Question from a BT to and FFB

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  • #1465595

    keith
    Participant

    Hi.

    I had read some threads before on TYW CR and just recently made an account to be able to comment.

    My background – I was raised traditional and gradually became BT around college. Each year I grew in mitzvos and I thought I was fully observant, and looked back embarrassed at the old me, and was happy to be observant. The next year I realized in retrospect I was not very observant at all, but now at that moment am where I was supposed to be. And so on. At some point I realized each year is supposed to be one of growth and I suspect few people if any are actually where they need to be but rather everyone needs to grow every year, every month, every day.

    I was raised traditional, went to university, graduate school, and lived a pretty normal life. My path from little observance to largely full observance took at least ten years, probably more.

    I totally get that there are different groups in Torah Judaism and each practices a little or a lot differently.
    There was a recent thread where someone (I presume to be FFB and not exposed to the secular world) asked about good secular books. I responded with some classic literature that no secular person could be considered educated without having read. The only response to my response (before the thread was closed) was that these books are no good.

    My question then is – I am wondering if this forum is appropriate for me to be in at all – what room is there in Judaism for anything that is not Torah study or actively making mitzvos? Specifically what I mean is – I see and know religious people (not fake religious people – people I know to be fully observant and filled with yiras Shamayim and Ahavas H-shem and Ahavas Yisroel) who with free time need something to relax and read secular junk books. By junk books do not mean anything of bad character. I mean spy thrillers, mysteries, etc. Books that aren’t necessarily intellectually demanding or leading to character improvement. Just books that are enjoyable to read and not deep.

    Do people here think there is any room in the day for any activity besides Torah study or actively making mitzvos? One suggestion I made for good books to read was Huckleberry Finn. The response said it has bad words (if I understand correctly). From a secular perspective it does use historically accurate language in order to condemn that language and behavior. Another was 1984 and Darkness at Noon. I didn’t understand the criticism, but 1984 is a very good criticism of the reality of Communism.

    Are we as Jews not to read anything outside of Torah? Are we not to read classic literature? Much of classic literature has either bad words or disturbing events occur. Are we not to read history? There is rape, betrayal, and murder. How are we to learn from mistakes in history if we cannot read literature or history? How are we to respond when non-observant people comment about political systems? Are we not to learn about them? Are we not to comment? Certainly we cannot comment about Communism, capitalism, rent control, welfare, or any such topic without seeing how it works or worked in the real world. In that case are we not supposed to interact with the outside world? I totally get that you can find all your answers from the Torah, but I don’t know that we have a Moshe Rabbeinu or Elisha or Shmuel today. What I mean is I don’t know how many people can understand the outside world without some study of the outside world. Are we to be detached and protected from the outside world?

    I do not expect the responses will alter my behavior but I am curious as to the outlook of people here.
    Thank you!

    #1465859

    Chabadshlucha
    Participant

    Hi I don’t know if you’ll find an ffb answer because every frum community can give you a different answer for example, Chabad, Satmar, Litvish and modern orthodox communities would all have a different approach and Outlook on the matter. Which is fine but it can be confusing for the newly frum. It would help if you identify which community you belong to and ask the rabbis of that community.

    #1466117

    Shopping613 🌠
    Participant

    Welcome!
    I’m a young FFB, but both my parents are BT’s, and became so when I was a little girl. So although I didn’t really have a choice, I remember eating treif, going to parties, celebrating non jewish holidays, and more. All of my extended family is not religous, and although we don’t talk much (my parents talk to them more) questions like this do come up, and I try my best to explain.

    The Torah is the blueprint of the world. We don’t need to look into secular history to learn from, look in the Torah and you’ll find plenty of rape, betrayal, etc. There’s plenty of books and commentaries on that, in Israel through out high school all of the history classes were about rabanim, the holocaust, and not just history itself but the flame and the ideas, what it was like to live in Europe during WW2 and the secular influences. Split up and makes cases against and for keeping torah at the time. We learned in depth about the different idealistic movements throughout history, communism, industrial, when literature became big, and science became big, etc.

    So for history, were good.

    Okay, so does everything have to connect to Torah? YES! The Torah was written 2000 years before Hashem even created the world! And the aleph beis was created anther 2000 years before that! The Torah has everything we could ever need, and is the basis of life itself. Everything even in the secular world, has roots in the Torah, science has proven things written in the Torah time and time again.

    Does relaxing serve a prpose? Yes it does, we need to unwind to be able to be productive human beings.
    So what’s wrong with secular books?

