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Orthodox Judaism is not for everyone

The whole concept of being off the derech bothers me because in my opinion there is no right derech, if we call those who aren’t observant or don’t follow the ways that they were brought up in we feel the need to belittle them. Oh he or she is off the derech sounds really crappy and I decided to put in my two cents on this situation.

I am constantly questioning and have my moments, but I am orthodox and it suits me well, but unlike many orthodox Jews, I don’t think that orthodoxy or being observant is for everyone. Like many people I know, I was brought up to believe that orthodox Jews were right and everyone else was wrong, but I think that belief is wrong, I have met many people that aren’t orthodox anymore and are great people, they are good Jews and I am cool with that, but many people aren’t.

I know some of you are already screaming blasphemy and the off the derech crowd (I use the terminology because it works best – but I don’t like it) are cheering for joy. I don’t even like the term authentic when combined with religion, religion itself has evolved so many times that we don’t even know if we are practicing the right thing anymore, hence the reason that I don’t have a hashkafa, I work on things I think are important (good thing the sages view most of these things as important too) but the second someone calls me a Torah Jew or Authentic Jew I cringe – seriously – it makes me feel that all of the other Jews out there practicing in ways foreign to the average yeshiva bochur aren’t real Jews and that is wrong.

I guess I never really learned how to be such a fundamentalist that I discard everything else as hogwash when my own religious practice is built on some pretty shaky ground and I am sick of having it proved to me from the 600,000 person revelation stuff, I believe but don’t think everyone should have to or be disregarded and treated harshly because of their varying beliefs.

{ 171 comments… add one }
  • Zvi Lampert March 16, 2010, 2:41 AM

    I don’t dispute that important to be tolerant of most types of people. However, the fact that they are great people doesn’t preclude the possibility that their theology may be flawed. Although there’s definitely room for improvement in my observance level, I do believe very strongly in halachic Judaism, and I don’t agree that it’s “built on some pretty shaky ground,” but that is a different discussion. I don’t judge someone personally based on the level or style of his religious observance, but I may feel that they are misguided.

    • Heshy Fried March 16, 2010, 3:22 AM

      Sure but do you believe that halachic Judaism is the only way and that everyone can be molded to fit into that way like so many people do.

      • Zvi Lampert March 16, 2010, 3:47 AM

        It’s a demanding lifestyle, and in many cases poorly understood and certainly often poorly represented. I can understand why some people would be put off by it. I don’t know the circumstances that bring a person to where he is. And I’m sure many ‘off the derech’ folks have a close relationship with G-d, for all I know they might go to the head of the line to Gan Eden. But they are IMHO technically still not following the gudelines of Judaism as laid out by the Torah and Chazal.
        Can everyone be molded? I dont see Halachic Judaism as a one size fits all religion. Sure it has its rigidities, but I see a lot of room for individuality. Is it for everyone? Only G-d knows.

    • offthederech March 16, 2010, 12:12 PM

      >I don’t judge someone, but I feel they are misguided

      I know. No judgment or anything…BUT YOU’RE AN IDIOT!!!

      • Zvi Lampert March 16, 2010, 1:13 PM

        Excellent rebuttal. very logical.

      • Tova March 16, 2010, 2:43 PM

        Right. There are unfortunately many frummies who will say, ‘I don’t judge non-Orthodox Jews, even when I think they’re sinners.’

        They pass judgment while claiming not to.

        • Zvi Lampert March 17, 2010, 1:02 AM

          I never said they were sinners. I said misguided. Can you see the difference?

    • Barry Lampert March 16, 2010, 4:02 PM

      “I may feel that they are misguided”

      What does that even mean???

      • Zvi Lampert March 17, 2010, 1:00 AM

        Hey Barry, are we related?
        Let me try to clarify. It is my belief that the entire Jewish nation was commanded to keep Torah and mitzvos. For various reasons, many Jews do not. I’m not privy to the circumstances that lead individuals to choose a path of non-observance, therefore I don’t hold it against them in any way. I dont consider all OTD Jews sinners, because I feel that for an action to qualify as a sin there must be deliberate intent (maizid), and mitigating circumstances must also be taken into account, and I’m not a mind reader. Also, the Torah commands us to give people the benefit of the doubt. Understand that I love all Jews as my brothers and sisters, regardless of their level of observance, and I don’t judge them personally. But I do objectively deem certain actions and lifestyle choices to be inconsistent with Torah, and I do believe that any of my Jewish brothers and sister who dont follow the Torah as (I believe) it was meant to be followed is misguided. I dont mean that as a prejorative. I believe in absolute truth. I believe the Torah is absolutely true. I believe that anyone who disagrees with the truth of the Torah is necessartily misguided.
        Doesn’t mean they’re not a great person or that they’re going to hell. It’s not a sin to be misguided.

        • Anonymous 1 March 17, 2010, 1:48 PM

          Nicely put. I agree!

        • Barry Lampert March 17, 2010, 1:58 PM

          We are not related.

          “I do believe that any of my Jewish brothers and sister who dont follow the Torah as (I believe) it was meant to be followed is misguided.”

          So assuming that you are Litvish/Yeshivish (Typical NY Jew); Are you saying that all Jews who are Chasidish, Modern Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Da’ati Liumi, Syrian, Persian and Moroccan just to name a few are misguided???

          • Zvi Lampert March 17, 2010, 2:33 PM

            You assume incorrectly. The closest category to what I am is probably modern-ortho, but I hate those labels. What I am saying is that all Jews are technically obligated to keep torah and mitzvos, but that’s between them and G-d. We still have to treat everybody with kindness and respect, even if we think what they’re doing is wrong. To my knowledge Chasidish, Modern Orthodox, Daíati Liumi, Syrian, Persian and Moroccan etc. do keep Torah and mitzvos, so I’m not sure why you even brought them up. Conservative and Reform in my opinion are misguided. Deal with it. To my thinking, there is no way to reconcile an approach to Judaism that ignores Halacha with the Torah. The entire Jewish nation accepted the Torah ‘k’ish echod b’lev echod’ -like one person with one heart. (it was the last time all the Jews agreed on anything :))
            By the way, on the topic of judgementalism, perhaps the most blatantly judgemental comment in this entire thread is ‘typical NY Jew’.

  • Off OJ March 16, 2010, 3:39 AM

    While I applaud the tolerant tone of this, I have to say that unfortunately there is NO ROOM in Orthodox Judaism for this type of unbridled tolerance. The Torah makes a lot of factual claims and commands the ENTIRETY of the Jewish people to a life of observance of the mitzvot. You can call it whatever you want, halachic Judaism, Orthodox Judaism, observant Judaism, whatever. If you are willingly not following the mitzvot, no amount of casuistry in the world could convince me that you are doing what God wants you to do.

    Now that being said, this brings up a great discussion about Western (and maybe some Eastern) religion in general. All the major religions want political power because it is important to preserve the Godly morality of a state for a religion, which has unchanging dogma. Why is gay marriage illegal in most states? Because homosexuality is condemned in Christianity, plain and simple. And if you are not a Christian, well maybe you should be. I see Judaism as pretty much the same.

    • Heshy Fried March 16, 2010, 4:13 AM

      I never really learned exactly what God wants us to do – being that each person is different, wouldn’t you say that different people are here to do different things. Just look at the gemara, we may not “hold” of all the varying opinions on pretty much everything – but maybe God wants some of us to be doing something different. It seems that no one really knows what God wants. Some folks think it’s to ban concerts, some folks think it’s tikkun olam, and others think it’s to give tzedaka.

