Monday, January 14, 2008
Changes (Part III)
Photo from here
Summary: Hirshel enters Spinka Cheder in Boro Park and stays throughout elementary school. He does well in Yeshiva and is well-liked for the most part by both teachers and peers. Kittah Ches is a bit of a challenge, with a new Melamed who was learning on the job and with his Bar Mitzvah coming up, but Hirshel hangs tough and perseveres. At that time Hirshel still has no direction in life, and is content just being Chassidically inclined; the education has done that much, and he has little interest in the non-Chassidic world other than a few of the Gedolim pictures that he has.
Spinka had slowly but surely begun to change. More and more of the Hungarian/Chassidic light students were leaving, and in their place came the hardcore Satmarer etc., with many of them coming from the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Seagate, and with them they brought their ideas of how things should be run. The change MAY have been brought about by the arrival of a certain Assistant Principal several years later, but that may be difficult to prove. So, as time went on more and more Talmidim/Parents decided that this is not the place for them, and they began to look for other places to educate their children/be educated. Many leave after 8th grade, opting for Mesivtos like Beis Meir or Novominsk , but the Tzig stays put. Ninth and Tenth grade (Kitta Tes and Yud) go somewhat well, I guess; Tzig works hard to learn and daven, and basically stays out of trouble. Every once in a while some Satmarer would shoot his mouth off and we'd get into it. That would give me the nudge; it would remind me that this place really isn't for me anymore, and that it's time for me to leave. I do have to say that we had some fine Ramim/Maggidei Shiur there; "Litvishe" that could relate to the "Chassidishe" Oylem there, and some of them were good and caring. Others were not, but that's to be understood. After Kitta Yud I finally got out. I chose Mesivta Ch'san Sofer as my next place of learning - I don't remember now on who's advice - and they were nice to accept me. I would start there in Camp, not the usual Elul or after Pesach time, since I couldn't bear to be at Spinka for another summer, it would just be too difficult, MiKamoh Taamim. VeDal.
You might ask: "Tzig, where and when did the interest in Lubavitch happen? You never speak of Lubavitcher friends or personalities that you knew like others did, so why the sudden urge to become a Lubavitcher?" The truth is I sometimes wonder when and how it happened. I try and recreate the moments and not everything is clear to me yet, I don't recall every moment in my life like some people do. (which makes me wonder sometimes; How do 90-year olds remember everything that happened to them?!) What I do remember is as follows: I always had a very warm spot in my heart for Lubavitch. When I'd see Lubavitchers in the street or would go to Crown Heights for whatever reason I'd be excited about it. When some of my classmates would poke fun at Lubavitch because their idiot father or brother taught them how I'd be there to strike them down, being Mekane Kin'as Hashem. That leads me to believe that I always had that Lubavitcher spirit in me, albeit dormant at first. I understand that may be difficult for some of you to understand; you may believe that somehow you're meant to stay within that culture for the rest of your life, and that you're obligated to follow your parents' customs to the letter, but I see it otherwise, as did most of the Talmidei HaBesh"t.
It may go something like this: As many of you know in 5749 there were elections in Israel, and not just any old elections either. These were the first elections after the big breakup between the Agudath Israel's two factions, the "Lithuanians" and the Chassidim. The reasons for the breakup were many, but we'll name two. One was the disproportionate influence wielded by Chassidic groups, mainly Ger, in the policy making of the AI and the "say" in how the money received from the Government should be distributed. Forty years of being told what to do by Ger can do that to a person and a group. The other was what Ger and their newspaper, the HaModia, which was supposed to be THE frum newspaper, was reporting and accepting. They had been told many times by the Lithuanian leadership to stop positive reporting about Chabad activities in general, and specifically about the Lag BaOmer parades organized by them. In particular one parade bothered one very famous Rosh Yeshivah, and he decided that he had seen enough; and then - in 1985 - the Yated was born. The only newspaper that followed the directives of the real Gedolim, not some "Rebbelach" that wore velvet on their collars and carried silver-tipped canes.
And so it was; The newly-independent Yated now had a carte blanche to attack all those that didn't sit well with them, and those didn't fall in line. The fact that the paper was established by the Ponovizher Rosh Yeshivah and the Steipler Gaon now made everything they said not only permissible, but it made it a Mitzvah to follow in their attacking ways. LeMoshol: Say that till now Yeruchem from Flatbush - a nice all-around good kid learning in YOB - was careful not to speak Loshon HoRah because the Chofetz Chaim said not to; now he could speak LH about certain groups because the Yated hakked against them, and the Yated is published by the Gedolim. When Yeruchem would be asked by his friends how he could say such things about a Godol BeYisroel he would reply: Mitzveh LeSaper al Apikores! This and this man was dubbed an Apikores by the Yated & Co., so I can say whatever I want about him. In other words: Lubavitch and the Rebbe can be knocked around by 12 -year-old Pi--ers. To say the least this did not sit well with young Tzig; he now knew that these people are not for him, he won't subscribe to their cockamamie theology, that's for certain. Tzig met some of these characters in Camp Mesivta Ch'san Sofer, and needless to say they turned him off. So he knew that these people were not him, but the question was "Vee Yoh?"
To be continued.....