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When faith begins to dwindle...


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143 replies to this topic

#1 BCShakarov

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 09:02 AM

As we approach the months leading to yom kippur I begin to reflect on my journey as a BT. However, since Passover I've been feeling this heaviness of doubt inside me and it has affected my faith in the religion.
I put tefillin on and prayed shacharit every morning. I've kept Shabbat fully and glatt kosher even outside. I've attended shiurim. An the while the more involved I get the greater the weight of doubt. Im keeping an open mind and trying to immerse myself in Judaism but the more I do, the more I find myself questioning if this is right. Speaking to other orthodox Jews and rabbis only elicits condescension on their part and make it worse instead of guiding.

I tell myself it's my previous life that is getting in the way (my education an experiences with religions, philosophy, psychology and science) but I'm not feeling inspired through the religion. I still keep the mitzvot and observe Shabbat but it's getting harder each day. I was told that, it's the right path because it's hard, but it's not that it's hard to do it's just hard to believe.

I'm trying to find some guidance and I hope I can find some here.

#2 spectra

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 12:31 PM

Do you think doing more would be better for you? Or doing less would be better for you?

#3 BCShakarov

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 04:13 PM

It's not really about what I'm doing, more so about why am I doing it and I my feelings towards the kind of reasoning my orthodox rabbis use.
I can't bring myself to believe that a mezuzah or tefillin can be the reason for something happening or not or that you are guaranteed prosperity if you study and follow torah.

#4 warren

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 04:25 PM

It's not really about what I'm doing, more so about why am I doing it and I my feelings towards the kind of reasoning my orthodox rabbis use.
I can't bring myself to believe that a mezuzah or tefillin can be the reason for something happening or not or that you are guaranteed prosperity if you study and follow torah.

The only thing that you can be sure of happening when you do a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself, and you're not guaranteed anything in this world.

Have you been observing Judaism up to now in order to be prosperous?
Poe's law: without a clear indication of the author's intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between sincere extremism and an exaggerated parody of extremism

If not now, when? Because I have lunch plans.

Purple is indeed very important

The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can't ever really know... what's going on. So it shouldn't bother you. Not being able to figure anything out. Although you will be responsible for this on the mid-term. - "A Serious Man"

#5 sal

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 04:42 PM

It's not really about what I'm doing, more so about why am I doing it and I my feelings towards the kind of reasoning my orthodox rabbis use.
I can't bring myself to believe that a mezuzah or tefillin can be the reason for something happening or not or that you are guaranteed prosperity if you study and follow torah.


How do you feel about spirituality in general?

You are not guaranteed prosperity if you study torah.

#6 BCShakarov

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 05:07 PM

I started observing because I wanted to do something to show my appreciation for our creator. The rabbis in my bukarian culture however speak with such conviction "do this and you will have this, guaranteed " it sounds more like magic than religion and it bothers me to the point of obsurdity. This makes me wonder what else is questionable

#7 spectra

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 07:27 PM

I guess it is easy to believe in God with so much prosperity,... or is it.

#8 sal

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 09:40 PM

I started observing because I wanted to do something to show my appreciation for our creator. The rabbis in my bukarian culture however speak with such conviction "do this and you will have this, guaranteed " it sounds more like magic than religion and it bothers me to the point of obsurdity. This makes me wonder what else is questionable


I can't speak for others, but I never got such a guarantee.

You should definitely show appreciation to the creator as he gives and sustains all of life. If I understand you correct you don't need or even want the guarantee. So what is the conflict what is pulling you towards.

#9 josephal

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 10:24 PM

BCShakarov,

As I read your statements carefully, the following came to mind:


“Avtalyon says: Sages, watch what you say, lest you become liable to the punishment of exile, and go into exile to a place of bad water, and disciples who follow you drink bad water and die, and the name of Heaven be thereby profaned.” (Pirke Avot, 1:11)


It seems that your struggle has to do with the approach to Judaism you’ve been exposed to. There are other (rational) approaches which can be discussed.