      • feivelbenmishael March 16, 2010, 8:12 AM

        “wouldnít you say that different people are here to do different things. ”

        Except for mitzvos everyone was commanded in equally…

        • chana March 17, 2010, 10:57 AM

          To believe that, you have to believe that the Torah was divinely commanded in a literal sense to begin with…AND include all the rabbinic rules…

      • Zvi Lampert March 16, 2010, 9:53 AM

        First of all, while the gemara is full of debate, the outcome (who we pasken like) is usually clear. And those debates are usually about more mundane techincal details. In fact, among the ‘Orthodox” there is still much debate about details. (i.e. Flatbush eruv, zmanim etc.) But neither the Gemara nor Orthodox Jewish thought through the years is ambiguous about the basics. Shabbos, kashrus, prayer, taharas hamishpacha etc. are not negotiable etc.
        No offense, but citing the fact that gemara is full of debate to justify ‘going off the derech’ seems like pretzel logic. You will not find any support in the gemara or shulchan orech for someone who doesn’t want to keep shabbos.When we say ‘off the derech’ we don’t mean someone decided to follow Bais Shammai.
        @Off OJ – I dont agree that there is no room for this type of tolerance. As I’ve said, the guidelines are clear, but when judging our fellow man, we are meant to take into account any mitigating circumstances such as tinok shenishba, and always be dan lekaf zechus.
        Even though I believe that non-halachic Jews are clearly doing things that are wrong according to the Torah and chazal, I can’t judge them personally, only G-d can.

      • Anonymous 1 March 16, 2010, 10:11 AM

        “It seems that no one really knows what G-d wants.”

        Maybe in some areas.

        Orthodox Jews believe that G-d wants us to keep the Torah. There are some things that we know for sure that G-d wants, there are some things written straight out in the Torah, such as keep shabbos, don’t steal, don’t murder, don’t speak Lashon Harah, love your friend as you love yourself, etc. I think everyone agrees that G-d wants us to give Tzedakah.

        Banning concerts? Yeah, I agree, it’s not really clear if G-d wants that or not. Some think it is, some think it’s not.

        But in general, if you believe Torah is from G-d, then we do have some basic guidelines as to what G-d wants.

    • HannahBanana March 16, 2010, 1:39 PM

      There’s a phrase for this type of dogmatic, cultish adherence, it’s “Graceless Obedience;” the blind following of a rule for the rule’s sake.

      What *I* don’t understand is how any group of people can read the Torah , year after year, decade after decade, and NOT see that the ones in those stories whom G-D loves most are the ones who argue and barter with Him. Not a single one followed EVERYTHING G-D said EVERY time He said it. This isn’t to say that G-D didn’t put down mitzvot and commandments for a reason; I’m sure that even the ones I will never understand, have a true purpose. That said, not a one of the greatest characters of the Torah engaged in blind obedience. They thought. They considered. Sometimes they were wrong, but even when wrong, G-D STILL chose them over other potentials. Why? I think it’s because every Orthodox needs a Reform to make him stop and consider. And every Reform needs an Orthodox to remind him of where he comes from.

      Sometimes, maybe that derech is not as clear as we would all like. Who’s to say that G-D doesn’t love a little yiddishe rule-breaker? Maybe He’s kind of a rebel at heart, too.

      • oisvorf March 17, 2010, 8:03 PM

        No one said you shouldn’t ask questions or follow blindly. Judaism is probably the only religion that encourages questioning.

        • HannahBanana March 18, 2010, 9:04 AM

          Which is why we have terms like “off the derech,” right?

    • Helen December 11, 2016, 8:53 PM

      There are a lot of jews that don’t know anything about the Torah and Mitzvot, so you can not blame a person if he doesn’t keep the Torah because he wasn’t taught anything about judiusm from birth

  • ck March 16, 2010, 6:31 AM

    Sigh. I think Judaism is built in a way that makes it impossible to observe all the mitzvas. I don’t know any observant Jew who on Yom Kippur says “Nope. Nothing to repent for this year Hashem. See ya!” We all ought to do what we can by striving to fulfill the spirit and the letter of Torah Judaism. It’s a great guide to base your life on and it’s surprisingly flexible and multi-faceted.

    I hate the term Orthodox by the way. I don’t believe in denominations. I just believe in Judaism. The term Orthodox was coined by those wishing to demean traditional Judaism and it’s worked! It seems that many adherents to traditional Judaism have done their best to live up to that diminution. What ever happened to derech eretz (kadma leh Torah)? What ever happened to achdut? Ve’ahavta le’reacha kamocha? Doesn’t the much vaunted Pirkei Avot say over and over again “Kol Yisrael yesh lahem chelek leh olam habah.” Rashi’s interpretation of that is particularly apt. Not that you have a place in the world to come just by mere dint of your being Jewish, but rather that we deserve our place in the world to come only when we are united, when we feel responsible for the good and welfare of our fellow Jews, regardless of their particular hashkafa.

    So are you going to be a force for unity or continued divisiveness? That’s a pretty good measure of your closeness to God I think, not the blackness of your hat, the kind of kippah you wear or what kind of table covering you use on shabbat.

    • Stan March 16, 2010, 5:01 PM

      btw pirkei avos doesnt say ďKol Yisrael yesh lahem chelek leh olam habah.Ē even once let alone over and over. its actually in sanhedrin and the next mishna starts listing those who dont have a chelek in olam haba. so its not quite that black and white

  • Moshe March 16, 2010, 6:35 AM

    A very interesting post. My own personal opinion is that yes, every Jew is obligated to be observant, but it is over simplistic to say that the exact manner that mitzvot are observed by Orthodoxy is the Ďonlyí or Ďcorrectí way. As Heshy points out, much of the gemara is concerned with different opinions about how to actualise the halacha, and very often the varying opinions and ways of doing things are not dismissed as being wrong, but rather as just different. Rabbi Such-and-Such does xyz but Rabbi So-and-So learnt frow Rabbi Whoever who does zyx.

    I find this sort of honest striving to look at the different ways of performing a mitzvah to be the one of the most beautiful things about Jewish life, and I think that there is too little of it in current everyday life. I once learnt that the reason halacha tends to follow Beis Hillel is because they always included the opinions of Shammai in their rulings, so that the people knew the opposite viewpoint.

    Can there really be only one way of doing things?

  • Rishona March 16, 2010, 6:35 AM

    Short, albeit thought provoking post. I think it is actually better to ‘step away’ (sounds better than ‘off the derech’) from the frum lifestyle rather that play the part, but not take the beliefs to heart. For example, I have heard frum Jews say that they wish they didn’t have to deal with fasting, Yom Tovim, etc. Why do the mitzvot begrudgingly?

    Yes Jews have a responsibility to keep their end of the bargain so to speak in regards to the bris. However you are born a Jew without performing a single mitzvot. You have that distinction off the merit of your ancestors. Even if you do not perform the mitzvot, you are still a Jew. This is a core aspect of Judaism. This should tell us something.

    Only Hashem can judge us in the end.

    • G*3 March 16, 2010, 4:22 PM

      > Why do the mitzvot begrudgingly?

      For the same reason people go to work even when they don’t want to.

      • Rishona March 16, 2010, 10:04 PM

        And the same applies – perhaps these people should change their career!

        • G*3 March 17, 2010, 2:39 AM

          You don’t get punished after death for changing careers.

          If you really beleive that Yiddishkeit is true and real, you have to do the mitzvos whether you like it or not. God is not to be trifled with.

