The Rebbe’s View: Secular Subjects

While it has become normal, in some places, for frum schools to include secular subjects, this was never the case in chadorim of old. Throughout the nesius, the Rebbe fought strongly for teaching children pure Torah exclusively.

By Anash.org writer

A New Problem

As Yidden immigrated to America, and especially after the Holocaust, a difficult challenge gripped the Jewish community.

In the cheder of old, boys learned Torah full time, and it was unheard of for a traditional frum cheder to teach non-Torah subjects. Yet, in the new world, things were somehow different. Desperate to secure their children’s financial wellbeing, many insisted on getting their children a secular education.

From the earliest years of the nesius, the Rebbe tirelessly battled this flawed mindset on various fronts. The Rebbe encouraged yeshivos to at least minimize the emphasis on secular studies as much as possible and that it should be scheduled later in the afternoon. (Likutei Sichos vol. 16, p. 146; Toras Menachem vol. 13 p. 73)

But from his chassidim, the Rebbe demanded the ideal choice: to establish chadorim and yeshivos entirely focused on Torah and Yiddishkeit, without any secular education at all.

Why the Big Deal?

What exactly is wrong with innocuous secular studies?

In perek ches of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe explains various levels of kelipos, and how each of them affect a person. Secular studies, the Alter Rebbe says, have a uniquely detrimental effect on a person: whereas material pleasures blunt a person’s love for Hashem, secular studies blunt his mind and make it “tamei.”

The Rebbe points out that the Alter Rebbe doesn’t use the term assur or passul—but tamei, impure. When something becomes tamei, it doesn’t look any different. Yet—its status changes fundamentally.

The Rebbe is clear that is applies to even innocuous subjects, and not just subjects with potentially problematic content, such as science or history. As the Rebbe writes in one letter (Igros Kodesh vol. 11 p. 403), the Alter Rebbe explicitly says that he is referring to subjects that are kelipas noga—neutral in content, which would include even math and language that isn’t relevant to immediate avodas Hashem.

[The discussion here is about learning these topics for the knowledge itself or for future benefit which takes the child’s mind away from Hashem. What the child must know for current function and avodas Hashem is of course appropriate. Thus, if a child’s language is English, they should learn to read and write that language, just as they are taught to speak it (or to tie shoes and the like).]

The Rebbe was impassioned about the topic and spoke about it forcefully. In various sichos, which we will bring throughout this article, the Rebbe spoke about how detrimental it is to the children’s Yiddishkeit and to their general wellbeing.

“Throughout all the generations, Yidden would cover the child with a tallis to bring them into cheder, so that they wouldn’t be affected by the “ayin hara,” which is the satan and yetzer hara who cannot handle Yiddishe children learning Torah. Yet, people are now taking Yiddishe children and putting them into the hands of the yetzer hara, to tear them away from Torah!” (Toras Menachem vol. 27 p. 105)

In one strong letter, the Rebbe encourages someone to continue their fight for only limudei kodesh: “It’s shocking that people are giving reasons against learning only limudei kodesh, for there is no logical reason for it … May Hashem give you the merit and success to break through the “ice” in your community, and you should transform the frigidity to light and warmth of holiness and Chassidus.” (Igros Kodesh vol. 14 p. 43)

The Rebbe’s faith in the desire of a Yiddishe neshama to learn only Torah was so great, that when a certain child “preferred playing over learning, especially secular subjects,” the Rebbe suggested that “perhaps this is a sign that he does not want to learn secular studies – though he may not realize the deeper reason for it – and then it’s also negatively affecting his limudei kodesh studies.” (Igros Kodesh vol. 10 p. 293)

When parents consulted the Rebbe about their children’s emotional health, the Rebbe also advised cutting back on secular studies, since “Yidden need to have harmony between body and soul.” (Igros Kodesh vol. 8 p. 24)

What About Parnassa?

But how will a child succeed in life without a secular education?

