Sunday, January 07, 2007

Thank You Dear Readers

Today will be my last post on my blog, at least for now. I will keep my blog up indefinitely, but in time I will block all new comments. I have personal reasons for stopping. The books are piling up. I don’t learn enough. I need to catch up with my life.

When I started the blog, I wanted to see if it was possible to write a blog about Jewish life, using a language that would be secular, humanistic, ironic and progressive. I wanted the subjects of my posts to be able to recognize themselves in what I wrote, and to feel that even if I was critical I had made some effort to look at them deeply and with empathy. My hope was that the experience of being seen and understood at least in part, would have a positive and pleasurable effect.

Another goal I set for myself was to explain the mixture of Hebrew, Yiddish, and English called yinglish/ yeshivish. I didn’t go overboard in stressing this, but I hope I made some contribution that would enable non- Orthodox Jews to feel more comfortable with the language and culture of Orthodox Jewish life.

I also wanted to offer an alternative to Torah U’Madah (Torah and Secular Knowledge). My view is, “I like Torah. I like Madah… Hold the U (and).” I tried to show how in practice one can shift back and forth between Orthodox and secular ideas without going through the compulsion to integrate that is so frequently found in Modern Orthodoxy. In order for me to elaborate on this charedi-secular combo I would now have to talk about Slifkin, (I am anti Slifkin, pro evolution) and the role of Jewish and Bible studies. I tried to work up some of my thoughts on these topics and I sent drafts to The Vaad (Committee) for the Protection of Evanston Jew’s Posterior. The Vaad advised I either bury these essays, ask my doctor for an increase dosage of Prilosec, or write a book and do it right. I have ordered the Prilosec and someday I might try to elaborate on these issues, but not now.

I don’t sense any great Orthodox demand for new philosophical ideas about Judaism, and I’m not sure the internet is the right vehicle, especially when the ideas are anti –Platonist, anti-naïve realist, anti-essentialist (anti-Brisk), historicizing, and naturalist. (Hint: It’s not the historicism that is causing all the problems, it is the naïve realism.)Speaking schematically, I believe it is possible to construct a philosophy of Judaism that would be open to the world but give a leading role to charedi life; a theology that used pragmatist conceptions of rationality and ontology, a sort of Rorty/Putnam hybrid that would hopefully work in a deeper and less painful way with the actual practices of Orthodoxy than the current mix of theologies. It would provide a philosophical basis for Torah and mitzvoth that would at least be comprehensible to non-religious Jews .Unfortunately, a serious presentation of new theological ideas doesn’t lend itself to my chosen style of schmoozing out of my own experience. It is possible I might try another limited series sometime in the future if I can find a way to present such ideas in a reader friendly, experience near way.

My request to remain anonymous remains. Even if someone disagrees with my outlook, it should be apparent I have tried to act in a sincere and constructive way. I very much want to maintain my privacy.

Considering the baggage I was carrying going into this blog, I think it’s to the credit of my readers, especially my Orthodox readers, that they gave me a chance to lay out my tentative ideas without coming down on me too hard. I want to thank all those who wrote comments as well as my readers, especially those who began reading at an early point and stayed with me. I would also like to thank Rabbi Student and Rabbi Maryles for saying nice things about my blog. Special thanks are due to the Vaad mentioned above as well as the Vaad for the Preservation of Tznius in Downtown Evanston. I couldn’t have proceeded with the same confidence without you. Finally, I would like to thank my assistant for learning how to spell charedi, chasidish, and austritt, and for her sound advice in matters of style and syntax.

Thank you dear readers. It has been a joy and a privilege to have this conversation.

49 Comments:

At 9:43 AM, Anonymous ydb said...

sad to see you go. Yasher Koach. Your chidushim were entertaining and thought-provoking.

 
At 10:39 AM, Blogger B. Spinoza said...

good luck. Thanks for the blog, I enjoyed it.

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger Harry Maryles said...

I hope you change your mind. I know it's time consuming to write, but I really appreciate your mind. The Orthodox world needs thinkers. You are one of the more knowledgeable ones and is otherwise woefully short of them. Thanks for your contributions.

