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Frum Inconsistencies: Don’t Judge Judaism by the Jews

One of the toughest things I’ve had to do recently is to try and explain frum inconsistencies to people who couldn’t get a grip on reality. The reality that Orthodox Jews are not perfect and in fact they are inherently flawed with numerous inconsistencies on a daily basis. We will go out of our way to find extra kosher meat, the tallest mechitza, the strictest tefillin and then blatantly skip davening. It’s not just me, it’s everyone, but those darned BT’s and non-religious folks sometimes find it hard to believe.

I have a friend from the bay area who recently went to NY on a trip, he was disgusted at “the lack of kavannah” in shul. He said that he couldn’t even keep up with most of the davening because it was too fast, people were talking throughout davening and that it wasn’t a friendly atmosphere. I think he was expecting this Jewish Shangri-La that every Baal Teshuva thinks NY will be. He was badly mistaken, he jetted back here and I think the trip scarred his Jewish sensibilities for life.

I’m always curious how the ultra-out of town BT will react to big city orthodoxy. It is a life of contradiction and inconsistency and some people can’t deal with it. I have a friend who’s having trouble with dating, she says that she can’t understand how a guy can be so strict with kosher and Shabbos and then want to hook up on the first date. I tried to explain the concept of a 612er to her, but she still didn’t get it. I said that 612er’s (I had personal experience with it) were folks who considered themselves frum, except for when it came to sexual opportunities. Many 612er’s don’t necessarily seek out sex, but if it comes along they will take it. If you go and seek out you’re probably over on more issurs than just 1 and this would negate the whole 612er thing.

I understand the fallacy of 612ers and other frum inconsistencies, but it’s even harder to explain it to folks who didn’t grow up with orthodoxy. Those folks who are trying their darndest to be all they can be are troubled by the fact that I think full hallel is a bitch. There I said it, I just think that ahavti and lo lanu ruin hallel. Hallel has this familiarity that allows it to be said fast and in song, but those two pragraphs make it go from pleasure to pain in the ass really quickly. It gets relegated to something you really don’t want to say, but are willing to fight that damn yetzer harah for 10 days out of the year.

I was talking with a BT friend recently about davening and how he takes a long time because he’s new at it. “You should just skip the long stuff” I told him, he looked at me with bulging eyes as if I’d just shown him his first dirty magazine, “what do you mean skip?” he said. I gave him the laundry list of all the things I and so many other people are likely to skip, basically all the Aramaic, anything that takes up more than a half page with no breaks and the Wednesday yom. He couldn’t understand how an FFB could possibly justify skipping any part of the morning prayers, or why anyone would want to.

No one is perfect, but you’d think that a religion full of supposed believers would be a bit better, or maybe not. I think that besides for the perils of girls and masturbation, my high school mussar education was predominantly about how to act in front of the “king”. I’m not sure I can count how many times I heard the line about “how can we rush through davening or sleep through it when we have a chance to converse with God himself” Now how many folks actually believe it, if I was a true believer I wouldn’t have rolled out of bed and davened in my living room this morning, I would have been dressed up to meet the king at 6:30am. The king can wait, I need to sleep until 10am.

Sometimes our inconsistencies are too much to bare, many of my friends who have left the faith did so because they couldn’t deal with the guilt of not being perfect. Thank God we have a religion of picking and choosing, just because I watched some hardcore animal porn last night (shalom bayis reasons) doesn’t mean I can’t get up and daven for parnasah (doesn’t mean God gives a rats ass either). Of course, if you live in Mea Shearim the modesty patrol will show up and kick you out of the community for a sin you committed that harmed no one besides the animals involved and maybe your penis.

The problem with frum inconsistencies is when the BT or Convert ends their “everything is so spiritual and amazing” stage and enters real life. They leave the cocoon of the kiruv rabbis lavish Shabbos table and join a community. Then the fun starts, over the years I’ve gotten hundreds of emails asking me to write about the “problems” within the community.