In response to a reply you wrote that you became religiously observant because you wanted to show your appreciation for God. You may consider leaving it at that and continue observance for that reason alone; I say this because the sentence you wrote immediately after is a non-sequitur: (“The rabbis in my bukarian culture however speak with such conviction "do this and you will have this, guaranteed.”). Why does it matter what anyone says if your primary reason for becoming observant was your desire to demonstrate appreciation for God?

There is a mystical-superstitious-rigid bend of Judaism (becoming the standard in orthodoxy) which emphasizes the secondary and obscures the essential. It certainly seems from your statements that you are struggling with this strain of Judaism, but as aforementioned, there are other paths. It is not surprising that a number of ba’alei teshuvah who are exposed to this type of Judaism turn away from the religion at some point.

You may or may not ever get yourself free of doubt, however, the only way it might happen is if you “immerse [your]self in Judaism” (to use your words), but the question is: what kind of Judaism? You might want to stop attending these shi’urim and do serious scholarly (academic) study instead. You may have a long and difficult road ahead; you might ping-pong in and out of observance many times, you may drop the religion, or not, but remember that we as a people are called “Israel,” which means “those that struggle with God.” It seems like you're living up to our national reputation.

I might be able to suggest pertinent reading material; let me know if you’re interested.


#10 BCShakarov

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 04:15 PM

After a couple of days of contemplation and prayer, I realized why I've been feeling this way and discoverd that I don't accept the creed of orthodoxy.
My first response is I don't know what happened when the torah was given but I believe that if the Torah was given at Sinai, that it was through divine inspiration and not a word for word revelation. This implies that there is a human component to the doctrine and my education and experience in psychology has taught me not to trust testimony as fact. I believe if the world was created through the torah then there is torah in every aspect of the world, including wisdom contained in other nations and in secular knowledge as well. Orthodoxy where I am coming from states without doubt that torah is all that we need and I don't buy into that, hence the shaky ground Im on now. I observe because I wish to show my gratitude but I shouldn't be thinking as I do in the above statement according to the Gabbi in my synagogue, and Im sure the rabbi wouldn't like this kind of talk either.

#11 spectra

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 07:06 PM

After a couple of days of contemplation and prayer, I realized why I've been feeling this way and discoverd that I don't accept the creed of orthodoxy.
My first response is I don't know what happened when the torah was given but I believe that if the Torah was given at Sinai, that it was through divine inspiration and not a word for word revelation. This implies that there is a human component to the doctrine and my education and experience in psychology has taught me not to trust testimony as fact. I believe if the world was created through the torah then there is torah in every aspect of the world, including wisdom contained in other nations and in secular knowledge as well. Orthodoxy where I am coming from states without doubt that torah is all that we need and I don't buy into that, hence the shaky ground Im on now. I observe because I wish to show my gratitude but I shouldn't be thinking as I do in the above statement according to the Gabbi in my synagogue, and Im sure the rabbi wouldn't like this kind of talk either.


I guess you can only build on what you do know. Not what you don't know.

I think that if you want to share your gratitude with God. That is enough.

Hannah gave us Samuel.

#12 josephal

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 09:38 PM

<< I don't accept the creed of orthodoxy. My first response is I don't know what happened when the torah was given but I believe that if the Torah was given at Sinai, that it was through divine inspiration and not a word for word revelation. This implies that there is a human component to the doctrine >>

What exactly is the “creed of orthodoxy?” I think you’ll be hard-pressed to define what that is. Please elaborate.

<< Orthodoxy where I am coming from states without doubt that torah is all that we need and I don't buy into that, hence the shaky ground Im on now. >>

This goes back to what I said on my previous post; why not leave this “orthodoxy” that you’re clearly struggling with? Unless you expose yourself to other judaisms it is likely you will continue to struggle. There are branches of Modern Orthodoxy that value secular knowledge and modernity (the philosophy behind Torah im derech eretz or Torah u’mad’a, for example). I think it would be useful for you to start doing research and find other like-minded individuals. As I said before, I might be able to suggest reading material if you’re serious about it.

