Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Ridiculous Measuring Stick.

I know it's long past the Purim season, but I was ever so bored Pesach afternoon, I was actually going through the large pile of Mishpacha magazines. In the Purim edition I came across some rubbish article entitled 'Purim Rav Customs' (or something in that area). How much I tried, I couldn't ignore these burning words piercing through my young mind. Here goes:

"In Ponevezh, there's no official Purim event in the yeshiva at all. There's no Purim Rav, and no band on Purim night. This is the only yeshiva where there's no band in the beis medresh on any day of the year: not Purim, not hakofos sheniyus, not even for a simchas beis hashoevah. The only day when singing and dancing is allowed in the beis medrash of ponevezh is on Simchas Torah. The abstention from music is so sweeping in Ponevezh that even the shabbos zmiros are prohibited, aside from one ancient tune.

The reason stems from a famous discourse of the Mashgiach Harav ---- ztz'l: "We must ensure that the standard of the bachurim in yeshiva should be set only by their learning capabilities. Therefore, we cannot give expression to boys who know how to sing. The only measuring stick for quality in Ponevezh is a boy's ability to learn."

This, dear boys and girls, is yet another reason why so many yeshivaboys run out of those Yeshiva walls. Under the black Borsalino, often hides a depressed neshomele. Depressed, down and lonely neshomele. he is down because he isn't acknowledged by many of the other boys. Besides his few mates he stands alone. All alone. Not everyone has a fast brain, yet only those gifted are to be recognised?! Well, if that's what the Rabbi thinks, fine with me. But please don't come and blame those who don't follow the yellow brick road.

This, dear boys and girls, is the reason why so many teens who work, are labeled second class. When they reach marriageable age, their problems start. Life becomes tough... Why? What have they miss done? Won't they be able to love and take care of your daughter as good, if not better, as the sit-and-learn yeshiva boy? Has middos then got the exact value of naught pence? Learning, learning and some more learning. No middos, no kindness, nothing. What is a boy who knows shas by heart, if that heart is one of stone? Using ponevezh's 'only measuring stick' a delivery boy with a heart of gold is gornisht mit nisht. But, that's just what I think and, after all, I'm nothing but a little Yingele.

Oh well, cest la vie, and I can't change it. Hershey Park, Tiferes Shloime or wherever you all are, hope you are all enjoying every second.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Positive Dot.

The dark pavements are loaded with overstuffed garbage bags, the old sheimos has been brought to shul, and the paper-covered cupboards have been stocked up with a lifetime supply of kosher-for-passover nosh, crisps and chocolate. You can't find any trace of chamets in the entire house, and the matzas have just been picked up from the matzas bakery. As a yeshivaboy I remember one of the mashgichim getting up, walking humbly (?) towards the large wooden shtender and delivering this speach:

All breads, bagels, cookies and pretzels aren't to be eaten during these 7 holy days. Your double whopper will have to be enjoyed between two hard and crispy matzas. The difference between matza and chamets is very small. Actually, they only differ by a small dot. The Hebrew word matza is spelled mem, tsadik, ches. Chamets is spelled with a mem, tsadik and a hey. The dissimularity is just a small dot. One single dot changes the matzah into chamets, the good into evil. Bochurim! One can change from a true ben torah into the biggest ausvurf, resulting from a dot. You all should never be too sure of yourselves. thinking that you will be good forever. Work, work and keep on working, or you will stray and fall back. Fall behind, into the bottomless pit. Once you are so deep down, all hope is most definately lost. Boys, watch out and take care! One small sin can change you all from holy matzah into bad chomets, forever. Every step that you take, think it over first. One wrong step and you might be totally lost. You are all a bunch of fools, exchanging life with death, and that just for a plain dot. Remember the power of a single sin.

