Thursday, May 12, 2011

Orthoprax Vs. Off-The-Derech

There is a letter in the latest edition of Ami Magazine from the wife of the "Orthoprax" (goodness, I hate that term) Posek who was profiled in their notorious article "The Imposters Among Us." But before quoting the letter, I would like to differentiate between two categories: Orthoprax and "Off The Derech." There is certainly some overlap between these two categories, but they generally refer to two different phenomena.

The term "Orthoprax" (OP) usually refers to people whose departure from classical Judaism involves intellectual objections which have led them to a lack of faith, to a lesser or greater degree. While this may well lead to emotional strain, that is a result rather than a cause. They appreciate the Orthodox lifestyle and community and are still shomer Torah u'mitzvos.

The term "Off-the-Derech" (OTD), on the other hand, usually refers to people whose issues are primarily emotional. This may in turn stem from feelings of rejection which may be connected to questions that they asked, but their intellectual objections to Judaism, even if present, are secondary. Such people are often deliberately trying to break away from the conventions and standards of the Orthodox lifestyle and community. They are also usually younger than those of the previous category; in my neighborhood, these people often end up dressing as provocatively as possible and involved in substance abuse. (Note: I am not referring to well-adjusted people who have simply altogether abandoned the Orthodox community and way of life solely due to intellectual reasons, who I would refer to as "post-Orthodox." But such people seem to be a rarity, I think.)

Now, to the letter from the wife of the Orthoprax posek:

Dear Editor,

I read the article you printed about the so-called Orthoprax population with great interest, mainly because my husband, the posek (decisor), was interviewed. (If I ever envisioned myself becoming famous, this was not the way.) It was this past Tisha B’Av that he informed me that he was no longer a believer. At least the timing was perfect. Of course I noticed the telltale signs. I watched with great concern as my kollel husband no longer resembled his peers. I inwardly cringed as books, radio, Internet replaced the Talmud, Chumash, sefarim. Watching this, I remained silent as the warning of my mechanchot (teachers) echoed in my ear, “Do not be your husband’s mashgiach.” How I cried when my husband told me that he was attending a conference on evolution with his kiruv partner. I would have cried a lot harder if I knew that it were that night that he threw away the yoke of Torah.

Surprisingly, my husband had no urge to leave his yeshivish lifestyle. In fact, he felt great comfort in maintaining his outward appearance, thus joining the ranks of the Orthoprax. He no longer feels alienated now that he socializes with this eclectic group of people. People using drugs, wearing white socks and shtreimels or yeshivish hats, or having multiple ear piercings, are all embraced by this colorful group. These men and women have one thing in common: they wonder why their fellow apikorsim aren’t as emotionally healthy and normal as they are themselves.

I’m glad that he has support. However, I wish I could find my place as well. There are many programs and great awareness concerning children at risk. However, I guess most people feel uncomfortable believing that someone who dedicates his life to learning in kollel can go off the derech... that emunah is so fragile. Friends and relatives always mention how inspired they are by our yeshivish, sheltered lifestyle. Little do they know what goes on behind closed doors. If not for those special individuals guiding me, I would be lost. Those mentors all agree that with patience and unconditional love he will eventually be able to rekindle his inner spark. However, as the sole audience of his anti-religious diatribes, I wonder where that spark will emerge from. I know that he was essentially a broken person on the inside before his belief began to dwindle. Perhaps if I had provided him with sufficient fulfillment from our marriage his emotional emptiness would have not reached rock bottom. Now it’s too late. I feel as if I lost the husband that I married.

Yes, I would love to kick and scream, and would relish the opportunity to tantrum and let it all out, but I know as a religious person that life is a test. The spiritual future of my family lies in my hands. I can choose to either have joint custody with a nonreligious person or channel my inner anguish into creating a home that will make Hashem proud. I feel that I am being personally summoned by Heaven to work on my emunah. It is my hope that sometime in the future I will look into the mirror and smile at the person I have become, that I will hold my frum grandchildren close and think... it was all worth it.

