Magical Thinking

Magical Thinking

Loss has a hybrid quality to it. It can be intangible and physical, general and personal. In my last post I discussed a general loss, in that case the loss of the beis ha-mikdash and how we may not miss it all that much. On a personal level, my greatest loss has been, unsurprisingly, my loss of faith.

I did not start out on this journey looking to lose my faith in Hashem, in His Word, in His disciplines’ interpretations; I simply arrived there, forced to confront that which I had always feared. Words like devastating and distraught are not apt to describe the loss and despair that engulfed me upon realizing that I was most likely mistaken in how I had organized my life from for as long as I could remember.  I became a Rabbi, a pillar of the orthodox (and believing community), I aspired to be like everyone else, to be more like my colleagues.  I wanted to go to my shul and preach and convince and convey all that my congregants were all too eager to hear.  When I see my congregants -my family- when they ask me how I am, and I say “Baruch Hashem,” it is heart rendering and life affirming. My life would be far simpler if I could pretend all that I’ve learned and struggled with is simply the Yetzter Hara hoodwinking me yet again, or some inchoate need to pursue any and every taivah (as the Gemara suggests is the reason for those of us who dare to wonder). If I could do that, if I could find a lockbox for reality, then my life, my career, my family, they would all be in alignment and I would be living life without Loss.

Curiosity has never been encouraged in Orthodox Judaism. Questions are said to be approached unabashedly, with an eye towards the Torah and the  meforshim answering even the most difficult of queries. But, amid any penetrating and analytical probing with respects to tenets near and dear to heart of Orthodox Judaism, questions are quickly dismissed with an appeal to authority and to taivos nashim (I exaggerate, but not by much). When I was a child, I was ever curious. I had to know everything about everything, so I read through the encyclopedia (I got up to the letter M).  I was curious about faith and belief as well. I am not referring to the sophomoric questions regarding the conundrum of free will versus god’s omnipotence; those are the questions we would ask in High School to get our rebbi to forgo gemara. What do we believe in?  How can one have faith in something that is and always will be unknown? How do we, as believing Jews, deal with the overwhelming evidence that puts the Torah and everything that came after on the wrong side of history? Should we just have faith?  While that may very well be the truest definition of faith, it doesn’t explain why we should revere that exercise. Is faith merely a crutch to provide the answer when we can no longer point to the tangible and the verifiable or is it a leap of wonder and majesty, believing in something whose possible existence strains credulity? Is faith even a real emotion or is it more a state of mind?

Loss is not necessarily a negative emotion.  We will all experience loss in some way or another. We have relationships with finite beings and thus we will experience loss, tragic and inevitable as it is, perhaps on multiple occasions. Fortunately, as I sit today on a low chair and fast the fast of a mourner, as I think about all that has transpired (and not transpired) on this day, I keep coming back to the idea that while Loss will always be with us, we need not spend our lives Lost.

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115 Responses to Magical Thinking

  1. Jacob Stein says:

    I know what you mean – I lost faith in evolution. Amoebae turning into people, magic thinking….

    • Am HaAretz says:

      @Jacob AKA the real am haaretz
      Congratulations on showing the world that you have an elementary school understanding of evolution and natural selection.

    • David says:

      “Amoebae turning into people” is a gross (gross!) mischaracterization of evolutionary theory (but I expect you knew that). Of course, if that’s too much “magic thinking” for your taste, Jake, how does “dust being turned into people” grab you? Makes evolutionary theory sound downright logical and plausible, doesn’t it?!

      • Dov Kramer says:

        Not like I’m thrilled to defend him, but dust+G-d into people is a lot more plausable than amoeba w/o G-d into people.

        If you’re going to give people a hard time for oversimplifying things or not giving the whole story, I would suggest doing the same.

    • ezra says:

      if you really want to understand evolution and how fake it is then you should really check this book out.
      The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom
      it debunks the whole theory of evolution using modern science plus views from the torah among other topics.

  2. Only a Jew says:

    “Rabbi” while I was one to give you the benefit of the doubt about who you really are, I seem to be leaning towards Ephriam here as your writings seem very matter of fact….almost like you can’t garner another level….I am happier that you are not who you claim to be, but sad that you are suffering through your internal battles. I hope you can withstand the ridiculousness of those who want you to live the “survival of the fittest” lifestyle, but I have been where you are and if you are really sincere and honest with yourself, you will see that the loss you describe is just temporary….

    Here’s to hoping your Tisha B’av is meaningful….

  3. Someone says:

    I have been following your site closely from its inception because I see some parallels of the struggle you are going through and one that I went through years ago.

    No I am not and never was a Rabbi. But at one point I was learning very diligently in Yeshiva and had complete faith, including an emotional feeling of real emunah. I arrived at that point after being a Baal-tshuva for several years, hearing lots of tapes and learning a lot of Torah.

    I had questions, but the common “proofs” were enough for me until one day I did some research in my college library and found out one of the kiruv proofs was most likely not true. This threw me into deep thought and struggle for about a year.

    Another crisis of faith was when I realized that Rabbis are not perfect. Coming out of Yeshiva and Kollel I had this vision that a Rav thinks logically and deals with people decently. But my dealings with one Rav convinced me otherwise. Similarly over the past ten years the bizarre statements coming from Gdolei Eretz Yisroel have shattered my belief in Gdolim as they are conjured in the Yeshivish world.

    While these three events certainly challenged my belief and commitment, I remain committed and Orthodox, although more LW Yeshivish than before. Why? Because I recognized that there are very good indications that there is a Creator and that He gave a Torah. Although that Torah has been Rabbinically expanded, and even perverted over history in some ways, there is still the true kernel of true Torah, both written and oral. That understanding, plus my personal examples of Hashgachah Pratis, have convinced me that God and Judaism is true.

    Granted that none of what I write is a proof of any kind, but God and Torah cannot be proven in scientific or logical fashion. That makes sense because a single Creator should be beyond human understanding and the giving of the Torah was so long ago. But is proof really required?

    I can understand how a really deep and logical thinker like yourself demands proof, but there are so many things in life that cannot be proven. Although God remains unknown and today’s Judaism may not be what God designed for us, we can still converse and pray to Him and do the Mitzvos as they are understood today.

    After all these years I continue to learn and pray, but have not regained my youthful emotional component in my relationship with God. Although feeling is not as strong, I keep on going on and trying my best. I frequently myself of the well know dictum, “Shiva yipol tzakik v’kam” – “A righteous person will fall seven times but continue to rise.”

    • OTD says:

      >there are very good indications that there is a Creator and that He gave a Torah

      LIAR!!!!!!!

      • Dov Kramer says:

        OTD-

        “Liar” (especially capitalized) is a very strong accusation. You may think he is mistaken, but unless you “believe” he doesn’t think it’s true but says so anyway, the name-calling tells us more about you than it does about him.

        And, as you probably realized, I agree with him on those points. Are you going to call me a “LIAR” too? Or, would you prefer to discuss why you disagree?

      • Daniel Schwartz says:

        It’s not a lie. R. Amiel Hirsch, in his dialogue with dialogue with R. Yosef Reinman sums it up nicely when he says that he intuits G-d’s presence. No it can’t be proven empirically. But there are those of us, who when we consider our lives, the winding paths they took, we realize that all along something greater than us guided us on that path.

      • ezra says:

        huh? otd i think its pretty obvious god runs this place i mean look around you are you healthy? do you have everything you need? look at the perfect balance thats sustaining life. you think this came around by accident?
        for example look at your blog otd now someone says what a nicely laid out webpage its logical in order has all the info laid out and then he goes and asks some one who made it? that person (you?) tells them oh it came by accident some computer program arranged itself in a webpage by itself!
        dont you think this is ludicrous? and the world is thousands of times more complicated then a stupid webpage!

    • Shades of Gray says:

      “Although feeling is not as strong, I keep on going on and trying my best. I frequently myself of the well know dictum, “Shiva yipol tzakik v’kam” – “A righteous person will fall seven times but continue to rise.”

