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October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘OTD’

When Good Children Go OTD

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The problem seems to be far worse than anyone thinks. We may even be at an epidemic level. Everywhere I turn these days it seems, I find a family where at least one child has gone OTD (Off the Derech–away from the religious path). Or at least does not follow the Hashkafic path laid out by their parents.

Many of them are all from fine families. Exemplars of great parenting. Nothing dysfunctional about them. The parents have many children all the rest of which are the obvious results child rearing by 2 great parents. Most of their children do fine in the Hashkafic milieu in which they were raised and in which they live. And yet it seem to be increasingly the case that at least one child has no interest in towing the family religious line.

In the families that I know about it seems the problems tend to begin in mid to late elementary school or early high school.

The question is why is this happening? What is it that is driving this OTD phenomenon in good families? It is very understandable when this happens in dysfunctional families where physical or mental abuse exists either between parents; between a parent and child; or both. It does not take rocket science to see why a child associates their strife their parent’s lifestyle. If they are a religious family, then religion is associated with that strife.

But what about the good families with good children where one of them does not want to have anything to do with their family’s religious way of life? Unfortunately I know of far too many situations like these. Hashkafos don’t seem to matter that much. I know families with an OTD child that are very right wing, moderate Charedi, and right wing Modern Orthodox. None of them are so strict as to warrant the kind of rebellion they have experienced from at least one child.

I have no real explanation. But I suspect it has something to do with the current pressure that schools and thereby parents put on their children to excel in their religiosity, Limudei Kodesh or Limudei Chol. I am constantly hearing about how schools of all Hashkafos are ‘rasining’ their standards. That is impacted negatively by the times in which we live. By that I mean the great distractions that now exists that did not exist in the past. Distractions that expose children to a much easier lifestyle than their parents insist upon. Distractions that take away from their study time. Distractions that cause them to question matters of faith. These are distractions that those of us over the age of 30 never had when we were growing up.

The internet, its ease of use and availability, and the ability to easily hide one’s involvement with it puts pressure on young people now – as never before. No matter how much we try to discourage it, limit it, or ban it, it is so pervasive that it is impossible to avoid the influence it has on children. Children can access anything they want as quickly as they can delete it from a screen. A child now has an unprecedented and unfettered window to the entire world. A little curiosity about a taboo subject will beget websites and images that can easily pull a child away from their parents’ influences. It is amazing that there aren’t even more OTD children than there are.

Coupled with this is the increased pressure put upon children in our day to be more religious and be better students than ever before.

The pressure to excel and adopt ever increasing Churmos into our lives has become so ingrained that not conform to these new standards is unacceptable.For example violating a Chumra is as painful to a family as violating a Halacha. I know one family that feels great pain that a child now uses non Chalav Yisroel products. I hasten to add that they are a very loving family – accepting of that child and allowing her to bring non Chalav Yisroel products into the home and use them freely. But it still pains them internally.

And how can any self respecting parent not want their child to excel in school? So with every increase in the amount of material to be mastered, there is a parental motive to see to it that their child measures up. Whether it is the Charedi standard of Limudei Kodesh or the MO academic standard. And in many cases – both.

If you combine the two phenomenon of increased pressure (whether religious or in the level of study)in the home and in school with the ubiquity of the internet – I think one can understand why the OTD phenomenon even in good homes might be near epidemic levels.

I would add that the fact that as the religious population increases, so too do the number of children going OTD – even if the percentages may be the same. But if I had to guess the percentages have increases too and not only the numbers.

I don’t know how to solve any of these problems. But I do have a few thoughts about it. First we ought to be aware of the problems and to recognize that we live in unprecedented times. One cannot for example ignore the internet. Nor can it be successfully banned. But one should do the best they can to set up parental controls, rules, and guidelines about its use. And avoid giving very young children hand held devices.

Of course the most important factor is to love our children unconditionally. Even – and perhaps especially – if they are at risk or OTD. They must know that they will always be loved; part of the family; and welcomed in the homes. Even if they are Mechalel Shabbos, and eat Treif. A bare headed son or daughter whose modesty does not measure up to family or community standards must be accepted. No matter what others in your community think! That may not bring them back. But it will for sure not push them away should they ever want to come back.