          • Worldly August 6, 2010, 6:02 PM

            no where in the Torah and in Judiasm does it say that we live for after death. We live for our lives. If we are living for the unknown, then we are doing something wrong.

    • Zvi Lampert March 17, 2010, 4:55 PM

      Saying that you wish you didn’t have to deal with fasting is not the same as saying you don’t believe in fasting. Certain mitzvos aren’t pleasant. That does not absolve you of your obligation.

  • feivelbenmishael March 16, 2010, 8:14 AM

    “Only Hashem can judge us in the end.”

    Or a bes din / sanhedrin…

    • Heshy Fried March 16, 2010, 10:15 AM

      Unless you happen to be wearing a blue shirt to shul

  • Drew Mazanec March 16, 2010, 9:01 AM

    In regards to the Kuzari Principle argument, I would challenge anyone to name a secular historian who finds it convincing. The argument hinges on the current Torah scrolls being a carbon copy of the scrolls at Sinai. If it is even plausible that any changes occurred since Sinai, then the argument fails, because you could chalk up such passages as “you all heard the voice of God” and “ask your parents and grandparents” to the same legendary development that plagues such accounts as the Legend of King Arthur or Herodotus’ accounts of history.

    And the text has almost certainly undergone some changes:

    1. Names of cities Gen. 14.14 (Dan); Deut. 34.1 (Dan); Gen. 13.18; 23.2 (Hebron) that did not use those names in Abraham’s time, or even in Moses’ time.

    2. Some of the Hebrew is more stylistically consistent with Hebrew from the late monarchy (Vayikra, for example), and some of the Hebrew is more consistent with much earlier Hebrew (sections of Shemos)

    3. The Yemenite scrolls are slightly different, containing spelling variants. Such compilations as the Yemenite “Torath Emeth” show the variants http://is.gd/aJXzN

    4. The Dead Sea Scrolls also contain variants. One example is the “how many people left Mitzraim?” question. The Masoretic text says 70. The Septuagint says 75 in Bereshis, 75 in Shemos, and 70 in Devarim. The Dead Sea Scrolls agree with the Septuagint, not the Masoretic text.

    I still hold firmly to Mosaic authorship, but this Kuzari Principle argument is really intellectually dishonest, and I would not use it.

    • SF2K1 March 17, 2010, 12:10 PM

      Regarding 3, the spelling differences are minor.

      Regarding 4, the fact that the Dead Sea Scrolls say 75 is not really indicative of much. The DSS scrolls themselves are from all over the place, only 20% of all the biblical scrolls were actually written in Qumran (60% of all the scrolls also reflect the Masoretic version which says something in itself). The lines you mentioned from the scrolls which had 75 could have easily represented either the Qumranite views or any other sect or even a Qumranite copying but writing from what he knew reading the Septuagint.

      That aside, I agree that most of the arguments people make are terrible. The Kuzari principle is flawed, the mass revelation argument has plenty of it’s own problems given history, mesorah is not as hard to manipulate as people thing, Judaism has often come into the control of elite groups who could have done anything, etc. At the end of the day, we’re a religion. Religions are based on faith and belief, and these things especially will never be truely proven without a time machine.

      • Drew Mazanec March 17, 2010, 8:52 PM

        Both 3 and 4 are not the kind of evidence one would expect if there was one and only one standardized version of the scrolls from Moses’ time to our time.

        Regarding 3, the minor differences still show that the method of copying the Torah scrolls, as fanatically meticulous and careful as it was, is not an infallible process. This is enough to overthrow the Kuzari Principle argument, which (along with all of the “bible code” arguments, such as Equidistant Letter Sequence) hinges on the assertion that today’s scrolls are a carbon copy of the ones delivered at Sinai.

        Sit back for a moment and think about those hypotheses regarding the Septuagint and Qumran. If every Torah scroll said “70” like the Kuzari proponents claim, how did this variant get in Hebrew texts written long before the destruction of the second temple, and the same variant in two places at that? And it seems extraordinarily implausible that a scribe would use the Greek Septuagint when copying a Hebrew text. Isn’t scribal copying supposed to be an attempt to make an exact copy of a source letter for letter? And why would there be a separate Qumranite view of a mere insiginificant number? What doctrines would hang on that? And even if that were the case, why was the number in Devarim not changed?

        I think there are good arguments, but the Kuzari Principle is not one of them. It carries a lot of shaky assumptions and claims far more than the evidence warrants. Absolutely I will agree that the Torah came from Moses, and that the textual transmission has been exceedingly accurate. It just hurts credibility to use bad arguments, even if they lead to the right conclusions.

        • SF2K1 March 21, 2010, 8:51 AM

          All the questions are good questions, but they’re not unanswerable. It’s easy to differentiate between groups that were extremely concerned with carbon copy transmission, and groups for which that was less important. It’s also important to recognize that at the time, copying documents was a big pain in the butt and it was much easier to quickly write a shoddy copy (inevitably leading to errors) but the primary versions would have been carefully taken care of (i.e. difference between a kid’s practice sheet and a full sefer torah).

          It’s not implausible at all to imagine a Jew writing from memory using multiple sources that he’s seen. All Jews were fairly fluent in Greek, a few even had Greek as their primary language. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were actually written in Greek. Writing the wrong piece of information is not out of the ordinary when it isn’t even clear that any of the documents were intended as perfect replicas or just notes (some scrolls even have notes written on them in another color).

          When you have an external sect with either improper procedure, a lack of interest in whether the document is 100% accurate, or even a wide collection for basic study, it makes plenty of sense to expect you might have many meaningless errors which later become important to other people who don’t know if they were meaningful or not.

          Another side note on 3, it’s clear from the Gemara that we don’t necessarily have a carbon copy of the original Torah. It mentions (although I forget where) returning from Bavel, and finding 3 Torahs, 1 with more alephs, one with more heys, and one with a mix, and since they didn’t know what was correct, they wrote new Torah’s according to the majority. Not to mention of course that one of the opinions in the Gemara has the Torah being given in paleo-hebrew script and then Ezra changes it to the Assyrian script we now use. It’s a scary history when you really get into it.

    • CA March 18, 2010, 12:04 AM

      A secular historian who finds it convincing? Why would he be secular if he found it convincing?

      So, youíre planning to rely on secular historians in determining how to live your life? Good for you…

  • A23 March 16, 2010, 9:03 AM

    Wow, this blog has changed. I know about your disclaimer and all, but now the blog is really not frum, let alone satirical.
    You’ve changed, Hesh. I think it’s time for a real re-branding.

    • Heshy Fried March 16, 2010, 10:14 AM

      I love how people come once in a while – I know you’ve been here a long time, but you may have noticed that the last 20 posts were straight up satire – I actually took a break from seriousness and guest posts and everything was satire and what I’m not supposed to change – I am supposed to have pornographic food discussions and talk about hot chicks and chugging mt dew the whole time.

    • Sarah November 8, 2011, 3:52 PM

      People change. It’s natural and good.

  • presidentstreet March 16, 2010, 9:13 AM

    I saw in a Rebbe video how the lubavitch Rebbe said that Therre is no such thing as orthodox, conseveartive or reform, only jews who do mitzvoths, those who do more mtzvoth, and those who do more mitvoth. I’ve used that line a few times and people, espec. those jews who lhave little education in judiasm here that they always smile. Its not me verse you, orthodox belittling reform, just jews doing what we can.

