Tuesday, September 22, 2009

5 Years and Counting

The first post was typed up while chatting to a friend I have been talking to a while already. She helped me with the name of the blog (I wanted something to resemble the 'machanie'im books' “der roov der ba'al agooleh”, “der kamtzen der noodiv” etc.), my nickname (which came right after we discussed what a “shtreimel” is), and after a few pitiful tries also taught me some basic English lessons I must have missed in school. At that point it had only one reader.

The second post, the first one with substance set the tone for what I was going to be, the bad boy of blogsphere. Of course it wasn't on my mind then but writing thoughts down, things I do, makes me think it over twice, as to why and how. Just a year or two before that post I wrote to the now defunct “Yoshev Al Hageder”, a plainspoken Israeli Charedi who, as him name suggests doesn't belong to any camp but sits on the gate ready to fall down either way. The email was short, perhaps a one liner “Are you planning on fasting this Yom Kippur?”. I've read his rants, knew perfectly what he meant, as I've had doubts of my own surfing in my head questioning everything I always believed in, but never found the guts to take it to the next level. I even had a hard time believing that someone else had the guts to do it. His answer, shorter than my question affirmed what I had hoped he would say. “Why should I fast?” or something like that was his answer (before Gmail, there was AOL with their policy of erasing emails after 7 days or so. Oy, what I would give to recover my innocence of those days.).

The third time I wrote on the blog I got some responses, both, comments, and emails. People found me, found what I wrote to be significant enough to respond, and to be honest, quite shockingly, significant enough to re-visit.

Then things got rolling, I got noticed, requested links to my blog by the gedoilim. More people emailed, commented, and debated than I ever imagined. In no time this blog business consumed me, it was on my mind constantly. I can't complain, times were good. I confirmed what I had suspected, I'm not the only one, I'm not even one in a thousand!

That was 5 years ago.

Now when the hate mail is too occasional to excite, the comments on posts as few and far between as are the posts itself, when googling “shtreimel” doesn't bring up this blog on top, when I'm conveniently mentioned in the list of former glory I can reflect on the changes these years have brought in me.

I'm missing the hindsight I may eventually have to be able to summarize the last 5 years fully, yet, there's plenty I can see this moment. I know I have matured with 5 years, especially with my main concerns of then. The questions I naively sought an honest answer I find unanswerable at the very best – sometimes I even think that I have the answer, and it isn't a fun answer for someone living in this community. But more than that is the change in attitude from “something must change, this cannot go on” to “living a double life isn't so hard at all”.

It isn't as hard as I thought it to be. Surprisingly most frum people care so little, or are so occupied with saving their own house of cards that one can be suspiciously heretical but still count as a tzenter – a tenth person required in a quorum of Jewish prayer. There is comfort in the status quo. People may find me hypocritical as if anyone asks me I advise to get up and leave before the comfort sets in, but once the comfort is there it's not as bad and monstrous as I thought it will be. I often wonder why I still hold by this advise, telling myself that not everyone is built for this kind of double life.

Analyzing the last 5 years leaves me with one question: what next?

If I get to write the answer I'd have it similar to the last 5. As long as it works it is fine by me.

Alas, as luck may have it, just when I come to terms with living this life, just when I think that this may be me for the rest of my days, something may happen to turn things on it's head. Someone may be ticked off, someone who couldn't care less until today. It may be a good thing for me, for everyone around me, it may not.

Time will tell. Hope to report back in 5 years. And also at times in between, even though I don't have much to say.

Gmar Chasima Tovah Ya'll.


  1. "Surprisingly most frum people care so little, or are so occupied with saving their own house of cards that one can be suspiciously heretical but still count as a tzenter – a tenth person required in a quorum of Jewish prayer."

    I hope that will change.


  2. I like this post. Deep down I think you know that upping and leaving isnt as good as it's cracked up to be. Losing one's wife, kids, friends and community, and leavning a lonely live with no support structure or friends isnt that much fun. The thrill of the cheeseburger and the Friday night nightclub eventually evaporates and what are you left with? NOthing. at least this way you still have love, stability and security, and you can believe and think what you want.

  3. plan on having coffee this year on YK?

