Saturday, May 30, 2009

Truth: The True Evil

Truth truth truth, we look for her, we find her (or think we do), and then regret the day we started looking. What does one get from her? Nothing. No thank you, no reward, no eternal life, and no meaning. Just nihil and void, and of all good devoid. עולם הפוך שמעתי where truth is equated with good and deception with evil. But in reality, there is no good or evil, and if there is, truth should be equated with evil and deception with good. For is there a single man who will honestly proclaim that shedding the belief in a life full of meaning is good?

What happened. Nothing. Just Shavuos came around, my favorite holiday. A time when I could really appreciate Rav Yosef's saying אי לא האי יומא דקא גרים כמה יוסף איכא בשוקא, but instead nothing. Not that I still can't take a RMB"M apart, but now looking at it, what's it all worth. And not just it, life - it's nothing. How can I recapture that feeling? How? How can I delude myself into disregarding the evil and cruel truth? Can I turn the clock back to a blissful time when I knew no better. This search for truth is a sickness, it's a force that sucks the life out physically and spiritually. I envy people who are able to delude themselves in spite of their knowledge, even those like XGH who still cling to some meaning in life. Unfortunately I don't posses the gift of delusion. Deceiving others is the simplest matter, but deluding oneself is an art, a skill I don't have. How I wish I hadn't started on this path, but once I did, I wish I were able to turn back somehow. It is impossible, כל באיה לא ישובון, and there is no way to recapture that most benevolent deception, that belief in meaning and good.

On the other hand, I couldn't live with some belief, no matter how exhilarating, if I doubted it's validity. So the search for truth was inevitable. And even now seeing how unsatisfying it is, it doesn't make it any less true. Facts are cruel, and there is nothing to be done about them. Nevertheless, how I wish to have the ability to side step them, and even ignore them.
אָכוֹל וְשָׁתוֹ, כִּי מָחָר נָמוּת is my motto now for lack of anything better, but seeing that all there is to it is מָחָר נָמוּת and contrasting this with the great edifice of religion, it's very hard to continue this way. Probably, one who was never exposed to the beautiful deception of religion, can live with this motto. But for me, I can't. There is simply no comparison, and no turning the clock back, and no deluding oneself, unfortunately.

So what's to be done. I sit and think, maybe there is meaning to all of this after all. But no, stop kidding around, you know we're just here by default, live and then die. How do you know this, based on what, on the little you have studied? That's not enough to make such conclusions, go study more, find out, maybe you're wrong. וחוזר חלילה and round we go, getting deeper and deeper in this quicksand, in the quagmire known as the quest for truth, and so till death. Except that instead of a life full with this nonsense and then death, one could at least אָכוֹל וְשָׁתוֹ and then die. But no, it seems some are destined to waste their life away, stricken with the sickness , an untreatable one at that, known as the "quest for truth".

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Morality! What's the Hangup?

First I would like to apologize for my absence from the blogsphere the last week plus. I've been extremely busy and haven't had the time to write or even think much. For now I'll just put up some random stuff that's been in my head, and I hope to post something more coherent in the coming days.

As the title of the post suggests, I want to know why people who have otherwise renounced religion and the belief that life has meaning (or at least recognize that there is no convincing reason to think it has one), continue to have this hangup when it comes to morality. The most annoying manifestation of this is arguments against the Torah because of its failing to pass our moral scrutiny. Fallacious arguments rub me the wrong way, and none is more fallacious than this. By whose standards of morality are we judging the Torah? By modern standards, which are subject to change just as those of 1,000 BC and 1,000 AD changed to become what we recognize today as western morals. I assume the reader recognizes that barring divine instruction, morals are inherently subjective. Why then do people, who are relatively thought out and don't argue logically indefensible positions, continue to make this logically unjustifiable argument over and over again. Is the conception of core morality so ingrained in us that even when we try considering its merits in a detached manner, we seem to be unable to do so?

Vus Nuch. I think there is gotta be some kind of satirical representation of the debacle of the "big three." Maybe the "Three Little Pigs" but that's not a good comparison on two counts: 1) Can we really credit Ford with that much forethought? 2) Ford didn't help anyone, and can a corporation ever be compared to a little pig fighting a wolf?
Maybe the "Three Stooges"? Their financial management definitely qualifies. Anyway that's that for now, hope to keep them coming on a more regular basis.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How to Go Off-the-Derech: A Halachic Guide

It seems that there is a lot gray area where many authorities in the J-blogsphere disagree on when and how one can/should go off the Derech. Therefore, as a public service, I have compiled a little guide, a Kitzur of the main opinions regarding the issue.

