Sunday, September 06, 2009

How To Get Deeper Into Torah Without Going Off The Deep End

17 of the Sixth Month 5769

I do not remember how old this pamphlet by "Friedman The Tutor" is exactly. However, I do remember that on the version I first saw, explicit permission was given to copy and distribute it, and one was even encouraged to do so. (Please correct me if this has changed at all.) I agree with most all of what Friedman includes in this pamphlet, and highly recommend it.

No doubt, many of the suggestions can be applied to educational institutions other than yeshivas, as well as to making aliyah (immigration to Israel, ie. be patient with yourself when you arrive).

You can read it below (using the full-screen and zoom features.), or view it, or download it here.

My comments on the pamphlet, as well as my suggestions as to how I might change a few things here and there, are found below.

Friedman - Get Deeper Into Torah Without Going Off The Deep End

Go Slow
Friedman brings this phrase in as a section title six times,...probably the right number of times.

Make Friends With Families
I would add make friends with Going to families every single Shabbath not spent in yeshiva can be intense, especially if you're like me and you like your space.

When you're at a family's house, your length of stay is generally controlled by your hosts, as is how long you have to wait until you eat or until the next course, the topic of conversation, who you sit next to, etc. If you can afford it, try to bring flowers, wine, or dessert over, preferably before Shabbath. If you can't afford it, DON'T bring anything. It's their misswah to have you over. Just apologize for not being able to. They should understand, and probably push leftover cake on you after the meal. If it's not their complete pleasure having you over, even though you didn't bring something, consider accepting an invitation from another family the next time.

Take the opportunity to pray with the ba'al habayith (head of household) in his beth k'nesseth (synagogue), so that you can check out a new place. You may like it, or dislike it. Either way, you can cross it off your list of new places to check out. You may also end up at a minyan in someone's house, which can be heimish, or simply ending up meeting new people to whom you can relate.

Do not feel obligated to go to back to the same family a second time. Although if your experience wasn't a complete disaster, they may deserve a second (...but not third, fourth, and fifth) chance. Maybe they were just having a bad day or something....

Make friends with men living in their own apartments. Help organize a Shabbath meal at a friend's apartment. See how you can still have a night out with the guys even though you are now keeping Shabbath. You will have more control over coming and going, and if you help organize or even prepare something, you will feel more apart of the experience, than just being a passive participant.

Make friends with couples your age and make the effort to stay in touch with friends who get married. Sure, they'll want their own space for a while, and have to spend the requisite number of Shabbathoth at the In-Laws. However, you should be on hand the minute they become ready to invite guests of their own. Hopefully, they won't just have other couples over, but have his single friends over or her single friends over, too.

The more responsibility you take for your own Shabbath, the more control you have over it. It may be cramped to get a meal together in a dorm room. But you would be surprised how enjoyable it can be, especially if it's pouring or snowing outside, and you have something warm on the plata to Add some singing, and you've got the potential for a great Shabbath meal with your roommates and neighbors!

Yeshiva Search
There is no rule that that says you have stay at the same yeshiva where you started. As you grow and develop, you find your path moving in a direction you never would have expected.

Three Favorite Halachic Follies
"Learn the difference between halacha and minhag, halacha and humra, halacha and qula, mid'Oraitha and mid'Rabbanan...."

Friedman is quite right. Unfortunately, many yeshivas not only do not teach these differences, but discourage learning about them, so as not "to confuse new students." Then, after a few years, when it's time to begin learning such differences, these students are already used to the way they have been doing things, and are often convinced that they are locked into practices, from which they cannot "halachicly" be released. (See and hear more on the horrors of the increasingly distorted halachic process in "Why are rabbis afraid to decide?" and "Must Halachic Reality hew to the truth?")

Commitment to Torah is not an Address
I certainly agree with the "go slowly" theme throughout this pamphlet. However, I must disagree with this general statement. The proper place for Jews to live, but where we have the potential to apply the Torah in all aspects of our lives in Eretz Yisra'el. All Jews need to come now!

Rather than get into the details of this here, I will simply recommend reading Eretz Yisrael in the Parshah by Rabbi Moshe Lichtman (English) and anything by Rav Moshe Tzuri'el (Hebrew), particularly Otzroth HaTorah.


smb said...

Excellent tool for many individuals

Many great tips, like making connections with others, etc.

He has a very good point in there about Not expecting people to be perfect. We all make mistakes, we are only human. While it can be discouraging, we just need to hold on, and remember our spiritual purpose here

Mordechai Y. Scher said...

The earliest reference I found so far to this pamphlet was in Mail Jewish archives back in '05. The poster then had found the pamphlet while cleaning out their shul, so it may be older. There was a link at the time to a Harvard server, but it no longer connects to anything.

This guy displays real common sense and good judgement in his advice. Really worth of continued distribution from what I can see. There was very little I couldn't agree with completely.

EdTech@mjbha said...

My earliest copy says it was copyrighted in 1994. (And the author is a she, not a he BTW.)

Esser Agaroth said...


Thanks for the information.

How do you know that the author is female?