I would love to be in touch with those who are living through a similar situation. You can email me at husbandoffderech@aol.com.

Mrs. “Aharon Gutberg”

Now, is she describing someone who is OP or OTD? It's not clear. Is he actually part of the multiple-body-piercings and drug-using group, or just friendly with some such people, or just theoretically open to being friendly with such people? Did he truly have emotional issues before his intellectual issues - and if so, what were they? Is he an OP that she is misinterpreting as an OTD, or is he actually OTD? The article seemed to indicate that he is an OP, but if he is an OTD, then he is out of place in the article altogether.

The situation with this husband and wife is, of course, sad. But what I personally find especially painful is how some of this tragedy is so unnecessary and possibly made worse by the wife. Was it such a tragedy that he brought secular books into the home? (I'll bet she doesn't know that Rav Dessler studied Uncle Tom's Cabin.) She cried so terribly when he attended a conference on evolution? Goodness, it's not as though it was a conference on Bible criticism or atheism! There are many fine, frum, OrthoDOX people who attend conferences on evolution, which is not at all incompatible with Torah. Perhaps if she hadn't been so unnecessarily distraught at this, her husband would not have thrown away the yoke of Torah on that day?

Rejection turns even ordinary Orthodox Jews into OTDs - it can certainly have that effect on OPs.

54 comments:

  1. Wife:
    "I watched with great concern as my kollel husband no longer resembled his peers. I inwardly cringed as books, radio, Internet replaced the Talmud, Chumash, sefarim."

    RNS:
    "But what I personally find especially painful is how some of this tragedy is so unnecessary and possibly made worse by the wife. Was it such a tragedy that he brought secular books into the home?"

    RNS, I like your point. I personally have experienced a slow swing back to worldly-awareness over the past two years, but this hasn't "replaced" Talmud, Chumash, sefarim. What I /have/ done WRT these latter, is to reduce the limitations I impose on my understanding of them, e.g. assumptions to be made in reading a Gemara. I've been doing more academic-flavored studying, particularly in beginning to learn more about the role of medieval philosophy among Jews of that period.

    Did he just jettison learning? Why did he turn to books, radio, internet?

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  2. Sorry for not being clear; When I wrote about OTD, I was not referring to well-adjusted individuals who have left Orthodoxy altogether, but to a certain "type"; I'm sure you know the kind of people that I am referring to.

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  3. I'm going to strongly disagree with your description of OTDs as primarily emotional. While a substantial fraction have defrummed for emotional reasons, many have defrummed for intellectual reasons.

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  4. Please see my comment above. I was referring to a specific type of person, not to all people who leave mitzvah observance!

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  5. In light of the misunderstandings, I have altered the post.

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  6. Rabbi Slifkin, I am actually somewhat familiar with the "Gutberg" situation, and I can attest that the "posek" is not OTD, at least not outwardly. No pierced earlobes, etc.

    I also think it's unfair to blame the wife here, except perhaps, for what she herself blames herself for, i.e. the emotional distance and lack of fulfillment in the marriage. This woman is not so narrow as to become aghast at the sight of her husband reading *Uncle Tom's Cabin*. But as a frum woman who expected to raise a frum home, it is entirely acceptable for her to panic if her husband tells her he doesn't believe in any of Judaism's premises at all.

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  7. I believe many "Orthodox" people could become "Orthoprax" under a variety of circumstances.

    Many people who are satisfied and fulfilled in the frum world choose not question their beliefs, even though they may be dimly or subconsciously aware that many of them hang on a thread. They are happy, and there's no need to rock the boat.

    People who have experienced some level of dissatisfaction in the frum world may be more willing to explore the foundations of their religious beliefs. They doesn't mean they are emotional wrecks, as you point out.

    Whether a person with intellectual disbelief in Judaism becomes "Orthoprax" or nonpracticing probably depends more on life circumstances than anything else.

