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Off the Derech movement is good for the Jews

It seems as if the frum community has just discovered that those who went off the derech may be a problem for future generations of sheep following the grand master bearded fellows who dictate orders about what you can and can’t do. Prior to the internet age it was easy to ignore those folks who decided to walk down the street with a cigarette dangling from their mouth on shabbos. Sure people talked smack, maybe even some loshon horah, but we never thought it would go this far. Then came the internet and that fucked it all up for the factions of the frum community who don’t believe in questioning, unless you’re at the beginning of your long drive towards crazed baal teshuva perfection via some good old aish indoctrination.

You see the internet gave all of these formerly religious folks a voice and they opined their hatred, frustration, philosophy and general disgust at their former lives and communities. Finally some of them made it to mainstream media and it appears that the frum community is now scratching their heads and wondering what to do. I have no idea what they could or should do? I have no idea if it’s a bad thing that people are finally discovering the joys of bacon and guilt free masturbation. I sure as hell have no interest in a life of Godless pursuits like education and 3 day weekends. Of course, I like my life perfectly fine – my day job kicks ass and after that I roam around the woods and give thanks to the good Lord for providing me with a paradise-like playground known as the Northern California Coastal Range, but there are those who don’t feel like I do and that’s ok. Should I say it again, just because I enjoy throwing praying to God in Biblical Hebrew (I now know what I’m saying) 3 times or more a day, watching what I eat and even getting in the occasional bout of conversational hisbodedus = doesn’t mean I wish for anyone else to enter this madness.

I don’t know why, but I just take such offense at those OTDers trying to debunk the religion I practice, I kind of think they keep us on our toes. We have to actually step up and think about what we’re doing, we can’t just be blind sheep anymore. We can’t just sit back and let habitual religion control our lives. There was a time when I had no crisis in my religious faith and belief. Sometimes I long for those days, but most of the time I wonder what it would be like to just go about my religion without trying to figure it out in some way. Will I ever understand the myriad of laws, rituals, traditions and generalnonsensethat binds us to God? Hell no! That doesn’t mean I’m just going to throw all those years of getting up for shachris out the window. BUT, it’s not for everyone, I’ll say it a million times until one parent listens and welcomes their son or daughter back into the family with open arms despite the fact they have joined the secular society where all they care about is drugs, sex and treife food.

So maybe the Off the Derech movement is good for the Jews…what do you think?

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{ 58 comments… add one }
  • Anon May 29, 2012, 7:44 AM

    So maybe the Off the Derech movement is good for the Jewswhat do you think?

    Absolutely astonishingly correct.

    Especially when all will see the OTD community self destruct with only a tombstone left behind that reads “I went OTD”. Yippee. What a life! What a legacy!

  • Woodrow/Conservadox May 29, 2012, 8:12 AM

    What about sighted sheep?

  • OnTheDerech May 29, 2012, 8:36 AM

    I have to agree with you on this one – the proliferation of bitter and cynical voices that have overwhelmed the web, caused me to take a step back and think – why am I doint this? why am I part of this cult, with rabbis who dictate my every step, following an ancient code of law, a Torah whose origin is dubious, a G-d whose existence is dubious. I could be living such a free fun life, etc.
    I had to really search for answers, for the meaning in my way of life. And guess what? I found it! I found the answers, the beauty and the meaning, wherever I looked. And now I’m proud and content to live my life as one of the “sheeple” thanks to the community who gave me that momentary doubt, the push to ask and seek answers.

    • anon May 31, 2012, 4:52 PM

      yay you found other degenerates who have problems as well. Doesn’t meant those answers are right

    • anon May 31, 2012, 4:53 PM

      yay you found other degenerates who have problems as well. Doesn’t meant those answers are right. Freedom isn’t a life without structure. Your freedom is actually slavery to your emotions, while lacking rational thought. A free person balances his emotions and rational thought

      • Anon May 31, 2012, 8:08 PM

        anon, a true degenerate- defined as “having lost the physical, mental, or moral qualities considered normal and desirable; showing evidence of decline” is one who calls another a degenerate based on little or nothing.

        anon, your “freedom” is slavery/addiction to your needs and passions of the specific day, week, month or year….