Now here is my version;

Kids, the difference between chamets, symbolising evil and matza, symbolising good, is just a small dot! Even though our young hands are dirty with sin, even though it seems that all hope is indeed lost, don't worry. Don't worry, all we need is a small dot. Even though we feel like a piece of chamets, please remember; the nice and good matzah is just a tiny dot away. We have strayed, wa have been there, we have done that. We where lost, lost in the dark woods of this mad, mad world. We where drunk, drunk with the pleasures of this sick, sick world. Remember! It isn't in high heavens, it isn't accros the long ocean. It is just a mere dot. Even though we sunk, still let us swim back up, a dot at a time. There is always hope, there is never a too late. Please, please don't forget, a dot can change us from chamets into matzah. The good person we all want to be, is afterall, only a dot a way.

Hope you have a nice and inspiring Yom Tov.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Family Portrait

In our family portrait we look pretty happy, We look pretty normal, let's go back to that. In our family portrait we look pretty happy, Let's play pretend, act like it goes naturally.

It's early Friday night, shul just finished and the seven of us are sitting by the nicely laid shabbos table. Fresh golden challos, tasty gefilte fish and the silver 12 branched candlestick are rested on the perfectly white tablecloth. Daddy dressed in full Shabbos garb, Mummy's white tichel covering her light blond hair. Together we all sing Sholom Aleichem, welcoming the Shabbos angels to our lovely home. Daddy makes kiddush, we wash our hands and let the meal start.

With the meal on it's way, so too start the... Yes, those feared for fights. Daddy screaming, and Mummy answering back. The f-word and the b-words flying freely around. Arguing about this, and arguing about that. This is wrong, that is wrong. Momma please stop cryin, I can’t stand the sound, Your pain is painful and its tearin' me down, I hear glasses breakin as I sit up in my bed I told dad you didn’t mean those nasty things you said. This is all your fault, and that is yours. Why is this like this, and why is that like that. Yelling, screaming and fighting. Fighting about the most silly and unimportant things. Ok, maybe not that small, but certainly not worth the fights, neither the tears... Daddy please stop yellin, I can’t stand the sound, Make mama stop cryin, cuz I need you around. My mama she loves you, no matter what she says its true, I know that she hurts you, but remember I love you, too.

Insulting in-laws, and angry at neighbours. Daddy yells, Mummy answers angrily back. The kids just add water to the burning oil, by sticking up for him and then for her. By answering chutspedik back, they just worsen the pain. Adding salt to the open wounds. Why can't they just sit still and be silent? Why can't they just be quiet and ignore? "Yes, you are right. I understand." are alien to their soft lips... On the other hand, what can one expect from 7 to 15 year olds? Young innocent kids; I shouldn't criticise. You fight about money, bout me and my brother, And this I come home to, this is my shelter. It ain’t easy growin up in World War III, Never knowin what love could be, you’ll see.

Between the fights, my dossier keeps coming up. They remind me little Yingele's dark history. His mistakes, his blunders and the trouble he had caused. How much he wasted, how bad he had become. The past seven years flash through their eyes. Maybe they are all right after all... Maybe I am the one to be blamed. Maybe it is all my fault, I ruined this family. Our house used to be the most loving, calm home. It changed. It changed when I started mucking up in high school... Since then, it has never been the same. Am I the one who made my father into that person? Am I the one who put my parents through all the suffering? Am I the one guilty for the pain, for the tears? I can't take the pain, I can't take the guilt... I ran away today, ran from the noise, ran away. Don’t wanna go back to that place, but don’t have no choice, no way.

Can we work it out? Can we be a family? I promise I’ll be better, Mommy I’ll do anything. Can we work it out? Can we be a family? I promise I’ll be better. I’ll be so much better, I’ll do everything right. I’ll be your little boy forever, I promise I'll change.

Friday, April 15, 2005

the Yingelech.

