Beyond BT

Spiritual Growth for Jews

What Were the Formative Experiences That Led You To Torah?

Posted on | October 17, 2007 | By Administrator | 87 Comments

A reader wrote in and suggested surveying the Beyond BT community to find out what were the formative experiences that led us to Yiddishkeit. So what led you to Torah?

A friend…

A sefer…

An experience…

A search for answers…

Please share you experiences in the comments.

Comments

87 Responses to “What Were the Formative Experiences That Led You To Torah?”

  1. Mark
    October 17th, 2007 @ 9:16 am

    For me, it started with going through a searching period of my life. I was then exposed to Torah Judaism through a friend (Rabbi Lam) at a Pesach Seder. Then a Shabbos at Ohr Someach Monsey followed by reading “Strive for Truth” cemented the path towards Torah.

  2. DK
    October 17th, 2007 @ 11:01 am

    Misrepresentation of traditional Judaism by a tzaddik.

  3. Chaim G.
    October 17th, 2007 @ 11:26 am

    OUCH!!!

  4. Baruch
    October 17th, 2007 @ 12:35 pm

    B”H

    •My initial “wake-up” was 9/11. After the initial tumult died down, I found it impossible to “go back to sleep”, so I started researching for myself (for the first time in my life) just what Judaism really meant. After went kind of aimlessly for a couple of months until the day I googled “audio, mp3, judaism” and got the link to Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald’s “Crash course in Judaism – Belief in G-d” real audio file at 613.org. I hit “play” and for the next hour, I was educated for the first time in my life as to what it really means to be a Jew, and what had always been missing from the conservative observance I grew up with.

  5. Baruch
    October 17th, 2007 @ 12:38 pm

    B”H

    I have to add this: May Hashem HUGELY bless Shira and Feivel Smiles for their immeasurable contribution to the spreading of Yiddishkeit.

  6. Martin Fleischer
    October 17th, 2007 @ 3:50 pm

    I was always close to Torah-true Judiasm, but it was a comment by my Mom-in-Law that started me climbing the ladder for real. She said that I didn’t even go to Shul on Shabbos in response to me hesitating to get my daughter medicine on Yom Tov. For me, that’s where it all started.

    Marty

  7. David Linn
    October 17th, 2007 @ 7:34 pm

    DK

    Was he really a tzaddik in your eyes and what exactly did he misrepresent?

  8. belle
    October 17th, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

    It was intelligent friends who strangely insisted on following ancient ritual that led to my asking questions. A trip to Israel and a Discovery seminar later and I was persuaded to attend classes at Neve. The rest is history.

  9. DK
    October 17th, 2007 @ 10:00 pm

    David Linn wrote,

    “Was he really a tzaddik in your eyes?”

    Yes. He still is…at least, as much as I accept such a term.

    “what exactly did he misrepresent?”

    He misrepresented traditional Judaism as being softer, deeper…more thoughtful and understanding…like him, with a strong emphasis on ben adom l’chaevro, and on looking within. In my own experience, I didn’t find the kindness or the individualism, or even the spiritual growth. Instead, I found a morality evaluated by adherence to maximum halcachic compliance and hashkafa, and a demand to withdraw from the world.

    The only thing I did find to my liking that he represented was an intellectual dialectic. But I didn’t really need Judaism for that. You can find that anywhere. Just turn off the mainstream pop culture. I always had that…I didn’t need the rabbi for that…I was born into that.

    Let’s just say…I think if I had been brought up a New Yorker, surrounded by Orthodox Jews, I would have understood some of these things at least unconsciously, and would not have mistaken the rabbi’s outlook for normative traditional Judaism.

    I kind of wish that I had met some of the more…typical…haredi rabbis earlier, and him later.

  10. David Linn
    October 18th, 2007 @ 10:38 am

    DK said:

    He misrepresented traditional Judaism as being softer, deeper…more thoughtful and understanding…like him, with a strong emphasis on ben adom l’chaevro, and on looking within. In my own experience, I didn’t find the kindness or the individualism, or even the spiritual growth. Instead, I found a morality evaluated by adherence to maximum halcachic compliance and hashkafa, and a demand to withdraw from the world.

    Do you find that to be the case with all areas of Orthodox Jewry, including Modern Orthodoxy and with all of the Orthodox Jews that you have met? Do you consider all of your Orthodox friends and acquaintances to be lacking that “softer deeper… more thoughtful and understanding” approach and lacking in kindness and individualism” and lacking an emphasis on mitzvos bein adam lechavero? (I won’t hide the fact that if you say that that is the case, I would personally be offended :) )

  11. DK
    October 18th, 2007 @ 11:55 am

    I have certainly found individual Orthodox Jews to be quite deep, and a lesser number to be individualistic, but I haven’t found it in the same number as in the secular Jewish world. And a cost to the Modern Orthodox world in its engagement with the secular world, which it does have, but it is frequently a superficial one on both ends, which I have grown to view with greater understanding, as a serious engagement with both worlds is difficult, even painful, and in a way, awkward to the point of being unpleasant.

    I think what I once thought was traditional Judaism is more traditional Judaism’s fadeout and sometimes even afterlife. At least, today. Things were different pre-war.

  12. David Linn
    October 18th, 2007 @ 12:23 pm

    “Things were different pre-war”

    Everything was different pre-war.

  13. LC
    October 18th, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

    So what led you to Torah?

    Jewishly affiliated parents, a “kiruv” Rabbi with YU s’micha in a Conservative synagogue (became ‘Traditional’ once egalitarianism arose), and about 4 years of attending local NCSY Shabbatons, encouraged by my afternoon Talmud Torah teacher.

  14. Chaim G.
    October 18th, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

    Ya. Apartments had sunken living rooms and men wore suits ties and Fedoras to Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds.

  15. Chaim Grossferstant
    October 18th, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

    On a more serious note I am surprised at DK’s most recent comment. If I read you correctly you almost seem to concede that MOs attempts at symthesis are doomed to failure (the recent Noah Feldman brouhaha is a cautionary tale that IMO imparts the same despair). Is there no alternative? Must one flee and abhor the outside world in order to live a fully realized Jewish life? Is it possible, and if so desireable, “to be in it but not of it”?

  16. Dave
    October 18th, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

    In my case, it was Conservative Judaism. My synagogue seemed more concerned with political correctness than with tradition– my early experiences visiting an Orthodox shul reflected a philosophy that didn’t seem to think it needed to revisit its traditions in order to keep up with the latest fad, and I admired (and admire) that.

    Of course, a disagreement with Conservative Judaism may not be the best or most intelligent reason to become Orthodox…

  17. David Linn
    October 18th, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

    As many of you who were at the first BeyondBt shabbaton know, I was struck by lightning and fell in to the Grand Canyon leading me on a spiritual search that ended with Torah Judaism.

