Dec 7, 2006

Jerusalem the melting pot

Ah, holy Jerusalem. I relish the opportunity to go to Jerusalem. It is exciting and suspenseful. Aside from the fact that you never know what you will run into when you are there, anything from a hafganah (protest that sometimes turns to riots) to terrorism (should never happen, but has happened to me a number of times) to achnassat sefer Torah blocking the road, to you name it.

Aside from all that, it is just simply exhilirating going to Jerusalem. The fresh air. The holy city. The range of different types of people. The unique shops and markets. The neighborhoods full of atmosphere. Oh Jerusalem - if I forget thee, my right hand should wither.

Tonight I had the good fortune to be in Jerusalem. I was there for a learning session for shechita and treifos. As usual, we met in a beis medrash near the great and famous Mir Yeshiva in the Beis Yisroel neighborhood of Meah Shearim.

In the past I wrote about seeing the men learning during their off-hours. Tonight I saw something unusual. It might not actually be unusual, but it struck me as being unusual. What I saw tonight I would have expected to see in YU, Skokie Yeshiva, most of the more modern yeshivas for American boys, etc. So when I saw it in this beis medrash next to the Mir, it was a bit of a surprise, pleasant at that.

In the beis medrash was sitting an avreich learning. Not very unusual, so what's your point Rafi? This avreich looked like your typical "greasy" guy, excuse the terminology, but I do not know another word. He was very skinny with a scraggly beard and a thick set of wild peyos (though not as wild as Brisker guys), his skin was pale as though he never spent a day in the sun, and he was wearing one of the navy blue shapeless button down sweaters they wear in the super yeshivishe yeshivas. You know the type.

That's still just some background info.

So what was so unusual?

He sits down to learn and in addition to his sefer, he opened a laptop in front of him. He was putting down his notes in digital format. Maybe he's writing a sefer, I have no idea. But this guy was the last person on earth I would have expected to be using a computer, let alone in a beis medrash by the Mir Yeshiva! Yet there he sat comfortably in front of his trusty laptop commiting his thoughts and words to his electronic notebook (hmmm, maybe he was blogging?).

I wonder if I would have seen that in bnei Brak....

But that's not it... A short while later, as we are learning, another avreich walks in with his bags. He whips out his sefer and then sure enough pulls out his IBM laptop and places it on the table. He, very comfortably, starts learning and doing whatever he was doing on his laptop (blogging perhaps as well?). he may have been playing Freecell, but it looked like he was committing his notes to his electronic journal.

This guy looked even less likely to be using a computer than the first guy! Similar dress and appearance, but seemed even further from the modern world than the first guy. Man can appearances be deceiving!

Shortly after that a night kollel filled the room with Yerushalmi men in full garb.

Ah, Jerusalem. The melting pot of the Jewish people.


  1. I wonder if they were friends of mine... I've seen that more and more, even though I still find it a bit weird. But honestly - good for them. Why not take advantage of what's out there?

  2. You mention one of the pleasures of going to Jerusalem is "the fresh air". I am unsure what you are talking about. I have never been to a Jerusalem with fresh air. Can you give me directions to such a place?

  3. ezzie - good for them is right.

    dalet - at night there is plenty of fresh air. especially in the winter with a nice chill in the air...

  4. Rafi: Excellent :)

    I think I know the guys you wrote about -- will check today.

    I thought you were going to go on with the story and say they pulled out their ipods to listen to shiurim ;-)

  5. Jameel - there are plenty of guys like that it seems... Unlikely I saw the guy you know, though I guess it is possible...

    They might have but We finished and left just a few minutes after the yerushalmi kollel came in so I did not see that happen...
    but mp3 players and ipods are old news already...

  6. Unlike laptops, mp3 (not just what they call "mp4") players have been banned before. Shaspod notwithstanding, I'd be more surprised to see someone in Mir with an iPod than a laptop.

    Then again, I remember the joy a good friend of mine (3 years in Mir, now (back) in Lakewood) had in his eyes when he discovered that he could hold a lot more Torah in an mp3 player than on cassettes...

  7. Mike - you are sort of right. Laptops have not been banned, but only sort of. There is a general ban on computers, though it has never been enforced like it has been on internet and cellphones and other items. When we registered our daughter in bais yaakov, we were forced to sign a paper saying we do not have a computer.
    Before you ask how we could sign such a thing, let me tell you we did not. We refused to sign and had to send a special letter to the admin of bais yaakov in yerushalayim saying the kids would not have access, blah blah blah. other people did sign, and that might be a topic for another post.

    but ingeneral, computers were never really banned.

  8. Interesting. It's ironic that the two main anglo-Chareidi / chareidi-with-an-anglo-population schools in RBS both have web sites (even if they're basically useless).

    When we registered for Magen Avos gan, no one asked us... I guess they go easy on the gan kids ;)

  9. The Rosh Kollel where I learn frequently writes Torah into his laptop in the Beit Midrash.

  10. yaak - it is much more common in the USA. While it is becoming more common here, it was a bit surprising because I had never seen it like this - so openly in a beis medrash of the Mir Yeshiva, by someone who looked so unlikely to be using it!! I have seen it here as well, but usually by American avreichim or a more modern crowd. These guys were as yeshivishe as you can get, in the Mir.

  11. Rafi,
    Very interesting, indeed. I'd love to have seen what they were doing. Beatiful words about Jerusalem. I miss it. There's so much positive energy there. Thanks and Gut Erev Shabbos Kodesh!

  12. Rafi,

    Were you describing me? You never know! :)


  13. IFT - I did not know you are in Israel. If you learn by the Mir, I am there almost every Wednesday night. We could get together and meet for a shwarma right across from the MIr next time. lol. Or are you still in Lakewood?


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