Ben Avuyah

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Best Shabbos Ever

Rabbi Beadenstock had become something of an expert on wind currents, and even as he pulled into the closest parking space, his eyes scanned the trees from behind thick glasses: absorbing the nature of every branch bent back against its will, every leaf that fluttered freely against the backdrop of a moody grey sky. He opened the door a crack first in preparation for his exit, and then deftly popped out of the drivers seat in one motion, tilting his head so that the brim of his black Borsalino faced the howling gusts edge on, affording the devilish elements no purchase.

At such times the forced memory of that horrible Shabbos morning came upon him, when a rogue gale had whooshed out of nowhere, whisking his hat off his head for a two block ramble with him in feverish pursuit behind it. His yarmulke had dislodged in tandem, but tacked as it was, with bobby pins, to the long strands of hair he habitually combed over his bare forehead, it had filled with wind like a boisterous sail, proudly spinning about from the point of it’s tether like a well designed weather vein; finally resting, as the air turned calm, like an estranged dreadlock next to his cheek.

He pulled his hat down tighter just as the thought of it made his cheeks a bit rosier than the brisk air alone.

He gazed as sharply to the right as he dared to, without entering untenable hat position, to look back into the car, stopping the motion of his head just shy of eye line, as the brim began to quiver.

“Yossi”, he yelled into damp November wind, not able to see as far as the back seat, “Yossi, get out of the car….”

“I am.”

His son stood off to the left, Yarmulke in hand, short hairs bristling, peyos fluttering, small hands in small pockets, staring at the thicket of winter saplings as if he might never see them again quite the same way.

Yossi’s mind, now as ever, worked with powerful gears moving in large circles, and as his eyes surveyed the trees bending to the forces of the tempest, he saw himself in every creaking branch, every wind torn leaf, every limb bowing against it’s will to forces unseen.

Yossi reflected wryly on how destiny had lead him slowly down a path resplendent with divergent roads, where the simplest whim could have sent him to an untried future. And yet here, at the end of the journey, time had shrunk to mere moments in which to breathe the air, to think his own thoughts.

As the trees danced before him, entrapped by the whims of the passing wind; Yossi tried to plan ahead, to hold onto what really made him himself…unique. He tried to sense… not just the way the dim gloom of the impending storm made him feel at a loss for energy or options…but just ‘how’ it made him feel that way.

He willed himself to trace the emotional path of his thoughts from the moment the light rays hit his eyes, the cold thrilled his skin, the storm winds whipped past his ears; and follow it to every twisted neuron that flickered dutifully in response.


He tried to imagine the schematic of his mind laid out in front of him like some great blueprint of the circuitry of his personality.

Could such an imaginary map be enough to find his way back home?

For a moment a wave of pity hit Rabbi Beadenstock as he watched his prodigious son, and in his distraction he came close to neglecting the fluttering of the back rim of his hat that could have signaled impending dislocation of the whole apparatus. He felt ill to his stomach; he remembered his son’s first smile as a baby revealing nothing but gum, his first words, first steps; and had an almost overwhelming urge to grab him bodily and place him back inside the car, to figure something out, anything….so long as they could drive away.


From behind him, Rabbi Beadenstock heard the groan of shocks and axles, as the Rebetzin stepped out of the passenger seat. And from the “pop” of a door closed too hard, he could picture in his head the car swaying back and forth from the force of it.

Rebetzin Beadenstock was a hold over from the old country, as if the culmination of hundreds of years of European shtetl existence had been successfully distilled, purified from the dross of modern day life, slow steamed and infused meticulously, by master craftsmen, into every fiber of her being.

Built like a Patton tank: short, stout, like a piece of granite that had willed itself into human existence, she stood by the car, hand clutching sheitel to her head, as the ill arranged sandy locks fluttered unnaturally in the wind.


“YOSSI”

It was a piercing shriek that made even the howling gale doubt its virility.

“Yossi”, she paused, gathering breath, “Yossi, put on your Yarmulke… NOW!!”


Yossi had his father’s thin frame, shoulders and hips never straying far from the midline, with limbs like delicate branches budding from their modest trunk. He had sensitive eyes behind thick glasses; but his mentality…that he had inherited from his mother….stubborn. Stubborn, and strong, as if the fibers that formed his will were of steel: woven, bound, and soldered into place so that they could not be moved, mocking the thin reeds and plywood that formed the wills of lesser men.