      See also Tanya, Likutei Amorim 27:

      “Therefore one should not feel depressed or very troubled at heart even if he be engaged all his days in this conflict. For perhaps this is what he was created for, and this is the service demanded of him — to subdue the sitra achra constantly”

      http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/7906/jewish/Chapter-27.htm

    • OTD says:

      What kind of doofuses are you people? Either Torah cn be proven in a rational, logical manner, or it can only be “intuited” and “sensed” by you holy rollers. You can not have it both ways. DO NOT mix facts and feelings. Either it’s a pure emotional journey IN WHICH CASE YOU ABANDON ALL PRETENSE OF LOGIC or it’s purely logical IN WHICH CASE YOU ABANDON ALL YOUR APPEALS TO EMOTION. I’m sick and tired of you people having it both ways. “Someone” says, “Granted that none of what I write is a proof of any kind, but God and Torah cannot be proven in scientific or logical fashion.” Then he says, “there are very good indications that there is a Creator and that He gave a Torah.” Then “there is still the true kernel of true Torah, both written and oral. That understanding, plus my personal examples of Hashgachah Pratis, have convinced me that God and Judaism is true.”

      Well, which is it? Is it about faith or facts? Objective truth or subjective truth?
      Personal truth (which we all know is nonsense) or scientific truth (which we all respect). I simply cannot tolerate you people tantzing oif beider chasunas any longer.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        But you also have it both ways. You judge things to be true or false outside of science and even science involves more than data but coming up with theories on what causes the data. Why should the human mind be trusted to come up with scientific theories which are yet in many cases competing with other scientific theories either now or later, but be declared incompetent to come up with other ideas? If science is only declared to be data, which it certainly isn’t, than one is arguing that people are not smart enough to think but only to see.

      • OTD says:

        >But you also have it both ways.

        What are you talking about?

        My point is simple. Either you appeal to logic, which is presumably accessible to all and is supposed to rely ENTIRELY on facts, or you appeal to emotion and personal opinion, which is entirely subjective and unique to each individual. It’s kind of like enjoying pistachio ice cream and demanding that everyone else declare it their favorite too. It’s childish and intolerant. Atheists don’t say “I feel no God so you should too” we ususally say “I don’t think there’s a god, and here’s why.” Theists are the ones who try to shove their subjective tastes down others’ throats and think “faith” is a perfect reason to give up their lives, I mean hold outlandish beliefs.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        OTD said: “My point is simple. Either you appeal to logic, which is presumably accessible to all and is supposed to rely ENTIRELY on facts, or you appeal to emotion and personal opinion, which is entirely subjective and unique to each individual. It’s kind of like enjoying pistachio ice cream and demanding that everyone else declare it their favorite too. It’s childish and intolerant. Atheists don’t say “I feel no God so you should too” we ususally say “I don’t think there’s a god, and here’s why.”

        Theists are the ones who try to shove their subjective tastes down others’ throats and think “faith” is a perfect reason to give up their lives, I mean hold outlandish beliefs.”
        How does anyone decide how to interpret data without their subjective feelings involved? How do you decide to believe that you are not living in an illusion? You probably just feel that you are not. How does one individual scientist believe in a multiverse and another not? How does a scientist look for the ultimate cause in the universe? Each of these last two cases can surely be dismissed as being too much for the mind. Why not just say if we can’t see the origin of the universe or if we can’t see a multiverse it is just subjective nonsense. Why not just dismiss morality and ethics. After all they are not science concepts to be declared true from lab experiments. The point is we all have our feelings that just tell us that some things just have to be true or false because we feel the truth.

      • OTD says:

        You’re not even worth wasting my time on. Your sophistry is incredible. (And could you do me a favor and stop quoting huge chunks of my comments?)

        I love that shit. Maybe we’re all just brains in a jar? Therefore everything I say is true. LOL! Does it even deserve a response? Maybe from someone with more patience for numbskulls than myself.

        There is a thing called the scientific method. I know they don’t talk about much in yeshiva. It’s really too bad. It’s what’s primarily responsible for the advances of civilization in the last few hundred years. Too bad frummies don’t still live in Russia where they can see just how far their ignorance has got them.

        And spare me your crap about ethics. This discussion was about Torah, Judaism, deities, etc. NOT ETHICS. That is an entirely different discsussion, and unlike deities and dogma, no one even CLAIMS it is empirically true. The fact that you imply without your religion there would be no ethics only highlights your ignorance to an even more laughable degree.

      • OTD says:

        Now that you reminded me of ethics, the only thing more vomit-inducing than theist intolerance, harassment and bigotry to infidels and non-believers is their sickening beliefs about the ethical shortcomings of non-believers and especially atheists. One without the other would be enough to turn me off of religion for good, but the fact that both exist make it a no-brainer.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        “OTD says:
        “I love that shit. Maybe we’re all just brains in a jar? Therefore everything I say is true. LOL! Does it even deserve a response?”

        What I actually said was that if you are able to reason that you are not a brain in a jar it shows you are having a feeling to decide one way or another. I did not say that therefore everything I say becomes true. It sounds silly of you to reduce your opponents argument down to the obviously absurd and then declare victory.

        “There is a thing called the scientific method. I know they don’t talk about much in yeshiva. It’s really too bad. It’s what’s primarily responsible for the advances of civilization in the last few hundred years.”

        I’m far more aware of the scientific method than you I see.

        “Too bad frummies don’t still live in Russia where they can see just how far their ignorance has got them.”

        What Antisemitism is their fault? And what about Communism has that produced wonders?

        “And spare me your crap about ethics. This discussion was about Torah, Judaism, deities, etc. NOT ETHICS. That is an entirely different discsussion, and unlike deities and dogma, no one even CLAIMS it is empirically true.”

        My point was that if you can believe in anything nonempirical it shows you are having beliefs that you just feel at bottom.

        “The fact that you imply without your religion there would be no ethics only highlights your ignorance to an even more laughable degree.”

        That wasn’t my point but you do have to have some belief beyond the empirical. It is silly of you in any event on a matter that is not empirical to say that lack of a belief in a secular basis for morality is ignorant. There are sophisticated atheists who have this very position.

        “OTD says:
        Now that you reminded me of ethics, the only thing more vomit-inducing than theist intolerance, harassment and bigotry to infidels and non-believers is their sickening beliefs about the ethical shortcomings of non-believers and especially atheists. One without the other would be enough to turn me off of religion for good, but the fact that both exist make it a no-brainer.”

        Oh and atheists have not done such things? I see Communism is not involving atheism. You yet are engaged in declaring theists filled with ethical shortcomings and yet get waxing indignent when you say they do it with atheists and other nonbelievers. You are here being so hateful, bigoted and ignorant.

        In any event you’re basic problem with what I said is that I argue that we can argue on the basis of logic and you insist that you are being smarter because supposedly you aren’t thinking at all but just seeing data. This way you don’t have to consider if you are right. Then you get upset and make nonempirical statements indignantly declaring that you are not using your own head but being smarter and just noticing data. Using your mind to reason is being considered dumb by you. It makes for a protective barrier for you but is a weak position.

      • JG says:

        RG,

        I must confess to being a little confused by your response. It seems fair to me to say that an appeal to a belief as “beyond rationality” seems out of place in a rational discussion–in which case there should be no attempt at logical discussion of that belief. In other words, using rational arguments to try to convince someone that something is beyond the power of reason seems self-defeating, no? One may as well just quietly maintain the belief without trying to convince others of it.

        Your response seems to be that everyone has emotions. This is true, but I’m not sure how it answers the above point. As for scientists who disagree, they do not appeal to “my hypothesis is beyond rational investigation.” They write logical and empirical papers fighting for their positions, and continue to test the question until they can establish a consensus for their view.

        So, I’m a little unclear on the rest of it.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        JG said:”RG,
        I must confess to being a little confused by your response. It seems fair to me to say that an appeal to a belief as “beyond rationality” seems out of place in a rational discussion–in which case there should be no attempt at logical discussion of that belief. In other words, using rational arguments to try to convince someone that something is beyond the power of reason seems self-defeating, no? One may as well just quietly maintain the belief without trying to convince others of it.
        Your response seems to be that everyone has emotions. This is true, but I’m not sure how it answers the above point.”

