The Orthoprax Rabbi: What it’s like to be an atheist rabbi of an orthodox shul

Someone sent me the link to a new blog called Orthoprax Rabbi. It is written by the supposedly atheist rabbi of a modern orthodox congregation that claims he keeps his true beliefs under wraps in order to keep his job. There is a lot of talk in the Jewish Blogging world about whether or not this is a hoax and I will get to that in a bit, but what really gets me is how interesting this blog could be and how you and I feel about this.

What on earth does orthoprax mean? Orthoprax Jews are those who practice but don’t believe. They practice mainly for social reasons.

To me, being a rabbi isn’t like any job. You actually have to practice what you preach, right? Or can you swing it like most jobs, hide your screen from the boss, go home and let loose and generally not have any belief in the “company” so to speak? While part of me wants to ask a few hacker friends of mine who work in internet security to oust this schmuck, the other part of me kind of sympathizes with him. What would you do if your entire life was based on around a specific belief, your kids, your job, your social standing and then suddenly one day you woke up and realized you didn’t believe in any of it? Would you announce this to your friends, family and community – especially if it meant you would be fired and talked about in a very negative way in all of the Jewish news media? Or would you essentially live your life in the closet, similarly to the way many in the gay community do, living a lie in order protect themselves and their loved ones from lashing out at them?

Now there is a lot of debate about whether this is a hoax, but does that really matter? The person who is writing this blog has obviously spent a lot of time hanging around the Blogging community, he was able to get the word out about his blog to numerous bloggers in a short period of time, meaning he has contacts and has possibly been the author of one of the dozens of orthoprax/ off the derech blogs out there. Many bloggers are creating alternative lives for their current one’s – I know personally of female bloggers that do this – so why not an orthoprax blogger allowing folks into his imaginary world of being a non-believing rabbi, makes sense to me.

If you look at the blog you may find it interesting that everything he has written so far contains nothing but himself trying to prove he exists, which we all know will never be possible as long as he remains anonymous, unless someone hacks his site (which would happen if it weren’t likely to be a hoax) He hasn’t written anything of detail, other than the fact that he has yayin mevushel (cooked wine) at his house for guests, because they would be sinning if they drank the wine of a heretic — compassionate, eh?

I just wonder how someone can live such a lie. I mean, just because you don’t believe in God doesn’t give you the right to lie to your entire congregation. Seems kind of crappy to me, to get up and speak on Shabbos about things that have no meaning for you – unless you enjoy the cultural aspects of being Jewish.

In the meantime I was thinking of starting a new blog called Orthoprax-Bestiality Lover-Rabbi…

What would you do if you found out your rabbi was an atheist?

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