כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם

כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם, וְלֹא דַרְכֵיכֶם דְּרָכָי

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Choshuva Proposal

Guest post by Bruce Holland

I'm sure many of you heard about the incident in Monsey during Hurricane Irene. A 5-year-old boy (Reuven Herbst) was being electrocuted by a downed power line, a neighbor (Moshe Reichenberg) rushed to rescue him. Reichenberg was killed, and Reuven was injured critically.

You can read all about it here.

As you can see below, in the Monsey ad magazine Community Connections dated September 8-15, approximately a dozen women from the neighborhood where this occurred (including Reichenberg's widow) took out a full-page ad. The ad quotes the Chofetz Chaim, who said (allegedly) that machlokes is like fire. The women urge everyone to forgive old grudges and increase peacemaking as a merit for the boy's recovery.

ad_choshuva_proposal

Underneath the copy, as you'll see, is a section that includes updates regarding Reuven's condition: August 31 update: Since this campaign began, we heard that the boy's heart became stabilized and strong (sic). September 5 update: Doctors say that his body is recovering!

Of course, they add 'Chasdei Hashem' and 'Hodu L'Hashem Ki Tov' so we all know that we're praising the Lord for these miraculous signs of recovery, not the righteous women who are burying hatchets and forgiving one another and letting go of resentments right and left.

(Side note, it's Lashem, not L'Hashem. But hey, some of these women are BTs, and some of the others went to Beis Yaakov schools, so they don't know any better.)

So they're implying that the kid is improving as a direct result of their actions.

But apparently their actions weren't good enough, because Reuven died on Friday, 9/9.

I have so many questions, and yes, I don't mind voicing them even while the Herbst family is still sitting shiva.

How do people--BTs or FFBs or Rabbis or Rebbetzins or lay people--justify this kind of sanctimonious nonsense? It's not like we haven't seen it before. We saw it after Motty Borger killed himself, and after Leiby Kletzky's murder, too. People actually believe that they can draw direct corollaries from human actions to G0d, unless and until they can't, at which point they shrug and say, "Who can understand the ways of G0d?"

But you just got finished beating me over the head with guilt, and building up my hopes, telling me that by forgiving my insufferable shrew of an aunt (for example) and letting bygones be bygones, I'm actually making the world a better place *and* helping heal a critically injured child!
Yes, but, you didn't do enough. The improvement in Reuven's condition was from Hashem. And the deterioration was also from Hashem. Who are we to question?

It's infuriating to me that this drivel is what passes for discourse and what passes for Torah and Yiddishkeit among the rank-and-file here in Monsey and throughout the 'frum' or 'haredi' world. They're pushing dumb, blind, feel-good thought control, telling a naive and unquestioning audience that it actually makes a difference, and then wringing their hands piously when G0d, in His infinite humor, yanks the rug out from under them.

I hope that this story causes more people to question and doubt. Because these questions and doubts are more real than a thousand parroted kapitlech of tehillim. If some lose their faith, so be it. If others find it strengthened, more power to them. But for G0d's sake, don't drink the kool-aid. Push back. Force these patronizing know-nothings to admit that they can't predict anything, they don't know anything, and that ultimately, if there is a G0d, they can't say anything about it.

31 comments:

  1. my brother told me his rabbi had said if I marry my (non jewish) husband that one of three things will happen within a year- either we will break up, he will convert to judaism, or he would die. It's been 2 and a half years and so far nothing. A little after our one year anniversary I called my brother and asked him if he would admit that the rabbi was full of shit. He told me "Well, that rabbi was a charlatan" Right *that* rabbi. The apologetics are unending

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  2. It reminds me of when my husband was diagnosed with cancer and a number of people told me that we should get our mezzuzahs checked. Any god who would strike someone with cancer because of a smeared letter on a mezzuzah is not a god I want to know.

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  3. > The ad quotes the Chofetz Chaim, who said (allegedly) that machlokes is like fire.

    Is this supposed to be a mida-kneged-mida thing? Electricity isn’t fire.

