Thursday, 24 May 2012

The xoJane Article

This article (Read it if you haven't) pissed me off to no end. It was tendentious and terribly misleading. This was the comment I wrote on the blog.

This is a very misleading article. I'm very happy that the author does not feel imprisoned and enjoys her "Chassidic" life, but honestly her experience is not indicative of the general Chassidic world. Let's discuss a few of her  points:
1. "We are not imprisoned". Ok I doubt most people think that Chassidic women are literally put behind bars. But what happens when you have a three kids by the time you're 20? You don't think that's a form of imprisonment? What about pressures from the community? What if you are forced to choose between what you want and what the community wants. I wouldn't describe it as imprisonment perse but its a form of oppressive societal pressure. 
2. "Jews never got a message that sex is dirty". Yes, Judaism generally sees sex as a positive thing but mostly only because it helps procreation. There is also a strong trend of sexual-suppression in Chassidic communities. This means that you are never allowed to talk to girls let alone touch them until the day of your wedding. Forget sex outside of marriage you can't have a frikkin conversation out of marriage. 
3. "You think we are sexually repressed and afraid of our own bodies just because we dress modestly? Every single Chassidic woman you see sticks her own fingers in her own vagina at least twice a day for 7 days of the month". Oh gimme a break, that's not to masturbate, its to check your blood. Sticking a finger in your vagina  for a second to check for blood hardly counts and the topic of female masturbation is super-taboo in Orthodox communities. 

There are tons of things wrong with this article, it sugar coats things, and cherry picks the things that make Judaism and Chassidism sound "cool". But unfortunately the reality is quite different. 

Turns out, surprise surprise, that the author of this article is not only Chabad but a ba'alat teshuva. I'm not surprised at all. Here is a list of links of people discussing this piece:

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Danger of Alternatives

Garnel said:

The internet is merely a more convenient form of the library.
What is needed by users in both cases is a healthy dose of intellectual honest and skepticism.
So some scholars think Moshe Rabeinu, a"h, might not have existed?  Why believe them?
Some modern Biblical scholars don't believe in the antiquity of the Bible?  What makes them more authoritative than the ones that do? 


Why are you only skeptical of one side?

This brings up a good point. 

Let's think about this. 

 I, like most people, was raised believing in a heliocentric Solar System i.e. that the Sun is at the center of the Solar System. I don't usually ponder this question. I take it as a given. I've never bothered to even look at the proofs that the Sun is actually at the center of the Solar System. So I go on with my life, I go to work, eat my supper and occasionally watch some TV and assume all along that the Earth orbits around the Sun. 

Then one day I surf the internet. And I find a fascinating article that claims that many major scientists actually question whether the Sun is at the center of the Solar System. In fact they say that the Earth is at the center of the Solar System. And they claim to have ironclad proofs to demonstrate this!

Suddenly my assumptions about a heliocentric solar system are not so true. I have to start questioning what I used to take as obvious. Maybe now I start looking at the proofs for a heliocentric solar system. Maybe I compare them to the merits of a geocentric solar system. 

In short nothing is as simple as it used to be. 

Here's the kicker. It doesn't actually matter whether or not I'm certain that the geocentric folks are correct or not. Now, I'm not gonna be so cocky and certain that the Sun is at the middle of the solar system. An important and dramatic shift has occurred in my worldview. Originally the heliocentric solar system was something I never questioned at all. It barely crossed my mind. But NOW that I know that MAYBE just maybe there is another opinion. Now I'm in the realm of doubt. 

So you see it doesn't matter whether I fully believe the scholars who says Moses didn't exist are right. When I'm growing up I assume that Moses existed. Its as obvious to me as the heliocentric solar system. I never question it. I never think about it. Now, suddenly the cornerstone of my life, an axiom that tells me what to do in the morning, what blessings to say what God to pray to, is no longer axiomatic. I have to start thinking whether Moses existed. I have to determine it. 

I might decide that the evidence proves that Moses did exist. I might decide the opposite. Or I might decide that one cannot tell one way or the other and therefore the efficacy of me following the dictates of this "Moses" cannot be proven one way or another. 

Learning about alternatives, even if you don't initially believe them, is still "dangerous". 

Monday, 14 May 2012


I don't know what they're gonna discuss at the Asifa but I'm pretty sure it's not just porn that's worrying our Gedolim.

The internet is a hotbed of Kefira! Now obviously a good Ben Torah will stay away from pernicious blogs like Shilton HaSechel (with a name like that you gotta be careful!) but what about those little tidbits of information that hit you by surprise.

If you're anything like me you've probably gotten bored before and done some Wikipedia surfing. The truth is Wikipedia paves the path to Hell!

Let's say I decide to search "Torah" on Wikipedia. Boom! Right away I'm bombarded with Kefira:

"Most Modern biblical scholars believe that the written books were a product of the Babylonian exilic period (c.600 BCE) and that it was completed by the Persian period (c.400 BCE).

What if I search "Moses"

Same thing, kefira, kefira kefira! 

"The existence of Moses as well as the veracity of the Exodus story is disputed amongst archaeologists and Egyptologists, with experts in the field of biblical criticism citing logical inconsistencies, new archaeological evidence, historical evidence, and related origin myths in Canaanite culture."

Now you'll probably disregard these things if you have the proper training, but eventually they might just get to you. Compare this to the state of affairs BEFORE the internet. The only way I could find out about the Documentary Hypothesis or evolution or anything was if I went to a library and specifically looked it up. It was most rare to stumble upon these sorts of kefiradick ideas. 

The internet is very dangerous because it might just expose you to ideas and theories which contradict your current worldview!