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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Yeshiva World/Secular World: Compatible?

It's about time someone wrote something about the narrow weltanschauung of the yeshiva world. There are serious problems there, problems which should be addressed. I am glad that UnOrthodox Yeshiva Guy is writing about them.
Case in point: My son has a friend who is Lubavitch and very intelligent. Because he hadn't studied English, math & science in school (he went to an Aguda type yeshiva day school), nor did he learn the Hebrew language - he failed three exams needed to enlist in the IDF (it's a long story). He realized then that he was ill-prepared to function in today's world, and promptly (after proving himself and excelling in Tzahal) started studying the courses he needed in order to bring him up to speed (high school level; we're not even talking about college!)
He went on to get his BA in Jewish Studies in college.
You should hear what he has to say about the yeshiva world. And I am happy to say, he didn't 'throw out the baby with the bathwater' - he returned to being Lubavitch, is married w/ 2 kids, and has started several businesses. And he is still studying - now, towards his LSATs!
The Rambam was a secular as well as a Torah scholar, as were other sages in Jewish history. Nachmanides (the RamBaN) studied medicine and philosophy. There is no need to abandon a Torah life; there is just a need to expand upon it and learn what is necessary to succeed in the world at large. Doesn't it say in Pirkei Avot, "ezehu chakham ha-lomed mi-kol adam" ? It is also written, "ein Torah bli Derekh Eretz..."(derekh eretz= a livlihood, among other meanings).
Another point is that somewhere in all this, the laws of 'mitzvot bein adam le-havero ' seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Some people are so concerned with outward appearances, that a dishonest, cheating thief - such as the kosher supervisor who was indicted for labeling and importing treif meat as kosher (see JCop's blog) - is (before being discovered) viewed as frum and respected.
But a Jew trying to be a good ben-Torah by living "ve-ahavta le-rayakha kamokha" in addition to keeping the laws bein adam l'Hashem (Shabbat, kashrut, etc.) is looked upon with disdain because he wears colored shirts, is in grad school and reads newspapers.
So, UnOrthodoxYeshivaGuy, keep writing of your experiences, and keep the dialogue going. This is the correct forum - among others - to do so.
p.s. - I think colored shirts are fun! What would the yeshiva world say about my son's kippah sruga?



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6 comments:

Nemo said...

Coming up in a Lubavitch system that wasn't as fundamental as others, we were given a secular education. When we reached high school, even though we continued our secular studies, it was constantly reitterated to us the falseness of secularisms and that our priorities are in Torah and Mitzvos. We were made aware that any form of secular studies is technically forbidden by the Torah and perhaps even worse than other worldy pursuits, as this has the power to pollute your mind. The only reason that one could study, as did the Rambam and Ramban along with other dignitaries, is because it is often necessary for Parnasah. That IS the traditional Jewish education, Torah, Torah and more Torah.

Now, I won't say that I didn't take it all with a grain of salt, but I so see truth to skipping secular subjects altoghether {from a religious angle angle} more and more with the passage of time.

Do I see myself not giving my children a secular education now that I know better? The answer is no, I would most probably give my kids the same education that I had, albeit with a little more parental involvement than I had. It's a tough world out there and it challenges our beliefs even in our principals, and sometimes we have to do as good as we can get, while remaining honest to ourselves.

I know that not everyone would agree with this, but this is the Lubavitch system and I have come to love and swear by it.

Nemo said...

Also, Lady-Light, I see where you're coming from, but if you look at it from my angle, that story doesn't reflect badly on this guy or his education. Actually, this reinforces the Lubavitch motif that they constantly tell you in Yeshiva that you don't need an education to make it in the world. It goes to prove that someone that goes through the system can come out with enough fortitude to excell, despite being "disadvantaged". Look at this guy, he had the proper Lubavitch/Yeshivish education growing up and with a bit of effort on his part, he didn't even need a secular education to succeed.

Everyone struggles in one way or another.

Nemo said...

{Yet another post from me {the plea for intelligence musta worked}}

The whole white shirt thing is very ubsurd. I can't speak for the "Yeshiva" world, but I know that in Lubavitch Yeshiva's, there was no particular rules about white shirts up until a few years ago. I think the change is for two reasons:

1. To impress the rest of the Yeshiva world.
2. Because years ago their weren't too many colors for button down shirts. You either wore white, blue or pinstripe. Nowadays, with all the crazy colors and even shades of blue, I guess the Roshei Yeshivos felt the need to simplify to avoid too many blaring colors.

Outside of Yeshiva, and even in some Yeshivas, you will still not be looked at askance for wearing a colored shirt, as long as its relatively conservative.

Lady-Light said...

Nemo, thank you for the copious comments - I am honored.
Think about it: Math is not considered as important(for instance)as Torah, because the people who think they know Torah, don't. The world is based on math; everything boils down to it; there even may be hidden codes in the Torah - and gematria has always been used & valued in exegeses of Torah texts. So, not to teach mathematics and its importance is VERY detrimental to one's knowledge of the world AND Torah. In these fundamental schools, as you put it, math is not considered compatible with Torah, when for all we know, math MAKES UP the Torah. We learn more about G-d's creation with every passing century; so far, nothing discovered educationally or even archeologically has disproven the Torah-quite the contrary; even new scientific discoveries seem to mesh with Breishit Bara Elokim (note: the Big Bang Theory). So what are they afraid of?
With regard to our Lubavitch friend, he was educationally and technically unprepared. He had to hustle and study on his own, set a goal for himself and work very hard to achieve it. The schools should prepare one to be independent in the world.
This is why I much prefer a Yeshiva Day School, with strong emphasis on Torah, Mitzvot & Eretz Yisrael, AND also on English, math, science & the arts.
With a 'shiluv' like that, you come out a 'well-rounded' individual with a knowledge base solid enough to move on from there.

Nemo said...

Nothing is greater proof than experience and experience has shown that Math is certainly not a necessity in understanding the Talmud. Sorry to say this, but as nice of a theory as that is about the Mathematics and the key to understanding the univers, but most of the sages in history never studied disciplined math.

I still think it's advisable if you want to balance your checkbook.

I don't think Math is a prohibited study, though much of science would be as its all ripped through with Heresy. We always knew growing up how to reconcile the text books and teachers with what we knew to be the real truth.

And also, I think you missed my point regarding your Lubavitch friend. The very fact that he was able to pull off all that he did on his own is proof somewhat that an education is irrelevant and unnecessary. He wasn't unprepared, because you see that with his effort he did what he wanted to do. He is a success story and it wasn't even because of some Grade-A education he had growing up.

I'm not arguing with you, I just think that the example that you brought was a bad argument. I'm not recommending such education for everybody {who am I to speak anyway?}, I'm just trying to get you to understand.

Lady-Light said...

I think I understand what you are saying, Nemo; it is because of his character and drive that our Lubavitch friend succeeded, not because of his education. However, he would not have had to be rejected (the army offered him a cook or driver position; he declined. He finished in Tzanchanim). He WAS unprepared for basic exams - he would not have failed 3 tests had he had the required basic courses. I am not saying that 'secular education makes the man' - the nazis were cultured and educated, and they were immoral and murderers; secular education does NOT replace Torah & Hashem's laws - rather, I am saying that a well-rounded education is important because it helps one understand the world, and prepares one for a profession.
At the very least, one can use the argument 'Know Thine Enemy'.

 
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