#13 BCShakarov

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 09:12 AM

<< I don't accept the creed of orthodoxy. My first response is I don't know what happened when the torah was given but I believe that if the Torah was given at Sinai, that it was through divine inspiration and not a word for word revelation. This implies that there is a human component to the doctrine >>

What exactly is the “creed of orthodoxy?” I think you’ll be hard-pressed to define what that is. Please elaborate.

<< Orthodoxy where I am coming from states without doubt that torah is all that we need and I don't buy into that, hence the shaky ground Im on now. >>

This goes back to what I said on my previous post; why not leave this “orthodoxy” that you’re clearly struggling with? Unless you expose yourself to other judaisms it is likely you will continue to struggle. There are branches of Modern Orthodoxy that value secular knowledge and modernity (the philosophy behind Torah im derech eretz or Torah u’mad’a, for example). I think it would be useful for you to start doing research and find other like-minded individuals. As I said before, I might be able to suggest reading material if you’re serious about it.


I don't believe the Torah given at sinai is the dictated word of god, but I believe there was a divine inspiration involved in the delivery. I believe there is an ULTIMATE truth that we can call Torah but I don't believe it's limited to the five books of moshe. Everything else (Talmud, Midrash, Kabbalh, etc...) is commentary or supplementals in that it's the study of Torah and its meaning, but it never goes beyond the five books. The study of physics is as much a part of what I consider Torah as brings man to the divine truth through understanding of the physical universe, yet no one in my synagogue would dare say that.
I can't find any Modern Orthodox synagogues nearby, and based on what I understand to be orthodxy, its about Torah as divine WORD and Revelation (in that changing or denying even 1 letter is blasphemy) which I can't agree with, and It has to do with my doubt in mankinds ability to percieve and understand objectively let alone not interfere with history.
I would like to see some literature.

#14 sal

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Posted 01 August 2012 - 06:15 PM

I don't believe the Torah given at sinai is the dictated word of god, but I believe there was a divine inspiration involved in the delivery.


Can you please clarify what you mean by divine inspiration? Is that prophecy?

I believe there is an ULTIMATE truth that we can call Torah but I don't believe it's limited to the five books of moshe. Everything else (Talmud, Midrash, Kabbalh, etc...) is commentary or supplementals in that it's the study of Torah and its meaning, but it never goes beyond the five books. The study of physics is as much a part of what I consider Torah as brings man to the divine truth through understanding of the physical universe, yet no one in my synagogue would dare say that.


You study science with the premise that you have good tools, but when better tools are made we realize that we were missing something. That should mean that early scientists did not arrive at the divine truth. If you agree with that statement, why would you accept the current tools to be the source of discovering the divine truth? Do you have reason to believe that the work of science is basically done?

I can't find any Modern Orthodox synagogues nearby, and based on what I understand to be orthodxy, its about Torah as divine WORD and Revelation (in that changing or denying even 1 letter is blasphemy) which I can't agree with, and It has to do with my doubt in mankinds ability to percieve and understand objectively


Yet you think that scientist has the ability to perceive and understand objectively.

let alone not interfere with history.


So you are saying it is impossible for god to dictate to man for the future as man will interfere with history.
Do you have reason to believe that it was interfered with.

#15 ijs

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 02:16 AM

I don't believe the Torah given at sinai is the dictated word of god, but I believe there was a divine inspiration involved in the delivery.


How does that work, exactly? Some of the stuff in there is too detailed to be “inspiration,” wouldn't you say? (And don't forget, not everything is supposed to be taken literally in the first place.)

I believe there is an ULTIMATE truth that we can call Torah but I don't believe it's limited to the five books of moshe. Everything else (Talmud, Midrash, Kabbalh, etc...) is commentary or supplementals in that it's the study of Torah and its meaning, but it never goes beyond the five books.