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  8. It's naive to think that "Mrs. Gutberg" wouldn't be upset that her husband attended an evolution conference, given the description of the religious subset to which she belongs. For goodness sake: my daughter's SCIENCE teacher in a RWMO school told the children that evolution is wrong and "nebech some people believe in it".

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  9. In other words, I don't think you should blame the wife's reaction for the husband's behavior, even to a small extent. The husband's behavior is more likely in response to community attitudes towards things like evolution, not those of his wife per se.

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  10. I disagree with your definitions (even as altered). At least as understood in the blogosphere, one who is Orthoprax lives within the frum community, one who is OTD does not. That’s it.

    You imply that most Orthopraxers are intellectuals who unfortunately disagree with theologically with the frum community, but are otherwise just like everyone else, while people who go OTD fit the stereotype of the person who rejects Judaism because he can’t control his taivos. I don’t think that’s true.

    While a higher percentage of people OTD are young / have behavior problems, that’s just selection bias. A 20 year old and a thirty year old may have the same exact issues with Judaism, but the cost of leaving for the unmarried, just-starting-out 20 year old is much lower than it is for the married-with-kids, established-in-the-community thirty year. A typical person and someone with behavior problems may also have the same issues, but the first is accepted by the community as long as he doesn’t rock the boat, and so becomes Orthoprax, while the second has problems in the community either way, so he goes OTD.

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  11. To R' Natan: The primary distinction between OP and OTD is outward observance, not intellect vs. emotion.

    To the wife: Is this letter for real or an AMI fabrication? Sorry for doubting. You seem to first describe your husband as emotionally stable and then as unstable. In any case, I hope you two can come close enough intellectually to live together. Hope is always good, but I wouldn't expect him to suddenly have an epiphany. Perhaps you might consider some intellectual discussion?

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  12. R' Slifkin, Your position on Orthopraxy is rather hazy.Do you legitimize them or not? (although I'm sure your is answer is much more complicated then a simple yes or no, please try to be frank)

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  13. Do I "legitimize" them? What on earth does that even mean? Anyway, that's not the topic of this post.

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  14. "While this may well lead to emotional strain, that is a result rather than a cause."

    I think emotions(versus "emotional strain") can also relate to "Orthoprax" people, as emotions can have an effect on belief.

    Why does one person stop believing due to questions and one not? Part of it may have to due with insularity and the degree of being/exposed or not exposed to issues, but it may also have to do with emotions(maybe one person only related to Yirah versus Ahavah) as well as other areas of Mitzvos.

    The proof to this is the fact that Torah education tries to "inspire" emunah; it's not all the intellect.

    One doen't have to go so far to say that desires and ta'avos are the sole cause of doubts as what seems to be the position of the Kovetz Mamorim, or that " emotional problems are behind
    almost all kefira", as quoted in AMI. Rather, emotions can also play a certain role in Orthoprax, even if they are well-adjusted and even if that role is slight.

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  15. Well it is the topic of this post in a way. What I meant by legitimize is that you seem to make the orthoprax out to be benign misjudged misunderstood people. Don't you think they are a danger to orthodox Jews? Although they are not evil people, would you not agree that they should be confronted and debated?

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  16. They are misjudged and misunderstood in the Ami article.

    Yes, they are potentially dangerous to Orthodox Jews - but, with regard to most of them, much, much less so than the article makes out. (I'm not talking about those who are on a crusade to make others question their emunah.)

    No, they should not be "confronted and debated."

    In a future series of posts, I will outline my own approach to how Orthodox and Orthoprax should relate to each other.

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  17. Thank you very much R' Slifkin.

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  18. Okay, hang on.
    A course on evolution? Secular books? Does anyone else not see the problem here?
    Part of the Orthoprax/OTD problem is the black and white way some Orthodox authorities define proper observance. Things that are one of many opinions in Judaism are redefined as ikkarim and then those folks who have troubles with those opinions are declared to be "not in the fold so you might as well give up on Judaism".
    I mean really, he went to a conference on evolution. And? And??
    He brought secular books into the home. And? And??
    As was once written on the Wolfish Musings blog, if you make the derech 1 mm wide don't be surprised when so many people fall off.