  • Zvi Lampert March 16, 2010, 9:33 AM

    Here we go… someone had to go and bring up Lubavitch…

    • Barry Lampert March 16, 2010, 4:07 PM

      Zvi, if you are going to continue to be judgmental can you at least remove your last name from the post? Thanks buddy!

      • Zvi Lampert March 17, 2010, 1:07 AM

        I’m not being judgemental. You’re misunderstanding me, maybe I’m not explaining myself well.
        please re-read my comments, okay ‘cuz’?

  • Anonymous 1 March 16, 2010, 10:02 AM

    I agree that there is not ONE derech that is correct for EVERYONE.
    However, there are some things that are right and some things that are wrong and that’s the way it is. If you believe that Torah is from Hashem, then you automatically believe that someone who does NOT share that belief is wrong. Either Hashem gave us the Torah and He wants us to keep it, or He doesn’t. It can’t be both ways.

    Of course there are many people who are not orthodox who are great people. We should be nice to them, respect them, be friends with them etc. But that doesn’t mean that they are right. I can be friends with someone from a different religion entirely and still believe strongly that they are wrong.

    I very much agree with where this post is coming from, which is that some people belittle those who don’t follow their derech. You can believe that someone is wrong, and still be nice to them. You don’t need to tell them that they are wrong, you don’t need to yell or shout at them.
    Even if you believe that they should be following your derech, you don’t need to try to convince them that you are right. You can let them live in peace and still believe that they are wrong and should be following your derech.

    To say, “I donít think that orthodoxy or being observant is for everyone” implies (and I don’t think you meant to say this) that you don’t believe that Hashem wants all Jews to keep Torah. Did G-d give Torah to just some people? No. Orthodox Judaism= G-d wants all Jews to keep Mitzvot and Torah.

    Once you keep Mitzvot, there are gray areas. For example: Torah doesn’t say whether TV is wrong or right. For some people, they can watch TV and still be close to Hashem. For others, watching TV is wrong because it takes away from their connection to G-d. The people who it is wrong for, should NOT be pushing everyone to follow their derech because that isn’t clearly defined as right or wrong. As an extreme example, stealing is clearly wrong, and if you believe that stealing is wrong, so if someone is not following that derech, then saying “I am cool with that” to someone who steals, means you don’t really believe stealing is wrong.

    • Zvi Lampert March 16, 2010, 10:10 AM

      Very well stated.

  • benji March 16, 2010, 10:47 AM

    good for you Hesh… i’m glad you are saying what most people are to scared to say. there is an old Navy adage ” the ship will never leave port without its cook, but it cant leave port if only cooks are on board” what it means is this world is meant to have different people, with different roles. If everyone is the same, nothing gets done.

  • Heshy Fried March 16, 2010, 10:49 AM

    For the record before you all blast my ignorant self out of the water, I believe that Jews were commanded to keep the torah and that’s the right way – unfortunately we ourselves don’t exactly know what exactly we are supposed to do and keep and I myself am always struggling with different concepts.

    I also believe that it’s hard to be a truly God fearing Jew and believe that you’re way isn’t the only right way – if it’s not the only right way, do you truly believe? Or can you just practice as you please and make up the whole thing as you go along. So I am one confused guy – I can just easily argue this post the other way and call everyone else morons for trying to change the torah and Judaism to their liking – which I dislike as well. So I hope that cleared up something for you folks because it just made me that much more confused about religious practice in general.

    • anon March 16, 2010, 11:10 AM

      Hillel says that the whole Torah is just to make one Jew love another. If you do that, then you are following the Torah. I guess in a way you are right. Embarrassing someone (even if they’re “g-d forbid off the derech) is way worse than anything they could have done.

    • Anonymous 1 March 16, 2010, 11:22 AM

      Being confused is OK and its even a good thing. I think that struggling to find truth is what life is all about. G-d didn’t want life to be easy and clear or He would have made it that way.

      • Mosidoxish March 16, 2010, 1:47 PM

        You’re post is the first time I feel good about my confusion. I was always troubling to know what the truth is, I guess if he’d really wanted he would clear it all.

  • Anonymous March 16, 2010, 11:01 AM

    I enjoyed this article, but I think you are going to have to arrive at the daunting realization that Orthodox Judaism is not tolerant and never will be. It is designed around customs and laws that are archaic, illogical, discriminatory, and inherently flawed. As a result, there is no choice but to maintain a dogmatically intolerant approach in order to keep the flock in order. When you are conditioned with the certainty that the “other” group is wrong, by default, you must be right. The “us vs them” approach is essential to to ensuring religious continuity, and all major religions utilize this tactic in order to keep the sheep in line.
    Ultimately you will have to decide whether you prefer tolerance to the comforting delusion and security of organized religion, for the two are mutually exclusive.

    • Heshy Fried March 16, 2010, 10:18 PM

      I completely agree and whenever someone says they are trying to make Judaism more politically correct I cringe. The religion is as is – sure there are some periodical changes like slavery and pilagshim – but Judaism and Torah aren’t meant to be changed to suit your political correctness – look what has been happening to non-orthodoxy since it began – it is slowly dying because in its strive for more inclusiveness they are reworking the entire religion.

  • Bryan March 16, 2010, 11:38 AM

    Your questioning and confusion, and your ability to see the beauty in Jews from all backgrounds and beliefs, is exactly what makes you a truly “authentic” Jew. We need more Jews like you.

  • offthederech March 16, 2010, 12:09 PM

    Nice post, Heshy.
    I certainly agree with Anon above that the most important thing is how you treat other people. The gemara states that anyone who embarasses another loses their share in the world to come. It also says one embarassing someone is like killing them. R’ Yisrael Salanter famously said “your friends gashmius should be like your ruchnius.” There’s no excuse to judge other people, and while I think it’s great that you and some others are non-judgmental, I think too many pride themselves on their simple nastiness, and they should be ashamed of themselves. There’s not a whole lot of difference between that assholishness and Nazism IMO.

    • John March 16, 2010, 12:46 PM

      naziism really? being nasty is the same as sticking in gas chamber?
      and do you want to go through the gemara line by line and see who keeps more of it frum people or off the derech types?

      • offthederech March 16, 2010, 1:27 PM

        >line by line…

        I’d love to. Which part if it do you keep that I don’t exactly? The part about oxes goring other oxes?

        • John March 16, 2010, 2:08 PM

          Wowa slow down there partner youre skipping ahead we’ll get there dont worry.
          Now where were we? oh thats right the begginging:
          “meimosai korin es shma ba’arvin…” do you say shema every evening?

          • offthederech March 16, 2010, 2:15 PM

            Let’s try to stick to morality, not mumbling…

            • John March 16, 2010, 3:59 PM

              ūüôĀ but you said youd love to go through the gemara line by line with me

              • offthederech March 16, 2010, 4:03 PM

                I would.

                • John March 16, 2010, 4:09 PM

                  i see, but only the parts you like?

                  • offthederech March 16, 2010, 4:16 PM

                    Na, I’m not picky.

                    • John March 16, 2010, 4:58 PM

                      Not picky? you want to skip the first line, ok so lets move on i guess you dont say shema at night, 1-0 mine. Next i guess is krias shema in morning (dont forget about zman, magen avraham is fine) i say everyday, you?

  • Bored Jewish Guy March 16, 2010, 12:53 PM

    I don’t have a problem with saying someone’s “off the derech”, it just means they don’t follow the orthodox derech. I do believe the mitzvos from the Torah apply to all jews and it’s wrong not to follow them. On the other hand, just b/c someone doesn’t keep all the mitzvos doesn’t mean they’re evil and going to hell. I believe you can sit and learn all day, openly follow the mitzvos and still burn in hell b/c of something you did wrong. You can also be completely OTD and still go to heaven b/c of something good you did.

