Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Brain Drain

Looking back at the many friends I have who've spent a year or so learning in Yeshiva, one of the phenomenon I've noted is that many of the most "successful" ones seem to have done so at the expense of their personalities. I prided myself on retaining my uniqueness even while gaining a new appreciation and committment to a full-dose religious lifestyle. But as with all attempts to write off everyone more extreme than yourself (because of course, I'm "centrist"), I think I overlooked my own flaws in a misguided attempt to pat myself on the back.

Some of the funniest guys in high school, with the craziest stories, are the ones sitting in Kollel today. We joke when we get together that since they've done Teshuva, we can't bring up their stories, no matter how much harder it may make the rest of us crack up. As proud as I was of their turnaround and choice to lead a positive lifestyle, I always felt like they had compromised in their attempt to retain their fervor, by letting their unique personality fall by the wayside as they progressed. Wasn't it a shame that they could no longer entertain the neighborhood youth, and with the entertainment went their influence? A shame that they couldn't find the happy medium, like myself, and had to run off the extreme.

But a conversation I had this week made me realize how much I've changed too, albeit in more subtler ways. The rediculous, often inappropriate side of me? Still intact and thriving. But in molding a lifestyle that fits with my evolved outlook on life, I've denied myself a lot of normal, fun things. I've framed a very rigid model for my life, my goals, and how I spend my time. I'm certain people look at me as an ascetic hermit, who gave up many normal lifecycle activities after spending time in a foreign fanatical seminary, not too unlike my hatted friends.

Do a couple of dirty jokes make me better than the tamed Beis Medrash guy? Should I re-evaluate my extra-Halachic lifestyle restrictions? Or is it time for me to give up my outrageous one-liners? Or perhaps I'm perfect just the way I am...

Such a loss, to lose personality. Big mistake not to laugh, make others happy, if you have the gift.

You're supposed to use gifts I thought.
Perhaps,you are right on target & discovering that these so called "changes" made in Yeshivos in Eretz Yisroel are not neccessarily perfect & in fact,may be obliterating the personalities of some very fine people.One can live as a Jew without sacrificing their personality to others whims & control.Judiasm & what's practiced today may be different entities & what was conveyed in that year or 2 in Israel may not really be so Jewish after all.You're heading in the right direction & i hope you won't,based on reading your blog & sensing your innate goodness,stop questioning since it may reveal more truth & less of what"others" force down the throats,often unknowingly to the teens heading off to be "changed"in Israel.
Doing Teshuva doesn't require all ties to the past be broken & what's wrong with "cracking up" & having a nice time?
You know there's no right or wrong answer. It's obvious that a dirty joke (no matter how "normal" it makes you) is not in line with the rest of the torah lifestyle - not tzniusdik, refined, etc. We all draw lines along the way, trying to keep a balance between secular and religious, trying to maintain some fun and personality while adhering to the rules. You know that the guy who becomes Rosh Yeshiva is very likely not going to be able to use Seinfeld references. It's not his focus.
It's a constant day by day, hour by hour choice of how to live your life. I happen to like your personality, for what it's worth....but this is a question for all of us. How far do you go? What's the limit?
The Rosh Yeshiva who can't make reference to Seinfeld or anything else in today's world may be skipping a major step in his work.Rav Moshe Feinstein read the N.Y. Times daily,& i was honored,when younger,to have a chance to talk baseball with him.Rav Dovid Lifshitz described himself often as a community Rav,which,he indeed was in Suvalk.These two rabbis would have understood why Seinfeld,metaphorically speaking,does belong in the rabbinic focus.
The question,with all respect,is NOT how far you go,but which Judiasm do you follow? The one which follows the eastern european shetle model or others based on thousands of years of tradition without restricting all of Jewish history to one time,period, & place.Thus,black hats,black suits,white shirts,etc---the yeshiva bochur look is the shetle choice---Did the Rambam,Moshe Rabenu,& Jews through history dress this way?? Of course not!!! So,HOW FAR DO YOU GO or WHAT's THE LIMIT?? Based on Jewish history we have many options & choices before us & yet we keep pursuing an isolated limiting style....& the rabeim who don't know "Seinfeld" may not be focused on the REAL people he serves(& yes,he serves,not we serve him--Catholics have a pope---Jews have choice & the freedom to think independently.
Anonymous - just for the record, I don't disagree with you. I was brought up with the "frum" yet worldly model, and that's what I'm comfortable with. I just don't know practically speaking how easy it is to combine the two, and again, people need to decide for themselves where to draw their lines.
Mata--you are sooo right,but in the end we each make choices knowing values that are Jewish will potentially conflict with non Jewish value systems & i have no problem with the differences.The heart of the matter,to me,is what one defines as Jewish & is what we practice here in the good ole USA or even in Israel,truly Judiasm or has it been distorted by powerful communal,educational & rabbinic agendas.Those who have distorted & then brainwashed our young people allow little wiggle room all too often beyond their personal needs & sense of arrogance.
I don't think it's about brainwashing. Josh, it's a shame that your friends lost their personalities, but on the other hand, you are far from perfect yourself- don't kid yourself on it. Not in a bad way, but while you make your dirty one-liners, they are doing something more valuable with their time. Granted, if they would find a cleaner way of making that contact with the neighborhood kids, so that they can bring them closer, it would be good. But on the other hand....v'dai l'maivin. Also, I don't think it's the yeshiva/seminary that does it...I think it's a change in perspective. Personally, I got fuchnyaked in Israel....but my seminary was far from what did it. It was just me.
Chanie--read what you wrote--a series of contradictions---This blogger(JOSH) is way advanced beyond simplistic thinking & who says anyone who brings joy to others is not using their time as well as a person who is sitting in the Beis Medrash all day...that is not the way Judaism can be....& i do understand your code talking...nice try!!! Good day!!
What an interesting conversation you must have had...

