כי לא מחשבותי מחשבותיכם

כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם, וְלֹא דַרְכֵיכֶם דְּרָכָי

Monday, March 29, 2010

Avadim Anachnu…

Today, I still feel like a slave when:
  • getting dressed and still putting on tzitzis and a kippah
  • on the way to work, I meet people asking me where I davven
  • at work, I walk around with a kippah and feel like an idiot
  • I have to be careful nobody sees me when buying my treif lunch
  • my child asks me about Hashem and I need to give an evasive answer
  • leading the Seder for 40 people and not believing the story happened anyway (or at least not the way it is written in the Torah)
  • leading in prayers when I don’t even know if I believe in the concept of a God (at least not the biblical God)
  • I am not supposed to shave on Chol haMoed although I feel it goes against the festive spirit
  • doing bitul chometz (who cares about the damn crumbs anyway?)
Dear fellow undercover kofers, my wish for the holiday season is: This year we are slaves, but next year we shall be free people!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Things to Reconsider before Frumming Out

I was asked by someone to compile a list of things one might want to contemplate before becoming orthodox. Here is my shortlist:

  1. The loss of freedom. Once you are frum, you have to get married (no sex allowed before marriage), God dictates what you are allowed to believe, think and do, you lose your identity (changing your name, wasting your talents), the Rabbis decide on important and unimportant matters.
  2. The role of the woman. Women are second degree citizens: they are not allowed to testify or to become a judge, their singing is considered 'nudity', what a woman owns belongs to her husband, only sons can inherit from their parents, man can have multiple women but not the other way around, etc. (More here.)
  3. Non-Jews. ‘Goyim’ are to be despised: the only reason why you should save them on Shabbat is because otherwise it might desecrate the name of God. And non-Jews don't have a neshama (Godly soul). (More here.)
  4. Apostates. People who rebel against orthodoxy can't be judges or bear testimony, going to secular courts is a sin, he should be buried only on the side of the graveyard, no kaddish is said for them. (More here.)
  5. Science. Jews have to believe that mankind was only created less than 6000 years ago and that the Torah was written by God, directly contradicting science that claims that modern humans are between 40'000-50'000 years old (see here) and that the Torah is a collection of edited human manuscripts (see here).
  6. Homosexuality. Homosexuality is an 'abomination' in the eyes of God, despite the fact that "The current literature and most scholars in the field agree that an individual's sexual orientation is not a matter of choice".
  7. BTs. Even after people become orthodox ('baalei teshuvah’ or BTs), they often  have problems finding a right shidduch (date) since they come from a non-frum background and will almost without exception will continue to be treated as 2nd class co-religionists.

Have you got something to add? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rabbi Slifkin’s Wake-up Call

Kol hakavod for Rabbi Slifkin for admitting that gedolim are out of touch with reality in his latest blog post (something most rational people already knew, of course):
I write this post with a heavy heart.
Over the last decade, the Gedolim of the Charedi world have done many things that, in the opinion of many, did not reflect well on their judgment. The ban on Making Of A Godol, the ban on my books, the financially devastating ban on the Lipa concert and subsequent abrupt reversal, etc.
While I maintain that serious wrongs were committed in these cases, I tried my best to explain the Gedolims' point of view to people. Hence my essay, "In Defense of my Opponents."
Then came Troppergate, which eclipsed them all. Where the real chillul Hashem was not that this menuval did what he did, but that this man, who was known for decades to be a menuval and manipulator, was given so much power and honor, and even after being publicly exposed was not publicly condemned, because of the millions of dollars that he gave to the yeshivos.
And nor was there any investigation into what improprieties (signatures on pashkevillim, false conversions, and who knows what else) were arranged by his money.
But now there is something that makes Troppergate look positively mild.
Rabbi Elior Chen of Beitar was indicted for some of the worst child abuse allegations ever. He fled to Brazil but was extradited back to Israel where he will stand trial. According to prosecution officials, the evidence against Chen is so overwhelming that there is absolutely no doubt that he will be convicted.
But recently, a letter appeared, signed by several of the Gedolim, asserting that they know Elior Chen to be a marbitz Torah and a righteous person and thus innocent of all charges, and asking people to support him!
At first, I did not post about this, because I couldn't bring myself to believe that these signatures of the Gedolim were authentic. As much as I had seen what I believed to be improprieties in the Gedolim affixing their names to things, surely they couldn't do this. I was inclined to agree with all the commentators at the afore-posted link who insisted that the signatures must have been faked. People close to the Gedolim insisted that the letter was not authentic.
But then a neighbor of mine wrote to Rav Chaim Kanievsky, asking him why he signed it. He received the following reply:

