Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Well its been a very long time without posting, and I guess its a reflection of acceptance and my being in a good place. This i guess somewhat reflects the five stages of grief.

I began to reach acceptance about a year and a half ago. What does this mean? And what is this promising nirvana that all you people out there who are in the midst of the battle can look forward to?

Acceptance means that you no longer are a slave. As a friend of mine said its like having a 100 pound weight removed from your back. You no longer have a godly religous conscience monitoring and questioning every motive and action in your life. This does not mean that you are unethical or immoral. Far from it, but rather it means that you become autonomous and you trust your own sense of right and wrong, and live your life accordingly.

Personally I feel that the possibility that this life is all we have and that there is no afterworld has sharpened my sense of justice in the here and now. Meaning that if i have done wrong, or if someone has wronged me, there is no settling up of debts in the afterlife, and it is up to us to resolve conflicts in this world. On this note, I would also add that I live more for the Now, as per Eckhardt Tolle and try to remember to live each day as if its your last forever.

Further all the trials and tribulations of trying to make sense of the Orthodox theology are over. You recognize all religons as different ways people deal with existential questions. You still identify with Judaism as it is your own nation's path and therefore it is important to you. But you recognize that god (if he exists) is to great for any one religon and the diversity of religous faith and practice contribute, not detract, from the unity of god (see Jonathan Sacks).

To be continued

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dont Move On

Behind some doors.
People are waiting.
People are waiting to sparkle

Kind of sad that I am quoting teenybopper lyrics. Seems to be common amongst us OTD'ers. I guess music gives voice to the tremendous emotions around the religous detox program. Even the philosophic XGH breaks into song on occasion of despair.

What does "Dont Move On" mean to me? It sort of captures the paradox we are in. We are at a new level of understanding of our past, our years of learning and upbringing. We have committed years of our life to trying to understand what is god and religon. And we have reached conclusions that go up against all of the things that we have believed to be true for so many years.

But we cannot move on. We are still in the OJ world.

We are stuck. We can replay our greatest hits (See http://classikefira.blogspot.com/) and spend our days going on the same feedback loop debate processes with the fundies. But:

Behind some doors
People are waiting
People are waiting to sparkle

Living a lie, behind a door, is not living. It is not being who we really want to be. For an atheist or agnostic, who dont put much purchase in the world to come, this is a really bad move. But for a man who loves his wife ...

Dont Move On

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Power of Prayer

Recently I listened to an interview with Larry Dossey author of "Healing Words" http://www.dosseydossey.com/larry/book.html

"In this groundbreaking classic linking prayer and health, physician Larry Dossey shares the latest evidence connecting prayer, healing, and medicine. Using real-life examples and personal anecdotes, Dossey proves how prayer can be as valid a healing tool as drugs or surgery.

Dossey explores which methods of prayer show the greatest potential for healing; presents compelling evidence that patients' and doctors' belief in a treatment increases its efficacy; explains that discoveries in modern physics allow us to integrate the spiritual and the scientific and make the power of prayer provable in the lab; and much more. "

Dr Dossey claims scientific evidence for the power of prayer, he cites research studies and claims that there is conclusive evidence that prayer works. While I have not read the book, but hearing him preach as a MD on prayer as a scientific phenomena was interesting, more for his conviction and emphasis on scientific backing.

Recently we had an illness in the family, as a skeptic I have a hard time praying. I hear all the various arguments for and against God, religon, judaism etc. Every word is an intellectual struggle. I guess this is why they say prayer should come from the heart, because once you engage the brain its becomes difficult. (I didnt pray, and everything turned out ok) .

Yeshayuahu Leibowitz, describes prayer as a Avodah, an obligation. It is not meant to be satisfying or spiritually fulfilling, or a wish list, it is a mitzvah, a command, which we are not to have expectations. We pray because we are Jewish, and if it help me as a person, its a side benefit, if it somehow cause some cosmic change and bring about a medical recovery or financial gain, it is incidental. There is no implied promises or guarantees in prayer, it is a simple master-servant relationship.

In contrast, Dossey states categorically, prayer works as a healing device, similar to drugs or procedures, and we are only just beginning to understand its power.

Unfortunately Jewish history, provides many examples of prayers not working or perhaps as the religously devout might say, God can say no. This was most powerfully stated by the parents of Nachshon Wachsman, who was murdered despite the pleas of the entire Jewish nation - a father can say no. As the Rabbis are well aware that prayer is not a sure thing, prayer is relegated to a routine obligation, with a loosely believed in faith that our prayers are somehow connected to and have a direct effect on the world we live in, but no one is really 100% sure.