In an emotional farbrengen on Simchas Torah 5715, the Rebbe spoke strongly about this topic. Nobody can foretell the future, the Rebbe said, and our actions must simply follow the Torah’s directives.

If something is useful to us, the Rebbe explained, the Torah, our guidebook instructs us to do it; if we would need to study secular subjects to make it in life, there would have been a halacha to learn it. But not only does Torah not mandate it, Torah tells us that it defiles the mind! That means that it won’t help a person in life at all, but to the contrary.

“Some people think that they can outsmart Hashem; instead of using the tools that Hashem gave us for success, in Torah, they will look for their own methods of success—to study English—and then they will be successful. They must remember: Hashem created the world 5,714 years ago. Since then, he has been running it as he wishes, according to Torah, and he will continue to do so!

“Hashem gave the Torah to the Yidden over 3,000 years ago, and our batlanishe nation that does not learn grammar and so on is standing strong! All the other nations, with all their chochmos, are gone. The Yidden, who have no expertise in the ways of the world—are standing strong, holding on to the Torah!

“The children are not at fault; they aren’t given any choice on the matter. The parents take them and rob them of a portion their life. What gives parents the right to rob the children of those years? Is this why Hashem gave them children?!” (Toras Menachem vol. 13 p. 73-76)

[The Rebbe said this sicha with great emotion and used many other sharp expressions that weren’t transcribed. In the middle of his talk, he said several times: “I say this on the basis of the statement of the Rebbe Rashab that Simchas Torah doesn’t bring any harm; this will be with kindness and mercy.”]

In another farbrengen the Rebbe warned that if people will come and argue the need for secular studies with proofs from Torah, we should be aware that this is from the yetzer hara. He might be quoting maamarei chazal, but he is distorting them… (Toras Menachem vol. 27 p. 105)

In one letter, the Rebbe writes that whatever limudei chol they need to know they will pick up from the streets. (Igros Kodesh vol. 8 p. 24)

Why Some Schools Have It

Many raise the argument that if it’s true that limudei chol should be avoided, why is it that some Lubavitcher schools have secular studies?

The Rebbe addressed this argument and explained that while learning limudei chol was indeed problematic, it is a step up for students who would otherwise attend a less frum school (or public school).

In a letter to Rabbi Shmuel Abba Senig of Munich, the Rebbe writes:

“In certain situations, our Rebbeim opposed it completely; in other situations, they helped such schools from behind the scenes, although they themselves didn’t establish them. [Establishing such schools] was very rare, but it did happen sometimes. You must judge each situation and decide.” (Igros Kodesh vol. 20 p. 120) Likewise, in another letter to him, the Rebbe writes that it depends on whether such a school would be pulling the students to the ‘right’ or to the ‘left.’ (Igros Kodesh vol. 10 p. 297)

Thus, R’ Nachman Sudak in London and R’ Avraham Korf in Miami were instructed to include a secular studies program in their day schools to attract students from a less frum crowd.

At the same time, the Rebbe emphasized that this should not serve as an example for proper Lubavitch schools.

Dont Join a Hospital

R’ Volf Greenglass, the legendary mashpia of Montreal, related:

During the early years, the concept of not having a secular education was very difficult for many chassidim to swallow. It was a question of trust: of the chossid in the Rebbe.

One Lubavitcher chossid told the Rebbe that he wished to have his son learn limudei chol. As a justification, he argued that the Frierdiker Rebbe had incorporated secular studies in the Lubavitcher yeshiva school curriculum, which he himself had established.

The Rebbe answered him by way of parable:

“When one enters a hospital, at first glance it could be very impressive. The hygiene, the order and the individualized attention. It all looks very good. Still, no healthy person would consider becoming a patient…

“You must understand this,” concluded the Rebbe. “The secular education department of the Lubavitcher yeshiva is a hospital, for those not yet ready to join the full-time healthy society…” (Likutei Sipurei Hisvaaduyos, p. 345)

At the farbrengen of Yud Beis Tammuz 5717, the Rebbe elaborated upon this parable. The Rebbe explained that although in a hospital they apply certain practices for the betterment of the sick, no normal person would think to apply those practices to healthy people since that would harm them.