Another much harder thing to accomplish is to change the current penchant of religious schools to demand ever increasing religious standards for – not only their students but their parents.

The same thing is to be said with the ever increasing academic standards; or Torah study standards. I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be top schools in an area of study in either Limudei Kodesh or Limudei Chol. But they should be special schools reserved for the very best, brightest and most highly motivated students among us. Putting a child that does not have those qualifications into schools like those will almost certainly set up them up for failure. And failure should never be an option.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

The Trial of a Rasha

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

The trial of of accused sexual abuser Rabbi Nechemya Weberman is underway. I thought I would post a few of my thoughts about it. First let me excerpt the following quote by Anna C. Salter PhD from Rabbi Yakov Horowitz’s website:

1. It is perhaps not surprising that predators who have never been arrested are so successful in fooling people. They simply take on the lifestyle and manner of genuinely nice people, and it is understandable, if tragic, that we can’t tell the difference.

2. It is a misconception that child molesters are somehow different from the rest of us, outside their proclivities to molest. They can be loyal friends, good employees, and responsible members of the community in other ways.

3. Offender self-reports have dubious validity, especially when the offender’s self-interest is at stake. The only rule for deception in sex offenders I have ever found is this: If it is in the offender’s best interest to lie, and if he can do it and not get caught, he will lie.

I have little doubt about Rabbi Weberman’s guilt. And I am encouraged by the over 40 people who have so far shown up at the trial to show support for the victim. I am also encouraged by the number of people who have responded to the request by Rabbi Horowitz to post a comment on his website in support of the victim. I encourage everyone to do so. She can use all the support she can get. Her character is being attacked. It is a typical ploy of defense attorneys to attack the character of an accuser at trial so as to undermine their credibility.

I posted a comment of my own there. It isn’t much but it’s the least I can do in support of a victim of sex abuse. I am also glad to see the name of Rabbi Chaim Twersky, one of the Roshei Yeshiva of HTC in that list of commenters. He posted a comment of support for the victim. That takes courage. He is one of my local heroes for many reasons. He just added another one by doing that.

Bearing in mind the American tradition of innocent until proven guilty, I will wait until the end of the trial to pass final judgment. But the facts of the case are so revealing that one would have to be blind, deaf, and dumb to think this man is innocent. And yet his community and its rabbinic leadership is either all of those… or they simply don’t care. That’s why they had a fund-raiser for a supposed defense fund and raised a half million dollars. Which they promptly used to try and bribe the victim to drop the charges and leave the country.

Not only was the victim not tempted to take that money, but the four Chasidim who tried to bribe her were arrested for trying to do that. Thank God! These “good people” will probably serve some time for their “altruism.” And their families will suffer. I’m sure that there will be fundraisers for them too with all kind of appeals to sympathy for the plight of these “Frum” Jews and their families. And of course there will be attendant accusations of Antisemitism that are always attached to the courts if they are convicted and sent to prison. But that’s another conversation.

One of the things almost always heard – especially in places like Williamsburg (where Rabbi Weberman lives) is that one should never believe an accuser that is no longer observant. Especially when she is rebelling from the very community that she accuses of sex abuse and protecting the abuser. That is in fact the exact argument being made by the defense. From theNew York Times:

Lawyers for Mr. Weberman, however, argue that the young woman fabricated the allegations because she was furious at Mr. Weberman for what she thought was a betrayal of her trust. At age 15, they said, she had revealed to Mr. Weberman that she had a boyfriend — a serious breach of the community’s stringent rules — and then, a defense lawyer said, she concluded that he told her parents about it.

“There was only one answer,” said George Farkas, the defense lawyer, “vengeance and revenge against Nechemya Weberman, and through this, to bring down the entire community that either supported him, or of which he was a part.”

Kosher or Not, the Internet Cannot be Stopped

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

In yet another tour-de-force, Mrs. Judy Brown does an excellent job in evaluating the impact of the internet on Orthodox Jewry. I think she has put her finger on exactly what the greatest danger is. It isn’t porn. It is knowledge. Knowledge not generated by the Torah but knowledge generated by the entire world. She calls them gentiles. And characterizes the internet as “Gentiles at the Gates.” But there are plenty of Jews who contribute non Torah – even anti Torah  knowledge to the world wide web.

