L ike most Torahdig parents, my parents had great aspirations for their sons.

They wanted us to learn, to become talmidei chachamim, to devote our lives to Torah. To follow in their path, basically.

My father is a litvish rosh kollel, and my mother’s life revolves around helping him learn. But out of their three sons, I was the only one who showed promise of living up to their aspirations. My older brother, Shragi, was a weak student who struggled in school from the time he was young. After he graduated elementary school, my parents sent him to a non-mainstream chassidish-style yeshivah, Kesser Beis Dovid, where the focus was primarily on avodas Hashem and the learning was far more relaxed. My younger brother, Yeshaya, was a brilliant kid, but his brilliance was matched by his hyperactivity. He couldn’t sit still, and was constantly getting himself into trouble at home and at school.

Unlike my brothers, I had a good head, I knew how to learn, and I did well in school all the years. That’s why, when I informed my parents at age 16 that I wanted to switch to Kesser Beis Dovid, they were stunned.

I wasn’t the type of kid who complained much or shared what was going on inside me. I had never told anyone, including my parents, that I wasn’t happy in yeshivah.

The high school I attended was a regular litvish-style yeshivah where we learned Gemara three sedorim a day. I liked learning, but I felt that I was missing something.

Whatever it was I was missing, I certainly couldn’t speak to the yeshivah’s mashgiach about it. His job, apparently, was only to harangue the bochurim: “Why did you go out in middle of davening? Why did you come late to shiur? You’re late, don’t bother coming in.”

My brother Shragi had a close relationship with his rosh yeshivah, Rav Taflinsky, and I envied that. But there was no one on the hanhalah of my yeshivah I could think of developing that kind of kesher with. Nor did I connect well with the other bochurim in my yeshivah. So I found myself dropping in, here and there, at Kesser Beis Dovid, which I passed every day on my way home from yeshivah. There, I felt a camaraderie and warmth among the bochurim that did not exist in my yeshivah.

I also started attending Rav Taflinsky’s weekly shmuessen, which were all about avodas hamiddos and a person’s tafkid in life, topics I never heard discussed in my yeshivah.

Shmuessen like these touched me in a way I had never experienced before. This is what I was missing: learning that stirred the soul and the heart, not just the brain, and opened new vistas in how to look at the world and work on yourself to become a better person and eved Hashem.

All day in yeshivah, I found myself pining to be in Kesser Beis Dovid. But my parents were very disturbed that I wanted to switch. “Kesser is a good match for Shragi,” they told me. “It’s not for you, Chezky. You belong in a regular mainstream yeshivah.”

My maggid shiur had a similar reaction when I told him I was planning to switch yeshivos. “Your brother is very different from you,” he said. “Kesser Beis Dovid is the right place for him, but for you it’s out of the question.”

When the maggid shiur told the rosh yeshiva of my plans to switch, he was horrified, and he summoned my parents to an emergency late-night meeting at his house. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 682)