        You gotta have what you gotta have and theorize in the how it will be of benefit to you and all in the .

        • Anon May 31, 2012, 8:10 PM

          * You gotta have what you gotta have now, and theorize in the present how it will be of benefit to you and all in the future .

          • anon June 1, 2012, 1:08 PM

            You may think you know all that you need

  • Telz Angel May 29, 2012, 9:20 AM

    The great failure of the current version of the charedi movement is that they define themselves based on what they reject. Some reject various kashrus authorities, some reject various yeshivos, some reject the internet. But the “level” you have achieved (it’s always about “levels”, you’ll notice) — is solely based on what you reject.

    In fact, when it comes to Ba’alei Teshuva, they define the act of coming closer to G-d by listing the things they used to do, but now reject — “oh I used to eat Triangle-K, I used to daven at a modern ortho shul, I used to hug my younger sister…”

    The OTD movement (wow, I didn’t know you were a movement?) is a frontal challenge. What will yiddishkeit be willing to accept? Will we accept someone who identifies as being observant but deviates in any way from the mold?

    I think it’s “good for the Jews” to be confronted with this challenge and see if we can define ourselves based on what we cherish, not what we dismiss. We might find that we cherish some wonderful things and enjoy the company of some good people too — people who might only follow 612, or perhaps only 513, maybe gasp, just one or two hundred mitzvot — and perhaps are worthy of embracing nevertheless.

    • BTsoapbox May 29, 2012, 2:54 PM

      “In fact, when it comes to Baalei Teshuva, they define the act of coming closer to G-d by listing the things they used to do, but now reject ‘oh I used to eat Triangle-K, I used to daven at a modern ortho shul, I used to hug my younger sister’ ”

      Actually we usually define it in terms of “I started keeping shabbos/kashrus/tznius/etc…” or “When I started learning/I learned the Aleph Beis when I was 19/My family got me new dishes when…: The only circumstance I have seen BTs really get into “what they used to do” is if they are doing kiruv or being given the awkward third degree from their ffb shabbos hosts.

  • Anon May 29, 2012, 9:50 AM

    “people who might only follow 612, or perhaps only 513, maybe gasp, just one or two hundred mitzvot and perhaps are worthy of embracing nevertheless”

    We are talking about two disctinct breeds here.

    As long as people are proudly OTD, looking to mock their ancestors ways, and make them out to be bumbling idiots, they have zero interest in 10 mitzvot, never mind 100.

    Their goal is mocking those who strive to keep even 1 mitzva with any interest whatsoever in growing religiously at all. Theyre in the opposite direction.

    Do you honestly think that welcoming those who are keeping 100, will bring back the OTDers?

    If yes, Aish does exactly that. I dont hear any OTDers praising Aish for welcoming those who keep 1 a lmited amount of mitzvot and are striving to grow.

    OTDers much prefer those who are looking to go in the other direction, those striving to decrease observance of mitzvot, not grow.

    • Telz Angel May 29, 2012, 10:54 AM

      you are making so many flaws in logic that it will take time to unravel.
      1. Many of those who are “proudly OTD” are not mocking their ancestor’s ways — they are saying the current frum movement is no longer consistent with their ancestors ways of deracheha darchei noam. They wonder if Moshe Rabennu wore a black hat? if Rambam would be comfortable sitting in a shiur given by a Brisker-method YU rabbi? Maybe there was a good reason that Rabbi Meir still learned from Acher after Acher went OTD? Maybe there’s a lesson here about the evolution of religion. And some of those who are OTD are bearing the burden of verbal or physical abuse and are rejecting their people (who stood idly by — despite the mitzvah to intervene) in protest. I suggest reading “Off the Derech” by Faranak Margolese for her research in this area. It’s not a great book, but she collects data worth examining.

      2. I don’t think you understand their goal. If they really did not care about “those who strive to keep even 1 mitzva” they would not be verbally protesting. Clearly they care about something. The opposite of love is indifference, not hate. The fact that OTD’s are saying things means they actually do care. People who really don’t care, just walk away. It’s worth exploring what they care about.

