My last post is hibernating in my hard drive, still unsubmitted and unpublished. Itâ€™s pretty dark, as I was in a pretty dark mood when I wrote it. And even though I tried to lighten it up the second time through, I decided in the end it wasnâ€™t something I wanted to post. Maybe Iâ€™ll wait till my next fit of melancholy and send it in then.
What had soured my mood was the set of circumstances that had prompted me to write another recent post, â€œItâ€™s lonely in the middle.â€ Here you have it:
I teach in a yeshiva high school. Yeshiva high school is a curious phenomenon, an apparent oxymoron that attempts to create a hybrid combining the standard of learning and Torah commitment of a traditional yeshiva with a solid program in secular studies. And although Rav Hirsch invented this very approach and used it to save much of German Jewry from the influence of Reform, yeshiva high schools have, for the most part, gone the way of the dinosaur.
Like politics, the world of Torah has been steadily polarizing. The right gets farther right, and the left gets farther left. My principal gets calls from all over the country from parents who want a secular study program that will leave college open as an option for their children without sacrificing Torah study standards or separate education. Few such options exist.
But we exist, taking students from almost every background, providing boys and girls on separate campuses with first-rate Torah and secular educations. Weâ€™ve earned for ourselves an exceptional reputation from yeshivas, seminaries, and universities, beating private school SAT averages every single year for over a decade, and turning out class after class of committed young bâ€™nei Torah. Some are chareidi, some are tzioni, some are learning in kollel, most go to college, many become established professionals. And the overwhelming majority continue to demonstrate the same level of Torah observance that I hope for in my own children.
So whatâ€™s the problem? Well, on the right: â€œYouâ€™re not a REAL yeshiva.â€ Possibly a good thing, since weâ€™ve saved a number of kids severely damaged by real yeshivos. True, most of our boys donâ€™t daven with black hats (well, one does — my son). Only a few wear jackets. Many of the families have televisions (or perhaps I should say, ADMIT to having televisions). And many of our students actually plan on having jobs when they grow up.
On the left: â€œYouâ€™re not Zionistic enough.â€ Never mind that 90% of our graduates go to learn for a year or more in Eretz Yisroel, and that our fourth student in three years is about to enlist in the Israeli army. Oh, donâ€™t forget about the â€œbenefitsâ€ of coeducation that our students are missing out on (since, as we all know, all those recent studies proving the benefits of separate education are wrong).
What do these people think about, I wonder, when theyâ€™re sitting on the floor on Tisha Bâ€™Av mourning the Beis HaMikdash that was destroyed for sinas chinom? The persistent, passionate rationalization of this war of ideologies that turns every one who doesnâ€™t agree with MY VIEW OF THE WORLD into a heretic or a fanatic canâ€™t possibly be bringing Moshiach any closer.
But the superficiality of so much of the frum world only seems to be getting worse, with a white shirt and a black hat becoming the line in the sand, either the hill I have to die defending or the enemy I have to kill at all costs.
Meanwhile, the boys I teach, despite their variegated backgrounds, demonstrate a degree of achdus the most shuls could envy, and the girls I teach are still complaining that our curriculum isnâ€™t allowing us to continue learning Mesillas Yesharim.
Pity we arenâ€™t a REAL yeshiva, isnâ€™t it.