I maintain that OTD people are often the frummest of them all…
There’s an in-between stage many of us went through (or are still going through), that weird space of “I don’t believe this is all true, but I grew up with this and how can I make a completely sudden about-face and stop doing or believing in everything all at once?” Not everyone experiences that, of course. But those of us who do, those of us who have to grapple with changing deeply-held beliefs, convictions, and modes of thinking about our daily lives – we get creative.
And in so doing, we prove that not only are we not as ignorant of law and philosophy and rabbinic rulings as some frum people would make us out to be, we are of necessity sometimes more knowledgeable about halacha and rabbinic rulings than some frum people.
We out-frum the frum.
And then we leave. (Or not.)
After I had a text conversation with a friend about this recently, he posted to his Facebook page, which has many many OTD and frum followers, asking people to share their stories. His angle was about frum people. My interpretation is that OTD people often go through this stage. Not all who go through this stage leave. Many of the comments below come from people who are still devout believers. But anyway, I find it fascinating.
So here’s a selection of some responses, edited and loosely organized by topic.
So you know how frum people do stuff they themselves think they’re not supposed to do? And often it is accompanied with an internal heter? This is a phenomenon commonly found among children and teens, but adults too.
So for example, taking off a kippah, feeling it’s something you shouldn’t be doing, but doing it anyway because you know “it’s only a minhag”? Stuff like that.
Share your stories and I’ll share mine.
- After I failed to only be able to listen to frum music, I would occasionally listen to songs with untznius lyrics about love and lust. I would think of the songs as metaphors for the shechina. Hey, if Shir hashirim could do it…
- I told myself it’s okay to listen to music during the three weeks and sefirah, partly because it’s just a minhag and partly because “I need it for my mental health.”
- I discovered goyishe music when I was told I couldn’t listen to music as a 13yo yos’m (orphan).
- I listened to Spanish music radio for a while, rationalizing “well, if I can’t understand the words, they can’t have a bad influence on me.”
- I did private things during my year of aveilus like buying new clothes because I needed new clothes, and I didn’t make other people wear it first because ew, and these laws only made sense back when you only bought clothes once a year and it was a Big Deal.
- Friend of mine’s dad died, and he told us that he had a heter to listen to music during the year, and we all were sort of pondering it, like if it makes sense. You know, makes sense that a 16 year old orphan was going to be able to listen to music because he really, really, really needed to.
- I told myself it’s okay to get tuna sandwiches at a non-kosher Dunkin Donuts because 1) the tuna is kept in little packages, and a rabbi I knew once said that tuna could be bishul akum, it’s fine; 2) the bagels are baked off-premises, so all the kosher and non-kosher bagels must come from the same place; 3) when they toast the bagel, they use an oven in which no bacon or sausages goes.
- I once, in a winter month, calculated the shaos zmaniyot so I could eat a cinnamon bun after I had had beef jerky for lunch a couple of hours prior
- I’m from NYC, which was settled by the Dutch, the Dutch keep one hour, so can I.
- When I lived in Frankfurt, I was soymekh on the ReMA and regularly waited only 3 hours between meat and dairy. Then again, there was nothing kosher to eat that wasn’t meat or dairy.
- I rationalized masturbating with the “heter” that it’s assur for boys but mutar for girls. Also, every night after I did it, I would roll over in bed, feel dirty, and promise myself this was the last time.
- I rationalized it that I wasn’t yet bar mitzvah, and then when that ship sailed, that onshin don’t start until you’re 20.
- “Premarital sex is just a derabbanan…”
- (from a girl) We can’t learn Gemara but if it’s pages stapled together with only bracketed excerpts that can’t be asur.
- Gemara is really hard because I suck at languages, so I’m sure God couldn’t have such a problem if — for the sake of my mental health — I also spend a lot of time learning about hashkafa and Jewish history, which I’m better at…
“It’s okay, because I feel guilty.”
- I don’t bother with justification. I just say “My core essence is just too tempted and there is no permissible alternative.”
- I did more feeling guilty than rationalizing, lol. I was just like, wow, I suck at this. A lot of ashamnus and bagadnus for me.
- I just assumed I was a terrible person. Too lazy to do the right thing.
- I rationalized some, felt guilty about what I couldn’t
- If I was even more cynical than I already am (and more conspiracy-minded), I would think that it was set up this way on purpose. Pick something that nearly everyone inevitably does. Make it the WORST SIN EVER. People feel incredibly guilty. And now whenever anyone has doubts, it can be blamed on them being weak-willed hedonists looking for ways to throw off the ol hatorah in order to assuage their guilt over indulging their taivos.
And then of course, there’s the smart-alecs, because no OTD post would be complete without at least one:
- I told myself it’s ok to be a goy because all of yidishkayt is basically just one big-ass minig anyway, and while bobemaysis are nice to tell and can sometimes be useful, narishkaytin are only worth it if it’s, like, not too much of a tirkhe so there goes ershtins anything that costs money or takes too much time or interferes with being a normal person or requires me to remain in New York or having to associate with this bande m’shegoyim or having to tolerate odious Zionist opinions so, like, basically everything.
- I gave myself a heter to smoke on shabbos because shabbos is supposed to be enjoyed. That mesorah goes back at least to Volozhin.