I'm wondering, after a conversation with a good friend... What makes most people frum
? I guess this is directed primarily at ba'alei t'shuva
, but anyone can answer. What is it that attracts them? Is it intellectual arguments? Is it community? Food? Searching? Why do people choose to become frum
? If you didn't grow up religious and now are, why? What attracted you? (I have my own opinions, but I'm wondering if I'm way off base. I'll post them later on.)
I'm going to put the first [GoogleChat] response I got, from a friend who has been working in kiruv
for 10 years:
for some its the reality that being frum is right. For others its the aspect of shabbat and yom tov and the aspect of seperation from weekday and family above allPlease, let there be plenty of discussion but no fighting in the comments. I'm interested in hearing everyone's opinion, not why everyone else is wrong.
Some, like me have left the frum life and considered going back. after careful consideration, it is not for me. If you like your life run on ritual, if you like the pressure of a community for conformity or you believe that your rabbi is a fount of wisdom who knows better than you how you should live, then the frum life is for you.ReplyDelete
Funny...when I read title, I thought this would be a discussion of what behaviors define one as frum.ReplyDelete
Good question. I am intersted to see the answers. Another, perhaps better question for some is what keeps people frum, even if they have issues, questions, etc
Most people become frum because they love the lifestyleReplyDelete
Some people are really simple minded, and its pretty easy and comfortable having their rebbe dictate for them when to use the bathroom or not.
So I would guess the main reason is community with the tie in of THIS is what a Jew is supposed to do.
But, there are others that go in for different reasons
Another, perhaps better question for some is what keeps people frum, even if they have issues, questions, etcReplyDelete
Another great Q, completely different discussion.
Another, perhaps better question for some is what keeps people frum, even if they have issues, questions, etcReplyDelete
If they have a family for one thing, thats usually the problem. If they single, probably just fear.
If they have a family for one thing, thats usually the problem. If they single, probably just fear.ReplyDelete
SEPARATE DISCUSSION! Ugh. Let's not get off track so soon, k?
aaaand you knew I would ask this question: how do you define "frum?" MO? Charedi? Living out an halachic life based on the faith and belief in direct, Divine revelation?ReplyDelete
I dont think it makes a difference. Ezzie is simply asking what makes someone leave the secular world he knew and enter the world of Judaism
EK - Fair question, and I specifically decided *not* to define it in the post. Partially for HH's reasons, partially because I don't have a good answer. I would generally say an Orthodox lifestyle, though even a move from nonobservance to Conservative Judaism and/or a halachic lifestyle is quite a step, so that would likely be included as well.ReplyDelete
HH: I think in the context of Ezzie's blog it does make a difference. I was pretty sure he was not asking why I remain a frum Reform Jew :-)ReplyDelete
Ezzie: See my response to HH
Well, I'm not asking why anyone remains anything. :) I'm asking why people who were not observant choose to become observant - what attracts them to that way of life?ReplyDelete
Ah! Observance! I can answer that: for me, while I may be theologically Reform (well, Reconstructionist, but that's for another time:-)), adhering to the majority of the body of halacha binds me to our faith and our people. It makes Judaism the center of my existence, rather than me being the center of my existence. It give meaning and context to the flow and journey of our lives. I cannot fathom a life without observance; to me it would be an empty life.ReplyDelete
Excellent answer, even though the question was directed at those who never had it and then chose to take it upon themselves. And I specifically didn't use observant in the post, but when it came out as I was typing the comment, I figured it was the closest to what I intended in the question, so I left it in. :)ReplyDelete
That was a very good, interesting answer - thank you!
>It makes Judaism the center of my existence, rather than me being the center of my existence. It give meaning and context to the flow and journey of our lives. I cannot fathom a life without observance; to me it would be an empty life.ReplyDelete
WOW, he sounds like someone I know.