    > Of course, they add 'Chasdei Hashem' and 'Hodu L'Hashem Ki Tov' so we all know that we're praising the Lord for these miraculous signs of recovery, not the righteous women who are burying hatchets and forgiving one another and letting go of resentments right and left.

    That is a great point. Whatever we might do, the credit always goes to Hashem. It makes you wonder, then, what the point of the forgiveness campaign is.

    > And the deterioration was also from Hashem.

    Chas v’shalom! Bad things are either our fault or just kind of happen. Good things, though, those are all from Hashem!

    > They're pushing dumb, blind, feel-good thought control,

    As opposed to what, actually thinking through the issues and the implications of their practices? That, leads either to complex theology or becoming a member of the Jewish skeptic blogosphere (and often both), which is way too much trouble for the average not-so-interested person.

    > Any god who would strike someone with cancer because of a smeared letter on a mezzuzah is not a god I want to know.

    But that’s not how those people see it. God is not punishing you for having a pasul mezuzah. It’s more mechanistic: just like when you drop something, it falls, (and it falling is not a punishment for you having dropped it), so too if your mezuzos are pasul, they won’t protect you from evil spirits, and the evil spirits will make bad things happen.

    Incidentally, if in fact God was a petty vindictive Being who would punish people for a smeared letter on their mezuzah, then that’s what He would be, and we would be well advised to obey Him, whether or not He were “a god I want to know.”

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  4. I disagree, G3. First, since when is orthodox theology, at least Ashkenazic, complex enough to deal with having evil spirits running around?

    Second, I disagree with your last claim. For me, the fundamental insight that took me away from religion was not atheism, but the recognition that ethics can exist for atheists. Since it can, it must be separate from God; hence, God can be judged, and is not the definition of good. There is merit, I think, in standing up to evil, even if it is infinitely powerful.

    Of course, there's always the contradiction that maybe if you stand up to God's evil, God will reward you. Or maybe He'll learn something.

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  5. > First, since when is orthodox theology, at least Ashkenazic, complex enough to deal with having evil spirits running around?

    Shedim. Dybukks. Ayin hara. The Satan/Yetzer Hara.

    Though you may be right that evil spirits don’t enter into the picture, and it’s more straightforward: damaged mezuzah = bad things happen. Still mechanistic though.

    > For me, the fundamental insight that took me away from religion was not atheism, but the recognition that ethics can exist for atheists. Since it can, it must be separate from God;

    No, just separate from BELIEF in God. People’s beliefs do not define reality. It is possible that atheists, while not believing in God, are nonetheless holding to God-given ethics.

    > Since it can, it must be separate from God; hence, God can be judged, and is not the definition of good.

    I was responding to the frequently-seen implication that if God is not omni-benevolent, that is a proof against His existence and/or a reason to ignore Him.

    An even bigger problem is that if morality has its own ontology, separate from the God Who created everything in existence, then it means that there is something that exists outside of God and His creations. Yet traditional theology insists that God is the Source of everything.

    > There is merit, I think, in standing up to evil, even if it is infinitely powerful.

    I’m a pragmatic guy. There may be merit in some idealistic sense, but it’s futile.

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  6. About all the prayer for sick people and so on - nobody's guaranteeing it but it couldn't hurt.

    EMTs always do CPR on a guy who's in cardiac arrest and they will continue doing It until exhaustion or a doctor "calls it". How often does it work? Almost never. Ask an emt. But it couldn't hurt and there is that rare success story.

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  7. Blowing out a match and farting in the bathtub also dont hurt...jp, you should try that next time you need something

    Lol

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  8. JP: The point was about ascribing the good things to God and the bad things not.

    I am glad you are comparing praying to CPR and I commend you for your conclusion: "How often does it work? Almost never."

    Need I say more.

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  9. No one's claiming more. This post is a straw man argument.

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  10. Its a strawman?!?!?! No it aint!