Mrs. Brown tells the story of one Lakewood family where a daughter was given permission to use the internet for a homework assignment  Long story short, the information she inadvertently encountered eventually led her go “Off The Derech.”

That devastated the family. They threw out their computer after the fact no doubt regretting ever having it. They also cut off all ties to that daughter – who has since left home – fearing the negative influences she would have on her siblings. Obviously the wrong move, but not the subject of this post.

In essence Mrs. Brown seems to be capitulating to Charedi rabbinic leaders desire to rid the community of all internet access. Here is how she puts it:

Technology can trample on this way of life, claim some souls here and there, but the well-shackled mind is ultimately stronger than any knowledge thrown at it. Sacred ignorance has survived the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, democracy, world-changing scientific discoveries and women’s liberation. It has endured two millennia of knowledge and change. It will survive this, too.

The idea of a well-shackled mind being in a superior position to battle going OTD is certainly understandable. But in practice, the mind can no longer stay well-shackled. The internet is not only here to stay. Its ubiquity is increasing by leaps and bounds via the smart phone. No ban in the world has the power to stop it. It is like spitting in the wind.

Nor do I concede that ignorance is in any way sacred.

Surely being ignorant of all the questions and challenges to our faith would serve to keep us devout. But ignorance is being increasingly replaced by the ability to gain instant answers to difficult questions. No longer will a child be scolded for asking a tough question and retreat in shame for even thinking to ask it. If it is unanswered – or worse derided by a parent, Rebbe, or teacher, the internet is right there for the asking with answers galore. Answers that are anything but devout.

So even if ignorance is bliss (or sacred) it is disappearing from the masses like no other time in history. Bright and curious people are going to have these questions and seek answers to them somewhere.

This is nothing like withstanding the winds of enlightenment a couple of centuries ago. Those winds were responsible for many a devout Jew to going off the Derech. The stories of some of the great young minds of the great Yeshivos in Europe becoming heretics are legendary.

But that took diligence. A student had to go out of his way, to a library or to attend a University and buy into the convincing arguments of heretical thought being taught in books and universities there. Being unprepared hashkafically for the challenges encountered, they bought into the arguments and became heretics.

But today, all that is brought into the home in an instant. There is no point in trying to legislate it out of the home. Saying the internet is Assur is more futile than saying college is Assur. All the haranguing in the world will not impact all but the few.

All the bible thumping… all the scare tactics about saving the soul will just not work on vast numbers of Jews. That should be obvious by the fact that internet Asifa  scare tactics haven’t really changed things all that much.

Even if we accept the numbers quoted by Mrs. Brown one in four families inBoroPark- one of the largest enclaves of Charedi Jews in the world – has internet access. Even with filters, it’s virtually impossible to filter out all the information that would lead a child – or even an adult in many cases – into going OTD! Filtering out smut is one thing. Filtering out information that is not strictly Torah based is another. I don’t think it is even possible.

Never Mind Condemnations by Torah Sages, College Is Not ‘Traif’

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

“Certainly, there is an absolute condemnation of any sort of college from most Gedolim.” That is how the cover article in last week’s Ami Magazine was punctuated.  That article was about the dangers to one’s spiritual health of attending college.

Ironically the article itself was very fair about the issue.  Various rabbis who are either directly or indirectly involved with colleges and universities that have significant Orthodox Jewish populations were interviewed.  There was not a single comment indicative of any Issur on attending college.  Instead it seems to be a generally fair analysis of the situation as it exists without any real comment – pro or con about attending college (with the obvious exception of that statement in there final paragraph).

As to the substance of that article – there seemed to be a consensus that there are differences between colleges and universities with respect to retaining observance by Orthodox students.  As secular colleges go, commuter colleges are the way to go.  A commuter college like Brooklyn College that has a large percentage of Orthodox students is considered the safest type of college. Commuter colleges have no campus life to speak of.  Students attend classes and go home. Brooklyn College has the added advantage of having so many Orthodox Jews in attendance and being located in Flatbush -a very Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn.