“No”

His answer was barely audible above the waves of November wind that crashed upon the parking lot like breakers from some unseen ocean, each gust with its bitter seasonal greeting of chill and despair, but his reply fell upon the Rebbetzin’s ears with a force that could be observed in her visceral response to it, she flinched and stepped back as if a cold hand had been plunged into her intestines to twist them into a painful knot.

In these moments, Rabbi Beadenstock often found that the best position for his hat was one that obligated him to stare obliquely away from his collapsing family, and angling his chin upward looking meekly down at the emptiness of the asphalt parking lot, there could be little blame for inaction regarding that which, for all appearances, he could not see or hear, absorbed as he was in the maintenance of the delicate balance of head covering that all but consumed his attentions.

Rebetzin Beadenstock quickly recovered from the force of the rebellion in her son, although it had become commonplace over the past few years, it hurt the same every time.

And so she ushered her men into the building like a well trained sheep dog herding the flock. Waiving her pocketbook underhand in a back and forth motion as if the air currents it produced might somehow waft the two men in the right direction, like they were bits of tattered paper.

“Inside” she said, “Everyone Inside”.

And so they entered the Yeshiva, the Rebbetzin letting her hand drop from her Sheitel, Rabbi Beadonstock abandoning his parody of torticullus, and Yossi filled now with a sense of dread…

What was to become of him?

What would he be?

As they walked into the empty antechamber with its white tile floor and white walls Yossi marveled at how deathly quiet the Yeshiva was over Bein Hazmanim. Without the constant motion of bochurim in every direction, shouting, learning, and making trouble, the simple hallways descended into a sultry depression, as if their very personality had been plied forcefully from them, and in this uneasy silence, Yossi heard every footfall he took with crisp resolution, and imagined himself walking the plank off some ancient ship at sea.

The air of abandonment grew upon them all, that feeling of being somewhere your not supposed to be, of trespassing. They were filled with an uneasy anticipation, waiting on tightly wound nerves for the first horror to be sprung upon them.

And so they all had a little start when Rabbi Shuller popped open his office door halfway and bobbed his head out sideways as if the rest of his body were a spring connected to an oversized jack in the box.

His blank inquisitive stare immediately melted into a well practiced guise of sociability and charm.

“The Beadenstock family, mamesh, always a pleasure to see the whole mishpachah”, he exclaimed while breaking into a grin wide enough to show the gap between his two front teeth, and throwing the door to his office wide open, he beckoned to them, “Come in…come in.”

The smile stayed transfixed to his face as if someone had stapled the outermost corners of his lips to his high cheekbone in an unmerciful display of just how distorted facial musculature may become. It was a political contortion, this welcoming grin, and he wore it to a perfection for so long that just watching him began to make Yossi’s cheeks feel tired. It was only in his eyes, deftly darting between Yossi, his mother, and his father, that one could begin to sense the unease in the man.

“Revv Veadenstock….Revetzin”, he greeted them as they took their seats in front of his desk, and, unwilling as he was to relinquish the full blown grin meant to simulate unquestionable inner euphoria, he instead sacrificed his “B’s”, “M’s”, and “P’s”, to sloppy disposal and replacement in the consonant melting pot, rather than pursing his lips and abandoning his façade of jubilation.

“And Yossi…Yossi, it hasn’t veen too long since I’ve seen you in this office…”, his eyes darted quickly above his frozen smile to each of Yossi’s parents searching for signs of approval or disapproval of his past discipline measures and he was reassured by the blank non-questioning stares of desperation, “but…Nu…that’s why were here…that’s why were here..”

He clapped his hands together sharply and then laid them flat on the table.

“Now, vefore we do…anything…”


Yossi began to actively wish for him to stop smiling.

“…Anything at all, we are going to wake sure we are all on the same phage.”

It was almost getting hard to understand what he was saying. Would it be rude to ask him to stop smiling? It seemed rude to Yossi that Rabbi Shuller could not stop smiling on the worst day of his young life…could he not return the favor? Measure for measure..one rudeness exchanged for another?


“Yossi, what your parents understand, what I understand, what every Yid with a shtickle seichel understands”, Rabbi Shuller had fallen into a comfortable undulating singsong voice as he transmitted the drasha, a personal favorite of his, “what even you in some way are on the edge of understanding, Yossi, if you would let yourself…”

He was staring at Yossi with heartfelt sincerity now, looking deep, like he might have been taught to in some community college session on guidance counseling.

