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THOUGHTS FROM RABBI TOVIA SINGER….
I always wondered why Christians have a visceral reaction when the core principles of their faith are questioned. They might laugh off annoying atheists, but they glower at former Christians who urge them to choose the Jewish faith. I thought about this conundrum for the past 30 years. I cannot count the number of people that I watched return to God during this time. Hashem redeemed so many from the Church in recent years. As it turns out, I have never been a Christian. As such, I studied this phenomenon as a detached observer. This, I believe, has been to my advantage.
On most occasions, people do not leave the church in an instant. Rather, there is a transitional period where Christians begin to apprehend that something may be askew in the Church; they begin to grasp that many of its core teachings are doubtful. They let go one finger at a time. There is a gradual process of awareness. Ex-
Frequently, this informal investigation and probing begins by calling into question the long-
Finally,─and this is big─they are shocked by the vacant, unsatisfying answers they receive from their pastors and church elders about these inconsistencies. They are appalled by the fuming reaction they often encounter from their coreligionists. They don’t know what happened to the “love.”
There is, however, another element in the foreground.
For most Christians, converting to Judaism or becoming a Ben Noach is incomprehensible. Theoretically, anyone can convert to anything; however, becoming a Jew is not a real, practical option for most Christians. It is not a part of their world. In one word, it is alien. Almost all Christians in the West perceive that they have two practical alternatives: 1) believe in God and be a Christian 2) deny the existence of God and identify as an agnostic or atheist. Theoretically, there are countless other choices in a free society. Practically speaking, however, those who grow up in the Christian world consider these two options as their only real, viable choices. Because the belief in God is innate─after all, we are all created in the image of God, and therefore awareness of the Creator is primal─those who leave the Church must discover that they can worship the true God of Israel. If they let go of one understanding of God, there better be a correct one to hold onto. They know there is a God, and they know it isn’t Buddha. It has to be the Father, the God of Israel.
With this in mind, I may be able to explain why people, who are completely rational in other aspects of their lives, cognitively shut down when everything they believe about God’s salvation plan for mankind is challenged. First, they are emotionally unprepared for the conclusion of the ex-
Why do Christians always call not being a Christian “rejecting Jesus?” We don’t think of not being a Muslim as “rejecting Mohammad.” We just don’t believe in the tenets of Islam. It’s nothing personal about Mohammad. Why the fuming rejecting language?
This leads me to the next point: the Christian mind is filled with powerful stories of people turning their back on Jesus. Don’t underestimate the importance of the stories found in the Gospels. It is these stirring stories about Jesus, not the firm doctrines of Paul that attract people to Christianity. The moving stories in the Gospels may contradict each other, but they are so compelling. All the characters in the Synoptics and especially John are well-
The fear of going to hell is very real to Christians. The confidence that they exude by their certainty that they are going to heaven after they die is supremely important to Christians.
To make matters worse, except for a few famous stories here and there, a handful of prayers from the book of Psalms, and Isaiah 53, almost no Christian has read the Jewish Bible in its entirety. And the few that are somewhat conversant in the Jewish Prophets, read only selected parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. A very tiny number of Christians have ever thoroughly read the entire Jewish Scriptures. And with the exception of a studious few, the tinny number of churchgoers who read the entire Book of Jeremiah only did it once in their lives. Few pastors ever read the Book of Amos or Chronicles; and they rarely can tell you a thing about the book of Habakkuk. Of course, Christians believe these timeless works are holy; they are just not motivated to study them. And, to make matters worse, except for some professor in college, no Christian can read Tanach in its original Hebrew. They are all slaves to the all-
As it turns out, we spend a lot more time dead than alive. Why then is there so little ink spent on this topic in Tanach? The answer is simple: of course there is a heaven and hell. Without Olam Haba and Gehenim, the World to Come and Hell, there could be no justice in the world.
Detailed information about heaven and hell, however, has nothing to do with how you are to conduct your life in this world, the only place you have free will. Tanach is committed only to conveying information that you need to live your life properly in this world. In other words, the details about the afterlife are unimportant (and incomprehensible), and God is not going to threaten you with something that is inaccessible. You can’t test it.
In stark contrast, when Hashem speaks to us in the Torah, He brings into view epic moments from the knowable past; events that the entire Jewish people witnessed. In turn, the people of Israel are commanded to be a “witness” to the world, a “light to the nations.” The Almighty therefore declares to us, “I am the God Who brought you out of Egypt; I am the God Who brought you to the Promised Land.” It is for this reason that the Torah calls upon us to “Remember” (Deut. 4-
None of what I stated has ever crossed the mind of a Christian. Nothing. Are Christians therefore stupid? Are they unable to process such unambiguous teachings? We know the answer: they were deprived of the tools to discover this on their own. As such, they imitate the scandalous methods of the New Testament writers and impose Jesus onto the Jewish Scriptures, an Oracle they cannot read and know too little about.