The same, explained the Rebbe, is true of education. There are certain things that we must do for people who aren’t ready for healthy Torah life, but no one should consider sending a healthy child to a spiritual “hospital” which will only have a negative effect on them.

So, the Rebbe clarified, limudei chol was allowed by our Rebbeim for people who aren’t “healthy.” However, chassidim who want to live healthy Torah lives, should follow healthy chinuch of pure Torah. (Toras Menachem, Vol. 20, p. 116)

To Be One of Those?!

In another episode, R’ Volf shared his own experience and the Rebbe’s disapproval of some chassidim who taught their child secular studies:

When we were in yechidus, my wife asked the Rebbe whether our son Avrohom Yechiel could pursue secular studies. As expected, the Rebbe answered in the negative.

My wife didn’t give up. She mentioned a respected chossid by name, and questioned, “Does he not send his son to English classes?”

“Indeed, I am well aware that there are those who do not listen to me,” the Rebbe responded. “Do you also want to be one of them?!” (Likutei Sipurei Hisva’aduyos, p. 135)

Extraordinary Efforts

After the Rebbe’s landmark sicha of Simchas Torah 5715, chassidim immediately got together and R’ Michoel Teitelbaum established, with great mesiras nefesh, Oholei Torah, a new cheder which would be entirely al taharas hakodesh.

Oholei Torah opened in a small shtiebel in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn with only three students. Despite the many physical and financial challenges, the teachers, parents, and students remained steadfastly committed to the Rebbe’s call for pure Torah chinuch.

In a powerful sicha on Yud Shevat 5737, the Rebbe spoke of how we go on mesiras nefesh for chinuch al taharas hakodesh just as the Frierdiker Rebbe did in Russia:

“Due to the laws of this country and others, a terrible situation has come to be: Children cannot go through a school day without studying limudei chol. This begins from the age of five, when they begin Chumash, and continues through the ages of ten, when he begins Mishnah, thirteen, when he becomes bar mitzvah, and fifteen, when he studies Gemara.

“We must take a lesson from the Frierdiker Rebbe: He literally risked his life, and sent others to risk their lives, to establish chadorim for Jewish children, where they would study al taharas hakodesh, only limudei kodesh, without changing any of the educational standards that Yidden have used throughout the generations.

“How much more so in our days, and in our country—where there is no physical danger, chas veshalom: The greatest effort must be invested that the children’s education should be purely limudei kodesh, without any limudei chol…”

The Greatest Pidyon Shevuyim

Reb Berl Futerfas relates:

“My father, the Mashpia Reb Mendel, would spend a few weeks every winter fundraising for Russian Jewry. This was a continuation of his work there: to help Yidden begashmius.

“One year he was also asked to collect funds for Oholei Torah Cheder. Not knowing what to do, he asked the Rebbe in a yechidus, and was encouraged by the Rebbe to fundraise for the cheder as well.”

“My father was still troubled. He said to the rebbe, ‘But someone who gave a thousand dollars last year will give the same again, to be split between the two causes. This will mean that it is on the account of pidyon shevuyim (redemption of captives) funds?’

“The Rebbe looked at my father and said, ‘Saving children from learning limudei chol is the greatest pidyon shvuyim!’”  (From The Weekly Farbrengen)

A Temporary Solution

In a letter to R’ Zalman Serebransky in Australia, who was facing legal requirements to teach limudei chol, the Rebbe advised him to temporarily fill the limudei chol with Jewish content: To study Jewish history from Tanach, and so on. The Rebbe then advised him to lobby the department of education to enable them to study additional limudei kodesh. (Igros Kodesh vol. 12 p. 452)

Holy Children

One special angle that the Rebbe mentioned was connected to the geulah. Chazal famously say, “Al tig’u bimeshichai – eilu tinokos shel beis rabban,” don’t touch my anointed ones – this refers to the cheder children. Children are called “Moshiach” since they live with a higher awareness of Hashem, and must be educated as such.

