Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Seeing past the flaws

(The BeyondBT band)

I've been told by many in private, including my wife, that they're "shocked" that I said that I'm surprised that any non-Frum person would decide to become Orthodox today. It was in response to a comment made by Tzemach Atlas to this thread where he said that many more than are joining Orthodoxy are leaving. I agreed with him on that point and added the few lines about why anybody would become Frum today. Boy, did I get angry stares and lines in emails! It was like I had made a confession that I don't care to be frum, as far as they're concerned, and I'm not sure where they got that idea from. I guess I have a different manner of thinking and writing than most people do. I also don't know what it's like to be unhappy as a secular Jew, being that I am Frum from birth, so maybe I'd see it differently if I was in that situation.

The point is that Yiddishkeit today is so flawed, so not what it purports to be, that anybody who spends just a short time within that framework is met with one disappointment after another. That's already after he decided that he wants to be bogged down by one rule after another, (not that I think Chas VeSholom that Halochoh boggs you down) and one seemingly strange law and reason after another. Even if he gets past that point, and sees that this way of life IS for him, he still needs to join an already existant clique that's very tough to get into, and not very hospitable to new members. Groups like Chabad and Breslov, with large BT populations, are much easier to adjust and adapt to, but even then you may be limited to that clique for the rest of your life. I understand that nobody is actually sat down and told this prior to commencing with his/her Kiruv process, but a fairly intelligent man/woman should realize this soon after.

So you realize; when I mentioned my surprise that non-Frum people would ever want to join Frum Judaism I did not - G-d forbid - question the validity of the frum lifestyle, All I did was try and point out how leaving the fold may be easier than joining it; especially if you have neither friends nor family to worry about, for whatever reason, and especially if you seem to be more popular and accepted amongst your new-found friends. It may seem easy - for the FFB observer - for the new recruit to don a black hat and beard, or for the woman to begin dressing modestly, but it sure as heck is not. Just ask the chain-smoker what he feels like on Shabbos when he's told he can't smoke, or what he/she feels like when he/she is told that they have to keep a whole new set of Halochos Beino LeBeinoh. Then tell me that you'd want to join if you had a choice. I just wish some of those people closest to me would give the benefit of the doubt based on past performance, even if - like the investment companies tell you - past performance is not indicative of future returns..... This is, after all, not a hot stock tip we're talking about, it's my commitment to G-d and his Torah. I'd like to think of it as more than a roll of the dice.....


chabakuk elisha said...

I don’t know why you got looks or criticism for your statement. Let's be honest here... a normal, happy, well-adjusted individual is not a likely candidate to dramatically and completely change his entire life and become an observant Jew. Those cases are few and far between. That is somehow supposed to be a radical thought???

That said, I would imagine that as for the failings of the frum world, someone who takes, or even considers, such a step is quite unaware of their extent - and unless they move to the large frum communities, they may continue to be unaware of any such things. But most thinking people aren’t so naïve as to think that all is perfect – and still, in comparison with the rest of society I would still say the religious world is, while not what it should be, quite a step up.

The true issue, though, is this:

When klal Yisroel is in a state where the chein of Yiddishkeit has fallen, there will be more people that leave the fold and less that seek it out. This is always the case…

Tzemach Atlas said...

Tzig, you a different man since you started blogging.

But change is not easy for anybody, in any direction. BTs are in love when they start and the love is blind. People who move in the other direction have just despair to guide them. It is very hard.

Hirshel Tzig said...

I really do appreciate that comment (as underhanded as it was....)
Is despair not as blind as love? why then would any one decision be more difficult than the other?

hmmm said...

Tzig, to put your comment in perspective, Reb Levi'k writes in the first letter to the Rebbe in the time approaching his Chasunah, that marriage makes no sense, that al pi sechel we would make the decision to remain single for (at the least) economic reasons, and that marriage is based on Emunah. Does this mean he felt chas veshalom that marriage doesn't make sense? Or that he felt out of sorts with his marriage? We know the opposite to be true. Why can't you express a viewpoint other than the one with which you actually look at the world, without having any netiah to that view?