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  19. >The term "Off-the-Derech" (OTD), on the other hand, usually refers to people whose issues are primarily emotional… in my neighborhood, these people often end up dressing as provocatively as possible and involved in substance abuse<

    What kind of garbage is this? How dare you stereotype people? It’s not very different from saying “Jews are usually cheap” or “blacks are usually stupid.” Shame on you.

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  20. What happened to all the comments on this post?

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  21. Blogger went down on Friday. Eventually the post re-appeared, but it looks like the comments aren't coming back. I'll try to re-post them.

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  22. It sounds like she is talking about Chulent (if it still exists?). There is a possible ring of authenticity here.

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  23. If this letter is true, it is certainly sad. Though I find the idea of a woman speaking about her husband like that in public to be a bit "odd" frankly.

    Either way, I'm not surprised that Ami printed it (as opposed to anything mildly critical), since it plays right into the desperate tone of the original article.

    The truth is there are many frum people walking around lacking belief in this or that, and they manage to function just fine. That's because they don't IDENTIFY primarily as being a "believer" or "non-believer" but instead focus on living, learning Torah, growing, doing chesed, etc. - which they see as a Jew's main job in any case.

    So no need for all the melodrama!

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  24. Rabbi Slifkin, while it may just be a matter of different definition I think you are unfair to OTD.
    While it goes without saying that many 'who leave Orthodoxy' (my def. of OTD) do partake in drug abuse, being excessivelly provocative and are motivated by emotional issues, this certainly isn't the case of all or even most who leave orthodoxy.
    To avoid confusion: I have no doubt for many their issues are purely emotionaly with intellectual covering, however there are many (though I can't give a proportion, and neither can you) for whom the reasons they leave are intellectual. I don't expect you to agree that their reasons are true, otherwise you'd be one of them, but that you don't say their bias is what makes their decisions as it's unfair and especially since many religious too make their life choices out of bias rather than intellectual choice.

    That being said, perhaps to you OTD is only specifically regarding the non-orthodox and emotive group, and does not refer to all those who leave orthodoxy.

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  25. I would disagree with the categories; I think that both OP and OTD involve emotional issues, and the level of observance (or lack thereof) has to do with one's intellectual response (or lack thereof) to those emotional issues.
    Staying frummie frum is also an emotional issue: closer in my opinion to OTD than to OP.

    If the letter is authentic, then in my opinion it's the wife with the real problems. She is so emotionally uptight, no wonder the husband needed more. She has drawn such a static picture of how she expects to live and, ad meah v'esrim, die. It's like she's already dead in many ways, mourning the loss of ... what exactly? Her worldview does not allow for change, growth -- she "cried" over evolution because to her, if anything "evolves" then it's a loss of what was. One can guess that their relationship, the marriage, hasn't evolved from some unrealistic idea of living and dying as a picture-perfect frum how-life-ought-to-be-lived life.

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  26. I believe many "Orthodox" people could become "Orthoprax" under a variety of circumstances.

    Many people who are satisfied and fulfilled in the frum world choose not question their beliefs, even though they may be dimly or subconsciously aware that many of them hang on a thread. They are happy, and there's no need to rock the boat.

    People who have experienced some level of dissatisfaction in the frum world may be more willing to explore the foundations of their religious beliefs. They doesn't mean they are emotional wrecks, as you point out.

    Whether a person with intellectual disbelief in Judaism becomes "Orthoprax" or nonpracticing probably depends more on life circumstances than anything else.

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  27. It's naive to think that "Mrs. Gutberg" wouldn't be upset that her husband attended an evolution conference, given the description of the religious subset to which she belongs. For goodness sake: my daughter's SCIENCE teacher in a RWMO school told the children that evolution is wrong and "nebech some people believe in it".

