Saturday, March 19, 2011

Advice for a Teenaged Modern Orthodox Skeptic

I am a 16 year old boy who goes to a modern orthodox high school. I have been religious my whole life but am very skeptical about Judaism and God's existence as a whole. A few months ago, I hit the breaking point and for a few weeks I did not keep kosher or shabbos. I spoke with my parents about it and they were heartbroken.

I thought about it for a while and I decided that I will finish up high school and go to my Israel year and then if I am still not satisfied with Judaism I will just live my life free of overbearing laws that make no sense and just go crazy in college.

This leads to my question. When i learn gemara and chumash and what not I have a hard time taking it seriously. So my question is that what in Judaism is actually real and what is just made up, from an atheist perspective at least. For instance, were the Jews actually ever in the desert? Did the forefathers really exist? What about more modern things like the Channukah and Purim story and the wars in the times of navi'im?

The 2nd part of my question is, so lets say there is no god, were the prophets and rabbis like rashi and rambam just delusional old men?

thank you for taking time to read and i eagerly await your response by email or maybe a post on the blog.

Sincerely,
biding my time


Hi "biding",

I'll respond by blog so that other people can contribute answers as well and so that other kids in your situation might be able to read it.

I sympathize with your situation -- that sounds hard. I personally didn't start being really skeptical until college, when I was already out of the house. My parents were also heartbroken, but since I wasn't living under their roof, there were fewer complications. We do have a pretty good relationship to this day, though. I'm sure they'd still prefer I be religious, but it's not really an issue between us anymore. We just don't really talk about it.

It sounds reasonable to finish up high school where you are if that's what you want to do. As for Israel, I'd do some thinking about what you're trying to get out of it. Some yeshivas are intellectual, some are for partying, and some specialize in making people frum out. It can be pretty tough I think if you go to one that doesn't fit. A lot of people end up just hanging out with friends or partying, so if that's what you're into it might not matter that much. I was kind of introverted and not so into partying, so even though my yeshiva wasn't a good fit for me (too right-wing) I mostly just kept to myself and read books all year. It kind of sucked. Something I wish I'd considered more seriously was doing some kind of joint program like the one at Bar-Ilan, which is coed. You can still do some Orthodox stuff for your own sake or your parents', and you get the experience of living in Israel (based in secular Tel Aviv instead of Jerusalem) but you also get more of a college-like experience. Or, of course, you could just head straight to college.

As for "going crazy" in college, if that's what you decide to do, try to be smart about it. :-) Just because you don't believe in Orthodoxy's rules doesn't mean that you have to be some kind of crazy hedonist. Just look at Charlie Sheen to see where that gets you -- it looks fun, but it's probably not the best way to lasting happiness and healthiness. I think some level of experimentation is probably a good idea for most people, but just be smart about it. If you go that route, educate yourself about safe sex, try to have some real relationships, don't kill yourself with alcohol, and try to use other drugs responsibly if you choose to use them.

Onto the questions. I don't think there's a singular "atheist perspective," so I just try to go with what the actual experts on a subject believe. You can usually just look something up on Wikipedia for some pointers.

For example, on the "Were the Jews ever in the desert?" question, Wikipedia offers:
While a Moses-like figure may have existed in Transjordan in the mid-late 13th century BCE, archaeology cannot prove or disprove his existence, and the "overwhelming" archaeological evidence of the largely indigenous origins of Israel "leaves no room for an Exodus from Egypt or a 40-year pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness."[20] For this reason, most archaeologists have abandoned the archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus as "a fruitless pursuit."[21] A century of research by archaeologists and Egyptologists has found no evidence which can be directly related to the Exodus narrative of an Egyptian captivity and the escape and travels through the wilderness,[16] and it has become increasingly clear that Iron Age Israel - the kingdoms of Judah and Israel - has its origins in Canaan, not Egypt:[22][23]


If you're really interested, of course, you won't stop at Wikipedia but will follow the references to primary sources.

