[I was part of the frum community for 5 years. So before I make my decision, even as I suspect some people will react viscerally to this post, I feel I owe it to readers to let them give their input, put out their own thoughts if they feel so inclined. Where did I find the time to write this post, you may ask? Answer: Sometimes I feel absolutely compelled to write something is all, I can't get it out of my head. Moreover, Sukkos break is coming up, which means I have a five-day weekend (and get to stay at home studying for the next five days, whoopee!). Because I am not sure about what I will propose at the end of this post so I want to give people a chance to give me a reason to reject my tentative conclusions. If you think I'm not open to your ideas, then I suppose this post would be a waste of your time and I encourage you to skip it.]
I was thinking about the blog and I'm not really sure where I want to go with it. I do want to have a debate on Orthodox Judaism* and I am certainly going to put up papers that I write here, as well as videos of conferences and interesting lectures** I attend.
But recently I've been riffing on the Orthodox and I was thinking about it;*** I don't think I'm being intellectually consistent here. When I used to riff on Orthodox spokespeople, it was because I really cared. The Orthodox Jews I knew and loved were going in the wrong direction, towards a worldview which is frummer than the pope's. Through the Internet, I realized that on the opposite end there are those who condemn all of the anti-science and anti-history stuff unequivocally but then don't provide answers to the big questions raised by modernity themselves. And then there are all those who are somewhere in the middle. I wanted the anti-science people to realize they were making a mistake and I wanted the "Modernishe"to realize that it was their duty to start proposing their own scholarly answers to the big questions. Then everybody could realize that Torah and rationalism weren't incompatible and, going forth with good answers to the big questions, they could have no real kashes on frumkeit intellectually. Torah Umadda would withstand everything the modern world could throw at it.
But now, as detailed in previous posts, I don't believe in frumkeit. Why am I still writing like an insider activist? Seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance on my part. I also feel when I talk to frum people that I'm kind of in this limbo between wide-eyed-baalei teshuva-in-potentia-who-will-accept-anything and those who are in the "in" group, those who "know" and "understand;" I felt this way very often as a Modern Orthodox Jew who wasn't going to let other people tell me how I had to think "to be a good Jew" as well, but as a young whippersnapper brazenly rejecting Judaism, I feel this even more. People tell me that I'm wrong or my ideas are silly or that I just don't recognize the proper way to think, but then when I say, let's have a debate about it, they back off; they prefer browbeating to actual discussion in front of an audience. Don't get me wrong, just about all of my old friends (I have one new friend here at Brandeis and he's an ex-Catholic) haven't been like this; they were understanding of my decision. But then, most of my old friends aren't really in touch; for some reason, a lot of them just saw the post where I announced my leaving frumkeit. The people I hear from are the ones who tell me how I'm wrong, I'm biased, I'm silly, etc. I look into claims as to why I have to believe in religion (most recently, by one of my best old friends, the Torah Code. Yes, I'm serious, some people just never find the time to look them up after going to the wonderful Aish lecture. Not even 5 years later.).
Perhaps I really ought to follow the advice of one good Rosh Mechina, detailed elsewhere on this blog****: "HERE IN THIS YESHIVA, WE LEARN GEMARA, TOSAFOS! IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO LEARN GEMARA, TOSAFOS, I DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING HERE!?" Perhaps it is time that I do my best to shift my mind from one which sees the Jews as fellow Jews to one which sees the Jews as a fascinating academic topic? Perhaps I should see myself as a fellow traveler with those who proudly and firmly declare that, despite their background, they are not Jews? The "sense-of-community" bit doesn't seem to apply anymore and even when it did, I always was uncomfortable with the reasons (not because of my personality or even a love for all mankind but because of an accident of birth into the Chosen People which nodded when a mountain was held over their heads and because I'm a potential target for kiruv and having Jewish babies as opposed to goyishe babies).
*Three positive responses to my offer have been extended thus far. The first wanted to mainly focus on the existence of a philosophical deity (e.g. deism) as opposed to a traditional Orthodox Jewish deity, but as that didn't fit my offer, we agreed that it was fair not to have that discussion. The second was withdrawn independent of discussion with me. In order to keep my word to have a debate, I sent an email to Dovid Kornreich accepting his demand for a debate ("Please tell me when we..."), but now he writes that before he accepts the offer [which he already accepted], he'd like me to properly answer some questions of his (When he asked me what my motivation is, I couldn't help thinking: "WHAT is your quest?").
**The lectures I've gone to so far I can't imagine y'all would be much interested in.
***While thinking about it, I also received an email from Dovid where he asked me a question which was related to these thoughts.