        JG thanks for your reply. My point actually was this. The basic thrust of the opposing argument I have been given here is that we must not trust in belief and that there is a clean break between belief and supposedly what they are espousing namely supposedly just data. I was actually pointing out that they are in fact espousing beliefs of their own. We all have data and then ultimately whether through a hunch from the get go or through more complicated reasoning arrive at a decision ultimately by the feeling that something just sounds right or not. For instance I said the idea that everything is real (whatever real really means in a Quantum universe but that’s another story) can be debated, but ultimately most people would say the hypothesis that all is an illusion doesn’t feel right. Others would say otherwise or debate the issue on logical grounds but ultimately how do we decide one or the other? Our gut feeling tells us what argument feels right. This makes life more uncomfortable if you want to be all so full of certainty that you don’t even want debate in your own head but it is the truth.

        “As for scientists who disagree, they do not appeal to “my hypothesis is beyond rational investigation.”

        I did not say so. I did say though that ultimately they also have to make a decision and it will be made at the final level by what feels true to them.

        “They write logical and empirical papers fighting for their positions, and continue to test the question until they can establish a consensus for their view.”

        Consensus is not the end of debate in science. That is not how scientists really evaluate scientific truth as that is an appeal to authority however informed or otherwise. Scientists do not stop debate because of numbers, nor do they say that something can’t be questioned because it is even a longstanding consensus.

      • Am HaAretz says:

        @RG
        My response was exactly the same as OTD. What type of incoherent non-sense are you spewing? Your response was wholly unintelligible.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        Am HaAretz says:”
        @RG
        My response was exactly the same as OTD. What type of incoherent non-sense are you spewing? Your response was wholly unintelligible.”

        I responded to him because he gave details. You can either reread or else tell me what you don’t understand in detail. All you have done so far is show you supposedly don’t understand. You will have to learn ad homonyms do not make an argument. At best they make opinions. In your case they seem to reflect a lack of something to say.

      • gavriel says:

        The scientific method operates, typically, with hypotheses. Now, a hypothesis is nothing else but a belief, and scientists go out and try to prove this belief. In many fields (medicine, biology, all social sciences), statistics is a widely used scientific tool. With statistics it is never possible to perfectly prove anything. You can come to very reasonable conclusions using statistics, but never to anything that could be called a proof.

        What I’m trying to say: separating “objective” from “subjective” just isn’t easy, or really even possible. Science starts out with subjective, and evidence is then collected to try to prove subjective beliefs. I think it’s great, or at least it’s the best that’s out there to understand our world.

      • ezra says:

        god can be proven logicaly and scientificaly just check out these two books
        The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom
        and also this one
        The Hidden Face of God: Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth
        and one more
        God According to God: A Scientist Discovers We’ve Been Wrong About God All Along
        and besides there are two types of proofs the common sense proof which you have very little of and the scientific proof.
        not everything needs to be scientific you can see something from common sense also

    • Someone else says:

      “Someone” – your story really resounded with me. I would very much like to communicate with you. Could you possibly email me at chaynobody @gmail dot com ? Thank you

  4. Abe says:

    Dude, you “baruch hashem?” Say it ain’t so. Do you write bisiyatah dishmaya on the top of your letters as well?

  5. Walter Benjamin says:

    Anthropologically speaking, all of language is mythical–that is, emerging from humanity. Every modern thinker would admit that language itself is flawed, arbitrary, and the translation of other languages along a long chain of linguistic history. To claim a “pure” or essentialist language, a language that is intact and purely signifies uninterruptedly for the last 6,000 years, a language given by God to man, a language holier than any Other, is both highly ignorant and racist.

    Further, we live within the myths of life cycles, social institutions, and political fields. These are our modes of thinking–or at least until we re-mythologize them. We might say that the history of western civilization is that of thinkers who have done one of two things: they have either offered a more profound language for imagining humanity’s project, or they have exposed the richness of humanity’s own myth-making project.

    Walter Benjamin famously wrote: “Ideas are to objects as constellations are to stars”. This analogy, though simple, speaks to the core of human imagining and constellating; the trouble is that we forget that what we see is only a constellation, an arbitrary relationality. Such is the power of human reading, and such is the failure in forgetfulness of that reading.

    The solution, then, especially to an individual embedded in an Orthodox culture and language: celebrate the language as myth, not as “truth”. Celebrate the possibility for re-imagining these mythical forms and tenets: God, Torah, Mitzvah, Man, etc. Arthur Green (the man behind the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College) has done some great work in recently publishing what is one of the most important works of Jewish theology for the 21st Century, “Radical Judaism: Rethinking God and Tradition”, in which he does exactly what he claims in his title (interestingly emerging with a radically hasidic and Spinozan account of Judaism).

    Also, keep in mind that the ancients would not have understood such a distinction between fiction and non-fiction, or between truth/myth or history/myth; this are mostly modern and post-enlightenment distinctions. In fact, Daniel Boyarin at UC Berkeley has done some interesting theoretical work in this area, particularly when examining pre-Christian midrashic literature as uninfluenced by the linguistic norms introduced by Christianity and therefore unaffected by Platonic hierarchies of thought above speech. The implications for thinking of the Judaism of our ancient forefathers, the tribes of Israel, as radically different than ours–not only in terms of Torah Sh’beal Peh, Sectarianism, etc–but in terms of how they imagined the function of their religion as more of a practice than a belief (of course, see Menachem Kellner’s important work on this as well) is tremendous. To be an atheist, or agnostic, but still a practicing Jew may very well be in line with ancient Jewish practice, but even the radical direction in which we are headed today.

    I pray for and anticipate a Judaism in which the mythical forms, the mitzvot and torah, are emptied once again of their overdetermined and usually fundamentalist weight. In fact, R. Nachman of Breslov famously wrote “the highest kavanah is to have no kavanah at all”. Aware of the danger of conformism, we must move beyond the stagnant waters of signification in which we find ourselves, all the while preserving our traditional forms.

    I therefore end with the following challenge offered by my namesake: “In every era the attempt must be made anew to wrest tradition away from a conformism that is about to overpower it.” (Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”; Also in his Arcades Project, “Convolute N”)

  6. Zen Jew says:

    Full Disclosure:

    All previous comments by “Walter Benjamin” were, in fact, posted by the “zen jew”. Benjamin was a pseudonym for zj; this blog of the orthoprax rabbi has inspired the zj to re-start his old practice of blogging.

    Check out his blog here: http://thezenjew.blogspot.com/

    Looking forward to seeing you in the blogosphere!

  7. Rabban Gamliel says:

    The more you write “rabbi” the more I find it almost certain you are making everything up. I fail to see how given the mediocre at best quality of your writing so filled with the cliches of the day that you could be so penetrating a rabbi or write anything for a Torah journal. You write in a manner that describes no motivation behind actions even for your “son.” Your Yeshiva experience of students asking the rebbe about God’s omnipotence sounds made up as Yeshiva students do wish the rebbe to talk about Gemora. Your characterization of Orthodoxy seems more from the perspective of someone unaware of Orthodoxy. The respondents are real rabbi but you seem fake. I certainly hope you are but I haven’t been loosing sleep seriously considering otherwise. Your apparent forgery will have no impact on the Orthodox community either positively or negatively (which if you would be well acquainted with Orthodoxy you would know). It is hard to picture a real undercover atheist Orthodox rabbi being so unaffected by some of the more rabid comments on your site. Frankly your style of writing could be the same as an undercover Catholic priest being an Orthodox rabbi. Something stylistically and psychologically doesn’t fit in. Call me a skeptic.

    • Tzippy says:

      “Your Yeshiva experience of students asking the rebbe about God’s omnipotence sounds made up as Yeshiva students do wish the rebbe to talk about Gemora. ”

      What planet are you from? I’ve raised four sons, and many is the time when they’ve mentioned at the table about how the class would get this rebbe or that rebbe off topic by asking philosophical questions. Before you ask, I’m talking about a well-known RW OOT yeshiva. That’s typical of immature teenage boys – even good boys at that age.

