Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No questions asked

Originally posted on Baal Habos
21 MARCH 2009

Last week, a comment in a Letter to The Editor in the Jewish Press caught my eye. I doubt that comment would have passed muster (not Mustard!) in the Yaated Neeman. Check out the last Letter on the bottom entitled "Hearing Vs. Discerning".

It seems that Dr. Yaakov Stern goes out of his way to make this astonishing admission:
“While we may not like to admit this, even to ourselves, the reality is that everyone to some degree is plagued by doubt as to the veracity of the Torah and the omnipotence of Hashem...........”

Now, that's quite a shocker. Until my skeptic years, I really can't say that I was consciously aware of such feelings. Sure, I may have had some issues with some Chazals and some Gemaras. But that's not quite the same as doubting the veracity of the Torah. I may even have had some questions about the Torah, but to claim everyone is plagued by doubt seems to speak more to Dr. Stern's frame of mind.

[So please tell us Dr. Stern, what exactly about the Torah do you doubt? Maybe I can help out out there? Yuk Yuk.]

And if you DO doubt it and if everyone doubts it, why is it so terrible to ask questions in public? If doubt is normal, then maybe there's a good reason for it! If doubt is commonplace, isn't it more than expected that some will act on their doubt? Why is it a given, in polite company, that Toras Hashem Temima?

But the truth is that Dr. Stern is at least partially correct. Many people might have moderate levels of doubt. The numerous "train the teacher" Kiruv programs might be be nothing more than an excuse to allow the FFB adult to explore the forbidden in a controlled environment. When Rabbonim tell people about these programs in public, they often say as an unplanned afterthought, "and it will help your own Emunah". Books like Permission to Believe and Permission to Receive are not just meant for the borderline BT. I think it's on the Bookshelf of many Maaminim Bnei Maaminim.

Yet, for all the doubt that does exist, it's still verboten to express your doubts in public. Honest questions of basic belief are not tolerated. Just try it. Just try the vaguest hint of questioning even today's rabbonim, let alone Chazal, and you'll get comments such as "you need to work on yourself" or "That's dangerous" or "I believe such and such because I believe in God". As if their Rav has Gilui Eliyahu.

You'll get odd looks and many types of statements either putting you in your place or cavalierly dismissing the hint of questioning. You'll get any statement other than an open admission that there's a good reason to doubt or that it's OK to doubt.

So my skeptic friend. Just nod your head at the assertion that there will be a Mechitsa in Olam Haboh when listening to Hashem's Shiurim (yes, that was a statement from an Adam Godol). Just keep your mouth shut.


Because an elephant in the room is easier ignored than a buzzing bee.

posted by Baal Habos @ 3/21/2009
Great post. and they wonder why I call it a cult...
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 12:58:04 AM
– Like – Reply

>Because an elephant in the room is easier ignored than a buzzing bee.

The problem is, these days the Gedolim are becoming more and more like buzzing elephants.

I think you're a better judge on what a Frum person really believes and how much he doubts. You were a believer as an adult, while I started loosing it as I came into my own. Although I will say that when I was really FarFrumt, I not only believed, I thought I can prove God through Moreh Nvuchim etc.
But I even have a hard time believing many Frum people are in a state of mind that I was before my official skepticism, where I had dubts but wouldn't allow myself to "go there". That's already too much. So maybe this Stern himself is Abiselh you know, not all the way were he 'should' be.
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 1:02:36 AM
– Like – Reply

Baal Habos
OTD, Thanks!

> So maybe this Stern himself is Abiselh you know, not all the way were he 'should' be.

Yes, that's why I said "astonishing admission". No way this would make it into a more right wing paper.
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 1:18:26 AM
– Like – Reply

kollel wife
Well said. We, grown men and women, are expected to act as if that which is uppermost in our minds doesn't even exist. What a horrific sham our lives have become.
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 1:42:06 AM
– Like – Reply

Baal Habos
>We, grown men and women

Kolel Wife,we could use a few good women on this blog. But I'm not sure I want to have real Kolel Wives reading my blog, unless you're a real skeptic. Are you pulling some kind of letzanus?
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 1:52:28 AM
– Like – Reply

Pen Tivokeish
Re your poll "For believers only", I yell discrimination BHB. You need to create another poll with similar questions for the كفّار kuffār
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 8:48:10 AM
– Like – Reply

Actually I think this makes sense. There's lots of things that go on in society, but people make a conscious decision not to have it all 'out in the open', to at least maintain appearances. Many examples, including marriages, adultry other issues etc etc etc. Society requires a certain facade.
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 10:59:21 AM
– Like – Reply

>Because an elephant in the room is easier ignored than a buzzing bee.

That is exactly why you bloggers are in business.
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 12:12:15 PM
– Like – Reply

Baal Habos
> Actually I think this makes sense
Sure, everything I write makes sense!
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 12:21:18 PM
– Like – Reply

I've long noted--with considerable dismay at his inxplicable knack for getting said rants published in the JP---Dr. Stern's entries in the Letters section of the Jewish Press. For what it's worth, they exhibit a very consistent and defined, if obnoxious, worldview: basically all examples of independent thought he disses & dismisses as "gedolim-bashing". He's also a fan of that time-honored device of "I'm not criticizing---I, too am guilty of the above"---which tends to come across about as sincere as "nisht oif Shabbos geredt, but what stocks are you pushing this month?" or "no offense, but that haircut makes you look like a baboon."
Sunday, March 22, 2009, 3:05:42 PM
– Like – Reply

There is a big difference between "questioning" and "skepticism", and even more so questioning a modern day Rabbi and questioning Moshe Rabbeinu.

Not sure what Stern had in mind, however IMHO, asking questions is good, I've questioned everything (almost). The problem is where you you look for answers. Hint - the internet is the wrong place.
Monday, March 23, 2009, 5:38:17 PM
– Like – Reply

What's wrong with questioning moshe rabennu.
No other field do they kill u for questioning a historical figure.

Imagine getting stoned for questioning wether einstein was right. Imagine where science would be if it didn't.
Monday, March 23, 2009, 8:50:29 PM
– Like – Reply

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to comment on re-posted posts. Comment threads are often as informative and interesting as the body of a post, and half the point of this blog is to bring old posts from around the blogosphere up for discussion again. A word of warning: while dissenting opinions and respectful debate is welcome and encouraged, trolls will not be tolerated. I will delete all trollish comments and responses.