It's really not possible to rule out the existence of, for example, the forefathers, but suffice it to say there doesn't seem to be a good secular reason to believe that they are anything more than literary/mythical creations. The important thing to realize is that the majority of secular scholars believe the chumash was written by multiple authors over a long period of time and put together somewhere around 600-450 BCE, over 500 years after Moses would have existed. So the validity of the text as a historical document has to be understood in that context.

The story of Chanukkah seems to be at least "based on a true story" in that the Temple obviously existed and there was a war, etc. There is some scholarly disagreement on the nature of that war. See Wikipedia for more information. As for Purim, secular scholars seem to think that Megillat Esther is basically a historical novella and point to various historical inaccuracies in the text.

I think it's possible to continue to study and even enjoy chumash and gemarah on an intellectual level even if you don't think that they represent the truth, but I'm sure it's not for everybody, so I'd just treat it like any other subject I didn't really care about as far as school goes.

The second part of your question asks about the prophets and rabbis. With regard to prophets, some scholars hypothesize that Ezekial, for example, may have suffered from a form of epilepsy, but that's really just guesswork as far as I'm concerned. There are of course many mental illnesses or drug-induced states that we know cause people to act the way the prophets are said to have acted. I have a neighbor, for example, who can talk for hours in a very manic state about all kinds of visions and wild experiences she has had. I'm not a doctor, but she appears to me to be schizophrenic. It could also be that prophets were normal people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and that the stories about them were just exaggerated and embellished.

I don't think it's fair to call rabbis like Rashi or the Rambam delusional, in the sense of the word that implies mental illness. Orthodox Rabbis today aren't delusional, they just believe things that I don't think are true. I assume that the same is true of Rashi and the Rambam, although they at least have the excuse that they lived before the scientific revolution. It's fun to think about if the Rambam, who was obviously a brilliant man interested in philosophy, would have become an atheist if he were born in the last couple of centuries, but there's really no way to know.

Anyway, I hope I've been helpful. Good luck in getting through the next few years and making some big decisions. It might be helpful to see a psychologist to help you think through everything. I advise even adults who become skeptics to consider seeking therapy just because leaving Orthodoxy and all the things that go with that (family issues, big changes in personal philosophy and the meaning of life, etc.) can sometimes be hard to work through on your own. I've found it helpful myself.

Feel free to write to me again if you have any questions, etc.

60 comments:

sos said...

JA, you are a good guy. That was far more sensitive a response then I could have imagined up.

I would advise this kid to not leave these changes until college though. These sort of things, including the family strain, can take a lot of time and energy. No reason to drag down to drag down your GPA in first year. I think it is better to be honest with yourself and slowly introduce the changes over time.

Ichabod Chrain said...

Agree that it's basically a good response and also agree with sos.
If the writer is feeling the way he is, he might want to rethink whether it's worth going for a year in an Israeli yeshiva. If he feels this way now, he might find a year in a yeshiva to be a waste of time, not to mention a waste of his parents' money.

If he's curious enough to raise the question, then I'm assuming that he'd be curious enough to do some research on his own. There are probably literally tons of books and all kinds of blogs that touch on the questions he asked. For more info about ancient Israel, he might want to read William Dever's and Israel Finklestein"s books to start. There's also Who Wrote the Bible by Richard Friedman, Some Mistakes of Moses by Robert Ingersoll, Treatise on the Gods by Mencken, Is It God's Word? by Joseph Wheless (on the internet at infidels.org) and Bondage of the Mind by RD Gold. Those are just the ones I recall reading, but he could easily find others through Amazon, or by doing a subject search in his library catalog for "Judaism (or Old Testament), controversial literature."

Another place to look at is Daas Hedyot's archives. Hedyot seems to have had a similar experience as the writer, and some of his early posts might be helpful. Onionsoupmix also often raises some interesting points, but she tends to focus on Lubavitch.

