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.