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Anxiety and Rationality: A Personal Anonymous Account

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SUMMARY

In this episode of the 18Forty Podcast, we talk to an anonymous guest about the anxieties he experienced in a hyper rational approach to Judaism.

Our anonymous identifies as a rationalist, or someone who likes to analyze the decisions in his life through a logical lens. He applied this to his Judaism. But as time went on, he began having doubts and questions and his life started to fall apart. Eventually he found a different approach to his Judaism that allowed him to moderate his rationality and live a more meaningful life.

  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of rationality?
  • What balance should one attempt to draw?
  • How can rationalists with doubts about Judaism moderate their mindset to have a more meaningful life?

Tune in to hear a conversation about rationality and Judaism.

References:
Why Is It so Hard to Be Rational? By Joshua Rothman
The Secret of Our Success by Joseph Henrich

David Bashevkin:

Hello, and welcome to the 18Forty podcast, where each month we explore a different topic, balancing modern sensibilities with traditional sensitivities, to give you new approaches to timeless Jewish ideas. I’m your host, David Bashevkin, and this month, we’re exploring rationality. This podcast is part of a larger exploration of those big juicy Jewish ideas, so be sure to check out 18Forty.org, that’s 1-8-F-O-R-T-Y.org, where you can also find videos, articles, and recommended readings.

When I was in, I don’t know, early high school, probably 9th or 10th grade, I remember getting into a debate about whether or not one had to believe that to follow somebody, like a rabbi or a religious idea, you also had to acknowledge that that person was so to speak the smartest person in the world. I think in the parlance of my 9th and 10th grade self, the way I phrased the question was, “Do we need to believe that gedolei yisroel, so to speak, the leaders of the Jewish community, are the smartest people in the world today? Do they have the highest IQ? Are they smarter than anybody else alive?”

I remember it being a fruitful question. I think I may have even been arguing with my sister who had just came back from Israel. To me, it was really a question not about Jewish leaders, but about, where do we find the best advice? What is the best methodology with which to make decisions in your own life? I think there was a part of me and there still is a part of me that was always enchanted by this notion of following the smartest person in the room. Find the person with the highest IQ. Find the person who is the most scientifically informed, and follow their advice.

I think in many ways, that idea in my own life has been challenged quite a bit. I think for so many people, it has been challenged. How do you exactly determine who is the smartest person in the room? Once you find that person, let’s say you find the person, “This is the biggest IQ, the most Nobel prizes, whatever it is,” should you follow their advice on everything in your life? Should you follow their advice on how to build a relationship, who to marry? What are the questions that that person should be informing of your decisions on?

I think these are very difficult and important questions, and that’s part of the reason why I am so excited about this topic that we’re exploring this month, which is rationality. Different topics get me excited in different ways. I think from a distance, this is not one of those topics that people would assume I or anybody would get excited about. There’s something not as exciting, glamorous, joyful as talking about the principles through which we make decisions, the methodology with which we approach our own lives, which is why we’ve decided to actually begin, and we’ve never done this before. We’ve interviewed people anonymously, but particularly this episode, I wanted to begin the topic with an anonymous interview. Before we really get into why we’re beginning with this specific interview and this specific person, I wanted to share a word about why I think the question of rationality and how rationality bears upon our lives is actually such an incredibly important question and an important question right now.

There is a fabulous article that was published in the New Yorker. I’ve quoted him before on this very podcast. The author’s name is Joshua Rothman. He has written a lot of articles in the New Yorker about the heuristics, the methodology through which we approach our own lives. We quoted his article a while back in our discussion in our Teshuva series about unlived lives, the road not taken. How do we confront, so to speak, those paths that we didn’t take and the career that we never had or imagined for ourselves?

He has a series of articles, and they’re worth reading, every single one of them, because I really find his writing to be quite brilliant. He wrote an article for the New Yorker called Why Is It so Hard to Be Rational that really confronts a growing and emerging movement that loosely we’re going to call rationality. We’ll dive in much deeper as we go through the topic of what we mean by rationality. The article is addressing a growing movement that, many of them are in blogs. Marginal Revolution is the name of one of them. LessWrong is the name of another. Star Slate Codex is the name of another. There are many of these rationalistic blogs that provide quite brilliant methodology for how we should be reexamining the way we make decisions about our own lives. In this article by Joshua Rothman, Why Is It so Hard to Be Rational, he really turns the model of rationality on itself and wonders whether and when this is the right methodology through which we should be approaching our lives.

He writes as follows, “In a polemical era, rationality can be a kind of opinion hygiene, a way of washing off misjudged views. In a fractious time, it promises to bring the court to order. When the world changes quickly, we need strategies for understanding it. We hope, reasonably, that rational people will be more careful, more honest, more truthful, more fair minded, more curious, and right than irrational ones.” I think particularly now, as so much of the institutional advice, and we saw this in spades during COVID and Corona, the pandemic, we’re looking for the answers that we can trust. We’re looking for the opinions, for the thought leaders, that can provide us a path for how we as individuals and as a society should be forming our decisions.

And sometimes, it could feel really hard to question, who’s the smartest? I’m using air quotes when I say it. Who is the smartest person in the room to really help us do that? In this article by Joshua Rothman, he begins to question whether or not rationality is the exclusive methodology through which we should be making these decisions. He writes, “And yet, rationality has sharp edges that make it hard to put at the very center of one’s life. It’s possible to be so rational that you are cut off from warmer ways of being, like the student, Bazarov,” I’m going to butcher this name, “in Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons,” that’s continuing our theme on this podcast of mispronouncing names, “who declares, ‘I look up to heaven only when I want to sneeze.’” I think there is a way that we can overindulge in rationality the same way that many overindulge in emotionalism. I think part of exploring any methodology for our own life is not just finding the right methodology, but it’s really more about finding the right balance. How do we integrate our rich, emotional life with our sharp, incisive, analytical rationality?

When do we know which is the better methodology through which we should approach decisions? I don’t think anybody would go to the person with the highest IQ or a Nobel prize in physics to figure out who to marry, what’s the right community to live in, who should they be friends with. I’m not sure anybody would go to the person who has the most emotional resonance to figure out the right vaccine or to figure out medical advice for their children. I think part of life and part of the difficulty of life is that it’s not as neat as any methodology would suggest.