“Is that…we are all part of a chain. Links…in a chain…that stretches straight back…in an unbroken mesorah…”

Yossi was happy to finally give vent to his frustration, “stretches back to Jesus Christ, if you’re a Christian, to Buddha if you’re a …”


“You see”, Rebetzin Beadenstock exploded, her lower lip quivering, “He’s like this all the time…it’s impossible. He won’t learn. Just last Shabbos when Rebetzin’s Goldstein and Unger came over for tea he lectured them for a half hour…”

“That’s nothing” chimed in Rabbi Beadenstock interrupting his wife mid sentance, as he sensed that the flood gates for lodging complaints had now been opened, “during Daf Yomi…”

“…the Zohar was a bunch of made up garbage”, continued the Rebetzin refusing to be derailed from her rant, “that if such a piece of fluff could be inserted into the mesorah it invalidated the whole thing…”

“…he claimed”, said the Rabbi Beadenstock intent on finishing his Daf Yomi tale extravagance, “that Talmudic logic was as relevant as…”

“I was so embarrassed”, said the Rebetzin, the humiliation of the event evident in every dilated capillary on her face, “Rebetzin Unger looked as if she was about to faint when he started in on Moses de Leon as a less charismatic Joseph Smith…”

“…as relevant as crossword puzzles, anagrams, and Soduku…” continued Rabbi Beadonstock wishing to convey the depth of his unhappiness to Rabbi Shuller, “ in front of the entire shiur he said this, with everyone listening to him as if he were about to expand a chidushei torah…” Rabbi Beadenstock was shaking his head and as the tears welled to his eyes, he found himself wishing for a wind current that might allow him to turn away from the shame of his firstborn.

“…As if the tipshim Mormons should be compared to torah true yidden….”, the Rebetzin orated, gaining the moral momentum of plurality, as if every offended fellow rebetzin were sitting at her elbow, nodding in agreement, murmuring in unison the cries of treason and betrayal that filled her head.

On Yossi’s face a thin smile began to spread, a defiant down curved slit through which he drew fresh air for the debate ahead.

The Rebetzin’s voice was quivering now in near perfect unison with her lower lip and jowls, “what do you do with a son who cannot be a part of his people…”

“A Porek Ol, an abandoner of our yichus, what did my wife and I do so wrong to merit this type of busha, this….”

“OK”, said Rabbi Shuller with his hands raised defensively in front of himself as if to ward of an impending physical attack, “OK…”

His smile was still pinned to his face… indefatigable,…inexhaustible.

“Yossi”, he said, “you see what you are doing to your family…”


“Who is doing to my family,” Yossi spat through sharp teeth and lips pulled tight like a viper, “myself? Or a society, a culture that cannot reconcile with reality, and wishes to drown it’s young with the weight of it’s own unwillingness to deal with the problems simple modernity has presented at it’s doorste….”

“Yossi….Reb Yossi….really, what’s it all about, why all this pain, why all this suffering…was it so hard to find a pshat that the mabul was a mashul. Was it so hard to teich up the bomb kashas you think you have on the mesorah, a mesorah, by the way, that is testified to by the best minds the world has ever seen…nu…let’s get real here…your putting your parents through gehemim because of a few misunderstandings and an ego the size of a…”

“It’s not a few problems”, said Yossi, glancing to his parents on either side, “Problems…problems, I could deal with…”

Yossi was looking closely at Rabbi Shuller now, “Don’t you see it”, he asked in exasperation, “the core methodology, the mechanism by which orthodoxy views the world, sees phenomenon, facts, ideas; and attempts to make them fit with it’s inflexible philosophy, is so obviously dishonest and manipulative that it pushes the limits of civil rational discourse.”

He was young for such mighty words, Yossi was young to speak so boldly to the authority that surrounded him. But if Yossi measured a tefach smaller than the other children in ninth grade he outweighed them tenfold in scholarship, and chewed through books with an appetite wild and unchained, his hunger leading him to new shores and dangerous conclusions.

Yossi’s fists were clenched tight as he tried to bring the smallest flicker of illumination into the room, “Of course you could say the mabul is just a story, but when you honestly realize that if one shred of evidence ever pointed in its direction you would insist that it was proof of the torah’s truth without batting an eyelash.”

“Yossi”, said Rabbi Shuller shrugging his shoulders, “that’s an exaggeration…”

But Yossi was in mid thought and not to be interrupted.