  18. Miriam P
    October 18th, 2007 @ 1:32 pm

    Shabbos and Kashrus. I also had (have) Jewish affiliated parents, and was raised in a mostly Kosher home, Conservative/Traditional synagogue. I was heavily involved with USY during High School, and managed to experience a “real” Shabbos at one of their Kinnusim. (ie Shabbaton) I fell in love. In college, through a need to eat Kosher, I fell in with the Day School crowd, and found myself “home.” The rest I picked up as I learned of it, basically, although skirts and long sleeves took a little longer.

  19. DK
    October 18th, 2007 @ 1:38 pm

    Chaim,

    I am not in a position to dictate such terms to the traditional community. What I found is that true engagement with the Western world is at best limited. For instance, at Yeshiva College, there was not even one other violin playing student that I knew of. This is not normal in a secular Ashkenazi population of that size.

    I blame some of the cultural disparity on pre-war versus post-war American Jewish communities. I am from the former, most FFBs are from the latter. And it seems many of the MO, particularly the right-wing MO in their own way — reject large swaths of Western culture as well, and when they don’t, it is because they are consciously being “open-mined.”

    The cultural divide between MO and secular continues to widen. I don’t believe it is bridgeable in a serious way, because BTs do not have the authority to start their own community, but are expected to join the existing, inevitably post-war communities, and they have a very different culture apart from religious practices.

    If you look at who the “successful” BTs are, they are disproportionately lawyers and accountants. Look at this blog alone. I suspect that this is because they are culturally less peculiar to FFB culture on a personal level. It seems anecdotally that there is a disproportionate children/grandchildren of holocaust BT population as well. Hating the West a little doesn’t hurt the BT population, now does it? A rejection of finer and higher western culture is a great way to demonstrate contempt and resentment.

  20. Bob Miller
    October 18th, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

    Prewar, the Orthodox community in the US was generally regarded by most people outside of it, and even inside, as lacking self-confidence and heading for slow extinction.

  21. Chaim Grossferstant
    October 18th, 2007 @ 2:07 pm

    Hating the West a little doesn’t hurt the BT population, now does it? A rejection of finer and higher western culture is a great way to demonstrate contempt and resentment.

    If one deeply loves his wife and is un-attracted to other women would you call him a rejectionist?

    Islamofascists teach their youth and converts to hate. I find it libelous to accuse Judaism of the same.

  22. Steve Brizel
    October 18th, 2007 @ 2:21 pm

    DK-WADR, the Western culture of today cannot be compared with its antecedents. There is an awful lot of garbage out there that should make anyone think twice before spending money on or one’s free time in that is called “Western culture” that one can argue should be well avoided as deltetious to one’s spiritual growth. I read the Arts page of the Ny Times every day. Like it or not, I have found very little reviewed therein that would be worth spending money on.

  23. Bob Miller
    October 18th, 2007 @ 2:27 pm

    Challenge to DK:

    Please detail for us your cultural experiences during the past 30 days.

  24. M
    October 18th, 2007 @ 2:32 pm

    “pre-war versus post-war American Jewish communities. I am from the former”

    DK,

    I apologize if I am asking something obvious (perhaps others on the blog know you personally, which I don’t), but can you explain a bit what you mean by the statement that you are from the pre-war American Jewish community? Do you mean age-wise?

    You refer to yourself, and not your parents or grandparents, so assume you don’t mean that your parents/grandparents were from the pre-war American Jewish community (I know many families like that, so that must not be what you mean).

    Thanks

  25. Albany Jew
    October 18th, 2007 @ 3:01 pm

    This is a good opportunity to respond to the original question and not ignore the current thread.

    It is presisely the fact that the values of secular culture are moving in a direction we are not comfortable with, that gave us a major impetus to become BT. (e.g., look at the difference between “I Love Lucy” and the “anything goes” entertainment we have now, there are lots of other examples which are too numerous to list) We WANT some separation between these values and what we expose our children to. The fact that the gap is widening is not just a factor of the Orthodox moving to the right, the secular culture is moving too.

  26. DK
    October 18th, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

    Chaim g wrote,

    “I find it libelous to accuse Judaism of the same.”

    I never said the same. And I wouldn’t call Islam’s hatred for the West to be a “little.”

    “DK-WADR, the Western culture of today cannot be compared with its antecedents.”

    Some of it can, some of it can’t. But the good stuff is built upon the good stuff that came before. You think every song written in Mozart’s day was Mozart’s quality? See Amadeus.

    “I read the Arts page of the NY Times every day.”

    I think there is more to the West than the Arts, and there is more to the West than the Times. And not everything requires money. I have this thing…it’s called a library card. I recommend it.

    Bob Miller:

    Here are some DK cultural highlights from the past week:

    1) Pandora meeting at Housing Works at Soho — the build your own radio station. Check it out, it is free: http://www.pandora.com. Tim (the founder) explained the music genome project, and gave us the great news: they are going to have classical ability very soon, which is really wonderful! I may do a post about this, and anyway, it seems quite important for spreading appreciation for classical music.

    2) Went to a Frum Skeptics support group of sorts.

    3) Purchased a download legally with a donation the new Radiohead cd: http://www.inrainbows.com
    Really great cd — art rock at it’s smartest and most inspiring.

    4) Saw most of one episode of Ken Burns’ new documentary series on WWII. Amazing. I can’t wait to get the whole thing on dvd. Very powerful and informative. Burns is a master storyteller of history. And the images are quite different than what we usually see.

    5) Saw an episone of “Frontline” about Cheney on PBS — it was informative.

    6) Reading the current issue of Harper’s Magazine. So far it’s okay.

    M asked,

    “can you explain a bit what you mean by the statement that you are from the pre-war American Jewish community?”

    I mean my family came over mostly in the 19th century, and all prior to 1925. I think it is a very different culture contrasted to those who came post-war.

  27. David Linn
    October 18th, 2007 @ 3:37 pm

    Correction:

    Steve Brizel wrothe that he reads the Arts section of the Times everyday, not Chaim G.

  28. Bob Miller
    October 18th, 2007 @ 3:47 pm

    The main project of Western culture today is finding a justification for the West’s surrender to Islamists.

  29. Chaim Grossferstant
    October 18th, 2007 @ 3:48 pm

    “I find it libelous to accuse Judaism of the same.”

    I never said the same. And I wouldn’t call Islam’s hatred for the West to be a “little.”

    Ah.hah.. So IYO it is only a difference of degree, not of kind. Judaism teaches us to hate the West a little, Islam to hate it very much. More libel.

    Judaism teaches Ahavas HaTorah, Ahavas HaShem , Ahavas Yisrael. Remarkable how a good marriage cures a chronic wandering eye.