  • offthederech March 16, 2010, 12:54 PM

    It starts with demonization and dehumanization. It ends with murder.

  • Eli March 16, 2010, 12:54 PM

    Is it only Lubavitchers who use the 600,000 witnesses as proof, or do other sects use it as well?

    • Mosidoxish March 16, 2010, 1:50 PM

      Others don’t prove it. You’re either with us or against us.

  • SkepticButJewish March 16, 2010, 1:11 PM

    If any Jew can follow the form of Judaism most suited for him it is not the truth anymore it is just a preference. No scientist every follows the version of science that he likes the most, every scientist needs to strictly stick to the facts and follow that form of scienctific knowledge most strongly defended at that current time. If scientists were able to pick and choose what they like and what they do not like then there be no science, it be called “superstituion” or “astrology” or whatever other term is applicable.

    Therefore, IF Judaism is correct then it must be the case there is only one correct interpretation of it based on the correct understanding of Torah and God. Instead of saying how there should be many forms of Judaism, you should be saying that Orthodox Jews should be willing to accept Jews who are not very observant because they need to understand it is hard for everyone to be observant.

    Hershy, if you want to see a refuation of the argument for Judaism that says, “Judaism must be correct because it had 600 000 witnesses” you can go here: http://skepticbutjewish.blogspot.com/2010/02/main-argument-for-judaism-refuted.html

    This is a failed argument, I addressed it from many different angles to show why it is flawed.

    • e March 17, 2010, 1:13 PM

      “No scientist every follows the version of science that he likes the most, every scientist needs to strictly stick to the facts and follow that form of scienctific knowledge most strongly defended at that current time. If scientists were able to pick and choose what they like and what they do not like then there be no science, it be called ďsuperstituionĒ or ďastrologyĒ or whatever other term is applicable.”

      I’m a scientist. Just wanted to let you know that you are woefully naive about the reality of modern scientific practice.

      Might not be the only thing.

  • Woodrow/Conservadox March 16, 2010, 1:20 PM

    I’ve been thinking about whether there’s a way to reconcile all these conflicting views. So let me try this:

    Don’t think of Torah and/or halacha as something all Jews can reasonably be expected to keep at all times. If you do, you will always be disappointed.

    Think of it as an ideal- perhaps like the rules of baseball, since even the best ballplayers only hit .300 or so. (OK not quite the same since baseball is a zero-sum game between two teams- but the basic idea of human imperfection is similar to the basic idea of baseball-playing imperfection).

    All of us fall short of some elements of the ideal some of the time. At various points in history, some parts of the ideal will be relatively easy to keep, others impossible for all but the most pious.

    So for example, 70 years ago, due to Sunday closing laws, Shabbos was virtually impossible to keep for most American Jews. Today, less so.

    What was difficult 500 years ago, you might ask? Since Jews were in self-governing communities, ritual mitzvot (what differentiate Orthodox Jews from everyone else) were relatively easy to keep. Judaism was basically all or nothing- if you didn’t go along with the community you had to convert to some other religion and have to deal with their (even more insane) rules. And of course, pogroms etc made the other religion pretty tempting sometimes.

    But in a premodern world where you are primarily interacting with Jews [or similar communities today], I would guess that ethical mitzvot were pretty hard to keep. I would think that in a close knit, premodern society lashon hara would be a bigger problem, ahavat Yisrael would be harder, etc. (But that’s just a guess).

    So today as always, most people aren’t going to hit .300. And some people, because of their upbringing etc, are more likely to hit .300 than others.

    And yet Judaism, like baseball, continues.

  • sara March 16, 2010, 2:26 PM

    Thanks for this post. A lot of the comments kind of make me sad, though.

  • CA March 16, 2010, 3:41 PM

    This reminds me of the protest that liberals oftentimes make: ďWhy do Conservatives believe they own the Constitution?Ē The same set of mistakes that contributes to this question also contributes to ďOrthodox Judaism is not the only way to be a Jew/not for everyone/etc.Ē mentality.

    • Anonymous March 16, 2010, 3:55 PM

      The Constitution has been amended, and is subject to differing interpretations, which is what Heshy is referring to regarding Judaism. The notion that the Constitution is somehow universal, has only one interpretation, and is the sole property of its most zealous literalists, may satisfy your monochromatic nature, but it is patently false.

      • CA March 16, 2010, 4:01 PM

        The Constitution has been amended according to the process of amendment, specified in the Constitution itself. As has been authentic, ďOrthodoxĒ, Judaism (obviously there are differences, and ďamendedĒ in this case means something else). There may be however many interpretation of Constitution, as well of, lehavdil, Torah ó but there are interpretations which are authentic (and are derived in an authentic way), and those that are not.

        Reading Federalist Papers to figure out what the authors of the Constitution meant = authentic way of interpreting it. Bending its meaning to fit your current agenda = not.

    • SkepticButJewish March 16, 2010, 4:03 PM

      No one owns the Constitution. However, those who go against the Constitution cannot claim to “use the Constitution in a different way”. In fact, no one really today cares what the Constitution says, neither liberals nor conservatives. People say “I am a Constitution supporter” just to get more votes, because it sounds good but in truth they do not care what the Constitution says. Conservatives do not care what the Constitution says because they have no problem performing unreasonable searches and seizures (contradicting the 4th admendent) nor do the liberals, they just try to deny the 2nd admendment as much as possible. In truth, both parties already made up their mind how they want the US to be and then claim that what they say is constitutionally supported. It is just wishful thinking. They come up with what they like and then think it is supported by the Constitution. The same with much of Judaism. People just make up the kind of Judaism they like and then just the Torah to “justify” what they like.

  • Ilana March 16, 2010, 3:59 PM

    Just as there are multiple ways to be wrong, there is more than one way to be a good Jew.

    It’s really as simple as that.

    • CA March 16, 2010, 4:02 PM

      But each of the ways to be a good Jew is Jewish.

      • Ilana March 16, 2010, 4:11 PM

        Well, sure- that’s what “being a good Jew” means. But “being a good Jew” doesn’t necessarily mean being an Orthodox Jew. It could mean myriad other things. That’s my whole point, that if you want to be a good Jew, you have to be Jewish in some critical way.

        • CA March 16, 2010, 4:26 PM

          We have to be clear here when we use words. What does ďgood JewĒ mean? Sure, there are Jews who break Shabbos who do good things. Just like there are people who rape their kids who also do good things for them (I donít care if itís a good analogy ó thatís not the point). Would you call a person who rapes his kid but helps him with his homework a good parent?

          According to Judaism, if you break laws of Halacha, youíre doing something horrible ó on all levels. Every time you break Shabbos, you create a major oil tanker spill in spiritual terms. So, if you intentionally destroyed hundreds of animal habitats by spilling a tanker full of oil, but you helped save a tree from being chopped down, are you living your life in a way thatís good for environment?

          This is not to be confused with Jews who genuinely try to live their lives as much as possible al pi Halacha (which they consider a proper way to live), but also make mistakes, find some things too difficult, etc., etc. Just like there are parents who make mistakes.

          Then there is another element, that ďeven the sinners of Israel are full of mitzvos as a pomegranate is full of seedsĒ. Or that every Jew is ďliterally part of G-dliness aboveĒ. This means that all Jews intrinsically are good/G-dly and as a result deserve our love, whatever their behavior. Itís not the same as saying that there is more than one way to be a good Jew.

