Getting Past BT Burnout

In the two months before Pesach, I had decided I’d had enough. My day was too full to work in the davening, the tehillim, the perek shirah, etc. etc., and still take care of my household responsibilities, a full-time job and a two-hour a day commute.

So I stopped davening.

I’d get up in the morning, make my coffee, sit down at my computer and check out my blogsites, all the while suppressing this nagging guilty feeling.

I told myself it didn’t matter, I’d get back to davening soon, that I was just tired and needed to regroup.

I went through my defiant phase — who needs davening, why bother, what good does it do, I bet half the women in my shul don’t daven, etc. etc. etc.

But while I was having this debate in my head, my external world was collapsing around me.

Our bankroll got thin.

I was tired, grouchy, depressed, inert.

I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything, let alone daven.

Work was hard, things went wrong, plates, broke, I ached, we argued.

And all the time I kept thinking — this is a slippery slope. How can you say you’re “frum” if you don’t even talk to Hashem?

“What’s your problem,” I asked myself. “You keep kosher, you light your candles, you do the important things. So who needs to daven? If I say a little prayer here and there, and remember to say my brochas for eating and going to the washroom, shouldn’t that be enough?”

I’ve done this before, dropped tehillim, stopped davening, davened rushed or badly, given up on perek shirah, until I pulled myself out of the funk.

It is so obvious to me that when I drop my responsibilities to Hashem, my personal world goes very wrong. Things are just harder, as if you’re trying to climb up a hill with a 50-pound bag of sand on your back.

I’m not saying I’m being punished. I think being a BT is forever this crab walk of sideways skittering, two steps forward and two steps back. But this awful feeling of abrogation, of dereliction of duty, of leaving things unfinished, that’s the hardest to take.

I committed to starting up again on Erev Pesach this year. I would pick up the football and run with it. And I did — the whole nine yards (figuratively speaking).

And have been faithfully doing so every since.

And my world is going smoothly.

The bills are paid.

The work is fun and challenging but not frustrating.

My relationship with my husband and others is excellent.

And the sun shines every day, even when it rains.

There’s no doubt in my mind that when you finally understand our sole job is to serve Hashem, everything begins to make sense. The priorities click back into place. Everything becomes a little easier and a little clearer.

I’m not sure, but I suspect that even a BT who decides it’s too much and goes back to his old secular way of life will never be the same again. They’ve had a taste of Gan Eden on earth by seeing a glimpse of kedushah and seeing their part in Hashem’s plan, and it will have left an indelible mark.

115 comments on “Getting Past BT Burnout

  1. Shalom Dear,

    I have decided not to post anymore in my current thread, it’s giving me a headache, so I thought I’d post in yours instead.

    Having a nice day?

    Your choson

  2. Mark, CYLMOR.:)

    One of my kids’ schools referred to these subjects as Limudei Chachma, which I felt was much more respectful label for studying Hashem’s world.

    Regarding your points. Taking into account the vast amount of knowledge out there I think the actually points of conflict are relatively few. And even some of the few aren’t really conflicts.

    As to time allocation. We choose schools that reflect our values and trust them to handle this. As adults, Halevi our time should be so well allocated to Torah. Unfortunately for many of us time spent learning something that’s not exactly Torah but can certainly enhance our understanding of Torah and/or bring us closer to Hashem is a step up from many of the other we spend our time. But even if I learned all day, I believe some amount of worldy knowledge would be required just to more fully understand my learning.

    Ron, Actually, I was going to make that point. That’s exactly what great poskim do. The Chofetz Chaim’s psak regarding the Bais Yaakov concept comes to mind.

    However, I think that MO is proactive in this area while others are more passive, even timid. When Eliahu said, “The idea is that MO tries to walk the line in many areas” I think he articulated this point, though maybe not with the same intent.

  3. MO evaluates the time and place to make sure the correct chapter of the SA is being applied.
    Which exactly is the “kind” of observant Judaism that does not do this?

  4. M, What is your definition of secular? The standard Israeli (and in some parts of America) Ultra Orthodox position is that secular is anything that is not Torah. Which is why they don’t have secular subjects in high school and are only ok with them if a person needs to leave full time learning and find a job.

    In terms of what brings us closer to G-d, secular study advocates say that literature, especially the classics give us a better understanding and appreciation of people and the human condition.

    On the practical front, material like the 7 Habits and NLP (which is used by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin) gives us access to good time management and communication skills which is important in become better Torah Observant Jews.

    The major problem with a full embrace of secular knowledge is:

    1) In some/many cases it conflicts with Torah
    2) It is distracting and in most cases our time is better spent learning Torah, if getting close to Hashem is our primary goal.

  5. My last comment above raises this issue:

    Assuming that not all secular knowledge is Jewishly useful (that is, that not all secular knowledge promotes a closer personal connection to HaShem)—

    Does a Jew need some in-depth Torah education up front to be able to tell the Jewishly useful part of secular knowledge from the harmful part (that creates a barrier between that Jew and HaShem)? If so, how much in-depth Torah education and of what type?

    Also, is there a middle category between useful and harmful, and what falls into that category?

  6. I talked to a CM friend who told me that DMZ Jews who observe Shabbos to rest can only do this if they are at a horse racing track. Therefore, I am allowed to go to the Belmont Stakes this Shabbos if I bring Challah and Cholent. I will not marry any of the horses though, unless they are Jewish.

    CM=Certfied Mail
    DMZ = Demilitarized Zone

  7. I think a lot of “secular” knowledge is not truly secular.

    Study of physics, neurology, biology, horticulture, etc etc are all ways to increase knowledge and appreciation of Hashem’s world.

  8. Regarding
    “1) Secular knowledge is useful in its own right to help us get closer to Hashem”

    Does this mean all secular knowledge or some? If some, how do we make the necessary distinctions?

  9. While we are on the subject of Hilcos Nidah and marital intimacy, IMO, our future chasanim and kalos need as much instruction in how to communicate, talk and to realize that physical intimacy is a wonderful mitzvah in the marital context and is as important as all of the halachos and minhagim of Hilcos Nidah that a chasan and kallah are bombarded with in the chasan and kallah classes that are generally taken in the rush to the chupah. There is no shortage of literature within Chazal and Rishonim on this subject. However, IMO, there seems to be a lack of willingness to discuss this subject-even at seminars for married couples.

  10. I asked someone who has Semicha from YU and who is very learned what his definition of Modern Orthodox and he gave these three points:

    1) Secular knowledge is useful in its own right to help us get closer to Hashem.
    2) We should not be isolated in our own communities, but rather we should be out in the world helping to bring about its Tikkun (completion/correction).
    3) The State of Israel at this juncture of history is critical to the Jewish People and should be strongly supported, even if most of the people and most of the government is not Torah observant.

    My friend agreed that observance of halacha is paramount, but felt that heavy involvement in the secular creates the risk that a person will slacken in their observance. That’s obviously not the ideal, it’s just a reality.

  11. Jaded Topaz-We tend to forget that the Halacha views marrriage and phsyical intimacy as neither Victoriam prudery nor Greco-Roman hedonism. If anything is true, physical intimacy is seen as the highest level of intimacy between a husband and wife that culminates what happens beyond the bedroom door. OTOH, the halacha recognizes that even the most passionate of physical relationships can go emotionally stale and that marriage allows is the sole basis for physical basis, as opposed to “living together”, “hook ups” or Pilegesh. It is for the reason that no Posek that I am aware of would permit a single woman to go to the Mikvah.WADR, I think that singles need more oppurtunites to meet in a non pressurized situation and get married, as opposed to dumbing down halachos for those who are committment phobic or enjoy the single life.

    Look at it this way-In the days of Temple, immersion in a Mikvah served two purposes-removal of ritual impurity and allowing marital relations. Since the destruction of the Temple, the primary purpose of Mikvah is that of allowing marital relations. When a man goes to the Mikvah on Erev RH and YK, it is to enhance his sense of Kedushah and Taharah. Those who go to the Mikvah on Erev Shabbos or even on Shabbos Morning do so for the same reason and possibly because of the residue of a well known Machlokes Tanaim and Rishonim as to whether Takanas Ezra was completely abolished or remains in some limited effect.

  12. Hi Eliahu,

    JT’s comments regarding Niddah do not represent MO in any way. They represent the mistaken opinion of some of JT’s MO friends.

    I feel that your talking points in general are not appropriate for this discussion. They represent possible problem areas for some MO people but say nothing regarding MO itself. Thus, these points may be a good outline for an OU symposium on problems within MO, but not for our discussion understanding MO.