If he wants to read up on the broader issue of atheism, he might want to start with Hitchens' and Dawkins' books. If he's interested in the philosophical angle, he can try blogs such as Butterflies and Wheels and Secular Outpost.

Baruch Spinoza said...

I hope this boy ends up reading my response.

1) I would advise you not go to yeshiva. I went to college immediately after graduating high school. I am so so happy to know that I did not have to go through a year or two years in yeshiva, looking at it rectroactively. I know that if I been in yeshiva I would have wasted a year or two of my life practicing in something I no longer believe at all. The fact that I spend that year or two doing something productive, as going to college, made me much happier looking back at the experience.

2) If you are skeptical and demanding reason and evidence for Judaism, then I assure you that you would probably never find it. The chances are that you would, if you stay on the path to skepticism, end up being an atheist. Not that there is anything wrong with that! You can live a happy normal life with many friends around you. This means that going to yeshiva will not help you find the deeper truth to Judaism - as there is no deeper truth to it. So I think you would be unhappier if you do end up deciding to go to yeshiva (as Israel is about emotional feelings rather than intellectual arguments).

3) I disagree with JewishAtheist about Rabbi's being delusional. Yes they are delusional. Sorry if that is a harsh word to use but that is the word that is used for people who believe in false ideas - they are delusional. I am not saying they are bad people. I know they honestly really believe in what they believe. But they are wrong, and so their ideas are in the end delusional. But we all have delusional beliefs about something, that does not make us bad people.

4) This is probably my most important message. Sadly, it took me a long time to realize this. Do not respect authority. And by authority here I mean parents and teachers. Here is the truth about parents and teachers. They are not very smart as you think they are. They have a lot of wrong ideas, they just happen to be older than you, and probably more experienced, that is about it. They are not really smart. If you have not realized this now one day you will not respect your parents as much as you did once. You will realize they do not have any answers to your questions. So my main message for you is not to just take anything parents or teachers tell you, they are quite clueless themselves. Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying go agaist your parents. You should love them and maintain a good relationship with them (assuming they deserve it) but do not respect them as a barometer of truth - when it comes to philosophy they are just as ignorant as most people. Think for yourself by listening to the rational argument of other people.

Anonymous said...

I think my parents were smart about life, though at the time I wasn't that impressed. They managed to stay alive during the period 1914-45, and kept their balance and humor during a very dangerous and difficult period.I doubt if I could have done that so easily.

For me the difference between frum and not is rather small. Frum requires more time to go to shul etc. but there is a social pickup and it's easier though more expensive to raise kids. My main point is that intellectually it's not a big deal. The main thing is to stay open to the world, read and learn.In fact there is something valuable in traversing many worlds, as one is forced to do when one is Orthodox. Many who have become not frum enjoy at least in imagination being in a frum as well as a secular world, and of course vice versa.

There are 3 worlds in play. A social world, where I urge you never to leave your family and friends even when you are making new friends who are secular. Similarly with the two intellectual world of Torah and the arts and sciences. Keep these two points fixed and whether you end up going to selichos or not is not going to determine your life.

jewish philosopher said...

"if I am still not satisfied with Judaism I will just live my life free of overbearing laws that make no sense and just go crazy in college"

There it is as usual - drop of Judaism not for science or truth but for mindless hedonism.

Jewish Atheist said...

He wrote me back to clarify that by "going crazy " he meant like going to McDonalds or to a Friday night football game.

Eli said...

Regarding your question about how could Rashi and other geniuses be so wrong: it's the power of their upbringing. The force of indoctrination is so powerful and through, that it shuts down certain pathways in the brain to certain ideas and truths that are in essence obvious. The proof to that is that, as I'm sure you notice, the child of a devout Christian is almost always a devout Christian, and you can replace that with any religion. Do you think there weren't great men and women who weren't convinced that Islam was the truth?
On another note is that our brains are somewhat wired to believe in a higher power and/or superstitious beliefs.

evanstonjew said...