“You have immunized your core beliefs from reality by insisting on a whim, any time when they confront fact, that reality was not what they meant to portray, and yet when you happen across any fact that could be interpreted as supporting you jump in, eager to use it as proof…”

Yossi struggled for words, “it’s a charlatans game…it’s a method of thought that could justify any system of belief, Thor, Zeus….it doesn’t matter.”

Rabbi Shuller’s smile had finally begun to fade, and it retreated slowly, as if all the time it had been fixed in position had permanently altered the structure of his face.

He was speaking as he retrieved several papers from his desk drawer.

“Yossi”, he said, shaking his head, “the idea that our great heritage, comes from a root of dishonesty…”, Rabbi Shuller was truly turning pale as the words came out of his mouth, “is so wrong…so backward” he held one hand up with cupped palm and bent fingers as if he were holding a crystal ball in it, suggesting somehow that what he spoke of could be seen by the observant eye if one stared deep enough into the imaginary wizards stone, “don’t you understand…hasn’t it dawned on you…that the torah is truth…the torah is our search and the culmination of mankind’s search for truth.”

“You can’t search for something you’ve already found”, said Yossi without missing a beat, “you can’t pretend to be honestly looking for answers when you function under the preconceived notion that only the answer you already possess is acceptable. “

Yossi strained to clear the cobwebs from in front of his audience, he looked back and forth between his parents and his Rabbi and pleaded for reason, “You cannot claim to be hungrily scowering reality for data about the nature of the world”, his voice barely hid his anger, “only then to insist that reality itself must bend to fit your views when they do not match it.”

Yossi sighed feeling he had portrayed the crux of the problem to a tee, “A search for truth doesn’t insist that pieces that don’t fit it’s ideal can be discarded”, he concluded, “a search for truth doesn’t demand fealty to what is currently believed, it asks only honest investigation and an open mind.”

Rabbi Shuller turned to Yossi’s parents for reassurance as he shook his head in dismay, “ For some people”, he said alternating his gaze between Rabbi and Rebetzin, “ you can’t help them, you put the food in front of them, you put their hand on the food…but they can’t eat.”

“Nu, we didn’t come here to put our own emunah in harms way”, continued Rabbi Shuller in a very business like tone as he passed paper to Yossi’s parents, “these are consents that I will need you to sign…”

Yossi’s blood turned cold and his head felt too light, like it might drift away from his body if he were to relax his neck. He briefly considered how quickly his short legs might take him through the door, outside the yeshiva, running flat out, saving nothing for a return trip but bolting with every bit of force his thin calves could afford him. He imagined himself crossing the parking lot in a near apoplectic fit of raw power, slapping one sole after another on hard asphalt, with his heart throbbing and straining in the confines of his chest, crashing into the dense woods on the other side, never looking back or regretting.

But he did not move.

He sat…in the way that children sit in the company of adults.

Rabbi Shuller was retrieving something else from his desk now that his papers were signed.

“All of us”, he said as he unraveled a cord that was itself attached to an extension cord, “have responsibilities to the rest of Klal Yisroel…there’s no room in the torah for self absorption, we have a constant responsibility for ourselves and each other.”

He found and outlet nearby and plugged in, “I say this not only in regards to his mechanchim, but about his parents as well… you don’t let someone throw away a yiddishe neshama… that neshama is more important than any other aspect of our physical lives.”

Rabbi Beadenstock looked at his boy with mounting sorrow remembering his own bitter sweet encounters of problematic early teenage years…and his own adjustment at the hands of the rabbinate.

“All of us”, continued Rabbi Shuller, “have to make sacrifices to live a life of torah and mitzvois, it’s no easy life, and we all know there are things we have given up to attain the level of kedushah that comes from being a yareh shamayim and a torah true Jew, and it’s no different for our children…they struggle…they struggle…. And as the people who care about them we do our best to help them grow in the right direction to blossom into true ovdai hashem. We couldn’t do anything less and consider ourselves responsible Jews.”

Rabbi Shuller was behind Yossi now and had placed a shiny metallic cap over his head as gently as a soft sheet.


Now panic settled over Yossi and fully griped him in it’s icy fingers. His legs turned cold and his arms felt weak, dead at his sides. His little heart began to race…carelessly skipping beats under the sway of the adrenaline that filled his veins.

“Even…even according to what you say”, said Yossi feeling an imaginary tide run out to sea from around his legs, “wouldn’t it be…be a mistake to ‘make’ someone believe, isn’t it all about…choice.”

