Chapter #9: More of That

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I went back to Zlibermans for a month.

I thought, “if only I stay in their dorm, that’ll give me the structure I need.” So I moved into the overcrowded apartment that was the main dorm, a 5 minute walk from my house.

One person was sleeping on the kitchen counter. Another had suspended his bed from the ceiling using ropes and chains. I didn’t even make it into the house.

There was a hut someone had built on the roof, with wooden walls and a roof made out of old hotel greeting banners. Every morning I’d wake up on my mattress on the floor and look up at “Welcome Aish Birthright, to the Dan Pearl Hotel.”

That lasted a month, until the shitty dorm situation and the zero change in my attitude towards the subject matter, had me slip right back into my old pattern.

The next stop? Aish Hatorah.

I joined their post-high school program and stayed in the Moshav dorms, which, incidentally, smelled like shit. Socially, this was the first time I actually felt like I belonged – I had always been friends with the English speaking, cultured guys who were twice my age. Now I was in yeshiva with them.

But academically, I was on another level, and I had a hard time finding someone who was my equal to study with. Nonetheless, I have good memories from that time spent surrounded by positive, relatively open minded people in a beautiful study all.

It was also the first time I really got to express some creativity. I was part of a band. I wrote parody songs for the purim shpiel (“Welcome to the hotel aish hatorah”). I co-wrote a play for the same, which is still one of my proudest creations. What is it with purim being the only day of the year when you’re allowed to be creative?

But academically it wasn’t working out, so I started studying half day with a chavruta in the Mir. The Chavruta was great, but the Mir was just massive rooms full of people who you didn’t know. Like a busy Manhattan street. I was just another face, and never officially registered there.

There was this feeling of emptiness, of not belonging, of a foreigner in a distant land, that accompanied me throughout my wanderings. To this day I associate beautiful summer days with the anxiety that comes with freedom and opportunity – the feeling of squandering potential.

By that point I had tried out 5 yeshivas and been through 10 chavrutas, many of which were fancyass private tutors my parents paid good money for. None of them helped, in retrospect because my relationship with Gemara was tenuous at best.

I’d have much preferred to study philosophy and mysticism for example, but that wasn’t even a thing in the charedi world. You need to study gemara all day, every day, except for half an hour in the evening where you can study some mussar to remind yourself why are a bad person.

My chavrusa was leaving in March, and I was not interested in finding yet another one. I was sick of searching, and I knew I wouldn’t find anyone else as good as him.

I had not succeeded in registering in any yeshiva to avoid the draft, and I decided to proactively enlist.

I joined the IDF via Aish’s hesder program without telling my parents.

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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