      The more interesting question is why everyone is so obsessed with whether the blogger is truly an orthodox rabbi or not. Does anybody here honestly believe that every rabbi is a true believer? Rabbis are human too, and also subject to crises of faith. In a community such as ours, where flying “under the radar” is so difficult, I don’t doubt that there are skeptics with semicha who keep their doubts private. Frankly, I don’t think it matters one iota if he’s real or not, because even if he isn’t real undoubtedly there are real rabbis in this position out there.

      My personal reaction to this blog is pity. I can’t imagine the pain of living with this kind of dissonance. I wonder if the blogger is open to discourse, anonymously even, with a rav or if he has closed himself off from even the possibility of return to a life with emunah. I’m ready to arrange such a thing if there’s interest.

      Having gone through my own crisis some time ago when I recognized some of the weaknesses in Kuzari (and the even greater weaknesses in how some of the kiruv org’s present it to BT’s), I’m happy to say that it is possible to come out on the other side. I even go so far as to say that I think my emunah rests on a stronger foundation now, as a result of wrestling with this, and perhaps bringing somewhat more sophistication and nuance into my weltanschauung.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        ” Tzippy says:
        July 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm

        “Your Yeshiva experience of students asking the rebbe about God’s omnipotence sounds made up as Yeshiva students do wish the rebbe to talk about Gemora. ”

        What planet are you from? I’ve raised four sons, and many is the time when they’ve mentioned at the table about how the class would get this rebbe or that rebbe off topic by asking philosophical questions. Before you ask, I’m talking about a well-known RW OOT yeshiva. That’s typical of immature teenage boys – even good boys at that age.”

        I did not say that it was an impossible conversation but it seemed to me he was saying they commonly never really trying to understand the Gemorah from the rebbe. The basic skepticism concerning this “rabbi” is if he is real it should match and yes an atheist rabbi is an incredible thing. Picture someone claiming to be an atheist scientist and that he’s published as such in science journals. It could happen but a healthy dose of skepticism is in order.

        At least atheists would not wish it to be true and while some of them may be happy to consider an atheist Orthodox rabbi and say “oh you frummies are nervous,”
        they would then react the same way they wish the “frummies” to.

    • Am HaAretz says:

      RG,
      Excuse the ad hominem remark, but what planet are you living on?

      From my perspective this was the Orthoprax Rabbi’s most credible post by far.

      Yeshiva high school kids in North America are just like upper class public schoolers. Half want to learn and half could give two sh*ts what they learn, as long as it involves discussions not involving Torah.

      Furthermore, your spelling, grammar, and overall verb usage indicates to me that you can not emotionally handle the metzius of an Orthodox Rabbinical Atheist!

      • tayqoo says:

        matkim. just a nuisance. sorry.

      • tayqoo says:

        sorry. maskim. it’s 3am here.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        “Am HaAretz says:
        July 21, 2010 at 11:37 pm
        RG,
        Excuse the ad hominem remark, but what planet are you living on?

        From my perspective this was the Orthoprax Rabbi’s most credible post by far.”

        Well that reduces my confidence in you further.

        “Yeshiva high school kids in North America are just like upper class public schoolers. Half want to learn and half could give two sh*ts what they learn, as long as it involves discussions not involving Torah.”

        You don’t know what you are talking about. Second when they are with a rebbe learning Gemorah they are not going to be absorbing the rebbe too much in tangents on other religious topics, because they will not be understanding the material of the Gemorah.

        “Furthermore, your spelling, grammar, and overall verb usage indicates to me that you can not emotionally handle the metzius of an Orthodox Rabbinical Atheist!”

        Unlike you I can handle reality. You’re the one who is so emotional. You have said so little in actual argument and instead have been making ad homonyms. People capable of making mature arguments on a topic don’t have to act so childishly. I do check my postings’ spelling and grammar mostly unlike some others, as some people are less exact a lot with emails for instance. You seem to be thinking I don’t have much secular reading under my belt. I have an above average reading record and by contrast suspect you of not being very reflective at the very least. You seem so insecure by saying that. I did spell checking and grammar checking I would be curious to see what you are making an issue over. I have seen bad spelling and worse grammar from bloggers like you and yet I don’t make a cheap desperate shot like you.

        By the way it is not ad hominem. It is ad homonym. Obviously by your logic your spelling makes you less intellectual. I see I should not rely on your spelling of it.

      • Am HaAretz says:

        @Rabban Gamliel

        I rest my case. Would you mind if I disagree with you about everything? I do not have to insult you by calling you a fucking moron, because you so obviously are a fucking moron. My advice to you is that you get a dictionary and look up ad hominem. I will save you the time (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ad+hominem).

        My guess is you are a first-year yeshiva student with no university education, and all the shortcomings of a secular yeshiva high school education. You are speaking to someone that taught young, adolescent punks like yourself in yeshiva. I am speaking from experience, while you are speaking from sophomoric inference.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        I have an Associate in Arts Degree, Liberal Arts/Humanities/Social Science. I am going for a B.S., a masters degree and a Ph.D all in physics, a B.A. in computer science with concentration in web system development and a B.A.in math. OT can mispell but you don’t mind but since you need an ad hominem you launch against me. You either come up with real arguments or you will show yourself to be the real fucking moron.

  8. Accidential Korach says:

    When I finally realised that there was no capital “T” in truth – I suffered a profound sense of loss and also anger.

    Loss in relation to the chain of generations – what shall I pass on to my children if Torah is not absolute? Do I want them to continue the chain? Why should I care if they marry out? And loss of continuity and community.

    Loss also in relation to a sense of sureness about what is right and what is wrong. Loss of Olam Haba (for me of course) and of loss of ultimate retributive justice that is gehenom (for the baddies).

    And anger that I had been deceived into living this way of life – perhaps by pious frauds or perhaps by deliberate fraud perpetrated by ‘kiruv clowns’.

    Rabbi – if I may ask you – are you not concerned that you are no longer a pious fraud and are now just a fraud? Do you agree that I would be justified in being angry at you if you helped me to become frum and later regretted that change?

    • Dov Kramer says:

      Korach-

      Is it that there’s no “capital T in truth” or that it’s sometimes quite elusive?

      • Accidential Korach says:

        Hi Dov

        There is no capital T in ‘Truth’

        The progression goes like this …

        (1) there is Truth – everything is true – yippee.

        (2) there is Truth but there are accretions in tradition / errors in transmission – I can still believe but now I am more nuanced

        (3) there is Truth but it is unclear what is true and what is not – “super-nuance” – **as long as one sentence (or word) was uttered by God at Sinai then there is some truth.

        (4) there is no truth

        My loss was only experienced at (4). Before that time I still had some tenuous belief in Truth. Now – nothing.

        ** James Kugel at http://www.jameskugel.com/critic.php under the heading “On Divine Inspiration”

        What would happen if someone could demonstrate definitively that God had truly given only one commandment to Moshe at Mount Sinai, the one in Deuteronomy that says: “You shall serve the Lord your God with your whole heart and soul.” Then He said to Moshe: “Okay, you and the zeqenim and their later successors can work out the details.” … In the end, I do not believe that this would, or could, invalidate our system of halakhah.

        See also his book http://www.amazon.com/How-Read-Bible-Guide-Scripture/dp/074323586X

      • Dov Kramer says:

        Hi, A. Korach.

        It probably does not surprise you that I disagree wholeheartedly with Kugel.

        I’m not sure how/why you got to (4), and I’m not sure you want to discuss it.

        I would like to point out that there is another possibility before you get to (4), and even before you get to (2).

        The “Nuanced-Truth” is not nuanced because some of it is True and some of it isn’t. It is True because some of it (almost all of it, actually) is nuanced.

        The nuances are not in which part of the tradition/transmission are True, but how to understand them. Unfortunately, most don’t grow past a grade-school level understanding (even those teaching it), and faced with adult-minded questions, the understandings meant for a 9 year old can’t hold up.

