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Egy, Kettö, Három
Analyzing the Wisdom of Overly Sheltering Our Children
by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
Publication: Mishpacha Magazine

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11/11/08

When administering educational evaluations, it is axiomatic that the testing be done in the child’s ‘first language’ so he or she need not silently translate the question before answering. Testing a child is his or her ‘second language’ often skews the results, as incorrect answers on the part of the child may be attributed to the added burden of converting the question from the less familiar language to the primary one.

To satisfy my curiosity, I once posed a question to a friend of mine who is a credentialed educational evaluator. “What do you do,” I asked, “when you have a bi-lingual child and you are not sure which of the child’s languages the primary one is?”

“Oh, that’s simple,” he responded. “I just place a number of coins on the table and ask the child to count them. Invariably, he or she will count them in his/her native tongue and that is the language that I use for the testing.”

With that in mind, I would like to suggest the following exercise for those who are fortunate to have Holocaust-surviving grandparents of Hungarian/Romanian background: Place several pictures of your children on the table and ask them to start counting. In all likelihood, you will hear, “Egy, Kettö, Három” (pronounced “et, ket, harom” – the numbers, “one, two, and three” in Hungarian) as that is the language they think in. For even sixty years after they left Europe, many of them still revert to their native Hungarian when thinking or while speaking to their peers. If you need further proof that this is so, take a trip to Miami Beach this winter and listen to the dialogue between the members of the ‘Greatest Generation’ one evening on the boardwalk.

The indisputable fact that virtually all fervently observant Jews in Hungary/Rumania were fluent in their native language is an important one to reflect upon. Why? Because it counters the revisionist history that developing English language skills in our children is somehow charting a ‘new’ path that deviates from our mesorah (tradition). In fact, throughout the centuries, even in times when the general population was mostly illiterate, Jews were known as the ‘people of the book’ who placed a great value on educating our children not only in Hebrew reading and writing, but also in the language of the lands in which we lived. The Rambam wrote in Arabic, and Rashi continuously referenced Old French in his commentaries, as those were the languages spoken at that time. What more proof is needed that Jews in France were fluent in the local language than the fact that Rashi repeatedly translated difficult words from Hebrew to French?

What is most unsettling, is that having a command of the native language is more crucial in today’s job market than it has ever been in history. Our grandparents in Europe, who did speak the local language, ironically did not need to draw upon those skills for their daily bread, as they mostly toiled in manual-labor positions or traded with other Jews, where Yiddish was the common vernacular.

Even in America a few decades ago, a solid general studies education was not as critical as it is nowadays. When my parents got married, jobs that did not require schooling or enhanced language skills, such as working in the diamond line, were readily available and provided sufficient income for a growing family. Due to outsourcing and the volatile job market created by the economic downturn, that is just not the case today.

It is certainly reasonable for one to make the case that due to the rapidly eroding moral culture in the world around us, it is necessary and prudent to safeguard our children from its negative effects. But it is one thing to shield your children from the Internet or television, and entirely another to raise them lacking the rudimentary skills to earn a living. Many point to individuals who became fabulously wealthy without a command of their native language. But they are just that. Individuals. The brutal reality is that most people who are poorly educated struggle mightily to earn a living and support their families – and this applies even or especially to those who plan on entering chinuch or rabbonus. Expecting to strike it rich with limited education is analogous to a 15-year-old dribbling a basketball and dreaming of playing in the National Basketball Association. A few make it while the others. . .well, . . . they don’t.

A close friend of mine owns a business in an area with a large charedi population and is always looking to provide avrechim with jobs. His ‘entrance exam’ is rather simple. He gives prospective applicants a pad and paper and asks them to write two paragraphs in English expressing the reasons they would like to land a job in his company, and then to turn on a computer and type those lines. His thinking is that if an applicant cannot perform those two tasks, they are useless to him in his business. Suffice it to say that this would probably be my last column in Mishpacha if I shared with you the percentage of applicants he turns away because they cannot do that.

In more than twenty-five years of dealing with at-risk teens I have not noticed a lower drop-out rate among kids who are raised in more sheltered environments. In fact, my experience leads me to support the observation made by my colleague Reb Yonasan Rosenblum, in a number of columns in these pages over the past few years, that out-of-town children have a lower drop-out rate than those who are raised in very sheltered communities.

What is indisputably a colossal risk factor, for marital discord and kids abandoning Yiddishkeit, is poverty. With that in mind, it is my strong and growing feeling, that not educating your children nowadays, and overly sheltering them from acquiring basic general studies skills, dramatically raises the risk factor that your grandchildren will be raised in stressful, unhappy homes – and more vulnerable to all the negative influences we wish to shield them from.

Suggested Reading:

Life Skills

The Plan – An Open Letter To Yeshiva Bochurim



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1. This runs counter to the Gedolim in Yerushalayim, but     11/11/08 - 12:41 PM
Anonymous

In yerushalayim, a number of years ago, the Rabbonim expressly forbade the learning of English so that frum Yidden would have minimal contact with the goyim and learn from them and leave yiddishkeit. Nevertheless, I must agree with you for the reasons you mention, but you've got a tough sell!


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2. native tounge     11/11/08 - 1:31 PM
Anonymous

so native tounge means that they have skills!? can you at least attempt to make sense!


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3. same garbage     11/11/08 - 1:32 PM
yossi

are you running out of things to write about? you must have brought out this point tens of times already


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4. To #3     11/11/08 - 1:55 PM
BK

Even if you feel that speaking the language of the country is optional, derech eretz and middos tovos is obligatory for any Torah-true Yid. It would be nice if your post was in line with this requirement. As far as "making sense" goes, speaking the language of the country is crucial for making a living there. This, again, is a pretty basic idea, that does not seem too revolutionary to understand.


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5. We Must Always Strive for Excellence in Everything We Do     11/11/08 - 2:16 PM
Anonymous

That is what I heard from a leading Chassidic Rebbe of the past generation. In the U.S., where Limudei Chol are mandatory, many learn "English" subjects merely to be "Yotzei" (satisfy the government's requirement).

This Chassidishe Rebbe disagreed. He was strongly opposed to wasting time. He said that lazyness in Limudei Chol causes one's Torah learning to suffer, as well.


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6. T #3     11/11/08 - 2:17 PM
Anonymous

First of all, it's TONGUE, not tounge. Secondly, mastering the language is a prerequisite for most jobs. Don't who can not speak or write clearly, eloquently and correctly are in most cases destined to have low paying jobs. R' Horowitz is correct, as always.


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7. Finally!     11/11/08 - 3:00 PM
Anonymous

In 1963, Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler zt'l, the renowned mashgiach of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak and author of the Michtav Me'eliyahu, issued a strongly worded teshuva against the so-called "Frankfurt" approach to Yeshiva education, which involved the study of secular studies. Although he acknowledged the outstanding success of these institutions in inculcating commitment to Torah Judaism, Rabbi Dessler's objection was that the institutions that followed this approach historically had not created gedolim, and that, indeed, Germany had not created a godol of note in many years as a result. In contrast, the sole concern of the Roshei Yeshiva of traditional Yeshivot:

"...has been to uphold a single objective, to grow gedolei Torah and Yirei Shomayim as one. For this reason, [roshei yeshiva] have prohibited university to their students, because they could not conceive how to grow gedolim in Torah if not to concentrate their entire educational efforts towards Torah alone. However, do not consider that they do not know, a priori, that through this approach a number [of students] will, G-d forbid, become adversely affected, since they will be unable to withstand this extreme [educational] policy, and as a result separate from the ways of Torah. However, this is the price that must be paid to create gedolei Torah and Yirei Shomayim educated in their Yeshivos. Of course, they must stand guard and do all that is possible to help those who can not remain Bnei Torah, but not in a way that will attract the other students. For example, those that must leave the Yeshiva should become storekeepers or have other jobs that are not considered trades, requiring no training, so as not to attract the [other] students. Those whose strong desire is indeed to learn a trade, and certainly those who choose a profession that requires secular training, should be ignored, so the other students are not ruinously influenced by any one individual's restoration."

No observer of the American scene can deny the phenomenal growth of what we might loosely call "right wing" yeshivos, institutions in the mold of Rav Dessler's model. Although rudimentary secular studies is a formal part of the curriculum, they are little more than pro forma as their quality has seriously degraded in the last 20-30 years. Furthermore, in New York and New Jersey secular studies end at 11th grade, as the nominal state requirements for high school completion are met, and thus even this watered down education is truncated. The pursuit of higher secular education part-time is at best discouraged in some of these institutions, and expressly prohibited in most others.

Rav Dessler's prediction, "that through this approach a number [of students] will, G-d forbid, become adversely affected, since they will be unable to withstand this extreme [educational] policy, and as a result separate from the ways of Torah," has been fulfilled. This is the point of R. Horowitz' post.

I will conclude with a statement that I made on Vos Iz Neias where R. Horowitz' article is reposted:

This article is absolute truth, and absolutely brilliant. The message, however, is also in direct conflict with the educational philosophy of the gedolei hador, who, after all, have personally engineered the degradation of limudei chol in their Yeshivos. You cannot accept the unquestioned authority of the gedolei hador and the absolute truth of this article at the same time. Never has there been greater cognitive dissonance.


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8. The need for clarity     11/11/08 - 3:15 PM
Confused

What is the purpose of the article? If Rabbi Horowitz is advocating that we strengthen the secular curriculam in our elementary and high schools - raise the level of the education and insure its enforcement- a commendable idea, (since the lethargic attitude towards 'english' is partly a result of parental indifference, an article adressing the parent body would presumably facilitate a positive change)that has the backing of many Rabbonim that I know personaly. Is Rabbi Horowitz advocating that there should be more tolorance for formal higher education amongst yeshiva people? I doubt it, for a number of reasons. Rabbi Horowitz realizes that the issue of when people who would otherwise be learning should 'close their Gemaras' is an issue that should be decided by people who are Torah greats that are deeply intrenched in Torah study to the point that it defines their essance. In the classic risk/benefit analysis, only one who appreciates the magnitude of the 'benefit' is in a position to decide when the benefit must be waived in order to avoid the risk. I hope that Rabbi Horowitz realizes the importance of Torah excellance, something that can only be truely appreciated by someone who 'toils' in Torah. I am sure that if Rabbi Horowitz is adressing yeshiva people/full time learners, he surely has at least a minmul appreciation of what Torah means. In other words, I am sure that Rabbi Horowitz does not think, "Why is there such an emphasis on full time learning, there are many respectable Torah VaDass/ Baley Batim who are fine Jews, like Mr. Beiderman, why is there such an emphasis on full time learning"? If he would think that, he definitly wouldn't consider himself as someone who appreciates the 'benefit'. Please clarify my concerns and elaborate your intentions.


