Chapter #11: Mitzpeh

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Mitzpeh yericho was my only exposure to the National Religious community in Israel.

Being charedi, I half admired half looked down upon them. They were so much more balanced. Their lives were simpler, less burdened, seemingly, by religion.

And yet that itself was the problem – they didn’t take religion as seriously. They didn’t study as hard. They had weird philosophies that were not acceptable and didn’t align with the true, Charedi way. All this I “knew” from osmosis.

My entire time in Mitzpeh I barely studied rav kook, because I was so afraid he’d corrupt my mind. It was after a lot of soul searching that I entered single class being taught on the subject. It was years before I properly studied rav kook, or rabbi nachman, or other chasiddic texts. They were the closest to my heart – more intuitive, emotional, mystical.

The first time I studied tanya, I felt like I’d be retroactively robbed of it during my entire childhood – Zilbermans were fiercely anti-chabad. They mocked the Hassidic group-think with a rote, methodical group-think of their own. The irony.

Mitzpeh had the most well-adjusted Orthodox Jews I had met. Some had hobbies. Some had interests. Some looked you in the eye when they talked to you. Don’t get me wrong, there was a fair share of weirdos and many operated within a very fixed agenda. But there was an overall open mindedness there I hadn’t experienced anywhere else.

All that, once I got in. Of course, when I applied, I was treated as an outsider, as someone who was different, and I was placed in Yeshiva on a trial basis because no charedi person had ever survived there before. Myself and one other person were the only people there who were a black suit and hat on Shabbat.

Shabbat was a completely different experience there. It was still. We were isolated in the middle of the desert. And there was this kind of magic to be felt in the stillness of that desert, in that soothing silence where you heard nothing but the wind, looking out over the twinkling lights of Jericho in the valley below.

But within that stillness, and the simplicity, there was feeling that I lived with constantly, and it was more pronounced than ever. Physical isolation has a way of bringing your own demons to the surface.

Loneliness.

I dreamt of being in a relationship. To hold someone close at night. To be there for someone. To belong.

And I dreamt of a way to magically cure my pornography addiction, as the Torah promised having a wife – “bread in your basket,” they called it – would accomplish. I built an entire castle in the air out of the fantasy wife I would have. “I once spoke to a woman,” I mused. “And that went swell. Surely I am capable of being in a relationship with one.”

I had never touched a woman before. I had no idea what I truly liked or didn’t like in another person – relationship was all about intellectual stimulation and Myers-Briggs discussions for me at that point.

I had never worked a full month in my life, and wouldn’t for several more years. But that’s nothing to hold you back from establishing a family, if you’re charedi.

So at the ripe age of 21 and a half I informed my parents that I deemed myself worthy of marriage. “All my classmates got married at 19,” I pointed out. “I’m way older.” And my sister was about to start dating soon, I wasn’t about to have her one-up me like that.

One month later, I dated the first woman I had ever met.
One month and ten dates later, we were engaged.

Three months later we were married.
Three months after that, she was pregnant.

Full chapter list (Available in eBook Form)

  1. Kindergarten
  2. Cheder
  3. Mishna
  4. Good and Evil
  5. Gemara
  6. Yeshiva Gedola
  7. Ramat Shlomo
  8. Beitar
  9. More of That
  10. The IDF
  11. Mitzpeh
  12. Darkness
  13. Independence
  14. Shitting on the Parade
  15. Light
  16. Detox
  17. Spreading Wings
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