        The question is how to transition from the overly-simplistic but easy to swallow stuff we are taught in grade school to the full version that is already within our tradition.

        For those who have kept studying past high school (and throughout their college and working years), the progression comes almost naturally, with numerous “ah hah” moments along the way as material that gives those ideas more breadth are learned. For those who can only refer to what they were taught in grade school (or high school), this development has stopped, and it takes great initiative and motivation to restart the process again.

    • Am HaAretz says:

      Kiruv clown is the opportune phrase. 95% of those in kiruv are parasitic clowns.

    • tayqoo says:

      maybe that is also something he is stuggling with. cut him some slack.

    • tayqoo says:

      maybe that is also something that he is struggling with. cut him some slack.

      • Accidential Korach says:

        Hi Dov

        More than happy to discuss how I got to where I am.

        To discuss nuance we need to consider specific examples. It goes without saying that what I learned in day-school is not nuanced.

        At school I also learned that the atom is a ball with electron shells in neat patterns of 2 then 8 etc. Then in senior school I learned a more nuanced model giving me a greater understanding of the natural world.

        My experience with Jewish ‘nuance’ is that we move towards heresy rather than a deeper understanding of God’s mind.

      • Dov Kramer says:

        A. Korach,

        Unfortunately, fundies that haven’t developed beyond what they learned in grade school do label the nuances as heresy, but if after showing them the sources they still consider it as such, what can I do?

        Examples would include how G-d runs the world (“hashgocha pratis”), what Moshe was taught at Sinai, in the Mishkan (etc.) vs. what developed over time, the age of the universe, and whether Chazal can make mistakes.

        I have contemplated starting a blog just to explain these types of issues (I have touched on some of them in my D’var Torah blog), but I barely have time to keep coming back here, let alone write/keep on top of such a blog. Oh well.

  9. Offwinger says:

    Some unsolicited advice:

    Please, please, please find yourself an editor.

    People who want to believe you are a fraud will continue to believe so. That has nothing to do with the suggestion. I am very intrigued by your story, but I am extremely turned off by your writing. You may be a learned Rabbi. Unfortunately, you are a poor writer. You may think you’re writing “lofty thoughts.” You are mistaken. Your prose is weak. It obscures your meaning, and you sound far less educated and experienced than you probably are on account of bad writing.

    Beyond that, it seems like you are trying to “hide the ball” and ease your way into posts of substance. Ask yourself what is the thesis or idea you are trying to convey in each of your posts, and ask yourself if you are moving forward in advancing your story, ideas and feelings, or if you are simply rehashing the same post again and again. There is a difference between building up to a crescendo and spinning around in circles. Your “words to ideas” ratio here is very high, and if that doesn’t change, a lot of otherwise interested readers will simply move on.

    I know this may strike some people as harsh, and I apologize for my candor if it is unwelcome. I just think it might help you to hear the truth from someone who does want your blog to be a success.

  10. Gornishte Rebbe says:

    For an excellent in depth look at faith you may be interested in the series on Disambiguating Faith:
    http://camelswithhammers.com/2009/09/05/disambiguating-faith-faith-is-preconditioned-by-doubt-but-precludes-serious-doubting/

    Here are some of the topics discussed:
    Faith As Loyally Trusting Those Insufficiently Proven To Be Trustworthy
    Faith As Tradition
    Blind Faith: How Faith Traditions Turn Trust Without Warrant Into A Test Of Loyalty
    The Threatening Abomination Of The Faithless
    Rational Beliefs, Rational Actions, And When It Is Rational To Act On What You Don’t Think Is True
    Faith As Guessing
    Are True Gut Feelings And Epiphanies Beliefs Justified By Faith
    Faith Is Neither Brainstorming, Hypothesizing, Nor Simply Reasoning Counter-Intuitively
    Faith In The Sub-, Pre, Or Un-Conscious
    Can Rationality Overcome It?
    Faith As A Form Of Rationalization Unique To Religion
    Faith As Deliberate Commitment To Rationalization
    Heart Over Reason
    Faith As Corruption Of Children’s Intellectual Judgment
    Faith As Subjectivity Which Claims Objectivity
    Faith Is Preconditioned By Doubt, But Precludes Serious Doubting
    Faith As Admirable Infinite Commitment For Finite Reasons

  11. joel rich says:

    Curiosity has never been encouraged in Orthodox Judaism.
    ======================
    Interesting – R’ JB Soloveitchik said that the greatest gedolim all had one thing in common – they kept their childhood curiosity.
    KT

    • tesyaa says:

      According to this view, curiosity is great, as long as you accept certain basic premises (e.g. the 13 Ikarim). The Rav was not curious about modern Biblical scholarship, for example.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        Someone who has questions definately needs to deal with them.

        I’m not an expert on the Rav, but I recall a student of his (R. Shalom Carmy)saying at a lecture that RYBS was very much aware of biblical criticism[even if he wasn’t “bothered” by it].

        I think the Rav meant that curiosity needs to be directed. For example, as indicated in the biography of R. S.F. Mendelowitz, Rav Shraga Feivel directed a student who frequented Maskilic bookstores to buy, instead, Yavetz’s Toldos Yisrael, which had the comprehensiveness of a true historical work. Rav Shraga Feivel tried to channel curiosity, rather than suppress it.

        The following assessment, made by R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg regarding one of the goals of R. Yisrael Salanter’s Mussar movement, seems relevant to the above, (Artscroll “Reb Shraga Feivel” pg 196, quoting “Men of the Spirit”, pg 243):

        “Rejection of the secular Haskalah is not enough…It is the nature of a new cultural trend to seep in through small crevices. Fighting it with prohibitions and excommunications alone will not stem the tide, for the spirit of man is not to be stemmed by mere force.

        The suppression of the spirit in itself is of no value. It cuts short spiritual development and results in but a spiritual sterility. The sole defense against a cultural movement breaking in from the outside is the establishment of an opposing cultural force, and the opening of doors to a fresh trend of thought, stemming from the very depth of our Jewish soul”.

        As above, this is what worked for the student of R. Mendlowitz, but someone with specific questions definitely has a right to seek answers, and should not suppress them.

      • Am HaAretz says:

        @shades of grey
        Artscroll? Really? Is Artscroll now the standard for addressing skeptics and biblical criticism and intellectual honesty?

        Artscroll is the largest Jewish myth-making industry in America right now. Any real scholar would find a real publisher, like Feldheim.

      • Dov Kramer says:

        AH-

        From a distribution standpoint, if ArtScroll will print/distribute it, it will reach a wider audience. That is why they are the first choice of many Jewish authors.

  12. David says:

    You are def. a fraud.

    You still have not even formulated a question as to why you don’t believe.

    And for any real atheists out there this is the truth:

    Rav Elchanan Wasserman asked: How can we expect a young thirteen year old bar mitzvah boy to be obligated in the belief of G-d, if there are many scientists and ‘wise men’ who do not believe in G-d? Belief in G-d seems to be a complicated issue, if even great scientists do not believe; how then do we expect a young thirteen year old boy to believe?

    He answers that the scientists and ‘wise men’ of the world are not looking at the world from a fresh and objective perspective. They do not want to believe in G-d because such a belief imposes restrictions upon them with regard to their physical desires and wants. That is why they come to the conclusion that there is no G-d. In reality, belief in G-d, the fact that it is highly unlikely that the world came into being by an accident, is quite logical and even simple for the unbiased mind to comprehend.

    One of Rav Chaim Volozhin’s students strayed from Torah. Years later they met again and Rav Chaim asked him what it was that made him go off. The students said that he had many questions. Rav Chaim asked him if he developed his questions before or after he went off. The student said it was after.

    Rav Chaim Volozhin then said: “I would be happy to answer your questions but it seems that your questions aren’t questions; they are statements. You’re not really interested in hearing answers.”

    • tesyaa says:

      Rav Chaim asked him if he developed his questions before or after he went off. The student said it was after.

      This is a single example, not necessarily true of most people who have honest questions.