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9.     11/11/08 - 3:25 PM
Anonymous

It is so depressingly disheartening to read some of the knee-jerk criticism directed at Rabbi Horowitz in response to this column. As to the posters who cited poskim who have taken issue with exposure to secular culture--yes, there have always been divergence of opinions among our gedolim on many, many issues and obviously Harav Elyashiv's perspective has applicable lessons and insights as does the Rambam's. Far as I know, a universal psak halachically binding gantz klal Yisroel has never been issued one way or the other by a Sanhedrin or any "rov" (majority), and a good part of this issue hinges on hashkafa rather than halacha. This squarely places the matter into the realm of individual bechira meant to be exercised with lots of personal responsibility and Torah guidance. Clearly it is appropriate to consult with one's personal daas Torah on such matters for individual direction and one can even request his posek's "psak" on the matter should he want and choose to and should his Rav feel comfortable framing it that way, but that is not the same as imposing one's own interpetation and derech in a manner which precludes tolerance for halachically acceptable alternatives.

If you can't believe in the diversity of respectable, weighty halachic viewpoints, you've never opened a gemorah (which by the way is written in Aramaic, not Lashon Hakodesh). And for every heilig talmid chochom who has ever opposed secular knowledge with due cause, we can point to a member of Sanhedrin--all of whom were required to be proficient in a variety of chochmos which, lichorah, appear to lie outside the geder of Torah proper.

More importantly, Rabbi Horowitz speaks from the perspective and unique understanding of what he has seen on the streets--experiences which in all likelihood his critics could not even begin to imagine. If he says serious problems appear more prone to arise in impoverished, overwhelmed families (which shouldn't really be news to anyone) in which there is insufficient skill to generate income, what personal agenda could he possibly have at heart??? If you don't sense a deep-running ahavas Yisroel in his words, you are not listening closely.


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10. Another important point     11/11/08 - 3:47 PM
Anonymous

"Confused" indicates that the gedolei hador have been kove'a the educational philosophy that is directed to developing future gedolei Torah, and that this philosophy must gain precedence over any other curriculum that puts any chashivus on limudei chol.

The simple fact is, however, in almost every Yeshiva that gedolei Torah would endorse, limudei chol has turned into a daily kevius in Chillul Hashem. Bizayon of the English teachers by the bochurim is tolerated, or at best ignored, by the administration. At the same time, since bochurim consistently get the implicit message from their rabbeim that limudei chol has absolutely no chashivus, they actually feel that it is a mitzvah to be mevazeh the English teachers. A line from the vidui of the Chid"a comes to mind: "Kol kach nishtarashnu bechait, kemitzvah techashev be'eineinu"

Chillul Hashem has now become part of the seder hayom in most yeshivas. Imagine a Yeshiva where chillul Shabos would be tolerated. Yet, what is worse - Chillul Shabbos or Chillul Hashem? Is this the way to create gedolim?


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11.     11/11/08 - 4:17 PM
tzvi

once again rabbi horowitz finds fault with the current system and dosent miss an oppurtunity to bash and critisize rabbanim yeshivos and even parents who raise a family is he smarter than evreyone? is he the one to decide on this issues that go back generations that were dealt with the biggest gedolim of the time ,not an ADMOR who blogs and is no longer in the school that was supposed to be the perfect chinuch.


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12.     11/11/08 - 4:46 PM
yoni

personaly I think that every single classroom where secular studies are taught should have, in large letters similar to the (R"L!) yechi posters in 770 (HY"A) the halacha "one who does not teach his children a trade has taught them to steal" (O"H 156)

even if you will spend the rest of your days learning torah, you have to know a trade.

secondly, the goan says unequivicably that whatever you lack in secular knowledge you lack 1000 fold in torah knowledge, which means, there does not exist the gadol who is not at least aquainted with secular knowledge.

if you want gedolim, you have to teach secular knowledge. Most of the gedolei hadoros hakadomin spent considerable time studying these disciplines, and we dare to deviate?


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13. to Another Important Point     11/11/08 - 5:03 PM
Confused

I clearly distinguished between high school and higher education. I explicitly said that it is commendable to treat secular studies, in elementary and high school, seriously.


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14. Valid point streches to errant line     11/11/08 - 5:29 PM
M

So we should teach our children a language, specifically the one native to the environment in which one they will probably be trying to making a living because if I don’t, I increase the odds for bad developments for my child – drop out of the system rate, crippled in parnasa efforts, chances of a successful home/family/offspring, etc.

That’s touching on several important issues. But only one is indisputable. And the attempt to tie all the issues into one tidy causation package is quite an overreach.

1. Why are today’s youth “at risk:” It is simplistic and naïve to answer this with one shot. Every person’s life experience and DNA are somewhat different. There are similarities and differences between today’s and yesterday’s Judaism and the challenges to it. Two siblings raised identically can go in very different directions.

2. Poverty: It certainly can strain all inter-human relationships – spousal, parent/child, family, social. Strained marriages and families can certainly seed negative reaction to all aspects of the family unit, including religion. But one can be money-poor and happy and have a close-knit, healthy family and relationship.

3. America’s basic school subjects: Teaching these to children can pose a challenge to the anti-assimilation, insular ethos common to most ultra-orthodoxy. But one can teach basic non-Jewish subject in a filtered way that doesn’t threaten the insularity.

But there’s one issue that is indisputable – If you don’t teach a child one language, any language, “mit hent un fis” – with its rules, grammar, spelling, structure – you cripple the child. Period. Language provides the mind the necessary frame with which to handle its thoughts. Not being able to coherently think, organize thought and express oneself will directly (and aversely) affect the way you will do anything logical – social, business, religious, familial, etc.

Yes, yes. Some illiterates become millionaires. And some people win the lottery. For everyone else, logic should prevail. Perhaps we can strip this article down to one most pivotal and fundamental issue for contemporary, ultra-orthodox people: Focus on protection from secular damage should not come at the expense of thoroughly teaching a language. The formal, educational structure common to standardized schooling must be applied to whatever language you want for your children.

Conversational Mameh Loshon is NOT a replacement for this. The fact that English is preferable, doable and should not violate any real fundamentalist custom, is secondary to the point.


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15. To Confused     11/11/08 - 6:35 PM
Finally!

I understand your point, but in my experience, it is not so much parental apathy that results in the Chillul Hashem that limudei chol have become, it is the overall educational system. How can limudei chol be taken seriously when the consistent message of the hanhalah is that it has no value? What Yeshiva bochur has not been told that the Yeshiva of Volozhin closed down due to the imposition of secular studies ("My Uncle the Netziv" notwithstanding?) How can any student rationalize the mixed messages that he is receiving?

I live in a community where secular studies in the local mesivta are tauhgt in a building separate from the limudei chol. The Rosh Yeshiva refuses to walk into that building during limudei chol classes. What message does this send the students in those classes?

The solution, and not the problem, lies with parents. If parents were to sit in on secular classes for only one period, htey would exit these Yeshivos, with their children, en masse. Only when parents are willing to transfer their children to Yeshivos where limudei chol are not a joke will the situation change.


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16. to Finally     11/11/08 - 6:45 PM
Confused

I agree. I assume that the majority of readers of this post are parents and therefore Rabbi Horowitz feels that addressing the parent body will affectuate a change. Regardless of whether they are the cause of the problem or they merely have the ability to ameliorate the problem.


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17. respone to #15     11/11/08 - 7:19 PM
Anonymous

1. Where in the article does Rabbi Horowitz say that it addresses "the only," "undisputable" factor contributing to the at-risk phenomenon? if you peruse this site, you will find discussion of a variety of factors which may precipitate at-risk behaviors. This thread deals with one of them.

2. Poverty CAN certainly coexist with happiness, but it is not a challenge we set ourselves up for or a miracle upon which to rely. The fact is, if you examine the global statistics in practically every society, poverty links DIRECTLY to all too many social ills: disease, alcoholism, drug abuse, street-violence, depression. The cycle of poverty is perpetuated and intensified when poor families grow larger than their resources can stretch.

By no means does this imply that wealthier societies are necessarily "happier." The motivation to take personal responsibility for our basic needs (relying upon Hashem, of course, to crown our hishtadlus with hatzlocha), however, is a basic component of psychological health and physical well-being on both a personal and social level. This reality affects all humanity and we Jews are not exempt.

3. I would like to take exception to the use of the word "secular." In our lives, there is no room for secularity. Our task is the transformation of chol to kodesh. When we study science or mathematics or history for the purpose of being mefarnes a frum family or to better appreciate Hashem's world or to generate kiddush Hashem as an "am chachom venavon"--or for whatever personally meaning we intend--that is kodesh kodashim. Isn't that the essence of our mission??


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18. ps     11/11/08 - 9:10 PM
Anonymous

One additional observation: It is interesting how concerned we are about external influences when in reality some of our biggest problems are generated from within. Halevay that the dangers of studying non-Jewish academic subjects--and these dangers are sometimes real though often not-- remained our most toxic challenges.


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19. Some Yiddish facts     11/12/08 - 9:29 AM
Yardena - EY

Thanks for bringing this up, Rabbi Horowitz.

Personally,I really enjoy being "forced" to speak Yiddish with my Chassidish neighbors' non-Hebrew-/non-English-speaking children, and truly there are ideas that can only be expressed in Yiddish (such as "aidelkeit", etc.), and yes, a walk down a charedi street in Israel immediately demonstrates the refined tone of Israeli Yiddish as compared to the less refinded-sounding Modern Israeli Hebrew.

However.

Point #1: Yiddish is basically German and Hebrew with Slavic structure. Jews who know German and Hebrew understand most of Israeli Yiddish without ever having previous exposure to the language. (I'm not making this up; I asked them.) I understand more Yiddish than most of my BT friends because I learned German and Hebrew. We have only one Lashon Hakodesh and that is Hebrew. Yiddish is great, but its use is overly romanticized today.

Point #2:Revisionist history secret: Yiddish has a whole secular culture attached to it, and an extremely vulgar one at that. I've heard people gush about Yiddish being so "pure" and so "Jewish" and "it has no bad words". That's Lashon Hakodesh, and not any other language. Yiddish has lots of vulgarity, some of which has made it into everyday English via Hollywood (influenced heavily by Yiddish-speakers, by the way.) Baruch Hashem, Yiddish's crass culture is virtually non-existent today. But it flourished in the Nineteenth century up to the mid-Twentieth among secular Yiddish-speakers. My point isn't to malign Yiddish, but to emphasize that it is only a tool, and not inherently holy. (Kind of like a hammer which is a tool that can either build or break.) Yiddish is not an intrinsic barrier to filth.

Point #3: Jews have always had a language that combined Hebrew with the language of their host culture. There was Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Greek, and many more. Yiddish is not unique. In fact, I was as moved upon hearing the famous Ladino song about Avraham Avinu without knowing Ladino as I was upon hearing Oifen Pripitchik without knowing Yiddish.

Point #4: Not ALL Gedolim say Yiddish...remember our millions of Sephardi brethren, anyone? Is there anyone here who denies the gadlus and purity of the Ben Ish Chai or the Baba Sali?