    The definition —> Like all orthodox, MO is bound by Rambam’s 13 principles of faith and adheres faithfully to the Shulchan Aruch. So, you may ask, what’s the difference, where does the “modern” come in? Good question. As Rav Schachter so succinctly puts it, MO evaluates the time and place to make sure the correct chapter of the SA is being applied.

    There’s no changing halacha, there’s no abrogation of halacha, and there’s no elimination of mitzvot. And in fact, Rav Schachter explains, going through this process can actually lead to more accurate halachic observance. And the same concept may be applied to minhagim.

    That combined with a different hashgafic outlook in handful areas; Israel, Daas Torah, Worldy knowledge, etc., pretty much sums it up.

  13. I think we’re coming down too hard on Jaded. What she has stated as “reasons” are typical things many single girls (before Kallah class stage) hear.

    Married life, and Kallah class, educate far differently. If she does decide to take on MO observance (not the kind made up of a fantasy wish list of desired items), she will obtain a more realistic picture and perspective when she needs to. Or even now.

  14. Dear Jaded,

    Do you have any access to formal learning from any observant teachers? Relying on information from your “MO friends” is pretty tenuous.

    I’ve learned on my own precious journey that everyone (innocently or not so innocently) seems to want to hold by their own Shulchan Aruch for convenience and ease, and don’t want to delve too deeply into the actual laws and the fine print.

    This is not the right approach. The right approach is to learn what the laws actually say and to find out what we are actually required to do or are prohibiting from doing, and not make it up as we go along.

    For instance, there are an alarming number of women who classify themselves as slightly to the right of MO yet don’t feel they need to cover their hair after marriage. When did they get to make up the new rule that says, “I only need to cover my hair on Shabbas morning when I go to shul,” when you can find specific detailed laws on how much hair you can allow yourself to show.

    Where would halacha and Torah be in our lives if we got to pick and choose what we wanted to do in our lives and to what degree we wanted to do it, like shopping in the vegetable section of the supermarket?

    I’ll do this. Check. I’ll do this. Check. Oh, I won’t do that, too hard. Check.

    It sounds pretty frightening that your friends could be inadvertantly leading you down an incorrect path. That’s what I picked up from your post, but I could be interpreting it incorrectly.


  15. Dear Jaded,

    The interpretation of Niddah laws you’ve presented here are WAY OFF BASE. Run, do not walk, to a kallah teacher who can give you the real nuts and bolts of what taharah hamishpacha is about, because it is NOT as your friends have described.

    Grab yourself the most excellent book “A Woman’s Guide to the Laws of Niddah” by Artscroll, or “The Secret of Jewish Femininity” by Tehilla Abramov. You don’t touch your niddah wife because any touching can lead to sexual intimacy, which can lead to sexual intercourse.

    It is NOT about “absense makes the heart go fonder.”

    The Torah EXPLICITLY states that a woman is forbidden to her husband when she is niddah (five days of her flow, and a minimum of seven clear days, which requires vigilant checking for stains that may be residual blood flow). It is d’oraisah and it is not a flippant exercise in happy honeymooning.



  16. Jaded (#93)
    Heh, your niddah comment (about the 9 month pauses) was one of the main things I was thinking about when I wrote in my latest blog here that some kiruv workers give overly-simplistic explanations. But since you’ve apparently heard the same stuff (“Being in niddah and then using the mikvah makes it like a honeymoon every month! It keeps the marriage fresh!”) maybe it’s more universal than I thought. Anyway yeah, it was funny to hear that so often when in reality, it’s like a honeymoon once a year (baruch Hashem, for good reasons). Not to get too detailed, but I think the average young women in my community has probably spent around 10-15% of her marriage “on break,” not 50%.

    Anyway, despite the wrongheaded explanations, I still think it’s very meaningful. For one thing, it’s part of halacha that we keep in order to do Hashem’s will. A more easily seen benefit is that we’re elevating a part of our lives by putting it under Divine control and not our own. That part of life in particular can often be denigrated into pleasure-seeking, almost animalistic behavior (I’m not talking about any secular couple here, I’m talking about what often happens in clubs/bars/etc). Instead, we make it holy.

    Also, even a once-a-year break is enough to help you not take things for granted.

    As for live-in girlfriends, that’s one of those things that sounds logical but rarely works. I don’t think a “trial period” relationship can ever properly simulate a real, lifelong commitment. And in reality, marriages between former live-in boy/girlfriends are actually less likely to work out than marriages between others. Which makes sense, because someone who can take the mentality of “We’ll just try living like husband and wife, sharing a bed and a home, and being each others’ family. If we fight too much over laundry, though, I’m dumping you” just might keep that mentality after the chuppah as well.

    I think a “totally not religious person learning alei shure” can have an excellent connection to Hashem if they are always striving to move further in their relationship to Him and their observance of His Torah. OTOH, if they’re just enjoying the awe-inspiring beauty of many Torah teachings without any intention of taking any of it on, that’s probably an emotional experience, not a spiritual one.

    Frum people have the same rules. Moving up (ie more Torah observance/learning) = good, down = bad. Mistaking chumrot for moving up = bad, maitaining a sense of wonder and joy alongside that of commitment = good.

    Also, why not compare a frum person learing alei shure to a non-religious person running to catch a bus on a hot day?

  17. Eliahu – one of the popular reasonings behind the separation thing and niddah rules is that abstinence makes the heart go fonder and spouses learn to appreciate other sides of married life and other sappy stuff. If this is true then how does it work when you can actually avoid the whole need for abstinence, be it birth control pills or pregnancy, these options sort of put those sappy “reasonings” under a whole new harsher lighting.

    Some very smart friends of mine of the modern orthodox persuasion that I depend on for my “religious” beliefs, are under the researched impression that in the niddah period everything except “all the way” is allowed, which makes sense. Thats what I meant by “hands on but disciplined” approach. As opposed to some views which border on separate housing for two weeks every month ,cannot be very healthy in the long run………….

    Also, If youre trying to prove that my sense of modern orthodox is not in sync with the Steve Brizel’s well then congratulations youve won the mussar moment of the month award.
    Ok obviously I cant base all my modern orthodox info on my brilliant friends that claim they’ve done their research and know their stuff.

    But do you not agree that its impossible to know someone unless you live with them first.
    Wouldnt it make sense for religion to make allowances for human vulnerabilities /shortcomings and 2007 issues like many individuals that are not married.
    Do I hear pilegesh and mikvah loopholes calling……….

  18. Shalom Steve,

    Tzomet does all kinds of things and they have great halachic scholars behind them.

    I was informed by my rabbi that a number of mo shuls are now using microphones. I give them the benefit of the doubt they are Tzomet systems, but I could be wrong. Maybe they are simply microphones.

    The idea is that MO tries to walk the line in many areas, and that is why all of these areas are discussion points. I am concerned about the children and grandchildren of people whose approach is to walk the line.

    And to be fair, I have issues with many other segments of the orthodoxy as well, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t discuss the MO issues as well.

    Regards, Eliahu

  19. Shalom Jaded,

    I don’t toy with ambiguity if I can help it. It is counterproductive making a mishmash out of a real conversation. Here is an example from what you just wrote to me.

    “When I think of Modern Orthodox ( as in friends that consider themselves so) I think of Orthodox minus the stifling hangups and hyperfocusing on the superficial.”

    What stifling hangups?
    What superficial are you talking about?

    Interpretive styling has its place, but not usually where people are trying to understand one another and exchange ideas.

    “Also that ambiguity line is a great line even though its screaming “condescending” in connotational english.”

    It is not my intention to be condescending, it is my intention to pin your down to the language of clear communication. I want to see meaningful dialogue, which commands expressiveness that is accessible to everyone here.

    “As for niddah I was referring to the hands off approach as opposed to the hands on but disciplined approach.- In general the whole nidda and related rules concept is beyond my comprehension and since there are often long periods of time when the laws dont apply( think nine month segments) all the popular reasonings go rancid like bad acid. Cuz if they were the real reasons then what , the marriage goes sour during the times the niddah laws dont apply?”

    Here you have responded to my last request of you for clarity and made an attempt with these niddah remarks. I appreciate your doing this. It requires courage as it also opens you up to counter argumentation that you are shielded from when people don’t know what you are talking about.

    You did make some additional ambiguous remarks in your reply however. For example, I know what the hands off approach is during the niddah period. What does the “hands on but disciplined approach” mean?


    I’m taking an intermission to comment on your statement concerning the times you say that “niddah laws do not apply.”