Rabbi Shuller looked baffled for a moment, “But we know what the right choice is…we are helping you make it…”, he replied with the confidence of certainty and fastened a thin strap under Yossi’s chin.

Inside Yossi’s mind thoughts lost cohesion and direction. He was filled instead with fragmented emotions, fear as large and looming as he had ever known it, so heavy it pushed the breath out of him, his thin inhalation efforts performed as if an iron weight rested upon his chest. Anger and grief fluttered mightily; flirting, scrimmaging, and retreating all at once against a terrible sense of resignation for what fate had in store for him.

“It is with happiness”, said Rabbi Shuller, “and true sense of simcha and accomplishment, that we bring a wayward soul back into the fold”, Rabbi Shuller ceremoniously flipped the switch on top of the neuralizer with gusto uniting the subject of his drasha with action.

Rebetzin Beadenstock opened her eyes wide…Rabbi Beadenstock turned his head away, momentarily obligated by a sudden urge to rub the spot where his glasses nose pieces had sunk into the skin…Yossi squeezed his eyes shut, gripping the sides of his chair as if he could resist by pure physical contortion.

They hung there enraptured by the expectation for a few seconds before they realized nothing had happened.

“It’s a glitch…a minor glitch”, said Rabbi Shuller, waving one hand in the air, as he toggled the switch a few more times and played with the power settings.

Yossi saw the delay as a ray of hope through the dim tidings of his life.

He stole away a moment of clarity in his mind to find himself, to find his map.

“I will not change”, he said silently in his head, cementing it there, imprinting it with a mental brand.

“I will not change”


Rabbi and Rebetzin exchanged glances, slowly losing confidence as a befuddled Rabbi Shuller rooted for the source of the error, tinkering with a look of annoyance on his face.

“Oh”, the answer and his smile arrived simultaneously, “this outlet only works with the light switch on”, he said completely forgetting he had left all three power gauges dialed to ten.

He beamed at Yossi’s parents as he flipped the switch, knowing in his heart that what he did now was probably more important than all of the torah he had ever learned, for Yossi himself and the learning he did, his children’s learning and all their generations would in a very concrete way be because of his actions.

As the circuit closed the lights in the room flickered, for a second or two converting the menahel’s office into seventies disco-teche, forcing the participants in the room to act out the next few moments in a surreal freeze frame motion.

Rabbi Shuller was the first to realize that a bit of Yossi’s hair had caught on fire and in the strobe lighting his fluid motions were translated to blunt and disjointed mechanical throes, as he swatted out the flames with the palm of his hands. The Beadenstock parents rose from their chairs in confusion and alarm.

“OOhhhh”, said Yossi as Rabbi Shuller cradled his head.

“What’s happening”, cried the Rebbetzin as the world flickered in and out around her and she stepped toward Yossi.

“It’s OK”, cried Rabbi Beadenstock as the ceiling bulbs stopped fluttering, “It’s OK”, he said again loudly, his passion seeming misplaced now that they had been returned to normal lighting.

Even when temporarily abandoned, Rabbi Shuller was never far from regaining his composure. He held a hand aloft, “a totally normal side effect…completely expected…this happens…it’s nothing to get alarmed about.”

He paused for a moment to dab away sweat that had sprung into beads all along his neck and forehead, and then removed the metallic cap from Yossi’s head depositing it like a hot potato on his desk.

The room was filled with an unpleasant aroma of burnt corned beef that stung the nostrils assaulting them with a fragrance not far enough removed from food to summon digestive juices but from too unthinkable a source than to activate anything other than a powerful nausea.

Yossi sat quietly with his hands clenched on the arm rests, his eyes clamped shut.

“Yossi”, demanded the Rebetzin, “Yossi …are you alright?”

Yossi’s eyes fluttered open slowly, and he came to life, like a computer, rebooting through it’s sub-systems and routines.

“We never should have come here”, Rabbi Beadenstock said quietly feeling pangs of regret, “we should have just left him alone….we could have just…”

“What”, said the Rebetzin, “could have just let him become a..a…heretic… is that what we should have done?”

Rabbi Beadenstock had neither air current nor itch with which to distract himself and so his dejected stare off into the corner looked very much like what it was.

Yossi came slowly back to the world and though the room seemed incased in a fog he pushed himself to focus. He blinked once or twice and reminded himself of his plan, his internal check. He ran through his list…and they were there all there, his favorite quotes from Einstein, his “best of” Spinoza list, his near photographic memory was intact keeping every element of learning that made him who he was…

Who he is…

And Yossi dwelled on it. He felt the same. His attitude was no different. His perspective as firm as ever, his knowledge undisturbed, his philosophy, his outlook, as solid as stone bedrock.