Ladies and Gentleman. Welcome to todays special lesson: Yeshivaboys Uncovered! Sitting around in the Beis Medrash, I noticed something really unique! I realised how many different species God created. All variations, look-a-likes and imitations of the, once original, Mr. Macho. My little and innocent brown eyes spotted a whole bunch of them; the Rebbelech, Frummer-Than-You fakers and bluffers, Frummy-Krummies, Shgotzim, Kofrim and Yingelech. Let's take an adventerous and exciting tour. Let us explore this nice, and sometimes not so nice, boychick-world out there.

Well, we'll start our ride with the group I call the Rebbelech. This group, besides being a tiny minority, is most probably a dying species. During my wonderful career posing as a yeshiva boy, and in the countless yeshivas I popped in - and eventually popped out- I have only met a couple of them. The Rebbelech are the nice, real chassidim. Emmesdike yidden; no bluff, no bullshit. They know what's right, they know what's wrong. They don't care what others think, what others do. They trust in God wholeheartedly, they serve Him with great warmth and love. A young, but real and honest Rebbelle.

Yuck! I just spotted a faker. These disgusting Frummer-Than-You fakers can usually be spotted by their unique way of praying. They shokel their brains out, look like they are having a boxing match with God. Moving their brain boxes here there and everywhere. They frown and squeeze their eyes tightly. Then they peep to see if their pain is worth the gain. Can anyone see me? Wonder how their praying-act would look like when they are alone in their bedrooms...

Frummy-Krummies. No sheitels, no mobile phone and no strawberries. Whatever. It's all in the name, so let me stop right here.

This nasty bunch are most definitely the majority. They are pure bullshit-yidden. As long as they chap sherayim and dip themselves everyday, (And if he happens to be Litvish, insert; As long as he kvetches a Rashbo...) they are all guaranteed a VIP pass straight to heaven. Anyone who doesn't dress, look or think as crooked as they do, is a complete and worthless ausvurf. They wont talk to you. Don't blame them, just be a little don lekaf zechus; they are embarrassed to stand next to such a billige menuval.

It's the 'God loves me, hates you' philosophy. This cult is a very Orthodox and strickt stream, descending directly from the Frummer-Than-You sect. These are people with no heart, no middos and no honesty. To keep it plain and simple: they are full of bull. In my Websters they are listed under the Shgotzim. Definition of a shaigetz: low, fake and cold. Well here you have them.

That small chevre that give up everything, family, garb and belief; The Kofrim. They are sometimes so smart, yet they still believe in big-bangs, multi-million-year evolution, we-descend-from-monkeys Darwin theory etc etc. Naah; they don't really believe in all that crap. This is how Shlomo explains it, and I couldn't of done it any better. 'I think Orthosceptics don't want to believe. They are not looking for proof of the existence of Hashem, they are looking for an easy way out. Their education is not missing proof, it might be missing the the love of Torah, Mitzvos and Avodas Hashem that should have been an essential part of their upbringing.' Exactly.

Last, and most definitely not least here we are. We believe. Allot. We try to be good, we try to grow and become a mentsh. We fail, we fall, but we try to get back up. We take two steps on that long long ladder, and we fall one back down. We say what others only think, and we do what others only want. We don't care what others might say, what others might do. The Shgotsim is what we are usually called. We live our lives. day by day, yet we know what's right, we know what's wrong. Even if we stumble and fall in Yiddishkeit, we still aim to be human. Little Yingele is part of this crowd. I call us, the Yingelech.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Perfectly Square or Perfectly Warped

New Square - I'm sure you all have heard of this lovely little shtetl 35 miles north of New York City. Actually, New Square is pretty famous. It's wellknown for these three things; the birthplace of countless drop-outs, the holiest village on this planet and home to the talking fish. Did I say holy? Now, I didn't exactly mean holy. Let me refrase it: the disconnected village.