Eli...this isn't historically correct. Before Spinoza and his generation no one had the thought that a transcedental God did not exist. Somehow they just couldn't imagine this; maybe in the same way that emunah peshuta in the face of modernism can be held to be true only in a way that sticks out as an isolated set of beliefs apart from our core scientific and common sense beliefs. Why it is so difficult to think outside certain paradigms is an excellent question with different competing answers.

David Fryman said...

"so lets say there is no god, were the prophets and rabbis like rashi and rambam just delusional old men?"

No. Absolutely not. As a general rule (and this is true for all great thinkers, not just religious ones), assume that scholars widely believed to be brilliant are at least far more intelligent than you are.

Your question implies that you haven't studied the prophets, Chazal, Rashi, & Rambam nearly enough to develop an informed, sophisticated position - which is okay because you're young. I submit that even an atheist has plenty to learn from our tradition. Skepticism doesn't justify dismissing thousands of years of tradition as delusional, superstitious, or silly.

I have to completely disagree with Spinoza (not such a surprise, I guess):

"they are delusional. . . . that is the word that is used for people who believe in false ideas - they are delusional." Really? Any person who believes something that's false is delusional? All of us, as human beings, are occasionally wrong and thus, believe some things to be true that are, in fact, false. So, according you to, we are all delusional. I don't see how that's the slightest bit helpful.

"Do not respect authority. And by authority here I mean parents and teachers. . . . They are not very smart as you think they are. They have a lot of wrong ideas"

That's, at best, a gross generalization. You should always respect authority, even when you disagree. You, like everyone else, are limited in your intellectual and rational abilities. It makes sense to take conventional wisdom seriously - it's conventional for a reason. It may turn out to be wrong, even terribly wrong. But you'd be arrogant and foolish to dismiss all those around you, especially those who have done a lot more thinking than you have.

Regarding making changes in your life, my advice is this. Whatever life changes you decide to make, make them slowly and deliberately. If you're not comfortable with some aspects of Judaism, maybe you're comfortable with others. If you want to explore, make sure not to forget the way home. Even the best among us occasionally get lost.

(For what it's worth, I'd give the same advice to a secular teenager exploring religion.)

Jon said...

I agree with Spinoza, do not go to Israel for a year. If you feel you will be pressured to do so, try to see if you can convince your parents to let you go to a study abroad program at Hebrew University or any other institution in Israel. Kiruv Klowns are like leeches in Israel; if there is even a hint that you are even skeptical (while in a yeshiva), chances are you will have an annoyance on your hands.

I was in the same situation as you. It gets better in college.

the kid who wrote the question said...

so im the kid who wrote the email

1. @jewish philosopher.
if i was thinking about leaving judaism just for pleasure then i would have done it already, and would probobly not bother carefuly trying to figure it all out and dedicate the next 3 years to doing just that.

2. people are mostly commenting about the isreal issue
going to isreal puts me in a very awkward situation.
my parents force all there kids to go to isreal so not going is not an option. the thing is though that i feel like it is only fair to give judaism one fianl shot and going to isreal and at least having an open mind to flipping out is the best way i can think off. however, at the same time i if i do become some sort of atheist then isreal will turn out to be nothing more then a waste of time. i probobly will end up doign somethign liek teh bar ialn yeshiva/ college thing.

3. i am sure that the philosophers such as ramban and rambam were very smart people but i am not convinced the prophets had there heads on staright.
if there is no god that means that they were just hearing voices in there heads and predicting the end of days without any real reason. sounds kind of skitzo to me

4. when all the dust settles, if i am an atheist and in college then i am not going to become some shrooms-doing, partying maniac, rather just try some of the things that i never had a chance to. like a cheeseburger.

5. last but not least, if i look into my future it just looks alot brighter if i settle on atheism. i would be forced to do things my self, rather then relying on god to take care of the for me. i would be able to be myself free of restrictions. and most importantly i would have to live life to the max because there wouldn't be another life for me to fall back on. ( keep in mind that is a pretty objective view because i am not settled on either yet)

Orthoprax said...