If you approach somebody who is deeply emotional and experiential in the way that they approach life, I think there are going to be areas in your own life where you say, “You know what, that’s not the right person to address this question.” There are other areas in life, perhaps relationships, perhaps marriages, perhaps raising kids, where you know that approaching the person who is deemed the most rational, the most intelligent, the highest IQ isn’t the right person to address that question either.

I think a lot of this exploration is figuring out this balance in the methodologies, the strategies. What is the right path through which we construct meaning and satisfaction in our own lives? At the heart of all this is, how should we approach religion? How should we approach religious decision making in our own lives? If we go to the person perhaps with the highest IQ, the PhD in physics, we’ll be left with one form of answer. If we go to a person who is deeply emotional, we’ll be left with another answer.

The question is, can these two archetypes and strategies in the way that we build meaning with our lives, can we forge a bridge where they can be in conversation with one another? That’s part of the reason why I’m so excited to begin with this specific conversation. It’s a terrible idea, from a marketing perspective, from a listener’s perspective, to begin a new subject with an anonymous interview. I think for most people, so much of what brings them is like, “Oh, I’m curious what they’re going to talk about. I’m curious what they’re going to discuss.” So to kick off a new subject with somebody anonymous is not a smart, dare I say, rational choice, but there’s a reason why we are doing this here, and there’s a reason why we are doing this now.

I got a, I think it was a Facebook message from an anonymous Facebook account that said that they were struggling. They were struggling, and it really shocked me that they were struggling. This was a person, as we will explore, who was in a loving marriage with healthy and loving children, who had an extraordinarily successful career, and lived the life, the life that so many parents would want for their children. As we will explore, this person’s inner world was crumbling apart. Why was it crumbling?

It was crumbling because they were trying to figure out, what is the right methodology through which I should construct and approach my own emotional and religious life? They have become enamored with this field of rationality, and had begun to apply it to every single facet of their life, and almost exclusively to the exclusion of all other methodologies. This led this extraordinarily intelligent and successful person, their life began to fall apart.

Now, I want to make something absolutely clear before we get into the interview. This is not meant to scare anybody about the importance of rationality or to ignore the importance of rationality. This is not a person who began to flirt with whatever blogs and thinkers who really represent this, and then now decided to, I don’t know, fly off to Uman, and become a Breslov chassid. That’s not at all what this story is about, and it’s not meant to scare anybody about this field of thought. What it is meant is to temper and critique our over reliance and indulgence in any one methodology as the way through which we construct our lives. The same way that I have critiqued and would critique somebody who is overly emotional, somebody who only looks through an emotional or experiential lens in their lives to figure out what is right and what is true, I would say that person is going to go down a road that is not going to be particularly beneficial in the long term in their lives. We need analytic rationality in the way that we make choices, the way that we build things, the way that we make certain decisions in our lives, certainly medical decisions. My father, I grew up in the house, as many of our listeners know, of a hematologist oncologist. My father had very real battles with patients who got medical advice from him, but then insisted on going to whatever healer, shaman advice that made them feel most comfortable and most safe.

My father was quite upset by it. I remember my father saying during the pandemic, he retired in January, but he lamented the fact that he had patients who were fighting admirable fights and could likely survive whatever cancer they were dealing with, and what ultimately killed them was the fact that they had issues with vaccinations, with COVID, with mask mandates, with all of this stuff, and they died of COVID. They didn’t die of some terrible cancer that was treatable. My father would lament the fact that people became radicalized, so to speak, in what is considered their personal truth, and that notion has also become abused in this era.

This is a critique on the other side of the spectrum, which I have also seen, where the only methodology to finding satisfaction and meaning in your life is a rationality that is couched in all of the jargon and methodology, much of which is extraordinarily beneficial in other areas, whether it’s Bayesian reasoning, which you could Google on your own. I’m not going to try to explain that to you now. Bayesian reasoning, and checking your priors, and all these things that, frankly, in this article by Joshua Rothman, Why Is It so Hard to Be Rational, he discusses there as well.

The question, is how do we integrate these methodologies into our own lives, so we can live truthful, productive, and satisfactory lives? I think this conversation is an exploration of what is at stake. What happens when you insist on only going to the smartest person in the room to answer all of your questions no matter the area, no matter the discipline? Which is why I am so excited to introduce my conversation with Anonymous and an exploration of this journey through rationality.

One of the reasons why we’re speaking is because we’re exploring this notion of rationality and religion. We know each other really from your own explorations about religious life. I wanted to intersperse this question of what role rationality plays in one’s religious grounding and foundation with a more personal story of somebody who is not, as far as I can tell, as far as we know, a happy clappy emotional person, but somebody who also pulled back from what I would call hyper rationalistic thinking. We’re deliberately not sharing your name and identity. You don’t have to mention specific institutions that you studied at. You can if you want to. We’re doing that because I think in this instance, there’s something very universal about your story, and I want to keep it that way, but you could share as much as you feel comfortable. Let’s start from the beginning. Before we met, what was your religious upbringing like?

Anonymous:

I think I grew up in a fairly normal, modern Orthodox family, had a big family, and –

David Bashevkin:

In the tri-state area?

Anonymous:

Tri-state area.

David Bashevkin:

Went through the normal Yeshiva league schools?

Anonymous:

Exactly. Nothing too out of the ordinary, nothing too exotic, in town, as I guess you would call it. Already, I guess during high school, is when I was first introduced, I guess, to the path of, let’s say, the rational approach to Judaism. This was early on in high school. I was a 10th grader. I was young. I was not particularly interested in really anything substantial about Judaism. I mean, I kept Halacha like any 10th grader would, but it didn’t really appeal to me. But as I became a little bit more mature, and I went through high school and eventually Israel, I learned a gap year in Israel, it started to appeal to me a little bit more. I remember this and that. I saw my surroundings of the people going through the motions and learning in Yeshiva, it didn’t really strike me as where I wanted to end up. So I actually got back in touch with some of my rebbeim from my experience in high school.

David Bashevkin:

Just let me interrupt for a second. Even when it wasn’t resonating, and I didn’t know you, we may have crossed paths in high school. We didn’t know… We were more or less in the same generation though. You weren’t like a wild rebel. You’re not the kind of guy who, it’s not resonating, so you’re smoking pot outside the pizza shop.

Anonymous:

No. I wasn’t. No. No. I was… I did very well in school, and I was a good student. I wasn’t rebellious, certainly nothing out of the ordinary. But yeah, I mean, it just wasn’t really appealing to me because –

David Bashevkin:

It wasn’t resonating. It’s a slack.