    Your list of attractive items that are purely western fails to impress. All you are saying, essentially, is that these things give you pleasure and joy. Perhaps if you still had a great gishmack in Torah learning and Mitzvah performance then Torah learning and Mitzvah performance would give you all the emotional, intellectual and soiritual pleasure that you needed.

    BTW I too have a well-worn library card but often wonder when reading a good novel if I would not be better served by using the time to pore over a T’shuva from Rebbi Akiva Eiger.

  30. Steve Brizel
    October 18th, 2007 @ 3:58 pm

    DK-I also have a library card and look eagerly to my monthly issue of Commentary for informed political and cultural analysis as well some of the best letters to the editor around.maybe I am a little older than you, but rock and roll took a decided turn to being not worthy of my time in the early 1970s and has shown no signs of returning to the glory days of the 1970s. I have read a lot about WW2 and don’t consider myself an intellectual neophyte on such issues.I don’t watch the network news, PBS, CNN or Fox because they all cater to a biased POV. Let me amend the question slightly that was posed to you-what did you do of a spiritually uplifting and elevating manner in the last 30 days? I heard Dr Norman Blumenthal, a wonderful speaker and psychologist suggest that the keys to life were faith, family and friends,

  31. Menachem Lipkin
    October 18th, 2007 @ 4:28 pm

    Raised in a conservative home, (kosher in-treif out, traditional Friday night dinner with kiddush, etc.) my parents nevertheless sent me to a local Yeshiva day school. Then we moved over the Orthodox shul ’cause that’s where my school friends were. Didn’t do much while there, but almost immediately upon entering public high school the things I had absorbed those previous 8 years started seeping out. Joined NCSY in 9th grade. Sometime during 10th grade, during the 25 Shabbatons I went to that year, I became Shomer Shabbos. Everything got cemented during my senior year anatomy course when I realized that there was no way that the cat we were dissecting, over a period of months, could have been created by accident.

  32. DK
    October 18th, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

    Chami G,

    I wasn’t intending to make any comparison with Islamofascism in any way shape or form. Let me retract “hate a little” for contempt, okay?

    “All you are saying, essentially, is that these things give you pleasure and joy.”

    No — they also strive for things I understand. What I don’t understand, as opposed to things like “achieving a higher medrega”

    “BTW I too have a well-worn library card but often wonder when reading a good novel if I would not be better served by using the time”

    In terms of fiction, I would offer you the wisdom of my Orthodox nephew, who dismissed his librarian’s suggestion of a novel, exlaining, “I don’t usually read fiction…unless it’s really good.”

    Steve,

    I prefer certain shows on PBS to the other you mentioned, but if you can’t see a qualitative difference between Frontline and the O’Reilly Factor, that is your own POV. I don’t have cable currently, but do (almost) get PBS, and would note that Burns’ point is not to give the simple facts of WWII, but to bring out interesting facts of WWII, and interesting stories.

    As for your question about spirituality, well, I have to confess I never found three yontiffs as “spiritual” as many do, and personally do not miss that experience. Maybe I am just not a spiritual person.

  33. Steve Brizel
    October 18th, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

    DK-Of course, PBS Fox, etc have biases. I prefer not to watch the news because TV in general is such a passive way of educating oneself and entertainment.

  34. Mordechai Y. Scher
    October 18th, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

    There was a constant undercurrent of being Jewish at home. Most of my parents’ friends outside of work were Jewish. Grandparents on both sides lived nearby. For all that, there was nothing beyond ethnic Judaism really.

    Reading history, and seeing how the Jews stand out as a real anomaly (a la Mark Twain?) made a real impact on me first. The idea that wherever I would be, whenever I would be, whatever I would be doing, I was a Jew and part of something unique that I had no understanding of.

    This was the kid who on the eve of his bar mitzvah announced “I’m not going through with this hypocritical farce!” Actually, I’m pretty proud of that; but I deeply regret that my elderly mother is traumatized by it to this day.

    Three figures impacted me: Cantor Rabinowitz at Temple Beth El. We belonged to the Conservative temple, but had no serious involvement, although my father alav hashalom taught Sunday school there. Cantor Rabinowitz was the first character who I paid attention to and saw he was sincere in what he did, and really wanted to share the sweetness of Judaism with others. Rabbi Elihu J. Steinhorn was the assistant rabbi in the Orthodox shul in our town when I began asking questions. He challenged me and encouraged me regarding learning, and observance, and Israel. He was open about some of his own yearnings in Judaism, even with an ignorant teenager. Rabbi Meir Kahane h’yd responded to my questions with absolute forthrightness. He was the first example I noticed in the Jewish world of total dedication to Hashem’s Torah and people even at great personal cost (though he didn’t see it that way), and he encouraged the same of others. He was the one who challenged me and others that Torah and Judaism make demands of us, when most of the figures I knew were soft-selling everything. He was also the first figure (along with Rabbi Steinhorn) who put huge emphasis on Israel and the Jewish people, and Torah all together. It was only when I was in Israel that I discovered what a talmid hacham he was, and what an amazing shiur he could give in Tanach. He greatly encouraged me to get ahead with my learning, and I can truly say that what little I’ve accomplished that way is largely to his credit.

    Also influential was what was then Connecticut region USY. I joined to meet girls, but the Shabbatonim were quite good. The regional director (Harold Bell?) was pretty traditional. Danny Siegel participated in a number of our regional activities. I still have the note he wrote with my first direction in ‘learning’: read all the way through Tanach; start learning Hebrew with a particular book; and see if I can get to the Diaspora Yeshiva in Yerushalayim. I started keeping kosher after one of those Shabbatonim, and it was the advice of USY advisors that helped me negotiate how I could start doing that in a not-kosher-kitchen home. Interestingly, I still have the siddur I bought at a Shabbaton back then; it is a normal small siddur which I still use at the table.

    The Jewish Catalog was a real inspiration.

  35. Jennifer
    October 19th, 2007 @ 8:28 am

    Another 1st BeyondBT SHABBATON story… how I was invited “for Friday night dinner”. Experiencing Shabbos, the D’var Torah, singing, general ruach, led me to realize what being a Jew really means. The funny part of the story was that the people who invited me, in hindsight, weren’t even really Shomer Shabbos themselves. But it provided a first step.

  36. mazeartist
    October 19th, 2007 @ 12:19 pm

    I cannot link my observance of Torah to a single event. Among the personal experiences that led ot it were:

    1. Intermarriage: so many of my relatives are doing it, I felt as if a 3,000-year line of Judaism was being broken, and I am the last link. There is no longer a ghetto to force the Jews together as a single group. we are drifting apart. Only the Torah can keep us united.

    2 Intifada and 9/11: Initially I sympathized with the lofty goals of leftists. I was curious to see why so many Jews were socialist in the early 20th century. Seeing the vicious anti-Zionism of today’s leftists left me offended and in search of a better solution to Jewish problems.

