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So what?

In the ultra orthodox world I was brought up to think that ultra orthodox jews were superior to all other people. I honestly believed that only ultra orthodox jews had morals. I honestly believed that non frum and non jewish people lived a life of sin.

It took me a long time to stop looking down on people who weren’t ultra orthodox and to start looking up to them. I was brainwashed from a young age that religious people were good and not religious people were bad and goyim (not jewish people) were the worst. While this message wasn’t taught to me in those exact words, this was the message I received.

Years of being told that if you do mitzvot and follow the stricts ways of god you’re a good person so the others must be bad, right?

On my frumless journey I came up with the attitude of; so what?! When I asked about how someone was and I was told they are good but they are with a goy. My response became, so what? When I’m told someone is not reigous I say; so what? What’s the big deal?

Once I realised that people who were not religous and not jewish actually had morals and lived honest lives free from the ultra orthodox ways. I finally realized that these people were amazing people. Once I learnt not to dislike someone because they weren’t jewish or religious. I realized it’s ok to talk and mix with these people. That they are not criminals and sinners. Once I realised this I began to pity the religious I pitied the close mindedness which prevented them for seeing the good in others. I pitied the close mindedness which caused them to dismiss a person based on them not being ultra orthodox.

Still today many judge me as a bad person due to my beliefs or lack thereof. Its hard to see a person based their morals alone. I have morals- plenty of them. Just because I don’t dress a certain way and keep the sabbath and pray doesn’t make me a bad person in the real world. In the real world these things don’t matter. In the real world you’re judged based upon how you act. However to many ultra orthodox people I am a terrible influence which needs to be kept away from their sheltered homes and small minded communities. Even some of my siblings are ashamed of my open and outspoken beliefs. Isn’t it sad that in this day and age people still have to worry about how their siblings behavior will effect their shudduchim (marriage arrangements). 

Well I really am sorry but I’m not going to put on a show for you or for anyone. I have one life to live and if you don’t like the way I live it, So what?!

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The day I stopped caring

One of the things which has been drilled into my head from a very young age is that I must always worry and care about what other people think.  We are taught that as a religious Jew you have a great responsibility to act and dress in a befitting  manner so that you don’t cause a bad name for the Jewish people.

One of the hardest yet most rewarding part of my frumless journey was to break away from this mindset.  This was extremely difficult as it really meant changing the process of my thoughts. This was something which took me many years to accomplish.

I had known for a long time that the ultra orthodox ways were not for me. I knew that they were unhealthy for my wellbeing, however, I felt as though I had to act religious for fear of what others would think. I felt as though I was two different people; one who was perceived as being extremely religious and another with my non religious/ non jewish friends some of whom I never told I was jewish. Those years were very difficult. Its so hard to know what you want to be yet fear so much what others will think.

One day I had enough. I was emotionally drained from having to put on the religious facade. I thought to myself why do I still care?  I thought about the worst thing that would happen if I showed the world my frumless self. I figured that the consequences of  being openly non religious were easier to live with than having to pretend. I thought that maybe people wouldn’t want to know me when they realized that I wasn’t religious and I just didn’t care any more. If peopl didn’t like how I dressed I didn’t care. If people saw me driving on shabbat I didn’t care.

That day I stopped caring what others thought and started living my life completely frumless with no religious persona was a feeling of absolute  freedom. Finally I was free to live the life I wanted to live. Free from strict, rigid rules. Free to make my own choices about my life and how I wanted to live it. Finally I was free.

I  wish the ultra orthodox world stopped teaching people to care so much what others think. It’s so unhealthy. Instead they should teach them to do their best and when they make a mistake it’s ok. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to be someone who we are not. The most important thing is to be able to accept people how they are and not try to mould them into something their not.

Intermarriage

Growing up in an ultra orthodox environment I was taught that the worst thing you could ever do is intermarry. I was taught that a Goy (non-jew) and a Jew have different souls which just are not compatible with each other. I was taught that unless a jew marries a jew they can not have a happy marriage as they are just not compatible. I have relatives who have intermarried and have amazing, happy relationships so this explanation never sat right with me.

I want to take a deeper look into intermarriage throughout different stages of jewish history. Lets begin with Moses. There is a story from the bible which tells of how moses took a Cushite (black) wife. The story says that his sister Miriam spoke bad about his decision to have this wife and so she was struck with tzora’at (a form of leprosy). So it is easy to see that Moses- one of the greatest jewish leaders was allowed to take a wife from another tribe and his sister who spoke out about this was punished. I learn from this, that it is not for us to judge or speak ill of someone elses choice of spouse.