There are so many problems and the reason they are problems usually stems from the fact that not everyone can be consistently religious when it comes to everything. Whether it’s domestic abuse, tax fraud, child abuse, government scamming, agunot or dozens of other items which don’t jive with being an ehrliche yid – many folks – especially those new to the religious community and outsiders feel like making blanket statements against the orthodox community based on such fallacies.

For most folks, it’s hard to separate individuals or sects from the religious Jewish community as a whole. Just because some chabadnicks are Jews for Jesus-ish, some hatzoloh guys run red lights when not on emergency calls, and some modern orthodox women who wear pants want to say hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut – doesn’t mean their entire communities are bad.

I’ve been asked the following question many times. “I’m surprised that you’re still religious, how can you be after you’ve seen so much crap in the community?” To which I always respond that I don’t judge Judaism by the Jews. It’s bad practice to look at individuals or groups of people who do something wrong in the name of Judaism and assume the whole religious community has gone to shit. Well it may have gone to shit, but it doesn’t mean the religion isn’t worth practicing.

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{ 71 comments… add one }
  • North by Northeast December 19, 2012, 11:09 AM

    You mean like the ones that’ll rob you blind in business, but if you keep cholov stam it’s YOU that’s committing an aveira?

  • Kirby Z December 19, 2012, 11:38 AM

    “First enlightenment, then the laundry.” -Jack Kornfeild

    Spiritual practice is a bitch.

    • bratschegirl December 20, 2012, 3:20 AM

      “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry” is the title. Excellent book.

  • Generic Frum Name December 19, 2012, 12:39 PM

    This was one of the best ones in a long time. Well said.

  • harryer than them all December 19, 2012, 12:43 PM

    I agree with this post…Except my whole life I have been told that its perfectly alright to judge the Christianity by the christians and Islam by Muslims.

    I’m ok with that because my personal life is enriched by being religious (as i want) and that I believe that Judaism is True, except that I can live with being inconsistent from time to time (or just being human)

    • A. Nuran December 19, 2012, 5:56 PM

      And the Christians and Muslims believe their religions are True as well. Extend them the same courtesy you would like extended to you.

      Reminds me of old-style Communists back when you could still find a couple outside museums. The Party is right, Comrade! We can fulfill the Five Year Plan in three years! Communism is perfect. We just don’t have perfect Communists.

  • Frantz December 19, 2012, 12:43 PM

    Regardless of the level of observance if we live within the orthodox community we are viewed as “orthodox” by non Jews as well as other Jews who are not observant. In other words if I am wearing a kippah in the mall I am lumped into the Weberman category even though I do not daven….at all

    • Micah T December 19, 2012, 4:14 PM

      If you “do not daven…at all,” why do you wear a kippah? A kippah identifies one as a religious Jew, and religious Jews daven. Why would you want to be perceived as a religious Jew, if you are not one? I’m not at all being critical,,, just curious.

      • Heshy Fried December 19, 2012, 4:52 PM

        There in lies the problem with Judaism as it’s practiced today, if one does not daven it does not make them irreligious. Technically you could get away with very much and still be “considered” religious on the macro level.

        I know quite a few folks who keep shabbos by literally sleeping the entire time.

        • sorry to admit it but... December 19, 2012, 6:08 PM

          you caught me- when I wake up, I eat, read the parshah, read some novels, and go back to sleep… lazydox

      • FRANTZ December 20, 2012, 9:34 AM

        It’s very simple. Culturally I am orthodox. I was raised that way and I am comfortable with many others like myself. WE go to shul JFK. (just for kiddush) and sometimes get an allilah or even chant haftorah but really don’t believe in stuff like moshiach and gehenim. I am respectful to people. I have been known to “fake bentch” when in someones home or occasionally mumble fake mincha…you know what I mean…..three steps front than back jump three times. I am non practicing orthodox

        • jimmy December 21, 2012, 12:19 PM

          Frantz, why bother going to shul if you are going to fake it? I did that when I was much younger.

          Of course, that was part of a much larger problem in that I really didn’t believe in what I was doing and was just going through the motions. So I just went OTD, whole-hog 😉

  • VD (very disappointed) December 19, 2012, 1:04 PM

    Heshy Fried, I am very disappointed with you;
    you still speak obscene language (nivul peh).