And so even as a thick layer of blood spilled readily from his nose spoiling his starched white shirt he smiled in the confidence that he was still here, still himself, unchanged Yossi Beadenstock.

Rabbi Shuller had pushed a handkerchief under his nose and was helping him to the door.

“He’s fine” he declared more to himself than anyone else, “perfectly fine…and not only that but now..” he began to rub Yossi’s back, “you’re going to have nachas from this young gentleman..and imeretz hashem…one day…”

He was smiling, ear to ear, as he waved them off.

And so the Beadenstocks stumbled once more into the cold, the good Rabbi tilting to a forty five degree angle, his hat splicing through the wind like a well manned catamaran through dark blue sea; the Rebetzin securing her shietel with one hand and guiding Yossi with the other as he stumbled drunkenly with a handkerchief at his nose.

Even as they settled in the car Yossi felt that beside the hangoverish post purim seudah aura that seemed to hover around his head, he felt the same, even remembering his thoughts about his life as he looked at the trees through the smudged glass of the backseat passenger window.

“I’m still me…”, he murmured through the handkerchief mentally pinching himself to be sure the experience was real.

“What was that”, asked the Rebetzin loudly from the front of the car.

Yossi felt a thin smile spread across his face as he tinkered internally with his reply.

How should he inform them that he had been dulled by Rabbi Shuller’s parlor tricks not one iota. How should he disappoint them with the news that he could still mentally eviscerate orthodoxy with one
Cerebral hemisphere tied behind his back.

But as he turned to vent the bile of his collected experience he noticed his mother’s face..perhaps really noticed it for the first time…. the worry lines, the creases.

How many of those bore his name?

He looked at her eyes and saw the unabashed hope with which she viewed him.

And it came to him them, more strongly than he could of ever imagined it, empathy unrestrained, a cognition of others woes far beyond any he had felt before.

Everything his mother and father had ever done in their lives was a struggle and a sacrifice, an offering on the altar of the mesorah, a korban to the ideal of a continuing Jewish lineage. And with out his participation, their efforts, the efforts of their forefathers, the culmination of the Jewish trials at the hands of the masses, were not an unbroken chain, but a frayed end.

“He’s changed”, said Yossi father, studying his face from over the back of the driver’s seat, “I can see it already, he’s changed.”

“No I’m not…I’m….” said Yossi, for the first time feeling confused.

“And boruch hashem he’s changed”, said his mother smiling, “perhaps he’ll go to Daf Yomi again this shabbos.”

Yossi was alarmed at the euphoria that came along with the idea of Daf Yomi, the idea of making his father proud perhaps by being mechavin to a tosfos, like he used to do in days gone by.

The pure load of natural opiod that hit his bloodstream at the thought of it was enough to make him sweetly nauseous, and his eyelids drooped as the pleasure became almost more than he could bare.

Rabbi Beadenstock shook his head, a rare movement when not prompted by the elements, and felt deep in his soul that something was missing from his son, something, that despite the trouble it had caused them all, he know began to miss.

Sitting in the back seat Yossi’s bliss was not so mind numbing that on at least a deeper level he realized, nonverbally, that something had supplanted logic and rationale in his life; and this new irresistible force did not need permission from truth or reason.

Even as the car's motor began to hum Yossi found himself plotting methodically on how to win his parents approval, each thought laced with a candied decadence too delicious to describe.

The Rebetzin was beaming, “and perhaps when Rebetzin Unger comes over for tea…you can give a dvar torah from the parsha ?”

Yossi found himself so inexplicably happy that he could not help wriggling in his chair like a five year old who knew he would soon arrive at his birthday party.

As they pulled out from the parking lot Rabbi Beadensock’s hat was pulled low shielding his eyes, and who knows what dark thoughts he entertained, feeling hidden, even from God, under the long brim. Perhaps even all the years of torah learning could not suppress that bitter pang of resentment, like aspirin at the back of his tongue, at the things that had been taken away from him and his son.

Rebetzin Beadenstock was happily listing the things she needed before shabbos aloud so her husband would know where to take them next. So happy the words spilled from her mouth each rushing to get out before the next.