It seems that XGH holds the most stringent position on the matter, while Daas Hedyot seems to be the most lenient. Somewhere in between these two extremes held by such prominent Halachic figures, we have other luminaries like BHB, Yeshivish Atheist, and others who fall somewhere in between. Although it seems to be pretty clear that XGH is the most stringent, it is not clear what exactly are the requirements one has to meet in order to Halachically go off the Derech. There are some definite rules that we can pinpoint:
1) You can not be Chassiddish, Lubavitch, Yeshivish, Baal Tshuvah, Mizrachi, under twenty, over forty, amongst others.
2) Even if you are lucky not to fall under any of the above categories, you can not be an atheist once you do go off the Derech, have any difficulties in your social life, or have any other "abnormal" situations.
3) You have to have been raised Modern Orthodox, been to Israel, have Zionist sympathies, gone to movies (very important it seems in XGHs estimation), and been able to do anything you could do if you are off the Derech.
4) If by chance you have met all the above requirements, you can still not go off the Derech according to XGH. You are to normal. You must come from an interesting background like Chabad, crazy Yeshivish, or some other fanatic sect.
5) If by some defiance of all natural laws, you are still qualified, there is one more caveat: you really are not allowed to go off the Derech, you can just become Orthoprax. Yes, you heard correctly.

Some have criticized XGHs position based on the impossibility of it ever being borne out in practice. To which there is a very good precedent one can respond, namely עיר הנדחת, and בן סורר ומורה. But some have answered in the spirit of the aforementioned Gemorah: Certainly this Halachah is applicable in practice, and the proof is that "אני ראיתיו וישבתי על קברו" I saw him and used to comment on his blog. והמבין יבין

According to Daas Hedyot, anybody can go off the Derech for any reason at anytime. וכל המרבה הרי זה משובח. Especially if you become Roman Catholic, because what's more logical than switching from one fundamentalist religion based on myths and unsubstantiated fairy tales, to another religion based on myths and unsubstantiated fairy tales. Mamesh, I don't understand why anyone disagrees.

The most curious opinions are the approximate range into which BHB and YA and others fall. They have this curious requirement of having one investigate the alternatives and 'think critically' for oneself.

In summary, the last opinion can be discarded outright because we have no precedent in Halachah for anything even remotely similar to these requirements. "Think critically" who ever heard of such a thing. As to the forst two options, I favor XGHs position since it isn't even followed by its own proponent, something that we have lots of precedent for in Halachah.

Now, obviously this is all הלכה ולא למעשה, and each person should ask their Rav, especially on such an important matter: How to go off the Derech according to Halachah.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Important Finding!

A new manuscript of Koheles has been found! At this stage only a limited number of people are aware of the finding. I was only able to get access to a small fragment, which I present to my readers. I will continue monitoring the situation, and present any new developments as I become aware of them.

At this time, you can not find this version anywhere, not in print nor online. However, we hope that we will be able to spread the availability of this version, and hopefully you will even be able to search for it on Mechon-mamre.

Here is the part available at the moment. Fortunately it's at the beginning, so you can start reading right along:

דברי אחר

.דברי אחר בן אלישע, הייתי פרומאק במאנסי

.הבל הבלים אמר אחר, הבל הבלים הכל הבל

.מה יתרון לחרדי בכל עמלו שיעמול בפרומאקיותו

?דור הולך ודור בא, והפרומאקיות לעולם עומדת

.וזרח הדעת ובא הדעת, והפרומאקיות לאחור תלך

.סביב סביב תסובב, וכשכורת לאחור תפול

.כל החומרות באים מן ההלכות? וההלכות לא נחסרים

כל ההלכות היגעים, לא יוכל רב לדבר ולא ישבע פרומאק מראות ולא תוכל אוזן לשמוע

.מה שהיה הוא לא יהיה, ואין כל ישן בחומראות

יש חומרא שיאמרו ראה זה ישן הוא, לא היה כזה מעולם, כי באמת חדש ומשונה ומשוגע הוא

אין זכרון לראשונים כי אם לשגעונונת, וגם לאחרונים לא יהיה להם זכרון, כי אם לשגעונותיהם

.אני אחר הייתי פרומאק בין פרומאקים

ונתתי את לבי לחקור ולפלפל בהלכה על כל אשר נעשה בפרומאקיות, הוא ענין רע נתן אלהים לחרדים לענות בו

.ראיתי את כל המעשים שנעשו בפרומאקים, והנה הכל הבל וקטנות מוח

.מיושר יתעות, וריח אמת תשתתק

דברתי אני עם לבי לאמר, אני הנה הרביתי ולמדתי בפרומאקיות יותר מהרבה פרומאקים, ולבי ראה הרבה חומרא והלכה

.ואתנה לבי לדעת תורה והלכה, ודעת האמת, ידעתי שגם זה כחלום יעוף

.כי ברב תורה רב כעס, ויוסיף אמת יוסיף מכאוב