על כתב שרבותי חתומים גם אני חותם
"On a letter that my rabbis are signed on to, I also sign."
The implications of this sentence are so appalling that I can't even think of how to write about it in a way that will do justice to it.
I have always tried to write respectfully about the Gedolim, even when disagreeing with them strongly. But now I am honestly not sure if one should be respectful about the signing of this letter, especially when it is defended on the grounds that other rabbis signed it. The best limmud zechus I can think of is that, due to their intense dedication to staying in the Beis HaMidrash, the Gedolim are simply naive about the world and/or easily manipulated. But if that is the case, and it results in them signing letters such as this, then how are they suited for leadership positions? The fundamental belief of charedi society, that total dedication to Torah is what makes the ideal leader, is thereby exposed as hopelessly wrong. And even with this limmud zechus, one has to wonder how a Rav could attest with certainty to the innocence of someone who has been indicted for such terrible crimes, with one child suffering permanent brain damage and in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, merely because other rabbis say that he is innocent.
With the publication of the letter supporting Elior Chen, is there any way to justify the system of leadership in the charedi world?
One of the more interesting things of this post is Rabbi Slifkin wanting to believe that gedolim are infallible, until the point comes that this philosophy becomes so absurd that he finally gets it. This cognitive dissonance is also apparent in his other writings, where he tries to reconcile science with Judaism.
I can only hope that, when the moment comes that Rabbi Slifkin finally realizes that OJ is irrational as well, he will be as honest about it as he has been with regards to our ‘gedolim’.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Moral Musings

OK, so I don’t give a shit about kosher anymore (not really true, I am still uncomfortable eating pork / shrimp, although I tried it all before). Now how do I behave at home?
I still would like our household to be strictly kosher so that all my family and friends could still eat at my place. I am assuming that most of them would still eat at our home since my wife will probably remain orthodox.
But what happens if I make a mistake? If I would wash the milchig with the fleishig sponge? Or if I would spill the proverbial milk in the chicken soup? Will I call up my LOR? Or will I just hide?
Now, this is a real exercise of morality: I have no commander-in-chief threatening me to burn me in hell, to cut me off from my people or make my life miserable with his Supernatural Powers.
So why should I care?
Moral decision: I have decided out of respect for my family and friends to remain makpid as before. However, in cases that I clearly know that there is no problem (e.g. not hot, soap used, etc.), I will exercise my right for sanity.
But there are plenty of other questions: If I don’t wear tzitzis, should I criticize my son for not wearing them? I decided not to. But what do I tell him if he asks me why I am not wearing them?
Would be curious to know about your OTD moral dilemmas.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Coming Out to my Kofer Work Colleague

After years, I finally outed myself to L., an Israeli colleague at work who originally told me about the Daat Emet site. He did not seem to be totally surprised and we had a great conversation today about it.

Although L. grew up non-religious, he does sometimes go to shul and he wants some basic Jewish education for his children. His wife converted and they do keep some standard of kosher at home. I admire his candid approach: he doesn't believe in the theology and halacha, whereas he does value the beauty of certain traditions Judaism has to offer. I could perhaps fit him in the mesorati corner, however, he doesn't seem to be the guy who would appreciate labels (like me).

I hope to post more about our discussions in the course of time, today we discussed 'chinuch'.

L. confided to me that it was very difficult for him that his son does not want to sing Ma Nishtana on Pesach, whereas he enjoys singing Christian nursery rhymes at home. For people kofering out, the question of how you would like to raise your kids is enormously important.

The way things are looking now, I will definitely not send my children to a haredi school (although my oldest son currently goes to a haredi kindergarten). But I don't want them to be 'Ameratzes' either. The alternatives would either be the local 'officially religious but not really' school (not much acclaimed for its academical or Jewish studies standards) or a non-Jewish school and make sure to educate the kids after school time.

However, both options would have as a prerequisite that I'd come out of the closet to not just my wife and some people in my closest circle, but to the rest  of the outside world as well.

Nu, that day will hopefully come in due time, 'im yirtzeh Hashem'!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Quote of the (Sun)day

"Any god that forbids masturbating, is a wanker himself" - Undercover Kofer.

In other news, I just brought my frum friend to the hospital, after he took an overdose of sleeping pills (amongst others).

If anyone ever  tells me again that being frum makes one happy, I may have to tell him / her to prepare getting used to a handicapped parking spot.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blogger rocks!

Blogger rolled out new features and templates. So how do you like the new layout?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Wife’s Radio Silence

Since I have ‘outed’ to my wife a few months ago, there has been almost total radio silence on the issue of me losing my faith. I did not tell her about me eating treif outdoors (and indoors somewhat, but I don’t want to treif up the kitchen) and I guess that would be hard for her. but I also don’t want her to hear through someone else.

So I am wondering why she does not want to talk about this important issue.

I can think of some answers:

  • She has to much on her head with the household, the kids, her 50% job, all sorts of other worries.
  • She is happy for things to be a little less frum (remember, I was always the ‘shvartzer’ of the two).
  • She is afraid that talking about it may  make things worse.
  • She just wants me to be happy. But then again, she knows it is a cause of unhappiness for me to live in both worlds.

What do you, dear readers, think?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different…

I received an e-mail from a young lady whose brother is ‘flipping out™’. Her parents, trying to understand what is going on in their son’s mind, would like to get into contact with someone who can explain this BT phenomenon to them in their own secular terminology.