Our language is Hebrew, though not Eliezer Ben-Yehudah's Hebrew, but the Hebrew of Rashi and the Ibn Ezra.

Yiddish is only ever a tool, like a hammer, and while hammers are vitally necessary, sometimes you just need a drill.


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20.     11/12/08 - 9:42 AM
Anonymous

many posts on this thread have mentioned the goal of producing gedolei Torah as the rationale behind a system which frowns upon devoting time and attention to academic, non-Jewish sources. This goal is a worthy one and deserves careful consideration; we MUST produce gedolim b'Torah.

But let's be honest--how many of our sons will emerge as today's Vilna Gaon or Rav Elchonon Wasserman? Few, if any. So why not target those with extraordinary potential for Torah scholarship AND leadership qualities and provide them with the resources and infrastructure required to develop their unusual potential, while equipping the rest of the population with a chance to actually make ends meet?

It would be great to develop an approach which more honestly acknowledges the reality of differences among our children and guides each of them toward a path consistent with whom they are, allowing them to relate to their frumkeit in a personally relevant way. Instead, we nourish delusions that every boy who develops sufficient hasmadah can become a gadol hador.


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21. A new program     11/12/08 - 10:08 AM
Goldy

I have mentioned in a previous posting to a different article that I would publicize any educational programs that offer Masters degrees in a non-coed setting. Someone alerted me to a new program that is for Masters in Education. Check out their website at goteamed.com It would be nice to hear feedback from any students who are enrolling in the program now.


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22. what revisionism?     11/12/08 - 10:23 AM
Anonymous

1) the besmirching of Lubavitch in comment #13 does not belong on this blog

2) comment #15 written by "M" is not the same "M" who has written numerous comments previously on this blog

3) I think R' Horowitz's historical information is misleading. Yes, Hungarian Jews speak Hungarian. What you neglected to mention is the tremendously high assimilation rate in Hungary before the war. Thousands of Hungarian Jews converted to Christianity (read "In My Brother's Image" by Pogany).

The majority of Jews in Poland, 3 million before the war - far more than in Hungary, spoke Yiddish, and it was they who clung to their traditions more tenaciously than Jews in other countries. Yeshiva bachurim did not learn Polish and it was compulsory education for girls in Polish gymnasiums that made their spiritual level plummet so that Sarah Schnerir was motivated to open Bais Yaakov. So what historical revisionism is there exactly?

The Rambam wrote some of his works in Arabic, yes, and one of those works was directed at Jews who were assimilating. Ditto for R' Hirsch.


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23. What's more important a Jewish child's brain or a toilet?     11/12/08 - 10:26 AM
Anonymous

I agree with Rabbi Horowitz.A better secular education will lead to higher paying jobs,parents being able to pay more tuition,yeshivas being able to pay Rabbeim and teachers better salaries,higher salaries will attract better quality teachers,and we will be able to pay our teachers who DEVELOP OUR CHILDREN'S BRAINS more than we pay the people who FIX OUR TOILETS.


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24. What's more important a Jewish child's brain or a toilet?     11/12/08 - 10:27 AM
Anonymous

I agree with Rabbi Horowitz.A better secular education will lead to higher paying jobs,parents being able to pay more tuition,yeshivas being able to pay Rabbeim and teachers better salaries,higher salaries will attract better quality teachers,and we will be able to pay our teachers who DEVELOP OUR CHILDREN'S BRAINS more than we pay the people who FIX OUR TOILETS.


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25. command respect     11/12/08 - 10:34 AM
Anonymous - beit shemesh - spamstan@sfm.co.il

A good command of the local language provides a person with an equal footing with people he meets.

Jobs aside, in any interaction with the outside (non-Haredi) world, people have less respect for someone who grew up in a country whose language they cannot speak properly. It seems backwards to them, and it shows.

A child treated like this may easily feel second class, and lose some level of self-respect and respect for the Torah world.

On the one hand It may drive him away from the outside world, but it is for a negative reason, and it will have negative repercussions.

Another possibility is that the child may come to resent his upbringing, with all that this may imply.

This effect can result from lacking other rudimentary skills such as arithmetic. A child needs to be able to CHOOSE to remain proudly frum, because as R Horowitz keeps pointing out to us, kids today CAN and DO choose. Lets build them up and send them prepared for the interaction with the tools to retain their self-respect


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26. Yasher Koach!!!     11/12/08 - 11:03 AM
Anonymous

Rabbi Horowitz,

Another excellent post. I'm tired of people quoting gedolim from other times or cultures. What's emmes for one person is totally wrong for the other, and this is true on a micro and macro level. Most things aren't black and white, and there are many factors that have to be considered in determining what's appropriate in each situation.

Many of these gedolim would be troubled hearing their words quoted out of context.

Keep up the great work!


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27. Many valid points...     11/12/08 - 11:32 AM
Yardena - EY

...and I think that #21 and #26 make especially good points.


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28. Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch's approach     11/12/08 - 11:51 AM
G

Read a few hundred pages of Hirsch's own peirush on Chumash or perhaps anything else he wrote and you will understand that he did not write in German and study that language in order to do outreach. Perhaps that's what you would think if you read Rav Elchonon's response to Rav Schwab or Rav Boruch Ber's. But after reading at least a thousand pages of RSRH's writings I am convinced that they never read Hirsch's writings at all. Do the homework and you will agree.

Hirsch believed that Torah im Derech Eretz is the way we are supposed to live, l'chatchila. He writes in many places that our long and bitter golus is why much of that aspect of Yiddishkeit was ignored. Being out of touch with the world was forced upon us.


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29.     11/12/08 - 12:20 PM
Anonymous

"The majority of Jews in Poland, 3 million before the war - far more than in Hungary, spoke Yiddish, and it was they who clung to their traditions more tenaciously than Jews in other countries" This may (or may not) be true, but it doesn't prove a cause and effect relationship.

In any case, Yiddish is not lashon hakodesh. when Chazal say that among the zchuyos of geula from galus mitzrayim was the Yidden's adherence to their own language, they meant Lashon hakodesh or, perhaps, a refinement of speech. They did not mean Yiddish.

I have nothing against Yiddish. It is the tongue of many marbitzei Torah and part of the culture and flavor of our ancestors. There are also some really good jokes in Yiddish! But if you think about it, Yiddish is a mark of assimilation, the osmosis of the German language--a language of sonei Yisroel--into our own languae patterns. There is nothing inherently heilig abut it any more than there is holiness to Aramaic, the tongue of our amoraim.

As we unfortunately witness on the secular streets of Eretz Yisroel, even Hebrew can fail to qualify as Lashon Hakodesh. Any language is just a tool--its value depends on how we use it. But clearly we can accomplish nothing great with any language if we can't speak it well--not perfectly, but well.


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30. Agree!     11/12/08 - 12:41 PM
Anonymous

Thank you for this timely article. That our boys lack basic skills to live in the real world has repercussions in many other areas of their lives, not only their earning ability. As with all things in history, what is happening is that the formula that worked until now is becoming unsustainable and the stresses are pushing the boundaries, demanding change.

My question is, how should we go about implementing helpful change? Should we put pressure on the chadorim? Should we take our boys out during English classes and teach them privately?


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31.     11/12/08 - 1:01 PM
Anonymous

what is funny is that in your school my kids have not been taught these basic skills. computers yes but educational skills, just ask the highschools, we are missing them.


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32.     11/12/08 - 1:38 PM
Anonymous

The majority of Jews in Poland, 3 million before the war - far more than in Hungary, spoke Yiddish, and it was they who clung to their traditions more tenaciously than Jews in other countries" This may (or may not) be true, but it doesn't prove a cause and effect relationship.

It proves that R' Horowitz's historical point is not a point.


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33.     11/12/08 - 1:53 PM
yoni

1) the besmirching of Lubavitch in comment #13 does not belong on this blog

I am lubavitch and i'll call avoda zara like it is.

but that is irrelevant to the subject here.

but anyway, on topic, what ever happened to teaching appropriate things to those without a gemorah kop?

when I last read the halachot about talmud torah you're supposed to teach any kid who can't properly understand and psak from talmud things like ein yaakov and midrashim, agados and halachos, pirushim on chumash so that they should know clealy how to live their lives in a torah way.

except, last I checked, halevai is your education for our best students should actualy be telling our kids how to live their lives instead of keeping their noses in gemorahs that they're been repeatedly adjured they will never properly understand.


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34.     11/12/08 - 4:51 PM
Anonymous

I agree with Rabbi Horowitz's premise, but I disagree with his proof.

I think hungarians were the exception, not the rule. Both my grandfathers barely knew a word of polish (I would equate them with the level of English that a kid in Williamsburg knows). and I can bet that this was the same in Lithuania, Russia (exception for the communists forcing yiddiskiet underground), etc. all the eastern european countries. Now if you are talking about Western Europe where at the turn of the century authentic frum families were declining (I would think), there it might have been different. The women in poland, etc. were secularly educated. I also highly doubt his contention that over the years Jews knew the language of their host nation (Rashi was probably an exception) they were people of the book, their own book.


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35. How can you disagree!     11/12/08 - 5:00 PM
Concerned

Without a good secular education there would be no: earning a decent living, kiruv, Chereidi poloticians, Chariedi journalism, consulting with medical practitioners and/or reading medical and self-help literature, communication with people who are inevitably part of our lives such as clients, customers, coworkers ,etc. and yes, maybe some of our ancesters from Polish and Russian areas would be better off with a better education...


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36. on teachers' pay     11/12/08 - 5:38 PM
Miriam

Unfortunately you can't make teachers' pay too high - otherwise it attracts lots of lazy people who think they don't have to work for a living but can collect a paycheck. But our communities should reinforce the good teachers mesiras nefesh.

Also, teachers get paid higher than you think when you factor in all the vacation time. I can say it I used to be one. (And might have stayed if it paid as much as computer programming, but there are many of my wonderful friends who were competing for the same jobs so it's ok.)


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37. tumas ha'mochin     11/12/08 - 6:23 PM
Anonymous

Yoni wrote I am lubavitch

You have repeatedly written views that go counter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. One pertinent example, the Rebbe asked that children not be taught any secular studies whatsoever till at least age 9, but preferably beyond that, preferably never. You have promoted the opposite of this numerous times on this blog. So a representative of Lubavitch you ain't.

Administrator: Please be so kind as to remove the disgraceful anti-Lubavitch remarks from this page.


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38. Sorry, no comprende Hungarian     11/12/08 - 8:14 PM
Benzion Twerski

Parents have a distinct obligation to provide their children with the basic skills for “Umnus” – gainful employment. It is true that R’ Meir states that he would abandon all other fields and only teach his son Torah. There is no dispute whether one can or should enter fields other than full time Torah study. R’ Meir understood his children very well, and he felt that it would be unjust (to the child, perhaps the klal) to direct him elsewhere and away from full time Torah learning. I often fantasize how much better our system would be if our Roshei Yeshivos would know their talmidim well enough to direct them toward various career directions. Some belong in Kollel with the mission to become Torah leaders, others belong in business, sciences, and various other careers. The guidance would be to pursue these directions while remaining steadfastly connected to Torah learning as a focal point for their lives. One should be able to know these natures of their children, and what a wonderful world we would have if our Torah leaders had this capacity.