    • Am HaAretz says:

      @David
      Thank you for the baba maaysa.

      Are you some kind of Creationist? If you think the world is less than 10,000 years old, you need to see a psychiatrist. I am not attacking you, rather, I am quoting James Watson. Existence of God does not prove that a man-made Torah was given in the Bronze Age. Your logic is flimsier than a reed, and certainly far from being as unyielding as a cedar.

  13. David says:

    I am leaving this site for good. Any real atheist is closed minded here and honest discussion won’t occur. So, it’s not worth the time.

    Kol tuv to all.

    • You’re the one posting (probably apocryphal) stories about how atheists come up with their questions after leaving rather than before. I assure you my questions came first and the answers later.

      Funny how Orthodox people like to pretend everything’s still a question when the answers are quite obvious. (How can a benevolent God declare that homosexuals should be killed? Oy, well it’s a difficult question, yada yada yada. No, it’s not a difficult question. It’s an easy question with an obvious answer: that pasuk was not written by a benevolent God.)

      • Am HaAretz says:

        I happen to agree that homos should be stoned to death, but yes, it is hard to believe that a benevolent God would call for them to be stoned.

        Give them a chance to do teshuva and change, no?

        If I were God, I would do much worse than stoning.

      • Dov Kramer says:

        >>that pasuk was not written by a benevolent God<<

        Or at least not by a God that fully accepted homosexuality.

    • Am HaAretz says:

      @David
      When you return to this site looking for your brain, I can assure you that it was lost a long time ago well before you starting commenting on this blog. In other words, look elsewhere.

  14. David says:

    Just to explain, if I was able to talk to atheists here in person, we could have a real and open minded discussion perhaps but it doesn’t work very well on a message board.

    • G*3 says:

      I was serious about lunch. I don’t have any real interest in convincing you I’m right, but I’ve got time on my hands these days and it’s always interesting to meet new people.

      secondsong3@hotmail.com

    • shim (Shimon) says:

      You both seem like very interesting people, but more importantly very civil and polite people (as of now I am referring to David and G*3 but in a non-nondiscriminatory way) I would be open to meeting with either or both of you in any normal contexts, as G*3 said “it’s always interesting to meet new people.” so here is my email if you want to contact me blankaccount19@gmail.com
      although its kind of a pain realizing that the vast majority of american jews live in NY 🙂 but hey one can always try

  15. sos says:

    How do we, as believing Jews, deal with the overwhelming evidence that puts the Torah and everything that came after on the wrong side of history?
    Is faith merely a crutch to provide the answer when we can no longer point to the tangible and the verifiable or is it a leap of wonder and majesty, believing in something whose possible existence strains credulity?

    You say you were asking questions like this as a child? And this route somehow led you to years of learning and becoming a rabbi? I am finding this all somewhat hard to swallow.

  16. Shades of Gray says:

    “Rav Elchanan Wasserman asked: How can we expect a young thirteen year old bar mitzvah boy to be obligated in the belief of G-d, if there are many scientists and ‘wise men’ who do not believe in G-d? Belief in G-d seems to be a complicated issue, if even great scientists do not believe; how then do we expect a young thirteen year old boy to believe? ”

    I belive that R. Elchanon’s essay is very important and deserves the same rigorous study as does his work on Yevamos, before arguing on it.

    In this case, it is interesting to note that R. Chaim Pinchas Sheinberg in his Derech Emunah Ubitachon(around parshos Yisro or Beshalach) quotes the Chasid Yavetz who says, if I correctly recall, that belief in Torah does not flow so easily from belief in God to the extent of requiring this of a thirteen year old.

    R. Sheinberg instead follows the Iggeres Teiman and Sefer Hayashar that there is an inborn capacity of Jews to believe, as I recall, and emphasizes this more(perhaps he’s not completely arguing with R. Elchanon) in the requirement to believe Torah(it would be worthwhile for someone to translate the full essay, so it can be seen in context).

    I take out from this that one need not be afraid of very respectfully questioning established yeshivish and/or kiruv hashkafah, as perhaps a productive and better understanding can come out of this in the process; as R. Wolbe said, there are no heretical questions, just heretical answers(see link below).

    http://www.jewishmediaresources.com/1323/shortchanging-our-children

    • Am HaAretz says:

      This reeks of the response of a kiruv clown.

      Here is a question: why are bible thumpers trying to cram bigoted, racist, hateful, spiteful, and vengeful teachings down the throats of innocent and ignorant Jewish college kids? Kiruv clowns know that people in college tend to have more money to spend than Jews forgoing university. Bible thumping should be made illegal on college campuses as it interferes with proper scholarship and it only distracts from real learning.

      • Dov Kramer says:

        Most professors should be banned from college campuses too.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        I have no idea what a “Kiruv Clown” is. I have, possibly, more questions concerning faith than you do, so I can’t be accused of being a “Kiruv Clown” 🙂

        I was showing an interesting fact, which many people don’t know, namely, that there is room to disagree (in part) with R. Elchanon Wasserman’s essay, which someone mentioned here, and that this has been done by a well-known contemporary Talmudic scholar.

      • Am HaAretz says:

        Let me guess, you are a parasitic biblical apologist. This God also thought it normal to take multiple wives, and to destroy cities and kill everybody except the virgin women. Good one.

      • Am HaAretz says:

        @Shades of grey
        My cordial, and by cordial I mean bitter, response was directed to this Kramer guy not you. I apologize if there was any confusion.

  17. Shades of Gray says:

    “But, amid any penetrating and analytical probing with respects to tenets near and dear to heart of Orthodox Judaism, questions are quickly dismissed with an appeal to authority and to taivos nashim (I exaggerate, but not by much). ”

    Actually, in defense of Rav Elchanon’s contribution, bad character traits(“middos ra’os”), “taivos nashim”(or it’s counterpart for women), and emotions in general, may play some role in any underlying discontent. What this perhaps means is that one must deal holistically with any barriers to spiritual growth, from the perspectives of the three realms of :

    A) Intellect

    B) Emotions and Psychology

    C) Mussar and Spirituality.

  18. Rabban Gamliel says:

    JewishAtheist says:

    “Funny how Orthodox people like to pretend everything’s still a question when the answers are quite obvious.”

    It seems rather that you see no questions that you feel the answers are obvious.

  19. Rabban Gamliel says:

    You sound insecure in your beliefs since you ascribe insincerity of belief in Orthodox people rather than think whether they have a point. You are guilty of the very thing you accuse your opponents of. You sound unsophisticated and unthoughtful.

    • Am HaAretz says:

      @rabban gamliel:
      I think most atheists and agnostics are 100% sure that all religion is man-made. There is nothing really to talk about, but obviously religiousity has bestowed an evolutionary advantage on its followers. Some say religion is here to stay. We need it. It is part of the human condition. Those of us that did not graduate from a smicha factory with a B.A. in Psychology are frustrated that the world is so STUPID. If the Torah commanded you to bend over everyday and get raped by your rebbe, would you comply? If you answer yes, then you deserve every bad thing that happens in your life, and you should likely become a bishop in the church.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        Am HaAretz I have been seeing your highly emotional little reality grounded posts including the irony of you demanding more than stoning for “homos” as you said while at the same time saying with Jewish Atheist that it proves the lack of a benevolent God. By contrast certainly Talmudic interpretation makes it dubious anyone could be executed by a Jewish court in actual fact. But there is an irony in your post in which you wrote:” Am HaAretz said on Magical Thinking
        July 21, 2010 at 11:48 pm

        In response to tesyaa on July 21, 2010 at 2:47 pm:
        Artscroll? Really? Is Artscroll now the standard for addressing skeptics and biblical criticism and intellectual honesty?

        Artscroll is the largest Jewish myth-making industry in America right now. Any real scholar would find a real publisher, like Feldheim.”

        Feldheim is an Orthodox publishing company.