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  28. In other words, I don't think you should blame the wife's reaction for the husband's behavior, even to a small extent. The husband's behavior is more likely in response to community attitudes towards things like evolution, not those of his wife per se.

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  29. I completely agree! I don't blame the wife; it's the fault of the community that they're in. Those who deem evolution "heretical."

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  30. To R' Natan: The primary distinction between OP and OTD is outward observance, not intellect vs. emotion.

    To the wife: Is this letter for real or an AMI fabrication? Sorry for doubting. You seem to first describe your husband as emotionally stable and then as unstable. In any case, I hope you two can come close enough intellectually to live together. Hope is always good, but I wouldn't expect him to suddenly have an epiphany. Perhaps you might consider some intellectual discussion?

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  31. I think there is a need for clarification regarding "Aharon Gutberg's” internet useage.

    Per the interview:

    "Among the Orthoprax that I interviewed, Aharon was the only one who said that he had no use of the Internet when he was questioning. “I don’t have the Internet in my house. I’ve read a lot.”

    Per the Letter:

    "I inwardly cringed as books, radio, Internet replaced the Talmud, Chumash, sefarim."

    Possibly, these refer to two different time periods.

    Either way, I hope that the mentors are correct that "with patience and unconditional love he will eventually be able to rekindle his inner spark". This was a much more positive assessment than what appeared from the article.

    --Shades of Gray

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  32. "While this may well lead to emotional strain, that is a result rather than a cause."

    I think emotions(versus "emotional strain") can also relate to "Orthoprax" people, as emotions can have an effect on belief.

    Why does one person stop believing due to questions and one not? Part of it may have to due with insularity and the degree of being/exposed or not exposed to issues, but it may also have to do with emotions(maybe one person only related to Yirah versus Ahavah) as well as other areas of Mitzvos.

    The proof to this is the fact that Torah education tries to "inspire" emunah; it's not all the intellect.

    One doen't have to go so far to say that desires and ta'avos are the sole cause of doubts as what seems to be the position of the Kovetz Mamorim, or that " emotional problems are behind
    almost all kefira", as quoted in AMI. Rather, emotions can also play a certain role in Orthoprax, even if they are well-adjusted and even if that role is slight.

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  33. Garnel IronheartMay 15, 2011 at 12:13 AM

    Okay, hang on.
    A course on evolution? Secular books? Does anyone else not see the problem here?
    Part of the Orthoprax/OTD problem is the black and white way some Orthodox authorities define proper observance. Things that are one of many opinions in Judaism are redefined as ikkarim and then those folks who have troubles with those opinions are declared to be "not in the fold so you might as well give up on Judaism".
    I mean really, he went to a conference on evolution. And? And??
    He brought secular books into the home. And? And??
    As was once written on the Wolfish Musings blog, if you make the derech 1 mm wide don't be surprised when so many people fall off.

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  34. I would tend to agree with the other commenters. Attributing emotional conditions to individuals going OTD is probably a myth and a recent one at that. And its possibly promulgated by the Kiruv industry. Were the thousands of Maskilim in days gone by also regarded as emotionally OTD? I doubt it. I'm sure some will counter that today's OTDers are not of the intellectual caliber of the Maskilim. This may be true but that may be just a reflection of the general dumbing down of our society. It would behoove someone as precise as you to leave out the "emotional" issues when making the distinction between Orthoprax and OTD.

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  35. It's not a myth in the least - if we are talking about the same group. Again - I'm not talking about people who, as adults, decide Judaism is not for them and leave it. I'm talking about people who, as teens, start to rebel against their families and communities. For these people, it's very clearly emotional issues that are operating. In my own town alone there are dozens of such cases. You should read Faranak Margolese's book "Off the Derech."

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  36. "my daughter's SCIENCE teacher in a RWMO school told the children that evolution is wrong"

    I'd pull my daughter out of that school the very next day.