 
At 1:19 PM, Anonymous Berthold in Arizona said...

Lieber Evanston Jude: Vielen Dank fur dem Blog das mir viel Denken und Vergnugen gegeben hat. Es ist klar das Sie alle Menschen and alle Juden lieben--das findet man so selten auf der Blogosphere. Kommen Sie doch bald zuruck.

 
At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Reish Lakish said...

Dear EJ,

I agree with what Rabbi Maryles has written. I don't generally read blogs, and even those that I have looked at rarely interest me.

However for the few weeks that I have been aware of your blog, reading it has been a highlight of my day. I have deeply enjoyed being exposed to your perspective and only wish to hear some more of your pithy observations. Its like being in a shteibel with a great conversationalist.

I was astounded at your productivity these past few weeks and am aware of how the demands created can ovewhelm. I also am aware how the airing of non standard thoughts in public can lead to less than pleasant consequences. However I wish that you would feel free to continue...

It is one of the remarkable achievements of the internet to enable people of broad perspective to reach out across the world to others of like minds scattered in cities and countries far away. By doing so they abring joy to others and avoid the cold isolation that is our daily lot.

Clever to apply the ideas of Foucault to the interpretation of charedi life. Sensitive to the social dilemmas of the mix of streams in Jewish life today. I have enjoyed the insights and you have brought a breath of fresh air to help me in my own thinkings.
Please continue.

Reish Lakish

 
At 3:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please reconsider - I didn't always agree with everything you wrote but I knew that it had been considered and not fired from the hip. Yeyasher kochacha for a fine, well balanced output.

RabbI Shmuel Simenowitz

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger Baalabus said...

I will miss you greatly -- your's was the first blog I opended each day. I would say the one main idea I took away from your blog -- and here you practiced what you preached -- was the need to be empathetic with whatever subject is at hand. In the future, before dissing some group or other, I will try to first understand where the group under discussion is "coming from". Your post on empathy will be reread by me, that I can assure you.

I am still chewing on your previous rejoinder to me, that Daas Torah is not the cause of the Charedi pathology and poverty, but is rather, at most, a sometimes self-excuse for it. Charedim do as they do, and cite DT merely when convenient, so you say. If that's true empirically, I am no better off for it.

Next time I'm in Evanston, and pass one of those nice vine-lined hundred years old stone houses I'll think of you.

 
At 4:09 PM, Blogger Shoshana said...

Don't know if I ever commented, but I did read, and was fascinated by your ideas. Sorry to see you hang up your hat. Hope your ideas show up again in some form.

 
At 4:27 PM, Blogger avakesh said...

I hope you come back soon. I am also engaged in an experiment and relate deeply to what you have written. Goodbye my friend, our teacher and may we meet again soon.

 
At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a great loss to the frum blogosphere. please reconsider...

 
At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you believe you have the right to stop without our reshus?

 
At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we deserve a week of posts to explain this one.
Come on - You PROMISED an anti-Brisk post.

 
At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I tried to show how in practice one can shift back and forth between Orthodox and secular ideas without going through the compulsion to integrate that is so frequently found in Modern Orthodoxy."

so true

 
At 7:09 PM, Anonymous oneworldlive said...

Thanks for your empathic look at haredi life and for sticking up for haredim.

 
At 7:30 PM, Anonymous HarmonicJew said...

Hey evanstonjew.
A few months ago, I started reading your blog and was very impressed. At first, it was your amazing talent with words that drew me in, but in a short amount of time, I realized that the amount of Jewish History, Philosophy, and "Politics", being put out there were truly tremendous, and there was what to gain.

When there weren't a lot of comments on your posts, I just figured that not so many people had heard about you. Then, Hirhurim made a reference to you, and my first reaction was: "Hey! no fair! I found him first."
(In reality, there were probably many people who found you before me, but thats not the point.)

Anyway, I would always save your blog for last, because that way I could let it soak in more then some of the shtus that I had read earlier in the night.

Thank you for these past few months, you've truly enlightened me and entralled me with your vast knowledge of Judaism. I was always afraid to comment, because I didn't want to sound ignorant compared to your well thought and intelligent posts.