Hirshel Tzig said...


you want me to play devil's advocate? How else would I advocate a POV that I do not have?

berl, crown heights said...

I do not see why your original post was misinterpreted as you report it was. I did not for a moment think that you were denigrating yiddishkeit per se, just that today, בעוה"ר , it does not have a very attractive appearance.

AussieEcho said...

I, too, am one of those who found it difficult to understand your point of view. But I suppose if you look at it in a purely intellectual way it does not make sense for someone to change their life around and take on an incredible number of restrictions.
Obviously Baalei Teshuvah don't see it that way.

Jewish people, in general, seem to be attracted to spirituality. At one time the head of the Hari K's in Australia was Jewish. Look at the great number of Jews that have become Buddists (don't they call them Jew-Bu's?) Rabbi Laibl Wolf, who attracts a number of followers of "Eastern Religions" to his lectures, told me that he is often asked why they were not taught that Judaism has all these spiritual aspects in Sunday School. Being forced to spend your days off in Sunday School (with teachers who also don't want to be there) is not a good way to inculcate Jewish values.

My point is that Baalei Teshuva and Gerim obviously see something more to Yiddishkeit than we do. It may take time for them to realise that the frum community is not perfect (to say the least) but how many of them leave because of that. I believe that most of them can see thru that superficiality and recognise what Yiddishkeit is really about.

Mehallel said...

You do not recognize the gift you have. The world is drowning in emptiness and hopelessness and you are living in the shade of the tree of life and you are complaining about the color of its leaves. The world today is an empty shell. There are no longer ideologies to excite the world and rally the masses. All the gods are dead. We have a toras chayim ah zizeh toyreh a sweet true torah of life. So for some momentary pleasure some of ours may stray and graze in foreign fields but there is nothing to hold them there anymore. They will come back. there may be some souls who are so broken by abuse, drugs, or mental illness that in this lifetime they may not be able to come back, G-d should heal them. Please don't make these unfortunates into the norm! There is no question that we have problems in the frum community and there are things that have to be fixed. We have to ensure that we help our children who are at risk as early as possible, etc. All the critical bloggers point out our flaws and if we are to grow we should listen. But please do not internalize the anti Semitism. Tzigaleh oy Tzigalleh You have gone to sleep with dogs (or maybe with cows )and you have woken up with fleas.

There is no question to change is difficult. When do we change?? Sadly it is when a crisis hits or at certain points of our life when we are not entangled in responsibilities etc and we are in an open mode to experience new things such as the college years were in the secular world in the past and may still be to a certain extent. For a mature healthy adult in a stable situation to change is not realistic. But every day I am humbled by people who are doing just that. The Russian engineer who puts on teffilin everyday, the woman married to a non Jew who is keeping kosher, the family who sent their teenage son to yeshiva, the man who walks 3 miles to shul and sits by his shabbos table alone Friday night waiting for his children and wife to join him. His sons who have begun to join him,,soon his wife may light the shabos candles..... Leave boro park and visit some chabad houses even the least successful ones will tell you stories of the changes people are making and the paths they are taking The world is full of many tens of thousands of Jews who are adopting more mitzvos into their life. In the world today there is a huge shift of attitudes toward mitzvos and yiddishkeit. This is not a young college kid going off to a Yeshivah where he can submerge himself in yiddishkeit although that is also happening. The big picture is a longer much more difficult path it is bringing back the entire Jewish people to Mitzvah observance. If you chart what is happening across the board reform conservative the unaffiliated you can see this. Is everyday a churban with all the children of mixed marriages and false conversions? Of course but do not take away from this huge REVOLUTION in attitudes and practice that is impacting the Jewish world.

To the outsider Yiddishkeit does not look worse today than it did 50 years ago. Farket! Yiddishkeit is no longer perceived as an obstacle to success in the world and (for better or worse) it is possible to live a life of torah and mitzvos without giving up the vast majority of comforts. The beauty of Torah and mitzvos and Jewish family life is apparent to so many today.To.the non frum world looks and sees the success of the frum world in leading Jewish lives of meaning we should too!