what happens if you don't meet all the goals you've outlined for yourself? Can you look back at life and say you enjoyed your journey and made the best of it for you and your environment?
ANON --how will he know which one of us we are??LOL
Number one: If you're anyone with any integrity, leave at least a pseudo. Don't go under 'anon'.

Number two: Point out to me (if you ever check this again after leaving poisonous comments) exactly how I contradicted myself. I don't think I did. It could be that you misunderstood it. It's very possible. But it's also quite unusual for me to have contradicted myself.

Number three: If you're going to be nasty and cynical, do it somewhere else. Don't ruin a perfectly decent discussion of ideas and opinions with nasty, hateful, words.

Number four: Either accept the above three, or bug off.

Thank you very much, and have a nice day.
Chanie--calm down--we all contradict ourselves--even you!!! but,i'm sorry i hurt you--wasn't my intent.....i won't respond to each detail of your vitriolic response.....
nor,with all respect will i abide all your rules....again,that's my response to your personalizing this & no intent to be hurtful...
It is a pelah how the hasgacha pratis is present even in this new online world for us Yidden.

I am though a bit saddened to see how gaaveh and ka-as can jump out on a page where the discussion is about simcha.

My Rosh Yeshiva,Rav Yitzhak Hutner TZ'l always told us that the word 'frum' was the dirtiest word in the velt. Frummah Yidden should never call themselves or leave a scent of frumkeit in their speech. Derech Eretz and Cavod HaTorah must be our norm.

As I stumbled on here and read what Josh was writing I said to myself,
'Baruch Hashem, in a very limited world even here yidden are thinking and acting both as yidden and as tzelem Elokim.

I do not want to belittle any of the conversation here. In fact i want to give all of you a yasher koach to having a conversation that truly is about all of klal yisroel and not this new thing called the yeshivishe velt.

We must encourage ourselves and strengthen ourselves to not close down our minds. The Gedolai Dor of the last generation always encouraged their bochrim to speak their mind in the lashon they are most comfortable with. As the Rosh Yeshiva said, 'Every yid must come to their friends and to the Rosh Yeshiva not mimic--ing others lashon but to speak from their own heart with kindness and clarity."