      • Am HaAretz says:

        Once again you show that you are an absolute fucking moron. Ever heard of sarcasm? It was a punch at Artscroll and Feldheim. Wow, you are an IDIOT. You are such a fucking idiot that reason has no effect on you. It is irritating. I apologize if I sound emotional, but I assure you I am coming from a place of extreme irritation. You are like a jock itch that just will not go away.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        “Am HaAretz says
        Once again you show that you are an absolute fucking moron. Ever heard of sarcasm? It was a punch at Artscroll and Feldheim. Wow, you are an IDIOT. You are such a fucking idiot that reason has no effect on you. It is irritating. I apologize if I sound emotional, but I assure you I am coming from a place of extreme irritation. You are like a jock itch that just will not go away.”

        Telling someone to publish in what you consider to be another bad publishing company is not any detectable sarcasm. Perhaps I and all others that have been subjected to your over the top nonsensical behavior can say you haven’t been a jerk with nothing to say at times, with ad hominem insults but you were only being sarcastic. If you insult me one more time I’m going to give you nothing but insults for insults. If you think that is constructive fine. If I were you I would climb down from the cliff. You say you were a teacher, then act mature.

      • Am HaAretz says:

        @Rabban Gamliel
        The beauty of this forum is that I do not have to show any respect for imbeciles. If you want to attack my logic, then please do not hold back. You have shown time and again that you are not nearly as learned as you might think. RG, you proved my point by showing that you do not even hold a Bachelor’s Degree. Then you proceeded to correct my spelling with incorrect spelling. Furthermore, your insecurities run so deep that you can not recognize how big of a fool you must look like on this forum. Insulting me does not transform your ignorance into knowledge. I hope you do not mind me saying that this serves to elucidate your delusions, your ability to express yourself in writing is wholly unimpressive.

      • Rabban Gamliel says:

        Am HaAretz said:
        @Rabban Gamliel
        The beauty of this forum is that I do not have to show any respect for imbeciles.”

        You should still show some respect for yourself. You think that just because you disagree with someone so strongly you can can make a fool of yourself time and again. Well you have succeeded marvelously.

        “If you want to attack my logic, then please do not hold back.”

        I have attacked your logic as you said I did and therefore you have told me I make no sense. You revise history to try and make yourself look good.

        “You have shown time and again that you are not nearly as learned as you might think.”

        Well then we are more than even. I go to college and the professors hold the opposite of you. Just because the truth is inconvenient for you doesn’t mean you can change it.

        “RG, you proved my point by showing that you do not even hold a Bachelor’s Degree.”

        Excuse me but you said I have no degree or college learning. Further it is stupid of you to talk this way as in a few years I will have three bachelors. I suppose then I’ll be smarter as otherwise your statement is stupid. Thanks for the compliment. After my bachelors I will as I said go for a masters and then a PhD.

        “Then you proceeded to correct my spelling with incorrect spelling.”

        Great so you can spell one word. So spelling is the measure of intelligence according to you and a great understanding teacher you must have been then assuming you were a teacher. You insult my spelling as if when a person misspells it means that’s how they think the word is supposed to be. I guess then OT can’t spell. I thought you spelled wrong because my spell checker said so. It turns out it is not wrong because ad hominem is not an English phrase. So you were right. Great. So you’re a miserable man who can be a mean son of a bitch and die without anyone saying good about you, in this world devoid of all meaning but you have truth on your side. It would be comforting when you lie down in your grave with no one having anything to say good about you because you were such a bitch. You still have time to change or else you can continue to be a stubborn prideful fool and a mean spirited, bitter son of a bitch. I hope you’re honestly happy with yourself when you look in the mirror.

        “Furthermore, your insecurities run so deep that you can not recognize how big of a fool you must look like on this forum”

        I suspect you felt that about yourself so instead you try to tell the people of this forum what to think. I’m very happy, you’re the one with all the grief. I can just have fun attacking you in between studying, like I could say on you’re so ugly that on Halloween when you visit someones home they give you candy. I could say your so ugly that when you enter a costume party without a disguise, you still win best prize. I could even say you’re so ugly when you were born the doctor slapped your face before he realized he was looking at the wrong end. I could even say you’re so ugly when you were born the doctor slapped both your ends just to be sure he slapped your butt.

        “Insulting me does not transform your ignorance into knowledge.”

        I realize that but you haven’t as you started it. You insult and then you preach to me. Who gives you the right to be mean when I did not start it? I time and again held back but you are just too stupid to avoid making a fool of yourself time and again.

        “AS I hope you do not mind me saying that this serves to elucidate your delusions, your ability to express yourself in writing is wholly unimpressive.”

        You claimed I couldn’t express myself in writing. You keep switching history.

        I told you if you insult I will. We can just go on and on.

  20. YC says:

    Dear Atheist Rabbi of an Orthodox Congregation:

    How did you get so far in your Jewish education with your view re questions/ questioning?

    • shim (Shimon) says:

      what do you mean? The best way to get far in the learning/kollel environment is by knowing how to ask good questions

  21. Ephraim says:

    This post goes even further to confirm my thesis that you’re a fraud. You write:
    “I am not referring to the sophomoric questions regarding the conundrum of free will versus god’s omnipotence; those are the questions we would ask in High School to get our rebbi to forgo gemara. ”

    Did this really happen? Or did you make it up? Or maybe…

    Earlier I commented, “Much of the post is the kind of questions my classmates and I would ask our rebbe’im back in high school.” Elsewhere I referred to your blog as “sophomoric”. Have you run out of material so quickly that you’ve been reduced to copying fragments from your critics? It may just be a coincidence, but if it isn’t, we can expect this blog to fold very soon. I don’t think you have creativity to keep this charade going…

    Oh, by the way the paradox is not Free Will vs. Omnipotence. It’s Free Will vs. Omniscience.

  22. Ephraim says:

    “We have relationships with finite beings and thus we will experience loss, tragic and inevitable as it is, perhaps on multiple occasions. ”

    Multiple occasions!? Are you talking about zombies?

  23. tayqoo says:

    accidental korach…Rabbi – if I may ask you – are you not concerned that you are no longer a pious fraud and are now just a fraud? Do you agree that I would be justified in being angry at you if you helped me to become frum and later regretted that change?
    *******************
    the following were responses to the above but they didn’t come out where i had intended.
    tayqoo says:
    July 21, 2010 at 11:57 pm
    maybe that is also something he is stuggling with. cut him some slack.

    Reply

  24. Shades of Gray says:

    “Let me guess, you are a parasitic biblical apologist.”

    No, I THINK about questions the same way you do, without rejecting Orthodoxy, though, and I do not suppress them.

    Professor Samuel Heilman once said in a radio interview that “those in the middle of the road get hit by cars on both sides”, and I see what he meant.

    You are actually weakening your cause, whatever such may be, with your intemperate and mean-spirited language.

  25. Am HaAretz says:

    A lot of the talk that makes religious people, not hard to beat, but hard to argue with is precisely that they will say, they are in a permanent crisis of faith. There is indeed a [Christian] prayer, Lord I believe help thou in my unbelief. Graham Green says, the great thing about being a Catholic is that it is a challenge of his unbelief. A lot of people live by keeping two sets of books. In fact it is my impression that a majority of the people I know who call themselves believers or people of faith do that all the time. I would not say it is schizophrenia that would be rude. They are quite aware of the implausibility of what they say. They don’t act on it when they go to the doctor or when they travel or anything of its kind. But in some sense they couldn’t be without it. But they are quite respectful of the idea of doubt. In fact they try and build it in when they can.

    • Shades of Gray says:

      “I would not say it is schizophrenia that would be rude.”

      It is about patience and not giving up.

      That is my answer(on the psychological end, not on substantitive academic issues, which need responses as well) to Solomon’s Schimmel’s “Tenacity of Untenable Beliefs”; from the excerpts I’ve read, he seems to think that religious people are in denial, and suppress the existance of questions and doubt. I see that, instead, it is willing to seek depth in Torah, and being patient in seeking answers.