Sorry, I mean "she" sounds like someone I know.ReplyDelete
I was not raised with the level of observance I currently maintain. While my parents are devout Jews in their faith, much of what I do today I took on as a young adult (in college). My brother did as well, although he is theologically Orthodox as well as ritually observant - he would consider himself "black hat" rather than MO.ReplyDelete
Well, then, I guess that works EK. :)ReplyDelete
Sorry for the distrcation...Damn ADD Ill put it up on my blogReplyDelete
What about yourself, E?ReplyDelete
Ezzie was always frum. He isent as cool as I am.ReplyDelete
But lots of people go "off the derech" - what has kept you on it?ReplyDelete
I think that's a very different discussion, EK (hence my reply above to HH and DAG). I don't think it's the same approach...ReplyDelete
Fair enough ;-)ReplyDelete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Well...I'm not sure I really count as "frum" although I hope to be when I grow up. ;-) I guess I started becoming more observant because Reform Judaism didn't make any sense to me (I'm not saying that it doesn't make sense, but just that it didn't make sense to *me*). It didn't make sense to me to pick and chose parts of the Torah to follow. For me, it had to be all or nothing. So I started studying online and at some nearby shuls and that was that.ReplyDelete
In a nutshell..
It was the higher level of existance, knowing that you had purpose. I became frum in public high school (almost 20 yrs ago) and saw my friends (even the devout christans and mormons) really just going through life with any goal. Friends alread in college were pretty much the same way. It took me from 8th grade until middle of 10th grade to make the decision. I was fortunate to be exposed to Torah Judaism through NCSY and got a rather vast view of what vibrant yiddishkeit could be.
After keeping Shabbos for a while I realized that I couldn't do without it. The ethics and sensitivity aspect also appealed to me.
What keeps me going?
Simple it's the right choice for me. Your kiruv friend is right.
Rav Soloveitchik write about this (sort of) in Reflection of the Rav (vol 1) dealing with the Ratzon Elyon-a hard to pinpoint thought toward an action that we know is right. The examples he gives are miltary victories and who we marry. It's not just one factor and at times there is no actual logic.
i'm still trying to figure out what turned me back 'on' to Judaism....ReplyDelete
My answer would be similar to Neil's. Life before I was exposed to Orthodox Judaism didn't even attempt at offering purpose or meaning - there didn't really seem to be any point. And that absolutely led me to seek "something." Torah is what I found.ReplyDelete
Shoshana, did you try any other religion? If no, why not?ReplyDelete
My parents gave me a more traditional understanding of Judaism growing up. We were not shomer shabbos, but recognized shabbos and yontif. We did not keep kosher, but we didn't eat pork products, shellfish, or cheeseburgers.ReplyDelete
Combining an already high level of observance with parents who pushed marrying a Jew and who also had strict rules on all sorts of social issues, it wasn't that hard to fall in with a more Orthodox crowd as an adult looking to build a Jewish home.
Like many BTs I had to make some difficult changes in my life. But, I would still say I "fell into" Orthodoxy.
I'd say a combination of being comfortable with Orthodoxy despite its warts. My parents used to talk about children/grandchildren being the guarantors for receiving the Torah at Har Sinai. Wanting to be a guarantor met taking things to the next level.
Should read combination intellect, being comfortable with Orthodoxy and its social benefits despite the warts.ReplyDelete
Community and/or meaning.ReplyDelete
The food, definitely the food.ReplyDelete
You're insane. You left pasta with real maranera for soy? Or cheesecake factory?
Remind me to come up to the Valley and kick your ass.
In my case, a big motivation to become frum was to see the stupidities of other ways of life ("Jewish" and non-Jewish) in action while in college.ReplyDelete
I didn't try out any other religions, though I did know a lot about Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and a bit about Hindu and Sikh and some others through friends I had growing up and had encountered at school and in some of my extracurricular activities (I used to work for an organization that promoted interfaith and interracial dialogue and relations). But I was brought up with a very strong Jewish cultural identity and I think it would have been extremely difficult for me to have left that behind, so I never even really considered it. I guess when I say I "found" Torah, it really was more that it "found" me at the same time I was seeking something. It really did just kind of fall in my lap.
I will say that I think my decision to become observant was very much an emotional, rather than intellectual decision. It made me feel really good to think that God cared about me at a time when I didn't feel like many other people in the world did. To see people who seemingly knew why they were doing things made quite an impression. I don't think, at that point, that I realy questioned whether everything I was being taught really made sense, though of course they made it sound like it did.
Why people become frumReplyDelete
I am ffb but once spoke to som e baalei t'shuva. It's funny what turns the non-frum toward becoming frum. One baalas teshuva said the laws of kosher animals just seemed mind boggling. It made her interested in finding out more--and the rest is history.