    Niddah laws ALWAYS apply. Niddah laws are based on the menstrual flow from the monthly cycle. It isn’t that these laws don’t apply during this time, it is that the monthly cycle doesn’t happen so there is nothing that needs to be done.

    “And regarding “girlfriends sleeping over” in life you can never really know someone unless your living with them which is why living with a serious boyfriend (or girlfriend) before marriage might make sense in order to ascertain certain things before making certain mistakes.”

    Thank you for this clarification. If this is included in what you call the modern orthodox approach, sleeping together to get to know each other before marriage, you’re going to upset a lot of people who think they are MO (not all I’m sure).

    However, you have removed a lot of ambiguity on this one and the readers can now see where you are coming from. Perhaps some of them would like to make some comments about this.

    Regards, Eliahu

  20. Eliyahu-FWIW, Tzomet also designed a means for wheelchair confined people to go to shul and move around on Shabbos that IIRC was approved of by none less than RSZA. As far as the microphone, the website refers to the theoretical approval of the same by Talmidei Chachamim. I am unaware of any shul that utilizes the same.

  21. Bob Miller – regarding your curt comment #54 , I would go with the middle path= a platinum plated comment catcher all studded up with pink sapphires and pinker topaz’s. As for comment #56 if the pedestal fits….. if it DOESN’T fit………

    Eliahu Levenson- When I think of Modern Orthodox ( as in friends that consider themselves so) I think of Orthodox minus the stifling hangups and hyperfocusing on the superficial. Its the friends that went to modern orthodox day schools and high schools that are way more religious in a deeper sense and are often more disciplined about halacha. Its hard to explain but i’ve found that to be true often. Also that ambiguity line is a great line even though its screaming “condescending” in connotational english. As for niddah I was referring to the hands off approach as opposed to the hands on but disciplined approach.- In general the whole nidda and related rules concept is beyond my comprehension and since there are often long periods of time when the laws dont apply( think nine month segments) all the popular reasonings go rancid like bad acid. Cuz if they were the real reasons then what , the marriage goes sour during the times the niddah laws dont apply?
    And regarding “girlfriends sleeping over” in life you can never really know someone unless your living with them which is why living with a serious boyfriend (or girlfriend) before marriage might make sense in order to ascertain certain things before making certain mistakes.

    Ron Coleman- regarding your comment #67 well…. speaking of Syms did you ever notice that sometimes the original label is missing and not important. I think thats a great lesson for Wednesday, it doesnt matter what company you were created under, you can always just leave the label and cubicle behind (as often as necessary) and join an accepting educated community/company with educated consumers and maybe even manage to get discounts on tuition in an edgy yet educated kind of way of course. Cubicle hopping for that special company community. Or just create your own company and community for all the educated consumers that are too educated and too busy or bent to bother fixing broken communities.
    Also- I think that sometimes people learn backwards and that like for instance a totally not religious person learning alei shure might have a better connection to gd then the frummiest dressed person stuffier than stuffy on a hot sunny day in the city trying to run to catch a minyan on a tuesday. Both are hard but its just a different way of learning I guess and connecting to Gd or whatever.
    Maybe both are right just different stimulants think strattera versus ritalin.

    M. good luck with the perfect community search.

    Happy cubicle for community hopping everyone.

  22. Shalom Ona,

    I wrote you a nice response, but it didn’t show up. I am assuming it is because the way I bracketed the words triggered some kind of end code in this program. Your words showed but mine did not.

    Rather than try to reconstruct, because I’m tired, I’ll repost a link to the Tzomet Inst. who manufactures the “Shabbos Microphone” now in use in some (not a lot…yet) locations.

    That MO uses it anywhere is why it is one of the discussion points.

    (I hope it posts this time)

    Your posts are thoughtful and searching. Keep it up, Eliahu

  23. Ron-I would agree that anyone who claims that MO consists of the halachic shortcuts that you mentioned is inaccurate. OTOH, AFAIK, CM applies to all Jews, and one can find no shortage of violations of CM-regardless of the hashkafah of the violator.

  24. Shalom Ora,

    Eliyahu, as for your talking points:

    >>>I have never seen “Saturday microphones” in an MO shul. never. ever. Or heard of such a thing, even.>>As for the rest, that’s why I believe that MO is generally more open and accepting of individuals.>>Of course everyone should wear tznua clothes and keep the laws regarding to davvening and touching/relationships. OTOH, if they aren’t going to keep everything at the current time, what orthodox synagogue can they feel comfortable in?>>Many of the women would simply not be allows in most Hareidi shuls, and in several neighborhoods would even be yelled at or physically attacked. Better they should have somewhere accepting to go, and continue observing Shabbat, right?>>I’ve never seen an MO community that accepted non-observance of halacha, but I’ve seen several that accept people who don’t completely observe halacha. In other words, it’s not that the local MO rabbi tells women to go ahead and uncover their hair, but he probably does turn a blind eye to uncovered heads in order to avoid pushing anyone away.

  25. Eliyahu, as for your talking points:

    I have never seen “Saturday microphones” in an MO shul. never. ever. Or heard of such a thing, even.

    As for the rest, that’s why I believe that MO is generally more open and accepting of individuals. Of course everyone should wear tznua clothes and keep the laws regarding to davvening and touching/relationships. OTOH, if they aren’t going to keep everything at the current time, what orthodox synagogue can they feel comfortable in? Many of the women would simply not be allows in most Hareidi shuls, and in several neighborhoods would even be yelled at or physically attacked. Better they should have somewhere accepting to go, and continue observing Shabbat, right?

    I’ve never seen an MO community that accepted non-observance of halacha, but I’ve seen several that accept people who don’t completely observe halacha. In other words, it’s not that the local MO rabbi tells women to go ahead and uncover their hair, but he probably does turn a blind eye to uncovered heads in order to avoid pushing anyone away.

    Just to make myself clear, I don’t think this is the defining characteristic of modern orthodoxy, or of dati leumi communities in Israel with similar issues. Those of us who define ourselves as MO/dati leumi have generally speaking chosen to do so due to hashkafa, and not because we want to go around in a non-tznua way.

  26. Steve Brizel is right that the talking during davening is not a specifically MO problem.

    I’ve been in shuls where they even recited from the bimah the mi shebeirach of the Tosfos Yom Tov blessing the non-talkers (but sometimes this caused some talkers to talk about the mi shebeirach!).

    Here is a translation by Mordechai Perlman of
    Ner Yisroel Yeshiva of Toronto that I found on the Web:
    “The One who blessed our fathers; Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, Moshe,
    and Aharon, Dovid and Shlomo; He should bless everyone who guards his mouth and tongue from talking during davening. Hashem should protect him from every trouble and distress, from every plague and illness; and all the blessing of the Torah, Nevi’im and K’suvim should rest upon him; and he should merit to have children who will live and last (presumably not die in childbirth); and he should be able to raise them to Torah, Chupa,
    and good deeds; and he should be able to serve Hashem our G-d always with truth and sincerity, and we should say Amen.”

    At any rate, this was composed long before anyone dreamed of MO or anything other than traditional O, which points to the generality of the problem.

  27. So in short, Steve, there is no theoretical basis for any difference in halachic practice at the individual level as between MO and “non-modern” orthodoxy, right? This applies to hair covering, sleeve lengths and other tzenius issues, mixed swimming, issurei negia, kashrus, muktza, etc. In short, again, anyone claiming that by virtue of being “modern orthodox” he has some sort of basis on which to cut halachic corners is, in effect, defaming modern orthodoxy as you have described it?

  28. Let me try to respond to some of Ron’s queries re RYBS’s hashkafa. RYBS, in his shiurim, drashos and articles, emphasized that we believe despite our doubts, as opposed to pretending to living without doubts. RYBS advocated working together with heterodox groups on issues of common concern but was very much against working with them on any issue that even remotely affected hashkafa and Halacha. RYBS used a distinction of Klapei Chutz and Klapei Pnim in that regard. In that vein, RYBS was very cautious about synthesis or its reincartion as TuM and what could be called the messianist side of RZ. RYBS told a very close friend of mine that one shoild be able to excell in sciences such as physics and be fully convserant with the Chidushei R Chaim HaLevi Al HaRambam.

    We tend to forget that RYBS saw the adverse impact of Haskalah on Lithuania as well as the reaction of the yeshiva world ,TIDE and the Gemeinde approach in confronting these issues. In that regard, it is important to note that RYBS found the TIDE approach wanting because it raised a generation of observant Jews, but not Talmidie Chachamim.OTOH, RYBS also found the strict rejectionist view advocated by the Aguda and the Gemeinde accomodationist perspective equally wanting. IMO, RYBS’s stances on the mechitzah and theological ecumenical dialogue saved not only MO, but gave a much needed reinforcement to all of Torah Jewry, which until the late 1950s and early 1960s, was besieged by a very strong Conservative movement. There is no dount IMO that such a stance was a pivotal move and impetus behind the then awakening of the Teshuvah movement and the growth of Torah Judaism in the US.