      3. Why do you have a goal of “bringing back the OTDers” — why not leave them where they are, or let them choose where they want to be? It’s a mistake on the part of the kiruv movement that we have to go around herding these lost sheep. Maybe instead of bringing anyone back, we should be the kind of frum community that people would desire to join, not rush to leave.

      4. Aish is a fantastic example of the problem. They are a deceptive organization that “lies for the Lord” much like the christian missionaries are told to do. They’ll say things they themselves don’t believe in order to attract people, and then they’ll switch the message once they are hooked. In fact, you can see this lesson quite explicitly in Sefer Michtav Me’eliyahu (ironically translated “strive for the truth”) where Rabbi Dessler explains “truth” is simply anything that brings people closer to Torah, and “lie” is anything that pushes them away. So as long as you accomplish the kiruv goal, you can parade in all sorts of fake scientists to a “discovery program” since you don’t have to tell the truth, you just have to reel in the fish. The kiruv movement, and the yeshiva movement have an unhealthy relationship with truth — which is why they have little ability to deal with fact or data.

      5. going OTD is a cathartic experience of recreating your identity. Frum people assume that it is simply throwing off mitzvos — the act of freedom. In fact, in the yeshiva world we use the term “frei” (free) to mean the opposite of frum. Why is this so? because the frum community sees mitzvos as a burden, not a gem. They teach their children to carry this burden, not to cherish this gem. And when they see someone going OTD, they only see someone dropping the load. Their mistake took place when they stopped seeing Torah as a gem. If they had, then they would see an OTD as someone who wanted to carry fewer gems with them — not “free”, but “missing out on something great.”

      If there is an OTD movement, maybe it can teach those of us who are still frum how to educate our kids so that they remain frum. Step 1 — forget everything you were taught in Yeshiva.

      • OfftheDwannaB May 29, 2012, 5:07 PM

        Fantastic. This should be required reading.

      • G*3 May 29, 2012, 7:32 PM

        Point #5 is really, really good.

      • ModernOrthodoxObserver May 30, 2012, 6:29 AM

        I wish I could copy this and put it on my wall in my room.

      • Meshugah May 30, 2012, 7:14 AM

        Just curious, in what way would Rambam be uncomfortable with a brisk style class?

        • Telz Angel May 30, 2012, 10:35 AM

          The Briskers famously have crafted a new and innovative way of reading Rambam and other texts — one that invited great opposition by many gedolim. Most notably those who had some influence from the Mir Yeshiva. The Netziv and Chazon Ish were well-known opposers of the methodology. The Netziv was eventually removed as Rosh Yeshiva of Valozhin by R Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik — a turning point in the Brisker movement. The Sefer Chazon Ish could be read as an opposition to the Brisker teaching (which he learned from R’ Chaim of Brisk when he was young — and clearly rejected).

          It’s unclear how the Brisker methodology became so popular — perhaps this is attributed to the success of The Rav in creating thousands of great YU Rabbis who can quote the Rav by chapter and verse but do not even know Hebrew grammar. These carriers of Modern Orthodoxy study under this modern methodology.

          I would argue that even if you think the methodology has merit, you might still admit is is new. And perhaps foreign to the Rambam himself. There are many jokes about how the Rambam meets R’ Chaim of Brisk in heaven and they argue about what the Rambam really meant.

          • AriSparkles May 30, 2012, 1:53 PM

            Telz, You should seriously consider blogging. I have turned #5 into a post on mine scheduled for I think Sunday.

            • Telz Angel May 30, 2012, 5:27 PM

              Thanks. I used to blog, I do blog, I will blog — but on other topics. I see you have a network of OTD bloggers, I’m frum — it would not work so well for me. Maybe we’ll meet up one day. I live on the internet.