    3. Life and Death: Questions about creation, the food chain, and afterlife convinced me that atheism had no answers to these topics.

    4. Continuity: Reformism, Conservatism, and other watered-down faiths are subject to fads and often contradict the Torah openly. Honestly, would you respect a gay rabbi? I wouldn’t. Orthodoxy is stable, withstanding the test of time.

    Zionism: Seeing the double standard of the UN towards Israel convinced me to defend my people by openly declaring my allegiance to Judaism.

  37. Steve Brizel
    October 19th, 2007 @ 12:46 pm

    Getting back to the subject, I posted the combination of factors that made the most important impact on me after the first BT Shabbaton. In a nutshell, the combination of NCSY and YU were the critical factorsin providing me with a spiritual, emotional and intellectual foundation.

  38. Ron Coleman
    October 19th, 2007 @ 3:12 pm

    Mazeartist, I don’t follow. You enumerate a thoughtful list of factors, but none of them is that you came to accept the Torah as Hashem’s word. If you have, these reasons make sense, though they are of secondary importance. If you haven’t, one could say your reasons are non-sequiturs.

    Same thing, I guess, with DK, who was devastated by the human failings of the from community. Well, did Hashem give the Torah or not? If so, we must keep it, and either dedicate ourselves to reform or adopt a [self-?] righteous exile. If you never believed He did – then your dropping out was only a matter of when, not if.

  39. Albany Jew
    October 19th, 2007 @ 3:25 pm

    Ron

    I thought we are talking about the first initial sparks here. I’m sure that it would be rare that the initial motivation to discover Yiddishkeit would be the sudden realization that the Torah is G-d’s word.

  40. Ron Coleman
    October 20th, 2007 @ 9:28 pm

    That might have been the inquiry, AJ, but the discussion, it seems to me, has moved a couple of degrees.

  41. Neil Harris
    October 20th, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

    Formative experiences include:
    Reading a copy of R Hirsh’s The Nineteen Letters at age 14

    Growing up in a traditional shul where I was not given answers to questions about God, inconstistanty with the shul’s practice of Judaism

    Contact with an Orthodox Rabbi right before my Bar Mitzvah

    Exposure to NCSY and access to people who challenged my way of thinking from 8th-12th grade

    Reading Mesillas Yesharim at age 19

    DK: Sounds like you’d like my upcomming blog post dealing with the teaching of R Dessler hidden with a Foo Fighter’s song.

  42. DK
    October 21st, 2007 @ 12:26 am

    Ron,

    For a minute you sounded like a certain Cross Currents person, and I know you are a lot deeper and much much smarter than that, so I am going to answer you as though you asked a serious question instead of the usual, “If the Torah is true, then nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.”

    When BTs revisit their observance level, and begin discarding frumkeit, it is often because something is not working well. Not working right at all. When what is being advocated seems to be dysfunctional, and we begin to fear where we are heading (just humor me, I don’t mean to suggest anyone else besides myself EVER felt this way in the BT haredi world, I just like to speak in terms of “we” because I am a Leftist, “we the people” kind of guy), we begin to question everything in a more critical fashion, and find the usual answers less convincing that time around.

    So you are correct of course, none of the “community’s failings” matter if the Torah is true. If. That’s the point. We revisit the veracity of the Torah itself sometimes because of the failings of the community. failings other communities do not have. Failings that are quite painful, infuriating, and over time, shameful. And you can’t beat those issues down with “well, if the Torah is true….” Doesn’t work like that, Ron. That’s when the real questions start in earnest. In the revisit.

  43. Ron Coleman
    October 21st, 2007 @ 10:40 am

    DK, I don’t read C/C, so your snark zoomed right past me. Now, is what you’re saying is that you were under the mistaken impression that the Torah was true, but when you saw how many jerks there were who were orthodox Jews, you took another look at it, and determined that you were wrong the first time?

    It sounds as if in both cases the engine of the decision-making was the personal experience. When you thought you’d met great people who believed in the Torah, you believed the world was created in six days, that Moshe split the Red Sea, and that Hashem cares if you wear linen and wool together. When you realized there were actually quite a lot of people whose behavior you couldn’t stand also believed in the Torah, the preposterousness of all that became clear; the scales, as they say, fell from your eyes.

    Frankly, it sounds like you’ve actually never really considered the question of whether the Torah is true at all — just whether you like its friends. If you have considered the question, though, you certainly have not given us any insight into that process itself. But perhaps that really is off topic, as has been suggested.

  44. belle
    October 21st, 2007 @ 1:28 pm

    No, Ron, I think DK is saying other than what you are suggesting about a “few jerks.” Some people perceive the truth of something not just in empirical, rational terms unconnected to anything practical, but in visible ways. IE the thing speaks of the truth of it. If I perceive the world as infinitely complex and intelligent, this is a “proof” of a intelligent designer. So imagine a “design proof” when speaking about societies functioning. This was a powerful proof for me.

    Perhaps DK is saying (excuse me DK if I get it wrong) that he sees a society so “dysfuntional” that he cannot believe that a G-d given Torah could prescribe it. It’s the opposite of the social design proof- his experience of frum society proves its falsity.

    Not that I agree with DK, I am just trying to give his perspective the depth that I think it has.

    I would maintain that to convince him otherwise, one would have to show him experientially that he is wrong in his assumptions about the frum world’s dysfunctionality as compared to the rest of the world.

  45. Jaded Topaz
    October 21st, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

    Belle,
    Do you honestly think one can prove the truth of the torah, based on the lifestyles of a given frum community and its pseudo spiritual leaders in 2007.
    Its hard enough trying to ignore the antics of supposedly frum leaders and the little minded laymen, when attempting to mind scuffle with the truisms of torah and believe.You want to use them as initial reasons to believe ?

    Ron, one quick thing regarding the whole truth search thing from a female’s perspective.
    For “orthodox” women not in school, the intellectual search is not exactly a sprint in the park. Its more like a sprained ankle in the park.With the occassional parsha & challah baking bonanza & novel navi lecture by the care bear association for rabbis and cotton candy.
    I cant even find a learned individual willing to learn and argue the sotah/kesubah/kiddushin sects of gemarah with me, being that i’m a female.

  46. DK
    October 21st, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

    Ron,

    Traditional Judaism is offered as a system that is supposed to be better than any other system of life. That is how it is presented. Sometimes it is presented this way in a stark and false dichotomy. Other times, simply as the best system known to man, but no claim that there aren’t other systems that can be at least partially beneficial, even if not AS beneficial.

    Many reasonable religious people who believe in Judaism do not insist that a literal understanding of the Torah is always reasonable. Privately, most concede this. They point to the success of the Torah and proof of Judaism’s veracity by pointing to the value system as superior.