  29. Eliyahu-thanks for that clarification. However, your point re talking during Chazaras HaShatz is yet another urban myth. I have been in my share of minyanim and the problem of talking during Chazaras HaShatz ,which AFAIK is assur al pi halacha unless absolutely necessary ( as opposed to being a “strict violation of Jewish law”)exists regardless of the hashkafic label.

  30. “My term of choice is “observant,” for a person is either observant, or he is not observant.”

    Well said.

  31. Steve said,
    FWIW, I don’t think that MO is as “open and accepting” as Bob Miller contends .

    The words in quotes were not mine, but Menachem’s

  32. Shalom,

    I have not heard anyone define modern orthodox. I have only heard great discomfort when the contention points are mentioned. This subject make me uncomfortable as well, but I’m not going to bury my head in the sand and pretend these problems don’t exist, and I’m not going to chastise people for discussing them.

    There is no way to make everybody happy when talking about this topic, and that is what people should be doing, talking, not pointing fingers and trying to put other people down.

    This subject is l’toeles, a constructive arena for discoursing unpleasant topics affecting ourselves and our fellow Jews. We should not ignore the topic and we need to be nicer to each other in the process.

    Having said this, I myself have never heard an acceptable definition of modern orthodox. I don’t eaven like the term. BTW, I don’t like the word “orthodox” either.

    My term of choice is “observant,” for a person is either observant, or he is not observant. The rock bottom line in being observant, in my opinion, is Shabbos, kashrus, and taharas hamishpachah.

    Everything else is working on setting the table.

    Many shuls CALL THEMSELVES modern orthodox. I cringe when I hear them do this, but they do.

    Taking from my earlier list of discussion points, as an example, if you want talking during the repetition of Shemona Esrei in an orthodox shul (a strict violation of Jewish law), what kind of orthodox shul would you be looking for? Modern Orthodox. Am I wrong? I’ve been around.

    Regards, Eliahu

  33. Ron Coleman-you sound somewhat frustrated in understanding what MO is. I can tell you that it by no means includes the halachically deviant behavior mentioned either in your post or what the stereotypes that were posted by Eliyahu Levinson. ( FWIW, there are numerous stereotypes about the Charedi world within the MO world, but I don’t believe that setting them forth here serves any positive purpose exept to set up a feeding frenzy of the worst kind. )

    Take it from me-there is much that I admire about both the Charedi and MO worlds ranging from Meah Shearim to the RIETS Beis Medrash and the very strong Charedi and MO communities in the US. Yet, I categorically reject their extremes and those aspects that are either not based upon Mesorah or reprsent what can be argued as an inappropriate application of Mesorah based upon my Baalei Mesorah. Some excellent examples in this regard would be the bans on R Slifkin and MOAG in the Charedi world and the near total absence of any discussion on Ikarie Emunah in the MO world.

    That being the case, I don;t believe that everyone has to either sit and learn or obtain the highest degree of secular education if they are unsuited for the same. To insist otherwise means that we are creating a generation of people doing the wrong thing, which the Talmud states that HaShem cries over all the time.

    I would advise you to read the writings of RSRH and RYBS and to listen to the posted link of RHS. FWIW, BEzras HaShem, we will be in Passaic for the Shabbaton and I would be more than interested in discussing the issue with you or anyone else interested on the subject.

    FWIW, I don’t think that MO is as “open and accepting” as Bob Miller contends . I would add that IMO MO could use more respect for the Gdolim within its world such as RHS and RM Willig and others as well as a recognition that not everyone is entitled to a POV.For example,while R A Weiss would be a great person to lead a rally against anti Semitism or for Israel,many within MO would not consider R A Weiss as capable as RHS in rendering Psak on any halachic issue or representing the legacy of RYBS in any fashion.I have previously discussed my very substantial concerns about YCT and RA Weiss’s hashkafa elsewhere ( Hirhurim and Emes veEmunah) and I see no reason to change them at all. For the purposes of this discussion, IMO, it can be fairly stated that R A Weiss champions pluralism, inclusiveness and raising one’s Jewish conscriousness, as opposed to helping someone become a Shomer Torah Umitzvos. IMO, that reflects an inappropriate emphasis on Bris Avos at the expense of Bris Sinai-which IMO runs contrary to the raison de etre of what kiruv and chizuk’s raison de etre are all about.

  34. Bob, I’m not the authoritative representative of MO, that’s for sure. (Steve, where are you?) I’m still making my way back from a stint toward the right.

    By open and accepting I was really referring to individuals not leadership. Personally, I believe that there are Rabbis, like the ones I mentioned and like my current Rav who hold a clear understanding of MO. So, while others may put themselves forth as authorities, to me they are not authoritative. (But this occurs across the spectrum, it’s just that in MO one is actually allowed to voice such opinions.) In a self-defining way then, to me, Rav Schachter speaks for all of the authoritative sources.

    I’m not really knowledgeable enough to get into specifics about Rabbi Weiss. I would just say that in general maybe MO gives one enough rope to hang oneself.

  35. Kind of my question, too. I mean, I know I can eat at R’ Hershel Shachter’s house. He’s for sure “frummer” than I am (not that that is some kind of gold standard!). What’s “modern orthodox” about him?

  36. Menachem,

    Does the “open and accepting nature” of MO permit differing “authoritative” answers as to the “true nature of MO Hashkafa” itself?

    If so, how do we know what proportion of his colleagues Rav Shachter speaks for?

    Would you also regard R. Avi Weiss as authoritative?

  37. “Here is a list of some of the discussion points for MO.

    Women wearing pants.
    Married women who don’t cover their heads.
    Talking in shul
    Saturday microphones
    Kiddush Club
    Mechitzah (conservative territory)”

    I could, but won’t, make a similar list regarding RW aberrations in observance which no more define RW dogma than does the list above.

    I could also ask a bunch of RW Jews: from Chafetz Chaim to Lubavitch, to Neturei Karta what defines their hashkafa and of course I’ll get widely divergent answers.

    If one wants an authoritative answer, one should go to an authoritative source. The Rav, Rav Shachter, Rav Lichtensetein, etc.

    The more open and accepting nature of MO allows for many people to set up camp under their tent even though these people may not represent the true nature of MO Hashkafa.

    Below is a link to an excellent lecture by Rav Shachter on Modern Orthodoxy. Listen to it. Then you all can ask some reasonable questions instead of making a bunch of specious assertions.

  38. Oh, yes, I suppose also our friend Jaded, she the uncategorizable, deserves a response!

    Well, I argued in my first ever post here that how one dresses does matter, and you’ve just asserted that, well, no, it doesn’t. What can I do? You either were persuaded by article or you weren’t. I don’t think I exactly increased the annual sales at Syms with that article, notwithstanding my efforts to educate consumers. Ironically, however, you seem to be focusing on externals by saying MO people mainly just dress down. You clarified that however with your easygoing piskei halacha on taharas hamishpacha, for which I am grateful. I think I understand the connection between these two sets of leniencies on a practical level, but I would be interested in the theoretical justification for them from the perspective of, I guess, Judaism, for starters.

    Now, are you, Jaded, asserting from a “personal perspective” that in your case, your avodas Hashem is so finely tuned that you not only need no recourse to external devices such as clothes but not even to halacha? This makes you very special indeed, but we have always known that you are! To find this fine tuning with such a level of self confidence is sparkily refreshing!

    You raise another interesting point. Can you tell me more about the proposition that consistent transgression is preferred by God to grunting and sweating up the cliff notwithstanding painful and frustrating backsliding. I had always understood the latter to be preferable and from some of your writing I would even have thought you shared this view!

    Always a pleasure, especially on Tuesdays, Jaded!

  39. Ron said,
    “Thus I’d like someone who argues in favor of MO, and who wears that badge proudly, in this space to define his or her terms.”

    How does Steve Brizel not meet this description?

  40. Well, Eliahu, we’d agree, there’s plenty of ambiguity to go around. I of course knew all the possible definitions of MO you rely on in your earlier response to my question and Bob’s, too, but my point is, I guess, that MO seems to be a lot like communism. Whenever you point to one of its failures or contradictions, its proponents say, “Well, no, that‘s not what we mean by real modern orthodoxy!”