Anonymous:

Yeah. I mean, everyone knows the few guys in every grade that are acing every Gemara test. I wasn’t one of them. I did it to pass, so I can get into a good college and a good school in Israel.

David Bashevkin:

Gotcha.

Anonymous:

At that point, it was still… I knew about the prestige of certain schools in Israel, certain Yeshivas in Israel versus others. I wanted to get into one of the more upstanding ones.

David Bashevkin:

For almost reputation purposes. It’s what you do.

Anonymous:

Exactly. It’s just what we do.

David Bashevkin:

It’s what we do.

Anonymous:

That’s what we will pass on to our kids as well. Already in Israel, I had gotten touch with some people from high school, and then –

David Bashevkin:

What was the question you were getting in touch with them for?

Anonymous:

Honestly, it’s the big life questions. Why are we doing this? What should I be doing when I come back to America? At that point after Sukkos in my year in Israel, I started to take an interest in learning. I wanted to continue it, so I used to speak with them fairly regularly, maybe every week. We used to talk for an hour or two every week, just the big questions that people usually think about and talk about and explore in their year abroad. The more I listened to them, the more I talked with them, I started listening to shiurim from that particular Yeshiva, and –

David Bashevkin:

Torah classes.

Anonymous:

Yes. It just became very, very appealing to me. I thought, “This is where I want to end up. This is where I want to learn. This is the approach that I want to set for my life.” I had gone back to Cooper Union. That’s where I was for the first year. But at Cooper, I didn’t particularly enjoy the classes, or engineering, and it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. Honestly, one of the big reasons that I didn’t really enjoy it very much is because I couldn’t really learn as much as I wanted to, so I decided to switch –

David Bashevkin:

Learn Torah.

Anonymous:

Learn torah, yes. I ended up switching out of Cooper Union to a different college that was more local to that Yeshiva. Then I learned in that Yeshiva for three years while I was in college, and then an additional year between college and professional school.

David Bashevkin:

Gotcha. You got into a fairly serious professional school, right?

Anonymous:

Yes.

David Bashevkin:

You can’t just float your way into there.

Anonymous:

No. I mean, it was… I studied hard, and actually, the track that I was in in that college was in many ways more difficult than a lot of the courses in Cooper Union, because it was quite competitive.

David Bashevkin:

Fast forward for me now. You have this fairly typical upbringing. You’re a model student. You’re getting great grades. You’re getting into graduate school. At some point, you got married before graduate school, during graduate school?

Anonymous:

During that gap year I got married, during that one year after the three years of college. Well, it was four years of college, and then –

David Bashevkin:

Before you started graduate school, you got married?

Anonymous:

Correct. I got married, and then I was learning full time.

David Bashevkin:

You’re the model citizen. You’re bright. You have everything going on. At what point did your relationship with Judaism, your religious faith, begin to fray, and what caused it to fray?

Anonymous:

This was actually much farther down the line. At that point in my life, I was extremely confident. That approach, that rational approach really resonated with me.

David Bashevkin:

Can you elaborate on that? What does it mean, the rational approach? What does that mean?

Anonymous:

That’s a really great question. In a nutshell, the way I would define it is, the approach to understanding God and understanding Judaism is not primarily through feelings or emotions: it’s through rationality and truth and analytical thinking. We don’t necessarily believe in God, or we don’t even have faith in God: we know God. That’s really based on Maimonides. The approach to Maimonides was, the commandment is to know God, not to necessarily believe in God. Just saying the words, “I believe in God,” without actually having an approach to explain it or prove it, I mean, that’s an extreme version of that, but would not be ideal. The entire philosophy of that Yeshiva was with that approach of, how can we analyze the laws? How can we analyze the history? How can we analyze the Torah and our understanding of God to provide a rational approach that we’re not just doing mitzvos or commandments because God wants us to, but how do the commandments actually benefit our lives?

David Bashevkin:

It is extraordinarily intellectually nourishing.

Anonymous:

Yes. That’s why it became fairly popular, or it’s not, I wouldn’t say it’s the most popular Yeshiva, but it attracts a certain personality. It was a very dynamic environment.

David Bashevkin:

Let’s fast forward. Something started to fray, which is eventually how we got to know one another. What caused it to fray? You have this grounding, and you have a job. You’re living in a community. You’ve checked all the boxes that – for me, what causes anxiety? I don’t know what I want to do with my life professionally. I’m not married. I don’t have a community that religiously resonates with me. You had all three of those things. What went wrong?

Anonymous:

That’s a great question, because if I had to put any money on it 10 years ago, I’d say this would never have ever happened to me. Like I said, I was very, very confident. But essentially, what happened was, in my graduate studies, I’m an endodontist, as I was being introduced to the approach of analyzing the literature and analyzing evidence of different diagnoses and treatments that exist in our specialty, I was influenced, and met a certain group of people who had this rational approach, or seemingly more rational approach to the science of dentistry, the science of endodontics.

David Bashevkin:

It sounds like Scientology, I mean, it sounds like a cult.

Anonymous:

There’s so much science going everywhere. I know, very, very culty. Of course, my personality, it was no surprise that I really was drawn to that thinking. It exposed, I guess, a different light of how we understand facts and evidence.

David Bashevkin:

Evidence.

Anonymous:

Exactly. One of the big things that I was really exposed to, and this was popular, I guess, in that time, the early to mid 2010s, was understanding bias. I started thinking about bias a lot and how the scientific studies on certain treatment modalities were biased. Then it just kept on bugging me that, you know what, I feel like there’s something in my life that I’m biased about. I’m just, I’m protecting myself from really taking the deep exploration of these issues that I’ve held dearly for so long.

David Bashevkin:

Namely your religious commitment.

Anonymous:

Let’s say my religious core beliefs. I could explain it to anyone. I can make a pretty good argument for them. But I just felt like I really didn’t take it to the next level. At that time, there was a few blogs that talked about these arguments and these proofs, but there wasn’t really that much. This was 10, 15 years ago. But over time, I thought about it more and more, and more and more. Eventually, I came up with a few very strong problems that were in my mind, and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Finally, I got off the courage to call up some of the rebbeim or some of the mentors that I’ve had from the past that I hadn’t necessarily talked to in a while. I spent hours and hours talking and emailing and texting, just trying to discuss these issues, and figure out an approach or a solution.

David Bashevkin:

What were the headlines, the headline issues? I don’t want to do a deep dive.

Anonymous:

It’s definitely not the place, but I guess the headline issues were the historicity of Torah MiSinai.

