Thursday night cholent has officially been banned in Israel. To find out why, I sat down with one of the leading proponents of the ban, Rabbi Nachum Kleinerhoisen.
Me: Rabbi Kleinerhoisen, good to have you here. So glad you fly all this way.
RK: For Yeshivaforum? Anytime.
Me: Wow, thank you. So first of all, what’s the reason for this ban? Many people in America are grumbling about the seemingly draconian ban on something so harmless.
RK: Ok, let’s assume that it is ‘harmless’. And let’s assume that ‘draconian’ means ‘bad’. Still, there is the issue of the tremendous bittul torah taking place. Thousands of hours that could have been spent learning are spent eating and schmoozing.
Me: I hear where your coming from. But I think you aren’t really empathizing with your talmidim. They spend the whole week learning, day and night, with no social outlet at all.
RK: Yeshiva’s not a social outlet? You’re around guys your own age the whole day. What could be better?
Me: Ok, that’s true. What I mean is it’s suffocating. You’re 22 years old, and you have to follow a schedule like you’re still a kid in grade school. Where’s the room for developing yourself as an individual? Where’s the sense of control over your own life?
RK: Being an individual! Hahaha! That’s a good one. You think a guy’s in a yeshiva in Israel to be an individual? You have your whole life mapped out for you by your social circle. From the Yeshiva you attend, to the girl you marry, and you’re worried about taking away the mass cholent gathering on Thursday? Let me tell you something. There’s nothing individual about your entire trip to Israel. The tiyulim you go on because all your other geshmak friends went on. The ‘crazy’ people you eat at. The early cholent eating. All socially pre-programmed activities. Don’t bullshit me Itchemeyer.
Me: Never heard you curse before.
RK: Yeah, sorry. It was a long flight, and the stewardesses were extra-Israeli.
Me: Ok, that was pretty wild, but I think you’re clouding the issue here. 99% of what we do is preprogrammed, but it depends who’s doing it. Here, the bochurim are obviously making something for themselves that’s totally innocuous and kosher, and the Yeshiva is trying to force itself into every crevice of the boys’ lives. The boys obviously need an outlet, right? That’s why cholent’s so popular. I think it’s short-sighted to shut this down when there are so many other bad vices just waiting to be picked up.
RK: And I think that you’re shortsighted. The point of yeshiva is to learn. Our job, as Mashgichim and Rebbeim is to facilitate this. That’s why we foster an intense atmosphere of concentrated learning. Nothing should be more important to the boy than learning as much as they can to be the best learner in the Yeshiva- if not the whole Yerushalaim. If the bochurim are feeling free to create these grass-roots ‘self-expression’ programs as you’d like to call it, then obviously we aren’t doing our job. So maybe we need to cut down on their free time. Maybe we need to ban the cholent after 10:30. It’s all part of a bigger picture here.
Me: You know, I hear that some bochurim are taking a long time in the John to break free of Yeshiva control. Some are probably reading in there too. And some guys are buying 100’s cigarettes so they can have longer smoking breaks. Maybe you should crack down on that too.
RK: Good idea. Maybe we should.
Me: So just so we’re clear: You don’t see anything wrong with this social engineering situation at all, right? No possible bad outcomes for anybody involved?
RK: Hey, life has a bad outcome for everybody involved. And thanks for the loaded question.
Me: Sorry. So you’re headed back now?
RK: Heeeells no. That place is crazy. I’m gonna go get something at Subsational and catch a movie. Maybe Bad Teacher. Yeah, I’m not going back till after my nephew’s wedding. And he’s in high school! No, Just kidding. Good to schmooze Itchie, see you around.
Me: Yeah, uh, you too.