We have a family friend who wanted to be a Reform Rabbi. He realized it wasn't for him and switched to becoming a Conservative Rabbi. That too didn't seem right. It didn't take long for him to do his soul searching and becoming frum. He's not a Rabbi but a happy observant Jew.
I think a lot of baalie tishuva have a sense of comming home. It feels like the right thing to do and sets up a moral/value system that didn't exist in their lives before.
Why people with questions remain frum.
There is nothing wrong with having questions--just make sure to find someone reliable to help you find answers. I remember when I was in high school having emunah questions and spoke to someone who told me that fact that I have questions is a definite step and a sign that I want to grow.
I think we tend to continue doing what we are used to doing. I work in a non-jewish environment. I am forced to look at why we do the things we do (to keep strong and to answer their questions). It makes me realize that everything we do has a connection to halacha or hashkafa. It also sets a value system that you don't see as often in a secular world.
I'm with Bob Miller on this one. I left college with Kurt Vonnegut as my "Rebbe" and a post 60's contempt for the establishment.ReplyDelete
Then comes the serendipity factor. While on the Israel leg of my world-wide tour, Rabbi Schuster met me at the Kotel.
The rest is history, or as my wife said in answer to this question, with a smile: “Because they talked me into it.”
I consider myself as having come from a place about halfway in between BT and FFB; in Hebrew the term is "mitchazek". My family started out pretty much keeping kosher and Shabbos, but there were lots of things my parents didn't know about halacha, and we'd eat out dairy at restaurants until I was in kindergarten and they realized that it was stupid to keep kosher at home and not-so-kosher outside the home. Stuff like that. But as my sister and I grew older, we learned more, and brought more knowledge home, and our family became more frum over the years. So we didn't come from nowhere, but we didn't start out from a totally FFB-type setup either.ReplyDelete
That background, combined with living in the middle of nowhere, could have resulted in both my sister and me going off the derech--not out of rebellion, but it certainly could have happened out of laziness. It's hard to keep Shabbos, especially when no one else your age does. It's hard to keep kosher when you're the only kid at the birthday party who can't eat the pizza. So why did I stick with it? I think what the others have said, that it gave me meaning in my life, and in high school especially I started appreciating Shabbos a whole lot more because my weeks were that much more stressful! I also had NCSY, and I think it's safe to say that without it, I'm not sure I'd be frum today. I discovered that there was more to Torah than rules and boring classes; I learned that Judaism can be FUN, which was also important for me in high school because G-d knows my school would have probably turned me off to Judaism if I didn't have something to hold onto.
This question intrigued me, because ever since I was a little girl growing up in a 'conservadox' family, I wanted to be frum. My story is too long for here. Would you mind if I post it on my blog? I will link to yours and credit you for the question, of course. It was nice visiting you. Would you visit me?ReplyDelete
For me it's shiny shoe music....ok maybe not.ReplyDelete
cholent, definately the cholentReplyDelete
"cholent, definately the cholent"ReplyDelete
I have to say, if eating cholent was a Torah requirement I might have stayed in the Reform movement. It must be an acquired taste like beer or sauerkraut...
I think Fern needs to be banned for that heresy.ReplyDelete
I have to say that I grew up much more similar to scraps than the rest of those here (actualy so similarly that its like really spooky, oh to have had friend who knew what I was going through in highschool) But for me I just believed it was right, and was convinced of that since I first met my pre-k and kindergarted morah, and me being rather arogant and full of my self wouldn't brook dissagreement of anykind.ReplyDelete
and btw, I'll take frumkeit, but toss the chulent in the trash, there are far better things to eat (like cheesecake!).
This is part of my story, a significant part, but only a part:
I was raised in a chiloni household in Israel and then in LA (chiloni as in we still had a seder every year and we went to shul on Yom Kippur). In high school in the USA, I quickly rebelled against any semblance of Judaism in my life even though it hurt my parents greatly. I will not repeat the things I did but suffice it to say, I was a typical american teenager with no limits on their behavior whatsoever. When I was 15 or 16 years old, My parents and I drove to the Kol Nidrei services at the local chabbad house. I refused to get out of the car. I told my parents that I refuse to go in there and pound my chest pleading for forgiveness for my sins when I am fully conscience that tomorrow I will go out and repeat many of them. BeAvonotai HaRabim, I caused my mother to start crying and I will never forget what she said to me:
"Chardal [ok, she actually used my real name ], you might think you are rejecting Judaism and perhaps we didn't give you the best Jewish education we could, but please believe me that it is not Judaism you are rejecting, you simply do not know enough to accept or reject it. Please, before you make any final or irreversible decisions, learn something about Judaism and then decide."
