoprax Rabbi has started a discussion. If you feel that he is lying, then don’t waste time responding. I would also ask (with due respect to the Orthoprax Rabbi—it’s his “space) that you stay on point and be civil.
      He doesn’t appear to be going through an adolescent crisis. He states that he gave his decision a lot of thought. Why does he need to froth?
      You’re the one attacking him with a quite a Calvinistic-streak of “hell fire and damnation.” Are you worried about something?
      If he isn’t in religious crisis, he is in a bit of a philosophical one: what is a rabbi without faith and without Torah? Fascinating question (and why I read the blog).

      Good Shabbos to all
      (and if you don’t believe that Shabbos is a sign between God and Israel, then it is still a gift that the Jews gave to humanity)

      • Jacob Stein says:

        I don’t find this blog convincing. Over the years I’ve dealt with dozens of ex-Orthodox bloggers. The tone is wrong. Just compare

        notice the anger, bitterness, negativity. And that’s just regular drop outs, let alone a rabbi who must feel he has been totally ruined by Orthodoxy.

        Read it as short stories written possibly by a female Reform rabbi.

      • Eli Aaron says:

        Why would the rabbi be “ruined” by Orthodoxy? I also am a non-believer, but I am so so thankful for my years in yeshiva. Orthodoxy has not ruined him or me, it has defined us and shaped our character.

        Jacob I can understand your frustration as a convert, but some of us are genuine truth seekers. If I come to the conclusion that Torah is truly the word of God, then I will return to the derech.

        I love all Jews and I am disappointed when Orthodox Jews react emotionally and try to reject me for my beliefs. I feel much more connected to Torah Jews that love me despite my beliefs. Maybe I will return to the derech, but for now, the Orthodoxy is not for me.

        How is the hatred you are spreading any different than Hitler’s. You want to hate a Jew for rejecting Torah, well the Nazi’s hated Jews for accepting Torah.

        Jacob I understand and I appreciate your frustrations. I really do.

        Good Shabbos

  33. Jacob Stein says:

    Reading the blog as a novel written in installments by a Reform rabbi is kind of fun though.

    But let’s cut to the chase. How about some real philosophical arguments? Documentary Hypothesis, Evolution, let’s go! Frankly I really need to sink my teeth into some fresh blogosphere meat.

  34. Jacob Stein says:

    And all these “in the beginnings”. I definitely feel Chaim Potok in the air.

  35. Baal Habos says:

    This might be the first time I ever agreed with Jacob Stein. I cannot put my finger on it, but this blog just smells phony. On the other hand, Jacob Stein at first accused me of being a Conservative Rabbi and he was certainly wrong about that. Nevertheless, this blog is not the real thing.

  36. Eli Aaron says:

    All the Torah is man-made but Jacob, even if it was transmitted to us al pi Hashem, you would still be wrong. The hatred you are spreading is what turns so many people like myself away from Torah. The contents of Tanach are already quirky and offensive enough. For some people, they only need a few kanoyim spreading hatred to turn their backs on Torah for good.

    • Jacob Stein says:

      Eli Aaron, I don’t know or even particularly care what turns you on or off. But check my references. There is not debate about this issue.

      Someone who has studies Torah and rejected it, or even one line of it, is not a Jew. He is an anti-Jew, the antithesis of a Jew. He is a traitor. He deserves absolute contempt and hatred and he will burn in the inferno of hell forever.

      • Abe says:

        Sorry but many of us don’t really care who you think qualifies as a Jew. (Preemptively, we don’t care who you think God considers a Jew either.)

  37. Eli Aaron says:

    This is from Jacob Stein’s blog:

    Jacob Stein
    I am an Orthodox Jew and I live in Wesley Hills, New York. I was raised as a non-practicing Lutheran by my adopted parents and I converted to Judaism at age 16. This blog as a rule follows the teachings of the Lithuanian rabbinical seminaries of the 1920s and 1930s. Click for more details about me.

    • Eli Aaron says:

      Wesley Hills is a very modern place for kanoyim.

      • mahla says:

        I don’t understand how that’s relevant. Please understand this is not an attack; I’m honestly puzzled. What do you mean by this, Eli Aaron?

  38. Jacob Stein says:

    Great detective work Eli.

    I’m not hiding anything. And believe it or not, a few months ago I actually lost my job and am currently unemployed because of my blogging and I have no regrets. For details, see comments here.