David Bashevkin:

Sure.

Anonymous:

We have a tradition that God revealed the Torah to the Jews in a mass revelation at Har Sinai. That sets the foundation of our religious belief in God and his Torah and the commandments. Then there’s something called the Kuzari Principle, that some people may be familiar with, that talks about how unique that event is as, let’s say, an argument or a proof as to our religious belief, and how it differs from, let’s say, other religions or other beliefs, and how it actually is very strong.

At that time, I remember first learning about it, and this was, again, 10 years ago. I remember, there’s got to be questions. There’s got to be questions. I explored everything. I Googled everything. Again, there wasn’t that much there, and then this was… This was three years ago when I first started coming up with these strong questions, and after hours and months and weeks and months of these discussions, I just wasn’t getting the answers that I wanted or that satisfied me. I felt incredibly alone. I felt scared. It really took an effect on me that I would never have anticipated. I couldn’t really eat very well. I would think about it before I went to sleep, and I would think about it as soon as I woke up. It just snowballed, and then –

David Bashevkin:

You were suffering, it’s fair to say, from acute anxieties from this?

Anonymous:

Yes.

David Bashevkin:

From just these questions and… It’s so interesting that this intellectually-driven journey, the primary manifestation of your life was almost purely emotional, meaning the way you were reacting to it. That’s so interesting.

Anonymous:

It was very emotional, and I’ve never had anxiety before. Never has anything like that happened to me. I’ve always been able to eat very well. I’ve always been able to sleep very well. So this came as a real shock to me. Eventually, I felt so alone that I started just looking everywhere I could for other people like me who were in the same boat. I’m not a social media guy. I don’t really have any social media accounts. But eventually, I found a group on Reddit. Then that wasn’t too active, but they had basically referenced Facebook, so I made a Facebook account just to join this group –

David Bashevkin:

Under a fake name.

Anonymous:

Under a fake name, yes.

David Bashevkin:

As we do.

Anonymous:

You actually called me out on that fake name. Do you remember that?

David Bashevkin:

What did I do?

Anonymous:

It was something like Jim McDaniels, and it did not fit into the group whatsoever. You called me out, and then I… I knew who you were. You had no idea who I was, especially with my alias. I joined those groups. Even within those groups, I didn’t get the sense that there was that many people like me, but there was definitely people, I guess, in the same boat, single digits.

David Bashevkin:

When you say you were looking for people like you, do you mean people who also had questions, who were also, the questions were causing them anxiety? Do you mean people who had answers? What were you looking for?

Anonymous:

Obviously, I would love to find answers. That’s really what my goal was, to find some answers, approach, but I thought the questions that I had were so catastrophic that I, this was going on for months, that I had almost lost hope in finding any answer. At least I was… What I was really looking for was someone who was in this similar situation as me in our lives. Because a lot of these… In a certain sense, I feel like in our communities, people knew that you should have figured this out when you were in Israel. These are questions that you have between high school and before you get married. No one really has these questions. When you –

David Bashevkin:

Once you’re on the treadmill of Jewish life, community, and shul membership, we just don’t have… We’re planning a shul dinner.

Anonymous:

Exactly.

David Bashevkin:

We don’t have time to talk about the existence of God and revelation.

Anonymous:

Exactly. No one’s saying, “Oh, what after school clubs are your kids signed up for? And by the way, do you have any issues with any of your core beliefs?” It’s so far beyond our realm that it just felt like very, very foreign. I felt like I was in a different world. Then all of a sudden, I found, not a whole lot of people, but a number of people, let’s say 5, 10, and more along the way, that we’re in the same boat, who were married, who did have kids, who didn’t have issues with Torah observance per se, but had just strong doubts and strong questions. That united me and allowed me to move on to the next stage.

David Bashevkin:

What was the next stage? What do you mean by that?

Anonymous:

Interestingly enough –

David Bashevkin:

In this timeline of the story, have we met yet?

Anonymous:

No, we haven’t met yet.

David Bashevkin:

We’ll get there.

Anonymous:

I had reached out to follow Philo Judaeus, who was already –

David Bashevkin:

We’ve had him on the podcast.

Anonymous:

Aryeh Englander, I think he’s down there, who was the moderator of a couple of these groups that I joined. I let him know my entire situation. I don’t think we called, but I think I sent him a few long messages about who I was and where I was in life and the questions that I had. If people aren’t familiar with, he’s openly off the derech.

David Bashevkin:

Meaning, he was raised in a religious household. I mean, he’s told his own story on this very podcast, which was one of the most, I think, upsetting for people to listen to in our audience, but I thought it was important, a, to reframe why some people grapple with faith, because you and him… You’re still very much a part of the community, but it’s not that you went off to party, or to do drugs and to just get your rocks off. It was something deeply intellectual, and you’re really trying to figure out, “What is this based on?”

Anonymous:

Exactly. That was what really drew me to him, is that he had these whole long… not diatribes, but he had these long articles explaining what his issues were. He was in a very similar boat to me. He had, I think, I believe three kids, grew up in a very Orthodox environment.

David Bashevkin:

He grew up more Orthodox.

Anonymous:

More, even more than Orthodox than me.

David Bashevkin:

Whatever that means, but you’re –

Anonymous:

That’s a different story. I reached out to him telling him my questions, my concerns. Much to his credit, beyond anything that I could ever thank him for, I’m not sure if I did thank him, I think I thanked him once, but he didn’t say, “You know what? Your questions are 100% legitimate, and – ”

David Bashevkin:

Get out of this.

Anonymous:

Exactly. Leave while you can. He didn’t encourage me. He said, “If you can find a way, you should stay.” He said, “You need to speak to David Bashevkin.”

David Bashevkin:

He’s the one who connected you to me.

Anonymous:

Yes. He said, “I think you should really speak with David Bashevkin.” I had known you from around, but I didn’t really –

David Bashevkin:

We didn’t know each other personally. I recognized your family name, seemed somebody familiar. If we would’ve passed each other in the street, I would not have recognized you.

Anonymous:

No. No. No. I was a big fan of yours.

David Bashevkin:

Oh, that’s very kind of you. That’s very gracious.

Anonymous:

The shiurim that you… The lectures you had given in Young Israel in Cedarhurst were my favorites.

David Bashevkin:

I’ll do those from time to time.