    I would like very much to contact the yeshivah you graduated from, and ask them to retroactively invalidate your status as a graduate of their yeshivah.

    Instead of granting you a Certificate of Graduation, they should have expelled you with a recommendation that you never be admitted to any yeshivah or synagogue ever again, for the rest of your life.

    If you REALLY had “impeccable yichus,” you would not speak obscene language all the time. Your yichus may be impeccable, but not that of your future children; on the contrary, I strongly suspect that they will not even be Jewish according to Halachah.

    • ipitythefoo December 19, 2012, 1:32 PM

      VD, you should be ashamed of the statements you make.

      • Matthew December 19, 2012, 1:35 PM

        Yes, because of Heshy, his yeshiva is full of VD. None of the boys want to tell their parents, they’re all Very Disappointed.

        • ephy December 19, 2012, 10:14 PM

          epic roast

    • Whaaaat? December 19, 2012, 2:20 PM

      VD, I’m disappointed in your lack of sense of humor.

    • Heshy Fried December 19, 2012, 2:21 PM

      My yichus can kick your yichus’ ass

      • Whaaaat? December 19, 2012, 2:39 PM

        There you go again with your cursing. That’s the downfall of Judaism. Not molestations or criminal cover-ups, your cursing.

        • Heshy Fried December 19, 2012, 4:56 PM

          What, you don’t think that molestors are telling their molestee’s to suck their cocks prior to abusing them? You think they are saying it in loshon kodesh and trying to not use nivel peh when sexually abusing their yeshiva students.

          If you were a true lamdin, you would say – ah, even though Heshy is on such a low madriega when it comes to nivel peh, at least he admits to such faults.

          • Seriously? December 19, 2012, 5:41 PM

            Actually, a sense of shame is a very good thing. Flaunting one’s flaws suggests that there is a goodness in those flaws.

            When I do something wrong, I prefer embarassment and shame to brazenness.

    • jiujitsu princess December 19, 2012, 3:54 PM

      There are worse things than nivul peh…shaming another Jew in public is one of them. If YOU really had “impeccable yichus”….

      • Heshy Fried December 19, 2012, 4:57 PM

        The impeccable yichus thing is a joke, besides for being an anikle the author of the kitzur shulchan aruch, I’m not sure I have yichus. However, my future offspring will have me as their yichus and that’s gotta count for something.

        • Been There December 20, 2012, 6:23 AM

          Heshy is just like his ancestor, another writer of a tell-all work for the general frum public, but not for the uninitiated or outsiders.

          When I gave an extra Kitzur to a converting friend I made sure to get his outreach rabbi’s permission and to show my friend examples from the book that we don’t hold by today.

    • Yochanan December 21, 2012, 10:40 AM

      I forgot where I read it and don’t have a source, but I’ve heard that people who use profanity tend to be more honest.

    • A. Nuran December 22, 2012, 8:15 PM

      Abused children who will have nightmares for the rest of their lives.
      Kids bleeding from their orifices.
      Decades of self-hatred.
      Monsters who prey on the innocent.
      Communities which destroy the victims a second time when they come forward.
      Shuls and schools which quietly shuffle the molesters off to abuse dozens more.

      And all you can do is be shocked at the language of the guy who tells the truth about it?

      Your priorities are pathologically screwed up.

  • zach December 19, 2012, 2:07 PM

    “Don’t Judge Judaism by the Jews”. Well how about if we judge Judaism by its LEADERS? How many evil rabbis does it take to say that Judaism took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and that Orthodoxy as a whole is not only NOT a light unto the nations but is possibly terminally sick?

    • R.W. December 19, 2012, 3:57 PM

      You mean a blight unto the nations.

      • bratschegirl December 20, 2012, 3:22 AM

        As Jon Stewart says, “Buh-bayam!”

    • not chani December 19, 2012, 4:20 PM

      no matter how many evil rabbis you have, the conclusion you propose could never be proven as a de facto statement.