  39. Eli Aaron says:

    There is no such thing as Hell buddy. You belong in Monsey.

    • Jacob Stein says:

      Rabbi Elchanon Wasserman is quoted as saying that the Nazis came since people stopped believing in hell, so God brought hell to earth.

      Interested in a replay of that? Just keep going. Ahmadinejad is no different than Hitler.

      • Ephraim says:

        It’s a good vort. Problem is, how many people started to believe in Hell after the Holocaust? How many more ceased believing?
        On the other hand, the miraculous events of the Six Day War did cause people to believe…..

  40. Jacob Stein says:

    This isn’t extremism. This is just Judaism. Read the Talmud, Shulchan Aruch or even just an uncensored prayer book, as I mentioned above.

  41. Shades of Gray says:


    “Someone who has studies Torah and rejected it, or even one line of it, is not a Jew…He deserves absolute contempt and hatred and he will burn in the inferno of hell forever.”

    You are very machmir on s’mol docheh, and extremely makil on y’min mekareves. This is a “chumra which results in a kulah” !

    • Eli Aaron says:

      Right…Hate the sin not the sinner. Perhaps this guy will make teshuva and maybe he will not. What happened to v’ahavta l’raacha kamocha?

      Who would you rather live next to? A Torah Jew that molests your children or a non-Orthodox Jew who is a mentsch that treats you like a brother?

  42. Eli Aaron says:

    You make very interesting points Jacob. If you do not mind, I would like to request that you keep the hate speech to a minimum. Hatred leads to anger and last time I checked anger is equivalent to avoda zara (idol worship). So if you are in fact a genuine believer of Torah, then it seems logical you would promote behavior and thought processes that glorify Our Creator.

    • Jacob Stein says:

      All these quotation about love the sinner, etc are referring to a Jew who sins. The heretic is beyond the pale, he is a traitor, an anti-Jew. Hating him is simply the logical result of loving God.

      If you love your father for example, how would you feel about someone who spat in your father’s face?

      It’s basic Bible.

      “Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate Thee? And do not I strive with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with utmost hatred; I count them mine enemies.” Psalms 139:21-22

      “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have rebelled against Me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” Isaiah 66:24

      It’s in the prayerbook

      For the apostates let there be no hope. And let the arrogant government be speedily uprooted in our days. Let the noẓerim and the minim be destroyed in a moment. And let them be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be inscribed together with the righteous. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant.

      • Eli Aaron says:

        Are you recommending that I should become a Nazi? I was once told that Jews make the best anti-semites.

        Anyway, Thank God for Teaneck, a refuge from Monsey and Lakewood.

      • Jacob Stein says:

        What more can I do?

        I am quoting you, in black and white, chapter and verse, from the Bible, prayerbook, Talmud, Shulchan Aruch and Chofetz Chaim. This is what Judaism teaches, period, call it whatever you want.

        By the way, how would you feel about a Jew who became a Nazi? Still so loving? How about this lunatic:,2933,341811,00.html

  43. Eli Aaron says:

    Judaism is not black and white. It is not all or nothing. Jacob, respectfully, the views you are professing to believe in represent the worst in religion and give credence to every atheist and/or agnostic that wishes to wipe religion from the collective consciousness of the human species. Please do not confuse Judaism with Christianity. Yasher Koach, Chazak u’varuch, and Good Shabbos.

    • Jacob Stein says:

      First of all, as far as tolerance goes, let me mention that atheistic governments have always been extremely intolerant of other religions. The Soviets had the lovely custom of shooting rabbis, for example. Try opening a yeshiva today in North Korea.

      As far as my sources go, this all based on classic Jewish texts, as I have pointed out. Nothing Christian, Muslim or anyone else.

      I would just like to mention incidentally, that a heretic cannot be accepted even if he claims to have repented. Had he sincerely repented the strain would have killed him, as explained in the Talmud Avodah Zarah 17a regarding R. Eleazar b. Dordia.

      I want to mention however that if any heretic repents as a result of my blog and dies from the strain, I am willing to eulogize him.