She said it from the heart and boy did it have an impact. I started reading a bunch of books written by reform and conservative rabbis and a ton of stuff on Jewish history. At one point, I got "this is my God" by Herman Wouk. Boy did that have an impact! I checked out the Kuzari and the Rambam's Moreh and became fascinated. I even started going to chabbad every once in a while on shabbat. I got to a comfort zone and felt secure in my "Judaism" ... until I got to college. At UCLA, I met many very involved and very MO Jews who were not talmidei chachamim by any means but obviously knew much more than myself. I started debating them on various topics ranging from religion and state to Israeli politics and they kept on quoting primary rabbinic sources to me. Being totally ignorant of such material, I decided to teach myself how to access the primary sources (Not liShma, just to be able to debate them better). I called the local chabbad Rabbi (most religious people have no idea that chabbad is the ONLY connection most Jews have to frumkeit, especially if they don't live in a city) and asked him what a good gemara to start would be. He told me to start in the beginning with berachos. I bought an artscroll brachos and for the next 18 months spent about 3 hours a night learning it. I started with the English and slowly taught myself to learn from the Aramaic side until the last three chapters which I learned with only the vilna shas and Jastrow. Throughout those 18 months, I took on the observance of more and more mitzvot (to my parents pain, they always said "why can't you be normal? Why is it either being a goy or being a fanatic?" :) ). From that point on I became enthralled with learning Torah. I have never been to yeshiva but I spend much of my time learning. My skills have grown tremendously since I started (I am 30 now, so It has been about 9 years since I first picked up that gemara).
On the hashkafic front, I was very confused at first. I started with the rationalist approach. Rambam, Ikkarim, (Kuzari? I am not sure that is a proper categorization), I read Rav Soloveitchic as well. I always felt something was missing. If fit well with my philosophical studies but I always felt somewhat of a disconnect between the thoughts of these giants and the spirit of the Tanach and even of chazal. I often felt like I was learning two different Torahs. Then I discovered Rav Kook. Outside of discovering gemara, this was probably the most important moment in my intellectual life. Rav Kook’s holistic (and mystical) approach tied everything together for me. Not as a unity, but rather as a model of how all the ideas, even the contradictory ones, all contribute to bring the world closer to its final redemption. (I later found out that the Rav HaNazir felt that Orot HaKodesh was to hashkafa as Shulchan Aruch was to halacha). Rav Kook redefined for me terms like Emuna, Torah, Teshuva, Nevua.
I am still, B"H going strong. I have a great wife and four wonderful kids (oldest is 6). Like everyone else, I am still growing and have much more to accomplish in this life. But the Torah gives a meaningful intellectual framework in which to operate. As someone who is conversant is other faiths and philosophy, I can not say the same for other systems.
Of course, there is much more to the story, but I think this is enough for this forum.
Remind me to come up to the Valley and kick your ass.ReplyDelete
I like you too much to let you punish yourself that way. The last three people who hit me in the head broke their hands.
If you like pain that much you can start rooting for the cavs. ;)
P.S. I am not frum, I just answered the post with one of my patented wiseass remarks.
very good question EzzieReplyDelete
I think when someone has it all their life, it's easy to take it for granted and even not like it. But when a person has nothing or even only a little, they start seeking more, either for intellectual, emotional or spiritual meaning. Of course, some who are not observant, like where they are. But those that are seeking for more and are fasinated by what they find, see the beauty in the mitzvos, where as one that has being doing it for years doesn't notice. Which is why we all need to learn more. It's not just rules and restrictions. It's for our own emotional, intellectual and spiritual benifit. For ex. shabbos is a gift from G-d and can be a wonderful experience if we make it so. And the laws of kosher are not just for physical cleansiness but for our spiritual health also. Family purity helps freshen up the marriage and so on.
Of course individuals in the community might be annoying, but we shouldn't let them discourage us from nurishing our neshamah and serving G-d