          • Ilana March 17, 2010, 12:36 AM

            First of all, you’re right, it was a terrible analogy.

            I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make with your environmentalism analogy, either: are you trying to say that breaking Shabbat (or another analogous mitzvah) negates any good deed you might do? While I see where you’re going, I don’t think your logic is sound.

            As for the pomegranate thing, I agree. I just don’t really think it’s relevant- I didn’t bring up anything to do with loving your fellow Jew in spite of hir actions. And I still think there’s more than one way to be a good Jew.

            I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I approach my practice of Judaism from a less denominational vantage point: I don’t think Orthodoxy is right for me (though I wouldn’t say it can’t be right for someone else. I live by by morals and ethics and do my best to fulfill mitzvot.

            • CA March 17, 2010, 2:10 AM

              The analogy brings home the point of ďOrthodoxĒ Judaism. Breaking Shabbos = evil. Just like spilling 1000 tons of oil in the middle of the Gulf. Like killing people. It is objectively bad. Shabbos is not about one groupís interpretation of how to achieve harmony in their household and community. Itís about objective reality out there, which youíre literally breaking, when youíre breaking Shabbos. Except itís spiritual, so itís not visible. So? Bacteria and viruses are also not visible to most people.

              Btw, all the good things that you do are in Torah. Being nice to people? Torah quality. Respecting your parents? Torah quality. Not killing/stealing/etc.? Torah qualities. So, while a Jew is being a nice person, he is keeping some things in Torah = doing good.

              On the other hand, while he is breaking Torah in other areas, he is doing evil. So, again, itís like a parent who is doing some good things to his kids, and also doing some bad things.

              More than one way to be a good Jew? What does this mean? Itís like saying, there is more than one way to cure cancer. Sure. There is chemotherapy, radiation, surgery. But acupuncture ainít it. Saying: ďwell, you subscribe to Western medicine; I think there are multiple truths out thereĒ is just hippy nonsense. There is one reality; there is right ó possibly, several paths within right, and there is wrong.

              Orthodox Judaism doesnít look at itself as a denomination. It looks at itself as an objective truth, just like Western medicine (based on science). There are many paths in it (just like there are many cures), and as long as they are based on Halacha (as long as the cures are based on science), youíre welcome to them. OK, I will say one way is the most appropriate (chemo); another person will disagree (radiation), but these are already semantics.

              G-d gave Moses Torah on Sinai and gave 613 mitzvos. When you keep them, you bring good into the world. When you break them, you bring evil. Itís that simple.

              • Heshy Fried March 17, 2010, 2:37 AM

                “G-d gave Moses Torah on Sinai and gave 613 mitzvos. When you keep them, you bring good into the world. When you break them, you bring evil. Itís that simple.”

                By using that logic everyone should keep all 613 mitzvos, Jew and non-Jew alike. I was always curious how cutting a cake with letters on shabbos would bring evil into the world.

                • Zvi Lampert March 17, 2010, 3:07 AM

                  Heshy, only the Jews recieved 613 commandments, If I understand CA’s logic, he’s saying that by violating G-d’s word you bring evil into the world. It’s not a violation for non-Jews not to keep shabbos, which they were never commanded to do in the first place. but If a non-Jew violated one of the 7 Noahide laws that would be a violation and thus bring evil into the world.

                  Cutting the letter’s on a cake? couldn’t you come up with a more mundane example?

                • CA March 17, 2010, 6:07 AM

                  Obviously 613 mitzvos were given to Jews; 7 Noahide laws to goyim. I am not getting your logic. We are conected to G-d ( = good) through 613 threads. When you pull on one of the threads, you bring good into the world. When you cut one of the threads, you limit flow of good from this world (= bring evil into it).

                  Cutting a cake with letters affects adversely achdus of Hashem and His Shchina in the world of Atzilus. That in itself is evil.

                • Stan March 17, 2010, 2:03 PM

                  Heshy, im not sure what your point is obviously you realise that your view of judaism (do what you want, as long as your a nice guy) is very differnt than the more “mainstream” view that the torah is god given and all jews must adhere to it. You cant really expect those who view the torah as the derech not to call people who are off the derech as being off the derech. Unless your entire point is that you dont use the term because you have your own view that there is no derech.
                  and as far as trying to bring a mundane example of cutting letters bringing evil why is that weirder than the most horrific acts bringing evil to the world? If you believe in a god and esoteric concepts of good and evil yada yada then anything the all-knowing god says is evil becomes evil, if you deny god then its just as laughable to believe that a serial -child-rapist brings evil to the world and will burn in hell or whatever

                • Anonymous March 17, 2010, 4:38 PM

                  And I always wondered how eating peanut butter can kill someone. But hell (no pun intended), it can.

              • JG March 17, 2010, 3:17 AM

                “Except itís spiritual, so itís not visible. So? Bacteria and viruses are also not visible to most people.”

                You do realize bacteria are visible under a mere light microscope, and viruses are visible under an electron microscope?

                “Btw, all the good things that you do are in Torah.”

                Are you saying that these things are really only good and worthwhile because they are in the Torah, or saying that people happen to be doing what the Torah prescribes when they do good things?

                “Orthodox Judaism doesnít look at itself as a denomination. It looks at itself as an objective truth, just like Western medicine (based on science).”

                Undoubtedly, on the simple level, Orthodoxy doesn’t look at itself at all; it just is. But people can reflect on it, and engage in the process I describe in my post way below–a process fundamental to scientific thought, as a side note.

                • CA March 17, 2010, 6:16 AM

                  >You do realize bacteria are visible under a mere light microscope, and viruses are visible under an electron microscope?

                  Yes. And Arizal could see Atzilus. How we prove that he was right and why we should believe him is a separate question.

                  My point was that there is a small piece of our reality. Step away from it, and ďhere be dragonsĒ. An electron can fly through two parallel slits at the same time. The faster a pencil flies, the shorter it becomes and the more mass it gains (and when it approaches the speed of lights, its mass approaches infinity). Pairs of particles sometimes appear out of nowhere in vacuum (and physicists ďallowĒ this to happen through a loophole in mathematics). Now, most of the time they just annul each other and disappear into nothingness, but sometimes, when this happens on event horizon of a black hole, one particle gets pulled in, and another flies away ó this way we know about existence of black holes.

                  Just because something sounds weird and esoteric doesnít mean itís not true. We know from Torah that simple things we do in our lives have consequences in myriads of the worlds.

                  But forget the Upper Worlds. More importantly, G-d wants His Will and Essence to penetrate into this world, the one farthest from Him. For this reason He gave us His Will (through Torah) and means to have it penetrate the physical world (mitzvos maíasios). That (expression of the Essence of G-d in the place which conceals G-d by its nature) is the greatest good possible.

                  >Are you saying that these things are really only good and worthwhile because they are in the Torah, or saying that people happen to be doing what the Torah prescribes when they do good things?


                • CA March 17, 2010, 6:22 AM

                  >Undoubtedly, on the simple level, Orthodoxy doesnít look at itself at all; it just is.

                  What does this mean? There are hundreds of works doing meta-analysis of Judaism. From medieval ages until our times. From all perspectives, from philosophy to Kabbala to Chassidus.

                  • JG March 17, 2010, 12:28 PM

                    CA, you were originally talking more about believing in what one cannot see. My point was that all the physical phenomenon you point to are based on empirical tests. Comparing that to the spiritual nature of Shabbat is comparing apples and metaphysics.

