Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Stranger in a strange land

I am the son of immigrant parents. Growing up I resented the fact that my parents spoke English poorly, that they were often clueless about life in this country, about the fact that I often wound up explaining things to them that they should have been explaining to me.

Now I am watching my son thriving in school, picking up Hebrew and davenning and realizing that in a few years he will be fluent in it, and he will be like the guys in shul that buzz through their prayers while I stammer through mine. His brain a sponge, mine already a rock.

In the orthodox community, I am now an immigrant. Hoping to give a better life to my children. Knowing that I will never be truly at home. Karma.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Young Goodman Brown

In my wanderings on the web I seem to encounter a very disturbing phenomenon - Jews that seem outwardly Orthodox, but in the anonymity of the web reveal al sorts of un-Orthodox behavior.

I am not talking about people like the (no longer blogging) Godol Hador which are bringing up complex theological issues. No, I am talking about Orthodox Jews that seem to cheat on their spouses, break laws of Kashrut and Shabbos, and in general have lost their faith.

What bothers me the most about this is not their personal lapses, but the fact that in a free country, where they can openly choose to be whatever they like to be, they choose to be "crypto-sinners" and still identify as Orthodox. I understand that it is hard to break free of a way of life, leave a community, but it seems to me it is still better than living a lie.

Most importantly, my family has made many very difficult choices when we became observant. Am I bringing myself and my kids into a society where under a facade of piety, lies a foundation of falsehood. How many of the "frum" are secretly not?

This reminds me of a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne that I read twenty years ago that really made an impression on me - "Young Goodman Brown". Am I Goodman Brown?

The Tao of Google

Today I was reading a blog titled the Zionist Conspiracy. It is authored by an Orthodox Jew who seems to be interested in current Jewish affairs and the Jets.

The content and comments were fascinating, but the funniest was what appears to be a comment from a Saudi web-surfer who was very confused about the contents of the blog. It appears that he must have stumbled onto it by searching for "Zionist Conspiracy" on the web. Sure enough, googling "Zionist Conspiracy" brings up the blog ranked first. Talk about bait-and-switch :)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Divine Revelation

I used to pray that G-d would reveal himself to me. Some have called this "The atheist's prayer". But there is something rational about it. We don't need proof that the material world exists; we just experience it. What is wrong with wanting to "sensually" experience G-d? How much doubt, suffering, anger would this resolve! No more arguments about the existence of G-d. No more arguing about what G-d really wants, whose religion is right.

But about a month ago I had another thought. What would I do if G-d actually revealed Himself to me personally? I couldn't take it. I'd probably go nuts. I don't think that I am a strong enough human being to survive such a revelation. So I recant my original desires. I don't want a personal revelation, but I still pray for a communal one. I guess this is another way of praying for the arrival of M'shiach. And maybe it makes this "religious atheist" a good Jew.

Gut Shabbos!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Getting Banned from a Blog

About a week back I got banned from this blog for putting a comment on a post that the owner thought was inappropriate. My comment was deleted, and a very strongly worded comment was put up by the owner. I was called "a piece of work", my commentary was "vile" and "chillul Hashem".

I sent an email to the owner saying that I think she misunderstood my intent (although I can see in retrospect how this could have happened). I also asked that she either leave my post and her follow up, or delete them both so people have the ability to judge the discussion for themselves. She never replied, and things are still unchanged.

I am surprised that a week later, I am still bothered by this turn of events. So a little introspection yields the following reasons for my agitation:

Although I am fairly anonymous, I do have an online identity and I don't want to be labeled something which I feel I am not. Already, another blogger followed up on that thread mentioning my post, but I am guessing only assuming what it said, since it got deleted pretty quickly. Also, it seems like if you're going to open a post up for comments, deleting ones you don't like seems wrong, unless it's profanity, hate-mail, spam, etc...

On the plus side, I have recently stumbled across a bunch of blogs that are discussing very intellectually stimulating topics. I hope to spend some time there and sort out some of my thoughts, and hopefully not get banned again :)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The king of Mediocrity

When I was a little boy, my grandmother has told me, I once overheard someone talking about a famous poet on the radio and I said to her "Grandma, one day I too will be as famous as he."

Last year in December, I signed up for a couple of subscriptions - the New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly. Reading these magazines have given me a tremendous amount of pleasure. However, as I read these articles about some of the great men and women, the writers and poets, the painters and diplomats, translators, judges, musicians, I am often overcome with a mixed sense of melancholy, admiration, and jealosy as I realize that I am not going to achieve even a fraction of what these people, through either innate gifts, hard work or most likely a combination of both, have done.

I vividly recall a scene in the movie "Amadeus" where Salieri is wheeled through the insane asylem screaming "I am the king of mediocrity".