To the kid who wrote the question,

You may be interested in thinking about the wide middle ground between atheism and Orthodoxy and between following strict Halacha and simple hedonism. You shouldn't be trying to decide between two extremes when it may be more worthwhile and appropriate to find a comfortable middle ground for yourself.

I was in your shoes once and I found my comfortable middle ground.

Jon said...

Just to point out, the actual text of the Old Testament never promises an afterlife for all Jews (you can wiggle your way around and say Aaron and his ancestors have an afterlife, but even that is stretching it)

the kid who wrote the question said...

@orthoprax
its not about mindless hedonism and thats not even what it would lead to, but what do you mean by a middel ground? im not exactly sure how half orthodox jew and half atheist would work

Baruch Spinoza said...

Hello Kid,

1) Do not be afraid of taking an extreme position. I hear people (like Orthoprax) constantly saying not to go to one extreme. This is what I call the 'moderate fallacy'. The idea that the truth must always lie between the two extremes. Of course, the obvious self-contradiction with such an idea is that the moderateration argument is itself an extreme argument for all positions other than itself - so it kinda self-defeats itself. Sometimes moderation is good, sometimes taking an extreme is good. I am an extremist as an atheist. I do not say "oh there might be a God, or there might not", I just say "I do not believe in one". I take one extreme. And why is that wrong to do? So if people tell you that being an atheist is extremist just happily ask them 'so what?'.

2) Your parents do not own you. You are self-autonomous and you can make your own decisions in your life. Your parents have no right to push you into Israel if you do not want to. Remember, as I said before, parents are not exactly the smartest of people, so it is okay to disagree with them and challenge what they tell you. Really think over about going to Israel, I think you will deeply regret it in the future. In Israel they will not use rational arguments to pursaude you but emotional appeals to try to win you over.

3) Saying that atheism and hedonism go together is not true at all. I myself have given up Judaim for almost three years now. And to this very day I have never eaten a cheeseburger, never drink, do not smoke, and do not do drugs. The only hedonistic 'sinful' activities that I pursue is masturbation to gay porn - but I used to do that when I was semi-Orthodox also.

4) Most importantly. Whatever you choose is NOT SUPPOSED TO BE about how comfortable/happy you are with it. We must all pursue the truth where it will lead us. We must abandon beliefs that we find wrong and constantly question the ones that we hold. Would you rather be happier and live in a lie, or take the position that you find to be the most correct and live less happy? Remember saying that the theist is happier than the atheist is as saying the drunk man is happier than a sober one. Happiness is not supposed to be your measure of truth.

Shlomoh Sherman said...

Hello Young Man
You have arrived at the critical point of "what's true" sooner in life than most of us. I didn't get to that point until I was in my mid 50s.
I was a BT and was Orthodox for 22 years, and then I dropped Orthodoxy. After that, I never bothered to worry about whether there is a God or not and the stories in our scriptures appeared to me to be a wonderful collection of the ethnic mythology of our tribe. I never threw out the baby with the bathwater however. That is, I stopped being frum; I didn't stop being Jewish. I really still enjoy hanging out with my frum brethren. I have an orthodox daughter and grand daughter and i have friends who still observe SHABBAT and CHAGIM, and I still observe those holidays and sometimes even shabbat. My inner beliefs about the "realities" behind existence don't occupy my time. It's enough for me that the Jewish People has a religion which I love and honor. AHAVAT YISRAEL is the most important MITSVAH of all. You can write me at kingsolnew@yahoo.com
Shlomoh
PS: It's probably NOT a good idea for you to go to YESHIVAH

Orthoprax said...

Kid,

"its not about mindless hedonism and thats not even what it would lead to, but what do you mean by a middel ground? im not exactly sure how half orthodox jew and half atheist would work"

I didn't say mindless hedonism, but simple hedonism where you assimilate and become like any typical secular American.