Let’s look at another great king and leader- King Solomon. King Solomon had hundreds of wives and concubines, yet he is still referred to as the wisest man and the greatest king. According to the Torah the reason that intermarriage is not allowed is because it will lead the people to idol worshipping. King Solomon’s spouses were known to be idol worshippers. This is probably so much worse than intermarriage these days where most people believe in one god. Yet king Solomon is still referred to the wisest king of all time.

I wonder why was he not thrown off his throne for intermarrying? Why was he not ex-communicated? Why was he not put to death and shame for this? Why did jewish people listen to the advice of someone who married so many blatant idol worshippers?

Could it be that the people of those times knew something that ultra orthodox jews today do not? Perhaps they had more tolerance and were able to look past King Solomons relationships? Perhaps they could see the wisdom and greatness of King Solomon and this outweighed his obvious transgressions?

So my question is why can’t ultra orthodox jews today do the same? Why are inter marital relationships so bad? Why are people who intermarry ex-communicated? Why are people who intermarry looked down upon? Why is it so bad?

Lets look at another famous intermarriage in jewish history- the relationship of Ruth and Boaz. Ruth was from the nation of Moab. The Torah clearly states that a person from the nation of Ammon or Moab may not be accepted in the jewish people. These two nations are seen as such terrible, wicked nations that they were to be annihilated. Yet Ruth was a Moabite, and she is looked at as a great jewish person.

I must question this phenomenon and compare it to someone who wants to convert these days. Why was Boaz allowed to intermarry someone from one of the most wicked nations? The logical answer to this is that Boaz was very rich and saw a young girl who he wanted and so he could buy his way into marrying her and having her accepted into the jewish nation. Of course no ultra orthodox jew is going to tell you this explanation and they will tell you how he had a prophecy and god told him that he was to marry this girl and she was a holy person even though she was from this wicked nation and blah blah blah.

Lets look at converts and someone who really does want to convert and be part of the jewish nation today. The ultra orthodox rabbis make it literally impossible for someone to convert. If Ruth lived today I doubt that she would have been able to be accepted into the ultra orthodox world. The main reason for this is that she was dirt poor. In order to convert into the ultra orthodox world you must be able to pay for private lessons to learn about the Torah- which cost a lot of money.

Another reason why she would have been unlikely to convert is that I doubt she would have kept the sabbath to every minute detail. Did she go to shul each week?  I can’t believe that Ruth was allowed to intermarry before she kept every commandment to the most stringent detail. These days only after paying lots of money, going to shul each week, keeping every commandment to a level that most jews do not keep, then you can convert. After you convert then you can marry a jew. So why was Ruth allowed to have sexual relations with Boaz before she had converted. Did she even convert? Did the laws of conversion which exist these days even apply then?

In conclusion I say that intermarriage is allowed and has obviously been allowed and accepted in the past. Most people these days are not idol worshippers and will not lead people to idol worship. The laws of conversion which exist these days make it so difficult for someone to convert that even someone who wants to marry under jewish law is forced to intermarry as their spouse can not convert in the ultra orthodox way. It is not for us to judge someones choice in spouse- leave the judging for god. Harmonious relationships do exist with people from different religious and cultural backgrounds.

Ask a Rabbi

I grew up with a misguided belief.  I grew up thinking that Rabbi’s know everything.  I grew up thinking that Rabbi’s practice what they preach. Then I really grew up and realised how wrong I was.

I want to set the record straight and clearly state that Rabbi’s are human beings. Rabbi’s make mistakes-some bigger than others. Rabbi’s are not experts in all areas.

With the current sexual abuse cover-ups in ultra orthodox communities being exposed. I feel that I must say Rabbi’s can make decisions that are wrong on so many levels.  We are taught to listen to Rabbi’s. We are taught that they know the answers to everything.  Well I can tell you for a fact that they don’t.

Firstly not all Rabbi’s practise what they preach. There are well known rabbi’s who teach the laws of marriage whilst they have extra marital affairs. There are well known rabbi’s who teach the laws of kashrut and shabbat while they abuse their wife and kids. It’s important to realise that just like in general society there are the bad ones, so too with rabbi’s there are the bad ones. It’s important to not fall into the common trap of thinking that just because they are knowledgeable in the Torah’s laws that rabbi’s are free of sin. Rabbi’s should not be worshipped and they should not be the be all and end all.

Lets look at what qualifies a person to become a Rabbi. They must be knowledgeable in the laws of Kashrut, Shabbat and other jewish laws. So if you are not sure if your oven is kosher then ask a rabbi. If your house has been robbed do not ask a rabbi.  If your child has been abused do not ask a rabbi. If you want to know the laws of shabbat ask a rabbi- but also use your own common sense.  If you want to know the laws of jewish intimacy ask a rabbi and also use your own common sense and dignity. If you are questioning your sexuality do not ask a rabbi go to a psychologist who is qualified to deal with this issue.

