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Monday, November 2, 2009

Problems in Emunah? You mean to say: I want sex!

I was reading in Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twersky's book "Dear Rabbi, Dear Doctor" and couldn't believe the crap that I was reading. I will just make bold the passages where I think he lost it. And with him most of Orthodox Judaism.
My chavrusa has confided in me that he has been having some serious doubts about emunah. He has not told any of the rebbes about this because he is afraid that they will kick him out of the yeshivah. I sense that his observance of mitzvos is weakening. Is there anything I can say to him to prevent him from going off the derech? 
I hope that your chavrusa's fear of being told to leave the yeshivah his unfounded. A person with questions about emunah should be able to get chizuk and guidance from his rebbi.
The reason we say Shema Yisrael every day is because we must assert our emunah anew every day. To believe today only because I believed yesterday is merely habit. Vife all need to reinforce our emunah, and we should not be frightened when questions arise. Our mussar sefarim are replete with ways to strengthen our emunah, which indicates that it is only normal to have questions.
This is an important issue, so I am going to elaborate a bit.
There are such things as people who have philosophic questions about emunah, but they are few and far between. (Hello? Most Jews don't believe in Orthodox Judaism?!) There has not been a true apikores for a long time. (WTF?) The Rebbe of Kotzk said of freethinkers, "You call them apikorsim? As soon as one of them feels sick he runs to the aron kodesh to pray for Hashem's healing."

There is a story about a man who approached a rabbi to make a mi sheberach for a sick relative. After doing so, the rabbi asked him, "Don't you belong to the Reform temple?" The man answered, "Yes, I'm Reform, but G-d is Orthodox." When it gets down to serious busi­ness, we see that these people do have emunah. (I think he has been watching the Atheist Convention videos a little too often).
What happens is clearly stated in the Talmud. We read in the prophets that they repeatedly chastised the people for avodah zarah. But let us think a bit. People who saw the manifest works of Hashem in the many miracles that occurred in the Exodus, yet continued to have doubts about Hashem, is it possible that people like these could believe in inanimate idols? Whatever you might say about Jews, they are not stupid, and to believe in idols is the height of absurdity. It is inconceivable that they believed in idols.
The Talmud clarifies this. "The Jews knew that the idols were worthless. They were just looking for permission to fulfill all their desires" (Sanhedrin 63a). They were simply lustful people, and inas­much as the Torah forbade their desires, they said, "We have a differ­ent god who says we can do as we wish."
This is the key to understanding contemporary apikorsim. They simply do not want to be inconvenienced by the restrictions of Torah. (Especially not if it is obviously man-made, ridiculous, outdated, fundamentalist and discriminating!) They want to be free to do anything they wish on Shabbos and to eat whatever and wherever they desire. Inasmuch as the Torah forbids this, they question the authenticity of Torah. Their questioning is not a sincere wish to know the truth. They want to believe only what is comfortable for them. (Most jews I know are frum because that's what they grew into and therefore are most comfortable with, especially because they don't want to be ostracized.)
The Torah says that a judge may not take a bribe, because a bribe "blinds" the judge and distorts his thinking. One cannot possibly be objective if one has taken a bribe. Similarly, a person is "bribed" by his desires, and they will distort his judgment.
You should share this with your chavrusa. If his questioning of emunah is a sincere search for the truth, he would realize that the greatest minds in Judaism were at least as intelligent as he is, and they considered all the questions that are occurring to him. Being in the yeshivah, he should have some concept of the incomparable bril­liance of the Vilna Gaon. Does he think he has raised any issues that the Gaon did not consider? And the Gaon trembled when someone tried to compare him to the Rambam. Is it not the height of folly to question an emunah that was a certainty to the Gaon, the Rambam and the thousands of gedolim of our history, whose wisdom dwarfs ours many times over?
Caution your chavrusa that his doubts in emunah are without question the wiles of the yetzer hara, which wants to eliminate one's adherence to Torah and allow one to indulge in fulfilling one's desires. He should have the pride not to be seduced and not to yield to his desires. If he is sincere in investigating emunah, he should read the great works of mussar. There is a section in Alei Shur that discusses emunah, and he will also find chizuk in Michtav MeEliyahu and other mussar works which are available to us.
One may question as long as one seeks "emes l'amito," the abso­lute truth. But one must be extremely cautious to resist the bribe of our desires, which distort our thinking and make falsehood appear like truth.
I can only wish this chevrusah hatzlocha in his kofer endeavors!