I'll be checking back every so often just to make sure you didn't start posting again. Til then,

Harmonic Jew

 
At 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed reading you.

 
At 9:27 PM, Blogger daat y said...

A major loss to the blogoshere.I sugg est not stopping but twice a week writing will keep you and your blog fresh and rested.Just being charedi and living in Evanston is already different.

 
At 10:14 PM, Blogger e-kvetcher said...

What kills me is that you probably live within a mile of me, and there is a 1 in 3 chance that you daven in my shul. I would die or kill to have a discussion of such erudition at a Shalosh Seudas...

At least promise that you will reveal yourself many years from now, a la Deepthroat :)

 
At 11:45 PM, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Reduced blogging does free up time for things like family and learning. Hope you find the what you're looking for.

 
At 6:37 AM, Anonymous EJFan said...

EJ,

I am another fan from the beginning. Please explain what you mean by writing that you are anti Slifkin but pro evolution.

Thanks, and come back soon.

 
At 9:43 AM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

I have received emails asking why I’m anti Slifkin. I realize I shouldn’t tease without offering at least a sketch. I don’t share the MO impulse to integrate scientific ideas into my religious perspective. I feel Slifkin thoroughly underestimates what a destructive vacuum machine Darwinism is; it will destroy hasgacha pratis, the efficacy of prayer, miracles, reward and punishment, etc. What Slifkin is doing is Darwin then, kvitlech today…doesn’t work. I feel any philosophy of science that forces us to accept Darwin forces us also to accept higher Biblical criticism. Finally, as a pragmatist I have no problem using 2 parallel languages each having its uses. Atoms and tables is an example. We say alu valu divrei,etc., both are true…so too here. Read Rorty’s books. I hope this helps.

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger evanstonjew said...

From the beginning I wanted to write a blog that would make a difference, and these last kind and generous comments therefore mean a great deal to me. They give me reason to feel I may have had some modest success and that it was a worthwhile undertaking. I want to thank each of you for your generous comments which for me are words of chizuk and encouragement.

As I said, I must stop now for personal reasons, to take care of business and personal issues. I very much enjoyed writing the blog and would be happy to return in the future provided I can find something new to say and can continue to write a non technical and communicative blog. If I just repeat myself I’ll end up sounding like a pulpit rabbi or even worse c’’v a Unitarian minister. As an example, some reader said I promised a blog on Brisk, and failed to deliver. I actually wrote a Brisker lomdus post and sent it around. Secular people couldn’t understand the Talmudic references and most found the philosophy obscure. I just don’t know how to talk convincingly about modal logic and quantification into modal contexts and certainly not off the top of my head in an easy and light way. I also promised posts on Satmar politics and on Jewish Renewal. Here I know what I want to say and how to say it; the problem is that most readers would disagree, some rather violently.

In the coming months I will talk with my rabbi and others and try to think through some of these issues.

 
At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I truly enoyed your blog and your thinking. If you decide to return at some point we'll look forward. If not please employ your thoughtful approach for the public benefit.

 
At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

- you can write posts that only a share of the audience will be able to appreciate too, as long as there's a disclaimer, i doubt you would lose your readership (but you might broaden it)

- much success in whatever the future holds. Thanks for your good work.

 
At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel Slifkin thoroughly underestimates what a destructive vacuum machine Darwinism is; it will destroy hasgacha pratis, the efficacy of prayer, miracles, reward and punishment, etc.

You could say the same about science in general. Darwinism is no different from any other branch of science.

 
At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel Slifkin thoroughly underestimates what a destructive vacuum machine Darwinism is; it will destroy hasgacha pratis, the efficacy of prayer, miracles, reward and punishment, etc.

You could say the same about science in general. Darwinism is no different from any other branch of science.

 
At 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you mean you are pro-evolution? How does that work without some sort of Slifkinism? I also enjoyed your blog and will miss you.

 
At 10:15 AM, Blogger ashuber said...

EJ: I really enjoyed reading your blog over the past few months. While I didn't always agree with your conclusions, I felt that you addressed some of the most important issues facing American Jewry. What you wrote about was only the tip of the iceberg. I hope to see more Bloggers tackle these issues in the future.