      • Heshy Fried March 16, 2010, 10:25 PM

        Unless you’re chabad, insert evil laugh here

    • Zvi Lampert March 17, 2010, 1:12 AM

      Is there a difference between a person being a good Jew and a Jew being a good person?

      • Ilana March 17, 2010, 12:03 PM

        I think in order to be considered a good Jew you must also be a good person. However, you can be a good person and not a good Jew. In other words, it’s not enough to merely fulfill the letter of the law if you want to be a good Jew.

        • oisvorf March 17, 2010, 5:03 PM

          What does it take, besides being a good person, to be a good Jew?

          • Roger March 17, 2010, 7:27 PM

            really? you dont know what we believe makes a good jew besides good person? cmon i get that you dont believe in torah but that doesnt mean you have to be stupid
            let’s keep this going would be cute if this absurd post got 200 comments

  • YY March 16, 2010, 4:04 PM

    Here’s one way to think about it. Sure, there are non-Observant Jews who are great people — very kind, considerate, helpful people. They are fulfilling a lot of mitzvot often without even knowing it. Some may have a strong connection to G-d, while many don’t believe in Him and never pray or anything. Since they (in most cases) truly believe that they are doing the right thing by not being observant (or being observant in a different way, like the Reform or Conservative), Hashem will have mercy on them. And we should treat them with kindness and love and acceptance, because they are fellow Jews and our fellow human beings. But if they were to become observant — and do it right — they would fulfill even more mitzvot, and become even better people, and develop an even stronger connection to Hashem. That is, if they do it right, they would be more likely to marry Jews, raise Jewish children, use the blessings and other mitzvot as opportunities to come closer to Hashem and improve their character traits, etc. Now this doesn’t mean we have to ram it down their throats — Chabad has the right approach here; they’re anything but pushy. And we should be humble because it’s true that there are frum Jews who are outwardly observant but who are bad people, and who don’t have a real connection to Hashem, but do everything by rote and never correct their negative character traits. So we can recognize that there are “good” frei Jews and “bad” frum Jews, but that doesn’t mean that Orthodoxy (I also hate that word) is not the true derech.

    • YY March 17, 2010, 12:40 AM

      Another thing to consider is that Hashem does everything for a reason, for our very best, so when a Jew isn’t frum, Hashem wanted it that way for some reason. It is a test, a nisayon, for them, for us individually, for the frum community in general. We should never look down on someone or be angry at someone for not being frum — that’s like being angry at G-d, or being contemptuous of G-d. We are taught to smile at everyone (“receive each person with a cheerful countenance”), to judge every person favorably, to love peace and pursue peace, and to love all creatures and bring them closer to the Torah (Avot).

  • John March 16, 2010, 4:07 PM

    Im very confused by all this, if your not frum and feel that is ok because your a good person then you dont consider yourself off the derech, but frum people will, one of the tennets of judaism is that the torah is god given and we are obligated to follow it, if you dont (as a matter course not the occasional lashan horah or even cheeseburger if thats your nisayon) then as far as orthodox jews are concerned you are off the derech.
    Its bizzare to argue that i have my own view of judaism that “life is a free for all as long as your nice to people” and complain that orthodox jews who consider you off the derech are not being nice.
    Should we be nice to everybody? of course, nobody really diputes that. but at the end of the day in orthodox judaism there is only one real derech ie the torah and one way to interpret it ie the way chazal have for thousands of years.

  • offthederech March 16, 2010, 4:21 PM

    Does the one true derech include surfing the Internet? How about pedophilia (the Torah didn’t seem to have a problem with it)? How about giving yourself goyish names?

    • John March 16, 2010, 4:34 PM

      > Does the one true derech include surfing the Internet?
      it can as long as not for things the torah forbids
      > How about pedophilia (the Torah didnít seem to have a problem with it)?
      Nope sorry charlie its not ok, most deffenitly violates veahavta lereecha
      > How about giving yourself goyish names?
      No problem, not part of the derch, my names John remember

    • Heshy Fried March 16, 2010, 10:27 PM

      That’s called orthopraxy didn’t you read Rabbi Pruzansky’s article last week

  • offthederech March 16, 2010, 4:43 PM

    How about pedophilia of a non-Jew? Remember, veahavta lereacha only applies to Jews, presumably on the derech ones. The rest of us are just chopped liver. Which might exonerate (look it up) R’ Tropper because, hey, his bitch wudn’t Jewish.

    There’s a reason I think Judaism and Nazism are so closely related.

    • John March 16, 2010, 4:54 PM

      first of all i am much , much smarter than you so mind your tone please for starters i have a high school diploma, im a bit behind on your blog did you get yours? oh and im in grad school (dont bother looking it up its big-boy school, not necessary for your plans in joining your tuna-beigel friends as a delivery boy
      dont complain about my tone your the fellow who helped prove Godwin’s (twice) and in such an illogical manner

  • offthederech March 16, 2010, 5:08 PM

    I wonder what Chazal had to say about grad school. Considering that only the tiniest percentage of them went to grad school, it’s safe to conclude it’s chaser treif.

    Hey, just make sure all those atheist rasha professors don’t chad veshalom INFLUENCE you, or anything. Or maybe they already have, and that’s why you’re on the derech? If only you’d stay away from them you OBVIOUSLY would have gone off the d by now

    • John March 16, 2010, 5:19 PM

      What are you talking about? Nobody says grad school is assur becasue chazal didnt go, stop fighting straw men. I ordered dougies 30 min ago, do you know when it’ll get here? oh and please dont drip your chazer sandwich on it

  • offthederech March 16, 2010, 5:24 PM

    I’ll bet Dougies sells chazer sandwiches without telling you about it. Better safe than sorry.

    • John March 16, 2010, 10:06 PM

      well they are tasty, lucky for me they have a hashgacha that i rely on

  • The Bray of Fundie March 16, 2010, 6:03 PM

    late to the party.

    I donít think that orthodoxy or being observant is for everyone

    It should be a broad tent where 100 flowers bloom but that’s like saying “I donít think that respiration or inhaling oxygen is for everyone”

    • offthederech March 16, 2010, 7:27 PM

      I’d say it’s more like cocaine than oxygen.

      • The Bray of Fundie March 17, 2010, 1:49 PM

        Why not attribute to Karl Marx?
        ?? ????? ??? ??? ???? ???? ????? ?????

      • anon March 17, 2010, 1:50 PM

        if you were wittier (or better educated) youd have said opiate

        • Offthederech March 17, 2010, 2:42 PM

          Boruch shekivanti

          • The Bray of Fundie March 17, 2010, 2:54 PM

            Morons. I was using a meatphor to say la’afukei Marx but consistent with Rebee Akiva. If you weren’t such moronic Amei Ha’Aretz you’d have noticed.

            • anon March 17, 2010, 3:13 PM

              i agree with you but theres no need to lie there is no way you thought of marx when you wrote that line. Had OTD been educated at all instead of an angry highschool drop-out he’d have had a great oppurtunity for a witty comeback

              • Offthederech March 17, 2010, 3:22 PM

                Wtf dude? I graduated high school with all the other pishers, and I spent more than three years in BM after that. NOT Modern Orthodox crud, I’m talkin the real deal. And I’m in university now. Did my yeshiva give me a diploma? Efshar nisht, but what shaichis?

              • The Bray of Fundie March 17, 2010, 3:35 PM

                yes way… idiot. It’s exactly what I was referencing.