      • Ahavah says:

        Had he sincerely repented the strain would have killed him, as explained in the Talmud Avodah Zarah 17a regarding R. Eleazar b. Dordia…

        Wow, more of that great Talmudic science? Can you provide some actually EVIDENCE from psychological studies showing such repentance always leads to death? Plenty of people have committed from and repented from far more terrible crimes than “heresy” and lived to tell about it. Changing your religious opinion from one set of beliefs to another is not something that will cause death – people do it every time they convert from one religion to another, or one sect of one religion to another. It happens every day. Your evidence is false.

      • Jacob Stein says:

        “Plenty of people have committed from and repented from far more terrible crimes than “heresy” and lived to tell about it.”

        Heresy is the most terrible crime. If a heretic repents and fails to drop dead, we can assume he has not truly repented.

        Check out Maimonides Laws of Idolatry 2:9:

        וכן המינים מישראל, אינן כישראל לדבר מן הדברים. ואין מקבלין אותן בתשובה, לעולם–שנאמר “כל באיה, לא ישובון; ולא ישיגו, אורחות חיים” (משלי ב,יט). והמינים, הם התרים אחר מחשבות ליבם בסכלות, בדברים שאמרנו, עד שנמצאו עוברים על גופי תורה להכעיס, בשאט בנפש ביד רמה; ואומרין, שאין בזה עוון.

  44. Eli Aaron says:

    I looked up your gemara. You are mixing halacha with aggadata and am haaratzus. Seriously…I have been in yeshiva for two years, and I can see that you are totally missing the point on the p’shat level.

    1) R’ Eleazar ben Dordia was lav davka guilty of minus (incorrect notion of God)
    2) There were different girsas
    3) There is a machlokes on which sins a person will die from after teshuva
    4) The entire Torah is man-made!

    How many Jews have identical notions of God. The Gra (aka the Baal Chutzpah) put the Baal HaTanya in cherem.

    “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means.”
    -George Bernard Shaw

    • Jacob Stein says:

      Check out Maimonides Laws of Idolatry 2:9, which is apparently based on this Talmudic passage.

      וכן המינים מישראל, אינן כישראל לדבר מן הדברים. ואין מקבלין אותן בתשובה, לעולם–שנאמר “כל באיה, לא ישובון; ולא ישיגו, אורחות חיים” (משלי ב,יט). והמינים, הם התרים אחר מחשבות ליבם בסכלות, בדברים שאמרנו, עד שנמצאו עוברים על גופי תורה להכעיס, בשאט בנפש ביד רמה; ואומרין, שאין בזה עוון.

  45. Elise says:

    I may be coming to this conversation late, but wht I find in so much of the commentary is a terrible amount of intolerance. I do believe that intolerance is a sin for which G-d chides us. So for shame on all of you who cannot see beyond your own world and have such mean and self-righteous delusions of superiority.

    As far as the Orthoprox Rabbi is concerned. You are not alone. To question who we are and what we belive throughout our lives is a normal growth of the human spirit. I do believe however, that part of your issue comes because you deem no other version of Judaism worthwhile or entitled to respect. Whether anyone on this blog likes it or not, orthodoxy is not the only way to follow Judaism. Whether anyone on this blog likes it or not, I am just as much a Jew as any of you and who are you to say that my version is not the correct one, because some Rabbi for hundreds of years decided his way was correct as opposed to another way?

    Religin is mankind’s interpretation of G-d’s word, not the definitive answer. Again shame on those that are so intolerant of others and their quest for self. Where is your tikkun olam and the desire to make the world a better place? All you spew here is lashon hara.

    • Dov Kramer says:


      That would depend on how you define “Judaism.”

      He can certainly speak for himself, but it is entirely possible that his educational background has led him to certain conclusions about what is (and isn’t) Judaism, and based on his understanding of what Judaism is, doesn’t agree with its conclusions.

    • Holy Hyrax says:


      I have heard this saying “Tolerance is a virtue – for those who have no convictions.”

      If you tolerate everything and anything, than really there is no ideal worth having. This is not about superiority. If the good man wishes to be an atheist, then so be it. This is about him working as a rabbi in a place where he knows a demand for belief exists, thus he is deceiving his congregant. Do you tolerate deception?

  46. Sarah says:

    discovered that the rules governing the ways of a plumber or the “Law” were simply not true, not incorrect, but not true

    Nah…. doesn’t happen like that…..

    First of all you say you took this job while you already didn’t believe.

    Second you indicate you’ve always had something nagging at you.

    That something isn’t logic. It’s unhappiness.

    Good luck.