My children do not have appropriate high school education. I personally feel bad, because they were all in positions where these basics became necessary. I consider myself a special case in that I was able to compensate to a degree at home for what they lacked in class. But I am anomalous in that regard. My peers, and many of my neighbors and relatives do not have the same resources. And I join with Rabbi Horowitz in bemoaning this as a serious handicap.

Gedolim of various generations have weighed in on the secular education issue. Aside from respectful academic interest, I do not find their policies and piskei din on this very relevant. This is a question that is specific to the environment and times in which it is asked, and the ideas of our greatest of the great may not apply. That calls for the gedolim of our present generation to address the issue and guide us.

Being a college educated professional, I am among many who were brave enough to venture into the secular world, with its inherent nisyonos. Do not consider the challenges lightly, and my experience should not be the ticket for anyone to run to college. I had my coping skills at that time, and the campus environment was meek compared to that of today. I am grateful for the guidance that my parents and rebbeim gave me prior to reaching a decision to pursue my career and for the chizuk they provided throughout the years of training. That kesher to Torah was integral to my ability to withstand the pressures.

One point in the article here was with regards to non-college careers, which still depend heavily on basic skills that are usually part of a high school curriculum. I can share that I have had many calls and consultations with individuals who never had such exposure, and were so overwhelmed that it paved their way into vices that were destructive to them and their families.

Lastly, I have no problem with pointing at a single factor as a contributor to the kids-at-risk problem. But it is primitive to consider any single reason as the basis of the problem. Each individual case involves multiple factors, and that is what makes the issue as perplexing as it is.


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39. secular education,English,and Torah     11/12/08 - 10:07 PM
Rephoel - Wash Hghts - rephoel41@gmail.com

A whole generation has been robbed of a decent education,influenced by so-called 'gedolim' and roshei yeshiva who say G-D will provide,just sit and learn. Learn WHAT? Most boys do not have the patience for that. most have very little self-discipline and therefore,no self respect. Too many of our suopposed roles models re hypocrites. You should know,you've been in chinuch all your life and had a T I D E education.The rabbeim pride themselves in making fun of secular knowledge and a command of English.Ignorance is bliss. Someone will provide. It is the duty of the community to support the lazy.

SHOLOM AL YISROEL

---

RABBI HOROWITZ MAKES SOME GOOD POINTS (AND YOU CAN SEE HOW POOR THE ENGLISH OF SOME OF THE RESPONDENTS IS!). CERTAINLY THOSE WHO CAN COMMUNICATE WELL HAVE A HEAD START IN GETTING A JOB AND EARNING A DECENT LIVING, AND THE REBBEIM WHO DENY KIDS THE SKILLS TO COMMUNICATE IN ENGLISH ARE DOING THEM A GRAVE DISSERVICE. BUT, AS IS POINTED OUT, THERE ARE NUMEROUS OTHER FACTORS IN CAUSING FRUM KIDS TO GO OFF THE DERECH, INCLUDING OVERLY STRICT PARENTS AND TEACHERS, HYPOCRISY IN THE FRUM COMMUNITY, AND OUTSIDE INFLUENCES. THE ONLY TRUE SOLUTI ON SEEMS TO BE THE CO


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40.     11/13/08 - 8:24 AM
yoni

Anon, you're off topic.

You have repeatedly written views that go counter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. One pertinent example, the Rebbe asked that children not be taught any secular studies whatsoever till at least age 9, but preferably beyond that, preferably never. You have promoted the opposite of this numerous times on this blog. So a representative of Lubavitch you ain't.

last think I'll say about this, but this statement is offensive in that it projects the rebbe as a hypotcrite. it is well known that he persued secular education lishma and spend a long time in a german university for the shear joy of learning.

secondly, your grossly misquote the relevant sichos. he said that A school should be available for those who choose only torah, but he DAVKA insisted that many schools have good secular curiculi. why do you think lubavitch yeshiva and bais rivkah teach so much secular knowledge?

because the rebbe wanted it. It was the rebbe that said, b'pheirush, that secular knowledge and torah knowledge are two sides of the same coin, in many many sichos and letters.

his only, and ONLY objection to going to college was the atmosphere in the college, not the secular learning that takes place. read his letters and it becomes perfectly clear.


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41. Small addition to Yoni #42     11/13/08 - 11:25 AM
Benzion Twerski

A small comment to add to that of Yoni #42.

Many years ago, the major problem cited about college was the “minus and apikursus” that was part of the education. There was much truth to this. There was a major goal to indoctrinate people with American and western values, and this included much that was philosophical and corrupt (in our view). That aspect of academia has mostly faded, and if one seeks such indoctrination, they generally have to search for it. Making an issur on college would not prevent the seeker from pursuing this stuff, as the likelihood that the issur would be obeyed is nil.

By the time we reached the 70’s, the prevailing problem with the college environment became the moral deficiency, characterized by the rampant abuse of drugs and alcohol, promiscuity, the absence of tznius, and the justifying of immorality by proclaiming it as consistent with the refinement of society. That aspect has progressed quite substantially since then. We now can stifle a yawn when such corruption affects our elected officials and their offices, and we even turn deaf ears when improprieties including crime are found among our own. Nebech.

May I reference the article by Rabbi Horowitz in which he quoted Senator Patrick Moynihan discussing the “defining of deviancy downward”. He described a photograph of spectators at a baseball game in the ‘60’s, sitting in the stadium in suits, ties, and hats. This is in stark contrast to the nearly absent clothing that characterizes today’s sports events. There will always be deviance at the lower end of the spectrum. But if we normalize things in the lower direction, the extremes will be mind boggling.

There is secular knowledge that is critical to us. You cannot run a grocery store without having math, communication, and computer skills. The challenge is how to obtain this knowledge “al taharas hakodesh”. Excluding all of it is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.


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42.     11/13/08 - 11:50 AM
Anonymous

Yoni, you are messing with the Rebbe and playing with fire.

A quote: Parents are afraid that if their child walks outside and asks someone where some street is, he'll speak with a Yiddish accent, making it obvious he's Jewish. So they teach him "English," and other secular studies that pollute his young mind.

The first three years after a child begins to study are the time when the foundation is laid for his later success. [Yet the parents] take the child and pollute his mind with "English," grammar etc. It would be best if even older people wouldn't know about these; how much more so achild until the age of 9, until the age of 12 - I would say even older but "if one tries to get [too] much, one gets nothing."

from a sicha of Simchas Torah 5715

"... The argument that teaching the child English etc. will be an advantage for him materially, making it easier for him later on to earn a living, is not valid. No one knows what the future holds and what will happen later. So whatever we do has to be in accordance with Torah.

...The children are not to blame. They have no mind of their own, and their parents have authority over them, robbing them of their lives. What right do parents have to rob children, for the sake of taking away their years and life?"

sicha Simchas Torah 5715


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43. more from the Rebbe     11/13/08 - 12:00 PM
Anonymous

"... you come to the [apparently] straightforward conclusion that the only solution for you to make a living is none other than to learn ... English, then ... chemistry etc. and [only] then you will be able to have complete trust in G-d that you'll be able to make a living ...

I don't know who put this astonishing and upsetting idea into your mind, and why you don't see what's involved in this. If you will listen to my opinion and advice, you should leave behind all thoughts about your future career and settle down to study continuously and diligently, and exclusively limudei kodesh - Nigleh and Chassidus for at least three or four more years. I am sure that if you will do this, you will be able to earn a living, with livelihood both material and spiritual [i.e. spreading Yiddishkeit]

Igros Kodesh XIII p. 256-8


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44. Response to Dr. Tweski, #43     11/13/08 - 2:10 PM
Anonymous

"There is secular knowledge that is critical to us. You cannot run a grocery store without having math, communication, and computer skills. The challenge is how to obtain this knowledge “al taharas hakodesh”.

In my boys' yeshiva, as in many others, the derech is to introduce the ABC and what we call "secular subjects" only after the yingalach have mastered the aleph-beis and have achieved reasonable proficiency in kriah and familiarity with seder hatefillah and sefer Bereshis. I have heard many proponents of this approach explain that its value lies in emphasizing the bedi eved nature of academic studies and the primacy of talmud Torah.

In my own home,I have observed that this mahalach can be viewed in an entirely different light--one that, at least in my view, promotes academic subjects in a manner which IS "al taharas hakodesh," as Dr. Twerski phrased it. I believe that this method of chinuch aims not to relegate academic subjects to a "secular" tier, but rather to set up the framework of Torah first so that everything that comes after--in the afternoon or in the future--can be place WITHIN a framework of holiness and thereby understood and appreciated for its inherent kedushah.

What is mathematics or physics if not Hashem's perfectly ordered,intricate blueprint for the physical world/ What is history of not a study of Hashem's will unfolding through time? What is a job--whether in a grocery store or at a law firm--if not a means of supporting a frum household, a way to pay mosdos chinuch and give tzedakah, an opportunity to perform acts of chesed, a place to generate kiddush Hashem? A person who sees the world through torah lenses cannot possibly fail to recognize Hashem's kedusha everywhere.

When we create a dichotomy between limudei kodesh and chol, between morning studies and afternoon subjects, between how we relate to Rebbeim vs. how we can denigrate our English teachers, we destroy the spiritual foundation which should guide and unify all that we think and do. This split--this lack of integrity--is what allows us to tolerate dissonance between what we learn in shiur and how we conduct our business, between the kol tefillah we hear at shacharis and the prust music readily available on the radio on the way to the office, between what we know and how we live.


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45.     11/14/08 - 8:24 AM
Anonymous

anon, I am aware of those, and it seems to me that you are being very selective about your quotes.

do you think that the rebbe would have "contaminated" his mind with hours of math, philosophy (yes philosophy!) science anthropology and other subjects?

do you seriously think he would have done such if it was of no value to him?

The lashon "two sides of the same coin" was the rebbe's words, not mine.


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46. Rav Dessler     11/15/08 - 3:02 PM
Anonymous

to the above writer #8 who quotes rav dessler. PLEASE site the source. thanks


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47. the thought terrifies me (I feel that cold sweat again)     11/15/08 - 8:05 PM
menachem

Rabbi Horowitz, Rabbi Twerski, anyone else with a firm hand on the wheel,please,.....help

Regarding post # 8 (the Rabbi Dessler quote) Did anyone else read that? When Rabbi Dessler speaks, we all better listen, and yet, ....

What this amounts to is a permission slip to treat our children (and our children's friends, and our friend's children) as collateral damage. "For the greater Good"

Do I need to spell this out? What it says also, is "once we throw them out, make sure they are unenviable, keep their situation such that no one would ever be tempted to be like them. And if they do manage a "life position" of some respect, CUT THEM OFF!"