  1. What I love more than anything else is the blame game. After someone goes "otd," everyone in the community blames someone or something else (i.e. he had a bad 3rd grade science teacher who taught him evolution, or he hung out with the talkers in shul). It seems this rabbi has preemptively started the blaming.

  2. Its a briliant defense of faith, one that cannot be countered. If you question, it is becuase you are a hedonistic cretin who has given in to his yetzer hara and wants the "freedom" to follow every whim. What can you answer to that? Every argument is automatically deligitimized, becuase clearly you are "bribed" and so your reasoning is biased and not to be trusted.

    Other fun stuff: argument from authority, and the anthropmorphization of the yertzer hara.

  3. The "yetzer hora" seems to always be right on issues related to the cosmos and rational.

  4. UK and G*3....excellently put and precisely why I'm OTD as well.

  5. ". . . he would realize that the greatest minds in Judaism were at least as intelligent as he is, and they considered all the questions that are occurring to him"

    Actually some of the greatest minds in Judaism were Apikorsim through and through. If he means the greatest Halakhic minds, then the question is how did they resolve the doubts. They might be great Halakhic minds, but their ability to deal with meta-questions might not be up to their Halakhic ability.

    Ichabod Chrain

  6. Twersky's response is so unworthy of a professional therapist, even a frum one, that I wonder whether he has hit an age related decline.

  7. Hi Kisarita,

    My point is that I don't think it has anything to do with age, more with 'faith over science'. His values are such that emunah completely rules his mind. so no matter how good someone can be in an academic field, as soon as the two clash, he will choose the non-sense.


  8. They simply do not want to be inconvenienced by the restrictions of Torah.

    I agree that his argument is ridiculous, but it's nothing new; this is how they've dismissed people who disagree with them for over two hundred years.

    There has not been a true apikores for a long time. (WTF?)

    It's the same argument the Lubavitcher Rebbe used - today's Jews are like someone who has been brought up among strangers; he can't be held accountable b/c he was never exposed to "the truth". To them, a genuine apikores is one who actually knew the truth, then rejected it. If you reject Judaism, it's b/c you never really embraced it. I hear the same argument form Christians all the time - there's no such thing as an "ex-Christian", b/c if you accept Jesus as your savior, it changes you to a point at which you never would reject him.

    I've actually been certified an apikores by an MO rabbi. It's one of the things of which I'm proudest! Also, I recently came across the Rambam's list of fourteen transgressions that will cause one to lose one's portion in the world to come; turns out I'm also a kofer and a min!

  9. LOLOLOL. Love it. Can't tell you how many times I read Mesilas Yesharim, Akiva Tatz, Lawrence Keleman, Shulchan Aruch, Tanach...and I also learned some Alei Shur in seminary. Did it help? No, because it's bullshit.
    But yes, it is quite nice doing what I want to do on Shabbos; sounds to me like the author's a wee bit jealous ;)

  10. the yetzer hara being held responsible for anything is the biggest load of ____ ever. Yes, we all have "good" and "bad" inclinations, but here's the big secret: It's you! It's all you! If you need to picture your inner little bad guy as a little devil or as an action figure, and your inner little good guy as an angel or an opposing action figure, and you want to picture them duking it out for control of your head, then rock on with your visual imaginings, but any blame on yetzer anything is BS. Hilarious, hilarious bs. And I tend to like Rav Twerski's books (the rehab guy from PA, right? there are a lot of Twerskis running around, out there.). I have some _____-a-day (smile?) and something that's on the parsha in a crate somewhere. Nice, light psych with a side of learning; self-improvement-type stuff, from my dad (who totally means well, even if I don't always agree with him).

  11. SB: Yes, it is a load of bull, but perhaps a good reframing technique. Externalize, declare war on this menuval and you will feel good about yourself (being all yetzer hatov) and have no mercy on that which stands in the way of that good. The christians took it a little further to create a satan that opposes God. Whateva...

    I used to love Rabbi Twersky's readings, nice ideas and vertelach. But since I don't believe in that anymore, I can only handle the self-help stuff somewhat.