The large welcome board one will spot as his four-wheeler enters this little ghetto boldly reads a ban on swimming costumes, short sleeves and short skirts aka untsniusdike clothing. The streets are separated, men and women. Mister needs to walk on the left side while Miss is pushing the stroller on the right. Most stores have separate hours; men shop on one time of the day, women on the other. Besides the few cleaners and a couple of exceptions, New Square is almost Goyim-free. So there aren't too many yobbo's terrorizing those calm streets at 1 am. A whole town with not a single not-so-kosher advertisement board. Not a single newspaper-kiosk. You want a Playboy? Enjoy your 55 minutes ride till the next little Esso-shop. Playboy? Sorry, I meant a New York Times, my mistake. You all get the picture? It's a really really kosher town, no Hugo Boss posters, no ADSL-connections and no New York Times... Holy with a capital H.

Yet, many of the New Square Yingelech and Meidelech are partying their heads off. The drop-out rate in Skvere Shtetl is unbelievable. Every family has atleast one kid, cousin or nephew who went off. Gone off to discover that forbidden world.

Some kids out there are deprived. A silly example; little kids who hardly get nosh and candy at home. Have you ever seen what happens when they do get hold of a Bissli-bag? They fress it up like they haven't eaten for a month. In the Golden Times our cousins used to come and play by us. I call it Golden - we still had a tv at home. All our schoolfriends and young family always where dying to come and play by us. We where the social hit in town! They came, didn't take off their coates, kept their mouth shut all the time and glued themselves to the screen. They didn't move an inch! Just imagine a sunny Sunday afternoon with a whole bunch of shy kiddies sitting on the hard floor like zombies, staring at that stupid screen... Sad. Very sad.

At the back of my harddisk I remember some story our melamed in cheider told us. King Solomon, if I'm not mistaken, wanted to kill some naughty soldier. The Smart and Mighty King didn't have anything to accuse him with, so he thought of a smart and sly plan. He ordered onto that particular soldier, that he may not pass the ancient walls of Jerusalem. He may not leave Jerusalem once, or else. "Or else what?" protested the courageous soldier. "Or else you will be hanged", came the strickt reply. For one to spend all of his life in Jerusalem is possible. It might not be easy at some moments, but it is nevertheless possible. For one to stay in Jerusalem with the knowledge that he may not leave, is simply impossible. You have guessed it; the soldier left Jerusalem and the King had him hanged.

Why be so tight and strict with kids? Hasn't history proven the opposite? Have we then not learned from our mistakes? Give kids some freedom, give them some space and let them breath. Keep up the pressure, and see what it does. Will your kids be able to stand up to it, or will they buckle and warp under the stress? (last paragraph © 2005 Frummer)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Home Sweet Home

Saturday night I’ll be comfortably (?) sitting in a Boeing 747, as Pesach will be spent back at our humble abode, partying with all the family. It's full house; Daddy, Mummy, brothers, sisters, cute nieces and sweet nephews. How much fun! Pesach at our quarters is really enjoyable. Hearing all the little kids sing the Ma Manishtana making parents all proud, everyone standing on chairs, fighting who will say which Dvar Torah. Those famous “Hey! I wanted to say that one, it’s not fair!” sentences rumbling all the way through the long dining room. The bickering about who shook the table, who caused the wine to spill. Oh, and let us not forget the exciting Afikoman-War. Last year my 4 year old sister hid the stolen Afikoman in the Chometzdike Microwave. Now she's five, i wonder what other creative ideas she has in stock for us.

I'm sure you all agree – being home is really nice. You arrive in the shtetl; finally back home. Brother or Sister come pick you up and drive back to your own house, back to your own room. You sleep in your warm and cozy bed, surrounded with those brick walls you where brought up by. Eating different food, having a different day plan. It’s really nice having a break from the regular routine. Three weeks of living a different life; seeing other people, strolling through other streets and having a complete different schedule. Being home – hanging out with my younger brothers, biking with sisters and visiting family and friends. Sounds rather nice and happy, doesn’t it?

