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.


A Pusheter Yid said...

Nice pilpul, but irrelevant, since the חלות of gone OTD precludes following Halacha. Unless, of course, we are of the opinion that both halves of halachically going OTD occur בבת אחת.

eitz hadaas said...


I would add that perhaps the gemarah in Bava Metzuah (84a) on Rish Lakish who went BT because he wanted to marry R' Yochanan beautiful sister and R' Shimon Bar Yochi's grandson (85a) who went BT because they named him rav (meaning they promised him a career, as for why they couldn't promise a beautiful wife like Rish Lakish see the Gemarah inside). Presumably the same should hold true for going OTD. We some from these Tanaim that the promise of a beautiful partner or a career is a sufficient enough reason to change ones lifestyle.

While XGH may contend that going BT is not like going OTD, since as the Rambam explains on "koifin oisoi ad sheyomar roitzeh ani" that every person really wants to do God's will therefore the change to BT isn't a real drastic as the OTD one.

However, Hedyot may take issue with this argument since XGH also criticized Sara who converted to a different religion and according to her that's her inner feeling and the Rambam's logic doesn't hold up.

And besides the Gemara in Hagiga (16a I believe) describes Acher's life and he had anything but a normal lifestyle (his mother played him secular music). While XGH will claim that this proves he was MOP (or RWMO whatever his terms are) We see that it was not accepted norm at the time therefore we know it was actually a strict Yeshivish upbringing.

And what about Avner, the student of the Ramban who went OTD because he couldn't find his name in parshat hazini?

What we see is a rainbow of personalities and reason's for OTD'ing. And as we know a maseh rav certainly overrides any pilpul.

In any case thanks for the divrei torah.

The Hedyot said...

Look, I don't feel I know enough to pasken on this, but one thing I do know for sure is that if you do decide to go off the derech, it's better to do so wearing a hat and jacket.

Acher said...

Mamesh, we're Mekayem the Drush of the Gemoroh on the Posuk ילכו מחיל אך חיל
זה ההולך מבית הכנסת לבית המדרש

Very important point DH, Mamesh I don't why I forgot that.


Such Divrei Torah.
הדברים שמחים כנתינתם מסיני

Joshua said...

This is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time. I'm not sure that point 4 is completely fair to XGH. He seems to find people from normal backgrounds who go OTD boring but I don't think he has actually paskened that they can't go OTD, just that he doesn't want to hear about them.

I think we may need to examine XGH's conditions in more details. For example, what constitute movies? I suppose that if the only thing watched would be the videotapes of the Lubavitcher Rebbes drashot, those would not be "movies." So movies must be secular. However, I know of some Orthodox families where they only watch old, "respectable" movies. So presumably he means more modern movies. They must have been produced in Hollywood and within a certain time period. Maybe it is fair to just say they have to be seen at a public movie theater?

Also, presumably if one has seen certain movies then one is too weird. So for example, people who've seen Rocky Horror Picture Show can't go OTD.

Baal Habos said...

>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

LOL, I love these halachik references. I'd love to see an Artscroll on this whole topic.

I think that we should come up with a suitable Brocha.

Acher said...

I love this, it's Mamesh like a real Halachah. We have the first text, and now we got a whole slew of Nosi Keilim. So the next generation Kitzur will include the following:

When one goes off the Derech, he must make a Brachah while wearing a hat and jacket. Also the movies he had to have watched as a kid are of a specific nature, although regretfully because of constraints of space, this detail needs a separate Kuntres of its own.

B. Spinoza said...

>3) You have to have been raised Modern Orthodox

we can't just make things up our self. We have to look to chazal and their infinite wisdom to determine the correct halacha. The most notable example of chazal going OTD was the great Rabbi Elisha Ben Abuyah. He was certainly very frum and not modern (I mean he lived thousand of years ago.) He never saw a movie once in his life (maybe a play, I need to do more research on that). From this example it's clear that the halacha is not like XGH.

Acher said...

B spinoza,

No, don't you know, it says:
דור דור ודורשיו, דור דור ומנהיגיו
and יפתח בדורו כשמואל בדורו

And we know that Acher was modern for his times, because the Gemoroh says:
זמר יווני לא פסק מפומיה
בשעה שהיה עומד מבית המדרש הרבה ספרי מינין נושרין מחיקו

So we see that he was Mamesh like a modern orthodox Apikores. Nor Vos, modern orthodox Apikorsim also watch movies and other such abominable practices. So no, the Rosh Haminim HGH"TZ XGH is correct in his ruling.

E-Man said...

This post was hysterical. So according to XGH I am able to go OTD at this point in my life for absolutely no reasons though. He never says you need a reason? This is a pliya dika kasha. Unless you wanna say, taka, that the reason for going OTD is being in my current situation. I think we may just have to leave it as a kashsa and just say the halacha is like XGH when he agues with Daas Hedyot.

E-Man said...

However, I am not OTD and I am in a situation that XGH talks about so is this actually a tiyuvta?

B. Spinoza said...

>So we see that he was Mamesh like a modern orthodox Apikores.

But I'll ask a follow up question. Wasn't Reb Elisha a member of the Sanhedrin and isn't he mentioned in the holy mishna? Is it possible that a member of the holy chazal could be a modern orthodox ois vorf? I argue not.

In regards to your question, When the Gemoroh says:
זמר יווני לא פסק מפומיה
בשעה שהיה עומד מבית המדרש הרבה ספרי מינין נושרין מחיקו

It either means after he already went OTD; or the Gemoroh is using hyperbole and it really means that Reb Elisha once read a Greek philosophy book while in the toilet.

Freethinking Upstart said...


Good stuff.

The Tzad HaShava Sh'B'hen, is that it is muttar to leave yiddishkeit.

Acher said...


>Is it possible that a member of the holy chazal could be a modern orthodox ois vorf?

I ask you then, could someone who at any point in their life was a member of the Sanhedrin, become a modern orthodox Apikores? Certainly not. Elo Mai, it so happened in order to teach us that even someone that lofty, can fall if
ספרי מינין נושרין מחיקו


I don't think you understood correctly; according to the Psak Halalchah by Maran XGH, L'Maseh no one can go off the Derech. Read the Psak again.

Yeshivish Atheist said...

You are a very witty writer acher, I found this quite funny. Keep up the good work.

Off the Derech said...

It's zicher not a tiyuvta. Maybe a pircha.