If one opts for a university away from home that entails living in a dorm with its attendant a campus life – there too there are differences. Although generally speaking that is a very dangerous situation to put a child into, there are some notable exceptions. Among the best of them is the University of Pennsylvania (referred to as ‘ Penn’ by  most people ) which is an ivy league college.

Penn is considered a fairly safe environment for Orthodox students. Students there have an on campus Orthodox environment to live in.  It appears that very few students go OTD there. Somewhat surprisingly the article concludes that the best place to attend college is a place like Touro or Yeshiva University– where the Beis HaMedrash is never very far from the classroom.  I could not agree more with that.

The truth is that there was really very little of substance I disagreed with in that article. It is almost as if the Ami editorial staff didn’t believe in their own anti college hype. But that they just had to put in a condemnation of college in order to maintain their Charedi credentials.

But I have to challenge the very premise that most Gedolim condemn college. Do they? That statement flies in the face that Yeshivos like Ner Israel. Torah VoDaath, Chafetz Chaim, and Chaim Berlinhave a history of most of their students attending college with the help of the Yeshivos themselves. Those Yeshivos facilitate their students’ attendance by providing Yeshiva “credits” that can be used to fulfill some of the elective requirements.

And let us not forget the ill-fated attempt by Rav Hutner and Reb Shraga Feivel to actually create their own college! It may have been stopped by Rav Aharon Kotler. But is shows that at least these two Gedolim did not only did not condemn it they wanted to actually create their own college!

But all that is beside the point I wish to make here. A sub-theme of this article is the question of Modern Orthodox dropouts. Left pretty much unsaid is the fact that the vast majority of Jewish university students are from Modern Orthodox homes. In my view there is a connection to the MO dropout problem and attending a college that has does not have any kind of Orthodox presence. Which brings me back to my post on that subject.

In that post Rabbi Steven Pruzansky quoted a shocking and yet unsubstantiated statistic. He claimed that 50% of the of MO high schools students go OTD within 2 years of their graduation. I understand and even agree with the point he was trying to make. But he was grossly in error in the way he tried to make it.

When someone quotes an outrageous statistic like that, he better be able to back it up. The fact that he just threw it out a number from a survey that he did not even see just to make his point actually undermines it. His point was lost – virtually buried by the strong criticism he received by using a questionable statistic to make it.

The fact that he used an unsubstantiated and shocking statistic does not mitigate the problem. As I said in my earlier post, all segments of Orthodox Judaism has OTD problems. And there are different reasons why members of each segment goes OTD although some reasons overlap. Point being that the problem exists in large numbers in all segments.

That said, the OTD problems that are specific to Modern Orthodoxy are real and should not be glossed over. Rabbi Pruznski’s point should not be overlooked just because of the foolish use of a questionable statistic.

I think it is safe to say that the 50% figure is ridiculously high. The real dropout rate is probably much lower. Does that mean we should ignore the problem? I don’t think so. We ought to not get hung up on statistics.

Unless someone actually believes that Modern Orthodoxy does not have an OTD problem at all, we ought to take what Rabbi Pruzansky’s suggests seriously. While his reasons are not the only ones or perhaps not even the primary ones – I do believe his observations are valid. I strongly believe that the  “Lite” factor a significant contributor to why a child will go OTD.

Rabbi Dovid Landesman who was a long time principal of an MO high school in Los Angeleshas noted that it isn’t so much that kids go Off the Derech. It is more that they were never ON the Derech in the first place! What does that mean? I think it means the lack of priority given to observant Judaism in the home by parents.

If  parents do not treat their Yiddishkeit as a priority their children won’t either. If a parent prioritizes things other than his Judaism, while keeping his observances in Judaism passive the child will very likely do the same thing. The only difference will be in what the child will value. It may not be what the parent values, but it may not be their Judaism either.

When a child like that goes off to an ‘away from home’ college with its attendant social subculture which is anathema to Judaism –  it is not all that unlikely that his observance will be willingly compromised if not altogether dropped by the social pressure there – with little if any guilt attached.

Let’s be honest. Although it exists in both communities, being Lite in one’s observance is more indigenous in a community that is immersed in the general culture than it is among one that isolates itself from it.