          • Chabadnik May 30, 2012, 11:51 PM

            By the way, R’ Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik did not oust the Netziv from the leadership of Volozhin, there was a dispute between them that was adjudicated by a special Din Torah who’s final decision gave Netziv more administrative power. Finding it difficult to adjust to his new role R’ Yoshe Ber left the Yeshivah and entered the Rabbinate.
            In Netziv’s old age there was a dispute among the students as to who would succeed him at the helm of the Yeshiva, Netziv favored his son R’ Chaim Berlin , while the majority of students favored Netziv’s grand son-in-law, R’ Chaim Soloveitchik. As the fight among the students blew out of control, the Russian authorities, fearful of it’s destabilizing capabilities decided to close the Yeshiva. (The reason Chareidim will give for Volozhin’s closure, Netziv’s purported refusal to introduce secular studies, have been disproven by documents discovered after the fall of the Soviet Union. Netziv actually had a favorable appraoach to the study of secular knowledge, as is evident from his writings.)

          • Meshugah May 31, 2012, 11:39 AM

            If you could further enlighten this non-Frum yet enthusist of Jewish texts about what the Brisker method entails. How does it differ from say how Rambam interpreted Torah, Talmud, etc.?

            • Telz Angel May 31, 2012, 12:13 PM

              On a satire blog?

              • Meshugah May 31, 2012, 1:49 PM

                You’re right, such question is not germaine to the content of a satire blog. Although I’m down for reading some Brisker satire.

        • LFD May 30, 2012, 7:02 PM

          so well put!

      • Reading around these days May 30, 2012, 4:28 PM

        What does Aish lie about? I’m a low-level Reform Jew, been talking to an Aish-related person lately who I know is trying to make me more observant, but I don’t see any lies in what she says. She has a lot of passion for a lot of rules that I can’t see ever following, but are they really liars?

        • Telz Angel May 30, 2012, 5:08 PM

          Dear Reading
          I don’t know anyone who describes themselves as low-level anything. It is peculiar.

          I am very impressed with people who have a passion about their religion. I am generally worried about people who wish to make other people into copies of themselves. Sure, if you seek something, you should search, and let them provide you with what they offer. Our religion is a treasure trove of beauty and wisdom — millennia of great stories, lessons, and ways to live a good life. I sincerely believe it represents what God wants from us. The question is — what do you believe? You might not know yet, since you are gathering information. Good. Gather information. Aish is a resource. So is Chabad. So are other venues of Jewish learning. But why are they “trying to make” you into anything? You are the master of your destiny — you should be trying to make you into something.

          Aish has a peculiar problem with authenticity. They appeal to people who appreciate their passion, and don’t care about the details. If you are such a person, you don’t care about the details, so enjoy their stories. They are emotional and inspiring. I find them hollow. That’s me. I’m a cynic. I think they borrow much from the playbooks of other evangelical religions and they like to leverage pseudo-science, but only where it helps them. Not only is that intellectually dishonest, it also reveals a flaw in their approach — that they don’t know enough Torah to use Torah itself to attract people. They have to use other things. This is the mark of a poor salesman. A good salesman knows that the right product sells itself, and does not need to do anything other than show you the product.

          If you find that Aish inspires you and you become frum — good. Welcome to the frum community. Just remember, they are only a messenger of the message. The message is from God, but the messengers are human — and they are flawed.

          • Reading around these days May 30, 2012, 5:31 PM

            Telz, thanks for this beautiful and moving answer.

            I meant ‘low-level observance’. And I don’t believe much at all, to answer your other point about it depending on what I believe, but I’m exploring, hence I got into the Aish connection. Frankly, this blog is the most convincing part of considering frumkeit–it’s ironic, knowledgeable but you (singular and plural) really seem to LOVE Judaism in a way I really respect while remaining so critical-minded. Where do you go to shul? Where would I find a shul that you would run?

            • Telz Angel May 30, 2012, 6:13 PM

              You get Olam Habah credits. You blog is doing Kiruv. Only by the Jews can you find such a phenomenon. We’re here making fun. Oy.

              I can construct a sentence that applies to me and contains “run” and “shul” in it — we’d have to find the right preposition. I don’t live near you, sorry. But you did give me an idea for a great post “What if I ran a shul…” hmmm.

              • never frum enough May 30, 2012, 7:23 PM

                Kol Hakavod Heshy, my guess is that this is far from the first time someone was encouraged by your blog to continue to explore religious observance.

