Four years ago I unleashed my blog, Frum Follies, with a post, Moetzes Gedolim Speak About Znus Affecting Children (Satire). I also posted a paragraph-long explanation about why I created the blog. In response to reader inquiries I expanded it over the next few months to include my profile/biography, and policies for commenting and fair use. But it has lain buried in my archives with relatively few readers. So I am reposting a slightly edited version for those curious about my thinking when I started Frum Follies.
Why I Created Frum Follies (10/6/09)
This blog exists to say out loud what many believe; a lot of narishkeit (foolishness) is passing itself off as frumkeit (religious observance). Hence the name Frum Follies. I am not saying frumkeit is folly. I want to expose hypocritical frumkeit which is used to cover up folly. The targets of Frum Follies include:
- Cover-ups of child abuse (physical or sexual) and domestic violence
- Crooked behavior at the expense of Jews or non-Jews
- Exploitation of the rules of kosher to generate personal income or power
- Sordid fights for leadership positions motivated by personal ambition
- Exploiting Torah lishmah (learning Torah for its own sake) to support men regardless of their diligence, ability, evidence of good character or the burden they place on others
- Failing to respect people who pay their own way
- Contempt for others including modern-orthodox Jews, other Jews, non-Jews, Sephardim, baalei teshuvah (newly observant), geirim (converts to Judaism), women, and people of color
- A double standard for loshon horah (the rules against gossip) which allows it against those outside the community or those who challenge the community
- The reckless extension of chumras (stringencies)
- Distorting Jewish history to make it look like gadolim (preeminent rabbinical leaders) were perfect
- Distorting Jewish history to deny the legitimate place secular knowledge had in the past
- Banning books by members inside the community without even reading them or allowing their authors to defend themselves
- Deferring to wealthy people at the expense of others
All of these problems can be solved with candor, accountability, the courage to say the truth, and the courage to defy social pressure.
Many people sin by omission and don’t stand up for the truth. Often they do this to protect their position in the shidduch (marriage) market. It is a treyf (unkosher) market because it favors money and status over character. It is treyf because it bribes people to deceive themselves and others.
Who I Am and What I Care About
I am writing anonymously under the assumed name Yerachmiel Lopin. Lopin, I have since realized, is an anagram for ploni (everyman). Alas, I am intimidated. I know this blog will infuriate some people. If I ever reach a point that I can accomplish more by revealing my identity, I hope to find that courage.
For those that need to know more about me I will provide a sketchy background. I “was raised in the heart of one of the largest frum neighborhoods in America. I learned a lot from seforim (religious books) and a lot from admirable rabbis, and lay people. At some point I moved to the world that combined Torah and derech eretz/maddah (i.e., modern orthodoxy). I now live in a smaller community outside the ultra-orthodox world. But I keep up some connections through people I know and reading. My great passion is reading tanach (bible), halachah (Jewish law), siddur (liturgy), chassidus (mysticism) and mussar (ethical writing). I also love Jewish history. I read or study both traditional sources and non-traditional sources including non-Jewish sources. This was the practice throughout most of Jewish history by most literate Jews including most of the rabbis whose seforim (books) are in everyone’s bookcase. I also seek to learn by the attending to and observing great ones by which I mean people of temimus, people of great character. The are people whose word is good, whose reputations are unblemished by any accusations that they mistreated anyone else. Such people have chumrah (stringency), Even when the halachah permits it they won’t say something unless it is absolutely truthful. They are people who don’t have to defend themselves by saying they were misunderstood. Their zehirus (alacrity) includes quickly running from kavod (honors), and when it chases them, running faster. I am talking about people who refuse to be called gedolim (great ones) because that is boastful. I am talking about the people whose inward character is a fullfillment of the “obligations of the heart” (chovot halivavot) of Bahya Ibn Paquda. They continually strive have their ideals realized in their thoughts, impulses and actions and they walk the walk. These are people who accord great respect to talmidei chachomim (rabbinical scholars) of character, balabattim (lay people) of character, and non-Jews of character, because as Bachya writes, he learned some of these things from a non-Jew.