The fact that organizations like the OU and people like those rabbis interviewed for the Ami Article (e.g. Rabbis Steven Burg, Jonathan Shulman, David Felsenthal, and Reuven Boshneck) are actively involved in trying to create a religious environment on college campuses is indicative of that. These are “In-reach” rabbis, not “outreach” rabbis. They work hard and see their roles as essential for these students – who are mostly MO – to retain their observance.

That said – as I point out many times – there are always exceptions. There are kids form serious MO homes that go OTD and kids from Lite homes that become very committed to their Judaism. And the fact is that the Charedi world has their own OTD problems. As does the Chardal world in Israel as illustrated in Wednesday’s post.

But please let us not lose sight of the fact that there is a dropout problem in the MO world caused by problems which are unique to it. We ignore it at our own peril.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

The Rabbi’s Daughter

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Rav Shlomo Aviner is one of the most revered Rabbonim in Religious Zionism. He is the Rosh HaYeshiva of Ateret Yerushalyim (formerly known as Ateret Cohanim) and the Rav of the city of Bet El. Although I have had some differences with him, I have also been in agreement with him on many issues. Most recently on his approach to modern technology.

But whether one agrees with his Hashkafos or not, there is not a scintilla of doubt that he is a great man. He is a Talmid Chacham, a Posek, and a leader that virtually everyone in the Religious Zionist movement looks up to. Religious Zionist Jews can easily point with pride to this man. That he is an Anav – humble in his ways; an Ehrliche Jew; and role model of leadership is an understatement. Even his Charedi detractors will I’m sure agree with that as will many secular Jews who have met him.

And yet he along with two other prominent Religious Zionist rabbis in Israel have fallen victim to the OTD (Off the Derech) phenomenon. Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rav David Bigman, and Rav Yoram Tzohar each have a daughter that has departed from the observant ways of their parents. So for those parents who have OTD children, you are not alone. There are some very prominent people who join you.

One may ask: How can I publicize something like this about such prominent leaders in Klal Yisroel, since it might be embarrassing to them? The answer is that they do not hide it. They willingly participated in a film that tells their story.

I watched the film. It is one of the most emotionally draining things I have ever watched. I saw lots of pain in this film. Not just the pain of the parents. But the pain of the three young women who are their daughters.

As Gil Student commented at the website where this film is located:

It took a lot of courage for the daughters to appear on this film. And a lot for the fathers and mothers, as well. Not too many rabbis would be willing to do that.

I think that is very true. I have read about such stories in the Charedi world. But they are always done anonymously. The embarrassment or fallout for them and the rest of their families must be too great for them to bear.

Most often when stories like this are told it is indeed the pain of the parents that is emphasized. But as I just pointed out I saw even greater pain in these 3 young women who rejected observance. The film does not go directly into why each one of them went OTD. Although in one case it is hinted that there were unanswered questions about the existence of God.

In all 3 cases, the free life they chose came at a price. They seemed to all love their families and even respect them. But they somehow did not buy into what they had been taught even though it seems like the rest of their siblings did.

I have to ask: Why? Why did they do it? Why have they left the faith? What compelled them to do so? Why them and not their siblings? It could hardly be dysfunction. The families did not look dysfunctional at all. If they were, some of their other siblings would surely have joined them.

It could hardly be what is commonly referred to as Prikas Ol – the desire to just be free of their Jewish responsibilities. There is too much pain in their eyes for that. They were each brought up in great homes, it seems. They were taught Halacha, Hashkafa, Jewish values, and ideology and they somehow just did not buy into it. So much so that they have openly chosen a non observant lifestyle.

During the course of the film one can see that the parents were not dismissive of them. The love was still there, the relationship still close, and there did not even seem to be any residual animus between parent and daughter.

That is what made it so sad for me: All that love. All that pain.

The parents must feel that they somehow failed the child. And the child feels that she has disappointed the parent.

These young women are not bad people. They do not seem to have troubled souls. Raised in a completely religious environment they somehow made a decision to live another lifestyle that does not include Mitzvah observance. Somehow the importance of that never attached to them. One can certainly not blame their home environment. It also seems from the film that these three leading Rabbonim were good parents.