Yes, Rabbi Twerski would say that that was EY 50 years ago. But has anyone out there had a loved one tossed out of a Yeshiva or BaisYaakov for the "greater good"? Good for the the other childen, or the parental or community constituency, or the stress level of the teaching staff or....... Do they know, or care, that this is the US 2008?

And probably it isn't only Rabbi Dessler that has issued guidance similar to this.

Does this mean that if any school principal goes against this viewpoint he/she is "going out on a limb"? maybe a bit too liberal, or too kind hearted for everone's own good, going against Da'as Torah?

No kidding,I will try not to think bout this. Too depressing.

What are they whispering in the corners and behind closed doors about our children when things aren't quite working out?

Yes. I am very scared.


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48. letter from the Rebbe     11/15/08 - 9:51 PM
Anonymous

do you think that the rebbe would have "contaminated" his mind with hours of math, philosophy (yes philosophy!) science anthropology and other subjects?

Of course he studied secular subjects in the Sorbonne, as the Rambam studied medicine. That has nothing to do with our subject. Unless you think the people Rabbi Horowitz is addressing are on the level of Rishonim and Admorim or were told specifically, by their spiritual guides to study secular subjects (as the same Rebbe who denounced college attendance, sometimes did, for reasons that were known to him, no doubt having to do with those individuals' souls and mission on earth).

From a letter the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote 1 Adar 5722:

... Hence, when a Jewish boy completes his compulsory education, it is an absolute must that for a couple of years, at least, he should dedicate himself to the exclusive study of the Torah and sacred subjects, in a most conducive atmosphere of a Yeshiva, without distraction of secular studies, all the more so as the teen-age are crucial and formative and of lasting effect, in the crystallization of the character.

This would have been my opinion even if the college entailed more that the distraction of secular studies. Actually there is much more involved. Theoretically a college and its faculty should not try to impose any particular views, much less a way of life, on the students. Actually however, the student cannot help being impressed, on the conscious and subconscious level, by the views, outlook and way of life of his professors.

These, as well as the whole atmosphere of a college, are unfortunately, not comparable with the Jewish way of life, and frequently if not always quite contradictory to it. This is so even in colleges which are theological, or having so-called religious studies. Needless to say, the whole atmosphere of college is in violent conflict " with the Shulchan Aruch way of life, whereby the Jew is totally committed - in every detail and aspect of his personal daily life - to the Torah and Mitzvoth and the service of G-d, as is written "You shall know Him in all your ways", to which a whole chapter in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (Ch.231) is devoted: note there.

In other words, the Jewish boy (or girl) entering college, yet desiring to retain the Jewish way of life in accordance with the Torah, finds himself tossed about in the raging waves of conflict between two contradictory worlds. He is at a further disadvantage in finding himself in the minority camp, since those sharing his views and convictions are few of the college campus, while the forces pulling in the opposite direction are overwhelming; forces he must confront at every turn - among the student body, faculty members, text books, newspapers and periodicals. It is very doubtful whether even an adult and mature person who is subjected to such "shock treatment" day after day, would not be shaken; how much more so a teenager.

Needless to say, I am aware of the argument that many Yeshivah boys attending college, or even college graduates, remain loyal to the Torah and Mitzvoth. The answer in simple. The number of such students and graduates who have not been seriously affected is relatively small indeed, much smaller than imagined. They are so exceptional that he wonder of it attracts attention, since those that go astray under college influence are taken for granted, while the one that still puts on Tefillin calls forth amazement. One may use the analogy of the shoe-shine boy who became a millionaire and everyone talks about him. it is not because he was a shoe-shine boy that he attained success, and no one will suggest that in order to become a millionaire one should start in the shoe-shine business. The greater the exception and sensation, the greater is the proof of the rule.

Some people ask, if there is really such a conflict between attending college and remaining an observant Jew. I can speak from experience and personal knowledge, having attended various colleges and seen the painful inner upheavals of Jewish students, and having for many years been the confidant of Jewish students who are otherwise reluctant or ashamed to open their hearts, I can therefore state with the fullest measure of conviction and responsibility that he who sends his child to college during the formative years subjects him to shock and profound conflicts and trials and invites quite unforeseen consequences . . .

To put the matter in bolder relief, by way of illustration. Take the general attitude to polio, G-d forbid, and the precaution taken against it. Fortunately, the incidence of polio is not widespread, and where it strikes, it cripples only a part of the physical body; yet though the odds are farfetched it would be reckless not to take the necessary precaution. Unfortunately, the victims of college education are numerous indeed and most widespread, by far in the majority, and the harm is even more far-reaching.

Another point which is often the subject of misconception - the importance attached to a college degree from the economic point of view. Statistics show that the majority of college graduates eventually establish themselves in occupations and business not directly connected with their courses of study in college. The moral is obvious.


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49.     11/15/08 - 10:51 PM
yoni

Unless you think the people Rabbi Horowitz is addressing are on the level of Rishonim and Admorim

you don't have to be on the level of admurim or rishonim to come out unscathed. secondly, the character of colleges has changed segnificantly since that letter.

I've been in a regular secular college for some time and I couldn't find outright pritzus if I looked for it, nor could I find professors preaching a particular set of values. They simply didn't seem to exist. (or were so marginal that I was oblivious to their existence.)

and nu, sometimes people tell you rediculous things. I've heard equality rediculous and falicious notions in yeshiva as well.

you're point? take the wheat, throw out the chafe.

par for the course really.


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50. "Unprotected" by Miriam Grossman     11/16/08 - 10:51 AM
Anonymous

You are welcome to disagree with the Rebbe, Yoni. Just don't say you represent Lubavitch.

If you cannot find outright pritzus in dress and behavior on a co-ed campus, I don't take that as a good sign ... Miriam Grossman, a frum psychiatrist, wrote a book called, "Unprotected: A Campus Psychiatrist Reveals How Political Correctness in Her Profession Endangers Every Student."

Dr. Grossman has a message for Jewish parents who are eager for their kids to go to an Ivy League or other top-flight school: "Your kids need to be very strong to attend these campuses. It's difficult to be immersed in a culture that normalizes and even promotes these behaviors (promiscuity, eating disorders etc.). They need to be aware of the dangers and know how to take care of themselves."

http://www.amazon.com/Unprotected-Miriam-Grossman/dp/1595230459


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51. the Rebbe at university     11/16/08 - 11:43 AM
Anonymous

I can't vouch for this story but the point stands regardless:

In 1958 the Rebbe told someone in Yechidus (private audience) that he should to to a Yeshivah where they only learn Limmudei Kodesh, so he asked the Rebbe, "So why did you to to university?..."

The Rebbe replied: "After you know the entire Shas, Bavli and Yerushalmi, with all the Meforshim, Rishonim and Acharonim by heart you'll also be permitted to go..." (or according to another version: "Then there is something to think about")

This article by Rabbi Horowitz, "Egy, Kettö, Három" actually repeats what he wrote earlier in his "Life Skills" article:

http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/PYes/ArticleDetails.cfm?Book_ID=866&ThisGroup_ID=346&ID=Most%20Ratings&Type=Article

and the same exchange about the Rebbe and his views can be read there. One of the comments said this:

In a talk to the public, sicha of 2nd night Pesach, look it up in Likutei Sichos, vol. 1, p. 112, edited by the Rebbe, the Rebbe said about Pharaoh and drowning the children:

"Practically speaking, this means: When it comes to educating children, we need not and must not drown them in the Nile - the idolatry of the land. We must not drown the children in looking towards a future career (tachlis). The only path to [true] life is through a complete education in our Torah, "the Toras chaim."

"There's no point in looking at other parents whose children seem well-provided for, one who will have a house, another a car, this one will be a doctor, that one a lawyer, and a third at least a shoe-polisher! [A mother might think that] if she sends her child to a yeshiva, he'll grow up a batlan (idler) - he won't even be able to polish shoes because he won't know how to hold the brush in his hand!

"Therefore, we should remember that it is the Almighty who feeds and sustains everyone, and if we do what He wants [of us], "You shall teach them [words of Torah] to your children ..." then He will do what we ask of Him, both for ourselves and for our children."


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52. Rav Dessler     11/16/08 - 4:20 PM
Benzion Twerski

I would also want to see the reference to the quote from Rav Dessler. I have recently come across a discourse from Rav Dessler about chinuch, and the tone is drastically different. Before saying more, I would want to review the one I am referencing and I would want to see the one quoted in #8.

There is a dramatic difference between what is prescribed for the klal and for the individual. A challenge we have, and probably always did and will, is who gives the individual guidance which direction is appropriate. One needs to be capable of doing this, both by wisdom and experience as well as knowing the individual.

I often quote the Chazon Ish who reportedly stated that chinuch right after the holocaust had the mission of transplanting Torah, and needed to direct itself to producing large numbers of talmidim. In that mode, there would be individuals who would be lost to the system which was incapable of working with them. However, now (the Chazon Ish was niftar in the 1950’s) the mission is the individual. I have not detected a paradigm shift anywhere, and the result is a system that lacks the capacity to give the individual guidance that is uniquely tailored to the individual talmid. I bet there are exceptions, but otherwise we cookie cut everyone into the marketable molds. It is this pronouncement by the Chazon Ish that guides me to take all these proclamations about chinuch for the masses with little more than a grain of salt – not out of disrespect Ch”V, but because of relevance.


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53.     11/16/08 - 4:41 PM
Anonymous

There is no shortage of quotes, some accurate-some not, from chashuva gedolim and rabbonim throughout the ages on either side of the debate surrounding the subject of academic subjects. It is certainly incumbent upon us to consider their thoughts and actions in formulating our hashkafos and decisions regarding the question.And whatever side of the debate feels more compelling to each of us personally, there are still warnings and lessons and inspirations to be gleaned from the other perspective to help us implement our decisions in a way which maximizes our awareness of the dangers inherent in whatever path we choose--AND NEITHER PATH IS CLEAR OF DANGER.

This is the metzius of life--nothing is ideal, no mahalach is ideal, and, sorry to say, no rov or gadol can be viewed as ideal. We have to create our own "ideals," within the context of our own lives and challenges in the best way we possibly can. Gedolim can guide us, but they can't do this difficult work for us. It is up to us and our exercise of bechira.

That said, I am wondering why we are getting stuck here trying to parse the words of the Rebbe, ZT"L, in one way or the other. If the Rebbe pasuled limudei chol, does that posel it for everyone, for all time? If the Rambam practiced medicine, should we all be required to register at medical school? And if he stopped practicing at a certain age to devote more of his time to talmud Torah, should every frum doctor retire at that same age?

It is apparent from many threads on this site that we are lacking a basic understanding of how to take a limud and apply it to our lives in a relevant way. Not every statement uttered by every talmid chochom should be construed as a psak incumbent upon us all. That is simply not the way halachah is derived!