Well... Here is the other, not so bright, side of the coin. On the family portrait we all seem so happy. How it’s all going now, I wonder… I haven’t been home for the past 5 month. Latest update was Mummy being under allot of stress lately. Hoping that there won’t be too many fights in the next month… Now, I can’t disappoint my parents, can I? So, needless to say, little Yingele will have to drag himself out of bed very early every single morning. Davening will have to take a full hour of shokeling and all. He will have to watch his tongue, eyes and ears. MTV, see you and hear you in a month. He will need to take care – nothing should accidentally slip out of his mouth. He needs to remember – don’t answer back, don’t scream and don’t fight.

A faker. That is who I always hated and that is what I always feared turning into. And here I am, being the biggest faker of all. A liar, that is what I am. Pretending to pray nicely and faking to learn… Performing the perfect tsadikel play... I can’t fake, I won’t fake. I’m going to need to stand in front of that prayer book a long sixty minutes and I’ll need to sit in front of a Gemara every single day. If I’m already doing it, at least let it be slightly real. I won’t just lazily move my lips and mumble the words. I will try and have a little concentration, concentrate on the meaning of some words. I’m saying it, so let me say it properly.

I just wish that at home all will indeed be fine. No fights, no screams and no tears. I will try my best and will behave my best. I’ll try to make my parents proud of their Yingele... My fingers are crossed, and hoping that home, indeed, is a sweet home…

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Go to Hell.

Ring ring. My brother-in-law gets a surprise phone call. It's our lovely uncle from Kiryat Sefer on the line. Yes, that holy little place called Kiryat Sefer; home to the Frummie-Krummies. Okay, to make a long story short, Mr. NiceGuy informs my brother that he should tie me to a leash. My uncle claims that some guy spotted little Yingele in Town, wearing red jogging and talking to a girl. Waaaah! Lil' rebel that I am. And stupid snitch that he is.

Uncle, since when has it become your business what color trousers I wear? I understand, you surely mean it for my good. Don't you, huh? All snitchers are wonderful, good-hearted people. They always mean well. Dear Uncle, moichel toives! I don't need, neither want your stupid favors! Who do you think you're bullshitting? Maybe you think that there's one tiny braincell in anyone's head thinking that you meant it only for my good? I don't think so... If you would indeed only have my goodness in mind, if the only reason you snitched on me was just because you love me. Then why didn't you come to me, my dear Uncle? I (usually) don't bite. Maybe, just maybe, you think that my Brother can help me more than I can help myself... After all, he is the one taking care of me.

Well, dear Uncle. have you then forgotten; A person is his best teacher. I am the first one who can help myself. My life depends solely and entirely on me. Yingele, and Yingele alone is responsible for his actions. His good actions... and his bad ones. So please, next time, if what you want is helping me, just come straight to the perpetrator of the crime. Me.

We are all nothing but creatures. Creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity. Our subconscious needs that feeling of importance that we so deeply crave for. John D. Rockefeller received his feeling of importance by donating millions to charities around the globe. One of the most notorious criminals at the heart of gangland Chicago, Al Capone, received his portion of importance through all his illegal activities. And you, dear Uncle, you feed your Pride by snitching. You get your feeling of importance by telling others what to do.

My uncle isn't a mean person. I have no doubt; he loves me. I do not know how much, but surely he doesn't hate me. He isn't trailing me and he isn't trying to get me into any trouble. My uncle is only human. But please, I beg you. I don't need any more trouble. Telling me that I am wrong behind my back, only causes resentment. Only causes rebelliousness. The instant I first heard that he called, I got so angry, I was ready to run down to Town and play the little rebel. Then I stopped. I thought. No, I will not alter any second of my life because of him. I am not going to break any rules, just because of him. He isn't worth it. They aren't worth it.

My uncle is a jerk. All snitchers are jerks. But I have learned. I will not ruin my life just because of them. I will not give into them. Yingele is still young, but one day he will be ever so strong. And to you, dear Snitchers world wide. Please, just leave me alone and go to hell...