One can speculate about some of the factors involved. The opening scene shows a video being played by Rav Aviner’s daughter, Tamar, that shows 2 animated figures walking in circles – one of whom is always in the shadow of the other.

Another segment deals with the pressure of being the daughter of a rabbinic leader – always trying to live up to the greater expectations of others because of who her father is. Maybe that kind of pressure was too much to endure. And after trying to live up to those higher standards expected of her she just gave up. I don’t know.

One thing I think I can glean from this film is that religious leadership has a price. One that a child may end up paying. The pressures that brings to bear on children can easily be underestimated and perhaps unaddressed by the parent. Going OTD can certainly be a result.

I have to give credit to both the parents and the children for allowing themselves to be exposed to the world. Perhaps we can all learn something about parenting – that is not immediately obvious even to the best of us.

I must also give additional credit to these parents for not letting go of their children. For still loving them and accepting them as they are. Not that they approve of their decisions. Of course they don’t. But that they can somehow live with it and perhaps even hope for a return to Torah and Mitzvos someday. They will also be able to have a positive relationship with their grandchildren and influence their lives in positive ways.

There is nothing to be gained by rejection. That will only cause estrangement and resentment. None of these young women are anti religious. One can, I think, detect a certain respect for it even though they have rejected it for themselves. Loving a child who went OTD can only benefit them. And you.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Modern Orthodox Dropouts

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

There has been a lot of discussion about young people abandoning Mitzvah observance (going OTD) over the past few years. A lot of that discussion took place here.

Indeed it has been declared a crisis by some. The focus of this issue in the religious media has been primarily in the Charedi world. Many theories have emerged as to why children go OTD. Among them: being sexually abused and the negative reactions to it by family and community, dysfunctional family situations, faulty educational environments, teachers unprepared to deal with questions of faith, or being overly sheltered from the world so that rebellion occurs when they are exposed to it unprepared.

I’m sure I missed a few reasons, but suffice it to say there are many reasons or combination of reasons to explain the phenomenon in the Charedi world. This problem is non discriminatory and touches even the best of households. Much ink has been spilled on horror stories of good and decent parents who have one child who has completely crashed and has become – not only OTD, but even a societal outcast (e.g. use of hard drugs and generally dropping out of society).

What has not been discussed much is the phenomenon of Modern Orthodox children going OTD. As though it wasn’t a problem for them. Of course that isn’t true. MO kids go OTD too. But I was amazed to find out the rate. According to an excellent blog post by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky there is an unpublished study claiming that 50% of Modern Orthodox high school graduates go OTD within two years of their graduation!

That is a shocking statistic. It almost justifies claims I often hear by the right that whatever problems they have with OTD, it is a drop in the bucket compared to our problems with it. My answer to them is that their drop is a very large drop which has been declared a crisis by many of their own leaders. But their point is well taken if that 50% statistic is anywhere near true.

But let us examine what is really going on with a statistic like this. Just as is the case by Charedim, there are many reasons why someone may abandon his religious observance. Some of them probably overlap. But there are definitely reasons that are unique to Modern Orthodoxy. One very plausible explanation is that many of the children attending MO schools are not from religious homes. When a child doesn’t see and live at home what he is taught in school, there is little chance of him remaining observant – if he ever was. But I don’t think anyone believes that is the entire reason.

Rabbi Pruzansky proposes another reason which I think is completely valid – although I don’t think it is the only reason by far.

He says that one has to look at the home first. What kind of role models does a child see in his or her parents?

I have long ago contended that the many MO Jews are what I call MO-Lite. This means that they are socially religious. They live in MO Neighborhoods and go to MO Shuls. But they are not really all that into their Judaism in any serious way. They observe Shabbos and Kashrus because that is how they were basically raised. But their observance is more social that idealistic – and outside of those two main Mitzvos – picking and choosing what they do and do not observe.