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  37. 'Uncle Tom's cabin' is a required reading in Boro Park Beis Yakov H.S. All my girls have read it. No, I didn't know that Rabbi Dessler had 'studied' it. Interesting, does anyone know what he had to say about it? It's a wonderful book. It should cause a person to question and eventually reject the racism of the frum society. It may cause one to question his religious commitment if one were to identify the prevalent values of the frum society with authentic Judaism. If the choice were between millions of oppressed black people and Hassidim of Boro Park, I personally, would throw my lot with people who fight for racial equality. I am pretty sure the yungerman was not reading this book or classics of Western literature. The letter looks like another charedi forgery, but the issue is very real. Who wants to find oneself suddenly married to an appikoros? Divorce maybe the right choice.

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  38. The wife did not give any evidence that she showed him just how she really felt hurt. She is holding back. Suppose she did though? Isn't she entitled? Isn't he supposed to take her feelings into account? She has to drop all of her emotions for him? This is a marriage issue. She said she is happy he has support. If I remember correctly you said Rabbi Slifkin that he assured you he was not faking but was misrepresented by Ami, who I think you are misrepresenting to yourself even for your own angle. He sounds OTD. You bend over backwards to mitigate at the very least any charge of hypocrisy and her you get so hard on. Why shouldn't she cry if he goes off to the Evolutionary conference? Does it matter if she thinks its heresy or not? She can see where he appears to drift whatever her actual beliefs on Evolution. Doesn't she need support? It would appear her husband has his support but she lacks it. He lacks my sympathy. He is a fake and could show sensitivity to his wife. Forget the damn conference and show some support for your wife. It may be an interesting conference but his marriage and wife should be more important to him. It may be more convenient for you to attack her so as to keep up with your characterization of who the article is dealing with but she is a human being too. The best support you give her, is saying her community makes her do things you don't approve of. They say Evolution is heresy and you would say other things are. The consequence is the same. They can't change their beliefs to accommodate what they call heresy. Unless you show some more sensitivity here I doubt I can bring myself to post on any other topic by you. I can buy your books and read your site but that may be it.

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  39. "OTD" does indeed seem to be the moniker referring to young people who leave orthodoxy for a whole conglomerate of reasons, including social, emotional, personality or intellectual reasons. To conclude that they are mostly emotionally unstable would be an overgeneralization. In my own experience (family and neighborhood) many of the youth just want to join secular society and gradually reject some of the strictures of orthodoxy, because they see that doing so has positive consequences for them-- more freedom, social acceptance, etc. In doing so they are willing to pay the price of alienating their families. BTW, I think emotional arguments could be made for BT's as well.

    (Although the BT phenomenon seems to occur at all ages, not just teens)

    Also, R Slifkin, in your Heredi neighborhoods, a kid who goes "OTD" from the Heredi world tends to go whole hog :), as opposed to kids from more tolerant MO families where the rejection is not so dramatic.

    I have heard about Margolese's book although I have not read it. I understand it gives very serious and sensitive treatment to the matter.

    Garnel makes a good point about the 1 mm path. Among many of the MO sefardi families, the kids go a variety of ways from heredi to masorati to secular, and none of the these families view their kids as going "OTD". I think its more of a ashkenazi description, typical of the more severe views that ashknenazi orthodox have in general.

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  40. BTW, I think emotional arguments could be made for BT's as well.

    Absolutely.

    Although, I am wondering - if someone becomes religious for the conscious reason that it provides him with a more meaningful, better lifestyles, does that classify as an emotional or intellectual reason?

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  41. It's really amazing how terms used in small Orthodox communities, mean really different things in different small orthodox communities.

    In my circles, OTD, means only going into drugs and a "bum like" life.

    "Off the derech" is another way of saying "Youths at Risk" in the more popular culture... It was a nice way of saying "this school is for kids who are off the derech", instead of saying "kids who go to this school suffer from abuse at home, or have social issues."

    People who don't follow halacha are labeled by which ever shul they go to, or are called "fakers"..

    Didn't charedim used to use the word "frei"? Why don't they use that anymore?