What I mean by middle ground is that I find it difficult to believe that someone raised in an Orthodox environment could find nothing worthwhile in terms of tradition or philosophy that they would want to take with them as they go through life even if they find fault in traditional doctrines. You don't have to stop observing Shabbos in some manner even if you don't believe God commanded you to observe it.

Orthoprax said...

Baruch,

"Do not be afraid of taking an extreme position. I hear people (like Orthoprax) constantly saying not to go to one extreme."

There are a thousand shades of grey between Orthodoxy and atheism, it doesn't make sense to choose among the extremes without considering what lies between.

By the way, I tried posting on your blog but it wouldn't sitck.

Jewish Atheist said...

orthoprax:

I didn't say mindless hedonism, but simple hedonism where you assimilate and become like any typical secular American.

That's a ridiculous characterization of the "typical secular American."

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"That's a ridiculous characterization of the "typical secular American.""

I don't think so. Pursuit of physical pleasure and material goods is the driving force in American society.

Jewish Atheist said...

It seems kind of dismissive to me. You act as if secular Americans don't care about family and altruism.

It's also kind of silly to talk about "American society" in this context, since most Americans are believers.

ksil said...

JA, why you getting huffy with OP on his sugegstion?

It seems to have merit - modern orthodoxy, or conservative or reform could be an option for this kid.

there are lots of benefits to being part of any oft hose communities

the choice should not be black hat charedi or complete secularized american

Jewish Atheist said...

ksil:

I didn't say anything about his suggestion, other than questioning his characterization of secular Americans. Obviously, "the kid" should check out his options if he still wants to be part of organized Judaism in some fashion. I looked briefly and even went to a Reconstructionist service once, but it wasn't for me.

I don't see an intellectual atheist being satisfied with Conservative Judaism, let alone Modern Orthodoxy, but anything's possible, I guess. I confess I don't really get what makes Orthoprax tick.

ksil said...

sorry JA, that was Baruch who got huffy, not you - i apoligize.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"It seems kind of dismissive to me. You act as if secular Americans don't care about family and altruism."

They may but I would still say that simple self-interest is supreme.

In any event, the issue is awfully tangential.

tommy said...

Archaeologists haven't discovered any evidence of a mass migration across Sinai. As JA states, it appears that Hebrew society was largely an internal development.

However, just like Troy, these Biblical stories may contain elements of historical truth. There was a small but continuous influx of "Habiru," often fugitives and runaway slaves, entering Canaan from Egypt over many centuries according to Egyptian records. It's even possible that some of the stories of Biblical miracles may be explained by events much earlier than these; namely, what may have occurred around the era the Hyksos occupied Egypt:

These Hyksos, most of whom were West Semites (and many of whom bore Hebrew-sounding names), entered Egypt during a time of severe drought in the Mideast. (Does that sound like the story of Abraham?) They gradually gained political dominance over the land. (Does that sound like the story of Joseph?) But they were eventually chased out of Egypt by the native royalty straight into the Levant. (Does that sound like a pharaoh "who knew not Joseph" and the story of Moses?) It's easy to see how, several centuries after the fact-- these two kinds of "Exodus" events, expelled invaders and runaway slaves--may have been conflated in tribal memory, especially when remembering the runaway slave stuff, and forgetting the hostile takeover stuff, makes you the victim.

Around the era of the Hyksos, there was a massive eruption on the island of Santorini in the eastern Mediterranean four times as powerful as Krakatoa. It may have caused dramatic and unusual events like the parting of the Sea of Reeds and it certainly would have been remembered for generations by any group of people who experienced it.

The Santorini eruption led to the collapse of Minoan civilization and to significant population movements in the region. For example, many archaeologists suspect the Philistines were either Minoan refugees or seafaring Anatolians who took advantage of the power vacuum in the Mediterranean left by the collapse of Minoan seapower to pirate, plunder, and colonize. Incidentally, many Philistine names appear to have an Indo-European origin.

