Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The Cheder Years (Part II)
(The Chakal Yitzchok of Spinka, HY"D)
Summary: Hirshel's Telzer Talmid father gets married and moves to Brooklyn, New York. He learns part day and gets ready to earn a living as well. He later has a son and at first sends him to a small pre-school run out of a local shul in Boro Park. After pre-school the child needs a real Yeshivah, so he asks his old Yeshivah buddy who also has sons where he sends his kids, and if he'd suggest it for his young son. The friend suggests Spinka Cheder in Boro Park, then in it's 3rd year, and his suggestion is the final choice. Thus begins a turning point in the family direction for years and maybe generations to come.
You see my friends, had my brother - and subsequently all of the "Tzig" boys - been placed in a place like Ch'san Sofer or Vien or some other "Pareve" Cheder things most likely would've turned out very differently. Since there wasn't a very strong Chassidishe direction at home the boys could've decided not to pursue the Pseudo-Chassidic/Hungarian way that they were taught at Cheder/Mesivta, but could've chosen other ways of life. Litvish, could've been one choice, since many of our friends did end up transferring to Yeshivos like Novominsk, where despite there supposedly being a "Rebbe" is run like a Litvishe Yeshivah, and we could've followed in our Dad's footsteps and been Goleh to a Mokom Torah like Telshe. But alas, the decision to choose Spinka had and continues to have all kinds of affects, to this very day, some adverse and some positive. This is not to say that Spinka is really to blame, since most of the Melamdim were Satmarer, and the Menahel was a 20-something Bobover Rebbishe type who happened to be the Rov's BIL but was probably the most qualified man for the job anyway. Yeah, right. But they put their name to the Mossad, so I guess it was what they wanted in a school.
Spinka was what you might call a school that suffers from SatmarInferioritis, a disease suffered by mostly Chassidic groups whereas they feel inferior to Satmar and decide to take steps to bring themselves up to par with the above-mentioned Hungarian group. So they embark on campaigns to ban this and disallow that, and to encourage this and condone that, but there's no real Toychen, Chassidish or otherwise, that they "pushed" like, say, Stoliner Cheder, which did succeed in creating their Chassidus in America, mostly from Litvishe boys who learned in their Cheder, by pushing Stolin in everything they did. Then again, Spinka doesn't have what Stolin has as far as history and appeal either. And so the years went by with very little direction, we were taught was that Peyos need to be Vos Lenger, and that we should speak Yiddish, and most of us did, myself included. We had mostly Satmarer Melamdim, or those of the smaller satellite groups, and the education was very Hungarian with Chassidic overtones, meaning that most of the stories and Divrei Torah were of Chassidishe Rebbes of yesteryear. We traded Rebbe pictures instead of baseball cards, and we spoke with an Hungarian Chassidishe Havoroh. We all looked forward to growing up and dressing Chassidish, the more Chassidish the better. But speaking Yiddish and having long Peyos only takes one so far, a boy needs a sense of direction, otherwise he floats on the open sea without a compass, going where the wind pushes him. That we never really got at Talmud Torah Imrei Yosef D'Spinka. It's safe to say that the same goes for many other Chassidic Chadorim in BP, you have thousands of Shtreimlach walking around today that know very little about any Chassidus, and many never want to know.
(Reb Yankev Yosef of Spinka)
As far as I was concerned here's what I went through: (I'd get the other side of the story - from the Rebbes and Menahalim - but I'd rather not meet some of them, VeDal.) I was a good kid who did quite well in Cheder, never really made trouble and was well liked by both Rebbes and classmates. I guess there wasn't much a choice; if you didn't stay in line you were reminded with petsh, starting all the way in Kita Alef. I learned well, and did what I had to, and was probably on my way to be a generic Chassidishe kid, with Geknippte Peyos behind his ears, a turned up hat, and a Shtraymel on Shabbos. My father ZGZ was a self-made who never was a Chossid of a particular Rebbe. As a Bocher he would travel to New York to spend YomTov with an uncle in Crown Heights, and together they would walk to Williamsburg to spend davenen or Hakofos with the Satmar Rov. In the early married years he would travel to the Satmar Rov zt"l to seek his advice, and was also Zoche to have a "long" 7-minute talk with the Lubavitcher Rebbe zy"a in 770 after Mincha. Other times found him - and me - in Skverrer Shtetl seeking the advice of the Skverrer Rebbe shlit"a. None of that translated into him becoming a Chossid of a Rebbe that I could follow.
Spinka did have its own Rebbe, Reb Yaakov Yosef Weisz of Bnei Beraq/Boro Park, and for a while - in my early teens - I was a Spinker Chossid, even davening Spinka Nusach and doing Spinka Minhogim as best I could, after all, even I realized that I need some kind of path in life. The old way of "just being a frum Jew" seemingly wasn't an option for me, and I needed a group to identify with. But I never had or felt like I needed a connection with the Spinker Rebbe. After 10 years in Spinka I decided that the place was no longer for me, it was becoming more and more like a Satmarer Yeshivah, being that this was Mesivta already , and many of my friends had left for other Yeshivos.
Hemshech Yovo, be"h.