Although not all of us learned about this during our education at Bais Yaakov or yeshiva, we are not the first generations to think and write about the experience of going off the derech. Of course dissent has always been a part of Jewish tradition, from Hillel and Shammai down to Spinoza. But the OTDers of the nineteenth and early twentieth-century Europe are particularly interesting for us, because of their reflections on Jewish life and thought and because of the role they played in many of the events and movements which have shaped the world outside of the Jewish community as well. Those of us who have exchanged the pursuit of mitzvos, Moshiach and olam haba for the pursuit of justice for all people can look back to OTDers like anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman, Ludwig (Leyzer) Zamenhof who invented Esperanto in an attempt to eliminate the language barriers between people, or the Bundists and creators of modern Yiddish literature. I hope to devote future blog posts to them. Today’s post is about OTD literature, and specifically Hebrew literature, because it will show how easily we can connect to the past.
There is a widespread misconception (based on Sanhedrin 63) that the only reason why people leave observance is to indulge in their desires. In general, we can say that there are plenty emotional and rational reasons why people leave Orthodox Judaism.
Rational reasons include:
Some emotional reasons could include:
To learn more about some reasons why people leave observant Judaism, the book Off the Derech by Faranak Margolese can be helpful, although many ex-observant people disagree with some of the premises and conclusions in the book. Nevertheless, it is the only book so far that seems to address the issue of why people leave orthodoxy.