      I quoted above Tanya, Likutei Amorim 27:

      “Therefore one should not feel depressed or very troubled at heart even if he be engaged all his days in this conflict. For perhaps this is what he was created for, and this is the service demanded of him — to subdue the sitra achra constantly”

      http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/7906/jewish/Chapter-27.htm

      See the following regarding R. Hutner’s response to a student’s question of a bifurcated life:

      “A student’s letter indicated that he felt that his secular career meant he was living a double life. Perhaps this student had recently left the yeshiva for the business world and felt that his yeshiva side and his professional side lived together in schizophrenic conflict. R. Hutner asserts that he would never consent to a student leading a double life, but he denies the assumption that a secular career entails a double life by definition.

      Someone who rents a room in a hotel and also rents a room in a house while switching off between the two leads a double life. However, this is not true of someone who rents a house with many rooms. In other words, the mere fact that someone engages in multiple activities does not, in and of itself, indicate a fundamental duality. The varied endeavors can all take part in a unified vision. When the different elements cohere within one story, a person lives a broad life rather than a double life. Note again how clever usage of a parable elucidates an important position. ”

      http://vbm-torah.org/archive/modern/38modern.htm

      (I will qualify the above by saying that not all Orthodox Jews have the same mindset in terms of questions , and that R. Hutner was clearly advocating integration in the business and professional realms, not bifurcation in ideological areas as indicated in the VBM essay, and that “being aware of doubt” can conflict with integration, though it need not.)

    • shim (Shimon) says:

      Your comment just evoked to my mind a view of Thomas Edison prior to his invention of the light bulb. “I want to create a torch that never burns out. hmm doesn’t fire always consume fuel? uh oh” (i realize the imperfection of the analogy but focus on the point not the bits)

      • Shades of Gray says:

        I agree that R. Hutner’s analogy of duality applied here is a stretch(although I think a person can live with a degree of conflict). What is your response to Solomon Schimmel?

  26. Ephraim says:

    Professor Samuel Heilman once said in a radio interview that “those in the middle of the road get hit by cars on both sides”, and I see what he meant.

    And those driving on the shoulder quickly pass everybody by. And then they drive off the mountain.

    • Shades of Gray says:

      Ephraim,

      Are you criticizing me or Am HaAretz?

    • Am HaAretz says:

      @Ephraim

      Thank you very much for the profound quote and for steering this discussion back on track. Do you know where people can access either a transcript or a recording of this interview?

      • Shades of Gray says:

        It was on a radio interview I heard on one of the NYC Jewish radio programs; other than that, I don’t have any more info(perhaps call Prof. Heilman and ask him if he remembers it).

  27. Gornishte Rebbe says:

    Orthodox Jews are obligated to believe despite their questions.
    Scientists are obligated to question, despite believing they may have the answers.

    “To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure;
    to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy.”
    – David Brooks

    • Dov Kramer says:

      RE: >>Orthodox Jews are obligated to believe despite their questions.<<

      Belief can't be mandated. Honesty and integrity can, but not belief.

      The so-called "fundamentals of belief" cannot be meant to dictate belief. They are there to guide us, teaching us what Judaism says about these things, helping those that accept and trust "the system" know what the official position of Judaism is on these issues and how primary they are, what to teach our children as the starting point before they do their own searching, and create a dividing line, to know what is or isn't acceptable within the boundaries of (traditional) Judaism.

      But, by it's very nature, "belief" itself cannot be mandated.

  28. Shades of Gray says:

    “Orthodox Jews are obligated to believe despite their questions.”

    Orthodox Jews are required to search for answers, and their best and brightest should dedicate themselves to the task. As Heshey Zelcer writes on Page 155 of Hakirah article below, regarding Bible studies, but which can apply to any area of conflict:

    “We need our best Orthodox minds to address these issues or we may one day pay the price in lost Jewish souls”

    http://www.hakirah.org/Vol%208%20Zelcer.pdf

    • Gornishte Rebbe says:

      They are required to search for answers within the 4 walls of belief in Torah from Sinai. This a priori assumption stymies any serious attempt at sincere objective investigation of truth.

      The walls are there for the continuity of the system, and they are holding back orthodoxy from objectivity.

  29. tayqoo says:

    at 7:03 pm
    “Orthodox Jews are obligated to believe despite their questions.”

    are orthodox jews obligated to believe despite their answers?

    • Gornishte Rebbe says:

      Tayqoo, I don’t understand your question. If they have an answer based upon evidence, then what is the need for belief? It would be unnecessary. For example, if there was any serious proof of Torah from Sinai, then the belief in this would become redundant and irrelevant.

      But if you mean despite their answers based upon evidence that Torah is not from Sinai, then the answer would of course be yes, they would be obligated to believe despite the evidence in front of them.

      • Dov Kramer says:

        >>if there was any serious proof of Torah from Sinai, then the belief in this would become redundant and irrelevant.<<

        But without absolute proof, even if TMS makes sense, "belief" becomes necessary. More importantly, b/c it is an "Ikar," we know that this is the official stance of Judaism. Even if it were unnecessary to maintain the faith system, we are being taught that this is the way it went down.

  30. tayqoo says:

    gornishte rebbe,

    tayqoo says:
    July 23, 2010 at 11:09 am
    at 7:03 pm
    “Orthodox Jews are obligated to believe despite their questions.”

    are orthodox jews obligated to believe despite their answers?

    Reply
    Gornishte Rebbe says:
    July 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm
    Tayqoo, I don’t understand your question. If they have an answer based upon evidence, then what is the need for belief? It would be unnecessary. For example, if there was any serious proof of Torah from Sinai, then the belief in this would become redundant and irrelevant.

    But if you mean despite their answers based upon evidence that Torah is not from Sinai, then the answer would of course be yes, they would be obligated to believe despite the evidence in front of them.
    ********************
    what i was trying to express was that if one is has questions and no answers yet then it may be still be possible to believe, but once one has answers it may not be possible to believe. how/why would they “be obligated to believe despite the evidence in front of them”?

  31. tayqoo says:

    Dov Kramer says:
    July 22, 2010 at 6:06 pm
    I’m sorry that you feel that way. I was trying to cut to the chase, but I must have misunderstood what you were looking for.

    Do you want to try again?
    **************************
    tayqoo says:
    July 23, 2010 at 11:23 am
    avot 1:11
    avot 2:5

    • Dov Kramer says:

      Tayqoo-

      I’m not sure I understand, so am asking for clarification.

      Are you saying that I said something inappropriate, and/or the wrong way?

  32. tayqoo says:

    Dov Kramer says:
    July 25, 2010 at 12:29 pm
    Tayqoo-

    I’m not sure I understand, so am asking for clarification.

    Are you saying that I said something inappropriate, and/or the wrong way?
    *********************
    absolutely.
    i wasn’t offended by anything you said. i have thicker skin than that. i was upset that i wasted my time trying to dialogue but getting nowhere. when we started our conversation i gave you the benefit of the doubt and assumed that you were a chacham and as such should have realized what the stakes were. i had made clear to you where i was coming from and what i was searching for. so avtalyon’s warning in avot 1:11 is on the mark. i wasn’t trying to teach you anything. i wanted to be taught. you made it clear that you believe in your position and i was willing to try to understand how you got to your position and to see whether i can buy into it. instead you, rg, ephraim to name a few have me pushed me further away. venimtza shem shamayim mitchalel.
    regarding avot 2:5, all 5 pieces of advise are wise but i was directing the second to you. you never know.
    no, i don’t have your email address. i specifically created a yahoo address and offered to dialogue with you there in order to avoid the inevitable trolls (you know who you are) hoping that you weren’t one.
    at this point i am not going to continue this conversation on this blog. if you feel that you are capable of bringing me from point a, the assumption that el exists, to point b, torah min hashamayim, and beyond, to what passes for yiddishkeit today then go right ahead. but remember what avtalyon said.

  33. tayqoo says:

    if you are game let me know in a comment atthe latest blog entry at this site (for now, shimon) then i’ll check my email. trolls will be ignored.

    • Dov Kramer says:

      I sent you an email to the address I had (my second attempt). I cced baalhabos on it too, b/c he asked in, and in case i have the wrong address and he has the right one.

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