Rafi G said...

I understand what you are saying. I have always said it about converts that I do nto understand why anyone would want to join the Jewish people. And whenever the discussion comes up about someone who found out they were adopted and they are given a choice to be jewish or not - I always say that if that happened to me I am not so sure which I would choose. It would not be an easy choice.
Not because I do not like Judaism, but if I was not jewish, why would I want to be?

Same with baalei teshuiva - except for the fact that once you are Jewish so maybe there is an attraction to doing it properll and being religious.

Ca. Shliach said...

I posted this yesterday and for some reason you don't consider this comment worthy?

There's no question about it that selling yiddishkeit in these days is a very hard sale. Life is too good and way too complicated and fast, in these times, just as the Alter Rebbe leider leider predicted with the Napoleon war.

That having been said, the world out there is a very perverted empty life, people know this very well.

People are searching for answers. If and when Judaism can be presented in a way that people can see that their life will be enhanced greatly with meaning and purpose, Yiddishkeit then becomes a choice with nothing that comes close to it's meaning and depth.

When people receive the proper hadrocho they become ke-aitz shosul al palgei moyim.

What I find with BT unfortunately ( and the same is true with FFB ) is that they were never given enough and/or proper direction. The lack of proper tutelage and hadrocho is what leads to going off the derech. OR, some shmuck comes and ruins the cake while it's in the process of baking and turns the pure soul into a half baked cake with no real defined identity, so he's nish ahin nisht aher and valgers off.

Yiddishkeit is the best there is for anyone and everyone.

n said...

ce, normal well adjusted people certainly do embrace yiddishkeit ( I'm not saying that I'm from this class!). Some kiruv groups only target those who are normal and some are more particular and target those that are normal and have cash. Lubavitch doesn't see most of either of these groups. I didn't want to add a partisan flavor here but its unavoidable. Because of the lubav style, so many bts do seem to come from not normal circumstances, and some indeed are both mal adjusted to life when they come into frumkite, and even for life as they live a frum life. In lubav circles we are extremests, we embrace every jew no matter what his golus lfestyle was (or is), automatically grant the dimmi yid first class status as an equal citizen within jewry and lubavitch society. This is radical and beautiful yet has dark aspects. its very easy for a BT with little knowledge to settle into their 'frum' lifestyles with little or no adjustment to the conventional morays of jewish life. The result is that there are many BTs that came from a non well adjusted background, and its apparent that they came from not well adjusted backgrounds because either:

1) no one excerted pressure on them to shape up and or they are lazy,
2) the golus ride of their lives before frumkite was very rough and they are essentially incapable of shaping up.

I do agree with ce regarding bts not knowing about anyone's perceived failings of the jewish world today. Thats very positive becuase their learning about yiddishkeit is idealized, learned from people that they respect, and are inspried by them. Their yiddishkeit on one hand is auguably very pure. I would venture to say in a very anonomous way that perhaps when yiddishkeit is destroyed by circumstances outside of our control, that Hashem causes it becuase we have become charicatures within jewish life rather then jews with a true jewish character. Starting from scratch so to speak, is a way to clear the air. it allows us the opportunity to start over.......

Hirshel Tzig said...

ca shliach:

the reason it didn't show up yesterday was that it probably got lost in publication, I did not see it before. So please, cut me some slack here.

hmmm said...

"The world today is an empty shell. There are no longer ideologies to excite the world and rally the masses. All the gods are dead."

This conversation in general is going in an interesting direction, but this particular statement is a lack of realism. The fact that we defy the world does not mean that we need do so based on false premises. Every generation has its ideologues, the tech race is one of the current one.

Anonymous said...

From mehallel
We may have different views of reality. Tools do not make an ideology nor a world view. Pursuit of pleasure or comfort is not spirtualy satisfying. A view of reality I would like to present is a messianic one. The walls of exile have crumbled... the king has no clothes..It is time for us to step up to the plate and fill the void not internalise it as reality....