Except that the Mishnah was given at Sinai right along with the written Torah. The Mishnah is the oral Torah. Thus, the Torah isn't limited to the Five Books, and never was.

The study of physics is as much a part of what I consider Torah as brings man to the divine truth through understanding of the physical universe, yet no one in my synagogue would dare say that.


I wouldn't quite go that far ... but close. The study of physics – along with every other science – is that it reveals more about what HaShem created. It is a study of creation. (In fact, I'm currently studying the mechanics of creation as represented in Bereishis.)

I can't find any Modern Orthodox synagogues nearby, and based on what I understand to be orthodxy....


At this point, the best thing would be to understand it before commenting on or judging it, rather than the reverse, which is what you appear to have done here.

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Do you have reason to believe that the work of science is basically done?


I cannot speak for anyone else, of course, but so long as man's understanding of the universe falls short of HaShem's, man's scientific work will never be complete.

So you are saying it is impossible for god to dictate to man for the future as man will interfere with history. Do you have reason to believe that it was interfered with.


I'm not even sure what he means by “interfere with” in this context. One of the things I have figured out, though, is that part of the perfection of creation is that it includes G-d's ongoing presence in and effect on human events. G-d is continuously and unceasingly affecting events, though He does not (directly) interfere with human will. Free will means that history is affected by human will and G-d's will by definition, and in fact cannot proceed without either one.

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#16 BCShakarov

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 12:47 PM

If you ever take a literary analysis class, you will find details upon detail and commentary on details that a novel, lets say Lord of the Rings, written less than 100 yrs ago, has LIBRARIES of articles and books analyzing the text on multiple levels. And this is just one of MANY examples I can provide.
When I asked for what does "Torah" mean, it ALWAYS comes back to the 5 books. The limited time I have to type this would not be near enough to cover this debate but this is from every rabbi I speak to. Yes you have the extra writings, but it was these books that were revealed at Sinai, and are therefore THE words of God. Now to say that the writings of Torah is beyond the creation of the human mind is to lack an understanding of the human mind is capable of, and then add 3000yrs of analysis and commentary. When you understand BIAS and how it works, you begin to doubt everything you read and hear from anyone without something physical to support their claim. You can't trust a criminals innocense on his word alone, nor on the testimony of others. Scientific media suffers from this as well, but the point is to minimize bias and increase objectivity, and yes the scientific METHOD, is the better way to seek answers objectively. Physics, for example, provides a set of laws based on what we've observed and studied using the method. The Torah has laws, many of which cannot be comprehended or studied but we observe because we are told to (from the Torah), so what is it that makes Physics less important to study?
We judge ALL the time, the difference comes from our support of the judgement and we can only judge based on our experience and knowledge along with wisdom of our sages. I seek to understand, but in the process am constantly making new conclusions in light of new discoveries, which is how science works. I was raised in an orthodox community and have heard so many variations of the same argument but it all comes down to anectdote and testimony. Any physical "proof" found is minimal at best and is always subject to the perception and bias of the examiner. BUT, the best method of proof is to seek disapproval, which asks to go outside our standard pardigm of sources and seek others possibilites.
My gripe is that while we say there is SO MUCH of Torah we DON'T understand (which I agree on many levels) I'm bothered by that which we UNDOUBTELY KNOW, because we haven't taken the time to question ourselves and our perceptions to ask WHY NOT?
I can go on and on as I have for years and am sure I will continue till I'm no longer here.

#17 ijs

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 02:55 PM

If you ever take a literary analysis class, you will find details upon detail and commentary on details that a novel, lets say Lord of the Rings, written less than 100 yrs ago, has LIBRARIES of articles and books analyzing the text on multiple levels. And this is just one of MANY examples I can provide.


I have, IIRC. And I'm familiar with LotR commentaries, as I own quite a few of them.

When I asked for what does "Torah" mean, it ALWAYS comes back to the 5 books.


What most people mean by “Torah” is the written Torah. However, what we today call the Mishnah in its written form, was previously nothing more than the oral Torah prior to its being committed to paper. Both together are Torah.