    People think that their prayers make some impact...they dont! Smple

    Not surprised you have trouble understanding that,,,,

    Ksil

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  11. Ksil, my little 40 year old with the emotional maturity of a 14 year old, have you ever seen someone come into the emergency room in cardiac arrest? He's dead. We know 98% chance he'll stay dead. But you'll see people frantically putting in IVs, breathing tubes, attacihing heart monitors, giving CPR, on the chance that this time it might help.

    No body goes around a half hour later saying "Look at what a fraud hospitals and doctors are! See - he's dead!"

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  12. JP: "No one's claiming more."

    Again, the point was about ascribing the good things to God and the bad things not.

    The OJ claim is that God is never to blame. What about all the gemoras that say you should check your deeds, do teshuvah or all the people telling you to check your mezuzahs? OJ thinking tells you to look at the fault within yourself first. And i guess people will always find something. It is a way to take the focus away from the real issue: Either God doesn't exist / there is no hashgacha pratis or He is a jerk.

    BTW: When will you change your name from Jewish Philosopher into Jewish Hashkofah-pusher? Philosophy is an academic field, obviously nothing for someone who doesn't think for himself.

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  13. Of course God is good to all and filled with kindness. But we screw up and suffer the consequences.

    What a bummer - actions have consequences. How terrible, how cruel.

    Isn't it outrageous when your doctor tells you that you're fat because you eat junk food and watch TV instead of eating salad and going to the gym? What a jerk. How dare he.

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  14. JP: So we agree He is a jerk. I am fine with that.

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  15. As a friend of mine puts it "The nicest thing you can say about god is that he doesn't exist."

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  16. "actions have consequences"

    this has been proven untue.

    but nice try

    ksil

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  17. if you're too immature to accept any responsibility for your behavior or to accept that our choices have consequences, then I guess people like doctors, rabbis, etc are horrible jerks. how dare they tell us what to do.

    All the whining of Dawkins and Hitchens about how awful God is, is the whining of a three year old who doesn't want to eat his peas and who wants to have ice cream for dinner. They've never grown out of that.

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  18. JP you still can't quite process the just of the original post.The point was really that people who are not simply religious but hold by magical thinking will typically ascribe any good outcome to God because of their chosen ritualistic action , but will not state that a bad outcome also comes from God. You , more consistently, declare that all outcomes come from God. Your religious perspective is more typically litvak/mitnaged. UK was referring to a more run of the mill hassidic type of thinking.

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  19. If I write a letter to the president asking for lower taxes, but my taxes remain the same, should I lose faith in Obama's existence?

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  20. I'll try another approach and see if you get it:

    1. A religious Litvish misnaged Jew gets cancer. His friends and family say: what a shame, smoking three packs a day and ignoring his doctor's advice caught up with him. Let's pray for him to have a refuah shlaimah.

    a. He lives- Thank G-d the chemotherapy did what it we prayed for , with G-d's help and a good doctor.

    b. He dies. Well, it's a shame . It was stage IV cancer. No prayer or medical attention was going to save him at that point. He should have listened years ago.

    2. Hasidic/magical thinking: He has cancer? Check the mezuzahs and his tfillin immediately! That's what probably caused his cancer! Give tzedakah in the name of Rebbe xyz.

    a. Cancer goes away- it was obviously a defective claf replaced or the segulah that healed him

    b. He dies of cancer. No comment is made regarding failure of said segulah.

    The posting isn't about failure of prayer so much as it is critical of segulot.

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  21. By the by, the efficacy if CPR is much higher then you indicate. Bystander CPR by laypeople has a 4.9% survival rate. Bystander CPR by a professional has a 9.2% survival rate. When coupled with an AED or thrombolytic (clot buster), the survival rates are much higher.

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  22. I'm talking about EMTs initiating CPR, which is probably the most common situation. They will always do it, even if getting a "save" is about a once in a lifetime surprise. And pounding on a big fat dead guy isn't my idea of fun. But it couldn't hurt.

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  23. EMT 's are considered health professionals and their success rate is 9.2%. Your data is unfounded.

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  24. Do actually know any EMTs? By the time the ambulance gets there chances are pretty slim. But we still always do it.

