How do you motivate yourself or others to be a religious Jew?
Yup, the new international kiruv movement begins right here. Never mind that the very methods dismissed in this post are responsible for tens of thousands of baalei teshuva over the past 50 years; now we're finally gonna do it right.
For all the naysayers who think it's hard to be mekarev people to Judaism if you don't actually believe in Judaism, just stand back and watch the revolution. In the upcoming series of posts we will demonstrate all the practical benefits of being Jewish WHILE maintaining your atheistic beliefs, from a sociological, psychological, and dermatological perspective (plus if you sign up for Judaism now you can take advantage of our group car rental rates and theatre discounts!)
So don't listen to those elitest snobs who don't consider you a religious Jew unless you, I don't know, subscribe to Judaism or something. Click here to join your local chapter of Jews for A, and together we'll show 'em how real inclusive kiruv is done.
But seriously folks, for the real reason we should not be engaging with this post, see here:
I had a long series of comments on this idea of "proofs" of Torah a while back, which I may find and repost. It had to do mainly with logical fallacies that are used to prove Torah.
One thing I always start with is how risible the standards are. An easy one is that a court (secular or Jewish) has a standard for testimony: no second hand accounts.
Yet, the masorah is a very long telling and retelling of an account. No Jewish court would dream of accepting such testimony as part of evidence in a trial.
So, if you were on trial, you would cry "foul" at a second hand account (heresay) of what you are accused of doing. But, with an account that goes back thousands of years, you see GOOD evidence for Torah?
It's not a serious search for truth, this search to prove Torah. It starts with Torah is true, and a "gentlemen's agreement" to use any and all kinds of weak arguments (pretzel logic) to affirm that. That's what people smell in all religious apologetics.
"There are people who are totally certain that God created the universe (and they believe that it happened just a few thousand years ago!) and that He gave the Torah at Sinai, but they are not particularly motivated to observe halacha. This can be a particular problem with teenagers."
It isn't only a problem with teenagers. As an adult, I cannot reconcile the harsh punishments of hundreds or perhaps thousands of harmless ritual observances, with a kind and benevolent God.
For example, how does one accept the punishment of "kares" (eternal physical and spiritual destruction, yes eternal, forever and ever and ever) for not keeping every detail of an extremely abstract extension of every form of constructive activity on Shabbos. Or if one is lazy and waits a day or two to blacken his "retzuos" (which is the equivalent of not wearing tefillin since non black inavalidates the mitzvah), that he will suffer an awful punishment of "poshai yisroel" (see Shulchan Aruch O.C. 37 with Bach and Mishnah Berurah). The same applies to many other areas of halacha.
The truth actually is, that Klal yisroel has not really accepted halacha. Although we pay lip service to accepting every detail, but the reality is that about 95% of people (including Roshei Yeshivah and Kollel guys) keep what they knew from their homes and their yeshivos (which not only don't learn halacha, but disdain any serious pursuit of it), and if we were to test them on the thousands of details in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, Yoreh Deah and Choshen Mishpat, they would fail miserably.
Why do you want to motivate others to be religious is you have no intellectual proof/evidence that it's true?
"You can try convincing people that Judaism is true. But the problem with this is that many intelligent and intellectually honest people realize that this is naive. There are no intellectual proofs that Judaism is true"
These 3 statements have little to do with one another. Even though there are logical proofs that G-d exists in some form or another, I don't know of any strict proof that Judaism is true. Nevertheless, being convinced that Judaism (like any other idea) is true doesn't require proof, for an intelligent and intellectually honest person.
Additionally, I would say that a huge motivator is that when a person (including myself here) believes that G-d is real, and created the universe and everything leading up to that person's life, and the person actually appreciates their life, this makes a person want to thank their Creator. Similarly, understanding the existence and awesomeness of G-d can give a yearning to know more, come closer, and follow.
The most powerful force driving people toward Torah obsevance that I've seen is social desire. Seeing a nice Shabbos table, or a group of guys/girls that is close-knit and dedicated toward some higher goal, makes a lot of people want more of that.
I would really love to see an article where the Rav speaks about his personal experience with faith. The Rav is seen by many as a skeptic within Orthodox Judaism, so it would interest me great to hear the Rav's personal "Why I believe" thoughts.
"There's simply no polite way to tell people they've dedicated their lives to an illusion "
~ Daniel Dennet
"What motivates people to observe Jewish law and be part of the Jewish community? It’s usually one or more of the following factors: childhood conditioning, belief that Judaism is true and therefore binding, a sense of responsibility, and because they find benefits in doing so. (If I’ve left anything out, please let me know!)"
I know of a guy who became a ba'al teshuva from being a med student and they were so blown away from their undergraduate biology course and the workings of the human body and science's very inconclusive explanation on how it came into being on its own, that he ultimately became frum. But I guess the reason he became frum and not, say, Hindu, was probably because he was Jewish to begin with. Although I've never asked him.
It is a bit ironic that Natan is giving his full throated indorsement to the Shmeltzer approach, in the Shmeltzer-Sapirman debate. Given the fact that Shmeltzer was the chief architect of the Slifkin ban some 20 years ago.
Another reason for being a religious Jew is to conform with community behavior or fear of being ostracized for not conforming.
"Accordingly, it’s valuable to understand how Judaism is actually beneficial." So can being a member of certain other religions/cults/organizations religious or other. ACJA
I was ready to make the jump to Orthodoxy anyway. The children were the catalyst. They have long since married and made Torah true lives. Meanwhile I am making up for lost time by working on my learning and observance. In short - the needs of the children merely speeded up what was happening anyway, but for some people it is the children who are the push towards observance.
I'm looking forward to the articles in this series and would really appreciate if you could eloborate on what you wrote here: "There are no intellectual proofs that Judaism is true... in fact, there are a number of serious challenges."
I know you're busy but if you could refer me to good resources on the topic I'd be very grateful. And do you think it's plausible that there are good intellectual proofs that you haven't seen yet?
Pretty scary, just realized that Natan left the Yeshiva world, not because of some sort of set of ideological beliefs, but rather because he rationalized his way out of the yeshiva lifestyle...... Which is why he keeps revisiting the topic of chareidim....... His conscience hasn't left him but the need to rationalize carries on.......
I would say that the bottom line depends on a few things:
Relaying the positive value of commitment to Judaism, while so many “frum Jews” wander the community, the stores, and the shuls looking downtrodden and unhappy.
At the same time seeing, and teaching others to see, around, through, and beyond those “religious Jews” who behave in ways inconsistent with the Torah’s ethical values, including realizing that their neighbors are created b’tzelem Elokim. Showing the historical flexibility of Halacha, in the ongoing path it has taken, in which there were varieties of opinions and minhagim, and the beauty of acknowledging and accepting that. And, of course, the idea of “hanoch l’na’ar al pi darko,” but applying it to adult seekers, acknowledging that not everyone wants to learn Gemara, or mysticism, or whatever is presented as “the only path.” As my late Rav once said, “There are 600,000 paths to the Torah.” Meanwhile making it relevant and legitimate in this generation.
It’s a challenge.
Charedim are looking better and better.