On the other hand, when a gadol issues a statement, especially one which contradicts our mahalach, we would be wise to listen closely and determine how our derech can become more successful by heeding the gadol's words. A college student,for example, should increase his awareness of the danger of a less savory college environment and come up with ways to compensate. A full-time yeshiva student, by contrast, may heed Rabbi Horowitz's advice and make a concerted effort to speak English with greater attention to the fundamentals of proper grammar.

Also,an honest examination of all facets of this debate--if we are here for the purpose of birur haemes rather than to prove our own agenda-- requires obective examination of the pros and cons of both derachim. While there has been ample discussion of the dangers of secular education, i think the other side of the coin--the problems of intellectual insulation--deserves consideration as well. My personal starting point would be the Chazal which asserts that neglecting to teach our children a trade leads them to steal, but i'm wondering what other readers have to say about this. I'm particularly interested in hearing from those who speak from real-life experience about how a lack of preparation in secular education has negatively influenced their lives.


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54. We need to give our children a means of making a living     11/16/08 - 6:11 PM
Yossie

I agree with Rabbi Horowitz that we must make our children self sufficient to be able to earn a living, and that requires a decent education.

In Comment #9, the person asks for clarity. I think Rabbi Horowitz was pretty clear. But I did notice that #9 made 10 spelling mistakes in such a short article, which makes me wonder if he would be employable by the friend that Rabbi Horowitz mentions in the article.

As far as everybody sitting and learning, who is going to support all those people, and who is going to feed all the children?

Rambam, did not exlusively learn. He was a doctor, he wrote many medical books, and still had time to be a Gadol. Rashi, likewise had wineries, in addition to writing the "rashi" that we still learn today. And I have yet to hear of someone even remotely comparable to either of them with all the Kolelim.

That is not meant to put down the Kolelim, but Kolel is not for everybody.

One more point. When we need a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, we are advised to go to a frum person. Where would we find one, if all of our brethren were either sitting in Kolel, or would be store owners?

What we really need are Yeshivas that would not completely shelter our children from society, but can teach our children how to live in today's society, and be a part of it to the extent necessary, and at the same time be able to stay observant Jews we can all be proud of.

It is a terrible message we give, when we say that the only way we can keep our children observant is by totally sheltering them. That kind of says that once they find out what is on the outside, they will leave our fold, and choose the outside. It is true that the trend has been that way with American Jewry. But we must ask ourselves, and our Gedolim, what we are doing wrong. Maybe tha lack of tolerance of our differences is oart of it. I don't think that ignoring the whole world is the answer, because that is just not possible.


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55. #23 - What revisionism     11/16/08 - 6:25 PM
Anonymous

It is true that a great number of Hungarians were assmilated.

It is also true that In Poland most Jews spoke Yiddish. What you neglected to mention was that their assimilation rate was no less and probably more than the Hungarians. They spoke Yiddish, while eating Chazer, so what was the point? Someone else metioned here the Crass Yiddish culture. The Yiddish theater was also born in Poland, and I have yet to see a Yiddish show where the Rabbi was not portrayed as an imbicile, or worse.

On the other hand, until the eastern European Jews came here after the war, from Hungary and Rumania, Kashrus in America was in a very sorry state.

As far what language today? I think we must have a unifying language. We are so spread out today, that the children and grand children and sometime great-grand children cannot communicate with relative from contries where they do not speak English. My children can communicate very little with their great uncles and aunts in Europe or Israel, because the older generation does not speak English, and my children were not taught either Yiddish or Hebrew.

I think that Hebrew should be the universal language that all Jewish children learn as a second language the world over, so whether you are from Israel, Russia, Anywhere in Europe or South America, you should be able to communicate with any other JEW.


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56.     11/16/08 - 6:49 PM
Anonymous

I can't speak for other mosdos, but i know that years ago in Yeshiva Torah V'daas, Rov Yaakov Kaminetzky,ZT"L, WHEN ASKED FOR DIRECTION, but not usually otherwise, would offer a broad range of advice 4 different talmidim. Some were advised to stay in learning full-time, some were told to go out to college, some were told that their role is not full-time learning but college is not for them either. Those students were advised to go into business. Whatever the guidance was, the voice, tone, and careful words with which it was expressed came across as the "suggestion" of a caring Yid, never as a harsh directive.

Another interesting aspect of Reb Yaakov's thoughtful advice was that when speaking to a bochur about his future, he often would inquire about what the boy's parents thought about the matter. Anyone hear this question being asked lately?


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57. R' Dessler     11/17/08 - 11:25 AM
Elitzur

The source for R' Dessler is the 4th volume of Michtav M'Eliyahu in his letter about opening a teacher track (and earning a BA) for students in yeshiva.

I have always wondered whether the charedi world realized they were following this path of R' Dessler. If so (and I believe it's the only justification for the everyone must learn approach) why bother with kids at risk? Who cares - they are (as someone said ealier) just collateral damage. The suggestion that you never know, one of those kids may blossom sounds very weak. In affect, I believe the gedolim don't have their philosophy straight (I guess becuase they didn't go to college) - you can't care about kids at risk and tell everyone to go learn.

As an aside I don't see all the gedolim that have been produced following this path...


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58. elitzur, #59     11/17/08 - 4:31 PM
Anonymous

Some time ago, Rabbi Yonasan Rosenblum published an article (should be somewhere on this site)in which he compared the post-war Rabbinic inclination to establish a learning-only mahalach to a medical decision to administer chemotherapy. In both situations, no preferable alternatives exist, despite the inevitable "collateral damage" resulting from such radical action.

B"H, the guidance of yesteryear's gedolim has met with siyatta dishmaya to produce incomparable centers of Torah learning of unprecedented proportions.With so many talmiei chochomim to carry on the legacy Hitler sought to destroy, the current "medical" state of Klal Yisroel has improved dramatically; at least by measure of Torah learning, we no longer qualify for emergency priority in triage. And so, asserts Rabbi Rosenblum, we have achieved some latitude to address the side-effects of "chemotherapy" --the "collateral damage" in the form of kids-at-risk, shalom bayis issues, parnasah problems, and many more.

NOT FOR A SECOND DO WE QUESTION the wisdom of our gedolim's decision to apply such a radical approach. The choice was nothing short of a brilliant flash of ruach hakodesh in whose light even the terrible side-effects were accurately perceived and anticipated. That we suffer excruciating side effects does not alter the wisdom of the mahalach any more than the damage sustained to healthy cells in the process of chemotherapy indicates that any known alternative treatment course would have been more viable. That rabbonim acknowledge the “collateral damage” cannot be construed as not caring or maching avek the pain any more than a doctor’s anticipation of a treatment’s negative results implies a lack of compassion. Quite the contrary… To extend Rabbi Rosenblum’s mashal, we need to view our gedolim’s prescriptions (and proscribtions!) as part of a dynamic treatment plan whose impact requires insightful observation and skilled interpretation and whose course may demand occasional if not frequent adjustment. The advice of our childhood pediatrician does not become wrong when our geriatric specialist offers very different recommendations. The takanos of post-Holocaust poskim do not suddenly lose validity if they require adjustment by contemporary Torah personalities.

Surely the practice of medicine would be far easier if a single panacea or a single doctor would hold all the perfect answers for every physical ailment ever to plague humanity. Life would be much simpler if we could select one Rav and one perspective and apply one solution for all problems, for all times. But so long as this ideal eludes us, we have no choice but to constantly re-think, adjust, and apply our bechira with as much sechel as possible. So often on this blog, it appears that posters are frantically trying to grasp the one rabbinic statement, the one answer that would perfectly answer all questions, leaving no room for doubt or hesitation. If this website does nothing else, it would accomplish an extraordinary feat simply by encouraging a more nuanced, less idealizing approach to the smorgasbord of challenges we face.


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59.     11/17/08 - 8:11 PM
yoni

yet so many feel that the current "mehalach" has produced ZERO gedolim to fulfil the shoes of those whom we lost in recent years, rav moshe, the rav, and others great luminaries.

In the sense of producing gedolei hador it has failed misserably.

and is in any surprise? when you gear the system to turn as many people as possible into talmidei chachamim, and to make the calculations necessery to do that (in terms of who you accept) you will generaly by necessity fail those who could become future gedolim.

Why? because gedolim have almost always thrived off private tutoring. They studied with everyone else only in their early years, but soon as they were at a place where they could study on their own (not always with a chevrusa) at about 10 or so they were given a private "syllabus" telling them what they should do and set off to their own devices. I have not heard of that being done in recent years. That was how kids finished shas by 15 and for a second time by 18.

Likewise, its almost impossible to produce a gadol without teaching them midrash and extensive aggadot and tenach because without these a person may know many laws, but he will never have a clue what do with any of it, nor any conception of a torah way of life.

Further, the extreme courage and character of those gedolim was often made that way in a crucible of fire, and many of them suffered personal loss which made them the outstanding charchters they were, aside from their learning.

if you stick people in a box and dumb down the curriculum (and deny them secular studies) for the most talmidei chachamim possible, you will never, ever produce a gadol in a million years, and now I fear that we are too late to carry the mantle. All those great luminaries of the prewar spirit are niftar.

(in my eyes rav moshe, the lubavitcher rebbe, and the rav. 3 tremendous geniuses and liminaries who durring their lives comanded a sphere of influence that makes any contemporary "gadol"'s influence pale in comparison.)


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60.     11/17/08 - 8:13 PM
Anonymous

oh, and secondly, people smart enough to become gedolim usualy have a at least a few excentricities anre are usualy quite spirited as adolescents, and can not and will not permit themselves to be fitted into a box.

from my observations we've probably hemoraged out all of our future gedolim! most of them are probably frie and off the derech as a result of being forced into confined boxes and not allowed to explore shas, roshinim, poskim and shulchan aruch on their own with some minor guidance and advice.


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61. #62     11/17/08 - 9:01 PM
Anonymous

A bit of a hefty statement here, but i hear your genuine frustration...

Hashem promised that every generation will have the appropriate gedolim to guide them,so as far as netzach Yisroel is concerned, i don't think we need to worry that all hope is lost. Hashem is running the world and the Torah is eternal--even without our help. Also, while we are lacking leadership to which gantz klal Yisroel is drawn in unity, there are plenty of talmidei chachomim available to provide masterful piskei halachah through the concept of dor dor vedorshav.

Lastly, sometimes gedolim cannot be fully appreciated in their time but shine out clearly only in retrospect. Gedolim like the Rambam and Rav Saadiah Gaon, for example, were controversial figures in their days. The Rambam's seforim were in fact banned and burned and he drew widespread criticism from his contemporaries. And yet today his understanding of halachah carries tremendous weight in nearly all segments of Yiddishkeit. The Chofetz Chaim, to give another example, while always known for his piety and middos, wrote seforim not terribly unlike others in his day. Halachic codification like that of the Mishna Berurah was not uncommon in his era, and yet the siyatta dishmaya arranged it so that his word became an ultimate authority.