Should we test this by analyzing the effects of a "Mi sheberech" on shabbat? As a child in school, we had a mi sheberech board with the list of names of ill people, who we would say tehilim for . At one point, as they say, "they were dropping like flies", our teacher scolded the class for lack of kavana when saying tehilim, and indeed the proof was staring at us in the face.

So , although Dossey is interesting to listen to, I am skeptic of prayer and those who view it as a mechanistic process which will yield a specific outcome. And more to the point, this is part and parcel of Judaism, there is an undercurrent of knowing that prayers can be for nought. You can say that God can say no, or that it is our own fault, we are not deserving, or its God testing us by making faith challenging, or the miracle quota for the year gets filled up very quickly.

Every year we pray for rain, yet some years are good , some bad. Every year we pray for health, wealth, yet some years are good, some bad. Our prayerbooks are filled with direct petitions.

IMHO, ultimately, any attempt to simplify or create causal relationships between prayer and outcome is destined for failure, and I think Judaism recognizes this at a theology level, yet our daily tefilos continue to imply a simple cause/effect relationship.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


It arrived in the mail today, yeshiva tuition bills for the upcoming year. Where is the money going to come from? Why does a religon have to cost so much money? Is it normal to be getting a tuition bill that is more than the annual income of most Americans?

This topic also came to mind after reading ekvetchers discussion on parenting http://search-for-emes.blogspot.com/. The orthodox parent spends a fortune on raising his kids. In addition, the orthodox parent strives to be a role model of how a frum person should live, which is no less of a sacrifice and is often done only because the kids are watching; it might be by going all out to make that minyan, higher kashrut levels, learning, or give tzedaka etc. But my focus in on money, and why does it have to be so friggin expensive to be part of the orthodox community.

As a skeptic this is a very trying time. I think of how my children will be relegated to having to live in grossly expensive neighborhoods within the eruv, needing large cars to carry their brood, 4 sets of dishes and appliances, exorbitant tuition fees for their kids, overpriced kosher food in shops and restaurants, sheitels/hats/shtreimels?, shabbat clothing, cost of PESACH our holiday of freedom and redemption etc.

By paying their yeshiva tuition, not only am I taking a big financial hit today, I am condemning my children to an expensive future existence on this earth. Its like I can say that the future expenses of my child on this planet will be millions of dollars more now that I have brainwashed him to live as an OJ. Whereby at best they will be forced to pursue lucrative professions or businesses, while at worst will marry for the wrong reasons, or engage in fraudulent activities.

As you all know, for me the jig is up, I dont believe, please see archive posts. However, my spouse remains in the fold and yeshiva education for kids was never a question until this past year. Further, grandparents would be shocked not to see grandchildren in orthodox school system. I could even say that I would like my kids to know how to learn pshat in tosfos and know their heritage as well as I do.

I think all the $$$ living in the OJ world is about socialization and separation. You are basically paying to be part of the club. Its not about spirituality or learning midos or how to be a happy or effective person. Why does a religon, which is meant to be about God and spirituality, end up being a huge financial millstone for its adherents. God knows.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mixed Dancing

When I read this interesting post from Jewish Atheist http://jewishatheist.blogspot.com/, he touches on alot of issues. It really takes a momentous occasion like a wedding to bring out all the conflicts between the frum and no longer frum.
JA and his fiancee, want mixed dancing, and I thought I would share the following experience .

I have went to countless simchas with separate dancing, doing the male shuffle. Either Type 1 where you hold hands and circle at varying speeds, Type 2 you put hands on shoulders and circle at varying speeds, Type 3 you just mesh in clashes of body and sweat. Of course this was all done with great happines and ruach. While At the same time on the other side of the mechitza, the women were doing their orderly circles and neat straight lines. And of course you have all the shtick (party tricks/accessories) to add some color to the occassion.

Anyway, my family and I were invited to a conservadox simcha recently, where they had mixed dancing! And you know what for the first time ever at a simcha I danced in a circle while holding my wife's hand and my child's in the other, now that was simcha!! We never as a family have danced together in a circle holding hands. It was a special experience and I feel compelled to let people know that yes, there is something missing from separate dancing, which you lose out at frum affairs. Families dancing together is an expression of love, closeness and sharing.
And I dont care how many 18 year old yeshiva bochurim show to dance up a storm, for the members of the family, what they really want is to dance together.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The conversation

It was inevitable. The jig is up. The old friend "Yaakov", who I spent time in shiur with has directly confronted me and wants to know what is going on with me. We used to get up early to learn gemara, spent time socially, and were members of the same shul.