 
At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t sense any great Orthodox demand for new philosophical ideas about Judaism, and I’m not sure the internet is the right vehicle, especially when the ideas are anti –Platonist, anti-naïve realist, anti-essentialist (anti-Brisk), historicizing, and naturalist.

I don't know about "demand," but I think new philosophical ideas are what Orthodoxy needs. I have met a lot of people who I sense crave for something that they can more wholeheartedly believe in than what they have been given.

That being said, I am really sorry to see you go. Although I read and enjoy a lot of Jewish blogs, yours is one of the three or so that is written at an adult level and really makes me think. (On my purely subjective scale, you and Mississippi Fred are at the very top.)

Your departure will be a grave loss for the blogosphere. I don't know who this Vaad is that seems to be watching your every move, and I don't know what sort of community you live in, but I would definitely encourage you to continue to publish your ideas, anonymously or otherwise. By all means, please write a book! I don't think any profound book on Jewish philosophy has been published in the last 50 years, and I didn't think Halachik Man was all that profound either. So do it! I will buy the first copy!

Finally, you mentioned some stuff about modal logic and whatnot. I've never studied modal logic, but I certainly would like to hear what you have to say, and if you can recommend a primer on modal logic, I would be more than willing to educate myself in order to understand (and criticize!) your ideas. Don't go!

 
At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Shael Siegel said...

Just got back into town and discovered the awful news. Thank you for you sharing with us, and stimulating us to think, think, think, and then think some more. I look forward to other opportunities and venues where we can exchange and learn from one another.

 
At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Steve Brizel said...

It is indeed sad that you are closing up shop. Your blog was always a very positive source and example par exellance of thought provoking, intellectually solid and pushing the envelope discussions-even if we didn't agree. Please reconsider.

 
At 3:19 PM, Blogger Harry Maryles said...

I have received emails asking why I’m anti Slifkin. I realize I shouldn’t tease without offering at least a sketch...

And your sketch is but a further tease. There has been no issue that has brought out more passion than this one. Your weighing in on this issue with a post of its own would surely be a fitting way to end your blogging career. Perhaps... one more posting... with feeling?

 
At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shkoiyach EJ. I'll miss watching you develop (and readers responding to) the Rortian/Putnamian approach that I agree is desperately needed to cut the intellectual Gordian knots the denominations, each hopelessly mired in uber-Realist Modernity in their own ways, have gotten themselves into. I appreciated your down-to-earth manner, and think that your style (similar in ways to Rorty's) would actually be a great way to slowly introduce people to the seemingly-radical ideas you're hinting at.

One point to consider, following Rorty -- to what degree do you think you can or ought to translate between the multiple languages you're speaking?

Good luck in your endeavors.

 
At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also a relative newcomer to your blog, and just wanted to second the previous comments. I at times may not agree, but always come away enlightened. Even if you successfully resist the entreaties to continue blogging, I do hope you will contribute your perspective in some public manner in the future. Thank you and very best wishes.

 
At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I became aware of your blog when Gil mentioned it and I will recommend it to others. I have to read your back-posts now to console myself on the lack of new material. If you don't post anymore could you perhaps leave us with a suggested reading list? Maybe instead of blogging you could lead a reading discussion like a book club. Enjoy your leisure time.

 
At 11:44 PM, Anonymous Melbournite said...

We need more of this.It doesn't matter if you think a piece is not finished.It doesn't matter how this material gets out as long as it keeps coming even if we have to wait between posts,we need it to help break out of the current rut.

 
At 12:41 AM, Blogger LitaLives said...

