Despite my images and hopes of becoming one of those skinny koilel guys who went to eretz yisoel as a bachur and stayed there, forever, I did find myself back in a yeshiva in the US. The shocking thing was that for the pesach zman, my brother came to learn with me in the same yeshiva. He was even my chavrusa for second seder. This was all so ironic and strange because he and I had never gotten along. He was four years younger and ten times better at everything. He was driving at age 12 and I still didn't have my license. He knew everything about everything and was being flown around the country to do fundraising for his yeshiva when he was in eleventh grade. There was no way I'd ever be as good as him and I hated his guts. Of course, I wouldn't say this, because I was an eidele "baal midos" who never says what he feels and feels what he is. Although,at that time, I had no idea how deep my fears ran, looking back, I could honestly say that I was so afraid of life, I had always been. I never did anything. I couldn't set an alarm clock. I barely knew how to do anything but learn gemara and even that got me nervous.For years,I had just sat and watched when kids were playing because my mind couldn't grasp anything like required thought like remembering where the ball should go next or what should we do when this or that happened. My mind simply didn't get it. So distant it was that it didn't even consider trying to get it.
So here the worst and best of situations all came together. Here I was so lonely and afraid. So not knowing what was going on inside me. I knew that all of this couldn't be good. I knew something was very wrong, but I had no idea how to stop it from happening. At the same time,here is my brother sitting across the table from me. I had nothing in me, a shell of a person. I had never known what it was like to think, to be strong, to be a man. I was so distant from that. Meanwhile my younger brother, who was my chavrusa (learning partner) was all that I secretly wished I could be but knew that I could never. I was his older brother and I was suffering. There was no way that I could ever tell him what was going on.As I had hoped from so many others, I surely, secretly hoped from him "please respect me for how much I have learned" I hoped that somehow, my intellect and accomplishment would get me some points. I had no idea, that the only points could come from ones conscious choices. Since I was, then unaware that there was a chooser in me, there was no way for me to stand, to think or to be. So for now, I stood back, knowing that I must bow to all that I am being told. I knew that at the rate, I was going I was going to crumble and shrink and fall. There was simply no other option. I had never heard of any.
By this time, the pain was sickening. I was beginning to feel physically nervous to the extent that others saw something was wrong. I was reaching a point that felt very dangerous. I was feeling sensations that were impossible to ignore. My brother was fine. For him, he had always diluted his learning with healthy portions of diversion, and fun. For him, he would do learning to the extent that he felt comfortable.For me, it was a moral obligation. It was serious stuff. I felt my hands loosening their grip on all that I had been looking forward to for my whole life. I had always wanted to be a Talmid chacham, a ben toirah, something that would make everyone proud to know me, something I could be proud of and now I felt an iron fist, twisting this treasure away from me. "How could you do this?" I thought "How could you do this?". "I have been so good. I have worked so hard for you. How can you do this to me?"
So there came that moment during second seder in the middle of April where I looked across the table at my brother and said " I can't do this any more" I had it. I didn't know what was going on, but I knew that there was no way for me to continue. I had waited until my body could no longer take the pressure I had put it under. I had so much pain in telling my brother this. I had already felt so lacking from the great advantage that he had over me. I had already felt so deeply offended and aware of my lack because of how untalented I was, and from his immense capability. Now, I was handing in my surrender. In essence I was looking at him and saying " Even this one advantage that I thought I had over you, even this one strength is no longer" Not only was I admitting that I had failed, but the worst part of the pain came because I didn't even know how this was happening. How had I gone wrong? What did I do? I had done everything right? I had followed the seforim. All was written. This wasn't my fault. I had listened to everything I had been told. I had asked a shaila about everything!! I was a true ben toirah. I was completely humbled to all of the words of the Torah, the sages, chazal, the rishoinimg the baalei mussar. I was on the good side. I had done everything right. How could I possibly be so wrong.
Looking back, I was lucky that my brother was there. If I would believe in hashgacha pratis, I would say that this was a small miracle because, although he and I never got along, and although I perceived his way as entirely different than mine, there was still an unspoken solace in having him there, during those toughest moments of my entire life. Somehow, they said, that things may look so upside down now, but in the end there will be smoother times. He and I walked abound those Flatbush blocks again and again, speaking about different subjects. I was in such pain from the inside and out that I was barely present. Still there was some comfort in the fact that he was there. We had never been friends, but for now, for this moment, he was my only friend.