We sat down for the one-on-one conversation to find out why or where have I strayed. I must admit I am a coward and have hid my orthopraxy for many years from him, but I finally came clean, cold turkey.

Yaakov knows his stuff, smart guy, years in yeshiva, and has a successful business of his own making. Now he want answers. Unfortunately after many years on this journey, my answers come so fast and convincing that there really is no contest. Yaakov afterall is not a kiruv professional, and has never really spent that much time pondering these questions. I kind of regret the conversation because Yaakov is my friend and showing the extent of my disbelief might have been hurtful, sometimes honesty isnt the best policy.

Yaakov - you dont believe in the torah, that it was given by god?
me- i launch into documentary hypothesis, text does not work, see parshas noach etc. i dont see how we can be doresh halachos from slight changes in the text , its all man-made.

Yaakov - but everyone acknowledges that it is given by god, not only jews
me- but on that premise, everyone, those 2 bn people, believe in christianity or islam not judaism,

Yaakov - but you dont think there is something unique about the Jews, look at the state of Israel and our role in history? I agree we are special, and we have lots of talent, the same way Kenyans are with running, but Einstein wasnt Einstein because he shteiged gemara, and my journey is actually very Jewish, a guy named Spinoza said the same things as me 300 years ago and so do the majority of jews in the world

Yaakov concedes to me that a rav is just someone who is expert in shulchan aruch, and is an ordinary mortal, no metaphysical powers or insights.

I tell him people are tribal and need the authority figure to follow and be beholden to, autonomy, or rather halachic autonomy is a four letter word in OJ.

Yaakov then tells me that I should know there are a few others like me, who he has noticed that despite going to shul on shabbos, dont really seem to be all that frum to him. I dont say, "you religous people are really so judgemental." but in truth wonder who are the perpetrators.

I remember the days when i felt like i was punching a clock upon entering the shul, the days when i was given "the look" for walking in unreasonably late to davening, or the rising tension from irritable men who want to get their daily ablutions over with asap.

I tell him its all about faith, there is no proof of god or what happens after we die, all of the worlds religons are just ways of addressing this human need for an answer to these questions. Everyone is just guessing. There is no objective proof. But as Jews we must be familiar with the ways of our tradition in this quest, and recognize the wealth and wisdom of our mesora, or our approach, but it is no way, by definition truer than other religons.

So orthopraxers', you might try the "kugel " arguments - the kugel is warm and crispy (OJ lifestyle is attractive) or james kugel http://www.jameskugel.com/critic.php fluffy version, but many of us have a problems with the mitzvas or deeds of OJ and do not find spirituality anymore from it. This leads us to search for spirituality in many places outside of the shul/beis midrash and less tolerance for fundies.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Aish and me

Now I must admit that I have alot of good things to say about Aish. I even attended a few shiurim from Aish superstars and was suitably impressed and entertained. I enjoyed reading their websites for many years. I even donated money online regularly as I realized that their stories were much more inspirational than anything going on at my local orthodox shul. I know many former BT's have isssues with Aish and its missionary tactics. Well it has an agenda and it is kind of clear to anyone who spends time with them, but at least their material is well marketed and presented.

That being said I came across this video by a Rabbi whom I highly respect(ed), and I guess am just concerned about how flimsy his arguments were.
Did I become more intelligent?


His arguments started as follows:
Why choose Judaism?
First using Occams' razor, monotheism beats out all polytheism, so lets filter out all polytheistic religons
Second, once we are narrowed down to monothiestic religons, Judaism is the oldest, older than Christianity and Islam. But both believe Christians and Muslims believe in Jewish bible and their scriptures refer to it, therefore we have the general agreement of the world's 2-3bn other monotheists.
Third, Judaism is very accessible, not secretive, lots of publications in all languages and encourages study.
Fourth, Judaism does not ask its adherents to give up their minds, rather its based on reason and logic
Fifth, your soul is Jewish, which will most be finely tuned to Judaism
Sixth, Judaism makes a claim to absolute truth as opposed to a lifestyle or nirvana

I wont insult my readers by rebutting this, you are welcome to do so in aish comments.