“And gefilte fish..from the Deli…not the supermarket…it’s an embarrassment what they sell there…”

She paused for a moment looking at her husband, so intent on the road, so intent on the preparations for Shabbos, could it be anything other than a true manifestation of God's hand, that her family had turned out so well. And there was her Yossi, sitting in the back seat, so excited at his fresh start at Yidishkeit, he looked like he couldn’t sit still. It was like he was her little child all over again, thrilled by completing his tzivos hashem mishnayos project.

Here they all were, ovdai hashem…servants, happy servants in the Aibishter's plan.

She thought about the comming Shabbos, her family gathered around the white linen table cloth, united in spirit, focused on the holiness of the day. Each of them finding a direct connection to God through his holy Torah. She thought of how surprised Rebetzin Unger would be tommorow at how harmonious their household had become, at how the power of this minor hishtadlus they had made, had born fruit overnight. It was true, she mused to herself, habah litaher misayin oisoh. All it took was the will to make it right and the rest would follow.

How nice was it going to be to have her family around her speaking words of torah just as she had grown up hearing at the shabbos table. How nice was it going to be to have be able to nod in agreement at the wisdom of the sages as a family once again. Wisdom that was unchanged and unchallenged, a true gift from God to his chosen people. She could picture it in her mind. And it was then that she began to understand that this shabbos…this shabbos was going to be the best shabbos ever.

40 Comments:

At 6:54 AM, Blogger Nice Jewish Guy said...

Nice piece. Notes of Harrison Bergeron?

 
At 7:46 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Yeah, that story is always in the back of my head.

 
At 7:53 AM, Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Wonderfully disturbing. I picked up on the HB too.

 
At 8:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.angryflower.com/bobsqu.gif

 
At 9:53 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Thanks JA !

And thank you angry flower's

;-)

 
At 4:01 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Creepy...

 
At 4:09 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Makes me think of all the natural inclinations we have that make us desire all sorts of pleasures - which too do not frequently bend themselves to reason's rule.

 
At 7:19 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

It is creepy, I really just wanted to take the methods that orthodoxy 'does' use to keep people in the fold and see how readers would react to an overdramaticized verstion of their application on a boyhood "frum skeptic".

I think if such methods ever did become available some sects of orthodoxy would feel justified in their use. I thought I had Rabbi Shuller make a pretty convincing case ;-)

 
At 3:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“You can’t search for something you’ve already found”

great line, great story, what is most disturbing is how close to the truth it is.

Once you speak to a Rabbi about your belief issues, you already lost your argument.

At risk kids has become such an industry, where to send your kid to the right brain washer to put him/her on the right tracks. The psychological/emotional/social pressures from yeshivos are no different than the metal cap on the head. And parents are just as happy with the end result.

 
At 6:29 AM, Blogger Baal Habos said...

Spooky. Speaking from the closet, I can only relate in a theoretical fashion, but you touch on so many close emotions and aspects that makes this really hit home. Very nice.

 
At 11:33 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

Yes, anonymous, my experience is similar to yours.

Orthodoxy,is essentially a nonviable form of thought. When people pick up on this, especially teens, and speak about it out loud, it becomes a form of emergency for their parents and the community at large.

The typical solution is tying a cinder block to their leg and sinking them in the nearest "at risk" yeshiva (ie brain washing institution).

And I agree, they may not have "neuralizers" but they do have equally effective means to their ends.

thanks BH, I've spent most of my time in the closet as well, but if you would ever take an opportunity to speak out (I am not suggesting that you do, in fact please don't) you will see the alarm settle in on peoples faces ipso facto. Without even listening to what you say, nine out of ten times they will be concerned over "what to do with you".

I just think it is sad and needed to be pointed out. As an adult it's no big deal, as a child it was difficult. As an adult who now has a child it is gut wrenching.

 
At 6:46 AM, Blogger Chana said...

Actually, for me it was more like A Clockwork Orange meets fundamental Judaism.

The "euphoria" he feels after having been "fixed" is similar to the pain the criminal in A Clockwork Orange feels when listening to music/ thinking of violence.

This is the reason I do not believe in forcing children- or people- to do this. What you've described, aided by machinery, is exactly the process that was attempted at my highschool, except without the electroshock.

I wonder how many people there are who, if presented with a miracle injection, would force their children to be religious...or would subject them to this kind of "therapy."

Too many, I think.

 
At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though a bit extreme, you're probably right about a portion of the Orthodox community. Shows how far elements of fundamentalist Judaism have come from "hakol b'yedei shamayim, chutz m'yirat shamayim." Guess they skip that one at shabbos mincha.

