I’ve noticed that the introductions to my posts tend to get a little long. Sometimes, a new post writes itself out of an intro and I need to wait another whole month before I can post on what I was originally going to write about. This is not a bad thing though; it helps me get in my writing zone, our readers enjoy it, and it helps set the stage for whatever I plan on posting about. However, with this post it would be a while before the topic I happen to be riffing on this month becomes apparent. Therefore, let’s get that bit out of the way right now.
Today is an angry day. Today I am mad. Today I will rip the Yeshiva grade school system apart.
There you go, that’s what it’s gonna be. Now let’s discuss why this particular issue is drawing my ire on this particular day.
As many of you know, I am in the midst of a period in college life that is known by many names but I choose to call “Finals Insanity.” It’s around this time that we collegians crawl into our holes and don’t come out until we’re free for the semester. It’s around this time that all other things of import fall to the wayside. It is around this time that we begin to wonder WHY IN THE BLUE HELL AM I TAKING CHEMISTRY?!?!?!?!
Chemistry: my most hated school subject. Wasn’t good at it in high school and I’m still not good at in college. So I wonder, as my chem final approaches, WHY IN THE BLUE HELL AM I TAKING CHEMISTRY?!?!?!?! Oh, because I need two lab sciences to satisfy my natural sciences requirement. Bio? That was science number one. Physics? Yeah right. Earth Science? See physics. So I’m left with chemistry. However, it occurs to me that, as a psychology major, I’m never going to look at chemistry again in my life after Monday’s final. And so I still ask:
WHY IN THE BLUE HELL AM I TAKING CHEMISTRY?!?!?!?!
It really doesn’t make any sense to me that I should suffer through a class that I’m terrible at and wreck my GPA to fulfill some bogus requirement. Now, I understand the idea of taking classes that have nothing to do with your intended field of study; college should be an opportunity to expand your horizons and study things you normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to study, not just a means to an end. I truly believe that. However, I have no interest in chemistry at all and wouldn’t sit through a semester of it if you paid me. In the meantime, I’m sitting here going brain dead over my textbook and BLOODY PAYING for it. Stupid. But, I’m not here to rant about college core requirements or chemistry, although that is my current plight. What my chemistry dilemma has triggered in my brain is something that I’ve dealt with all my life and only recently got myself out of.
I dislike when something fun is turned into an obligation. You all know that, I wrote about it in my second post. Fun is fun and obligation is obligation, and never the two shall meet. Okay sometimes they can meet but I’m not getting into it here, just read the darn post. This particular arbitribe (I swear this will make it into the vernacular one day) is about how that concept fails to translate into Jewish schooling. Fair warning though, I have no solutions to this problem. I’m not here to provide the answers to life, the universe, and everything (42), just to provoke thought and emotion and write about what I know.
If you’ve been through the Yeshiva school system then you know exactly what I’m talking about, and if you’re not a total robot then you understand exactly where I’m coming from and might even feel the same way. As adults we are told that Judaism can be looked at in one of two ways, paraphrased here for your convenience: a) HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY YAY GOD, or b) GODAMNIT I HATE ALL THESE RULES. We are also told that the latter totalitarian view is the lesser of the two, but when channeled properly, can be transformed into the spiritual bliss flavor.
What irks me so greatly is that we pay approximately a gazillion dollars to go to religious private schools simply because they are Jewish schools and yet we are virtually never exposed to what is supposed to be the higher outlook of Judaism. We’re all so busy being concerned about the inhale/exhale spit-back split-second memorizations so we can raise our Chumash grade that we don’t process at all the content of what it is we’re reading. The system is set up in such a way that we are required to focus only on the oppressive nature of schooling, and by extension, Judaism, in order to pass our Judaic classes. There’s rarely any emphasis of the joy and wonder and spiritual qualities of Judaism, if at all. This tends to have catastrophic results.
Allow me to elaborate on a more personal level. I graduated high school without a care or a clue. Over the course of the next two years, I self-destructed. Not really going into the particulars, but let’s just say I was having a more than mild identity crisis. In the end, I decided it all boiled down to my religious observance and faith, or lack thereof. You see, I came out of high school and kind of did whatever I wanted, and my level of Jewish observance slipped greatly. When I recognized that this issue was at the root of my personal disorder, I decided I needed to go back to Israel over the summer and learn about what Judaism really is. My last ditch effort at Judaism.
Long, long, looooong story short, it was amazing, I found a Yeshiva run by the same organization as the summer program, signed on, and spent a grand total of 15 months in blissed out spirituality and happiness. Judaism finally meant something to me; I had discovered the other side of the coin. After two years of wandering around aimlessly, I had found something in my Jewish lifestyle that I could connect to. So life’s great now, but I wonder why I had to wreck two years of my life when the opportunity to tap into the other side of Judaism should have been available to me during 12 years of Yeshiva grade school and two at YU.
As I said before, I have no answers, but I feel it is important to raise the issue. We are so focused on the unimportant things like grades that we fail to see the truth in what we’re doing and how little we’re accomplishing by proceeding as we are. No religious base is set, and when we realize it, we spiral into our own religious identity crises. I liken it to the old Roadrunner cartoons. We watch and laugh as Wile E. Coyote chases Roadrunner off a cliff, keeps running in the air, and only plummets to the ground after stopping and looking down, realizing that he’s standing on nothing. We laugh, but that’s the story of our lives. We race along the road, not stopping to think about what we’re doing or why we’re doing it. Eventually we get to a cliff and the bridge is out, but we keep on going. All of a sudden, we wake up, look down, and realize there’s no foundation and nothing is supporting us. Reality sets in, and all of a sudden we’re dropping like flies, making person-shaped craters in the ground below us.
So how do we fix the problem? Some would say the solution is simply to never look down, but I say differently:
Just fix the damn bridge.
Soundtrack to my Finals Insanity – The entire Alive or Just Breathing album by Killswitch Engage