    By the same token, people participate in political protests, write letters to government leaders and so on. Do they ever get results? Maybe. It can't hurt.

    Same thing with praying, checking mezzuzas, whatever.

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  25. Gee, silly me. My five years of post graduate education in healthcare are irrelevant in the face of your proven ability to repeat the same argument incessantly. :-)

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  26. "All the whining of adults about how awful santa claus is, is the whining of a three year old who doesn't want to eat his peas and who wants to have ice cream for dinner. They've never grown out of that."

    I know! right? cant they see that santa exists and brings them presents every year down their chimney!

    just because they have not received a present since they were small children, its only beczasue they have been naughty, not nice! santa REALLY exists....trust me

    silly old man

    ksil

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  27. Inspired (yet still) IntellectualSeptember 22, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    How To Get Your Prayers Answered
    by Rabbi Noah Weinberg
    Do you feel like you're talking to a wall when you pray? Here are five key tools for getting your prayers answered. Let's get one thing straight: God wants to answer our prayers. He is our Father in Heaven, and we are His children. He loves us unconditionally.
    So why does it seem that God ignores so many prayers? And if He already knows what we want, why is prayer necessary in the first place?
    The Infinite Love
    Even those who stay far from a synagogue intuit the existence of God. As the saying goes, there are no atheists in a foxhole. When a guy is dug in and the enemy is coming, he will cry out: "Almighty, get me outta here! I want to live!"

    What is he really saying?
    "Dear God: Although I have ignored You for all these years, denied Your existence, and not appreciated all You have done for me, I'm in trouble now. And I know You're the only one Who can help."
    To pray properly, you have to understand that not only God loves you, but His love for you is infinite.
    God has given you eyes, ears, intelligence, life itself! Every morning, a Jew recites blessings of thanks to God for all the gifts He has bestowed upon us. These blessings remind us of how deeply God loves us.
    If we appreciate what God can do for us, it is crazy not to stay in touch.

    Why Do We Need To Pray?
    When we pray, of course, we are not pointing out anything new to God. He does not need us to remind Him of our needs. So why doesn't God just give without our asking?
    Because we need to pray. Prayer helps us refine and affirm what we want out of life. It's a process of maturity.
    If a billionaire father handed over unlimited cash on a silver platter, his child would grow up spoiled and irresponsible.
    So too, if God gave us everything automatically, we may never define for ourselves what we want in life. True, life would be easy. But we would not grow.
    Since God has our best interests at heart, He wants us to earn it. Because that's what will make us great.

    Why Do We Have Problems?
    God has all the right connections. He can find you the right spouse. He can solve your financial problems. So why in the world do we have all these problems?
    Because no matter how brilliant or powerful you are, you will never be able to live your children's lives for them. In fact, part of genuine love for your children is to allow them to branch out on their own, to be independent.
    If we were just robots, mechanically following every instruction, the world might be neat and tidy. But life would have neither significance nor meaning.

    God wants us to be independent, to think and make our own choices.
    God wants us to be independent, to think and make our own choices.
    We have the "free will" to make decisions that are eternally meaningful. We can choose to move away from God ― and He will let us do that. Not because He wants that to happen, but because He wants us to have independence ― even at the risk of it being misused. We may suffer the consequences, but it keeps our independence intact.

    Answer To Your Prayers
    Have you ever had a prayer answered?
    Stop for a moment and consider the implications...

    You live in a small town in Midwestern America. There is an extremely large and unsightly pothole in front of your house. For the last four months the local municipality has ignored your insistent requests to have it fixed. Finally, in an act of frustration, you call the White House and ask for the president. (Hey, it's worth a try.)
    To your utter amazement, the president himself gets on the phone. You quickly explain your problem. The president listens for a minute and then hangs up. You don't really expect anything to be done about it.

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  28. Inspired (yet still) IntellectualSeptember 22, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    Part 2)
    The next morning you look out your window and, lo and behold, the army corps of engineers is busy at work fixing your road. The President of the United States took your request seriously and sent in the troops to help!
    That is what it means to get your prayer answered.