Ca. Shliach said...



I am somewhat surprised to read Frum Chassidishe people feel like they're "stuck" with their frumkeit. Oi veavoi.

I remember once watching one of the Videos where a chassidishe guy asks the Rebbe something about being happy about his Yiddishkeit..I can't remember accurately what the Rebbe told him. It didn't seem like the Rebbe was impressed with the question.

I deal with secular people on an intimate level everyday. There is absolutely nothing to be jealous of. Unfortunately the world is so shallow these days it doesn't even enter the mind of most people to philosophize about life. People are wandering through life from one fad to the next with no idea why they're here, who they are and where they're heading.

A Yid who learns a little Torah looking from the in out believes that if educated people holding impressive degrees, Doctor and Lawyer jobs appear happy and satisfied they have it all made. Nothing can be further from the truth.

It's a rat race, competition, distrust, confusion and gornisht. Divorces and issues you can't even imagine.

Live like a Torah yid, follow the dictates of our Rebbes learn a maamer chassidus and mit an emes try to believe and make it a part of your life you will discover and open a floodgate of expanded and depthful sipuk hanefesh.

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting post, but Hershel Tzig, and others, I think you vastly underestimate how horrible the secular world really is. It is nearly impossible to communicate this to someone who is ffb and sees the secular world from the outside, but take my word for it, you can't image the depths of the tumah out there and how it feels to live life without Torah.

Jack's Shack said...

I think you vastly underestimate how horrible the secular world really is.


I am sorry that all can see is the bad and none of the good in the secular world.

The good far exceeds the bad. There is so much joy and so much to live for.

hmmm said...

Jack, I don't know your background, but anonymous seems to be writing as someone who comes from a secular background.

I will also ask you to demonstrate this good and joy and what to live for. The more accomplished secular people frequently live in a morass, doctors and surgeons taking to drink and drugs, programmer and tech workers to the fast and loose life, executives to women and worse. The lower levels implode their brains in front of prime time tv and catching up to the fast paced ones.

What good do you see in the culture around you, that isn't based someone in religion?

Lucky Wolf said...

Rafi G,

The same reason why you write "I always say that if that happened to me I am not so sure which (way) I would choose. It would not be an easy choice." -implying that you have (and Maybe only slight, but nevertheless) a desire to be like the Non Jew- can also be the same reasoning behind a non-jew or non religious jew becoming religious.

that is because many of us search for satisfaction and an identity. a religious jew with this problem may think his answer lies on the other side of "his" hill, and the same is with the Baal teshuvah.

the truth is that it is a psychological lie, as we see so many young frum people who r"l leave the true path of life, come back after a few years. they come back after realizing that their answers to their problems was not to go fry. and not only did it not help them but in fact is just caused them to became even more unhappy, depressed and unsatisfied!

hmmm said...

This was a tough issue to chew over, because ultimately it would be nice to point to "so many people becoming BT" for validity, and "so many of those who leave come back" for more validity, but Tzemach and Tzig will force us to face the truth, that BTs come and go, frume kids come and go, and there is no discernable pattern to it. Some had hate from their parents and remained frum, some had love and left. Some had good caring teachers and left, some had really bad teachers and remained frum. Some BT were exposed to the silliest thing and became frum, some secular people are exposed to things that touch their heart, mind and soul yet do not become frum.

The only factor involved in all of this is Bechirah Chofshis. Yes, Hashem could have placed a notion that is universal in determining what causes every person to move in a certain direction, or a combination of notions. The truth is, once the chinuch is done, once the effort to bring Torah and Mitzvos to the secular Jew is over, all you can do is sit back and say a kapitel tehilim. As a Jew they have Bechirah Chofshis, and they will (in our eyes, randomly) determine whether to remain frum or not.

What causes young men and women to leave the frume community, and the secular to join? The same thing that determined that Spanish Jewry would convert to Xtianity in part, while North African Jewry did not convert to Islam - their individual Bechiroh Chofshis.