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  42. Rabbi Slifkin, while YOU may not be referring to the adults who left, the fact is that the term OTD is used for everyone who is off the Derech, for whatever reason they left. And the term OTD is loaded with that emotional connotation.

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  43. Didn't charedim used to use the word "frei"? Why don't they use that anymore?

    In yiddish speaking circles they still do. Maybe because most OTDs today don't have a strong ideological opposition to observance this term is used. It has, to me, a connotation that the person is basically like us only walking on a different path. I think it's true. Unlike maskilim of the past, OTDs, generally, don't leave Judaism because they are looking for higher moral values. They don't become revolutionaries, lawyers selflessly fighting for human rights, don't go to medical school and join doctors without borders. Check out Unpious blog for a better example of their self expression. It's painful reading.

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  44. OK, accepted. It seems that in different communities, the word is used differently. Where I live, it's like as Ameteur describes it.

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  45. Dear R' Slifkin,

    Regarding them'Orthoprax & OTD' phenomenon I would argue that orthopraxy involves individuals who either consciously or unconsciously place the praxis of yiddishkiet above the ideology of Orthodox.

    As you have noted previously, historically Orthodoxy is essentially a reactionary approach to Judaism whose aim is to counter the reform movement. The Orthoprax see no need to engage in this ideology and focus on the traditional praxis. Many believe in G-d and identify with the larger community. In a certain way they are closer to pre-orthodox Yiddeshkiet' as the are not focused on ideology.

    OFD is primarily a reaction against Orthodoxy, their focus is on 'no-praxis.'What they believe in and what they practice widely varies from individual to individual. However it is fair to say that theirs is a reaction to the ideology of orthodoxy(ei. it is incorrect) or to culture of orthodoxy which they see as full of corrupt socially practices (ei. protection of child abusers, etc). The above has led them to reject orthodoxy and ultimately effects their praxis. My humble opinion.

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  46. R. Slifkin -- I'm really surprised at your generalizations. You've clarified how you define the term OTD, but your original use of the term isn't consistent with that. You suggested the OP posek might be "OTD" because he associates with people who take drugs and have ear piercings. Ergo, he has emotional issues. That's quite a ridiculous way to classify a person, considering that half the population of Manhattan smokes an occasional joint -- and ditto re ear piercings.

    I'd respectuflly suggest that your view of OTDs is a quite narrow one, and mirrors the typical frum-think re OTDs. Margolese's book may also reflect that definiton (if you say so; I haven't read it), but if so I'd question her research methods.

    I have been an OTD now for 4 years. I don't consider myself emotionally unstable, nor do I take drugs or dress provocatively. Guess what: my path is the logical progression from OP. For 8 years I lived in the Chasidish community as a non-believer, with the early part (say around 4-5 years) spent in torment trying to rediscover my emunah. Eventually, I found the challenges to my faith (specifically dogma -- as opposed to personal belief) unresolvable. And I saw no reason to keep mitzvos. Only after that did I realize that the double-life is both dishonest and deleterious to one's overall life contentedness. And I left. I now know hundreds of others like me, people who leave with serious questions and join secular society in a fulfilling way. They might be teenagers, they might be in their 20s or 30s. But of course, you wouldn't know of them because they don't hang out on your street; they go to school, have jobs, and become productive members of society.

    Lastly, this whole intellctual vs. emotional dichotomy strikes me as lacking depth. If OTDs leave for emotional rather than intellectual reasons, then frum people too remain frum for emotional reasons rather than intellectual ones. If one is frum because they find contendness with that lifestyle (as the majority of frum people do), that is no less emotional. The Ami article is a perfect example of this: they cited not a single one of the many questions that skeptics have, and of course, they provided no answers. Instead, it sounded like emotionally disturbed screeching about those who (how dare they!) actually think. Talk about emotional issues.

