Our Colleges Are Sinking Into Selfish, Materialistic Mud

When someone’s only credentials are the ones they got in college, this should concern us, not reassure us. We must question whether their indoctrination by secular institutions might get them and us stuck in the mire of self and materialism.

By Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier – The Beis Medrash

Last week I happened to hear about the congressional hearing at which the presidents of three very prestigious colleges were questioned on their stance against antisemitism. One of the questions asked was whether calling for the genocide of Jews is acceptable on their campuses, and not one of them answered an unequivocal “No!”

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that everything a Yid hears and sees must serve as a lesson in our avodas Hashem.

What’s the message here?

It can’t be a coincidence that this happened right before Chanukah.

The kingdom that threatened us during the story of Chanukah were the Yevanim. What did they want?

The Yevanim excelled in academics. They also exalted physical fitness and athletics. Essentially, they aimed to be the perfect human. And in their understanding, a perfect human is devoid of anything that transcends human logic or demands submission of human pleasures.

Metaphorically, wisdom is compared to water, and earth is the epitome of materialism. When the two are mixed, the result is mud.

The Hebrew name for a Greek, יון, can also mean mire (see Tehillim 40:3 טיט היון).

The wisdom of Torah is compared to pristine water and human intellect is the antithesis to this.

By definition, Torah and human intellect are opposites. Torah study is all about transcending our own ideas and mindsets and searching for Hashem’s truth. The humbler we are the more suited we are to grasp this truth. Kaballah explains that this is why the wisdom of Torah is compared to the small letter yud. Conversely, human philosophy is based in self. It’s limited to the human’s understanding and the more one knows, the more arrogant one becomes.

And their name says it all [1]:

The Yevanim were the antithesis to the yud of Torah. Consequently, the first letter in their name is a י.

A person’s character is described in Torah by six emotive traits, chessed, gevurah, etc. Thus, the next letter in their name is a ו which has the numerical value of six. It follows that since all their intellectual pursuits were self-serving and a tool for their materialism, it did nothing to refine their character.

The long nun, which reaches below the line, represents action, which reaches beyond our minds and hearts. Their lack of morals affected their behaviors and actions. Accordingly, the last letter in their name, ן.

The three letters also give a visual image of their moral decline: each letter gradually sinks lower: יון.

It was in this mire of human intellect that the Yevanim wanted us to sink. They recognized Torah for its intellectual properties, but they wanted to strip it of any connection to something Higher.

In case it was difficult to understand this, we now have a stunning current-day example.

One would think that the smarter a person is, the finer a person they must be. It would follow that the highest level of education and academics should produce the most outstanding characters.

But we see that the opposite is true. Colleges are the most deeply morally depraved institutions in the world. And the higher one’s position in these colleges the greater the depravity.

It’s important for us to know this for several reasons. A college education is not something we should admire, nor aspire to. Also, when someone’s only credentials are the ones they got in college, this should concern us, not reassure us. We must question whether their knowledge is good for us as Yidden. Is their indoctrination by secular institutions likely to get them and us stuck in the mire of self and of materialism?

For example, if ever we need the services of a psychotherapist, we must be sure to simultaneously take council from someone with pure daas Torah so that we are certain to only reap the benefits of secular wisdom and not get caught in the mire.

Most importantly, it’s good to understand the great gift we have in Hashem’s Torah. This is a time to intensify our study of Hashem’s wisdom and share it with as many people as possible. Until the time when “the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know Hashem.” May this be speedily in our day.

[1] Reshimos 3

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