MO-Lites pay as much (if not more) attention to their lifestyle choices than they do religious choices. So when the two conflict – the lifestyle choice may win. Not that they will purposely violate Halacha, but they don’t look at their Judaism as the primary part of their lives. As Rabbi Pruzansky points out:

Children who see their parents prioritize shul – not once or twice a week, but every day – see shul as a value. Children who see their parents attend shul once a week and primarily socialize and converse while there see shul as a place to meet their friends. When older, they can just bypass the middleman and just go straight to their friends.

Similarly, children who see parents learning Torah during their leisure time perceive learning as a value. Children whose Shabbat is different than the other days of the week – the Shabbat table is different, the conversation is laden with talk of Torah, ideas, values, and zemirot instead of idle chitchat, sports, and gossip – experience a different Shabbat. It’s just a different day. When Shabbat is not observed as a different day, it stops being a different day.

Homosexuality and Going OTD

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/07/homosexuality-and-going-otd_3460.html

There is yet another article (published in The Times of Israel) that is sympathetic to Orthodox Jews who are homosexual. Asher Zeiger laments the fact that these Jews are so often shunned by the mainstream Orthodox institutions that many of them end up going OTD.

Mr. Zeiger wonders why it is that Orthodox Jews have such a hard time accepting gay Jews into their community while other sinners are easily accepted. Here is how he puts it:

Yes, the Torah forbids homosexuality. But there is far more biblical text devoted to Sabbath observance, business dealings, unleavened bread on Passover, and a litany of sexual improprieties, than the couple of verses that discuss homosexuality. Nobody’s relationship with God should be defined by the mitzvot that they do not keep.

Those who do not keep many other mitzvot are (hopefully) accepted as equal members of the Jewish community — with a handful of exceptions made for those whose violations have seriously harmed other people. So why can we not see and accept homosexuals in the same way that we see and accept Jews who do not observe the Shabbat and festivals, or do not eat strictly kosher food?

He suggests a possible explanation:

Maybe the problem lies in the inability of most heterosexuals to understand homosexuality in the same way that we can relate to the attraction of, say, driving to the beach on Shabbat, or eating whatever and wherever we wish. And don’t get me started on the appeal of just giving in to our basest natural sexual urges.

But we don’t “get” homosexuality in the same way, and all too often, the natural reaction to what people cannot understand is to attack, belittle and invalidate. It is as though by delegitimizing it, people are absolved from having to understand, let alone accept it.

I’m not sure this really explains it. Although there are people who are not repulsed by homosexual behavior there are probably many more people who are. These are not bad people. They just have a natural revulsion to such behavior. No matter how open-minded one is about this subject they just cannot get past it.

Why is this sin different from other sins – including other sins in the Torah labeled a Toevah (abomination)? From the article:

To eat any of the animals, fish and birds listed as unkosher (Deuteronomy 14) is considered a to’eva, as are dishonest business practices (Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

These sins are also called Toevah and yet they do not seem to really repulse most people – even though they probably should.

It is therefore easy to see why there is so much depression among homosexuals. Sometimes even leading to suicide. Despite the current social and political pressure to normalize homosexuality there still seems to be an undercurrent of popular resistance to it. Mr Zeiger observes (correctly in my view) that we still live in “a largely gay-unfriendly world” and that “homosexuality is the target of the kind of hatred and vitriol otherwise reserved for only the sleaziest of pedophiles and the fans of arch-rival sports teams.”

It is no small wonder than why many formerly Orthodox Gay Jews go OTD.

That is indeed sad.

I can’t do anything about innate negative feelings. But I think it behooves those of us who may have them to overcome them and treat fellow human beings who have same sex attractions no less honorably than we do people guilty of other Toevos. As Mr. Zeiger puts it. We all sin. But not all of us sin the same way. By being so repulsed we end up turning these people away leaving them with a feeling of abandonment and being hated by their fellow Jews. Jews who are otherwise decent people.

When decent society rejects you… how are you supposed to feel?!

Shouldn’t we be bringing them close to us instead of pushing them away? Like we would with any Jew? Shouldn’t we be encouraging them to observe as many Mitzvos as they can? Of what value is it to turn away from them with the obvious revulsion so often expressed by an anti-gay zealot like this Levin character (pictured above)? What does he accomplish other than causing people to go OTD?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/homosexuality-and-going-otd/2012/07/29/

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