 
At 8:52 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

“Don’t you see it”, the Jew asked in exasperation, “the core methodology, the mechanism by which materialism views the world, sees phenomenon, facts, ideas; and attempts to make them fit with it’s inflexible philosophy, is so obviously dishonest and manipulative that it pushes the limits of civil rational discourse. How can mud have spontaneously turned into living men? How is it possible that we are merely soulless robots?"

 
At 8:54 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

>>Too many, I think

I'm afraid you're probably right,chana, we should probably be happy that science has not advanced quite that far.
BTW I saw a nice short story on your blog, as soon as I have a chance I will read it.

>>hakol b'yedei shamayim, chutz m'yirat shamayim."

I think the problem would be when you can "install" yiras shemayim, or other emotions that accomplish as much...is it in "our hands" to do so....

 
At 8:59 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

>>>How can mud have spontaneously turned into living men?

Answer: abiogenisis..unknown. Fromt the first cell, well mapped out by evolution.



>>>How is it possible that we are merely soulless robots?"

How is it better to be a soulful robot following dictates of a higher being?

 
At 9:30 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

"From the first cell, well mapped out by evolution." I want to see this map, which should include billions of intermediary steps from bacteria to man.

"How is it better to be a soulful robot following dictates of a higher being?" Robots don't have souls or free will. I do. You imagine that you don't. Does that sound like "inflexible philosophy, so obviously dishonest and manipulative that it pushes the limits of civil rational discourse"?

My point is: Don't imagine that you are so superior. Your own beliefs actually raise more questions than they answer.

I am skeptical of skeptics.

 
At 9:49 AM, Blogger Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

As much as I strongly disagree with your perspective on and attitude toward Judaism, I must commend you on your outstanding writing ability.

 
At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Zev said...

I think my parents would have been less devated if were a homo rather than not frum at all

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

JP,
>>Robots don't have souls or free will. I do.

But your greatest wish is to not deviate from a set course of actions. Your freedom is manifest in your failure ?

RJM,

Thanks for the compliment, it's not my best work, but it was on my hard drive for so long I slapped on an ending and set it out.

As for orthodoxy, we'll have to agree to disagree ;-)

Zev, yeah that's a toss up...

 
At 10:56 PM, Blogger Moshe said...

very nice, Jewish Observer meets the twilight zone...
i have some more comments of literary nature, but i need to think about some more.

As for JP. it pains me to say it, but there may be some inkling of truth to what he is saying. dogmatism has two faces.

 
At 5:51 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

"Your freedom is manifest in your failure ?"

No one is really free. I can be a slave to my stomach, a slave to my penis or a slave to God. I'll choose God.

 
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At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just think it is sad and needed to be pointed out. As an adult it's no big deal, as a child it was difficult. As an adult who now has a child it is gut wrenching.


So what are your options. You live in a Jewish Community and eventually will have to marry off your children to other people who live in a Jewish Community and believe everything that they have been taught. Gut wrenching indeed. I am glad my children are married off.

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger Ben Avuyah said...

>>>So what are your options. You live in a Jewish Community and eventually will have to marry off your children to other people who live in a Jewish Community and believe everything that they have been taught. Gut wrenching indeed. I am glad my children are married off.


I live in a very leftwing MO community, but I do worry about such things. I worry about my daughter getting brainwashed by a Rabbi in the sway of complete certainty of his opinion, never having once actually criticaly analyzed them.

who knows...maybe there is yet hope for a modern orthodoxy that can inject doubt into it's ideology to reflect the lack of beleivability and still stuggle on out of love of tradition and values imbued from the basis of our heritage.

We'll see....

 
At 5:49 AM, Blogger Moshe said...

who knows...maybe there is yet hope for a modern orthodoxy that can inject doubt into it's ideology to reflect the lack of beleivability and still stuggle on out of love of tradition and values imbued from the basis of our heritage.

Ben- I hope so, though I think "lack of lack of beleivability" for "lack of proveability" and would add the possiblity of a more sophisticated kind of faith.

It is not necessary to change the entire MO community, though that might be a nice goal, just a large enough corner, either geographicaly or virtualy to alieviate the loneliness.

I know, I owe you a response to your story, but thats literature, not theology, it requires serious time and energy.

 
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I wanted to discuss an issue with you, but your e-mail address is not posted here.

Mine is homepainting@gmail.com

 
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