Along with improper remembrance of past events, historical truth had to contend with later redactors, especially kings and priests anxious to weave a national narrative for a people with a messy history.

Baruch Spinoza said...

"I don't think so. Pursuit of physical pleasure and material goods is the driving force in American society.":

It is the driving force for most people, that is what we are made to be through natural selection. What makes Americans so unique? Europeans also love physical pleasure (and there is nothing wrong with that).

"It seems to have merit - modern orthodoxy, or conservative or reform could be an option for this kid.":

Modern forms of Judaism are even dumber than Orthodox Judaism. At least Orthodox Jews stick consistently to their beliefs unlike the weak-minded reformed believers that jump around whatever it most convenient for them.

None of Judaism makes any sense to any one who is a skeptic. If this kid is a skeptic then none of Judaism will make sense to him. He certainly should remain part of his Jewish community if he finds more comforting and wants to be around friends, but he should not dumb himself down to accept beliefs he cannot accept.

"the choice should not be black hat charedi or complete secularized american":

Oh Science help me, is this the moderation argument again? Again in the same comment section?

Hillary wants to cut off two fingers, Monica one finger, and Bill does not want to cut off any fingers. Do we go with Bill, oh no, he is an extremist. The moderate position here is Monica so we should cut off one finger.

Besides why do you treat secular Americans as a bad thing? Warren Buffet was a secular American and he is a very good person. There is nothing about secular Americans whatsoever.

"They may but I would still say that simple self-interest is supreme.":

And what about Europeans? I think you should move to Europe to realize that modernized people are essentially the same everywhere. I do not see why you are singling out Americans. I guess if you said stuffing our fat faces with excessive food is really an American trait, but when it comes to other pleasures it is kinda universal.

Orthoprax said...

"I do not see why you are singling out Americans."

I'm not really. I just assumed the kid was American.

scott said...

You're sixteen years old, and its great that you're thinking. I understand your concerns and I too would feel very confused and torn if I was in your situation. When I was sixteen years old I didn't really think much about religion, and I only started questioning things later in life. I think from an intellectually honest perspective you are correct in considering studying in Israel for the year. I don't know why everyone's telling you not to go to Yeshiva. You're questions about the Rambam and the prophets show that you are not very sure of yourself, and that is okay. You should use your year in Israel to give Orthodoxy another chance; you'll be exposed to lots of different types of Judaism and fresh outlooks, and living in Israel for a year is a great experience even from a non-religious perspective. You don't have to worry now about whether to take an extreme position or if you should settle for a moderate one; if you continue questioning things and prodding both sides, you will begin to shape your beliefs better. But make sure to not just spend your time on atheist websites, give both sides a chance in order to make an intelligent, informed decision.

sewa mobil said...

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Ari said...

@ "The Kid"

I agree with Scott's comment. I'm surprised people whom I consider to be intellectually honest would tell you to avoid yeshiva. People who say things like that are usually scared you may learn something there that you like and agree with.
I say go to yeshiva, keep an open mind and enjoy the year.
And remember this, things that you think now are absolutely true, there is a very good chance that in 10 years from now you'll think the exact opposite.
I'm a very happy orthodox Jew living in Israel. I've struggled at times with my beliefs, but I'm in a very comfortable place right now in terms of my emunah, and I believe you can make it there as well.
Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Kid,

Get yourself a book on the Documentary Hypothesis, or just read the wikipedia entry. It's the "secret" truth of Judaism that, if you ask me, helps put it in perspective.

Second, as for putting it in perspective, that's exactly what Judaism doesn't do. Learn about the history of the rest of the world, a history which, by and large, is far more consequential than the flailings of generations of northern Levant tribals.

-JoshSN

Anonymous said...

Jewish Athiest,
You gave Biding a really considered and decent response; you come across as a kind and sensible person.

Hassaan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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