Derech Eretz has been thrown away in this generation and again excuse me for quoting my Rebbe so much, but the Rosh Yeshiva told me at the end of his life, ' we have been so busy building the koselai of the Beis Medrash after the Shoah that we have sadly lost the building of the heart.
He used to end his letters often with the refrain,
'if only my words to you could penetrate the inkwell of my heart.'

I do not want to single out a halegiah eshes chayil of Klal Yisroel but it is important to comport oneself in all matters without resorting to the whispers of the yetzer hara that crouches at our ears and urges us to not speak with clarity and compassion..

I commend all of you for your discussion and yes your little fight here. The fight should continue. One must penetrate to the roots even of Kaas and lift those thoughts up as the Holy Besht taught us not so long ago.

No yid should ever be consciously left behind. Remember Moshiach comes for all the yidden who were told they were not right in their life.

Who is close to Gd and who is far away? Can any of say where we are in the eyes of the Abiesther?

There is what is called 'thought reform ' going on in the velt today. We have fallen in love with the lavush and not the pninimus shel dvar.

Even here in a cyber land derech eretz must be the norm.

I hope to return here every so often and encourage all of you to step in and respond to this reb josh has brought forth is in now way to be construed as bitul zman.

it is in fact in the bechina of limud Torah. As a talmid of mine said to me the other day, 'one door closes and another opens but remember there is hell in the hall way.

To make others chuckle and smile and even gufaah is gutten zach

BM Rav--thank you so much for your holy was very helpful as i was upset all day thinking that someone here can get so angry & hostile during a discussion....& i never meant to hurt her,but such explosive rage....from a Yid....part of our problem as a community...thank you again--i'm not certain we'd see eye to eye on every issue but your neshoma is pure....
Free yet, or are things going well?
Everything ok,Josh? Haven't seen you around these parts in awhile.
Oy yoy didn't hurt me, I was just annoyed at someone who decided to a)criticize and not specify what the issue was b)do so under 'anon'. I am quite sick of responding to 'anon' least leave a pseudo. If you had specified the issue, I would have clarified it.

'Nice try...'- you sound like an annoying little kid (which you may be, but how should i know that?

BM Rav...I'm not sure what you were trying to bring out...
I just discovered your blog through a link that 'm00kie sent me. It's interesting, and so is that question you are posing: can you be religious and still have an individual flair - a wild-ish sense of humor?
It's a thoughtful question, because "frummy" Judaism reveres tzniyut, which also includes a modest, middle-of-the-road hashkafah.
Perhaps that not-so-humorous demeanor is on a higher level of kedusha. I know for years I tried to be like that. It's only recently that I realized that I can't. And also that I can't (or maybe shouldn't) stifle my sense of humor, because it is part of who I am and how I look at the world. I am (apparently!) not at that high level; but whatever level I'm at, I can still be myself; and the best myself that I can be.
And so should you.
everything okay? haven't read anything new in awhile...
where are you? are u ok?
are you ever coming back?
thank g-d looks like he's finally done
Please come home.
please come home!!
Why did you stop writing? Your blogs are great. Please come back.
Please come back---PLEASE!!
come home,please.
wow you are really narcissistic
Hey there was no email for ya on the site. Just would like to know if you could do a blogroll link exchange with me.
Where are you?
please....return my sweet darling.
Chanie my mamale,where is our boy?
Oy vey--what scared you off?
NU,vus hertzech,Chanele?

ho hum
Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!
lol. its very complecated question) i finished ortodox school though my family is secular. every Yom Kipur i promise to myself to start keeping at least kashrut of food...but i always remember that people are like hadas, arava, lulav and etrog.
arava-people who does not keep kashrut and so on and they are also bad people (arava has no taste and smell)

etrog has both small and taste-so its a combination of good person and religious
but i think its important to be more like lulav- to be good person and maybe not to fellow some Torah instractions...
I think the feelings you describe are true for all of us at a certain stage of our life. From my point ofview, you should accept yourself as you are since you are developing and this is simply new you. You have some habits or features but basically you are the same.
It does appear that your unmoderated blog has been overrun by spam comments. My comment however, is directed at you. If you are happy with yourself, what exactly does anyone else's opinion matter?
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