Tuesday, 10 August 2010


SH: Disclaimer - I had some great times in Yeshiva and made some very good friends. This post doesn't reflect those times but rather is an attempt to capture those moments of depression and gloom and how it felt to be a skeptic stuck in Yeshiva.

Also your Yeshiva experience may vary. This is just about me.

You sit in a small blatt room where the Rabbi is talking. He has been shouting for the last ten minutes about the enemies of Judaism. Western culture, television, secular literature! You try to think about something else but this man continues on his tirade against everything that is not the holy Torah. And then you look around. And people are paying attention. They're not just paying attention some are occasionally nodding in ascent to this ridiculous diatribe. You look to your left, you look to your right and almost everyone is fixated on the extremism of this so called Rabbi. And you start to wonder if everyone has gone insane.

But how could it be? Everyone insane and you the only sane one? You live in an insular world of Torah learning and prayer. There is no outside until the next bein hazmanim or off shabbos. No. Until your vacation there is nothing else. And nobody but you thinks there is something wrong. You're the only one who screams inside at the rampant stupidity and the mockery of logic. And you start to wonder if maybe you're the insane one.

But you know better than that! You know that you're not crazy! You know that this closed world is not the real world. You know! But everywhere every day the same things are repeated. Your ears are filled with the same message over and over again day in and day out. Everywhere you turn the same refrain. Everywhere you look the same ideal. There is nothing in this world worth doing besides learning Torah.

And you thank God that you know that this is not Judaism. You thank God that you hate this world so much that you are able to fight the brainwashing. Your skepticism blocks the noise. Your complete unwillingness to be turned into these people allows you to weather the storm and leave the Koslei Hayeshiva relatively unscathed.

But you look at your friends. You look at those who entered the Yeshiva without the nagging doubt. You look at those who have never questioned Judaism in their lives. And you watch them slowly be transformed. The constant barrage of the Yeshiva's ideology eventually brakes their meager defenses, for nothing can defend you from such constant conditioning except a strong cynical sense of skepticism.

Then you find yourself in a room. It's afternoon Shabbos seder and you and other malcontents are sitting complaining about Yeshiva. There are always malcontents. There are always those puzzle pieces that just don't fit. It does not take much to not like the Yeshiva. You are from a more Modern Orthodox background. You want to go to the movies. You hate learning Gemara from morning till night. Any of these little things will put you outside of the pale.

Everyone is laughing and mocking the stupidities of the Yeshiva and you feel that here in this room on a shabbos afternoon there is a small bastion of sanity in this world. You get overexcited and make fun of some clearly stupid Gemara or maybe you mock a verse in the Chumash. And then suddenly the room falls silent. The lighthearted fun comes to an abrupt stop. because these people are not skeptics they just are not Chareidim. They look at you uncomfortably because you have crossed the line. Even those who don't fit the mold have a line. And then you begin to wonder again if you're the only sane person in the room.

And then you leave the Koslei HaYeshiva and stare at the bright world and you're blinded by it's radiant light. The darkness you've lived in for all those years, broken only by the occasional glimmer of a bein hazmanim, had become an inseparable part of your life. But now it's all in the past. And you walk onwards towards the future. And swear to never look back. But before you leave you take one glimpse back at the poor retches still stuck in that world of gloom and misery and you remember that you too once lived with them. You once were part of that same world and you can't fathom how you survived it all. How!?

And you seriously start to wonder if you were once insane.


Sam said...

OTOH I know yeshiva students who are on such a spiritual high all day, that they wouldn't trade places with you for anything. Isn't it depressing to think that the only way you could be part of that group is to toss out half your brain?

(I was really hoping you'd respond to my comment on the previous thread.)

Shilton HaSechel said...

I responded to you on the previous thread (though b'kitzur nimratz)

>OTOH I know yeshiva students who are on such a spiritual high all day, that they wouldn't trade places with you for anything.

Yup. That's why I said "your Yeshiva experience may vary." Some people LOOOOOVE Yeshiva and wouldn't trade it for the world. And to that I say, as long as you don't expect me (or anyone) to support you in kollel, then GOOD FOR YOU!

OTD said...

Thanks for this post.

And I hope the trolls go to hell.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Who pray tell are the trolls (or should I regret asking)?

Baruch Spinoza said...

Oh my science, Shilton, I did not know you were so emo ^.^

1) I do not think there is anything wrong with extremism. I am an extremist myself, when it comes to pursuing the truth. Extremism is fine. I have the strength of my convictions to be an extremist. So the extremism of Judaism is not a good objection to it.

2) Insanity is considered someone who lost understanding with the world. But what is so amazing is that if you carefully look around you, the philosophers, the scientists, and other's seekers of truth, have been called "insane" by the masses. No, it is the sane who are really insane. The closer you step to correct thinking the closer you become what the masses call "insane". Indeed, treason never prospers, for if it prospored none dare call it treason.