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  47. We are just using different terminology. You describe yourself as OTD, but I would use a different term for you: Post-Orthodox (in Israel, you would be called dati leshe'avar). In my circles, OTD refers specifically to younger people who have emotional issues, usually pertaining to rejection - and they are the kind of people who (in contrast to the people you describe) do not go on to school and get professional careers. When I wrote the post, I didn't realize that other people use the term differently - though I should have.

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  48. I am glad you sorted out the OTD business. I've never heard of "Post-Orthodox." I call myself OTD.

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  49. I'd also take issue with your implication that teenagers can't go OTD for the same reasons that intellectual adults do.

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  50. It's somewhat insulting to say that people generally leave Judaism because of "emotional" drivers, and to characterize them based upon some personal observations (although there may be something to he substance abuse thing, as atheism positively correlates with higher intelligence, and high intelligence may increase the rate of substance abuse).

    The fact is, many, if not most, people leave Jewish practices because that is the rational (and often moral) thing to do. Misrepresenting this may serve to defend Judaism in the mind of the religious, as its implications are disturbing, but that doesn't justify slandering this group.

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  51. In my quasi-Satmar community, "frei" just means "free." It means Jews who have few ties to Jewish practise.

    It is essential that people understand that Judaism in the modern age is very much about marketing. We have to *sell* Judaism. It cannot, and should not, be imposed by fiat. G-d only wants people who choose to have that relationship.

    see http://midrashicmusings.blogspot.com/2010/04/eden-and-egypt-seductive-choice.html

    we must be careful not to condemn those who choose a safe life. Safety is always seductive – when we think about it, who does not want to have job security, stable relationships, predictable lives? And we know that we cannot condemn those who make that choice precisely because we do not condemn Avraham for doing precisely the same thing.

    Avraham avinu, the man who first discovered G-d, is not given the choice of whether or not to stay in Eden or in Egypt – when he goes down to Egypt, Hashem afflicts Pharoah and makes sure Avraham left again. But though they leave Egypt in the rear view mirror, Avraham and Sarah bring the spirit of Egypt with them in the flesh – in the person of Hagar. Hagar represents everything Sarah was not – while both women are beautiful, Hagar never argues, and she is fertile. Hagar can be compared to the city of Tzoan in Egypt, which the Gemara tells us is the most beautiful city on earth – except that Hebron (Sarah) is 7 times more beautiful. Hagar is beautiful and easy. Sarah is beautiful and challenging.

    And while Avraham clearly chooses Sarah when his wife was alive, after the stress of offering Yitzchak as a sacrifice, and then burying his wife, Avraham essentially announces his retirement from an active relationship with G-d. Living apart from his son, Avraham marries Hagar (called Keturah), and has many children. The rest of Avraham’s life was easy and contented. Having lived a lifetime of hard work and anguish as Hashem’s servant, Avraham chooses to opt out, to keep the Egyptian wife. The Torah does not tell us that Avraham and Hashem ever spoke again. Avraham’s children become nations in their own right, but none of them inherits the mantle of Judaism, which has passed onto Isaac.

    We don’t criticize Avraham for this choice. And we don’t criticize the Jews who remained in Egypt, to assimilate to their native land. It is only natural to choose the easier life, and in most people’s minds, it is the rational path as well. Now, thousands of years later, the majority of born Jews continue to walk away from G-d, to choose an uninvolved and safer life. Breeding can only take one so far; we continue to be faced with the same choice that Adam and Chava had, that Avraham Avinu had, and that our forefathers in Egypt had: are we going to choose the safe, Eden/Egyptian life, or are we going to push the envelope, to seek the limits of man’s freedom and capabilities as servants of Hashem?

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  52. R' Natan, I would be careful about bandying about the term "post-Orthodox" given that R' Gil Student seeks to characterize LWMO with such a term. It's an idiosyncratic and highly biased characterization. The English equivalent to 'daati leshe'avar' (Datlash) is 'formerly Orthodox'.

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  53. The good rabbi obviously has not had enough exposure to the Orthoprax to know that their philosophy is heretical and that at least some of their "rabbis" and members are not shomer mitzvos in practice either.

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