Here is how some of our Pathfinders feel about marking this 'Day of Choice'
"Yom Ha’ Bechira offers me the opportunity to celebrate another milestone in a long-drawn, self-overcoming struggle with myself and with others.
On the day, I shall share with world-wide fellow sympathisers a tale about myself, forever striving to transcend some physical and mental obstacles –the inevitable, long-lasting legacy of an uncompromising orthodox upbringing.
I shall divulge a struggle with loved-ones and strangers who have stood on my way towards ever more authentic, liberated, and rational existence.
On Yom Ha’ Bechira I shall feel at one with all like-minded people, who aspire to break loose of any religious, traditional, and societal shackles.
Since Yom Ha’ Bechira truly commemorates another time-immemorial struggle of the human spirit to achieve free and unrestricted modes of action and self-expression, it deserves empathy and attention by all enlightened and just fellow humans.
- Miri, Pathfinder since 2017
"Leaving orthodoxy is a journey that comes with mixed reaction from others. There is intrigue and admiration from my peers in the secular world, yet a sense of contempt and judgement from the community I left behind.
‘Leavers’ are often deemed to be disengaged or complacent in their commitment to Judaism. The emphasis tends to be on what has been rejected rather than what has been embraced.
For me, being a secular Jew is far more fulfilling, inspiring and genuine than being Orthodox ever was. Yom Ha’ Bechira is an opportunity to affirm that leaving Orthodoxy is not always what it seems. That choosing a ‘different’ lifestyle does not equate to abandoning my heritage and can actually open doors to a positive attitude towards Jewish continuity."
- Freidy, Pathfinder since 2018
Yom Ha' Bechira symbolises for me a return to the authentic values of Judaism, as opposed to those practiced and promoted by fanatical religious extremists.
In Talmud, B'rachot, 33b, Rabbi Chanina expresses a fundamental tenet of Judaism. He says, "הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים" (hakol biy'dei shamayim chutz miyirat shamayim), Everything is in the hands of heaven except the fear of heaven, meaning that God decided to give humans absolute free choice in matters of religious observance to the extent of giving up control over our choices in that area.
The obvious corollary of that principle of Jewish faith is that God neither requires nor wants humans to be self-appointed enforcers of what they believe to be God's will. The role of parents, teachers, rabbis and similar influencers is to give spiritual and halachic advice and guidance, to be intellectually honest discussion partners or even sparring partners, if wanted, and to do so with kindness and benevolence, but not to act in a coercive role as God's police to force religious observance upon those that they have leverage over - whether by brainwashing them, dominating them, diminishing their self-confidence, deliberately limiting their choices and opportunities to that end, or by bringing to bear social or financial or other pressures to make them conform.
To put this in a recent Australian context, a beth din should not claim exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate a dispute between Jewish litigants through social pressure and threats of religious shunning against parties who do not voluntarily submit to the beth din's processes. Doing so not only puts them in contempt of the country's court system; it also runs counter to that fundamental principle of Judaism.
Those who would exert undue influence over the religious choices made by others are not only committing moral offences, they are also acting against God's plan according to the belief espoused by the above-mentioned principle of Jewish faith. They should show the same respect for people's God-given right to make their own choices in that area that, in the Jewish value system, even God is said to respect.
- Dovid, Pathfinder since 2016
Being free of the shackles of having my opinions provided for me felt amazing. My attitude to so many things, big and small, had been dictated for so long. I parroted responses as I’d been taught.
I could read widely, look at things from all sides, judge things for myself. Everything from how non-Jews are viewed, how animals are treated, what to eat, wear, think, say and do… finally I could make my own choices. I discovered good people all around me, people I’d never have been permitted to have anything to do with. I could study formally and informally, I could read without censorship and look at relationships between friends, between partners, children and cousins and siblings and see how the rest of the world did it. So many doors were opened. My mind was opened. It felt so good. Almost as good as feeling the wind in my hair when I took my shaitl off. There was so much to look forward to…
- Raizy, Pathfinder since 2020
Self determination of religious beliefs or philosophies of life should be a human right. Indoctrination of children into a fear of supernatural punishments is a form of child abuse.
It was liberating for me to realise that I could free myself from these dogmas and think
rationally and independently. Our culture has much to embrace and emphasises many positive human values without the need for supernatural nonsense.
Yom Ha’ Bechira is a special celebration of the global shared strength and commitment to self determination that people on these journeys share around the world. Sadly, this sense of connection is often necessary as a replacement for the tragic rejection by families and Orthodox communities.
- John, Pathfinder since 2020