        • A. Nuran June 1, 2012, 7:15 AM

          Well, their “Discovery Seminar” is as artfully-concocted a fabric of lies as I’ve ever seen. They lie about Science. They lie about History. They lie about the credentials of their “experts”.

  • Alter Cocker May 29, 2012, 12:18 PM

    “Should I say it again, just because I enjoy throwing praying to God in Biblical Hebrew (I now know what Im saying) 3 times or more a day, watching what I eat and even getting in the occasional bout of conversational hisbodedus = doesnt mean I wish for anyone else to enter this madness.”

    I assume the throwing part is a typo.

    • Telz Angel May 29, 2012, 2:43 PM

      Gemara Berachos 32a (top of the page) says that Moshe Rabeinu “threw” his tefillah upwards. Odd expression, but it’s in the gemara. Then again, I think it’s fair to assume that Heshy never learned this gemara and probably could not quote it by heart. 🙂

  • Yossy H May 29, 2012, 12:43 PM

    The type of Modern/OTD people that might have a positive effect on the frum community, is not the ones wearing dirty jeans and working 10$ part time jobs. Its the ones that relies that Yeshiva isn’t for them and take the Yeshiva kup smarts that they have, and open up a business.

    There are just from Chabad (Yes I understand that Chabad is different) 7+ big companies that where started by ex Yeshiva guys, and all of them don’t show a hate for the community in fact they are very big donors changing the system from within.

  • Anon May 29, 2012, 12:51 PM

    Telz Angel

    1. I agree with many of your points and I read the book and liked it.

    2. I hope youre right. But imho OTDers claim to be gone for good. Thats what they say. No ifs, ands or buts will change their mind.

    3. Who is looking to bring them back? Most cant come back. Theyd have to admit some failure of theirs. Also, theyre too angry and hateful. A minority, I agree, deservedly so. The majority not deservedly so, just looking to make hate noise.

    4- If you feel that way about Aish, why not start an improved Aish, while still in keeping with Orthodoxy? Is that possible in your opinion?

    5- How right you are! Beautifully written. Torah and Judaism are gems.

    “forget everything you were taught in Yeshiva”.

    Here we differ. Midos are of primary importance in life and were taught in Yeshiva, possibly not stressed or implemented well enough though.

    May our leaders give over our legacy so that we all see it as the gem it is, but without metamorphosing til its barely recognizable.

    • Telz Angel May 29, 2012, 3:04 PM

      1. thank you.
      2. They are not gone. They are waiting for the establishment to change. They made the first move. It’s the establishment’s turn.
      3. We have to change the language here. Halacha means “walking path” — and the goal is to walk together. The OTDers are walking on another path and the establishment has stopped walking. The gap will widen. The establishment cannot say “come back” because the OTDers will say “you are not walking in halacha anymore, you are only sitting in yeshiva and standing in amida.” So the establishment needs to start walking again, and maybe some people can walk together again.
      #4 I did many years ago, with a friend. It worked quite well for the few young people we had in the program. It was tailor made for kids who were going OTD — and it was not intended to make them frum, but to give them some important ideas they could take with them on their journey in the world. I’d do it again if I was in a situation where it was relevant.
      #5 My yeshiva taught me intolerance and scorn towards anything that was not them. Looking back with adult-eyes, I think they represented the opposite of the middos that a ben-torah should have. I learned gemara in Yeshiva but I learned mechlichkeit when I left it.

  • Anonymous May 29, 2012, 1:06 PM

    No, it seems like mitzvoh-ha’bo’oh aveiroh to me. How can something positive come from something which roots are negative? Check ch. 7/8 of Tanya if you don’t believe me 🙂

    • OfftheDwannaB May 29, 2012, 5:12 PM

      Weird comment. Do you actually believe this? Like the holocaust leading to the state of israel or yosef being thrown into a pit and sold in order to become viceroy and save his family. Well, tanya says it cant happen, so the torahs probably fudged.

  • Dan May 29, 2012, 3:42 PM
  • SJ May 29, 2012, 4:30 PM

    >> Here we differ. Midos are of primary importance in life and were taught in Yeshiva, possibly not stressed or implemented well enough though.

