Ben Avuyah

Welcome to the Pardess.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Spring’s lust spills through the humid air, having burst forth from tree and thistle, glistening in windless vapor, backlight by a sun whose piercing rays kindle the forest a fiery yellow. I see these flecks of new life floating in the contemplation of creation. The force of life here so powerful, deep in the seeded wood, but even in the midst of this rebirth there is darkness. Some remnant of a small creature is visible in the thick underbrush, her end the awaited sustenance of the greenery around her; mother earth completing her cycle.

So even ripe soil herself cannot relieve this pressure on my chest. For who among us does not plan their lives by weeks and months. Awaiting this next event, or that dreamed of goal, just around the corner. And so we surge forward, always onward as weeks and months blend into years, slipping away, by their smooth nature escaping our notice, never once the darkness contemplated; that dreamless sleep where self evaporates.

And why is it that I find my solace here? Joining a string of words about my mood, like crown over head…Do I slow that hourglass, fearfully stealing away a moment of solitude in which to be alone with the thoughts of my mind? Do I stay the minute hand from reaching the next bold-faced numeral as life’s pace bows humbly to the creeping seconds of my contemplations?

Perhaps it is not the act itself, but in spilling my soul in dots of multicolored ink, a splotch of yellow here, here green and red, I paint a bit of myself, of who I am. This small remnant left behind comforts the fear of black ends and shadows, for this piece of me has the power to live forever.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

New Kid on the Block

Here is an excellent blog, by Big S Skeptic, and all sides of the religious debate should check out this post and think about the method by which they make their arguments. This is an excellent post about going off the derech and the book by that name.

Another must read is this post about the consequences of inflexible Dogma.

And finally a stirring post about what our attitude towards scientific exploration should be that will make you want to go out and attack your existential woes with a Vengance.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Oy, My Mom would be so Proud !

She would too, if only she knew that I had been listed in the Rabbinical Council of America’s , “Blogs a Rabbi must follow” skeptic listing.

And while I am sure Gil Student just picked a few skeptics out of the grab bag, I bid him a heartfelt thank you, as I am honored to be mentioned, even if the RCA was just a few Rebbis who showed up for the food service. I would be thrilled if even one Rabbi comes here to read this post, and I will try not to waste the opportunity to get at the heart of what I and many others find to be the most troubling aspects of religion, orthodoxy, and faith.

Of course this blog has been evolving for over a year now (cripes ! I’ve missed my own anniversary…I guess I’ll have to take myself out for a romantic dinner.) And a good recap of my emotional and intellectual religious woes can be ascertained as they begin to make me uncomfortable as an observant Jew. Here they are as they progress take on form and solidify , although you should probably note that most of my main points of view have been expressed not on this blog but on the Godol Hador blog, where many debates involving theology have been invoked in the name of free inquiry and resulted in melee of opposing viewpoints over the past year or two.

Indeed, my blog I have mostly devoted to the “Memoirs of the yeshiva misfit”one two and three, a few posts about hair(head and and beard), one stab at Chasidic science fiction, and a bit of miscellaneous complaining about challah and the like.

But I understand that there are thousands of blogs that deal with skepticism, and I probably only have your attention for a few moments. So let me dive right into what I feel are the greatest problems with Orthodox Judaism.

I will only pause to tell you who you are talking to in everything but name. I am currently a practicing member of a Modern Orthodox synagogue. For all outward appearances I am a Modern Orthodox Jew. I might very well be the guy sitting next to you in shul!

Additionally I must add that I am torn about my early experiences in yeshiva, for although I have gone on to intellectually, “go off the derech”. Some of my fondest memories are of my Rebbim in Yeshiva, and I was impressed on many occasions as to the depth of their commitment and caring towards myself and my fellow bochurim. There were Rabbeim in my life who took my spiritual well being very personally, and I will never forget that devotion. I do not write what I write on this blog out of hate for Rabbinical Judaism, I write it out of love of honesty and truth. So please, feel welcome here, I do not hold ill will towards any of you.