    If you want to claim that how the Jewish community lives is not important, and it isn’t important if other communities are living better or with more consistent and greater morals, then you are instead relying on the “proofs” of Judaism alone.

    And then it is game over in terms of mass kiruv.

    Because as we both know, the proofs aren’t really all that, are they?

  47. Steve Brizel
    October 21st, 2007 @ 10:52 pm

    I think that DK has a point. When Kiruv is viewed as an industry, designed to stamp out people who sound alike, think alike, talk alike and dress alike and who may not have internalized any spirituality other than “answers”, people who were attracted to Judaism because of intellectual curiousity in the first place may very well walk away at what they perceive as their questions being given short shrift or worse.When that happens, either a BT or an intellectual FFB is in danger of walking away for one reason-his or her legitimate questions are being dodged as opposed to being dealt with in an intellectually honest manner-which in some or even many instances, means being willing to say that we have no answers or that Torah and science can’t always be reconciled.

  48. Steve Brizel
    October 21st, 2007 @ 10:55 pm

    One nore point-this blog is very important and provides an important for the discussion of the issues that BTs deal with on an ongoing basis. I commend the moderators for not allowing the Blog to become an intellectual ghetto whereby BTS are prevented or viewed as being incapable of assuming their roles within the Torah community. Such a perspective, IMO, improperly, assumes that a BT has nothing to bring to the communal table at all.

  49. Bob Miller
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 8:08 am

    We can try all we want to lead, but someone has to want to follow.

  50. Mordechai Y. Scher
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 9:12 am

    Harry Maryles has a thread going on some similar, related issues just now…Not ‘Buying’ the Torah…

    http://haemtza.blogspot.com/

  51. Ron Coleman
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 10:10 am

    I didn’t say anything about proofs. I am talking about something called emunah. And I see very little mention of it in this thread.

    I don’t care about the “private admissions” of your anonymous “reasonable religious people.” If they have something to say tell me exactly what it is and who they are, so I can know whether or not to care.

    I have to say I am more than exasperated, however, not by your comments, DK — because your sincerity comes through despite your best efforts! — but by the consistent reappearance of comments like this:

    When Kiruv is viewed as an industry, designed to stamp out people who sound alike, think alike, talk alike and dress alike and who may not have internalized any spirituality other than “answers” …

    Who is “viewing” Kiruv this way? I have, almost since the beginning of my participation in this group, demanded specific answers and no one has had the nerve to give them to me. Who is doing it and what are they doing? What is the agenda at BBT that it is consistently acceptable to belittle, without every getting specific, the largest kiruv organizations that have unquestionably brought more Jews back to Torah and mitzvos than all the hand holding, kugel-dishing and Kumbaya-strumming of the last century combined.

    I’d like those who engage in these accusations to put up or shut up.t

  52. DK
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 10:42 am

    Ron,

    “Who is “viewing” Kiruv this way?”

    Oh, come on Ron. What are you claiming is happening at the haredi kiruv places? 48 ways to think for yourself?

    “Who is doing it and what are they doing?”

    This isn’t the blog for that, Ron. But there are blogs that do outline who, and do outline what, these large organizations are doing.

  53. Bob Miller
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 10:57 am

    Just to add to Ron’s 10:10 comment above:

    The critics Ron refers to all get very coy when asked to detail their actual personal experiences. Are these some classified secret, not fit for a blog that cries out for the personal? This crew seems to want to wreck kiruv by means of innuendo and spacy, vague allusions, but is too chicken to provide details concrete enough to be evaluated and (gasp) challenged.

    If their criticism is sincere and not malicious, let them show us the goods.

  54. Mark
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 11:36 am

    What is the agenda at BBT that it is consistently acceptable to belittle, without every getting specific, the largest kiruv organizations that have unquestionably brought more Jews back to Torah and mitzvos than all the hand holding, kugel-dishing and Kumbaya-strumming of the last century combined.

    First I want to point out that there is no agenda at BBT other then our primary task of supporting BT’s in various stages of their journey. Part of that support involves letting them express their opinions (within reason). I also think it is better that people don’t name names as there are different set halachic standards regarding specifics and generalities.

    I think the term cookie cutter is often used to express the idea that a specific derech is overwhelmingly espoused at a particular organization. I think this is true and I’ve previously expressed the opinion that it makes sense at a certain level.

    People who have been personally effected by the limitations of a narrower focus often feel slighted and harmed by these organizations. I can understand that.

    But at the end of the day, everybody has to accept responsibility for their decisions and their spiritual growth. They have to see with their own brain that there is a G-d and there is a G-d given Torah. The constant excuse and refrain “It’s big Kiruv’s fault or the frum communities fault” wears thin. Torah was true before big Kiruv and Torah is true after big Kiruv.

    That being said, this particular thread was requested from a Kiruv-involved person who wanted to improve and gain a deeper understanding of the process. So if you haven’t yet expressed what your formative experiences were, please help us by sharing your experiences.

  55. Bob Miller
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

    Mark said,

    “I also think it is better that people don’t name names as there are different set halachic standards regarding specifics and generalities.”

    I applaud your sensitivity to lashon hara issues. However, when the wreckers are nevertheless able here to speak their lashon hara veiled in generalities or in code, that in itself presents halachic problems.

  56. DK
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

    “The critics Ron refers to all get very coy when asked to detail their actual personal experiences. Are these some classified secret, not fit for a blog that cries out for the personal? This crew seems to want to wreck kiruv by means of innuendo and spacy, vague allusions, but is too chicken to provide details concrete enough to be evaluated and (gasp) challenged.”

    We show plenty. And we are quite specific.

    But you will not be the judge and jury, Bob Miller. Oh, no.

    Liberal and secular Jewry will be the judge and jury.

    It’s their youth.

  57. mazeartist
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 1:33 pm

    I am convinced that HaShem gave the Torah because the notion of such stories, laws, and miracles being created by people is unfathomable to me.
    Jesus’ alleged miracles had only 12 witnesses. Mohammad allegedly spoke to the angel in a cave with on witnesses. At Sinai, every Jew was a witness to the miracles HaShem performed. Our existence as a nation is based on this.

    My view is taken from “One People, Two Worlds: A Reform Rabbi and an Orthodox Rabbi Explore the Issues That Divide Them,” where Rav Yosef Reinman describes the notion of an entire people as witnesses, as opposed to a single prophet.

  58. Charnie
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 1:37 pm

    There’s a good reason, Bob, not to name names, aside from the obvious possible/likely loshon hara element.

    Everyone is different. What one person might find stimulating, might put another to sleep. It’s the same with kiruv, what works for one, won’t necessarily work for even their best friend. We are fortunate that there are so many approaches, because there really are so many people out there who are very far away.

    Or, as I’ve often told me kids, “that’s why Baskin Robbins makes 28 flavors”.

