Monday, November 27, 2006

Revisiting September 26, 2005

In late September 2005 I wrote a post where I discussed a shuir I had attended, probably the previous evening. Without getting into too much detail, I wrote that "The party line at Yeshiva was that there was one acceptable use of one's time, that of learning Torah. Sure, there were times when you might not be able to learn, but that was not fulfilling Hashem's plan." If you want to read the whole post, you can click here

An anonymous commenter who is new to the blog came across my post the other day, and left a comment, saying the following:

"Monday, September 26, 2005
Things they would never say in Yeshiva"

I just came across this blog, and in particular the above mentioned post from last year.

I don't know anything about your blog and what its MO is, but I do have to comment on that ball playing issue you mention in that post.

I actually have a picture of R' Bakst ZTL, playing ball baseball glove and all). He was in his 50's or 60's (he already had a beard). I also knew him personally and know his views quite well.

Sorry about the outdatedness of this comment, but as I said before I just happened upon that post.


Anonymous brings up a number of interesting points, which I will go through.

Since you don't know anything about this blog, here is some background. There is no agenda to this blog. There are few posts that actually have substance, although there are plenty of amusing stories (both fact and fiction) from my yeshiva days. There are times when it is decidedly negative toward yeshivas, but that was the experience that I had in yeshiva. I do not pretend to represent anyone other than myself here, and the truth is that at this point in time, posts about yeshivot are few and far between. Nowadays, the blog's focus is usually on our move to Israel, and our experiences in Modiin.

I am truly surprised that there is a picture of Rav Bakst wearing a baseball glove. I knew him long after his playing days were over, as I met him in the early 80s when my family would daven at the Yeshiva, and was in his Yeshiva in Detroit from about 1986-1989.

While Rav Bakst may have played baseball in his earlier Detroit days, by the time I arrived in the Yeshiva, playing sports was tolerated but hardly encouraged and frequently discouraged. Whether that was a policy encouraged by Rav Bakst or just vigilante Rabbinics by his staff is immaterial; students in the yeshiva, as well as other yeshivas I attended, were generally discouraged from participating in any activity that did not involve learning in the Beis Medrash.

What was so surprising and refreshing from that shuir that I mentioned in the September 2005 post was that Rabbi Klein, who I believe was in the Kollel at the time of the shuir, and quite clearly has a black-hat yeshiva background, had no qualms about telling the shuir how he felt about non-torah learning activities. Whether he would say the same thing to 15-year-old high school students is debatable, although my experience with Rabbi Klein leads me to believe that he is considerably more realistic about the nature of boys and the role yeshiva should be playing in their lives.

Since this was brought up, here are two more cents of mine. I think Yeshivas do a lot of damage to students when they create unrealistic expectations regarding the quantity of torah learning that is expected from students in yeshiva, and the premium that they place on learning Torah above anything else. While it is possible that attitudes have changed, I suspect that walking into any general studies classroom in most black hat yeshivas would demonstrate a profound lack of respect for the materials and teachers. Among other things I witnessed in the general studies classroom when I was a student were racist remarks written on the blackboard by a top gemara learner in the class directed at a black teacher, firecrackers and cigarettes lit in the middle of class, and students running to Rav Bakst to complain about reading Shakespeare because the play we were reading contained the word breast (in a non-sexual reference) in the dialog.

What I am trying to say here, after all this, is that I regardless of any picture or activity that Rav Bakst participated in during his earlier days in Detroit, the message sent out to me from the yeshivas I attended was that anything that didn't involve Limud Torah was a complete waste of time, while the shuir I discussed in that post had a different perspective.

3 Comments:

Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

i don't know much about Rabbi Bakst or his MO but....you go girl!

November 27, 2006 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Brewski said...

i think the yeshivas are not articulating their position well...

people should have spiritual goals in life. as everything in life is a package, and every action has some downstream affect (i think affect is correct in this context), playing ball or hockey or ball-hockey, working a job, etc... can all help facilitate the objective. spending all of one's time in the beit medrash (for the long term, in most cases) will not yield great results.

just look at the burn-out rate among kollel yungeleit. there are exceptions, but not the rule.

hence, the sports (again, hockey comes highly recommended) should be viewed in the greater context of life's objectives...

December 01, 2006 12:28 PM  
Blogger Kiddush Club Lives said...

Brewski -

I think Yeshivas articulate their position quite well. I just think their position needs to be modified to fit into reality.

December 03, 2006 4:08 AM  

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