Dear EJ:
I have patiently waited to see if any of the other readers will be successful in convincing you to change your mind. Since no one has, it is time I weigh in.
As you know I am not some Johnny-come-lately to your blog. Although you haven’t heard from me as often as in the past, it was not because I stopped reading but rather because you toned down the invective (or I became inured to it) and I came to the conclusion that (a) I agreed with you more often than not & (b) even if I disagreed (sometimes vehemently), your position was usually so well thought out that it did not deserve to be beaten to death.
In any event, as the President of the Vaad of Ancient Readers of EvanstonJew, I have discussed the issue with my other Vaad members & we have unanimously decided that you do not have our permission to stop publishing.
Accordingly, get over this “not having enough time for your other endeavors”, organize your life & start writing again.
If you decide (at your peril, I warn you) not to heed our advice, may I say it was a privilege and an honor to be one of your earliest readers & a true joy to read your analyses of complex issues regarding Jews, Israel & Judaism. I have learned much and will sorely miss your posts (although I may be able to reduce my dosage of blood pressure medicine).
Wishing you much success in your future endeavors.
LitaLives

 
At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I raisr my glass to you and echo the appreciation and best wishes of all your other admirers. 3 points: 1)The orthodox Jew who won the Nobel prize for economics(sorry I forgot his name) expressed the same view as you; namely accepting Torah and evolution as being two separate areas which does not require conflict resolution. 2} The Rambam however appears to have written the "Guide" for exactly the same issues being faced by the MO. Namely,to resolve the problems that believing and practicing Jews have in trying to avoid the conflict between the Torah and the secular knowledge of the time. 3) While I wish you success on the book that you may plan to write; I feel that the audience for such a book will be nonjewish theologians. As without "fear of the Lord" non believing or non practicing Jews may not be interested in the subject.
All the best.

'

 
At 2:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don’t share the MO impulse to integrate scientific ideas into my religious perspective. I feel Slifkin thoroughly underestimates what a destructive vacuum machine Darwinism is; it will destroy hasgacha pratis, the efficacy of prayer, miracles, reward and punishment, etc. What Slifkin is doing is Darwin then, kvitlech today…doesn’t work. I feel any philosophy of science that forces us to accept Darwin forces us also to accept higher Biblical criticism."

I see how this works only up to a point, for Darwinism.
What do you do with factual conflicts like age of the universe? Do not they need to be reconciled at some point?

 
At 1:35 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

So you're leaving... but teasing us with all the big ideas that you haven't gotten around to explaining. gaah! :-P

 
At 2:06 PM, Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

let me clarify, the sticking-tongue-out _ :-P _ smiley in my last post was meant to signify jokingaroundness.

there's absolutely nothing wrong with abandoning a hobby for whatever reason, whether other people think it's a good reason or not.

i'd actually like to thank you for doing the summary descriptions you've put here in response to people's comments, and for all your insightful posts in the past.

 
At 6:13 AM, Anonymous Rafi G said...

sorry to see you go. Hope things work out well for you..

 
At 5:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yasher Koach, sorry to see this end, hope you will reconsider.

 
At 10:31 PM, Anonymous NCO Chassid said...

When I started the blog, I wanted to see if it was possible to write a blog about Jewish life, using a language that would be secular, humanistic, ironic and progressive.

I have not been a diligent reader, but from what I have seen it seems that you have largely succeeded.

I too am sorry that one of the most intelligent Jewish blogs will not be as active anymore. But it is the very intelligence and talent in evidence in these posts that persuades me you should return to the life beyond the back-lit screen. The world needs you.

 
At 12:50 PM, Blogger TM (Jewlicious) said...

Indeed, what a shame, this is a lovely blog and I have enjoyed visiting and reading your posts. I always learn something.

I presume that you have an anonymous email account. Please be so kind as to email me at themiddle@jewlicious.com, I have a question to ask.

 
At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Jordan said...

I greatly enjoyed reading your blog and will be sad to see it go. You are one of the best writers in the J-blogosphere.

 
At 11:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very sad to see you go. Your perspective was always original and well articulated. I hope you will consider returning sometime soon.

 
At 4:30 AM, Anonymous litalives said...

Dear EJ

Shoin genug vacation, your readers are anxiously awaiting your return.

Wishing you and yours a freilich un kosher Pessach.

 
At 6:09 AM, Anonymous 人妻 said...

Hな人妻たちの社交場、割り切った付き合いも当然OK!欲求不満のエロ人妻たちを好みに合わせてご紹介します。即会い、幼な妻、セレブ、熟女、SM妻、秘密、以上6つのジャンルから遊んでみたい女性を選んでください

 

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