I try very hard to live up to the standards of these walking mussar seforim (ethical guides). Yes, most of these gedolim do not use ridicule in public but most of them are quite acerbic in private. Even in public, if you watch carefully, some of them convey a great deal with raised eyebrows and asides. They also take care to keep their distance from certain self promoting shucklers. Since they are modest you can learn a lot from noticing which hot personality they avoid. They are not impressed by the size of someone’s building or following. In fact, that often makes them suspicious. They are much more interested in the size of a heart, the timbre of a soul, and the graciousness of a community. Most of these great people are painfully aware of how low the community has fallen.
The wisest of these great people understand that there is no one way for everybody. In fact they feel many people fall short by being not being true to themselves. Each of us has to find the point where our personal traits intersects with our highest values. Each of has to accept that sometimes trying to look better makes us worse. There are seventy faces to Torah and seventy ways to be Torah-true. They all require being true to yourself. In my case being true to myself includes speaking truth to power, saying for others what they need to say and what others are hungry to hear. When I write satire I am exaggerating to convey an essential truth. When I ridicule someone by name I will work hard to be sure that the characterization is accurate. I will try to resist ridiculing a fault that is not of consequence to others. Ridicule just for its own sake is cruel.
What You Can Do for Frum Follies
I am not paid for producing this. I am glad to offer my writing to you. If you feel you have gotten something of value from reading a post, I would appreciate repayment in kind and I don’t mean money. I would like your comments. Praise is lovely, but equally useful is criticism, suggestions for improvements, information on how this is affecting you or why it isn’t, sharing of other information that might matter to readers, and so on. Most important, if I have made mistakes, please correct me. As necessary I will correct my posts, and credit those who advised me.
Rules for Comments
Don’t insult others. Don’t hock (hammer) away. If you have made your point and someone doesn’t agree, don’t dump the same thing ten times. You are just shouting in internet fashion. We don’t bully each other. Don’t just call someone an ignoramus; prove it by citing facts. By all means share information and explain why you think it’s relevant.
Made up names or your real name are fine. Passing yourself off as another real person is slimy. Don’t do six comments in a row under six different names to make it seem like five people agree with you. Sockpuppeting is another form of screaming and monopolizing. It is even worse because it is deceptive.
Please use links rather than pasting in large chunks of material. Follow that with a brief description. This method respects other people’s copyright and allows the comments section to focus on the thoughts of our readers.
I will enforce these rules. At my discretion I will issue warnings, delete individual comments and ban serious or persistent abusers. At my discretion I will explain my decisions. Since I am doing this on my time I will not feel obliged to waste it by arguing about it with bullies who try to get their way by wearing down other people.
I have installed comment moderation because some readers severely abused the above policies. In some instances they even named victims of abuse and gave their addresses out. While I did eventually delete the material, I am no longer willing to accept the problem that it can take several hours or in rare cases days before I discover and correct the problem. I will not disclose the algorithm used to determine which comments are or are not held in a queue. But I believe I have come up with a good compromise between protecting victims and promoting free flow and debate. I am not censoring controversial opinions including some pretty obnoxious ones. I prefer refuting bad arguments to censoring them. However, obnoxious commenters do not get to repeatedly say the same thing to the point that it is hocking rather than arguing.
Fair Use of Frum Follies Material
Please do not paste big chunks of my stuff elsewhere. Instead post a link. (make sure it is to the post, not the whole blog, by clicking on the title of the post. It gives me credit and readership and respects my copyright. I regularly edit older posts. I am new at this. I also am eager, too eager, to share my newest brain storms. If you post links, you will get the most recent version.
Other blogs are invited to solicit permission by contacting me using one of the methods described on the upper right of my home page. I will respond to all requests within several days.
Please refer to me as Yerachmiel Lopin and to my blog as either Frum Follies or FrumFollies.wordpress.com. Please do not refer to my blog as frumfollies.com or frumfollie’s. Neither of those work when people do internet searches.