Anonymous:

You got to let me know. I had known you, but I didn’t… I knew you were someone who I admired a lot, because you gave lectures very differently than other –

David Bashevkin:

I just want to make it clear to our listeners. I did not bring you in here to have my own ego, though I certainly will accept it at any point, but I really feel like your story is an unspoken story or a path and a road that people have ahead of them that they wonder if they should take it. You started walking down there, and think about what happened. You came… I’ll just frame where I was. I think you Facebook messaged me. I probably ignored it for three weeks, because it’s the one means of communication, it’s like the bottom of the pile heap. You could email me. You could call me. You could text me. You could WhatsApp me. You could DM me on Twitter. Facebook messenger is my last communication that I look at. You told me, you said you want to get together. You came. We’re actually sitting right now in the very office that you came in, and you came searching for what? What did you want to hear from me?

Anonymous:

Honestly, I had known that you were, I guess, someone who I admired intellectually, yet you weren’t part of the world that I was. That just always appealed to me. I like meeting different people who, I guess, have different approaches and who I can admire. I didn’t know at that point what exactly I was looking for. I just needed to unload to someone who could understand me, because at that point, there was no one who really could. Certainly on a personal level, on a face-to-face level. So I came to you. I think we must have talked for two hours or something like that. I remember coming home to my wife afterwards, and I said, “That was the best conversation I’ve ever had.”

David Bashevkin:

It’s so interesting. It’s weird because I’m the person in this story. I remember much of what we discussed. I’m curious, now that you look back, because you came in and you were a mess. I mean, I don’t know if you’re comfortable with me saying this. I could take it out if you don’t. You were talking about like, “I don’t know if my marriage is going to survive this. I don’t know if my family is going to survive this.” You were really staring at the abyss of the very fabric, and almost canvas of your life was falling apart.

Anonymous:

Yes.

David Bashevkin:

Forget about what was painted on it. The canvas in which you had built so much of your life was eroding. Tell me about the days and weeks that prompted you to come here to come meet with… I’m not a pulpit rabbi. I’m not a genius. I’m not a philosopher. But what was going on in your life that was the final straw, so to speak?

Anonymous:

As I had mentioned, I was thinking about these issues on the period of weeks and months, and it slowly started to have an effect on my actual life. Again, as I had mentioned, I would wake up thinking about it. Go to sleep thinking about it. I wasn’t eating as well. Eventually, I stopped going to minyan. I stopped going to synagogue. I would find excuses not to go. Then eventually, I was only praying morning services, Shacharis. I wasn’t praying mincha and mariv, and my wife had noticed. She had known that I had questions, but at this point, she was like, “What’s going on?” We had a very difficult conversation, and she basically said that you got to figure this out, or this may not work.

David Bashevkin:

You’re married.

Anonymous:

Yeah. And my life flashed across my eyes. The next day, I was in work. Again, of course, I was obviously just thinking about that the whole day. Then in between patients, I started to feel a little woozy. My assistant looked at me, and I was pale. I was like, “I don’t feel well.” I was having full-on panic attacks, something I’ve never had before. I never had a panic attack. At that point, I realized, “Okay, I really need to get on this because this is not going to work. In many, many different ways, this is not going to work.”

I think I had asked you to recommend a therapist, but I ended up speaking with a different therapist for a number of sessions. She had helped tremendously. Then I think at the same time is when I had first signed on to Facebook and got in touch with you in a similar timeframe. This was probably March of 2019. I think by already May and June, I was back to pretty much my normal self, davening three times a day and everything like that.

David Bashevkin:

I’m curious, looking back, and almost leave my personality out of it. But in terms of the substance of what we discussed, when you look back at it now, is it just a turning point emotionally? Were you just like, “I could bear this,” or were there specific things that we discussed that stuck with you in terms of the message and the content of what we discussed?

Anonymous:

Definitely both. It was certainly an emotional turning point. At that point, just talking with someone who could understand me, and didn’t say, “Oh, you’re a kofer. You’re a heretic.” Or, “You just have to find a way to deal with these questions,” or, “Those questions don’t bother me. These are all things that I’ve gotten. I mean, no one ever called me a heretic, but –

David Bashevkin:

I mumbled it. You didn’t hear me, very quietly.

Anonymous:

It was a concern of mine, because our community is so tight knit, and we’re supposed to have these core beliefs, and I couldn’t sign on that. It was certainly just… The experience was certainly a changing point, but absolutely, definitely the content that you had discussed with me, still, I think about it every week, if not every day, and to the point where I got in touch with someone through a different avenue who had this similar type of situation. His situation has been going on for years.

We were just talking. I gave him… I wrote him a whole long email, and I quoted you. I said, “This is what David Bashevkin told me. I think it makes a lot of sense to me, and it certainly helped me get to my current approach. This is…”

David Bashevkin:

Without the name attached, a, I would love to read that email if you’re comfortable. You don’t have to obviously share any names or who you sent it to. In a nutshell, I don’t want to bias what you heard and how you interpreted it. What would you say is the headline of the content that gave you capacity to move away from the baggage that your intellectual journey was giving your personal life?

Anonymous:

The headline was basically the realization that you cannot understand everything. I think the exact terminology that you used was, everyone has to carve out a certain boundary of things they cannot understand in this lifetime. Your job is to make your life meaningful while understanding that there’s an area that you’re just not going to understand. I think the example that you used was the hard problem with consciousness, where, as a human species, we don’t have the possibility to even approach that question of, why do we have sensation? Why –

David Bashevkin:

The sensation of consciousness.

Anonymous:

Exactly. Yet, we live meaningful lives. In Judaism, there are just certain things that we have to carve out. Once you are comfortable with that reality, that this is something that everyone does, even the most rational philosopher will carve out certain areas of their life, are you still left with a meaningful life? Are you still left with an approach which you value? The answer was a 100% yes, and it always was. I never had any issues. Part of the anxiety was, how can I give up on mitzvos? How can I give up on commandments? It just means so much to me. How can I not observe Shabbos? It was mind boggling to me, the prospect of that. Yes, that was really the key, and I was able to build upon that. There are details here and there, but that was really almost a light bulb went off in my mind.

David Bashevkin:

No, we spoke for… I remember we spoke for several hours. There are other highlights for me, but that was almost my… We each have almost different conversations that live in our memories and continue to shape us. This is a strange question. Looking back at your original journey, you were really trying to figure out the rational foundations of faith and everything that you’re building your life around. Right now, you would describe yourself as a fully observant Jew.

Anonymous:

Correct, 100%.

