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.


Baal Habos said...

Very interesting. I'm almost jealous. I'm curious as to how your relationship with Yaakov develops now. Keep us posted.

Nimrod said...

thanks bhb,

i would not be jealous, it really does not seem worth it. I know that in the frum world, it is always an us and them mentality, which means that things can never really be the same. And even if Yaakov offers total and complete acceptance and love, I will always feel some guilt for rocking the boat because I know the tribalism prevalent in where he/I are coming from.

Lubab No More said...

Interesting story. I'm surprised that he was receptive to hearing you out. Like BHB said, please keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

Yes - Please keep do keep us posted. Your public wants to hear.


A Picoirus said...

Hi I just came accross your blog - very interesting. I suggest that you ahve a llok at http://theshaigetz.blogspot.com/ he has stopped blogging but some of his posts will ring a loud bell with you. He is anonymour, but in the middle of Stamford Hills charedi community in London.