Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

Let me give you a little background information about myself so you know where I'm coming from. I grew up in a typical middle of the road Orthodox Jewish home. I had a normal Jewish education, and I was very good at learning Talmud. I never really had too many problems with Judaism. I wasn't the most frum guy in the world, but I believed in God and I kept the torah without complaint. After High school, I went on to study in Yeshiva in Israel.

In Israel, my level of observance increased greatly. I began to take my Judaism much more seriously. I stopped watching movies. I stopped watching TV In fact, I didn't do much but study Torah. I also started to adapt the standard yeshivish garb of white shirt and black pants.

Eventually, I went back to study Torah in America. All was well and good for a while until something strange began to happen. I started to question how Torah was studied. I noticed that the main focus was Talmud and nothing else. I also began to lose interest in Talmud. But what really began to bother me was the lack of intellectual honesty I sensed in the Yeshiva world regarding the foundations of Orthodox Judaism. Was it really as clear cut as I was taught to believe? The answer soon dawned on me was that most of the things I took for granted didn't have a firm foundation in reality.

My doubts continued for a while. I didn't give up Judaism right away. I continued to struggle with my doubts and think about these issues. Eventually, my thinking lead me to give up Orthodoxy for good. I was completely disgusted with the yeshiva system and Orthodoxy. I felt bitter and deceived. I gave up my observances in secret, but I continued on the outside to keep my Orthodox appearance.

For a while I didn't even think about Judaism. I had enough. I wasn't too concerned about my Jewish identity, because I was taught that serving God and studying Torah was what was really important, and since I didn't believe in those things any more, what was the point of being Jewish?

A funny thing happened, though. I discovered the Jblogosphere. I stumbled one day onto this blog and I got very interested in it. I wondered why I kept on coming back and arguing everyday. I thought I was passed caring, but I realized that I wasn't. I still cared about Judaism in some way or form. I realized that I was judging Judaism based on the OJ understanding of Judaism and perhaps there is a better and more authentic way of understanding of it. I'm not really planning on going back to Orthodoxy or to try out any of the other popular versions of Judaism, because I quite frankly don't see much good there. I don't want to start a new religion or recreate the old one in my own image, either. But I am looking to see if I can find something within the Jewish tradition that's worth keeping for myself. And that's why I created this blog to explore the possibility of finding a Judaism that I can relate to.

14 Comments:

Blogger Orthoprax said...

Spinoza,

"I don't want to start a new religion or recreate the old one in my own image, either. But I am looking to see if I can find something within the Jewish tradition that's worth keeping for myself. And that's why I created this blog to explore the possibility of finding a Judaism that I can relate to."

I think that's pretty much the idea behind Open Source Judaism.

1:08 AM  
Blogger BTA said...

Great post, BSpin. Thank you for sharing your story to date.

I love the idea of this blog and will contribute if I have anything new to say.

Keep at it.

4:08 AM  
Blogger Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Sounds like you folks would be into Reconstructionism. Open Source Judaism is just Reconstructionsim with a cool new name. Paranthetically, Douglas Rushkoff's book is abysmally ignorant.

11:31 AM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>Sounds like you folks would be into Reconstructionism

Mis-nagid suggested that too.

>Open Source Judaism is just Reconstructionsim with a cool new name.

that name sounds too geeky (and trendy) to me

>Paranthetically, Douglas Rushkoff's book is abysmally ignorant.

I didn't read the book, but I used to go to his blog from time to time.

11:53 AM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

BTA,

Thnaks for your support! I will continue to read your blog too

11:54 AM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

Orthoprax,

>I think that's pretty much the idea behind Open Source Judaism.

I really hate that name!

11:55 AM  
Blogger Fascinated said...

spinster emphasis on gemarah is an emphasis on halacha being that gemarah is the source for all halacha. which parts of torah interested you more?

3:03 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>which parts of torah interested you more?

I'm hoping a sophisticated understanding of Tanach will interest me. If not, I'm not sure if anything will interest me. I really have no interest in Halacha

4:20 PM  
Blogger Orthoprax said...

Spin,

"I really hate that name!"

To be honest, I'm not much of a fan either. I just like the idea of being "seriously Jewish" without having to pretend to hold disagreeable metaphysical beliefs.

9:22 PM  
Blogger The Jewish Freak said...

Judaism is not only a religion, it is also a heritage, and a proud one at that. That is what keeps me affiliated. I'm glad you still care, we could always use more intellectual honesty in the tribe. - JF

9:42 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

Ortho,

>I just like the idea of being "seriously Jewish" without having to pretend to hold disagreeable metaphysical beliefs.

I'm all for that. But I don't need a cute names, or new marketing spin. I'll leave that for the folks on Madison Ave

10:18 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

JF,

>Judaism is not only a religion, it is also a heritage, and a proud one at that.

agreed.

>we could always use more intellectual honesty in the tribe.

thanks for the compliment, bro

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. II discovered the frumskeptic sphere two months ago or so, and am now hooked. . Much of what you say hits home, although I never went to Yeshiva. I'd like to hear more about the specifics that led you to question Orthodox Judaism. Somehow I think there are many who are in the same boat, but for various reasons can't do what you did.

8:21 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

anonymous,

for you, I may just do that. maybe I'll write a post about it. stay tuned.

If you feel like it, maybe you can shed some light on your own story.

if you want to email me you can b.spinoza.42 -at- gmail.com

9:50 PM  

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