3) The way I make fun of Judaism among religious Jewish people is by reverse joking. For example, if I am at a shul where the men and women are segregated I tell a friend of mine, "this makes me feel really happy that the women have to use the side doors, because they are after all inferior to men". That is what I do. It is said and acted out like a joke, but it has a point to it. It always reflects the dark evil side of Judaism.

Ichabod Chrain said...

Do you know what happened to the other heretics? Did they become Orthoprax, go completely OTD, frum out?

Shilton HaSechel said...

Most of the other "heretics" eventually caved in some grudgingly some not and were eventually mekabel oil malchus yeshiva to some extent.

Of course I was the only real heretic - they were just misfits.

(One of) the yeshivas I was in was so devoid of heresy that I seriously thought for a few years that I was the only Orthoprax fellow in the world. Now THAT was depressing.

Garnel Ironheart said...

> But you know better than that! You know that you're not crazy! You know that this closed world is not the real world. You know!

Odd. Every schizophrenic I've ever treated thought the exact same thing.

OTD said...

>Odd. Every schizophrenic I've ever treated thought the exact same thing.

Intesting. I didn't know they let people treat themselves. Unless that's the way they do things in Hamilton, ON.

OTD said...

>Do you know what happened to the other heretics?

My guess? They're still shlepping along.

Anonymous said...

Shilton, so why if you were already skeptical in Yeshiva did you decide to live an orthoprax life instead of OTD?

Shilton HaSechel said...

Hmmm good question. I can't say that I don't have a choice to still leave, but when it comes down to it I'm (now) Orthodox lite anyway and am no longer restricted the way I was in Yeshiva, so for me being Orthoprax is a lot easier than all the drama of "going off the d".

Of course many of my Yeshiva mates already considered me OTD in yeshiva ;)

Anonymous said...

"the drama of "going off the d"."

you mean upsetting your family? Was your wife always on board with your beliefs?

Philo said...

I don't see any Orthopraxy--with the exception of "forced orthopraxy" as being rational. I mean what is Orthodoxy without the illusion of metaphysical truths?

Anonymous said...

>what is Orthodoxy without the illusion of metaphysical truths?

a lifestyle?

Anonymous said...

I was in Shar Yashu for two years and the Rosh yeshiva reb shelom friefeld told me to go to university. I did not listen but that does not change the fact that he told me good advice.
Later at the Mir I never heard Reb shmuel berenbaum disparage the outside world even that year when he was giving musar shussim. He only was talking about the importance of learning Torah and not speaking lashon hara.
In those days people were just so involved in Gemara that no one thought to knock the outside world.

Shilton HaSechel said...

Lol when did I get a wife?

>I don't see any Orthopraxy--with the exception of "forced orthopraxy" as being rational.

Well let's be honest I'm not exactly a pious Orthopraxer. I'm not driving on shabbat and eating bacon but at the same time I'm not letting religion significantly interfere with my life.

You do what you have to to maintain your Hechsher.

Anonymous said...

>Lol when did I get a wife?

I must have mistaken you for another orthoprax blogger.

So why do you keep shabbos? what drama will ensue if you use your computer on shabbos? Do you plan to remain in the orthodox community is that what is motivating you?

Shilton HaSechel said...

I'm the opposite of a good enlightenment Jew - I'm Orthodox B'tzetecha and Skeptical B'Ohalecha.

E-Man said...

To add to gamzoo's questions, do you plan on getting married to a Jew. If so why? Also, are you going to marry an orthodox Jew? If so why? Just curious, feel free to ignore this comment if you don't want to answer it.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand- doesn't it bother you that you are pretty much living a lie?
I mean, I was raised ultra-orthodox and concluded I was an atheist at 13. After that realization, it was only a hop, skip, and jump to living a secular life (at least privately). I mean, why should I waste the only life I'll ever have living for some flawed and false bronze-age religious dogma? The thought of bowing to a belief system that I think of as not only fallacious and disingenous but ALSO barbaric, ignorant, and highly detrimental to society at large is frankly incredibly frightening to me.
I have a friend who's very intelligent and naturally skeptical, but was born into a really privileged lifestyle and thus is fearful of dropping her orthodox lifestyle for fear of the reprecussions. Does this sum up your attitude towards religion? And are you really comfortable with that?
I hope I'm not being offensive. I'm honestly curious about this- no personal attack was meant at all.

Shilton HaSechel said...

Lol when did everyone become so interested in my personal life. I'm quite flattered really.

Maybe one day I'll explain it to y'all in a post or better yet explain it to myself.

OTD said...

>when did everyone become so interested in my personal life.

how much do you weigh?

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