Monday, May 19, 2014

What should I do about heretical thoughts?


Rabbi Shais Taub runs an advice column in the Ami Magazine. Recently, a woman called "Desperate" wrote in to ask for his help combating the heretical thoughts that have almost taken over her life. Rabbi Taub's suggestions weren't very good, as the following Guest Post, submitted by Nuch a Chasid, argues.

Dear Desperate:

I have seen your letter to Rabbi Shais Taub in the Ami Magazine and his response. If you are happy with his answer, good for you. If you can take his advice and close your mind and eyes, you will avoid a lot of trouble. You won't have to divorce and fight for the right to be with your children. If, as I suspect, his answer didn't satisfy you, if his answer got you more desperate and frustrated, let me try to explain the underlying of his answer. As much as he tried to not to give you a real answer, he actually did. He gave you the answer he didn't want you to have.

You wrote to Rabbi Taub that you “have plagued by all sorts of thoughts about going off the derech and doing all sorts of aveiros.” It bothers you greatly. You are a respected kollel wife who is supporting her husband . . . [yet you are] fantasizing about an entirely different way of life.” You feel guilty for your children and husband, who is “a talmid chacham and a tzaddik,” about having those thoughts. And even though your mind knows the truth, you “have many questions about Hashem and about emunah.”  You became involved in social media where you found yourself “reading and seeing many inappropriate things,” and you feel bad about it. You then conclude by asking Rabbi Taub to help you stay “alive.”

In his answer Rabbi Taud sidestepped the issue. He basically told you to stop thinking, quoting from seferim and tzaddikem how bad those thoughts are.

Now think about it: Why did he tell you to stop thinking and didn’t advise you to discuss your questions with a competent rabbi? Why didn't he advise you to ask your kollel husband, who is a talmud chucham?

I'll tell you why.

Rabbi Taub knows that your husband, learned as he is, doesn't have the answers. He knows that your husband probably knows all about גברא and חפצא, how big a bug must be that it should be forbidden to eat, and what is considered a wall in a sukkah, but he can't answer basic emunah questions. Rabbi Taub knows that if you ask your husband, he'll tell you to go ask the likes of Rabbi Taub, the people who should know.

But the likes of Rabbi Taub will always try to avoid going into a theological discussion with the likes of you, people who are in the system, particularly not with a woman who’s ”main tafkid is running your home and raising your children.” They will always try telling those doubters to just stop thinking.

And for a good reason. Rabbi Taub knows that if he gets into an emunah discussion with you, he might give you satisfying answers. But he also knows that there is at least an equal chance that he won't succeed. And if he doesn’t, he knows that you will then make a logical conclusion that he doesn’t want you to reach. That's why, as a trained rabbi, he will rather tell you to stop thinking than tackle your questions. It is a win-win situation; there is a chance that you will take his advice and shove away your doubts, and even if you won’t, you still cannot conclude that it is all bullshit because you never discussed it with the people in the ‘know’.

But unintentionally he validated your doubts. Have you ever thought why it is that only repressive regimes, dictators, and religious fanatics are trying to shut down your thinking process and limit your information? Why China and Iran are trying to ban or limit Internet access while the USA and Great Britain are trying to expand it?

Why would a mathematician or scientist never tell you to stop thinking – to the contrary, they will embrace it – but rabbis and imams hate questions?

Why is Rabbi Taub so afraid with you being on social media? Why is it that orthodox rabbis and Khamenei have the same problem with people conversing with others? What is so wrong with information? Why is he so afraid that by spending time on social media you are “reshaping” your brain? Shouldn’t the fine Torah education you got be enough to counter those evil thoughts?

What I find most astonishing is that you told Rabbi Taub that you are supporting your husband so your husband can sit in kollel all day, as Rabbi Taub puts it, “refining his mind, turning it into more and more of a vessel of holiness,” yet Rabbi Taub doesn’t find it necessary to explain to you why you have to do that. You are a mother, you run your house and raise your children (it’s your tafkid), and you work your butt off to support you husband who is dedicating his days to a cause you, at best, have questions about. Don’t you deserve an answer why you are doing it all? Wouldn't it be nice if Rabbi Taub offered to explain it all? Aren’t you entitled to know why? Don’t you deserve a straight answer?

If you didn't realize it, Rabbi Taub actually understands that you are probably questioning the whole setup in your house, where you do everything while your husband is turning into a vessel of holiness. Rabbi Taub is even feeding you sleeping pills to stop you from chas v'shalom going down that route. He tells you that "women do not have an obligation to study Torah and thus cannot earn the same reward that men do." He then goes on to tell you that your tafkid is running your home and raising your children. In other words: Since you are the woman in the house and your Torah isn't as important as his, if at all, you should continue to by the mom in the house and support your husband who’s Torah is of real importance. But don’t you dare to ask why Torah is important at all.

His answer tells you all that you need to know!

Please do not stop thinking. Please continue to ask. Please question everything. You are a human being; it is what humans do.

Sincerely yours,
Someone who is in a similar situation
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