    A talented friend just pointed out in an email that I look and smell like a “RWMO” to him and will have to ‘fess up to it when I “relent and send [my] kids to a decent college” [can you guess who the friend is?]. I think he’s wrong on more than one count … on the other hand, I am sure there are some who would already call me that, notwithstanding my velvety black yarmulke and platinum Agudath Israel membership card. But this is a bit of distraction, I think. I don’t identify MO and I don’t defend the concept because I believe with the “non-MO,” i.e. “American Haredi” concept, there’s more room for variety than those people think.

    Thus I’d like someone who argues in favor of MO, and who wears that badge proudly, in this space to define his or her terms. But perhaps that’s beyond the scope, at least, of this thread.

  41. Eliahu Levenson,

    Your understanding of MO is completely off the wall. Please read Bob Miller’s definition (and this guy is a haredi zealot in my book) for some understanding of MO, and then you can do the right thing and retract your nonsense about the MO community.

    “Saturday microphones.” Yeah — that’s a defining characteristic. Slightly more rampant at your local MO shul than giraffe chulent.

  42. Shalom Jaded,

    Your responses are not clear. My last post to you asked for clarifications but was not responded to. Perhaps you could clarify these points for me.

    “Ànd the “niddah difference” does not involve separate houses for two weeks of the month.”

    What does this mean specifically in regards to mikvah and the laws of taharas hamishpachah. The way it is written it can mean anything anybody wants it to mean, so it means nothing.

    “Oh ànd girlfriends can sleep over ànd move in if need be.”

    Again this can mean anything you want it to mean. You can decide what you want it to mean AFTER reading the responses you receive. Ambiguity is a built in self defense against critical analysis, and the tool for avoiding genuinely meaningful discussion.

  43. Ron,

    The definition of MO is in the eyes of the beholder. MO-oriented blogs have rehashed issues of self-definition endlessly. A wide range of beliefs and behaviors has been called MO by somebody or other.

    There are MO-oriented Jews who are “religiously lax” or “religiously lax with an attitude”, but also others who are neither of these.

    On the whole, MO people appear to be less likely to defer to rabbinic authority, including that of their own nominal leaders, than more traditional Orthodox Jews are.

    The MO rank and file have had a basically positive attitude toward Western society, as opposed to the more ambivalent or even antagonistic attitude of more traditional Orthodox Jews.

    When there is an apparent contradiction between our Mesorah and the current consensus view of scientists, MO theoreticians often take the latter as a given and try to find a way to reinterpret the Mesorah accordingly.

    Some MO theoreticians have looked for loopholes to advance a feminist agenda within Orthodoxy, again trying to reinterpret the Mesorah.

  44. Shalom Ron,

    The term “Modern Orthodox” is an oxymoron, like “act natural” or “eyes wide shut.” From my vantage point the term serves to accomodate a large segment of Jews who would only call themselves orthodox, but find certain areas of Jewish law unacceptable, or wish to contest that certain things are actually violations.

    Here is a list of some of the discussion points for MO.

    Women wearing pants.
    Married women who don’t cover their heads.
    Talking in shul
    Saturday microphones
    Kiddush Club
    Mechitzah (conservative territory)

  45. Ron,just a quick personal perspective ;
    Pure ànd unadulterated modern orthodoxism is not sullied with silly hyperfocusing on externals. Mundane matters like black hats “ebony bekeshes” ànd ” meticulous tichels” are not the hot topics for Tuesday. Ànd the “niddah difference” does not involve separate houses for two weeks of the month. With can I pass the salt questions.
    Shabbas does not involve dressing up in stiff suits ànd celebrating “sartorial splendor” Saturdays for stiff suit lovers “. Oh ànd girlfriends can sleep over ànd move in if need be. Gd likes consistency loyalty ànd stability. Its good for the soul. Ok basically for the sake of gd is the constant objective that should be threading through the life in question I think right ? Other stuff is secondary.

  46. Will someone please define “modern orthodox” for me? Was Rav Soloveitchik? Some people would include in this definition the man who spent the day at the Agudath Israel Halacha Conference on Sunday whose son just got semicha from YU; he who wore a cream-colored shirt and a suede yarmulka so I know he’s not “haredi.” Other people believe “unadulterated” (odd choice of words) MO means people who live in frum towns and have kipot serugot but have sleepover girlfriends and pick-and-choose hilchos Shabbos. Indeed today a client asked me about a “modern orthodox” man, self-described, who plays tennis on Shabbos and is a serial marrier or non-frum women. Others who keep no mitzvos at all seem to consider it a panacea of some sort for some people for some reason.

    Who is the official representative and what is the paradigm of this strange religion I keep hearing about? Is there a special section in the Shulchan Aruch for this category? Or is it one that merely considers some sections less binding than others? If so, how is it “orthodox”?

    I have heard one putative and well-known representative tell me “Before the war the Torah was mostly oral and then we lost that and it became only written, and now ‘everything is assur‘” — was this some universal heter of oralness also found only in this “Oral Torah”? Was the fact that “in Europe no one was wearing a sheitel” and in America some famous rabbinical figures’ wives continued not to some sort of authoritative and founding ethos of MO? Or do the ladies in meticulous tichels (covered-hair tip to JT) really represent pure MO — is it then merely non-haredi, i.e. non “yeshivish” (i.e., non-affecting-of-Eastern-Europe-via-Flatbush style) entirely halachic practice?

    I wish someone would draw some lines on this!

  47. Shalom M.,

    Please keep us posted on your progress! I’m sure there is a community that will be a good fit for you and your wife.


  48. M.,

    Wherever you may find yourself, you have an extremely refreshing honesty that will be an asset to any community.

    There’s a strength between the lines of your comments that transcends the hardships you are going through. Kol Hakovod.

    The other M :)

  49. Well, talk about hashkacha pratis.

    Jaded–peekaboo. I see you. Nice name. Creative and seemingly Anonymous.

    Your comments actually do have a purpose.
    I must aplolgise. I used the term FFB when in point of fact, in a few cases I have no idea if the comments said to me or people I know were from FFBs. In fact, Jaded without knowing, reminded me, some of the attitudes/comments came from people who were not raised in an observant household—as Jaded was. I’m sorry, I was caught in emotion. I now realize the comments were off the mark and incomplete. The sentiment of feeling it coming from all sides still stands. My comments concerning kiruv organizations and the lack of long term support from them also still stands. But–no self pitty from me. I said it, now I’m moving to positive action.

    Actually, you had other good points–everyone is human (no pedistals anymore from me. But, I won’t just take it either). The drug references and overall attitude, however, concern me. I’d love to know where that’s coming from.

    So, I’ll just shut up now and look for that rav and community. Jaded, your comments drove home the fact we are in a place that isn’t the right fit for us to grow and raise happy children in (besides being really unsafe.) Jaded, be well. Really.

  50. For example, comment from #41 above:

    JT wrote, “If everyone would stop putting large sects of people on pedestals they dont deserve…”

    This is clear enough to be seen for what it is.

  51. JT said, “You should work on your condescending connotation skills they need a little polishing in the super subtle areas.”

    I was looking for something between a feather and a two-by-four to swat away your latest assault on FFB’s.

  52. Leah

    Most things will go through and negative sentiments against a group (not an individual) are often allowed. The Loshon Hora rules against an individual and a group are different. In addition there is often a toeles (purpose) in letting people express their opinions.

    I think Bob was making the point that a repeatedly expressed negative opinion may no longer have a toeles. I answered that acceptance of people with their real pains is one of the purposes of this site and we will normally err on the side of acceptance as opposed to censorship and enforced silence even if an opinion is repeated. (Of course there are limits.)

  53. Bob, my comment was not part of the self pitying I’ve been burnt contest. I was just plainly pointing out the brands of self pity no one seems to be getting high on. Ànd in the process tryin to prove that there is no end to superiority complex’s any which way you classify the initials. Which Is why feeling inferior is a waste of ènergy. Is that bland enough for you.
    Ór are you just jealous your comments are not as “colorful ór obscurely worded”.
    You should work on your condescending connotation skills they need a little polishing in the super subtle areas.

  54. Over Shabbos I read from the weekly school newsletter that the Chofetz Chaim Foundation sends home. There was a column about (paraphrasing) embracing the entire cast of characters that Hashem sends to each of us, understanding that each one is specifically chosen by HKB”H for our unique needs. In other words, we are meant to cross paths and it is not worthwhile to try to avoid those who make us uncomfortable, since that discomfort is precisely the springboard for the improvement we need to make in ourselves.
    BT’s who have been burned in the frum world have a message, too, although not always so easy to hear.