David Bashevkin:

Do you look at your journey as a cop out, or do you have a more substantive framing, which a little bit of what you mentioned, of, when somebody begins this type of exploration, it’s not… If you don’t go all the way down the rabbit hole, and try to figure out everything, and all the premises and priors that your life is built upon, if you’re not willing to do that, is there another way of framing it that you don’t look at yourself as like, “Aha, I’m this copout who just didn’t have the courage to break away from my faith community?” How do you frame it in your head?

Anonymous:

I don’t view it as a copout. It’s actually interesting because there’s trends in rationality, I think, beyond the Jewish world, which is what brought this to a head. It used to be, let’s say, the LessWrong community, which is, Eliezer Yudkowsky is a big member there. That was almost, again, hyper rationality. Just every single thing needs to be analyzed under a microscope. I think it’s transitioned to a different world, which is, let’s say, some listeners may be familiar with Slate Star Codex or Astral Codex Ten, which is Scott Siskind. Yes, there are definitely themes of rationality, but there are plenty of things that are not rational to the core.

David Bashevkin:

What do you mean by that? Give me an example.

Anonymous:

One of the books that he talks about that he reviewed is called The Secret of Our Success, and it talks about how ancient societies would pass down these traditions about, let’s say, how to prepare a certain food. They had all these, I guess, what you say taboos involved in preparing the food. They would need to soak it for three weeks, and they would need to sprinkle feathers over it, and all these certain things. As a modern observer, you’d say this is ridiculous. You just prepare it. Let’s use science to really figure out how to best prepare this food, the safest most efficient way. But what anthropologists realized was, “No, actually embedded into that taboo, into those customs, is a way for them to rid themselves of the toxin.” The only reason why that taboo continues from generation to generation is because you’re able to eat the food. This was before science and independent of science.

I used that to view life as a whole, is, we have all these different custom and commandments, and we’re not sure exactly to the core. We can’t prove it. It’s history. We cannot actually prove one way or the other. But what is the meaning? What is the substance that we can observe? We have the Talmud. We have a community. We have Shabbos. We have all… We have an endless list of meaning that has evolved throughout our religion. I view that as, that’s meaning, that’s rationality for me now. It’s not, I need to analyze and splice apart every single thing in my life, as opposed to what I am now is, “Let’s take a holistic approach, and let’s see where am I finding meaning in life?”

David Bashevkin:

Meaning if you take every independent grain, or every independent pixel of the picture, and you pull it apart from the more holistic perspective, you’re not going to find much there, and it’s going to be much easier to pick apart.

Anonymous:

Exactly. Exactly. A great microcosm within our religion is let’s say the Brisker approach or the Brisker analysis, which was a certain way to learn Talmud. It’s really heavily based on Maimonides and the fact that Maimonides was very, very exact. Now, Marc Shapiro wrote an excellent book, where he goes through Maimonides’ works, and shows how he was really working off of memory, and wasn’t completely accurate. Yes, if you take Marc Shapiro’s approach and you splice apart every single verse that Maimonides’ quotes, and you see that he has textual inaccuracies, you ruined the Brisker approach. But you’re missing out on what the Brisker approach is, which is a completely unique and a very innovative way to understand ideas and understand arguments and understand the derivation of law.

It’s this balance that we’re trying to find of, yes, there is a place for rationality, but we also have to balance that with not digging ourselves a hole into nihilism by just being hyper rational.

David Bashevkin:

Exactly. Not nihilism or this overly reductionist approach where the very fabric of your life, the relationships, the meaning, which don’t always have the same… can’t always be analyzed with the same methodology that you would use to prescribe a drug.

Anonymous:

Exactly.

David Bashevkin:

Famously, people use Bayesian reasoning to figure out what drugs will work or what class would work. I remember you had mentioned it when you came to me about the role of Bayesian reasoning in your religious journey. Our listeners could Google that, or maybe don’t if you’re not in the evidence, because people overuse that term.

Anonymous:

It’s very hot, very hot.

David Bashevkin:

It’s very hot right now.

Anonymous:

If you want to sound smart, just write Bayesian.

David Bashevkin:

Write Bayesian reasoning. You got to say it in the Zoolander voice, but Bayesian reasoning, so hot right now. People will definitely do that. Let me ask you this because after we spoke, you didn’t become Chassidish. You didn’t start a band and go on tour and become this… You are still in the same profession that you’re in. You’re still in the same community that you were in. You’re still doing a lot of these –

Anonymous:

Same exact thing.

David Bashevkin:

What did you stop doing? That’s my question number one. Question number two, which is almost my final question, how do you understand the moral of your own journey in terms of where you are now?

Anonymous:

I guess, what did I stop doing? Honestly, really not that much. I mean, there was a period of time where it was very difficult to pray, because I didn’t really know what I was doing. But since then, I’m pretty much identical. I guess maybe some of the super stringencies that were a product of that hyper-rational approach, I don’t take with as much stock as I used to, but that’s really pretty much it. I still have –

David Bashevkin:

Well, are you still on Facebook? Are you still –

Anonymous:

No. No. I’m off of all those groups. I’m off of Facebook. I got what I needed. At that point, it wasn’t really helpful or beneficial to me. In fact, there were certain individuals on those groups that I felt were harmful to where I was standing.

David Bashevkin:

They just weren’t allowing you to feel nourished from your own life?

Anonymous:

I was a type of individual that, he learns more than the average Jew, but he’s finding teshuvos or responsa where Halachic decisors are racist or use racist reasoning. They’re poring through these books, and finding –

David Bashevkin:

They’re finding these lines.

Anonymous:

Then posting to Facebook and like, “Wow, look how ridiculous – ”

David Bashevkin:

Just to be clear, because I do want our listeners… I did get a lot of pushback from having the… He was under the alias then Philo, then Aryeh. He was not one of those people.

Anonymous:

No. No. No. Not at all. No. No. Not at all. There’s only… Again, there are two or three people, but the way it works in all these groups, in any type of group is, there’s a very, very small minority of commenters, and they’re very loud. There’s a whole bunch of lurkers who just take it all in. For better or for worse, the people who were defending religion were not really commenting very frequently. The groups ended up becoming this, not cesspool, but this breeding ground of antagonism towards Judaism.

At that point, I was like…

David Bashevkin:

It just wasn’t nourishing anymore, the value –

Anonymous:

I was like, “Why am I reading this?” It just got me upset. I still have questions, but these are not things that I need to relive every time I sign on it. Honestly, I’m not a social media guy in general. I don’t really find much value there. It was the only group that I was part of, so I just deleted my account, and that was it.