  59. Ron Coleman
    October 22nd, 2007 @ 2:58 pm

    Mark, to be clear, I certainly never meant to suggest that the administrators of the blog have any but the most constructive intentions. Rather I referred to “the house,” and I think that Bob Miller hit the nail on the head. When I get an answer as to who it is that is producing these automatons always being alluded to, and how they do it, I will be satisfied on this score.

    As to my own experience, Mark — it was many things, but nothing that got me off the mark until I went on Aish HaTorah’s Jerusalem Fellowship program and learned how to think for myself.

  60. A Wandering BT
    October 23rd, 2007 @ 4:05 pm

    I am a recently committed BT. I began reading this site a few months ago. I think it’s a great resource and an interesting online “community.”
    DK’s comments particularly struck me in this thread, and I hope there will be response to my questions although I am new around here.

    DK, you said: “He misrepresented traditional Judaism as being softer, deeper…more thoughtful and understanding…like him, with a strong emphasis on ben adom l’chaevro, and on looking within. In my own experience, I didn’t find the kindness or the individualism, or even the spiritual growth.”

    In what ways is that a ‘misrepresentation’ of Judaism? Are you saying those things are antithetical to Torah Judaism? Or are you implying something else? It seems as though you are suggesting with later comments that there was a given representation of Judaism by this man who influenced you, but that some of the Jews you met who intend to follow it, were not a good representation themselves? If I am clear in this understanding, what does this say about Torah Judaism, and who is really the misrepresentation, the tzaddik or some people you met whom you didn’t like?

    DK you said: “Hating the West a little doesn’t hurt the BT population, now does it? A rejection of finer and higher western culture is a great way to demonstrate contempt and resentment. ”

    What exactly is “finer and higher” that is being rejected, and according to whose/what standards is it higher and finer (and higher and finer than what)? It seems some sort of bias precedes this statement. That being said, I am curious as to what exactly those things you deem higher and finer are, which you say are to be held with contempt and resentment by a BT.

    Lastly, DK, you listed out a few ‘cultural experiences.’ Without commenting on which of those bore me to death and which I find intriguing, I am extremely curious as to which of those things are antithetical to Torah Judaism and must be rejected by a serious frum Jew. This question is open to any on this forum. Since when is academic pursuit with a library card (even fiction, if you so desire) an aveirah (please excuse spelling) in Yiddishkeit? Are any of the activities DK listed inappropriate according to Torah principles and unacceptable for a frum Jew to engage in? And if so, why/how?

    Thank you.

  61. Bob Miller
    October 23rd, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

    DK is OK with judgment as long as he’s the one doing it.

    As for liberal and secular Jewry, it has, as always, a chance to reattach itself to our sacred Mesorah rather than to dwindle off to nothing.

  62. Bob Miller
    October 23rd, 2007 @ 6:17 pm

    By the way, I got my latest dose of fine cultural entertainment by picking this up Sunday for about 2 bucks at Half Price Books. This required only a tiny investment of time on my part.

    My cost-effective pick of the week:
    http://www.amazon.com/Mozart-Piano-Concertos-Nos-23/dp/B00000299C

  63. M
    October 23rd, 2007 @ 6:20 pm

    Hi Wandering BT,

    I’m only one opinion, but here goes:

    “1) Pandora meeting at Housing Works at Soho — the build your own radio station. Check it out, it is free: http://www.pandora.com. Tim (the founder) explained the music genome project, and gave us the great news: they are going to have classical ability very soon, which is really wonderful! I may do a post about this, and anyway, it seems quite important for spreading appreciation for classical music.”

    Perfectly acceptable. Sounds like fun, for those who are “build your own radio station” inclined. I love classical music myself- a great, mind-clearing way to end the day.

    “2) Went to a Frum Skeptics support group of sorts.”

    That’s an interesting idea of “culture”, more like a social self-help group. Everyone should go to the support group that he/she needs, and since DK is a skeptic, I guess he needs this one.

    “3) Purchased a download legally with a donation the new Radiohead cd: http://www.inrainbows.com
    Really great cd — art rock at it’s smartest and most inspiring.”

    The act of purchasing a cd is neither culture nor unacceptable. While not forbidden, some observant folk no longer listen to rock, prefering more refined-sounding music. I have no problem with someone listening to the music of their choice, although I might prefer that people who enjoy loud rap use headphones :).

    “4) Saw most of one episode of Ken Burns’ new documentary series on WWII. Amazing. I can’t wait to get the whole thing on dvd. Very powerful and informative. Burns is a master storyteller of history. And the images are quite different than what we usually see.”

    Very acceptable, normal, and interesting.

    “5) Saw an episone of “Frontline” about Cheney on PBS — it was informative.”

    Politics. Not culture.

    “6) Reading the current issue of Harper’s Magazine. So far it’s okay.”

    It’s OK to read too :).

    So yes, although I might have a very different idea of culture than DK, such as art appreciation, (the classical music is right on the mark), I think these are all activities that are acceptable in the framework of a Torah life.

    Whether you think of purchasing cd’s, reading mags, or attending support groups as “culture” or simply ADL’s, each can find his/her own ways to enjoy their leisure time!

  64. Bob Miller
    October 23rd, 2007 @ 10:03 pm

    M, what have you done to DK’s straw man?!

  65. Mordechai Y. Scher
    October 23rd, 2007 @ 10:40 pm

    ADL’s

    M, are you a nurse? I don’t know many folks who refer to ADLs – Activities of Daily Living.

  66. Ron Coleman
    October 23rd, 2007 @ 10:51 pm

    Well, I will play DK’s advocate here. He is reacting to a hashkofa that, not unsurprisingly, no one in the house wants to represent, but which is absolutely part of the continuum of orthodox Jewish thought that we cannot just walk away from. That point of view would note that first of all, for a man, all the cultural activities on M’s list are, at the very least, bittul torah.

    Then you can have at each and every one of the activities and ask, even a drop down in “severity,” what does it do in terms of your relationship with Hashem? What mitzvah, what avodah is implicated in the “music genome project”? It’s just shtus, goyishe narishkeit!

    Then “frum skeptics” — how about instead some Chovos Halevovos or Tanya to build up emunah — sounds like a moshav leitzim! Why should people with spiritual weaknesses share each others’ yeitzers?

    Number 3 — rock and roll music. The rhythms and messages that destroyed already two generations. Two easy. Next item?

    Reading a history book? One pshat in the Mishna is its assurchochma yevanis. There are other interpretations but, nu, are you a baal nefesh or not?

    Then TV, magazines… bitul zman, and getting entirely into goyishe tachbulos — who said this is allowed? You’re going to bring me Rav Hirsch? Torah Im Derech Eretz was a hora’as sha’ah and Rav Schwab even said that after the Holocaust Rav Hirsch would not have held of goishe Kultur.