  55. Shalom Mark,

    Just out of curiousity, what do you mean by “acceptance?” Do you mean there is low threshold for acceptability in terms of what we post? Like most will go through except really dubious material?

    For the record, I really had difficulty deciphering the message in Post 41. Maybe I wasn’t stoned enough. ;-D



  56. We live in a society where there is much rejection, in our schools, in shidduchim, and in or communities. Sometimes rejection is necessary, but I’m comfortable here erring on the side of acceptance. Our Rabbinic advisors also tend towards acceptance. (Note: Of course we don’t query them on every questionable comment.)

  57. FYI, my comment #42 was a reaction to #41, not to M. Similarly my comment #45 was a reaction to #44.

    I don’t have any quarrel with M.

  58. Well, I had no idea my comments would spark so much. I just told have the time or energy to fully respond at this point.

    1) I just want to thank those people who have showed in concern.
    2) It really isn’t a FFB, BT, MO–thing. It’s one of the things we are really tired of. — I’m tired of the alphabet soup game. It’s right up there with the yichus game. My comments were not about bashing anyone. Like I said—it’s been coming from ALL sides. And, I don’t consider myself a Baal Teshuva just yet. I’m still working on myself. If anything, that’s what BT really means. And yes, we realize people are people. And this is why we are still in gallus. We have ALL been affected by this gallus. We have to work on ourselves. We are also tired of complaning about it all.
    3) One thing, the points about everything being external are simply illogical. (They actually came off as condescending and frustrated.) I’m sure they weren’t meant to be.) If it is all external than tochecha should have no affect on a person–the name Mitzrayim, denoting how our forefathers were physically AND spiritually constricted (affected by their environment), is a misnomer. No, there ARE three types of relationships–HaShem, Kehilla, and Self. All have an affect and all are important. For my spouse, it’s all about HaShem. But, for my spouse, Kehilla is the ingredient that makes Yiddishkite special (kadosh.) And–watch out, you are using a method of communication inteded to have an affect (a good one) on others. So you contradict your own comments.

    Look—I think at this point we have to find the right rav and (hopefully) the right place to lay our tired heads so we can actually start growing. It won’t have anyting to do with FFB, BT, or MO. It will be emes (or if you insist, MS) because we don’t want to be GTM (going through the motions–for those who just have to have their alphabet shop).

  59. Mark, there’s no question that improvement is needed by all of us all the time. I’m absolutely tired, though, of the carping, lashon hara, and motzi shem ra against FFB’s that tries to represent itself as constructive criticism. You have a difficult task in keeping order, and have done a good job, but sometimes the nonsense gets through. It can be colorfully or obscurely worded (or both!), but that doesn’t make it any better.

    Anonymity on this or any blog permits anyone to make any charge against others without repercussions. We have virtually no way to know which stories of “bad trips” really reflect what actually happened in all respects or really in any respect.

    How many different ways does the same person have to tell us again “I’ve been burned”?

  60. Actually this site was put together to help all who want to join us to move towards the goal of actually become real authentic G-d fearing Jews. Part of that process is realizing that we’ve got some serious work to do, both in ourselves and in our community.

  61. Shalom Topez,

    I’d like to hear you define an “unadulterated modern orthodox community” for us. What makes it distinctive and why would you find it desirable?

    Thank you.

  62. Interesting brands of self pity everyone seems to be smokin around here …….
    The pretty colored blown glass pipes are so much better for smokin this potent stuff.
    One fun, expensive brand noone seems to be smokin around here is the transition from FFF (far from frum) to born again FFB burnout brand.

    When an individual divorces themselves from the rusty chains of religion and then later remarries religion for its rustic charm, it is distinctly disconcerting to discover that those same causes for the spiritual divorce have only become rustier /older/judgier albeit better classifications. But no more mature and no less sanctimonious.

    Lets not forget that there are no “tinok shenishbah” pardon points allocated to FFF to born again FFB scenarios cuz they were taught right from wrong.And there is no novelty high either for stuff like shabbas and related lessons in discipline to alleviate burnout downers when smokin this brand.
    And “dont judge your friend till youve tried on the brain”…… ethics seem to have been reclassified as “sinner until proven innocent”

    If everyone would stop putting large sects of people on pedestals they dont deserve, in addition to making a concerted effort to stop wasting so much energy on jealousy and “am I better moments” among the FFB’s BT’s, FFF’s and BS’ers…..and throw out the black hats and bland white outlooks with the bathwater , there would be so much more energy for the important stuff.
    Like making a well informed pipe purchase for “universal unity” pipe dreams smoking(Crystal clear colored glass is so versatile/ universally applicable /appealing and accepting).

    And then worry about what G-d thinks, instead of the annoying opinions of your frummier friend/ neighbor or synagogue sitter.

    Most important- start new unadulterated modern orthodox communities often and everywhere. Before frummy burnout starts spreading like wildflowers weeds and wildfires.

  63. M., I just read you comment. I’m very sorry for what you have experienced. I know the move has been hard for you, but you need to move again. You must find a place where you’re comfortable and accepted. As some have suggested it may be a community to the “left” of the one you’re in now.

    Not knowing where you are now or what you do, I suggest you try to make your way to the NY metro area. It’s expensive to live there, but salaries are higher and in NYC at least there is nothing anomolous about a frum employee.

    Azriella Jaffe wrote about Highland Park, NJ. I strongly recommend it or something like it. Basically, you’re talking about a medium sized, slightly “out of town” community, with a spectrum of hashkafot where the shuls and the people get along very nicely.

    Others here may disagree with me, but I think you need to focus on stabalization right now, not growth. Find a nice MO shul where noboby is going to judge you and you won’t feel pressure to “measure up”. Once you’ve regained your equilibrium you can re-evaluate the situation if need be.

  64. Let me give an interesting example of what I consider to be what M and others have written about. We ate lunch yesterday with some good friends who are sending their daughter to a newer seminary that is definitely more frum than the MO all girls high school that she and her older sister attended. In addition to the usual concerns about being away from home, the young woman in question also bemoaned the fact that there would be a lot of BTs in this seminary and that she was unhappy at possibly having to be “doing kiruv” during her year of study. I sort of asked her -what would be so wrong with helping someone grow as a Torah observant Jew? I did not receive an answer. Hopefully, I will hear from her parents that she has realized that one of the major benefits of growing up in a FFB family is being able to help those of her peers who are BTs grow in their observance and their comfort zone with being BTs.

  65. Shavua Tov Belle,

    Excellent and thoughtful post. This says it perfectly:

    “It took me years to reconcile it, understanding that frum people were human too and had the same human failings, both individually and communally, that others have.”

    I think we BTs go into FFB homes expecting paragons and “saints,” as it were. We forget they are people, in fact quite sheltered people who may not have the battle-hardened skins of us who have had to navigate through the secular world.

    It would make a fascinating sociological study.

    I think the best thing we can do as more “worldly” BTs, is what you said, accept that FFBs are human and have human failings too, the same but different. And in fact, we just may have the leg up on them. We can survive the outside world, and they possibly couldn’t, or they’d have a very tough time.

    Yasher koach on a great post!


  66. I’d like to comment on one of the most important things M. mentioned: “–I can understand the non-Torah world and it’s pulls.”

    I think that, as idealists at heart, BTs are unprepared for the failings of the frum community. I myself was shocked that not all FFB families were like the tzadikkim in Jerusalem that I knew. It took me years to reconcile it, understanding that frum people were human too and had the same human failings, both individually and communally, that others have. What we do not understand, and are not instructed about, are the sociological differences and problems in the frum world. We don’t need this instruction about the non-Torah world, since we grew up with it. And FFBs don’t need this instruction bec. they are all too familiar with it. But BTs can land with a crash when they discover, or experience first hand, the less savory side of some communities. Is it not advisable to warn the new BT about to leave the yeshiva/seminary about what problems may lie ahead that they may not anticipate?

  67. DK-Your point re the so called “office party” is very much on the mark. In any office, being part of a team means that different people from vastly different backgrounds work together ala the soldiers profiled so well in “A Band of Brothers” and elsewhere. One of my RY has stated publicly that one should go to such an event, even if it is held in a non kosher restaurant.

    M-I am not sure where you live but the administrators of this blog and myself can tell you that the inappropriate behavior that you described does not exist for the most part in our community and many others. I consider it tragic that you and your family sacrificed so much to live a life of Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim and have been treated with so much disdain simply because you are BTs.

  68. Well, thank you for your comments. Those comments were in fact from freinds leting what happened to me. I actually left out all the stuff we’ve experienced.

