Thanks to For Real for sending me this instant classic. Hopefully, it wont be taken down too soon:
I don’t know how it came up, but I recently had a discussion with my brother about the book “Torat Hamelech” written by a settler Rabbi in Israel. In case you don’t know what TH is, it’s a book that made headlines a while back for saying that it was Halachically ok to kill non-Jewish children in wartime, or something along those lines. (Don’t look at me like that. I never claimed to do extensive research, like reading.)
Anyhow, obviously, since it was written by a settler Rabbi, it wasn’t too difficult for everyone with brain-like cells to realize that “non-Jews” was super-secret code for “Arabs”. Of course, some overly sensitive folks in the Israeli and international press didn’t like having religious law advocating killing babies, and they made a big stink about it. Personally though, I’m not surprised so much at this kind of book coming out of the Shtuchim, as much as the son of former Israeli Chief Rabbi Avadiah Yosef endorsing the book on it’s Halachic merits. Seriously.
Is this guy totally oblivious to anything going on outside of the Beis Medrash? His father is the head of a political party, for crying out loud!
“Rabbi Yosef, here’s a new halachah sefer, what do you think?”
‘Hmm. Tight logic. I especially like the originality of the subject matter. Funny, you don’t find many people writing about killing babies so much anymore. We should look into that. All the same, A+ work, old chap.’
He obviously didn’t take a look at the guy who wrote the book. Go google him. Classic settler getup. Scraggly beard, glasses, skinny, tzitzis, sandals, srugi, humongous assault rifle. Ok, so some of those things have been added by my imagination to better fit existing stereotypes in my head, but still, you could be the most spaced-out academic Rabbi and something would have to click.
Listen, I’m not judging. The guys who live out there on the border have to be crazy. They’re surrounded by terrorist breeding Palestinians, with no one to protect them but God and humongous cool guns. What kind of books do you expect to come out of there? Harry Potter and the Unicorns of Gaza?
These guys are 130 lbs of sinewy idealism and can kick your ass before your bladder fully empties itself down your leg. I’m glad we have them defending Israel. If they had to pick people like me… well, thank your lucky stars they don’t.
“Ok. Itchemeyer, go man the fence.”
‘Um, that’s not a great idea. See, uh, I’m more of an idea man.’
‘Yeah, do you have a management position? I happen to be fat, and American. I do management really well. Hey- you know who’d be good manning the fence? I’d bet Crazy Yossi would. Look at him. I’ve never seen him without a gun and a cigarette. I’m pretty sure he even smokes when he’s asleep.’
“Hmm, good idea. You know, those are good managerial skills. Why don’t you take the big cabin near the women’s showers and manage the battle from there?”
And that’s a good time to end the thoughts-to-fingers transmission.
My friend in Edison yeshiva told me a story about his Rosh Yeshiva, R’ Yosef Eichenstein, which I really liked. At a yeshiva dinner, R’ Eichenstein got up and said that parents complain to him sometimes that when their boys go home for bein hazmanim (sukkos, pesach, summer vacation, off shabbasim, etc.) they don’t learn. They sleep late, schmooze, stay up late. Why aren’t their sons more serious about learning if they go to yeshiva?
R’ Eichenstein answered from the dais like this: You ever watch a duck swimming in a lake? On the surface the duck looks calm, floating there without a care in the world. But when you look underneath the water, “he’s paddling like hell”. (Exact quote.)
He was saying: Parents simply don’t understand what it’s like to be a teenager in yeshiva. Do you know how much effort it takes to come off as a passable human being in a high-pressured 7AM-11PM+ environment that you’re forced to go to? No, you have no idea. So you make demands on another person on top of everything they’re doing to stay afloat.
It’s the same story with so many things in life. People in totally different positions judging others based on their own reality. The pretty, skinny girl judging the fat girl for acting slutty to get attention. The young Modern Orthodox doctor berating kollel families to just get a job and stay off food stamps. The straight person telling the gay guy to control his yetzer hora. You just sit on your high horse and turn your nose up at the dirty peasants.
I went to a shul in a certain frum town and heard the Rabbi (a 60 year old married posek) tell everybody that it’s assur to wear your skirt any higher than 4 inches below the knee and he’s shocked to see bais yaakov girls wearing it just below the knee. In the same speech, he told everybody that the internet is assur except at work and filtered, and that everybody should learn in shul during all their free time. “Why am I the only one here sometimes- besides for the parents who have to learn with their kids?” Then he spent the next 5 minutes speaking about humility and how everyone has ga’avah and has to learn mesilas yesharim many times to even understand that they have it.
I have to admit, he was self-deprecating by the mussar part, which took some of the edge off, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. The problem with him, and really, with most Rabbonim is that they are sheltered from the real world. In the real world, you need to use the internet. If you’re a girl, you need to compete with not only movies and internet porn, but regular women on the street who can dress in much more revealing clothing, and still be attractive (or it it attracting? I forget the exact hairsplitting chakira just now). And why is the Rabbi the only one there on Sundays and Shabbos afternoons? Maybe because it’s his job. Maybe because you’ve been rewarded your entire life for being such a talmid chochom, and you’ve never had to get off the gravy train and pull the wagon with everyone else. That part really ticked me off.
Before you look down at everyone else for “running around” doing other things, imagine what it might be like to not be the fair-haired champion of the Party-approved game and have to run around to find an arena you’re actually good at before you can feel halfway decent (yet still guilty for not learning) about yourself. You want to learn a real mussar lesson about life? Maybe the guy in the back who spends all his time selling mortgages yet still can’t make ends meet, who always comes to shul late with his tie half on, who still brings his son to shul to learn chumash on Shabbos afternoon, and is embarrassed by you and other people because it’s the only topic he’s good at and enjoys learning; maybe he can teach you what humility feels like.
I can barely tolerate shul on the best of days, but Elul has got to be the worst. Every Rabbi (ok, 99%) tries to put you in the holiday spirit by telling you what’s wrong with yourself/the Jewish people/the world/etc.
Enough already! I don’t want to hear your guilt trips. Give me some encouragement, or, if you weren’t trained to do that, just a nice vort. I’ve got enough shame and guilt in my life already, I’m not interested in you finding more problems.
Look at this Rabbi, giving apples and honey out to strangers on the beach. That’s what I want. Set out a plate of apples in honey to put me in the mood for the High Holy days. That’s what they did in kindergarden, and I loved Rosh Hashanah then. Today, I dread it.
Yeah, yeah, I know. I was a kid then, and they made it nice for us, but who cares? Isn’t that what the Rabbi on the beach is doing? Making it nice for people? How come you only get that treatment when you’re starting out? Why are there apples and honey for “Outreach on the beach”, but when you get inside the “real thing”, all you get is preaching and crying?
It seems like Kiruv people have to work up a whole new religion. They use the same building blocks, but they leave off or downplay the nasty parts and put the focus on the positive things. Well, why can’t we do the same thing? Why can’t Rosh Hashanah be about apples and honey and getting in touch with our feelings and all that stuff? I think if we’d be able to do that, we’d actually have a Sweet New Year, instead of just saying it to each other and then trying to make ourselves scared enough to cry. I’m sick and I’m tired, and I just simply cannot take any more of this dark, depressing, fire and brimstone crap.
I’m starting the Rosh hashanah revolution. I’m gonna call it Rosh Hashanah: Days of Awesome. Tell your Rabbi, tell your friends. Are you with me?
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.