  47. Philo says:


    As a both a neo-Trotskyite and non-theist, I will attempt to respond to what you said about previous totalitarian governments. It is foolish to say that the likes of Josef Stalin and Kim Jung Ill are who represent atheism. Especially the latter, who’s country prays to and worships Kim Ill Sung, Jung’s dead father, so I would shutter to call them atheists right away. Regarding the Soviets. Yes. Stalin was an atheist. But so what? He didn’t kill people exclusively because they were religious, he did so BECAUSE HE WAS A MAD MAN. If you were a farmer, and Stalin had a 1% thought you were a Kulak, you were dead. Regardless if you were an atheist or theist.

    Why don’t you speak of Australia’s new atheist Prime Minister? And the British government has many atheists in it, are they a totalitarian tyranny?

  48. Lonely Frum says:

    it seems that you are my perfect rabbi. reading about this blog elsehwere and my comment to it led to me creating my own blog so I guess I need to thank you Rav!

  49. Am HaAretz says:

    This website smells of fraud. The Orthoprax Rav does not seem qualified for an assistant rabbi position at Young Israel.

  50. Shades of Gray says:

    Jacob Stein,

    Regarding ‘kol baeh lo yeshuvun” which you quote, see one of the commentaries (I think Lechem Mishnah) on the third chapter of Hilchos Teshuvah(“afilo kafar bikkar, etc.), who asks a contradiction from both Rambam’s.

    Regardless of the meaning of the Rambam, I do not think Rav Kook would agree with you, in general. See the following two stories of the interaction of R. Kook with people, arguably, in the same or worse straits, in fulfillment of Malachai “v’rabim heishiv ma’ sifsei kohein yishmiru daas, etc.”

    This was was the influence that R. Kook had on the Nazir, a young philosophy student at University of Basel during World War I:

    “The Nazir tersely described the momentous event in his introduction to “Orot HaKodesh”:

    “In the early morning I heard the sound of steps. The morning blessings, then the prayer of the ‘Akeida’, in a sublime song and tune. “From the eternal high heavens, remember the love of our ancestors.” I listened, and I became a new person. I quickly wrote, announcing that I had found more than I had hoped for. I had found for myself a Rav.”

    See also this link, regarding a troubled Telshe yeshiva student who later became a prominent scholar, after meeting R. Kook in 1901 on the seashore:

  51. hmm says:

    He is clearly not who he claims to be. He has spent 5 years in kollel but he cannot imagine why people are so intolerant as to refuse to go into a church? Give me a break.

    • Am HaAretz says:

      I am nearly 100% sure this guy or gal is not an Orthodox Rabbi, but for different reasons. Sounds more like a JTS graduate or a yeshiva drop-out.

      In my arrogant opinion, semicha factories like YU produce more unqualified than qualified rabbis, all the more so at a place like JTS. HUC is not even worth mentioning.

      My intention is not to denigrate any of the above institutions, but rather an observation of reality.

      Different people have different sensitivities and challenges to spiritual growth. The idea of entering a church for a funeral does not seem so offensive if there are extenuating circumstances.

      Imagine if you grew up going to public school and your best friend was a non-Jew. Chas v’shalom he/she dies in a freak car accident. Do you go into the church for the funeral? Imagine how conflicting this decision might be for some people.

      • cp says:

        Am HaAretz, I have been in almost exactly the same situation that you describe, more than once, and it is actually a very “positive” experience for everyone (if there is anything “positive” to come out of a funeral). The family of the Christian deceased understands and respects your position, and they are touched by the fact that you made the trip to the church just to be able to stand outside and not enter. Furthermore, you actually walk away from it with a sense of comfort that, in some way, you have mourned for this person in a Jewish way. Perhaps the “Jewish way” is nothing more than the fact that you didn’t go into the church as opposed to going into the church in a foreign and uncomfortable environment.

      • Abe says:

        “My intention is not to denigrate any of the above institutions, but rather an observation of reality.”

        You’re an idiot. My intention is not to denigrate you, but rather an observation of reality.

      • hmm says:

        yeah, he may have smicha from yu or something. I just can’t believe that he learned in kollel for 5 years. How can you be so ignorant still after that period of time? Someone who has limited Jewish background could be confused about the church prohibition, not someone who has learned full time for 5 years. I mean, unless he was batteling the whole time, which I suppose is also possible. And the fact that he lied about kollel leads me to suspect that he may have been lying about everything. He has lost his chazaka of truth-telling as far as I am concerned.
        Actually, I just read Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and I was thinking about him. I guess this is just a type that repeats itself throughout history. He also reminds me of Milton’s devil a little. But Dr. Faustus is closer to the mark.