In the spirit of brevity I will focus on only one topic this post, but I hope to make it the first of many, if any Rabbi's are actually reading, so let's optimisticaly call it number one !

Number 1: Science. I'd like to lead off up front with a “just say no” policy. I know you guys love to talk baseball and politics, but wen it comes to science just don’t dabble in it; don’t espouse to use it as a proof for either existence of God or other religious foibles. Just admit up front that it is not your field of expertise, and you will leave its interpretation and delivery to those who actually understand it.

There is nothing more damaging to the faith of Modern orthodox individuals, who understand science or work in the fields of medicine/research, and are familiar with statistics and evolutionary/biological science to hear Rabbis talk about science.

When I was in Yeshiva I noted the highly confusing dichotomy the yeshiva-light drew through the heart of science, and even then found it troubling. There were apparently two factions of scientists. One was a set of foul atheist marauders, who, due to their base desires to fornicate like animals, had devised a “theory” that men really are animals. In a yeshiva wide shmooze the bochurim were asked to “think” about how obviously wrong this was, as our Menahel said, “If I throw the pieces of a car off of the empire state building…. will they ever form a car on the way down?”, and that was the sum total of the Yeshiva opinion regarding evolution.

The second group of scientists, the ones who apparently made our telephones ring and our cars run, could be provisionally trusted, so long as they stuck to numbers and shied away from biology, and it was apparently only the cream of the crop of this said group, who through their greatest efforts, and in fact the culmination of Western science as we know it, had arrived at the unmitigated scientific proof of Judaism.....The Bible Codes. This was spoon fed to us at another shmooze in which the proven nature of our heritage was so obvious to the presenting “scientist” (who looked like a local Bal Habos upon whom they had surreptitiously bestowed a lab coat)that the conclusion of orthodox Judaism was nothing more or less than established fact. This fact was portrayed to be either unknown or ignored by the general masses outside the yeshiva world.

The difficulty arises, my dear Rabbis, when such young impressionable minds leave the yeshiva world, and realize that their Rabbi’s viewpoint about the “atheist agenda” suffers from every paranoid hallmark of the conspiracy theorist's.... and then some.

After a first few biology and statistics classes, not only will a former yeshiva student realize that his Rebbi was an unwitting participant in an unbelievably narrow focus of the outside world, viewing it through an ethnocentric lens of prejudice and fear, in which a totally uninvolved biologist, who may only be peripherally aware of orthodoxy, is vividly pictured as "out to get us”. But also, and even more disturbing, that their greatly respected and revered Rebbi’s opinions and arguments for debunking evolution reveal a statistical and biological knowledge that is at a pre-high school level.

Rabosai, let go of this method, it can only be maintained so long as a child is sheltered, and we don’t live in the shtetle any more, so it’s not going to happen. It is a sure recipe for failure.

Think of where you leave your pupil, he has trusted in you, yes... that’s right…trust. Judaism is not a religion of repeat experimentation to validate results. He has trusted in your character to believe the “truths” about life, relationships, and the world at large. When he realizes that at the very least your views on science are unresearched, unfounded, and often flat out wrong….well, what do you expect he will do?

But it gets worse, for your intelligent students will have to start wondering. They will start to wonder how you, their Rebbi, knew that all of the Torah and Mishna and Gemara that they accepted as Gospel from your lips, were true. They will begin to rightfully questions what instruments you have in your “toolkit” for determining reality.

If it has just been frightfully revealed that your methodology for determining the validity of subject matter and logical ventures is so verily flawed, that it has allowed you to make these bizarre judgments about science, we must then wonder if it is universally flawed; and that the eighth grade toolkit with which you attempted to dis-assemble science is one in the same as the erector set buttressing Orthodoxy’s core principles.

Now your pupil is in a bad way, for almost any objective investigation into orthodoxy is going to lead to trouble, but what choice does he have ? Now that my friends, is a subject for another post !!!

(Rabosai, if any of you actually showed up, please feel free to comment, I don't bite (usually :-) )and I am excited to begin, what orthodoxy has been missing since it's very inception, an honest conversation between heretic and believer !)