        • The Bray of Fundie March 17, 2010, 3:38 PM

          O and by the way smarty pants do YOU (no doubt a PhD from an Ivy league School) know which great Marxist theoretician I was referencing when I wrote “100 flowers bloom” in the same comment?


          • Offthederech March 17, 2010, 3:48 PM

            Okay… fight’s over.

            Gee, where does all this aggression come from? I prescribe more gym time and less beis medrash time for all yingeleit.

            • anon March 17, 2010, 3:52 PM

              agreed! friends?

          • anon March 17, 2010, 8:49 PM

            It should be a broad tent where 100 flowers bloom but thatís like saying ďI donít think that respiration or inhaling oxygen is for everyoneĒ

            here’s your metaphor, i guess im stupid but could you please enlighten me as to how you meant leafuki marx? thank you

  • JG March 17, 2010, 1:08 AM

    In “On Liberty,” John Stuart Mill sets out his argument for a pluralistic and tolerant society. One of his arguments goes as follows: we often believe we are right, and feel sure of it, with good reason. This is fine. However, to bar other opinions, or to bar open discussion, or to bar other ways of life (whether through legal persecution or societal intolerance on a grand scale) would be to assume that we are infallible in those beliefs–and this we cannot claim. As he puts it, “it is not the feeling sure of a doctrine which I call an assumption of infallibility. It is the undertaking to decide that question for others, without allowing them to hear what can be said on the contrary side.”

    We can be very sure that we are correct and that others should listen to us, but that is different from believing we are infallible where others’ lives, beliefs, and choices are concerned. And as long as we recognize we are not infallible in that sense, Mill, argues, we need to respect and tolerate a free and open society.

    It seems to me that this distinction between belief and a sense of infallibility may be, in some form, what Heshy is getting at in this post.

    Of course, one can question how practically most people would be able to manage this kind of mental split, especially regarding deep convictions. I’ll leave that as an open question.

    • Heshy Fried March 17, 2010, 2:12 AM

      Thank you for this, I haven’t read Mill since college, but yes this exactly what I am trying to get at with this post and yes it’s quite troubling to say the least – but I am only trying to be a better Jew and be founded on stronger beliefs rather than just ignoring my thoughts and debates I figured I would bring them to you.

      Next up – Heshy’s fire and brimstone mussar that he lives by…

      • JG March 17, 2010, 3:26 AM

        Well, I for one liked the post, as was probably apparent.

        And hey, seeking open discussion to promote intellectual honesty is certainly in line with the rest of the Mill piece… ūüôā

    • Zvi Lampert March 17, 2010, 3:00 PM

      @ JG. That is the whole point. Orthodox Jews believe the Torah is infallible, as the word of G-d who is infallible. This is the whole premise of Judaism. Any style of Judaism that ignores the Torah is necessarily wrong,

      • JG March 17, 2010, 8:14 PM

        The point is not whether the Torah is infallible; of course that’s the Orthodox belief being discussed. The point is whether or not one’s belief in the Torah is infallible (i.e. the belief that the Torah is infallible–is that belief itself infallible?), in the sense described above by Mill.

  • JewishAtheist March 17, 2010, 9:42 AM

    What about us non-believing, non-practicing Jews? Are we cool with you or do we not count because we don’t practice at all? ūüôā

    • Zvi Lampert March 17, 2010, 3:03 PM

      Of coure you count. We embrace you as our brothers and sisters. But we still feel you are living in error.

  • offthederech March 17, 2010, 10:52 AM


    • The Bray of Fundie March 17, 2010, 1:52 PM

      Just donate the value of a nanny goat to tzedakah , klop ahl khet next Yom Kippur for khilul Shabbos and be done with it.

  • kissmei'mshomer March 17, 2010, 11:59 AM

    JG, I love your comment!
    You have made me want to go read John Stewart Mill.

  • Anonymous March 17, 2010, 3:41 PM

    “Like many people I know, I was brought up to believe that orthodox Jews were right and everyone else was wrong, but I think that belief is wrong, I have met many people that arenít orthodox anymore and are great people, they are good Jews and I am cool with that, but many people arenít.”

    HA HA! I get it. This whole article is satire (I hope).

    • Anonymous March 17, 2010, 9:08 PM

      and all it took was 128 comments

  • Ruthie March 18, 2010, 1:02 AM

    Totally, 100% agree here. I have a close friend I was just discussing this last week. I’ve seen good people that aren’t Orthodox and bad people that are Orthodox. If G-d had MEANT for everyone to be one religion, and one BRANCH of that religion, then WE WOULD BE.

    • feivelbenmishael March 18, 2010, 1:27 AM

      Lets construct a new statement that goes along with your line of thinking.

      If G-d had meant for no one to murder or steal or do mean things, then NONE OF US WOULD.


  • Alex March 22, 2010, 6:45 AM

    Agreed, no one path is for everyone; otherwise there wouldn’t be so many paths to choose from. As Jews one of our greatest strengths is our diversity, after all. We’re a small tribe; what’s interesting about monochrome? Mr. Jewlicious, who can be seen here, shows that very well.

  • non believer March 22, 2010, 9:13 AM

    To the atheists on this thread – why do you feel the need to continuously justify yourself? Go live your own life, no one is stopping you. Judaism is what it is. Stop trying to change it to be something else. You all just make fools of yourself by misquoting Tanach and Talmud to justify your non-observance.

  • Sarah April 23, 2010, 11:28 AM

    Finally someone says it like it is!!
    Thank you Heshy Fried.

  • Anonymous October 14, 2010, 3:20 PM

    Here is a short rebuttal to the Kuzari Argument:

    • CA October 17, 2010, 6:59 AM

      Thatís bullshit. The ďrebuttalĒ has nothing to do with Kuzari argument (and the guy canít even pronounce Kuzari properly… when an American is given a choice of two syllables, he will always stress the wrong one). There is an explanation why ďbroken telephoneĒ argument does not apply to Judaism. It is on Rabbi Dovid Gottliebís website: http://www.dovidgottlieb.com/Rabbi_Gottlieb_Tapes.html and itís called ďOral LawĒ. I believe itís this lecture: http://audio.simpletoremember.com/gottlieb/OralLaw.mp3

      • Anonymous October 22, 2010, 5:32 PM

        I corresponded with Gottlieb and he told me that I stated the second version of the argument correctly.

        1. Suppose that a group of 100,000 people claim they have an unbroken line of tradition that a certain number of generations ago at least 100,000 people saw a single, spectacular, memorable event which we will call a national experiential tradition or NET for short.
        2. If that claim is false, it would have to be introduced at some point without the event taking place
        3. But such a claim of that type cannot be introduced without the event taking place
        Conclusion: The claim must be true.

        Gottlieb agreed that this is his argument.

        The audio you sent me deals more with the Oral Torah and has really nothing to say about the KP argument. Are you sure that was the right one?

  • CA October 17, 2010, 7:01 AM

    ďThe whole concept of being off the derech bothers me because in my opinion there is no right derech, if we call those who arenít observant or donít follow the ways that they were brought up in we feel the need to belittle them.Ē

    Having re-read the post above, I realize that I understand it no more than I understand the above sentenceís syntax.

  • Jay Landau April 15, 2012, 5:23 PM

    I’ve tried living an “Orthodox” (frummie) lifestyle, but felt that my neighbors were too competitive with mitzvot observance (chumrah of the month) and judgmental of others. Conservative Judaism blends traditional observances with a modern, reasonable mitzvot pace.

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