  52. Tali says:

    This is so sad.
    All the people who keep saying you’ll lose your place in the world to come should be ashamed of themselves. Even if your not a particularly ‘learned’ Rabbi doesn’t mean your questioning is any less valid. This isn’t Islam, you can, nay, you should question.
    Unfortunately your questioning has brought to a place that is incompatible with your profession.
    Take a sabbatical, go on a holiday or do something that will give you time to evaluate where your life has to go from here. You can’t keep being a congregational Rabbi, that much I hope is obvious.

    • Jacob Stein says:

      That’s a basic Jewish belief. Drop outs will burn in hell forever. Torah denial is no more a legitimate opinion than holocaust denial. Both are symptoms of evil.

  53. Sholom says:

    If you are in fact an orthodox Rabbi, acquire some integrity and remove yourself from your position of authority. What you claim to believe in private with your family is something else–“coming clean” to them may entail untold damage. Weigh the matter carefully.

    It is also rather shameful to throw up a blog like this, which will garner internet hits due to the sensational story of being an orthodox Rabbi atheist.

    Jacob Stein, while not always sufficiently nuanced in his perspectives, is right about a lot of things, and I appreciate his up front criticism of atheists. It’s about time. He is also correct that an orthodox Rabbi who becomes an atheist is, generally speaking, committing a terrible sin. Not that he, nor any other fellow atheists, will care, but let’s not rewrite the rules of the game.

    This is the last time I will visit or post on this blog, because I have little respect for the person behind it, Rabbi or not.

  54. hmm says:

    I meant Satan.

  55. ExYid says:

    I hear you, man. I’m a recent frumster-turned-nonbeliever myself, and it sucks. My family was never very religious, but they keep what I like to call “cultural Judaism”, which generally encompasses the ban on pork, an rarely-invoked hazy belief in the god of the weak-minded, and not marrying them heathen shixas. The majority of my good friends are religious Jews, and my family expects me to believe as they do. I think the worst part is that I miss the certainty born of blind faith – let’s say I’m experiencing God withdrawal. While my situation isn’t as heartrending as yours, I’ve often considered what I would do if I had the chance to regain my proverbially blissful ignorance.
    While I wouldn’t take the blue pill myself, I think a somewhat more complex scenario can elucidate a little better. If I could go back in time and warn my naive self of the dangers that lay ahead, I would. I feel that for me to give up my hard-won insight would be intellectual dishonesty of the worst kind, and yet I would try and protect others from indiscriminate scourge of knowledge. Compare it to parents who try their damndest to protect their children from the hard knocks of life. The impulse is strong and almost irresistible. The difference is that children need to know how cruel the world is lest they underestimate the world and inevitably get hurt, but there is no pain or loss in religious ignorance until the afterlife which will not come.

  56. ZEE says:

    There is a lot of debate lately in the frum orthodox circles if publicizing our faults is a good thing or it’s best to continue sweeping it under the carpet.
    One of the reasons they give for keeping this stuff hidden is, by publicizing such acts we open the door for others who might of been contemplating such acts to rationalize in their minds that hey there are so many people doing this so if I do this I am not so bad.

    But in your case of coming out I believe the repercussions will be much worse and much deeper and much more damaging.
    Example tonight when I was in shul the first thing I was thinking was when I saw my rabbi come in, um is it him? maybe I shouldn’t listen to him because he’s really a hypocrite.
    I am sure there are now hundreds if not thousands of people doing the same thing about their Rabbi.
    What will it cause to happen? who knows at the best, maybe many more people losing respect for their totally innocent Rabbi? or at it’s worst much loshen hora and machlokes and maybe broken communities with one fraction saying it is for sure him?
    What about the innocent Rabbis parnasah?
    So you see your coming out without actually coming out will have great repercussions in so many ways that I think you could of imagined and ultimately will leave you with a fuller plate then you will be able to handle.

  57. Baal Habos says:

    >I am sure there are now hundreds if not thousands of people doing the same thing about their Rabbi.

    Hundreds? Thousands? What are you smoking?

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