    • Witness December 26, 2012, 12:21 AM

      It IS, in a manner of speaking, terminally sick. Judaism in exile is a Judaism that strays farther and farther from the ideals at its roots.

    • Yochanan December 27, 2012, 8:35 AM

      Isn’t the verse about being “A light unto the nations” in the future tense?

      This just shows we clearly haven’t reached that point.

  • jiujitsu princess December 19, 2012, 4:31 PM

    Judging Judaism by the Jews (aside from being cringe-worthy alliteration) is a total copout. No society is perfect, and the fact that there are immoral and shallow Orthodox Jews is by no means reflective of the legitimacy of the said religion!
    I have been on dates with 612ers…I don’t think that gives me an excuse to go off the derech.

  • hmmm December 19, 2012, 6:40 PM

    The problem is, when it comes to orthodoxy, 3/4 of being orthodox has to do with community, and if you think the community has gone to shit, but you still like practicing Judaism (me).. it kinda leaves you with no where to go

    • jiujitsu princess December 19, 2012, 7:11 PM

      I hear you…I’m having the same dilemma.

    • Ex bochur December 20, 2012, 5:00 AM

      > but you still like practicing Judaism (me)..

      Hopefully you also believe in it.

      > it kinda leaves you with no where to go

      Yeah I know. Getting married really does mostly solve it though

      • Anonymous December 20, 2012, 10:31 AM

        what does getting married solve?

        • jiujitsu princess December 20, 2012, 11:38 AM

          it makes it much easier to practice Judaism. You can’t be an island unto yourself! lo tov heyos ha’adam levado.
          not to mention the other benefits of marriage.

  • Anonymous December 19, 2012, 7:04 PM

    I think we actually say hallel for 18 or 21 days not 10. 8 days Chanukah, 9 days Sukkot (or 8 in Israel), 2 days pesach (or 1 in ISrael), 2 days Shavuot (1 in Isreal)

    • The Mrs. December 19, 2012, 7:18 PM

      FULL Halel.

      • That's what he said December 20, 2012, 10:53 AM

        Hence 2 days of Pesach

      • Anonymous December 24, 2012, 7:16 PM

        Yes I mean full Hallel. If you count half-hallel then you add the rest of pesach and rosh chodesh which is a bunch more (I’m too lazy to try to be precise, what with 1 or 2 day rosh chodeshes etc.)

  • 612'er December 19, 2012, 7:08 PM

    Heshy, your gift with the keyboard is fine yichus your erlich kinderlach (b’karov etzlecha) should be zoche to inherit! Your detractor should be placed in blogosphere Cherem, along with our fine fellow brethren who insist on the 3 x per verse recitation of each verse of Sholem Aleichem in front of their mizbayach shulchans on Shabbes Koidesh.
    Yasher Koach!
    Tizkeh L’mitzvos!

  • Yitzchak December 19, 2012, 7:19 PM

    Like the article but sometimes you push it a little..look just because their are some retards in a group like you said chabad is jesusish its not true..chabad does have some crazys but that doesn’t mean they all like that..or that’s what chabad is about..

  • Yitzchak December 19, 2012, 7:21 PM

    Btw if you born a Jew you stay a Jew no matter what…

    • Holmes December 19, 2012, 9:30 PM

      Not quite. Is it not written that if someone is a “kafar b’ikar” he has separated himself from the Jewish people?

  • Ksil December 19, 2012, 8:00 PM

    I dont think that technically the 612ers are doing anything wrong (assuming the jewish maiden takes a dip in the mikva prior)

    And with a nonjew, i am not sure that niddah is a problem

    • Witness December 26, 2012, 12:38 AM

      With a non-Jew, niddah is not a problem. in fact, casual sex with a non-jewish woman is not prohibited mid’oraita, BUT the individual doing so can be killed if caught in the act… makes it pretty clear that it’s not something you’re supposed to be doing.
      with a jew, it is forbidden mid’orayta for a jewish woman to be a “zonah”. That might possibly leave room for a long-term relationship, as opposed to casual sex, outside of marriage. Of course that’s mid’orayta- the gemara says that yihud with a single woman is forbidden anyways.
      There’s also the principle of “kedoshim tihyu”.