  4. I like your change in attitude and frankly, I've been quite suroprised at how difficult it is for a hasid born and raised to effetively integrate into mainstream society. Now that there are many folks with one leg still in the community who are questioning the validity of their faith, it's becoming easier to adapt from within, rather than taking the drastic steo of restarting life as an immigrant who doesn't know his country's lanuage and culture.

    I want to point out very strongly here that my personal decision to leave was a very close call. At times I was even tempted to regret it (for practical reasons, obviously, not ideological) and I still think that the double life is a somewhat viable possibility.

  5. Streimel, I just want to mention incidentally my special Elul initiative to ask all Jewish skeptics to refrain from prostitutes and cocaine during this holy time. Now, for the Ten Days of repentance, I am respectfully adding an additional request - no masturbation!

    Thank you.

  6. Mindy,
    How can you know what I know deep down if you don't know it yourself. How many people that left do you know on a personal level? How many do you talk to daily?

    See, the thrills you mention has nothing to do with leaving, it can be as easily obtained with the full levush on the way home to the frum family. I pity one who leaves for these thrills just as much as a pity one who thinks that people leave for these thrills.

    I wonder though, why, if it would be up to you, you prefer people like me to stick around in spite of what we think and do. And look how contrasting your yiddishe hartz is to the goyishe kop NJNP who can't wrap his mind around why people don't copy his people's Inquisition.

    You're invited. Email me.

    Maybe I'm right, and it just isn't for everyone.

    Sure, if you refrain from drinking coffee, and looking at flowers the month of September, additionally, the next 10 days you are not to use any form of electricity. Deal?

  7. I am a big fan of your blog. I only started reading your blog quite recently, but I went back and read just about every post you wrote since the blog's inception.
    In your first full post you write that "If god forgave me for my sins I don't know, but I didn't forgive him" And perhaps this collection of 5 years of articulated musings chronicle your mind's redemption. You still might not have forgiven him, but redemption is sometimes about acceptance even when their is no forgiveness.
    Kierkegard said "God is dying" and perhaps this is the story of your blog, God's slow death. You denounce him at the beginning, but he only dies slowly. It's why I always preferred Kierkegard's statement over Neitzche's "God is dead." For us, who grew up in the ultra religious communities, God is never dead, he is just always dying, every day a bit more.
    Your blog is a true gem, and please do continue to stop by. Even if the God you set out to kill is already almost dead and will continue to die everyday just a bit more.
    Aleh V'hatzlech.

  8. Sorry, just noticed you need a nickname, call me Ishmael ;)

  9. S

    Understand your position exactly. It's intersting that through your experience you have shown that the chariedi system works as it is intended.

    You got committed to the lifestyle before you really started to think, and by the time you did start to think you realized that it's easier to play the game.

    And so, you will play the game, marry your kids off and in due course, they too will start to think. But by that time, they will be stuck, thereby continuing the golden chain from Har Sinai.

    And to JP - with all the fasting and odd sleep hours with slichos and stuff, you can't take away the few pleasures that are left.

    Easy fast to all.


  10. Oy vey dear friend!

    Good to see you are still around though!

    I live in hope that you can come to terms with Yiddishkeit just as I managed to b'ezras Hashem!

    I wish you and your readers a Gmar Chasima Tova and wish you all the very best!

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  12. gevezener.illuy@gmail.com9/24/2009 12:16 PM

    For those who read Riva Pomerantz's suspense filled serials in the Mishpacha, blogsphere has just been exposed there!

    For all I know, some of the names from the time when blogsphere thrived might show up there. I just hope my wife doesen't see the blood drain from my face if I am referenced there...

  13. Firstly congrats on your milestone, If all of our people's parents would have been like I am, afraid to adapt, would the world have had Einstein, Marx, Menuhin, Springer, Sagan .....

  14. There's no need for words... ---Shlomo

  15. NJNP,
    If you can't have a civil discussion (i.e. answering a question after you raise a topic) you cannot comment here. Thanks.

    Thanks Ishmael. I'm not so sure that at this point I'm ready to forgive god. You're so right about the acceptance - yet, is accepting a good thing? Isn't fighting it a better option? That remains the question, a question I chose the answer to personally.

    I won't use the word intended, as I don't think that someone actually sat down and planed it to work this way. But you're right - who knows, could my parents have gone through a similar phase? (If they did they sure recanted fast enough.)

    You'd have to pray much more in order to have your hopes fulfilled (but then again, it will take something so extraordinary to get me back that it would cause me to lose bechairah, so what's the point then anyway?).

