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The Somewhat Litvshe Yid

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Who am I?

Just to give a bit of history of myself. Though in doing so, I'll probably pasul myself from having an opinion in these matters, since I'm an outsider.
I grew up in a Conservative family out west. I came to Israel at the age of 18 without ever having had contact with real frum Jews. Not to say we were completely distant. We were right wing Conservative. Went to shul on Shabbos and Yomim Noraim. My mother lit candles on Shabbos and my father said Kiddush. Going to ball games after Friday night dinner was always a big fight, though I generally won. Bacon was forbidden but pepperoni pizza wasn't. We ate matza on Pessach and my father would collect all the chamatz and sell it. Though we didn't use specifically Kosher L'Pesach products. Anyway...it was somewhat confusing. So when I came to Israel and started seeing what Conservative Judaism was and what Orthydox Judiasm was I figured, it's all or nothing and after finishing the year program stayed another year and went to Yeshiva. I chose a somewhat known Yeshiva that catered to ba'alei tshuvah and spent a year learning. I then returned to the US and spent a year at YU. I enjoyed YU very much, the learning was great and the secular courses where enough of a joke that I could spend time learning. I hated New York though, still do. I can't understand how Jews live there. I woke up one morning with bullet holes in my window. First chance I got, that is, the year ended, I came back to Israel. I spent the summer learning in a modern chareidi Yeshiva in Meah Shearim (yes, it sounds like a contradiction...but the Rabbonim and half the students were chareidi and the other half were more modern) and taking ulpan. I got engaged (a story in and of itself, I'll get to it one day) and then went back to college at Bar-Ilan University. At Bar-Ilan I learned in the Machon Gavoh L'Torah (the Bar-Ilan Kollel) and continued studying biology. Again, the learning was excellent, but Bar-Ilan, I felt, wasn't the place for a frum boy. Oh yeah, I got married at some point during the year. At the end of the year I left Bar-Ilan without a degree and went to go learn full time in Kollel. I chose a well known Dati Leumi yeshiva with connection to Mercaz HaRav and a reputation for being very politcally right wing. I went to the shiur of one Reb Chaim's great grandsons, who is a gaon adir. The learning was, as I had become accustomed, in the Brisker derech and I enjoyed it very much. After several years and three children the parental support began to run out and I went out to work.
We had also moved to a yishuv at the same time as I started Kollel. We chose one that had a reputation for being Torani (more frum then your average Dati settlement). We still live there 12 years later and are just as happy. The majority of the men are kove'ah itim. The minyanim are always full. The women dress in a tsniusdig manner and the kids as a whole are a good bunch. I'm not saying there are no problems, but in the overall scheme of things, they're few. The community as a whole has a love for Torah and several years ago built a yeshiva/kollel, most of which is supported by the community itself. Which is pretty impressive, considering you have 250 family supporting 20 kollelniks, 20 bachurim and 3 Rebbeim.
After going to work I started to drift away from being serious about frumkeit for awhile. Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy learning and talking Torah or having strong opinions about hashkafic subjects. Just in my day to day avodas Hashem, I wasn't all that into it. Thanks to the patience of my wife and her willingness to put up with me, I returned to the proper path and became close with the man who is now my Rav. I'll talk about him a bit in a later post.
So with a renewed neshamah I got back to learning and davening and trying to be a better yid all around.
I'll be the first to admit, I don't always succeed. I know I have a lot to work on, something I hope to address here on occasion.

Which leads me to my final point. Who am I to criticize the chareidi, more specifically the Litvshe chareidi, world? Well, I'm a Litvshe yid. A talmid of Litvshe yidden, who themselves learned Torah by G'dolei G'dolim of Lithuainia. I, in my limited capacity to grasp these things, see what a wonderful world Litvshe Torah was in Europe, in America and Israel in the 40s, 50s and 60s. What sort of men Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer, Rav Reuven Katz, Rav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook were. What sort of men Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, Rav Yaakov Kamanetsky and Rav Moshe Feinstein were. And I'm saddened that so few in the Litvshe/Yeshivshe world follow in their footsteps.

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