    In other words, noooooot taught in yeshiva.

    cut the shit please. ty

  • Long time OTD May 29, 2012, 5:16 PM

    I am a yeshiva educated AFB (apikores from birth). Recently I put together a family tree going back over 100 years of our family in America. Over 200 names all descendent from Gur Hasidim and Lithuanian merchants. Baal tshuvahs slightly exceed intermarried both at about 10%. Affiliated Conservative Jew exceed Affiliated Reform Jews and Reconstructionists Jews and both together exceed non synagogue goers. Among the identifying Jews, 90% plus, there were writers, academics, zionists, community machers and a few who made Aliyah. No Rabbis and no converts to other faiths. My point is that there a range of Jewish possibilities and most need not lead to assimilation. The kicker: my great grandfather z’l for whom I am named came to America but returned to Poland when he found Brooklyn to be godless. He died during the Shoah.

  • Anon May 29, 2012, 5:16 PM

    SJ, >>In other words, noooooot taught in yeshiva. cut the shit please<<.

    Youre obviously a talmid muvhak of Footsteps, with that language, or sound very much like it.

    Are you saying YU doesnt stress Midot?

    Are you saying that no, not even a select few Yeshivahs stress Midot?

    Are you saying that by comparison, pubic school graduates all graduate with superb Midot?

    How SJ would you suggest teaching and inculcating Midot?

    Your ty was a nice gesture though, but doesnt outweigh the cut the —-.

  • off topic May 29, 2012, 6:55 PM

    You know what we should be talking about. White people having more children. Our children born today are the minority. Jews need to bread like rabbits. It’s up to the jews to do everything they can to have more children. They are the best at it…

  • Hoho May 29, 2012, 8:18 PM

    Off. Topic is right. We can breed them
    A lot faster than we can reel them in or keep them
    From leaving. The key is multiplying by 10 every 30 years
    That adds up real quick and unzerer frum yidden are
    Headed for world domination! And tuition tax credit.

  • Anon May 29, 2012, 8:37 PM

    off, what a curse Jews multiplying is to the world!!! seeing how everyone else without exception (outside of Jews who choose to multiply rapidly), are doing super duper fantastically in all areas of their lives.

    Perhaps if we limited Jews multiplying, it would bring the end of sickness and suffering in the world, and the beginning of peace on earth.

  • SJ May 30, 2012, 4:43 AM

    Anon May 29, 2012 at 5:16 PM

    I have never been to footsteps.

    I am however, a jew who went from atheism to Christianity.

    Shows how much you know.

    • Anonymous May 30, 2012, 2:51 PM

      “I am however, a jew who went from atheism to Christianity.”

      I laughed… then side-eyed…

  • Plipper May 30, 2012, 6:11 PM

    I WENT OFF THE DEREK…. these Jews are disgusting. All these Jews care about is THE BOARD, THE NOMINATING COMMITTEE. Going to a phony black hat shul ….. the great Darchei Noam of Oceanside – I just vomit now the site of Jews. Yes, I still go on vn.com and these sites because of my Jewish Heritage but the whole religion makes me SICK. Here is a Rule of THUMB – “THE LESS RELIGIOUS A JEW IS, THE MORE DECENT A PERSON HE IS.”

    • Critic June 1, 2012, 11:44 AM

      Which of course makes YOU a very decent person.
      A prime example of tooting your own horn.

  • Anon May 31, 2012, 8:03 AM

    SJ, my brother/sister:
    “I am however, a jew who went from atheism to Christianity”.

    How do religions feel about foul mothed individuals?

    Im not especially impressed with those whose products of their mouths have semblance to products of their lower bodies, best deposited in toilets so as not to infect their surroundings.

    • SJ June 3, 2012, 5:19 AM

      How do religions feel about foul mothed individuals?

      I don’t know. Why don’t I go ahead and ask them.

  • Anon May 31, 2012, 8:04 AM


  • Mike Amitai June 13, 2012, 4:02 PM

    Doesn’t the talmud say something about a backwards world?

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