    I've been told about it - I checked out the header this week (it's in the family section - GASP!). I could not believe that exposure they gave it. I mean imagine someone googeling "blog heretic" after reading the article. Oy!

    Jerry Springer? ;)

  16. Frummer, I find it just a tad bit ironic that Shtriemel writes a post basically saying how he had on some level, come to terms with yiddishkeit, and you leave him a comment saying that you hope that he comes to terms with yiddishkeit.

    I am really curious though, just how did you reach your madreigoh of "coming to termness"?

  17. Pen....

    I didn't read that he has come to terms with Yiddishkeit. He's referring to his double life. At least, that's the way I read it.

    How I came to terms with it?

    Basically, it came down to having my Hashkafa fixed up. For me it was theshmuz.com. For others it may be something else. Sure, there are many, many questions, but there are many, many answers too.

    But yes, I still believe that most chassidim (of which I am one!) have a warped sense of mind and don't have the brains to understand the deeper issues of Yiddishkeit. But, nebbech them, it keeps them happy!

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  19. >>don't have the brains to understand the deeper issues of Yiddishkeit

    Aza fetten loshon horah hob ich shoin lang nisht gehert. But seriously, now you know why god kills babies and why most zebras get eaten alive?

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  21. Shtreimel, all I can do is say I commiserate and empathise with you. Some days it's great while others suck and usually it's somewhere in between; just like the believers. Keep on trucking.

  22. Shtreimel,

    thanks for the invite. But I will be fasting this year as usual. Enjoy

  23. This comment has been removed by the author.

  24. I've been quite suroprised at how difficult it is for a hasid born and raised to effetively integrate into mainstream society.

    I don't think this is quite right. I believe chassidim can integrate into mainstream society with just a bit of effort. Finding contentment within it is what's *really* the challenge. Chasidism gives people more than they realize, and when they leave it, they're left with a void which is exceedingly difficult (some will say impossible) to fill.

  25. Oops, I forgot to add quotation marks and indicate that the first sentence is pasted from jajogluck's comment.

  26. In reality it is quite easy to integrate while you are young, however if you have a family and children then it is quite difficult if not impossible, to make the transition easier, you need for some time to completely break away and no contact with anybody who you were previously familiar with, this is how you would be able to change and start anew, even if you have a relationship with only ex Chasidic people that would keep your mind in the same confinement as you were when you were still Chasidic. Joining the Army would be the best thing a person could do to start out on your own, the only problem you might have in today’s army you need a high school education, and if you have a clean record a GED might be OK. so go ahead and join up be all you could be.

  27. Great post as usual, it's just that being in the same boat as u, it makes me feel sad and pathetic knowing that this will probably be my own outcome.

    In the comments u made a point to the affect , that if God where to reveal himself we would lose our free choice. I disagree I think we would still have a choice when it would come to following all the commandments. Knowing what the right thing to do is, doesn't make it easy to do it. How many people do you know that smoke,even though they are acutely aware that it is not healthy? On the other hand if the anti smoking research is shoddy and weak, the case to stop smoking would be so weak, that I wouldn't even call it a fair choice.

  28. Yarmulkah Juice9/30/2009 3:08 PM

    check this out - http://hassid.blogspot.com/2008/12/accepting-double-life.html, I get one point!

    p.s. Being amputated an arm & leg for 5 years, has the same effect on you. Think about it.

  29. Shtreimle
    If you are done, sell me your olam haba.
    Im not joking

  30. I'll Sell you mine, how much are you offering?

  31. yosef'smom,
    How much? Can I bargain for a better deal if I bring you along another hundred olam haba's?

  32. The fact that so many Orthoprax remain outwardly religious and raise their children to be religious seems to be somewhat of a refutation of the Kuzari argument of "ain adam morish sheker lebanav".

    Also, JP's posts are great; gotta love 'em! They're so amusing, hilarious and non-sensical that they basically self-destruct. The best arguments against JP's posts are usually to just to let them remain exactly as written and have them speak for themselves.

    Grubeh Gartel

  33. Hi Shtraimele!
    A git gebensht yuhr to you and yours!

    Nice post! After having practically forgotten the blogosphere still existed it was a apleasant surprise to drop in a and see some of the old failthful still plotting away.

    Keep on


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