David Bashevkin:

I cannot thank you enough for this because it’s not a… You’re not a celebrity. You’re a professional. You’re in a community with a family. But I think this is an unspoken story of what a lot of people are grappling with, to ground the very foundations, not just of their faith, but the foundations of their lives. When you begin to question the very methodology that brought you in your case to an extraordinarily successful life, thank God, married, children, you have your health, you have community, you have a very successful profession, to then allow this erosion, this feeling that what nourishes you is – Not allow yourself to be nourished in any way. It’s almost to look with suspicion and cynicism at the very things that provide your life meaning and value – was painful for me to watch, but you’re now – I mean, you always were, whatever direction you would’ve wanted, really, a journey that I find quite heroic. I always ask quick, rapid fire questions. Particularly in your case, what books or articles would you recommend that you found were helpful in restoring that stasis and sense of nourishment that you had being situated in the Jewish community?

Anonymous:

Honestly, I found the most meaning from a blog, which I mentioned before, called Slate Star Codex, which is now Astral Codex Ten. It’s ACX… I don’t know if it’s acx.com. I don’t know. I get the emails. I’m an email subscriber. Again, that’s really… It’s had an effect on my life in many, many aspects. There’s just so many posts on that blog that have an incredible impact on the way I think.

David Bashevkin:

You wouldn’t characterize that blog as being antagonistic to religious faith?

Anonymous:

No. No. In fact –

David Bashevkin:

He was raised, I believe…

Anonymous:

Not religious, but he is Jewish.

David Bashevkin:

Not religious.

Anonymous:

Actually, he wrote a fiction book that was based on Kabbalah or –

David Bashevkin:

I know about that.

Anonymous:

That’s an interesting phenomenon in and of itself is that there’s always going to be a tieback to a narrative and to a story. That blog, like I had mentioned, had helped me in particular issues with regaining a new approach, and also just in my life in general. He’s a fantastic writer, very original thinking. It doesn’t come with the usual baggage of politics and charged issues. I’m not a politics guy.

David Bashevkin:

Sure.

Anonymous:

If I were to recommend one thing for people to check out, it would be –

David Bashevkin:

Who are grappling specifically –

Anonymous:

In fact, I actually met someone, a frum person, who contacted me through, or I contacted him, and then we spoke, through Astral Codex Ten, through that website.

David Bashevkin:

Just to be clear, because when people here have never heard of it before, a, this is for a person who’s attracted to a certain type of rationalistic thinking.

Anonymous:

Correct.

David Bashevkin:

It’s not… Even though it sounds like it, it’s not Scientology or some cult.

Anonymous:

No. No.

David Bashevkin:

I just want to be clear, because our listeners are like, “What exactly do people discuss here?”

Anonymous:

Wait, what? You have to spell that for me. That’s one… Just on that topic I would say is that if there are people listening who feel like they’re in a similar boat, it’s definitely worthwhile to try to reach out to you.

David Bashevkin:

That’s very kind of you.

Anonymous:

You in general but also to other people because you’re not alone, and this is not a hot Jewish rights issue that’s going to get a lot of traction for people in our boat, but it can be an incredibly lonely and harrowing experience with a great deal of pain and a great deal of cognitive dissonance that causes that pain. So just talking to someone in the same boat is almost the most worthwhile, the most valuable thing.

David Bashevkin:

I mean, don’t bottle up and isolate yourself even more, because you’re scared of your own thoughts.

Anonymous:

Correct. Correct. Yes.

David Bashevkin:

Because then it has this negative feedback loop where you’re not going to be able to survive that.

Anonymous:

You don’t realize there’s a way out. You just keep building on yourself like I was until I finally made that step to really reach out beyond my immediate surroundings.

David Bashevkin:

My second question that I always ask, and I might have some questions that I do after this. My second question that I always ask, if somebody gave you a great deal of money and allowed you to take a sabbatical to go back to school and get a PhD – You already are a medical doctor, right? You’re DDS –

Anonymous:

Dentist. Fake doctor. A fake doctor for this podcast because there’s probably going to be a doctor in philosophy.

David Bashevkin:

You’re a specialist. Go back to school, get a PhD. What do you think the subject and topic of that PhD would be?

Anonymous:

There’s two areas that I would love to look into more. I just don’t have the time. The first is olfaction, smelling. We actually don’t really know how smell works. We have a general sense of how it works, but the exact odor molecules and why we have neuroreceptors that are unique to each of these thousands and thousands of smells, we just don’t have an idea.

David Bashevkin:

So funny, because I’ve actually thought of this question in Jewish theology, because memory and smell scientifically are very connected.

Anonymous:

Correct.

David Bashevkin:

Also in Jewish thought, there’s some special significance given to your ability to smell, and also connected to memory in a lot of more theological writings.

Anonymous:

Right.

David Bashevkin:

What a fascinating PhD. Did you have a second thought, if you had time after your olfactory PhD?

Anonymous:

No, it’s going to be… I think with COVID and people losing their smell, I’m optimistic that we’ll get some answers, so maybe I won’t have to do that one.

David Bashevkin:

Oh, that’s interesting.

Anonymous:

Maybe there’s a renewed interest in that. My second is, I’m finding Yiddish to be just an incredible area of exploration, because in a sense, Yiddish has been around for 1,000 years. In a certain sense, our religion is baked into the kishkas or the insides of Yiddish. After the Holocaust, a lot of that has just fallen apart. It only really exists right now as a spoken language in the Hasidic world. I’d love to study Yiddish more or find a way to bring back Yiddish. I don’t know if that’s going to be possible, but –

David Bashevkin:

My closest friends on Twitter are all Yiddishists.

Anonymous:

Oh, really?

David Bashevkin:

My final question that I always ask is, what time do you go to sleep at night, and what time do you wake up in the morning?

Anonymous:

I try to get six hours of sleep. I really should be getting seven or eight. It really is just a matter of when everything gets done and when the kids wake up. Before I was married, I looked into these alternate sleep cycles. Have you ever looked into that?

David Bashevkin:

Sure.

Anonymous:

Not for the Jewish life.

David Bashevkin:

No.

Anonymous:

But it is really… That’s another fascinating area is sleep.

David Bashevkin:

Why do we need it?

Anonymous:

Why do we need it? If we hacked our sleep, could we still live? That was really… I was really itching to try them, but I think I tried it for one day, and I totally fell apart and almost fell asleep on the highway. I was like, “Nope, that’s it for me.”