    Now who is the one person who can always get through to the president?
    The president's son, of course.
    That is our relationship with God ― Father and child. Just as a parent fulfills a child's request, so too God answers prayers. The Infinite Genius Who created every molecule on this earth, can alter the course of existence in order to answer your prayer.

    To really talk to God, you need to know He is willing and able to do it all. Otherwise, you're only talking to your finite concept of God ― and not to our true Father in Heaven.

    The Prayer of an Atheist
    Here is a true story about a young man who got his prayers answered:
    Many people who visit Jerusalem are tourists who come to get a sense of Jewish culture and history. One day, a young tourist named Jeff was brought in to meet me at Aish HaTorah.
    "What are you doing?" I asked him.
    "I'm working for my MBA at Harvard University. And I'm an atheist."
    "Fantastic! A real atheist! Whoever was able to convince an atheist like you to speak to a rabbi like me deserves a medal."
    "Nah," Jeff says, "he doesn't deserve anything. I'll tell you how I came..."
    Jeff had been in Norway, visiting his Norwegian fiance. And he decided it was now or never: either he is going to come to Israel or he'll never make it.
    So he headed for Jerusalem and the Western Wall. He figured he would stop by the Wall to see some old stones. Yet upon his arrival he was amazed. He felt something heavy. He was moved.
    Jeff stood before the Wall, and made up an atheist's prayer. He looked at the stones and said:

    "God, I don't believe in You. As far as I know, You don't exist. But I do feel something. So if I'm making a mistake, I want You to know, God, I have no quarrel against You. It's just that I don't know that You exist. But God, just in case You're really there and I'm making a mistake, get me an introduction."
    Jeff finished his prayer, and one of the Aish HaTorah students who happened to be at the Wall, saw Jeff and thought, "Perhaps he'd be interested in learning some Torah."
    He tapped Jeff on the shoulder, startling him so much that he jumped three feet in the air. Jeff whirled around and shouted,
    "What in the blankety-blank-dash-bang do you want?!"
    "I'm sorry. I just want to know if you'd like to learn about God."
    That question hit Jeff like a two-by-four right between the eyes. He had just finished asking God for an introduction, and immediately someone was offering to introduce him to God.
    Jeff learned at Aish HaTorah for the next six weeks. He was a very serious student, and went back to the States with a commitment to continue learning. A year later, Jeff came back to Israel and told me the end of his story.
    During that previous summer he had been meandering through the cobblestone alleyways of the Old City when he saw a pretty, sweet, religious girl walk by. He said to himself, "Look at the charm of this Jewish woman. May the Almighty help me meet someone like this."
    One Shabbos morning during the next year, Jeff entered a synagogue in Boston for prayer services. Standing there was the same young woman he had seen in the Old City. He made his way over to her and said:
    "Excuse me, but I believe I saw you last summer in Jerusalem."
    She answered, "You're right. I saw you, too."
    They are now married and living in New Jersey.
    Remember Jeff's prayer. If you know any atheists, you can teach it to them. Because when you are sincere with God, your prayers are answered.
    The Almighty is near to all those who call unto Him in truth. (Psalms 145:18)

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  29. Cheesy is not the word. Seriously: if that makes you happy, go for it. All people with their heads screwed on move on in life.

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  30. Inspired (yet still) IntellectualSeptember 23, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    You shouldn't be so close-minded in life. It's always crucial to consider all views and vantage points. It's one thing to deny G-d, but if there is a G-d, if you become convinced, then it's duty to yourself to investigate and make decisions, practical ones which will be beneficial to your life. Just to accuse something as being "cheesy" is what we like to call a hit and run. ]

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  31. Hi 'Inspired', I am sorry for the rant but if someone just copies and pastes a cheesy, regurgitated Aish article in the comments in the hope to save the world instead of articulating himself what he thinks he believes in, sticking to facts, I get upset.

    There are many prayer / miracle stories in Christianity. Should I now pray to Jesus?

    Why are you assuming people are atheists just because they don't believe in what you believe?

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