    Well, first of all there’s a lot of kefirah in secular books. i DON’T know the halachos about kefirah, but I remember in seminary a teacher had told us her husband forced her to burn a secular novel after she told him that there’s a scene where scientists come up with another explanation for what seemed to be the remains of noah’s ark, and how the story couldn’t be real.

    So I know many books have kefirah, and unless you know the halachos really well and are on the constant look out, science and politcal books can be dangerous. If you do want to read such books I suggest to consult a rabbi, leanr the halachos etc. The reson why the thread was deleted is because for the average FFB, these are of no interest and they don’t really add anything to our lives, like I said before, if you are looking to learn from things there’s PLENTY in our own history, and there’s frum science books if you know where to get them. (At ;least IN HEBREW I know…)

    About novels, even the ones that are “clean” and have no language at all, the undercurrents and values in the book can be against our own. Sneaking around, lying, stealing, and more are prevalent in these novels. Everything you read and see DOES affect you, you are less sensitive to these things. When I stopped reading and watching for the most part, every time I watch something I can pause the video and say “hey that’s stealing” “hey that’s lying” even in KIDS movies, I’m talking about Disney movies my sister begs me to watch with her, whose intended audience is 5-10 year olds.

    Now, I don’t blame you for wanting to read those things, they are more interesting often times, and you do you. As a BT, I don’t think you need to give them up just yet, but that’s the ideal place…..

    Do you understand?

    #1466148

    YTAB
    Participant

    the duties of the heart (chovovos halevavos) says he included in his book thoughts from wise gentile philosophers. he quotes the gemara which says we should learn from the gentiles in their good ways and distance ourselves from their bad ways (introduction to duties of the heart, near the end)

    there’s no simple answer here

    #1466156

    ZionGate
    Participant

    Keith,
    We’re livening in a time where culture, good or bad, is being thrown into the garbage heap.
    The progressive mindset , especially in academia and the arts is that great art, great books, great music, values, etc. from the past is mocked and in some cases demonized.
    This holds true in the frum world also.
    I learned in a frum, though not Chassidic nor strictly yeshivish yeshiva. Like most others, secular subjects were taught in the afternoon; sciences, literature, English, languages , etc. in high school.
    Dickens, Shakespeare, poems, sonnets, plays …. and other classics.
    All under the aegis of rosh yeshivos, rabbis, with parental approval. We took exams, and the dreaded Regents…. on the very desks where an hour ago, a big Talmud tome has rested . You’re correct in that there’s learning and value in reading history, studying the great classics and other great secular material. Just as smartphones/computers can used be used for negatives, so too can it be used for good.
    Some rabbis known as “gedolim” also read theses books, and many more were very familiar with the history and classical music.
    We live in an age of revisionism and outright lies masquerading as religion or frum, or whatever you want to call it. The famous Jewish publisher of the Talmud, Chumash, etc, which also publishes bios of rabbis have deliberately omitted this info. They have also refused to publish a RASHBAM in their new Bereishit chumash because of some mealy-mouthed excuse, when it was in fact published for hundreds of years.
    There is now Photoshopping, pixelating and erasing photos of women whether they were mothers, wives rebbetzins or just old grandmas in magazines, rags, freebie tabloids, serious articles and individual paintings.
    BTW, I’m FFB, and interestingly, a number of people whom I’ve known over the years who were, or came from BT families were in the tank with anti- secular book parade.
    ( Never let an ex—– smoker drinker, gluten , blintzes eater, drive you nuts) .
    There’s good/bad , great/mediocre/…. atheistic/faith … sewage/gold … in everything.
    Heck, you can see spirituality even in a baseball game when you set your mind to it.
    Speaking of 1984 ,it’s almost here, in more than one way .

    #1466182

    Avi K
    Participant

    It depends on the books. Some are antithetical to Jewish values and some parallel them. Do you have a rav whom you can ask?

    BTW, not only are women photoshopped. There is a famous picture of Rav Elchonon smoking a cigarette. The cigarette was taken out. It reminds me of the removal of people who were out of favor from Soviet pictures.