Rabbi’s are not Doctors, psychologists, police, lawyers, or mediators. They only are qualified in the jewish laws. They are not perfect and they do not know everything.  If you have a life changing decision do not ask a rabbi and do not depend on a Rabbi. Seek advice from someone who is qualified to deal with your issue.

I have also mentioned in my previous posts about using common sense and about private matters. Just like if you have a medical issue and you seek a Doctor’s advice, if what you are told doesn’t feel right you would seek another opinion or just not follow the advice. The same should be with a rabbi’s advice. If a rabbi says something which doesn’t ring true or doesn’t sit right with you- then seek another opinion or don’t do what they say.

I also strongly believe that some matters are private. I believe that a rabbi does not need to see your underwear or give advice on whether or not you can use birth control.

I believe that every person has an inner voice. Whether you call it your intuition, thoughts or common sense. You know what is right for you. If you feel like you want to use a contraceptive go ahead. Its not for a rabbi to make that decision for you. If you feel that it is right to use your phone on shabbat go ahead.

We must remember that the  laws which are being kept today are not what they kept thousands of  years ago. Technology has advanced and the world has advanced. Maybe rabbi’s should question all the laws which they have added on over the years and re-evaluate. They should go back to the original law see if all the laws added on over the years are actually helping ultra orthodox Jews in any way.

Are the laws actually bringing people together or pulling humanity apart? Are the laws removing people from the purpose of this world? Why are there ultra orthodox jews who are being advised by Rabbi’s for being abused? Why are there ultra orthodox jews having more babies than they can cope with? Why are there ultra orthodox jews in loveless marriages? Why are there ultra orthodox jews who will throw stones at people who desicrate the sabbath?

What gives a Rabbi any right to tell a person that they can not go to the police? What qualifies a Rabbi to give legal advice? What qualifies a Rabbi to give psychological advice? I look forward to the day that a Rabbi will say “I am not qualified in this area please go see someone who is”. Unfortunately in the ultra orthodox world this day may never come.

What is the purpose of the world?

Growing up in an ultra orthodox environment I was always taught that there is a purpose to this world. I was taught that everything happens for a reason. I was taught to believe in the afterlife. I was taught that without religion living is meaningless.

I disagree. Throughout my frumless journey I have learnt many things. The one thing that I have learnt is that I can have a good, meaningful life without religion. I am a living example of experiencing a meaningful, happy, peaceful life without all the restrictions that religion brings.

I have learnt to accept that there are questions that I will never know the answer to and that’s ok with me. Just like I can’t fully understand how my mobile phone works, it really doesn’t matter to me. I know it works, I know I can use it and I know that if it breaks down I’ll pay someone who does understand how it works to fix it.

I have learnt that I don’t know if there is a god, I don’t know how this world came about, I don’t know if there is an afterlife and many more questions that I really don’t care to know the answer to.

I have come in contact with many people from various cultural and religious backgrounds and everyone deals with these questions in their own way. Some believe in the big bang theory, some believe in reincarnation, some believe in god and some believe in religion.

I have asked many people from diverse backgrounds what the purpose of this world is. Only one answer truly stuck with me. A middle aged woman from the US told me that we are born into this world and our job is to make sure that when we leave this world we leave it in a better state so that our children can continue to thrive for generations to come.

I really loved this answer as it makes so much sense. I found that all other answers which I came across just led to more questions. This answer rang true to me. This is an answer which doesn’t need any religious beliefs. This is the only answer which I felt that everyone from every background can relate too. This is how to have a meaningful, purposeful life without religion.

Is the Torah perfect?

“The Torah is perfect, the people are not”

This phrase is commonly used by ultra orthodox jews in response to imperfections noticed in judaism. I disagree.  I argue that the Torah has many imperfections which lead Jewish followers to have an unbalanced lifestyle.

According to the Torah,   a cohen may not marry a divorcee or a convert. No homosexual relationships, desecrate the sabbath and you shall be put to death. A cohen’s (priest’s) daughter who had relations before marriage should be put to death. A woman adulterer is put to death- the man is in the clear. An eye for an eye, and many more laws which lead me to question the perfection of the Torah.

The Torah is further distorted by rabbis who have added on so many laws to the commandments that they make keeping the commandments extremely difficult to keep. I also believe that many of the added rabbinical laws cause people to focus on these laws and further them from the basic meaning of the commandments.

Take the sabbath as an example. According to the ten commandments you should remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Why is there a sabbath day? The reason that this exists is because god created the world in 6 days and then rested on the 7th. So we need to remember that god created the entire world- every living and nonliving element and then rested once his work was complete.

Rabbis have said that you keep the sabbath holy by not using electricity, which means no driving, phone calls, turning on lights etc. A Jew is also not allowed to carry as they may carry tools which would lead them to work. There is a common question about when a Jew is allowed to break these laws and desecrate the sabbath. Jews are allowed to break the sabbath to save another jews life. This leads to another common question which is; are they are allowed to break the sabbath to save a non jews life.