    Now, I’m back. Those aren’t my views but those are the views of the guys in my head. They’re real, they’re not only found in Bnei Brak, and yes, they are found in many BT yeshivos.

    We are all very comfortable “not holding like that” — but do we really have the halachic ramifications of what we do and how much of it we do and when we do it worked out?

    If you’re DK, and you’re a sincere and sharp guy, and the guys in your head are shouting this at you, and you think of yourself as an analytical Litvak, you realize: You either listen to them, because they have, by and large, pretty good sources to back them up…

    or you bail.

    If you’re me, by the way…

    you learn to live with…

    ambiguity. ;-)

  67. M
    October 24th, 2007 @ 12:38 am

    Mordechai,

    Not a nurse, but in an allied health profession. I also work as supervisor in a large healthcare company, and have interacted with nurses, among other healthcare professionals, for many years. So I’m not surprised that I sound like a nurse!

    Ron,

    “We are all very comfortable “not holding like that” ”

    I didn’t assert that these activities are the optimal way to spend our time. People have different ideas about how much time should be alloted to leisure, and how to use that time. Very, very few individuals spend no time at all in leisure activities. In some cicles, leisure might be shootin’ the breeze with some friends on a streetcorner after Mincha, and for others, time for building their own radio station might be what they need.

    Leisure is not a goal, but for those who need it, “down-time” certainly plays a role in supporting a life of Avodat Hashem, as a way of recharging our batteries. I don’t include spending quality time with our families in this category, as that is a goal in itself.

    Am I making sense?

  68. Ron Coleman
    October 24th, 2007 @ 12:51 am

    I didn’t assert that they weren’t. Please don’t misapprehend me. I’m sorry I did not make myself clear:

    I am explaining why someone would have trouble integrating a broad cultural appreciation with a yeshivish hashkofa. To me, you do it by eliding the inconsistencies, because the yeshiva community demonstrates, in my view, the firmest commitment to halachic practice in areas that I believe are critical to our survival in the harshness of a “killing us with kindness” exile.

    Others may not want to make such a firm commitment, or any at all, when it doesn’t add up. Finding a philosophical peace with it all is not easy. But then, for a Jew, finding peace in this world without Torah and mitzvos is impossible.

  69. Bob Miller
    October 24th, 2007 @ 8:13 am

    Ron, do you regard your own current way of life as a concession to frailty or as optimal for you, or both?

  70. Ron Coleman
    October 24th, 2007 @ 9:35 am

    Frailty?! No, I’m a pretty robust specimen. And gunning for optimal!

  71. A Wandering BT
    October 24th, 2007 @ 6:42 pm

    Thank you all who responded. It appeared helpful at first, but it seems I may be even more confused than I was when we started. M’s answer is the complete opposite of Ron Coleman, so who’s right?

    Ron: I’m sorry to say, but you appear to come off as a bit confrontational (especially in your bit about Rav Hirsch). I hope this was unintentional, as I’m not trying to argue a given way, but only pose the question in order to find out the answer, which I do not know. And I know nothing about “Rav Hirsh” either.
    I’ll reiterate. I very recently committed myself on the path to become fully observant of Torah and Mitzvos (decided around pesach). Thus, various hebrew phrases you cite lack any meaning for me and only serve to confuse me more.

    If you want to tell me that reading a history book is simply “assur” based on the mishna, please explain to me the reasoning behind this from the mishna and/or the context, rather than assuming I’ve read and learned that mishna, which I most certainly haven’t in my months-worth of Torah learning thus far. A vague insinuation and semi-reference doesn’t lead me anywhere toward a clarification. From what I can gather of your post, you are suggesting a few things.
    1. Anything not classified as Torah learning or doing a mitzvah is simply bitul Torah (I know that phrase somewhat) or a waste of time and thus sinful. Is this based in halacha? Is it really expected of a frum Jew to never engage in this kind of activity, in the same way that someone is expected to never turn a light on during Shabbos? Forgive my ignorance, but that sounds a little far-fetched. Any evidence you can bring is welcomed.
    2. That given the conclusion of #1, if you are a ‘straight shooter’ like I think you are implying DK is, then you have only two options. You can either accept that this conclusion is so and attempt to shut yourself off to all forms of non-Torah activity OR you can reject the system that the entire thing is simply wrong, and you will continue doing your cultural activities while at the same time rejecting more basic principles like the need to keep Shabbos, and the potential for any sort of accounting even for that at a later time either because the whole system is wrong.

    I thought Bob Miller’s question was right on point. You seem to be suggesting you are a less intense (don’t know what other way to describe it) individual than DK, so you go on your merry way knowing you can’t be perfect and that you will engage in some non-Torah music for instance, every once and again, knowing you are wrong to do so but too weak to stop it. So you continue to engage in these “cultural” activities while accumulating the presumed aveirah’s for yourself and have to account of them later before G-d, all the while feeling guilty about it and trying to avoid them at all costs?

    I have a few further questions, but I think this is a good starting point. All the help is really appreciated. Thanks.

  72. Mark
    October 24th, 2007 @ 7:37 pm

    A Wandering BT, You are touching on one of the fundamental topics in the observant world today, how does a Torah observant person approach the secular.

    The answer to this question varies greatly from community to community, person to person and within the same person as they grow in their observance.

    First we might divide secular into
    1) Cultural (Music, Literature, Other Entertainment)
    2) General Secular Knowledge (History and Non Fiction Works)
    3) Secular Advice (Communication, Psychology, Time Management)
    4) Secular for Employment Purposes

    - At one extreme, everything secular should be avoided except for Secular for Employment purposes. (The position Ron spoke of).
    - At the other extreme, everything not explicitly prohibited is permitted.
    - In the middle, some things are avoided, while others pose no problem (The position M staked out.)

    So, there isn’t one answer to your question. At the beginning, I would advise taking it slow (don’t foresake most things) and finding a Rav to ask questions.

  73. M
    October 24th, 2007 @ 7:46 pm

    Ron,

    Even those who demonstrate “the firmest commitment to halachic practice in areas that I believe are critical to our survival” have leisure time- it would seem from your comment (and I know this is not so) that you do not have a close-up perspective on Yeshivish, very committed communities.

    As I noted previously, only the greatest of the great dedicate absolutely every moment to Torah, Avodah, and Gemilas Chasodim. One who visits Rav Eliyashiv, Rav Shteinman, Rav Matisyahu Salomon will quickly realize that these Torah greats do not spend even a moment listening to classical music or perusing a non-Torah article.

    The very committed Yeshiva person does their utmost best to engage in Torah study and Torah activities all of their waking moments, but do need some time to “recharge”.