[T]his is from every rabbi I speak to. Yes you have the extra writings, but it was these books that were revealed at Sinai, and are therefore THE words of God.


That seems very strange coming from an orthodox Rabbi, as all the ones I encounter would speak of oral Torah as well ... the commentaries are works other than Mishnah. (Though of course I've heard it ALL referred to as “Torah” as well, in a more generic sense.)

When you understand BIAS and how it works, you begin to doubt everything you read and hear from anyone without something physical to support their claim. You can't trust a criminals innocense on his word alone, nor on the testimony of others.


Nowhere is your first statement (quoted immediately above) more evident than in your second statement. The person is not a criminal until convicted; and you failed to note that you cannot trust the accuser on his word alone, nor the testimony of others. And in the U.S., as you must know, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty, so it is the state whose word must be trusted first, not the defendant's. (Yes, I practice some criminal defense, though I have also prosecuted.)

Not to say your statement is not true as far as it goes, but you have introduced your own bias to prove your point – meaning your viewpoints here are also biased, and that bias is unchecked.

My gripe is that while we say there is SO MUCH of Torah we DON'T understand (which I agree on many levels) I'm bothered by that which we UNDOUBTELY KNOW, because we haven't taken the time to question ourselves and our perceptions to ask WHY NOT?


Torah scholars ask themselves that question all the time. Or such has been my limited experience.
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#18 BCShakarov

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 03:53 PM

ijs,

The last comment is right on the money, yes I am biased, but I am AWARE of my bias and how it can (and VERY likley does) affect my judgement. This happens not only on the individual level, but organizational as well. The acknowledgement and understanding is VERY important (working with business' I see Bias ALL the time, and they often can't accept contradictory findings, even with study and analyisis because the mind places greater power on stories and anectode)
The Mishnah would never deviate from what is written in the Torah, as in there is always a reference to a passage in the scripture. If the Torah was the manual, the oral torah is the technician explaining the manual, and the first technician was Moshe. Now I believe the TORAH (the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding contained in the universe and that which allows it to function, hence why I consider Physics so important) existed since the creation of time, and like god, is ineffible. But people don't think that way. We don't say "This is the Torah, which Moses gave..." when we hold the scroll of Haftarot. Torah for the masses is the scroll and the teachings obtained from within, as I've observed, and ONLY things related are considered Torah and EVERYTHING you see in the secular world can be found in the Torah.
I'm a student of Psychology and I've studies cases of people seeing things, which they percieve to be an image of the devil, or jesus, or ufo's and ALL sorts of unimaginable things, but nonetheless, they see what they want to see because our mind is designed to create patterns, even where none exist. Ive heard stories where rabbis talk about how prayer saved a person from POSSIBLE cancer, neglecting to mention the other several deaths from cancer which recieved even greater prayer, and develop some excuse for why they died (people didn't pray enough, it was her time, God works mysteriously, etc...) He goes to say, if you pray, you're GUARANTEED to be answered.
What I'm saying is that my predisposition towards skepticism runs contrary to the Orthodox position of unyeilding and uncompromising faith. My faith in God has growth stronger and I've become more observant because as a jew, living in an orthodx jewish community, it was most accessible way for me to show my gratitude to our creator. It is my faith in the religion thats being shaken as it is a construct of men, and as I mentioned earlier, have many cognitive flaws, and I admit to being a part of it. I love many of the teachings of our sages, I just finished Pirkei Avot and it was great. But if the world was created through Torah, there there is torah in places we've never dreamed of. What bothers me is that based on my conversations with other jews and rabbis, we don't even bother looking because we think we already have EVERYTHING. When I go back to think of the Asifa, the danger isn't the internet, the danger is access to unlimited knowledge which cannot be filtered by the Orthodox community. The printing press was the beginning and Im sure they had a similar discussion there too, but this puts knowledge, good and bad, at your fingertips, knowledge that might cause you to start asking yourself, is there more than what I'm being told. If there would be any movement in response to the internet, it should be to educate jews on critical thinking so that they can question what they read. The drawback is that this same education could backfire on their own, therefore the solution is to prevent is altogether, which in my opinion will strike back with a fury.