  • Sergey Kadinsky December 19, 2012, 8:25 PM

    Shmarya Rosenberg should read this blog post, he truly judges judaism by its numerous bad apples.

  • Yosh December 19, 2012, 8:49 PM

    I know, I know, we can’t be serious on this thread… but there’s a really good piece addressing this issue that just came out. Good dose of idealism. Really. (http://klalperspectives.org/rabbi-ilan-feldman/)

  • south bend December 19, 2012, 10:32 PM

    I remember as a BT in yeshiva, the FFB looked down on me because I would listen to heavy metal and skate board. Called me a goy and all that, yet these were the guys who would ditch seder to go watch pornos at their parents house. Talk about a double standard.

    Now I work with other FFB jews in my field and the goyim ask me why I am different than them. These guys might be all pious and white shirt and black pants everyday, but we all wear yarmulkes. Theres is black velvet and mine is knitted. On the inside and at home these guys might be more religious, but they make a chillul hashem everyday with the goyim and I feel like I am the only guy there trying to correct that. How hard is it to treat someone like a human being. Just saying good morning it a huge kiddush hashem. This is something they dont teach in yeshiva or kollel. Its very frustrating.

  • Anonymous December 19, 2012, 11:03 PM

    I’ve been telling my kids for years not to judge the religion by the people that practice it. I feel bad, but I want them to know that I disagree with many practices in my own community. Just because I align myself with orthodoxy doesn’t mean I agree with how people practice it. Am I perfect? No. Do I have a right to judge them? I guess not. I’m just willing to bend the rules in different places than they are. Some of us are willing to bend rules that only hurt our own chances at Olam Haba, and some are willing to bend rules that hurt or take advantage of others. I’m trying not to throw out the baby with the bathwater and keep the rules I can. I may not practice it perfectly, but I love my religion, and I believe in it.

  • Heshy, did you ever see this?

    I don’t know if this is the best place for this response, but your paragraph about the “Wednesday Yom” just reminded me of this: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1702578/jewish/Chabad-Meditation.htm

    The title is misleading, so just read the article. It’s a really facinating take on what davening is. To me it actually makes a ton of sense, and may make davening a lot smoother. Or at least a lot more meaningful.

    It’s not the shortest article in the world, but well worth reading! And there’s a cute video at the bottom. BTW, Rabbi Freeman has a writing style that reminds me a bit of your style, even though he obviously goes in VERY different directions than you.

    It would be interesting if you could add your thoughts on something like this.

    BTW, a hearty belated mazel tov to you and to the Mrs. on your chasuna!

    Your annonymous (and let’s keep it like that on this web site) past roommate / Tanya chavrusa and current blog reader.

  • Aaron December 20, 2012, 4:14 AM

    seriously one of the best/funniest/most true articles ive read in a long time!

  • JOSH December 20, 2012, 6:17 AM

    Great piece. Good points. I enjoyed reading this one very much.

  • Toldos Aron December 20, 2012, 8:10 AM

    forget everything, i just stared at this picture, i enlarged it, i blew it up so i can see the center piece of this picture, i looked ans stared at it for five minutes straight, and the good part was that i had a `heter` from Hershy.

    • Anonymous December 20, 2012, 10:33 AM

      Actually he goes by RaHaf – Maran HaRav Hagaon Heshy Fried shlita

  • fish yoech December 20, 2012, 8:13 AM

    See ‘kooloytoyra’ Sep, 27, 2012.

  • Crowin' Cock December 20, 2012, 8:17 AM

    Sadly, this piece is more serious than funny. If we were to judge Judaism by some of the rotten characters (sometimes leaders) or frum Jewry, no one would be frum any more.

    Judasim is centered around organized religion, so by default, anyone wanting to practice a frum lifestyle will have to put up with a communal shul and school at minimum. The key is finding the right balance. If the community, yeshiva or shul you are used to isn’t working for you any more, find another one. I’ve done it more than once.