    Look–I’m open to almost anywhere. I’m sure I don’t have a great complete view of the Torah world. Again–fruhm/friendly.

    Again, it’s not only the comments and attitudes–it’s the set backs. It’s been all one big thing.

    My point in mentioning work is this–I can understand the non-Torah world and it’s pulls. I know ife has sets backs. I was jut illustraing that we feel like we are getting it from all sides.

    Leah, with all due respect–one of the greatest and most powerful ways he works in this world is through people.

    I’m still working on fear and awe of HaShem. Righ now our only fear is that we give our children a love of Yiddishkite. I’ve seen kids from good families go of the deep. That’s our only real fear at this point.

  69. Shalom M.

    So you are BT and they are FFB, or anybody else. It doesn’t matter a whit. So things are hard and others are not making it any easier. All of that is external. As long as we are alive, what is important in not the external, it is the internal.

    I have had to cope with many difficult situations. Difficult here is putting it very mildly. I never let it get to me. Essentially I look at all difficulties as tests from Hashem, and that allows me to relax.

    Now I will tell you what I have “instructed” my wife since “before” we were married, and bayom hazeh.

    If you perceive others behaving in a manner less than acceptable…no matter WHO those other person(s) are, remember this, They are not setting the example for you, you are to set the example for them. Don’t expect very much from others. You won’t be hurt if they barely meet your low expectations, and you have room for great satisfaction when they exceed your expectations. However, expect everything from yourself (spiritual expectations that is). No low expectations are allowed in this personal arena.

    My home is not to be one of aggravation. Worry about what the internal far more than anything external.

    Don’t ignore the external, and do what can be done to positively affect the external, but don’t allow the external to ruin your personal or familial tranquility. Just plug along and play your role, no matter what God may send your way.

    Say gamzu l’tovah, and thank you Hashem for everything.

    Good Shabbos, Eliahu

  70. M.

    Wow, where to start. You have obviously been hurt by some ridiculous people (you are being generous by still calling them your friends). I have lived in a small community for 5 years and before that was involved with a very large community and I have never run into such hurtful comments (and believe me, I am no black hatter) I guess we have been blessed (B”H). Having said that, I think there are some opportunities in a small community that might be helpful. As I mentioned before, you can’t afford to alienate people in a small community because everyone is really needed.

    Frum life is hard, no doubt about it, but you should be around fellow Jews that support you, not denigrade you.

  71. M.

    No one said it would be easy.

    Want to know what really motivates me? It is fear of G-d. That’s it. That’s all that matters.


  72. M.,

    there are different levels of Modern Orthodoxy. There is a right-leaning Modern that may better suited to you, like Steve Brizel’s world, or if you still want the haredi world, there is a Left-wing Ultra-Orthodox world, like the one Mark Frankel seems to identify with.

    What is clearly not right for you is the right-wing Ultra-Orthodox world. You have to leave that world. It is clearly not working for you.

  73. DK,

    We are not modern. The modern world has plenty of problems. Take my word.

    We’re just hoping for fruhm and friendly. But, they should be the same thing.

  74. ““You have to come to lunch with us for our meeting.”

    Go. Get a fruit cup. Say you are on a diet. But go.

    “Coming up with every excuse in the book to not go to a company “holiday” party. “Hey, we also celebrate Hanukah.” And there is so much more.”

    Who said you couldn’t go? Did a working person tell you not to go? Was it a Modern Orthodox rabbi who told you not to go? Somehow I doubt that. Go to any NY accounting firm that has a holiday party. You can bet almost every frum Jew employed will be there. No excuses. This is not a religious exercise. This is a way to pretend working is fun, and pretend co-workers are family. This is not religion. This is corporate politics.

  75. Leah and everyone else,

    I’ll try to keep my comments brief yet complete.

    While your comments are very nice—they are not on point. I could parrot back, “don’t look at others.” Or, “Don’t judge Judaism by the Jews.” Or…you get the idea. Of course reading your other comments I know see it seems you had a very different type of burnout.

    I meant we have experienced really bad negativity directly from people and we have also just plain had bad experiences—doing so while keeping Sabbos, kashrus, have guests, learning, giving tzedaka, davening, and all the rest.

    Please let me be more specific in my comments. It was hard enough to look into Yidhsikite. I left school and future in a well paying career to find out if Torah is the truth. After spending a good chuck of my own money, time and effort I did find out with was the truth. But, no one prepared us/me for the practicalities of life as a Torah Jew. And, yes, there are the tugs of our non-fruhm life there. Yes, we have questions of why in the world are we doing this.

    After becoming fruhm my spouse was demoted. We lost a huge amount of income. She was called a Christ killer and other things. The family turned against my spouse. I ended up work several jobs to keep us afloat. We had a miscarriage because of all the stress. That “shanna reshona” really did set the tone four our marriage—sadly.

    Ironically (very), someone mentioned community size and location. At the time we were in a small community. We thought moving to a bigger, stronger community would be the answer as well. We picked up and moved to a certain community. We moved a long way and spent a lot of money and effort in the move to become apart of it. The move itself was very difficult—breakdown, bad weather, and a rude fruhm neighbor telling us to go back where we came from because our vehicle got stock in front of their house.

    Now, have we met a FEW nice people? Sure we have. But, the overall attitude out there is terrible. And there have been so many negative experiences and people. I’ll refrain from sharing all the unbelievably awful comments from FFB’s people.

    Here is what some friends of ours have recently shares with us:

    “I would have picked up your eleven year-old daughter when I was driving. But, she had sleeves only down to her elbow.”

    “I would invite you over for Shabbos. But, I you are a convert and I don’t want our children to get to know each other.” Said while crying to my spouse about all the bad treatment their families have experienced.

    “Don’t come back to hour hose unless you are wearing a wig.”

    “A Jew shouldn’t own a dog. It’s a big source of tumah. Get rid of it.”

    I’ve noticed men turning their wives into slaves—studying and the like and not lifting a finger to help. Going to someone’s for Shabbos and getting probed with 20 questions hasn’t been fun. Showing up to a shul, being approached and asked lots of questions with out the person introducing themselves or sharing anything about themselves has been a norm. Oh sure, we could go the BT shul. But, we are not hippies. Paying for all the extra expense has destroyed us financially. While I am working now, I have found it very difficult to find a good paying job. Getting off Yom tovim are a huge issue even though I have been very successful at my job for several years. “You have to come to lunch with us for our meeting.” Coming up with every excuse in the book to not go to a company “holiday” party. “Hey, we also celebrate Hanukah.” And there is so much more.

    I have heard there is yet another kiruv organization doing short term trips to Eretz Yisroel. You know, it’s strange. The average computer contains components from literally dozens of companies specializing in one thing—Intel microchips, Seagate hard drive, and so forth. These companies have come together to create a single product. Yet, every stinking kiruv organization out there thinks they can out do each other. So, they are all duplicating efforts. What stinks is they are all just trying to get more people to become fruhm. I bet you didn’t know they have “kiruv” quotas just like corporations—one well know place has a four person quota per year per kiruv worker. Fact. Fine. We all have to have goals to work for. But, what about keeping people fruhm. What’s that? Silence. Nothing.

    You know, we were very sincere in wanting to go into learning to do kiruv. We though, “instead of complaining about the problems and just faking it, let’s go learn and throw ourselves into it. Let’s be apart of the solution.” When I mentioned this to certain rebbeyim—I wasn’t asked: what are your reasons for wanting to do it? Are you really sure? What kind of work do you want to do? Nope. “So, how much money to you have to study?” What! Are you kidding me. Did I mention Kollel couples shopping at Nordstrom’s. Lots of tatty gelt out there—its seems. So, we have, in affect, a cast system being created. Wonderful.

    Well, there is plenty more. But, I think I’ve said enough.

  76. M. wrote,

    “We feel all these kiruv organizations run to make you fruhm but do NOTHING to support you to keep you fruhm. Right now, all we feel is dispair and anger.”

    If you are feeling despair, this is very problematic. Something inside is telling you something. This is an inner voice demanding change.

    I don’t know how religious you are, or what you are doing to improve your lives, but if your answer to everything is that “The Torah is true,” you cold possibly be misappropriating your general belief in Judaism for making positive change.

    Kiruv orgs don’t give continued guidance for once you have become frum because they can’t solve that for you. Their true negligence is not explaining that you will have to negotiate this yourself, and without the benefit of an extensive Jewish education.

    But all BTS, at some point in their lives, must yank back the reigns of their lives into their own hands, and cut deals that must be cut to make it all bearable.

    There are ways out of despair. But that means being both honest and reasonable with yourself, and recognizing that a synthesis with your prior lifestyle and goals is a good thing, not a tragic backslide or failure.

