Chapter #8: Beitar

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The way you get into yeshiva is the exact opposite of red tape. It is the absolute shitshow of a free for all.

You kind of stand around the dean’s office and hope to bump into him. You talk to someone who knows someone who might be able to put in a word. You never get a clear answer as to whether you’re actually accepted or not – in fact, one tactic involves just showing up and hoping for the best.

I remember at some point later on, trying to get into the Mir. I am not a haggler. I don’t “know people”. I don’t pull strings. I do things by the book. Take me or leave me. I was forced to try talking to multiple people, who all indicated that they had no interest in giving me the time of day. I finally waited outside the house of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel for a while. I eventually got in to see him. He had advanced Parkinsons, and when I asked him if I could attend his yeshiva, I could not, for the life of me, understand a word he was saying in reply. I eventually figured out it was a no.

So the search was on for a new Yeshiva. And I had no clue how it was done. I picked one place I wanted to go to, but couldn’t even figure out how to apply. Finally, someone suggested The Shithole Yeshiva in Beitar. “It isn’t the best,” acknowledged my parents. “So you’ll go there for a year or two, get up to snuff, and then upgrade.” Solid plan.

The Shithole Yeshiva was located in the middle of the shithole charedi city of Beitar in the middle of bumfuck nowhere, an hour bus ride from Jerusalem. The bus was armored, because this was the middle of the second intifada and Beitar is in the middle of the West Bank, and it would often break down along the way because its engine was not designed for the extra armor plating that was added to it.

As was usual for me by this point, I was treated differently. They gave me a hard time getting admitted, and I was then placed two years below my grade because of my supposedly feeble logic skills. I had not learned to bullshit my way through the day like most people do in Yeshiva from second grade onward.

I asked real questions, from my own brain, about things that actually mattered to me. Everyone else made pretend they were asking questions, based off other people’s thoughts, about things they didn’t give a shit about.

The Shithole Yeshiva actually had brand new dormitories, which literally felt like a hotel compared to where I had just come from. But everyone pretty much in the school was second-rate, a bunch of misfits who hadn’t made it into a first-tier yeshiva.

I hated it. I was placed in a room full of bums who didn’t care about studying, so I hated that too.

I complained, and was moved into a room with three of the biggest freaks I had ever encountered: the guy who peed all over the toilet seat and ran around the yeshiva avoiding eye contact while rubbing his hands and cackling manically.
The guy who grew a beard just so people would think he was more religious.
The guy whose feet stunk so bad he literally had to hide his socks in an electric closet down the hallway.

It was hell, and I struggled a lot for the first few months. I finally hit my groove around March and lo, that was the month when yeshiva descends into a month of chaos in preparation for Purim and the month-long Passover break.

I was new to all of this, because I had never had a vacation in my life until then. Only “mainstream” schools had month long Passover vacations. I hated almost my entire vacation, feeling aimless and unstructured. I finally hit the vacation groove in my last week, just as school was starting up again. I never recovered.

That year was one of my worst years at Yeshiva. I was exposed to the dark side of the Orthodox world. The people who were non-committal, didn’t give a fuck, and at most just went through the motions. I couldn’t believe that such insincerity existed, and I wanted no part of it. These were people who transformed the process of making a cup of coffee into a half hour extravaganza just so they could burn some time.

And then there was the boredom. School wasn’t cutting it for me. But I was trapped in bumfuck Beitar with no way to stay busy or escape. I remember smuggling a guitar and John Grisham novels into my dorm room, but it was only a matter of time before the Rosh Yeshiva caught me reading in my bed instead of being in the study hall.

It was time, once again, to move on.

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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