When I think back to high school or Mesivta as we called it, there’s one memory that always comes to the fore.
In the basement of our Yeshiva building there was a very large room that had been completely gutted a few years before my arrival because of asbestos concerns; the room was then used as a dumping grounds for old beds and mattresses, dressers, bureaus, lockers and every other conceivable Yeshiva waste.
A friend of mine came up with the grand idea that we could buy a TV with VCR, build a hideout inside that room in the basement and watch movies in there! We would only watch on Thursday nights, we would only watch movies; no TV and we wouldn’t tell anyone else about it, nobody. Period.
Well my friend was as good as his word, he took a taxi to an electronics store and brought the television back inside a big black garbage bag and hid it in some bushes near the Yeshiva until late at night when he brought it into the building and into the room he had built.
The room was built out of lockers with a mattress somehow suspended within the room, just a drop lower than the top of the lockers – I don’t remember how it was done – so that no light would escape. You could only enter the room through a labyrinth of lockers where the last one had a padlock on it, the back wall of that locker was removed so that when you unlocked it you walked right through the locker and into our room.
I can reminisce for a long time about what we watched there and how my friend did end up telling three other Bochurim about our room and inviting them in to watch movies, how he did later watch TV on it (I particularly remember watching Air Force One during Second Seder) and how we finally shut down the room at the end of that year when we both left that Yeshiva and what we did with the TV set, but what I wanted to talk about was why I always remember that particular memory whenever I think of my Yeshiva days?
Mostly I like to think of what we did as daring, wild, fun, never getting caught. But in the same breath so to speak I always think about the inadequacies of the Rabbeim who thought that they had such a good grip on what was going on in their Yeshiva; this was – and still is – one of the premier Yeshivos in North America, they were busy giving “Knassos” for coming late to Shacharis, for coming late for curfew, they were kicking Bochurim out for smoking and here we were watching movies right under there noses!
The Chutzpah still amazes me whenever I think about it.
But that’s probably not the only reason it’s such a strong memory since we did many more things than just that; we tapped into the phone lines, we broke into the office, we broke into the kitchen and cooked etc. etc.
I think what it really is, is the understanding and the fear that comes along with this understanding, that the Yeshiva system really is inadequate, the idea of sheltering us is really a faulty way of creating strong Jews who can deal with the world we live in.
B”H all of my friends who were involved in this particular scheme are Frum today, but you have to say that we’re Frum despite our Rabbeim, not because of them, they didn’t help us get through that stage, they didn’t help us deal with the images we were seeing on the screen………..
These are the thoughts that go through my mind when I remember those particular memories, and that leads ot the obvious question; how will I help my kids deal with our world?