I guess my point is that there is an element of hashgacha involved which ensures that the mesorah unfolds secuely till the end of time. We can only worry about our choices and actions but the rest is Divinely orchestrated.


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62. source?     11/18/08 - 6:32 PM
Anonymous

It is true that a great number of Hungarians were assmilated. It is also true that In Poland most Jews spoke Yiddish. What you neglected to mention was that their assimilation rate was no less and probably more than the Hungarians. They spoke Yiddish, while eating Chazer, so what was the point?

I didn't mention it because I don't think it's true. On what basis do you say that Polish Jews, who were mostly of Chassidic background, assimilated no less and probably more than the Hungarians? I read about Hungarians lining up to convert to Catholicism well before the war and did not read that about Polish Jews. What percentage of Polish Jews before the war were shomer kashrus and Shabbos - I don't have numbers. What I have gathered from my reading is that it was far higher than in Hungary. If you have information to the contrary, please cite it.


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63. Chazal     11/18/08 - 8:30 PM
People, please, please get a life!

Does the fact that Chazal say a father has a chiyuv to teach hi sson a trade no longer exist once our current rabbis have reached ever higher spiritual heights and are able to ascertain that it no longer applies and we should all sit in koylel, ignorant, and living barely on government grants like shvartzas?

The hypocrisy of what passes for Daas Torah these days is endless. (Aside from the fact that Chazal did not believe in Daas Torah either, it was, as a friend of mine says, a concept that was invented circa 1980, by Talmidim of Rav Shach and Reb Elya Svei).


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64. The Case Of The Entirely Skewed Premise     11/19/08 - 5:48 AM
Bar-Uryan

"Holocaust-surviving grandparents of Hungarian/Romanian background... still revert to their native Hungarian when thinking or while speaking to their peers. If you need further proof that this is so, take a trip to Miami Beach this winter and listen to the dialogue between the members of the ‘Greatest Generation’ one evening on the boardwalk"

Nu, and what about, Polish, Russian, Lithuanian etc. speaking Jews? Will they please step forward? The answer is simple: all those pious-looking Hungarian individuals did not appear that way before the war. While only the children of the most religious Jews of Russia and Poland are frum today, the Hungarian communities were paradoxically perpetuated by formerly clean-shaven, (indeed) Hungarian speaking liberal Jews.

So in fact the tale of Hungarian Jews merely serves to teach us that all hope isn't lost with Jews who have strayed from their pious roots.

"Jews were known as the ‘people of the book’ who placed a great value on educating our children not only in Hebrew reading and writing, but also in the language of the lands in which we lived"

Of course, the overwhelming majority of Jews were historically not well educated (especially during the middle ages in Christian Europe where no one was). Except for a few periods in Gaonic Babel, Muslim Spain, and Renaissance-era Italy (all of which incidentally ended in complete assimilation), Jews were not fans of the arts. This could be determined by a cursory examination of history.

Proof from Rashi that Jews were well-bred aristocrats is rather silly, and that's kinda obvious.

"What is most unsettling, is that having a command of the native language is more crucial in today’s job market than it has ever been in history"

In a time when we are swiftly being overtaken by third world countries? In a time when the average American is faring lower in education compared to everywhere else?

Why don't you specify which fields religious Jews would be perfectly suited for, barring their terrible educational handicap?

"What is indisputably a colossal risk factor, for marital discord and kids abandoning Yiddishkeit, is poverty. With that in mind, it is my strong and growing feeling, that not educating your children nowadays, and overly sheltering them from acquiring basic general studies skills, dramatically raises the risk factor that your grandchildren will be raised in stressful, unhappy homes – and more vulnerable to all the negative influences we wish to shield them from."

Ah, straight from the handbook of the Chevra Mefitzei Haskala! Sure, we'll eduacte your kids so that they will no longer be 'backward' and 'uneducated'. Perhaps "Jews Need To Adopt A More Accurate View Of The Non-Religious World" (as per Rabbi Tradburks). This way they could examine their heritage more critically, and perhaps join a social movement or two. Maybe they could do some pioneering work in the arts such as music and acting.

This is how Jews endured their terrible suffering in Europe, through the curative effects of education and culture of course; and in our age we shall once again behold the wonderful results of the traditional Torah dictum "thou shalt be a kingdom of priesthood unto me, and oh, if you have a chance, be respectable eduacated well-to-do people of the world".


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65. In response to strange ravings     11/19/08 - 6:31 AM
Anonymous

Regarding the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

"it is well known that he persued secular education lishma and spend a long time in a german university for the shear joy of learning"

how dare you?! The Rebbe explicitly stated and wrote that he was there "on Shlichus" with his wife. All documents indicate that he was merely living in Germany and France as his father-in-law's secretary, and he was charged with running all important foreign affairs. Furthermore, evidence indicated that he hardly spent any time studying in college at all, and all witnesses indicate that when attending class he never appeared to be too interested.

Whatever you have said however, is merely the product of your own imagination, and is utterly groundless.

"he DAVKA insisted that many schools have good secular curiculi. why do you think lubavitch yeshiva and bais rivkah teach so much secular knowledge?"

this is a sad butchering of the relevant history. In short, Lubavitcher Yeshiva was the mossad that the Rebbe's brother-in-law R' Shmerel Gurary ran, while the Rebbe ran Mercas L'inyonei Chinuch etc. After the Rayatz was niftar and Chabad Askanim finally succeeded in getting the RaShaG to concede the leadership to the Rebbe, it was agreed that he would keep his mosdos.

When the Rebbe started actively agitating against secular studies on a regular basis (5715-5718), it was determined that RaShaG would never agree to remove this from his Yeshiva, and thus the Rebbe founded his own Yeshiva - Oholei Torah, which was designed to be under the Rebbe's leadership, not RaShag's. This lead to Dinei Torah etc. but the Rebbe prevailed.

It's a similar story for Beis Rivka which wasn't under the Rebbe's leadership either.

"It was the rebbe that said, b'pheirush, that secular knowledge and torah knowledge are two sides of the same coin, in many many sichos and letters"

this is an unbelievable lie. The Rebbe never ever said anything remotely resembling this hogwash. you couldn't find a single quote to back up this outrageous claim, for the simple reason that there isn't any.

Try searching the site which contains all Chabad data printed in the last 15 years and enter "Chochmos Chitzoniyos": http://www.chabadlibrary.org/books/search.aspx?searchText=%u05d7%u05db%u05de%u05d5%u05ea+%u05d7%u05d9%u05e6%u05d5%u05e0%u05d9%u05d5%u05ea&searchWhere=0%2f11 and hang your head in shame.

The Rebbe (and Chabad, historically) has always maintained that Chassidim ought to be focusing on achieving the highest levels of Kedusha during every moment of their lives, be it davening, learning, doing outreach, and he ruled out anything secular as being utter Tuma'h otherwise known as demonic or satanic. In scholarly letters (here: http://www.chabadlibrary.org/books/default.aspx?furl=/admur/ig/3/495&search=%D7%94%D7%99%D7%9C%D7%91%D7%99%D7%A5 and here: http://www.chabadlibrary.org/books/default.aspx?furl=/admur/ig/3/516&search=%D7%94%D7%99%D7%9C%D7%91%D7%99%D7%A5) the Rebbe explained that there are 5 levels in regards to secular knowledge. You ought to check that out.

"his only, and ONLY objection to going to college was the atmosphere in the college, not the secular learning that takes place. read his letters and it becomes perfectly clear"

One single quote please, just one. Unless you've got the wrong letter, or maybe the wrong Rebbe. It is safe to say that the Rebbe managed to crystallize his anti-secular views to the extent that it is impossible to misunderstand them.

You ought to do Teshuva and ask the Lubavitcher Rebbe for mechila for the terrible things you've said about him.


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66. The past and the present     11/19/08 - 8:02 AM
Benzion Twerski

I do not profess any fund of knowledge about the position of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT”L regarding secular studies. I find the discussion of his position the beginning of a deviation of the topic. There is a stark reality here, and the positions of leaders in the past, while valuable, may not be as relevant, as the environment constantly changes. This changing leaves us in the lurch all too often, as we need leadership of gedolim who understand our generation. Simply cutting and pasting the positions of our greatest leaders of the past to today is about as effective as looking for the crank under your automobile to start the engine.

Let no one accuse me of minimizing the positions of the Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT”L, Rav Dessler, ZT”L, or anyone else. There are, and have always been, reasons to guide the Klal in directions that differ greatly from previous generations. We cannot, and should not parent our children precisely as our parents raised us. Our schools cannot do exactly as the cheder in the shtetl did. We beg HKB”H every day to return to us our “shoftim”, leaders who can direct us, who have the wisdom to help us with all the issues that confront us.

I do not know what position was appropriate years ago. Yeshivas tend to offer secular studies at younger ages, and this spans the spectrum of the frum community. Perhaps this renders them all eligible for funding from governmental sources. Is it all money? Or have our gedolim recognized that this education is needed? It seems clearer that some knowledge is required today. As in my earlier post – I ask how this can be accomplished “al taharas hakodesh”.

We are told, “Zechor yemos olam”, know your history. This is followed by “Binu shnos dor vador”, understand the differences and nuances of each generation. (This translation of the posuk I heard from my chaver, Rabbi Shimon Russell.) There is much to learn from our past. Not everything must be done the same.


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67. ?!     11/19/08 - 9:29 AM
Anonymous

You consider the Lubavitcher Rebbe's view a position from yesteryear?!

Would you have agreed with his position in say, 1992? Can you point at any radical changes in frum society since then that would lead you to believe that the Rebbe's position is no longer relevant?


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68. parnassah and limud     11/19/08 - 1:16 PM
Yardena - EY

Elitzur and Yoni both made points I hadn't before considered: that all the emphasis on exclusively learning has not produced amazing gedolim. Poskim who are highly competent in certain areas? Yes. But trailblazing leaders like Rav Kanievsky or Rav Shapiro of the Daf Yomi? Not anyone I can think of.

Yoni also mentioned that many gedolim benefitted from private tutoring (or, I might add, getting a personal chevrusa with one of the gedolim at some point)--another excellent point that should be factored in. Yonason Rosenblum also wrote a column on the importance of a very personal relationship with a gadol.

At the end of the day, there is only halachah. We can ignore it for the best of reasons ("I have six 800 NIS outfits--l'kavod Shabbos!")and our flippant disregard will only come back to bite us on the nose. In fact, it already has.

The Talmud says boys need to learn a vocation, and the Kesubah says that the husband is responsible for parnasah. For example, even if your wife is a much better davener than you, you would never ever hand her your tefillin and say, "You do it for me, dear. I don't want to lose a second from my Torah learning." You probably find the very idea laughable.

If Hashem thought it is good for men to work, then it is. Just like men benefit from davening.

P.S. Not all well-paying jobs require a 4-year college degree. Some blue-collar jobs earn really well and you don't have to work so many hours, necessarily, leaving more time for limud Torah and chinuch banim.