The primary idea is not to convince their son to leave the OJ idea, but how to deal with their son and to understand ‘WTF is going on’.

Her parents live in Orange County, California. Since I live in Europe (time difference) and since I can’t talk at work or home about these issues, I am looking for volunteers to lend an ear to these people and possibly advise them in some areas.

If you are interested and kind enough to help out, please contact me at undercoverkofer (at) gmail.com.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Shoalin veDorshin

30 days before Chag haPesach, let’s take a candid look at the historicity of Yetziat Mitzrayim:

I think I know the answer…

Friday, March 5, 2010

Maaseh Shelo Haya

What are the chances of this story being true?

An Orthodox Jew from New Jersey was involved in a car accident and accidently killed an old non-Jewish man. Although the courts found the Jewish man not guilty, he could not carry the the pains of the guilt that he killed an old man. It gave him no peace and it caused him to lose his appetite and was unable to sleep for weeks.

He decided to seek counsel from the revered sage, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky Shlita of Bnei Brak, and wrote him a letter asking the Rav what tikun can he do because he accidently killed a non-Jew.

The Rav wrote him an answer that included one word, "Amalek".

The Jew did not understand this answer and continued suffering with sleepless nights. At some point he decided to move away from his town to begin a new life. He began searching for a new house and found a house that appealed to him. The owners of the apartment told him that they are eager to get rid of this house because they inherited from their dead father that was killed in a car accident.

After short investigation, turns out the apartment belonged to the non-Jew who was accidentaly killed by the Jew. In the basement of the house, the Orthodox Jew found materials belonging to the old non-Jew man. He was shocked to find a picture of the old man during his youth proudly wearing an SS uniform, standing next to Hitler, yimach shemo.

It turned out that this old man was an SS officer in the Nazi army and after the war, he came to the United States and hid his past. The SS Nazi Officer also kept other documents, including all the names of the Jews he personally murdered.

When he read the names of the Jewish people that were murdered, he found both of his parent's name on this list.

HaShem avenged their blood.

It was then that he understood Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky Shlita's answer that contained one word, "AMALEK".

Why you should be skeptical:

  • It looks like this was printed in a frum newspaper. That should already be enough.
  • The story is not even brought as an item by itself, just as an anecdote.
  • No names and real details are mentioned.

I imagine that the frum readers will learn from this (besides the obvious emunas chachomim propaganda) is a confirmation of their beliefs that all non-Jews are out there to get us.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Joanna: The First OTD Porn Star (As Far As I Know!)

dsc_5790  Now there is Off the Derech and there is Way Off the Derech. Joanna Angel is a pornstar celebrity who still dooesn’t eat on Yom Kippur, wants to marry a Jewish guy and hopes her children will have a bar / bat mitzvah.

Haaretz did a great interview with this renegade Orthodox lady:

The lively, giggling Angel says of herself that she began rebelling against convention at an early age. She grew up in New Jersey, the daughter of an Orthodox Israeli mother who had immigrated to the United States together with her husband, an American Jewish student she had met in Jerusalem. "My home was very religious." Angel says. "I went to a day school, and of course we kept Sabbath and were kosher at home. I never ate hametz on Passover and I always fasted on Yom Kippur. I still do that. I don't do all the rest, but I can't give those two things up."

Her rebellion started at an early age:

At the age of 13, Joanne started to move away from religion, and found herself drawn to the punk scene at her junior high school. She pierced her navel in ninth grade, something she managed to conceal from her mother for two years, with the secret being revealed at a highly inopportune moment. "It was Yom Kippur and we went to do tashlikh [ritual discarding of sins, in the form of crumbs, into a body of water] at some lake in New Jersey near the temple. When I raised my arm to throw the bread into the water, my shirt came up and my mother saw the piercing. She got really angry and she cried," she recalls.

Surprising enough, her parents are accepting of her:

Angel's swift entry into the porn world and the popularity she has earned among fans and the media upgraded her status quickly, but success took its toll. Many members of her extended family shunned her, and pressured her parents to do the same. This did not happen. "But today I can no longer go to temple. Everyone knows what I do and it's embarrassing," she says.

Her parents have also paid a price but, according to her, the decision to stand with her has served to make the family stronger. "My parents refused to disown me, and now some of the relatives who told them to do that are not longer speaking to them. When I saw the way my parents defended me, it brought me much closer to them. They say: 'We didn't tell her to do this, but she's our daughter, and we love her,'" Angel says.

Nonetheless, Angel says that her mother - with whom she remains close - does not approve of her occupation. "My mother worries about me a lot. You know, she's a Jewish mother and if she doesn't hear from me, she gets very worried," she says. According to her, her father admires her entrepreneurship, whereas her mother is trying to persuade her at least to stop appearing in the films. "I tell her 'No,' because that's the most fun part of my work. Running a business and dealing with checks and numbers, hiring people and firing people - that's really boring stuff. When I can simply have sex in front of a camera, that's great. It's great being the center of attention," she says.

Whow! To each his own, but I hope my kids will stay off this ‘derech’ as well.