David Bashevkin:

Nope.

Anonymous:

I value my life too much for alternate sleep cycles.

David Bashevkin:

You go to sleep fairly, what time?

Anonymous:

I would say somewhere between 11 and 12, and wake up somewhere between 6 and 7, nothing crazy.

David Bashevkin:

I didn’t ask this during our interview, but it struck me now. I was wondering if you could reflect on it and talk about it. What would you tell educators, the people who run our schools? You’re one person. If we know anything about data and rationality, we don’t need to reorganize our Yeshiva day school system movement around the experience of one person. Though, something tells me, and we’ve spoken about it, and I know many others, it’s not just one person. I’m almost framing the question like this: on the one hand, you could have people who spend more time exploring the doctrines and the theology, and maybe provide more evidence, more proof, more this. I don’t know if you needed more of that. Maybe you needed less of that. Given your experience, looking back at your own educational system, would you have any advice for the institutions and educators that you interacted with that maybe could have better equipped you for the journey that you eventually confronted?

Anonymous:

It’s a fantastic question, and something that I’ve thought about is, “Would I send my kids to the same yeshivas or yeshiva that I went to?” I think the answer is yes. I think that early on when I was really intense… Some people say I’m still very intense, but I don’t know. I could prove to you I’m not intense. Early on I thought, “You know what, if everyone just realized what these arguments are, everyone would be a rationalist, and everyone… People would just give up going to Uman, and they would develop an enjoyment of this approach.”

As years went on, I realized, “No, everyone is just really, really different.” The same way that I’m not going to be able to really convince someone on the opposite end of the, I guess, emotional spectrum about the rational approach to Judaism, similarly, I’m not going to convince a lot of people who are in the rational approach that these are questions. These are legitimate questions. Either they don’t see the questions, or they don’t value the questions, or they don’t think they’re real questions.

Long story short, I don’t think that much should be changed. Maybe, maybe, maybe, I would say just alter the language a little bit instead of truth. Our religion is not about belief. It’s about truth. I just think that that’s not a really tenable approach. You never want to go full rational.

David Bashevkin:

Never go full.

Anonymous:

Never go full rational.

David Bashevkin:

Then you awaken the demons. But if you want to play that game, then be prepared to play it on its own terms.

Anonymous:

Exactly. Correct. Especially, that type of thing could have succeeded and did succeed in the ’70s, in the ’80s, in the ’90s, but you’re just not… If you start poking around Google, you’re going to find arguments that are very, very compelling against that approach. I think probably the tide is going to turn a little bit. That would be my expectation. I think it has. I’m not involved in the day to day of that Yeshiva anymore, but I still… My guess is that it’s probably tamed back a little bit, because I think that, again, it’s not really sustainable.

David Bashevkin:

This is not a diatribe or a critique on any one specific Yeshiva. I mean, for me, why I brought you is really your story and how I think your journey and what you grappled with is a window to understand what so many other people have periods in their lives that they grapple with. I find the journey and trajectory and how you ultimately both remained hold of a very rationalistic, well-grounded faith, but at the same time, realizing its limitations and when that methodology can and cannot be applied to find meaning and satisfaction in your life to be incredibly inspiring and rational.

Anonymous:

Well, thank you. That really means a lot to me. I don’t think I’m anything special. I think that if people benefit from this story, then that’s great. If you don’t benefit, that’s also great. Again, I think if it affects one person who realizes that they’re not alone, then everything we’ve done is worth it. I definitely have infinite amount of gratitude towards you and towards Aryeh for really helping me get to the point where I am, which is a very, very stable place. Thank God. Thank you for that.

David Bashevkin:

Did you have a joke you wanted to share?

Anonymous:

Exactly. Well, you can cut this out if you want. I told my wife, who I love very, very dearly. I said, “Listen…” This is last week after you had spoken to me. She said… I said, “I just wanted to let you know…” Before bed, I was like, “I just wanted to let you know that David Bashevkin invited me to be on his podcast.” She said, “Oh no, he must be really desperate.” That was perfect. She didn’t miss a beat. I was like, “This is great.”

David Bashevkin:

That’s awesome.

Anonymous:

When you look at your guests, you could see that, but hopefully there’s a little bit of a different angle that –

David Bashevkin:

There’s a reason why we had you, and not desperate.

Anonymous:

Desperation was only third on the list.

David Bashevkin:

Yeah. Desperation was not the operative, but it’s really appreciated, somebody to tell their story rather than just piecemeal deal with each issue. Please send your wife my warmest regards and appreciation, and be careful. She may be invited next. I cannot thank you enough for spending your time tonight. Thank you so much, my friend.

Anonymous:

Thank you.

David Bashevkin:

One of the reasons why I chose to keep this anonymous is that I didn’t want somebody to know this person’s identity and blame it on their specific Yeshiva, on their parents, on the internet, on a specific blog or whatever it was. I think that it is a normal part of the human condition and the human instinct to search and try to find that steady foundational grounds on which we build our lives. What can be so frustrating and so infuriating once you’ve made that commitment is the ultimate mystery on which all of our lives are ultimately founded upon.

That’s why I kept this anonymous, because I think this story is a story that a lot of us, many of us have struggled with, and it would be too easy to dismiss one person’s narrative and say, “Oh, that’s because he grew up in this community. That’s because he went to that Yeshiva.” I think there is something quite universal about our want, our yearning, our aspiration to develop that firm foundational footing on which we build our lives. I think one of the great frustrations of being a human being and being alive is part of the unknowability, the essential mystery of being alive.

Sometimes we try to bridge that gap through faith. Sometimes we try to bridge that gap through a rational approach of trying to figure out what it all means, how it all started. I am not here necessarily to judge what methodology you do, but I am here as a warning of sorts, a critique of sorts, that just because there is a specific approach that is very helpful in one discipline does not necessarily mean that is the only approach that should be applied to all disciplines at all facets of our lives.

The same way overly emotional people can sometimes lead to a paralysis in thinking, where the only way they know something to be true is if they feel it, I believe there is a similar phenomenon when it comes to rationality, where over reliance on rationality can lead to a paralysis in feeling, and be able to experience that satisfaction, joyousness, and wonder in our own lives. Part of what we are trying to do on 18Forty, in looking through the lens of Jewish ideas and Jewish experience, is learning how to integrate different disciplines and different methodologies to build holistic, meaningful, and satisfying lives.

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