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69. Who Decide's     12/13/08 - 8:08 PM
Ben Levi - Lakewood

I find the premise of Rabbi Horowit writing such an article interesting. What I meam by "premise" is that obviosly Rabbi Horowitz feels that he is capable of addressin this issue. Why? Reb Shraga Feivel Mendolowitz zt"l was a Gaon in Torah a musmach of some of the greatest of the Hungarian Rabbonim and one of the primaty architechts of torah in America. Yet he felt that he himself could not paken to include English in the curricilum of Torah V'Daas. Let me stress that Rabbi Mendolowitz knew full well that including Englishh in the currriculim was quite posssibly the only way to ensurew that parents would actually send thier children to his High School. In other words. What hung in the balance was whether an entire generation of children would atten public school or yeshiva. Still he did not want to pasken alone. Rabbi Mendolowitz was Hungarian. He sent the issue back to Europe. ( If I remeber correctly to Reb Elchonon, Reb Boruch Ber, The Gerrer Rebbe, and Reb Chaim Ozer) If Reb Shraga Feivel felt the matter was to seriuos to decide on his own, I wonder what exactly is the premise of Rabbi Horowitz writing his article?


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70. 71     12/14/08 - 2:31 AM
Anonymous

As stated in previous posts, for every gadol throughout Jewish history who feared the effects of secular education, there lived gedolim of great caliber who took the opposing view and even encouraged the pursuit of secular education leshem shomayim. And while certain Rabbonim have clearly expressed a negative view of academic studies and have preferred a more Torah-focused curriculum, they have never categorically "assured" secular learning.

The Chochomim of the Sanhedrin, in fact, were REQUIRED to be knowledgeable in various academic areas. More recently, Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky zt'l, who carried the very legacy of Rov Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz in Yeshiva Torah V'Daas, guided many (not all)of his talmidim in the direction of college and the pursuit of professional skills. The wisdom of great leadership lies in the ability to determine how to guide the individual in achieving his optimal personal balance between limudei Kodesh and limudei chol--and our mesorah surely supports a broader latitude for individualization than you allow. Also, the application of Torah values has varied through time and place via the concept of dor dor vedorshav. The challenges of today differ from those faced by the generation of Rov Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz and so our answers differ as well. I believe Rabbi Horowitz's experiences afford him a uniquely clear perspective to help identify the particular challenges of our own time and place, and so rather than criticize his candor, perhaps we should better appreciate his integrity and courage.


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71. Two questions     12/14/08 - 8:56 AM
Benzion Twerski

We may also err in comparing apples and skyscrapers.

There are two completely different questions here, and each is a massive one in its own right. The competence in answering one may do nothing for the other.

1 – Should yeshivos created for Torah learning include secular studies? This question is the one that Rav Shraga Feivel ZT”L sent to other gedolim in Europe for guidance. It is a Klal question, requires input from more than one person (even if he himself felt competent), and is specific top the generation. Looking up in other seforim would not have yielded a psak, though background from history would have been useful. It is quite possible that Rav Shraga Feivel ZT”L did not consider himself capable of making such a momentous decision for the Klal with the long term implications.

2 – Should an individual talmid be guided to pursue secular education, college, and the professions? The personal knowledge of a talmid is an area where Rav Shraga Feivel ZT”L excelled, and this is a legacy that his talmidim never forgot. It is this form of guidance that gets easily lost in the big yeshivos, and the designated role of the “mashgiach” does little to compensate. This secret in chinuch is the basis for many of the current complaints on the “system”, where talmidim are molded to comply with the group dynamic rather than tailoring the chinuch to best fit the potential of the talmid. The world is different today, and this requires the mechanech to be “on his toes”, knowledgeable about this outside world and its challenges, and tuned in to the inner life of the talmid.


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72. re 73, and hadracha on the individual level     12/14/08 - 9:43 AM
anonymousfornow

Dr. Twerski underscores the need to make sure our children build solid relationships, as individuals with rabbeim and mashgichim along the way to be sure they get the appropriate individual hashgacha. And there has to be a feeling of partnership,that the parents aren't out of the picture. Together, all should be working in the best interests of the kids.


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73. 3rd Question     12/14/08 - 10:18 AM
Anonymous

I would add a third, practical, question into the dilemma: What do we do, lemaaseh, when the answers to the 2 questions elucidated by Dr. Twerski contradict one another--if Gedolim determine that yeshivos established for Torah learning should exclude secular subjects, but that individuals may/should pursue academic studies?


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74. 74     12/14/08 - 11:25 AM
Anonymous

With the exclusion of individual machanchim, by and large our system pays lip service to the ideal of a partnership between yeshivos and parents.In reality, hanhalos neither seek nor value input from parents. Besides tuition and perhaps escorting class trips, vocal parental involvement in actual inyanei chinuch is viewed as a nuisance. The home as the primary vehicle for transmitting the mesorah has been replaced by the yeshiva. When there is a discrepancy of mahalach between the 2, the view of the parents is seldom addressed by the school.


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75. 76     12/14/08 - 11:39 AM
anonymousfornow

So we as parents have to have a talk with our kids, making it clear why we choose the mosdos for them that we do, what our aspirations for our kids are, that we do what we do because we have their best interests at heart, and we have to keep in touch with the schools! When they're younger we can volunteer, visit the building, etc. so that we're not strangers. As they get older it gets harder but we still have to stay involved.


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76. Secular Education !!???     12/14/08 - 12:45 PM
AK

Hi,

Rav Horowitz spoke about basic language and communication skills , also using modern technology to ' mediate' the world. Actally here in Israel , there are plenty of yeshivot and Kollelim where you will find plenty of laptops.

When it comes to the question of secular education in schools there is one important point which I hardly ever see raised - what type of secular education - secular education which is characterised by rote learning , memorizing of facts and practice drilling of skills , focusing on preparation for tests or education which teaches kids to think and question , to learn math by understanding math , learn to think like an historian or a geographer , take a multi-disciplinary approach to problems and of course in Jewish schools to see problems from the eyes of a Torah scholar.

If we review the criticism of secular education and the alternative put forward by progressive or constructivist educationalists , the camp opposing secualr education have got many allies.

Back in 1959, John Holt wrote that the main effect "of the drive for so-called higher standards in schools is that the children are too busy to think.

“If we taught babies to talk as most skills are taught in school, they would memorize lists of sounds in a predetermined order and practice them alone in a closet.”

-- Linda Darling-Hammond

I would like to see schools who provide secular education not blindly follow current educational practices which are a waste of time. I would also hope that these bad secular practices are not to be found in the limudei kodesh classes.

If we are learning Torah right , we need just good english and for some a good understanding of math to make it in the world. Who needs to be given information , teachers who teach facts and give information are really redundant in today's world.


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77.     12/14/08 - 5:34 PM
M

for every gadol throughout Jewish history who feared the effects of secular education, there lived gedolim of great caliber who took the opposing view and even encouraged the pursuit of secular education leshem shomayim.

What a claim ... every gadol had a counterpart that said the opposite, you say. Please substantiate that.

The Chochomim of the Sanhedrin, in fact, were REQUIRED to be knowledgeable in various academic areas.

So? What does that have to do with today's kids? Do you also suggest that today's kids be proficient in magic, idol worship and seventy languages?

More recently, Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky zt'l, who carried the very legacy of Rov Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz in Yeshiva Torah V'Daas

He carried the legacy? What does that mean? He wasn't R' S.F.M.'s talmid or successor.

guided many (not all)of his talmidim in the direction of college and the pursuit of professional skills.

My great-grandfather, R' Mendlowitz, pushed students toward Klal work. A career in chinuch was the goal he set for most of his close students.


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78.     12/14/08 - 5:43 PM
M

all the emphasis on exclusively learning has not produced amazing gedolim. Poskim who are highly competent in certain areas? Yes. But trailblazing leaders like Rav Kanievsky or Rav Shapiro of the Daf Yomi? Not anyone I can think of.

Is that the goal - to produce "amazing gedolim"? Trailblazing leaders? There is nothing in the yeshiva curriculum that is designed to produce that. I think that emerges in unique individuals on rare occasions. Most of our contemporary gedolim did not blaze trails. They were or are roshei yeshiva. They had a significant impact on their talmidim, especially on those closest to them, but otherwise, were not leaders outside of their yeshiva.

As for the two examples you mentioned - I'm not sure if by "Rav Kanievsky" you are referring to the Steipler Gaon or his son R' Chaim. I'm curious - what trail do you think either one blazed?

As for Rabbi Shapiro, if you read his life story you see that he was in an entirely different league than most people, being an incredible genius. I don't think our discussion here is about men of his caliber who are extremely rare.


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79. M     12/14/08 - 6:59 PM
Anonymous


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80. M     12/14/08 - 7:40 PM
Anonymous

1. My point was that our mesorah includes numerous reliable mekoros for both approaches. An exact tally is really beside the point.

2. I brought up the Sanhedrin to illustrate that clearly there exists an acceptable place in our tradition for the study of academic subjects--in the service of Hashem. I would not extrapulate the requirements for membership in the Sanhedrin to design curricula for today's talmidim and I am neither recommending nor not recommending the inclusion of magic, idol-woship, 70 languages, or even secular studies within our yeshiva programs. What I am merely saying is that there exists greater latitude for divergent approaches than you acknowledge. My personal inclinations and decisions regarding the chinuch of my own children are an entirely different matter. But whatever my own choices are do not disqualify alternative derachim.

3.What a zchus you have to descend from such an adam gadol vekadosh!! Please forgive my use of the phrase about Rov Yaakov Kaminetzky's carrying on the legacy of Rov Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz, zichronam shel tzadikim levracha if you find it offensive. Perhaps this is technically inaccurate in the sense that the former did not inherit the latter's precise official position. I believe, however, that Rov Kaminetzky's leading role in Yeshiva Torah V'Daas began just about the time your great-grandfather was niftar in (approximately)1948. While you stand correct that the Rosh Yeshiva was not your grandfather's direct talmid, surely Rov Yaakov worked to perpetuate his efforts to transplant and sustain the Torah of Europe upon American shores--in the very mosad Rov Shraga Feivel Mendelovitz helped create and build.


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81. he TEAM Mastersa program     8/22/09 - 9:34 PM
Anonymous

This TEAM program is great! They are very professional and helpful. All classes are separate for men and women. I saved thousands in tuition and the courses are extremely flexible as well.

There is a great article in the Five Towns Jewish Times


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82. Fact check     5/24/12 - 8:33 PM
Jewel

Before writing such an article Rabbi Horowitz should have his facts checked. Yes jews of Hungarian extraction were generally fairly conversant in the language of their country but this was clearly not the case with Jews of Polish Lithuanian and Galician extraction. Besides, Rabbi Horowitz posits that counting in one language indicates the fluency of the speaker in that language. All those yiddish speaking jews in the States for whom English is by all accounts not their first language will attest that many count in English even though it may probably be (almost)the only english words they know!

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