    Some spend a few moments shmoozing with friends, some take part in a game of basketball on a long Friday afternoon, some listen to Jewish music. Women may read non-Jewish parenting magazines. One very accomplished and dedicated Torah scholar that I know reads health-related articles/books; his interest and knowledge in the subject has been a source of help and referrals to many. One very Yeshivish woman (wife of a very dedicated Torah scholar) I know loves to visit antique shops- she has an avid love for history, and an antique shop is her idea of excitement and enjoyment.

    You may or may not not classify some of these activities as “culture”, but they are no less “culture” than the activities that keep DK busy during his week.

    The sensitivities of the refined Torah scholar may preclude listening to non-Jewish music or reading magazines, but this does not negate the concept of “recharging” time, otherwise known as leisure time.

    So is there a difference between the gentile world and ours? Of course. In the gentile world, “culture” and “leisure” are VALUES. In a life dedicated to service of Hashem and fulfillment of our spiritual potential, leisure is a means to and end. The end might be to recharge batteries for learnig Torah, to develop personal talents and interests to make on a more content person in the service of Hashem, to develop abilities in order to give to the world, or other reasons.

    This leisure may incorporate a myriad of “cultural” activities, because the tastes and interests of Torah observant folk are just as sophisticated and intelligent as those of non-Torah observant folk. They just realize that life has more purpose than “culture”, and don’t view these activities as having great inherent value, unattached to any ideal or goal.

  74. Ron Coleman
    October 24th, 2007 @ 7:50 pm

    AWBT, you missed my whole point. I’m sorry. I have exhausted all my attempts at explaining myself. I am clearly too obscure!

  75. Chaya H.
    October 25th, 2007 @ 7:31 am

    Interesting to read everyone’s responses. In response to the original question (not apropos of the current trajectory of the thread):

    I had a friend in high school whose family was close with the local Chabad family (although intermarried and reconstructionist). This friend kept working on me to go to the Chabad family for Shabbat.

    I finally went, and was really impressed with how the rabbi (a very heimish, traditional sort of person, not one of these slick kiruv types, not a BT) made eye contact with me and asked my opinion about all sorts of things. It was the opposite of what I thought an orthodox man would be like. That was a formative experience.

  76. Bob Miller
    October 25th, 2007 @ 8:45 am

    Ron, I think the question was that, if you see round-the-clock Torah study/activity as the Jewish ideal, do you also see it as something you personally need to do? Or do you need more breaks in the action than your ideal Jew would?

  77. Ron Coleman
    October 25th, 2007 @ 1:06 pm

    I don’t see it as the ideal, Bob. I am aware of the very predominant hashkofa that does see it as ideal, and I believe that must be reckoned with. I don’t think the “ideal Jew” is only to be modeled on the Steipler or the Chazon Ish — but their greatness and their example do feel, to me, like admonishments, even though I can rationalize some percentage of the distinction between them and me.

    You, er, follow?

  78. Bob Miller
    October 25th, 2007 @ 1:50 pm

    Why not?

  79. Mordechai Y. Scher
    October 25th, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

    Well, I won’t argue about ideals. Consider this though, if you will: Hashem’s Torah has quite few commandments and instructions concerning agriculture, commerce, foreign relations, war, in short-running a complete society. WHO, exactly, do you think those commandments are for? Why do a whole long list of talmidei hachamim have advanced university degrees, some of them engaged in a variety of professions?

  80. M
    October 25th, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

    Good point.

    Although I would differentiate between the first and the second part of your paragraph. Advanced university degrees don’t seem as vital to the running of society as agriculture etc.

  81. Bob Miller
    October 25th, 2007 @ 3:02 pm

    How about an advanced ag school degree?

  82. M
    October 25th, 2007 @ 3:13 pm

    Yeah, I guess there are differences in type of degree as well.

  83. Ron Coleman
    October 25th, 2007 @ 4:14 pm

    I remember Rav Schwab saying it seemed to him to be a chillul Hashem to suggest that (even) when Moshiach comes and we all live in EY and want to build a bridge, that we’ll have to get engineers from Syria.

  84. A Wandering BT
    October 25th, 2007 @ 5:40 pm

    To all: Thank you for the in-depth replies. Mark I find your answer very informative. M, your answer strikes me as very realistic and true to life. We are not all Moshe Rabeinu and not all born to be him either. I believe we’d be hard-pressed to find a male frum Jew in frum communities in the US that isn’t in some way interested in the MLB or other sports league. That can’t materialize from thin air and a life devoted to no-leisure-or-non-Torah-directly-related-activity-at-any-time. I agree that we all need to recharge, and different people in different ways, so these explanations are a relief to me.
    I had a BT rabbi in a program this summer who extolled the virtues of a wholesome Jewish vacation in the same manner as related to recharging the batteries for doing mitzvas upon return and for reflecting on Hashem’s creation. Seems ‘kosher’ enough to me…

    Ron: sorry to hear that. “I have exhausted all my attempts at explaining myself. ”
    I hope that is an attempt at humor, and if so, you succeeded (slightly) because it gave me a light chuckle.

  85. Ron Coleman
    October 26th, 2007 @ 9:33 am

    Yes, humor – an attempt – it was. Good Shabbos!

  86. David Linn
    October 26th, 2007 @ 11:33 am

    Getting back to the original thread of the post, I will share one of my formative experiences.

    When I was a teenager, I went on a trip to Poland and Israel through USY. While in Auschwitz, sitting alone in a bunkhouse, crying, I began to think of all of the acts of Jews who clung to their faith in the darkest and most horrific hours. I thought of those that went to the greatest extremes to grab one, seemingly simple, mitzvah. Although I had, obviously, heard those types of stories before, something about sitting there, alone, in what was a hell on earth for millions, triggered a deeper thought process that went beyond my previous reactions that these were heroic deeds. I began to think that these were people who took their faith seriously. Very seriously. These were people that would not give up their faith even if it meant death. Now, I knew, even back then, that there are countless religions wherein people died (or killed) for their faith. This wasn’t an epiphanic episode where I found faith. But it did trigger a more serious search. I decided that yiddishkeit was not something to be treated flippantly. It was not, as I had previously seen, something that you do when it suits you and you don’t when it doesn’t. It was something very serious and very important. Although, I did not become a Shomer Shabbos and Shomer Mitzvos until years later, it was there, I believe, that my search began.

  87. Squarepeg613
    October 27th, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

    I have been following this thread with great interest, especially the discussion between DK and Ron about the basis of Jewish religious commitment: are we committed because observance leads to a better life and better communities (and if they don’t seem to anymore then we’re no longer committed) or because we just have faith that we should be (which is based on … what?) This issue sparked a lively discussion at our Shabbat table today.

    Could we continue that part of this thread? DK wrote about it in comment #64, but I didn’t see any responses. I am struggling with this very issue, and I would really like to see this addressed.

    Thanks!

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