Friday, December 02, 2011

Yeshiva Boy Journaling

By @azigra

I don't know if there is a legitimate source for a quote I once heard attributed to the Chasam Sofer on the topic of gossip. In this quote he is alleged to have said that gossip is a positive thing since it keeps people busy and away from doing and reading things they shouldn't. True or not, this would be in reference to a certain type of conversation that most men who have been to more right wing yeshivas would undoubtedly be familiar with. No one would claim that discussing who's sleeping with whom is positive, rather it's the gossip of the Yeshiva Boy that he may have supported.

It is conversation about different yeshivos, and the people who study there; what is wrong with them and how they are different from the better yeshiva the conversationalists attend. How odd or special such-and-such Rosh Yeshiva is, whether he wears a tie on a regular basis or not. Are the ties he wears mostly black or does he wear ones with lines or dots or some kind of pattern. Whether he put on a long coat on his own or he was told by his father-in-law that he must. Which yeshiva he was supposed to be the head of, but due to whatever factors that got in the way, he left and wound up where he is today. Was there a fight, and who supported him, which "big name" people in Israel involved themselves. How many people usually show up to his shuir and how funny it is that half the room walks out when he reached the shtender. Is it better to wear a the brim of your hat up or down during mincha, or walking in the street, based on what certain people do. Which Rosh Yeshiva may have had a relationship with rebbes and which couldn't stomach them. "Wait, did he ever meet the Lubavticher Rebbe or not? I mean most people would have avoided him, so like would you say he was a closet Lubavitcher?","No, I wouldn't say he was a Lubavitcher, but he was eccentric, I mean there's a reason he wasn't invited to join the Moetzes." "Sure, JB was a talmud chochum, but he didn't dress like you would expect a Rosh Yeshiva to dress, and he studied apikorsis in Berlin and went to the Opera","what? he didn't care about kol isha", "I guess not, that's probably why he ended up at YU, I mean Chaim Berlin would never have hired a guy who went to college in Berlin. Grandson of Reb Chaim or not." They didnt let him speak at the Aguda convention years ago, he said some things they didnt like, but he's been back in recent years." Which rabbi was fired from which shul and who they are thinking of replacing him with. "Is he trying to open his own shul now? Who is going to follow him?", "the wealthier people in the shul liked him so some of them may go........."

When two yeshiva students meet each other, generally their conversation goes something like this: So where are you now? are you happy there? what are you learning? how many guys are there? It's been nice seeing you.

When you are in a beis medrash yeshiva you generally don't read newspapers, if your're in a dormitory in Israel or wherever, you don't read blogs since there are no computers. You don't read poetry, philosophy, history, or many novels. While their non-yeshiva peers are involved in all sorts of self discovery, finding author whose words appeal to them, or listing to music that speaks to them, or finding ways of self expression through art, writing, music, dance, relationships, the Yeshiva Boy is generally indoors doing only one thing. That is why many if not most 20 year old college kids can intelligently discuss a myriad of issues, while the 20 year old yeshiva boy is discussing which Roshei Yeshiva say divrei torah at their shabbos tables and which don't.

I don't want to go as far as to say it's malicious but this is how I see things: as a teenager's reliance on his parents lessen and he is supposed to begin to learn what things he enjoys and what his interests are, this progress is knocked down by his rabbis who stress the supremacy of Torah study above all else, effectively preventing the discovery of new ideas that he would be attracted to. What is called "chizuk" or "a musser shmuz" encourages him to continue in this single minded path, eschewing all other pursuits that would hinder his efforts in becoming the next great Gadol. (That's actually not a bad idea for a reality game show, "The Next Great American Gadol") He moves onto bigger yeshivos where a herd mentality exists and affects the way he dresses, speaks, acts, and dictates what he should be interested in. All this accomplishes is holding off the self discovery that all people are meant to go through. That's why he marries young to a like minded girl, and that's all it takes. He is now cemented into this sort of life before he has a chance to learn whether he really wants it. The college student may spend a year talking various classes to find what field interests him, but not the Yeshiva boy.

I once came across a quote somewhere that "the purpose of life is to live it." I would of course add that part of the purpose is Torah and mitzvot, and even for some people it is the whole purpose, but not for everyone. Your rabbis lied to you, there is a whole world out there, it's not all pornography and emptiness. There is life.

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