  77. Dear Shulamit,

    It doesn’t sound silly at all, and another great topic for discussion would be a thread devoted to what “jump started” people on their return or their deeper commitment or their getting back on the bandwagon.

    As for the bugs — I don’t blame you one little bit. And in fact, there are stories of people who have been “cured” of various frustrations or ailments by reading Perek Shirah everyday. (Have you read it? If you’re a nature lover and have a deep appreciation for G-d’s creations, you will love Perek Shirah. It’s wonderful!)

    Here’s a link to a neat Perek Shirah story.


  78. Believe me, some new BT’s feel pressure in a large frum community. Not knowing certain terminology, afraid of making a mistake in front of others, etc. You don’t feel as much under the microscope in a small community. Plus the burden you describe can be very good actually, getting involved and feeling needed can be very inspiring!

  79. What aspect of community size creates pressure? I could argue that smaller communities place a greater burden on each religious individual to keep the enterprise afloat.

  80. One thing I noticed was that BT burnout (at least for me) seems connected to community size in which you live. In a small community with less than 2 or 3 shuls, you might feel like the frummest person there. Very little to inspire you or motivate you. What’s the point? If I go to minyan at least once a week and stick around for a drash, hey–I’m doing great. And the presence scoundrels who happen to wear kippahs or sheitls make you resent it all the more so.

    I’ve found it’s been much better since moving to a big community in terms of continued chizuk in mitzvos and learning. Yes, there are scoundrels who call themselves frum, but there are also some real tzaddikim that you just don’t see in the secular world.

    Now I’m sure an argument could be made the other way (big communities put on so much pressure), but having lived in both, I find BT burnout much easier to avoid in a large community.

  81. Beautiful post, and really resonates with me. I think we’ve all experienced slumps like this, and I’m inspired by Leah’s ability to climb out of it with such determination.

    Just wanted to clarify: M. is a different poster than M (without the dot :). M.’s post is very well expressed, and I’m glad he/she spoke up. A lot of us can relate to feeling of wanting to be “real”, and the frustrations that sometimes accompany this.

  82. In the last year or two I got lazy about my morning davening. How did I get back to it? Well, recently we were having a bug problem, and I just couldn’t cope with it. I decided to take on the mitzvah of going back to morning davening in the hope that Hashem would take care of the bugs! It worked to a large extent. The days I see a bug are the days I try to analyze if I didn’t speak enough to Hashem? I know this sounds very silly, but it was the jumpstart I needed….

  83. Chana,

    One thing I would love to see here is a messageboard section so that we can converse back and forth on these issues. And I love your maxim. It’s right on. :-)


  84. Leah: It’s my turn to ask forgiveness. I don’t remember if I wrote about hurdles, or if you asked.

    M: You should just know you are not alone. Your comments could have been written by me. Except one thing. Knowing Torah is the truth, in the end, is enough. It means that whatever (or whomever) I’m experiencing, has a just purpose which I may or may not decipher. For me, the only way to get through the painful experiences is strengthening bitachon.

    I’ve often longed for an (unmoderated) BT forum, rather in person than online, to try to work out these troublesome issues.

    One maxim I cling to: “Torah is perfect; Torah Jews are not”.

    Hope this can help.

  85. And it’s not service to the exclusion of our joy; coming closer to HaShem should make us happier people more eager and better able to do more good acts in the same direction.

  86. I have a need to add to my thoughts on this issue. I did a lot of soul-searching to find out what was up and why I was literally making the choice to stop davening.

    What kick-started me back was the knowledge that I was being purely selfish. I was putting my burning need to check my e-mails or do other inane stuff ahead of everything. I was purely and simply letting my yetzer hara guide my life.

    To be an honest Torah Jew, I had to stop that. I simply had to say NO to it.

    I’m not one who believes you have to drop everything and spend every waking moment of your life studying Torah. I don’t believe we can DO that as BTs, unless we all get lobotomies. We come from an entirely different orientation, and the fun secular stuff we grew up with is as much a part of us as the Torah life we are trying to graft on to.

    I still make lots of time for fun and frippery, but at the end of the day, we have to realize that the frivolous stuff only comes after the important stuff.

    Everyone has responsibilities in their lives –to pay bills, to do what their employer expects of them, to brush their teeth in the morning. Davening or incorporating some kind of formalized connection to Hashem each and every day of our lives should be every bit as critical to our lives as is breathing.

    It’s making the choice to give it that importance, or otherwise, all of it feels like we are just going through the motions.

    Service to Hashem… that is our sole duty.


  87. M,

    If I may, you have to concentrate on two partners in the equation — You, and Hashem. I do a lot of looking over my shoulder myself, checking out the competition to see where I stand. Don’t do this. You have only to concentrate on your job and your obligation, and try your best not to let what others think, say or do bother you. It’s a challenge.

    So here’s what my husband says, and it’s worth its weight in gold: “Don’t worry about what others are doing. Just do YOUR job and lead by example.”

    That’s really all we can ask of ourselves.


  88. I just read what your note. I’m sorry to say we’ve had big problems. Discrimitation at our jobs and so much more. Now, I don’t daven. Sure we keep Shabbos and Kashrus. But, we are so tired. Tired of the problems. Tired of the extra costs. Tired of the attitude we get from non-Jews, Non-fruhm Jews,tires of people faking it, and the worst of all–from FFB’s. We feel like with are just faking it. And we want to be real. We keep wanting to just stop. But, we know Torah is the truth. So, we keep going. But, that’s isn’t enough. And we are so afraid about what will happen with our children. We want them to be proud and happy to be Jews. We feel all these kiruv organizations run to make you fruhm but do NOTHING to support you to keep you fruhm. Right now, all we feel is dispair and anger.

  89. Thank you Chana. Forgive me, but are you the poster who had talked about your own “hurdles” and I wanted to know how you were doing? I meant to drop you an email, but I couldn’t remember the thread or the name.


  90. I’ll tell you something Gavi and Steve, I was a little afraid to submit the article. I didn’t want you all to think less of me.

    But we should all realize that nothing worthwhile comes easy, nor should it, or else how do we learn from it?

    To me, self-doubt and lapses are just part and parcel growth, and the trick is not to get so discouraged, that you quit.


  91. Shalom Plonit,

    I’m delighted it is helpful for you. You are certainly not alone in this.

    I’m pleased to say that since I wrote it, I’ve been very dedicated and I can feel my kavanah growing exponentially. Maybe it was just a stage I needed to get through to move to the next level.

    I think it’s perfectly natural to hit a plateau, especially with something so monumentally life-changing as becoming observant. Setting small goals for yourself is helpful, like committing to saying Tehillim every day, or even just making sure you say birkos hashachar.

    The things I keep in mind to stay motivated are these:

    1. Everything is about our service to Hashem. Davening, the community benefit aspect of saying Tehillim, and so on, are all requisites of our job and our responsibility to the Boss. (Thank you, Ruchama Shain).

    2. There is no finish line. You just keep working it and getting better at it, and try not to let the speedbumps derail you along the way.

    3. Every day is a new day. If you muff something, or forget something, no one is perfect and certainly Hashem isn’t expecting perfection of us. He wants to see us trying.

    4. Be flexible. The bough that bends is the bough that doesn’t break.

    Please feel free to drop me an email if you want to talk further, and by all means come and visit my husband’s forum. :-)


  92. Nice post….I have felt chronically burned out from other BT issues, but I have felt that davening has gotten better. Probably when I began to feel worried that things would decline if I didn’t daven, and at the same time the daily davening was becoming more personal and connected. The two together created a commitment that didn’t feel like a burden.

    It was also helpful to be sure each day to insert my own tefillos. Learning how to articulate my needs, gratitude, etc… in prayer was really key. There are many areas of shacaris which offer springboards for personal discussions with Hashem.
    Hatzlacha to you, Leah.

  93. Thanks for n excellent article. I am sure that there are many BTs out there who either have or go into a negative or stand still attitude that begins with many of the facts set forth in this article. I would add one point-one should try to avoid feeling cynical and hearing cynical comments that might affect one’s spiritual growth.

  94. I can so related to everything you’ve written here. In fact, it is something that I’m kind of going through right now. I’m very glad I stopped by today. I really needed this and I now feel new strength and resolve.

  95. I woke up last night feeling this emptiness in my connection to my yiddeshkeit. This morning I popped on to beyondbt for some chizuk and this article was the headline–it was precisely what I needed. I haven’t done regular weekday davening in months and I think that has truly impacted my relationship to everything I am doing.


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