    #1466201

    Takes2-2tango
    Participant

    REPLY
    ZionGateParticipant
    Keith,
    We’re livening in a time where culture, good or bad, is being thrown into the garbage heap.
    The progressive mindset , especially in academia and the arts is that great art, great books, great music, values, etc. from the past is mocked and in some cases demonized.
    This holds true in the frum world also.
    I learned in a frum, though not Chassidic nor strictly yeshivish yeshiva. Like most others, secular subjects were taught in the afternoon; sciences, literature, English, languages , etc. in high school.
    Dickens, Shakespeare, poems, sonnets, plays …. and other classics.
    All under the aegis of rosh yeshivos, rabbis, with parental approval. We took exams, and the dreaded Regents…. on the very desks where an hour ago, a big Talmud tome has rested . You’re correct in that there’s learning and value in reading history, studying the great classics and other great secular material. Just as smartphones/computers can used be used for negatives, so too can it be used for good.
    Some rabbis known as “gedolim” also read theses books, and many more were very familiar with the history and classical music.
    We live in an age of revisionism and outright lies masquerading as religion or frum, or whatever you want to call it. The famous Jewish publisher of the Talmud, Chumash, etc, which also publishes bios of rabbis have deliberately omitted this info. They have also refused to publish a RASHBAM in their new Bereishit chumash because of some mealy-mouthed excuse, when it was in fact published for hundreds of years.
    There is now Photoshopping, pixelating and erasing photos of women whether they were mothers, wives rebbetzins or just old grandmas in magazines, rags, freebie tabloids, serious articles and individual paintings.
    BTW, I’m FFB, and interestingly, a number of people whom I’ve known over the years who were, or came from BT families were in the tank with anti- secular book parade.
    ( Never let an ex—– smoker drinker, gluten , blintzes eater, drive you nuts) .
    There’s good/bad , great/mediocre/…. atheistic/faith … sewage/gold … in everything.
    Heck, you can see spirituality even in a baseball game when you set your mind to it.
    Speaking of 1984 ,it’s almost here, in more than one way.
    ————————
    You could not have said it any better. Thank you for not mincing words like so many commentators tend to do here.
    Btw huckleberry finn was one of the most common book read in many frum high school’s in america during the 70’s and 80’s
    And so was romeo and juliet. Then came the extremists and dictated to start using artscroll in high schools. V’hamavin yavin. $$$$

    #1466251

    ZionGate
    Participant

    Takes2-2Tango________ Thanks.
    I’m sure there are lots of others who think like us but are being swamped by a swamp.
    BTW…. Midvar Sheker Tirchok , in today’s parshe fits well with some of these shenanigans.
    Also, before we get bashed, we’re not talking about filth whether it be in books, rap, film etc. Nobody’s defending that.

    #1466285

    DovidBT
    Participant

    @keith

    I’m a BT, like you. I’ve read all the books you mentioned in your earlier post.

    My experience has been that the more Torah study and mitzvos I bring into my life, the less space and desire there is for non-essential secular activities. By Torah study, I’m including Talmud, halachos, etc.

    So it’s not so much a matter of consciously excluding the secular. It seems to happen automatically.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  YW Moderator-100.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  . Reason: typo
    #1466273

    ZionGate
    Participant

    “Is the rest of the world crazy, or am I ? “…… Albert Einstein

    Just another word on pixelation.
    To its everlasting disgrace, a frum magazine just a few weeks ago , pixelated a woman in a Holocaust photo.
    In other words, erased from memory and eternal memorial, a Jewish mother, wife, sister who was most probably on the way to being shoved into a gas chamber. Why? Which normal human male looking at the photo has even a shadow of any kind of lewd thought at that moment?
    There’s a Holocaust museum now opened in Brooklyn, N.Y., calling itself Amud Aish.
    Yeshiva World ran a piece on them a few weeks ago. I’ve heard it said that the museum does not show women’s Holocaust victims on exhibit.
    So I posted a comment there asking for clarification, and this was their response:

    “Amud Aish does not have such a policy regarding showing pictures with women in them. However, when showing such photos, we take into consideration two things:
    1. Holocaust victim’s dignity
    2. Communal sensitivities
    Hence any photos, regardless of gender, are only exhibited with this in mind. We strive to present an accurate portrayal of the historic events, while ensuring that these concerns are addressed.”

    To me, this reads like a politician’s press release and not definitively answering the question.
    Does anybody know the answer ?

    #1466276

    keith
    Participant

    Ziongate – yes I’m not talking about anything explicitly bad. I’m probably including “junk” books – not anything with explicitly bad things in them but say spy books, thrillers, mysteries. More though I’m thinking the great books – Huckleberry Finn, 1984, Darkness at Noon, Brave New World, Shakespeare, Kafka – books with insight into human nature, history, books that help us understand man’s nature, problems we’ve put ourselves into, how to avoid them in the future, and how to get out of them now.
    I understand that all these answers are already in the Torah for the Talmid Chacham who has the keys. Few can study 18-20 hours a day taking brief breaks for sleep and food and find all the answers that way. Maybe the GRA. More can study 12 hours a day but I’m not sure how well people not the GRA (example) can find all the answers to life from Torah. More are regular people like me who work for parnassah and live in some combination of gashmius and ruchnius and study when they can but probably not enough and not intensely enough to find all the answers there. We strive to minimize our attachment to gashmius and strengthen that to ruchnius and try to live “your gashmius is my ruchnius.” I think there is wisdom in secular sources – in the correct sources, not all – and some of us (many of us?) are not yet built in a way we can so fully immerse ourselves in only Torah and nothing secular.