    Jewish observance is not worth throwing away because of a few jerks or people that don’t share your goals.

  • Dan December 20, 2012, 11:07 AM

    I absolutely judge Judaism by the Jews, and that is why I am still in it head over heels.

    I’m aware of tax fraud, and molesting, and whatever else. And I’m also aware that the vast majority are more honest in business, more kind, more charitable, and better people overall as a result of their Judaism. And I know that kind of article is not fun to write, but when frum jews are honest in business it is “dog bites man”, and when they run huge tax frauds, it is “man bites dog”.

  • Tiferret December 20, 2012, 4:43 PM

    I am a 612er. I daven so hard at the Young Israel of Great Neck and then after Maariv I go to the Rainbow Spa on Middle Neck Road for a little fortune in my cookie!

  • Avrumy December 20, 2012, 6:52 PM

    “I think full hallel is a bitch… I just think that ahavti and lo lanu ruin hallel… those two pragraphs make it go from pleasure to pain in the ass really quickly.”

    Thanks for saying that. Just one more weird Jewish thing we have to put up with. Why? Why? Why? Time to reorganize the siddur. And the machzor while we are at it!

  • Yochanan December 21, 2012, 10:32 AM

    “Those folks who are trying their darndest to be all they can be are troubled by the fact that I think full hallel is a bitch. There I said it, I just think that ahavti and lo lanu ruin hallel. Hallel has this familiarity that allows it to be said fast and in song, but those two pragraphs make it go from pleasure to pain in the ass really quickly. It gets relegated to something you really don’t want to say, but are willing to fight that damn yetzer harah for 10 days out of the year.”

    I feel the same way about Psukey DeZimra. Doesn’t that mean “verses of song/music”? How many times have you heard it song? I’ve been to Chabad Kiruv shuls where Hodu LaShem Ki Tov is sung, but that’s about it.

    Regarding “standing before the King”. What if the King wants you to be short and sweet?

  • jimmy December 21, 2012, 12:07 PM

    “he was disgusted at “the lack of kavannah” in shul. He said that he couldn’t even keep up with most of the davening because it was too fast, people were talking throughout davening ”

    Yeah, that’s been my beef from Day 1 and I was FFB.

    It seems like there is this yetzer horah that makes everybody in shul start talking to his neighbor the moment he gets a thought in his head.

    And this fast davening? I’ve come to realize that I really don’t understand what I’ve been reading and I try to slow down to actually _pray_ and not just mouth words I don’t understand. I stopped saying the Aramaic prayers and switched to the English.

    • Witness December 26, 2012, 12:43 AM

      Yeah, Hebrew is holy, but I have no idea why we still say anything in Aramaic. I’ve been at a few weddings lately where the ketuba was written in modern Hebrew.

  • chulent December 22, 2012, 9:03 PM

    toldos aron,
    is this picture gets you horny, that means something terrible is wrong with you or your backround. get educated young man.

  • 612'er December 23, 2012, 6:51 AM

    Heshy, I am definitely a 612’er. I’m in BMG (Lakewood) and I have sex once a week ( i am not married).

    • Anonymous December 27, 2012, 1:27 PM

      a BY graduate who works as an exotic dancer. 612er?

  • Rebecca December 25, 2012, 5:01 PM

    It’s Jews who give Judaism a bad name.

  • Yosef December 26, 2012, 10:47 PM

    Hashem loves Bnei Yisrael for his reasons, and not because of anything we did, according to the holy books. He gives us the script and the handbook, some of us do it better than others, some make a mess of it, some ignore it completely and some don’t even know its there. But everybody has to do the best they can with mitzvot, and to avoid being judgmental in either direction. But I digress. I was in a small store in Yerushalayim once run by an older woman. She had just finished dealing with a very annoying customer who was wearing “frum” clothing. When he left, she looked at me and said, “if I wasn’t Jewish, I’d be anti-Semitic”. One schnook can distort your perception of the clal, at least temporarily. So be the good example.

  • mishmosh December 31, 2012, 6:14 PM

    well said and to rhe point

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