In short, Christians need a lot of room to think, lots of space to ponder, lots of patience for growth, and lots of prayer to Hashem
Rabbi Tovia Singer
RELIGIOUS TRAUMA SYNDROME
At present, raising questions about toxic beliefs and abusive practices in religion seems to be violating a taboo, even with helping professionals. In society, we treasure our freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion. Our laws and mores reflect the general principle that if we are not harming others, we can do as we like. Forcing children to go to church hardly seems like a crime. Real damage is assumed to be done by extreme fringe groups we call “cults” and people have heard of ritual abuse. Moreover, religious institutions have a vested interest in promoting an uncritical view.
Therapists have no real appropriate diagnosis in their manual. Even in the commonly used list of psychological stresses, amidst all the change and loss and disruption, there is no mention of losing one’s religion. Yet it can be the biggest crisis ever faced. This is important for therapists to be aware of because people are leaving the ranks of traditional religious groups in record numbers1 and they are reporting real suffering.
Another obstacle in getting help is that most people with RTS have been taught to fear psychology as something worldly and therefore evil. It is very likely that only a fraction of people with RTS are even seeking help. Within many dogmatic, self-
JC is called the “great physician” and a person should not need any help from anyone else. Doubt is considered wrong, not honest inquiry. Moreover, therapy is a selfish indulgence. Focusing on one’s own needs is always sinful in this religious view, so RTS victims are often not even clear how to get help. The clients I have worked with have had to overcome ignorance, guilt, and fear to make initial contact.
What is RTS?
One who suffers with guilt and depression and struggles to let go of religion. Some are also battling with an existential crisis of epic proportions and intense heartache. . . One who feels like they are the only person in the world that this has happened to. Some days are okay, but others are terrible. They feel they do not know if they will make it through this."
Religious Trauma Syndrome is the condition experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination. They may be going through the shattering of a personally meaningful faith and/or breaking away from a controlling community and lifestyle. The symptoms compare most easily with Post-
With RTS, the trauma is two-
Second, departing a religious fold adds enormous stress as an individual struggles with leaving what amounts to one world for another. This usually involves significant and sudden loss of social support while facing the task of reconstructing one’s life. People leaving are often ill-
Shiva /Shloshim for my friend Shlomo Yitzhak Ben Yaakov
My friend , Shlomo Yithak passed away almost 30 days ago . He was a Tzaadik (righteous) and a Mensch. He was very Charitable and helped out many people and organizations. I use to call him before every Shabbat and Jewish Holiday . I went to the Shiva , but it was tough. It was tough because saying goodbye to a good friend is always hard to do . Shiva is suppose to comfort the mourner but it helps the people mourning also . At least that is the theory .
I am an Orthodox Jew . Logically, we are suppose to accept the will of G-
At the Shiva , we learn Mishna ( oral Law ) because it has the same letters as Nishama which means soul. This is suppose to comfort us but for me it does only a little. My friend , Shlomo Yitzhak , always told me I have a Lev Tov ( a Good Heart ) . I was so happy that he was able to come to my daughter's wedding and to my wedding when I married Rachel a few years ago.
So how can I ease the pain ? It is not easy . The Rabbis say that when a nice person dies, it is because his mission was accomplished . I am only a simple Yid so I do not have answers. Perhaps the answers will come to me when I learn more .
In the meantime , there is another issue at stake . My friend , Shlomo Yitzhak , led the Mussaf ( additional prayers) during the High Holidays. He was flawless in his Hebrew and when he prayed out loud , I was comforted . My mind was saying " Everything this year will be alright now . Shlomo Yitzhak prayers went straight to Shemayim ( Heaven) . I am spoiled because his prayers and Nusach ( style of singing the prayers comforted me.
This is all I can say in summary ..Shlomo Yitzhak is in Gan Eden and he wants the Jews to be happy. He would want us to be good Torah Jews and to help each other and that is what I want to do. When Moshiach comes , all the Holy Jewish Neshamas will come back to life and we will all dance in the streets of Jerusalem.
Why are Jews so happy on such Solemn days as Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when we are being judged ? Because there is an old Yiddish saying ; When you go to court , it is good to know the judge. And who is the judge ? Our Father in Heaven. And we all know our father would not harm his children .
Goodbye in Judaism is only " See you later " because Moshiach will be here soon. And if every Jew keeps at least one Shabbat , he could come next week !