    #1466315

    DaasYochid ☕
    Participant

    Just another word on pixelation.
    To its everlasting disgrace, a frum magazine just a few weeks ago , pixelated a woman in a Holocaust photo.

    In this week’s edition, they printed an apology and an explanation that there was a technical issue involved. They stated clearly that it is not their editorial policy to blur the faces of women in pictures.

    #1466329

    ZionGate
    Participant

    DaasYochid,
    Thanks for their “explanation.” Maybe the big pushback from outraged readers changed their mind, but it’s good to know they retracted.

    keith @12:54,
    I understand what you’re saying. For relaxation, I’ll read hobby books, real life mysteries, and some others on subjects that interest me, and I’m not bothered by it, because I also spend time learning the good Jewish books.
    As someone told me about a different issue which I’ll apply here :
    ” When in Shomayim ( Heaven) they’ll ask you about the books, you just know it’s nearing the end of the Judgment process.”
    Hopefully, by that time I’ll have corrected my neshama, expunged by sins and, for example, just flat out prayed every prayer with the proper kavanah, and didn’t talk during davening. You know …. little things like that.
    Shabbat Shalom.

    #1466378

    keith
    Participant

    DovidBT
    Participant
    @keith

    I’m a BT, like you. I’ve read all the books you mentioned in your earlier post.

    My experience has been that the more Torah study and mitzvos I bring into my life, the less space and desire there is for non-essential secular activities. By Torah study, I’m including Talmud, halachos, etc.

    So it’s not so much a matter of consciously excluding the secular. It seems to happen automatically.
    —————–
    I get it. It’s just that I can’t read the good Jewish books 24-7, 365, for 120 years. At some point my eyes and brain blur and I need something different. It’s not that I’m so drawn to say Huck Finn. Meam Loez is good. Mesillas Yesharim is good. (I’m reading The 19 letters now. Also good.) But for me, at some time I need something about a boy on a river (Huck Finn, not Moses).
    Good Shabbos everyone!

    #1466381

    JJ2020
    Participant

    You seem to be mixing two points
    1. Reading books that don’t have an educational value just to relax.

    2. Reading secular books to get educated.

    Before getting into it I commend you on your years of growth. Yesher koach.

    As far as reading just for entertainment perhaps that would be suitable for someone who watches TV and is trying to stop. If they can read relatively not such bad books that is an improvement. However a Rav who grew up ffb and doesn’t need that stuff shouldn’t waste his time and risk filling his mind with hashkafos which are against the Torah.

    In terms of “outlets” this is something that takes time. There are people who waste very very little time and accomplish lots of good things. You probably know people like this. You can’t get there over night.

    As far as reading for education. Let’s think about it. Let’s say you want to learn how to fix your car, how to knit a sweater, how to paint, pay your taxes, play the piano etc you are not going to get that from learning gemarah. You just aren’t.

    So for those who can’t learn every waking hour reading about some of the above could be a very good thing for them. It may help with the needing outlets problem too.

    #1466394

    Shopping613 🌠
    Participant

    BTW Zion Gate, the magazine in question commented that after many emails that they reveived the image ALREADY pixelated, and as a rule wold never pixelate an image of a woman. They assumed it was pixelated because of the graphic nature of the picture. I did not see the picture, so I do not know how graphic it was.

    #1466520

    ZionGate
    Participant

    Shopping,
    The Mods didn’t let my response to you go through.
    The photo is NOT graphic. You can see search and see it for yourself.

    #1466581

    Avi K
    Participant

    1. IMHO (and not just mine) this is an equal and opposite reaction to the coarseness of secular society. When i was a kid (I am 63) American TV was squeaky clean and pushed family values. Even tabloids did not print inappropriate words. Women dressed modestly in the street and at work (there were even “indecent exposure” laws). Now it is the opposite.

    2. There are some good Jewish books for those who need relaxation.

    3. It is true that a talmid chacham is wasting his time (unless he needs this knowledge to impress baalei battim) but noit everyone is on that level. Rav Soloveichik’s mother taught him Russian literature when he was a child.

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