Common sense should prevail in this situation and there should not ever be such a question. Such a question is so unnecessary, it should be obvious that on the sabbath day when we are meant to remember how god created the entire universe and then rested, why would you think you should keep the sabbath day holy by not helping one of gods creations? The stupidity in such a question ever being asked rages me to the core. Why is the answer not obvious?

The answer is not obvious and ultra orthodox jews commonly ask this question, only due to all the laws that the rabbis have added on over the years. These laws make followers concentrate on what they should and should not be doing on the sabbath and make them forget the entire reason why the sabbath exists. If they remembered the real reason why the sabbath exists, as it says in the 10 commandments that they should remember it and keep it holy. Then they would know that they are celebrating the creation of the world and you can’t keep such a day holy by destroying one of gods creations.

I must say that I believe that both the Torah and the people are not perfect and a lot of changes must be made so that the purpose of the world is not lost. I’ll discuss a frumless perspective on the purpose of the world in my next blog.

Jewish Laws of Intimacy

Growing up in an ultra orthodox environment I was led to believe that guys just want sex. How did I come to this conclusion?  Simply; because this is what I was taught. I was taught that as a female I must dress modestly with a skirt covering my knees and a top which didn’t expose my collar bones and which had sleeves below the elbow. I was taught that the reason why females must cover up is not for us, its for the male species who have these uncontrollable urges, so we must dress modestly so that we won’t cause them to sin. God forbid should a male person see us dressed immodestly they will not be able to control their thoughts and thoughts lead to actions which leads to sin and females are to blame.

When I was taught the jewish laws of family purity where spouses must refrain from physical contact  for two weeks of every month. One week is when a female has their period and the second week is a week where the female does not bleed for 7 days, after that the female immerses in the spiritual bath and is allowed to touch her husband again. I remember the teacher telling me how its so nice to have those two weeks to yourself and not have to feel bad for refusing sex. I was also taught that by abstaining from all physical contact it makes it so much more special when you can touch.

I was taught that during those two weeks couples get to know each other better because they get to talk without having sex. I was taught that it is such a sin to have sex during those two weeks while a female is impure.  Therefore the rabbis forbid couples from any physical contact at all. No hugging, kissing,  massages, hand holding, even passing objects to each other as this may lead them to accidentally touch each other and have forbidden sex.

This is how i was left with the belief that men are these sex crazed creatures who as soon as they have any contact or even look at a women they will automatically have sex with them. I was taught that any touch will lead to sex and therefore you can’t have any type of physical contact with males as it will lead to sex.

Indeed in the ultra orthodox world due to these laws whenever you do touch your spouse you are expected to have sex.  On a wedding night the first time they have physical contact they are expected to consummate the marriage by having sex. This sex causes the virgin girl to bleed and become impure so they must immediately abstain from all physical contact as soon as this happens. There is no kissing, cuddling, hand holding after they have sex for the first time. As soon as the girls hymen breaks and she bleeds she must jump out of bed and no longer is allowed physical contact

The next time she is allowed to touch her husband again is two weeks later, after she has bled and had seven days of not bleeding.  Then she must bathe in a mikva (religious bath) and after she is pure she can have sex again with her husband.  So the next time she touches her husband she is expected to go all the way again. Then they can mate like rabbits until her period starts and the cycle begins again.

No wonder I believed that all touch leads to sex; because on the ultra orthodox world due to their strict laws it literally does. There is no concept of healthy touch.  No concept of physical contact without sex playing a part.

This is not normal.  Healthy touch is important.  Holding hands with your spouse is important. Hugging your spouse is important.  Why did the rabbis rule that no touching at all is allowed during these weeks,when its only sex which is forbidden? Why did they add on these laws?  If they were worried about it leading to sex then they should say when you are in private and its just the two of you then don’t have physical contact. But when you are in public and you are highly unlikely to have sex in front of other people then you can hold hands, kiss, cuddle etc.

What really annoys me about Judaism is all these laws that Rabbis have added on over the years. In school we were taught that you can’t add or subtract from the commandments, yet the Rabbis can and do add on plenty to the laws, causing them to be utterly ridiculous and defeat the whole purpose of many laws.  Anyway that topic is for another day.

In conclusion, I feel that Judaism creates sex crazed males, by separating them from the females, teaching them to be afraid of their sexual urges as it can lead to sin and then by having them refrain from all types of touching from their spouse. This is so unnatural. This is so unnecessary. This is cruel and extremely sad. This is essentially a binge, purge relationship with sex.

I am so glad that I know that I am in a good, happy marriage, where healthy touch is a normal thing of everyday life. We can hug, kiss, hold hands and pass objects to each other any time we want.