#19 sal

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 08:26 PM

I'm not even sure what he means by “interfere with” in this context. One of the things I have figured out, though, is that part of the perfection of creation is that it includes G-d's ongoing presence in and effect on human events. G-d is continuously and unceasingly affecting events, though He does not (directly) interfere with human will. Free will means that history is affected by human will and G-d's will by definition, and in fact cannot proceed without either one.


That goes back to our other discussion.
I think dovid gottlieb explains it like you said, but than how can god tell prophets what will happen? So apparently he has control.

#20 sal

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Posted 02 August 2012 - 08:46 PM

If you ever take a literary analysis class, you will find details upon detail and commentary on details that a novel, lets say Lord of the Rings, written less than 100 yrs ago, has LIBRARIES of articles and books analyzing the text on multiple levels. And this is just one of MANY examples I can provide.


Wow people do waste a lot of time.


When I asked for what does "Torah" mean, it ALWAYS comes back to the 5 books. The limited time I have to type this would not be near enough to cover this debate.



Why would I debate?
A) Did you ever see someone in middle of a debate say you know you are absolutely right, I was totally mistaken. In most cases someones got to be wrong. Apparently debating is not objective.
B) Debaters try to defend their position. It is not my job to defend a position rather to determine the truth. I mean to be a judge not a lawyer.
C) Why would I encourage you to defend a position I consider false?


but this is from every rabbi I speak to. Yes you have the extra writings, but it was these books that were revealed at Sinai,


I don't think that is accurate. It was jewish law that was revealed at sinai. The stories in the chumash had not yet taken place, like the eigel, meraglim, etc.

and are therefore THE words of God. Now to say that the writings of Torah is beyond the creation of the human mind is to lack an understanding of the human mind is capable of,


So you believe that one day someone wrote this book and said it was the word of god and everyone believed him?

and then add 3000yrs of analysis and commentary. When you understand BIAS and how it works, you begin to doubt everything you read and hear from anyone without something physical to support their claim. You can't trust a criminals innocense on his word alone, nor on the testimony of others. Scientific media suffers from this as well, but the point is to minimize bias and increase objectivity,



According to r' dessler the way to be more objective is through tikkun hamidos. There is a reason Judaism focuses on that. In fact the vilna gaon says that the purpose of man on this world is for tikkun hamidos.


and yes the scientific METHOD, is the better way to seek answers objectively. Physics, for example, provides a set of laws based on what we've observed and studied using the method. The Torah has laws, many of which cannot be comprehended or studied but we observe because we are told to (from the Torah), so what is it that makes Physics less important to study?


I'm not following your logic. It is important to study physics, because (Please finish this sentence.)

We judge ALL the time, the difference comes from our support of the judgement and we can only judge based on our experience and knowledge along with wisdom of our sages. I seek to understand, but in the process am constantly making new conclusions in light of new discoveries, which is how science works.



That is why a revelation from god is great. You don't need to base it on your own conclusions. We can have objective truth.



I was raised in an orthodox community and have heard so many variations of the same argument but it all comes down to anectdote and testimony.



If I understand your problem correctly, you believe that for 3300 years jews were lying to their children.



Any physical "proof" found is minimal at best and is always subject to the perception and bias of the examiner. BUT, the best method of proof is to seek disapproval, which asks to go outside our standard pardigm of sources and seek others possibilites.



Pretty much all you life you must base a lot of what you do on the word of others. Do you seek disapproval in everything.

My gripe is that while we say there is SO MUCH of Torah we DON'T understand (which I agree on many levels) I'm bothered by that which we UNDOUBTELY KNOW, because we haven't taken the time to question ourselves and our perceptions to ask WHY NOT?


If I may add my own biased opinion. Your opinion that all opinions are biased is biased.




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