At the Simchas Torah farbrengen of 5720, the Rebbe elaborated upon this:

“Children, even during galus, live in a reality that is like yemos haMoshiach. We are responsible to ensure that their education doesn’t violate the kedusha of the Moshiach reality that they live in. Introducing foreign influences from the secular world brings tumah into their taharah.

“The ‘kluginker,’ the sly yetzer hara, argues that these studies are needed to ensure their financial stability in the future. They argue that even Torah instructs us to teach children a trade so that they can earn an honest living!

“This argument is a faulty and erroneous way of learning the Torah’s instruction. To learn a trade, one doesn’t need to be exposed to foreign ideas from a young age. It is perfectly sufficient to learn the skills in adulthood when he must start supporting himself and his family.

“It’s outrageous to suggest that Hashem, Who provides for billions of human beings and for every creature in the entire universe, needs our assistance in providing for this one child and his family by exposing him or her to secular studies during childhood, thereby compromising the geula’dikeh purity he or she lives in today!” (Toras Menachem vol. 27, pp. 102)

Similarly, in a 5751 sicha, the Rebbe explained:

“Chazal say that many tried to emulate Rabi Shimon bar Yochai—in living a life entirely devoted to Torah study—but were unsuccessful. Based on this maamar Chazal there are those who argue that it is necessary for children to learn secular studies to prepare them for the real world.

“We must remember that children are called ‘Moshiach’ and therefore must behave in a manner befitting yemos haMoshiach—in a manner of toraso umnaso, Torah is their only occupation.” (Hisvaaduyos 5751 vol. 2, p. 268)

In a special farbrengen before hakafos on the night of Simchas Torah 5752, the Rebbe emphasized the point with these wondrous words:

“Children are called “Moshiach” and the chinuch of our children must be permeated with the concept of Moshiach: the awareness that our existence and all of creation is just to fulfill Hashem’s will. When you look at the children, you should straight away be able to see in them a reflection of the reality of Moshiach.

“The Gemara states that Yerushalayim was destroyed because the Torah learning of the children ceased. Certainly, by ensuring that our children receive the best and most appropriate chinuch, we will hasten the arrival of Moshiach!” (Sefer Hasichos 5752 p. 37-41; footnote 37)

***

This article made use of A Chassidisher Derher‘s comprehensive review on the topic “Purity of the Mind.” See there for additional sources.

Discussion
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  1. Somehow some chadorim decided that is a necessity to teach math. English and math don’t go hand in hand

  2. Great article, very thorough.
    Everything was mentioned with its source besides one (key) point:
    “[The discussion here is about learning these topics for the knowledge itself or for future benefit which takes the child’s mind away from Hashem. What the child must know for current function and avodas Hashem is of course appropriate. Thus, if a child’s language is English, they should learn to read and write that language, just as they are taught to speak it (or to tie shoes and the like).]”

    Can a source be provided for this as well?

    1. Thank you for such a well written article with sources!
      I had the same question about English, thanks for asking it, a source for that would be appreciated.

      1. When you read the sources and understand what “chochmos chitzoniyus” is about, it becomes clear that the issue is about engaging the mind in something away from Hashem.

        When a person learns to tie their shoes with the correct mindset, he doesn’t feel like he is disconnecting from avodas Hashem, rather he is learning mundane information that will help him serve Hashem better.

        Of course, a person can fool himself and argue that every study of secular subjects could be used for avodas Hashem. But an honest person can know what is truly for Hashem and what is just an excuse.

    2. Why do you assume that proficiency in a spoken language is a form of secular studies? What’s the source for that?

      1. Proficiency in arithmetic with number facts is important too. It’s essential in Kashrus, cooking, baking challah, Shabbos and yomtov and family life awareness and accuracy for time and calendars; and cooking and buying and renovating a home or shul, buying and doing alterations for Tsnius clothing etc.

        1. Almost all secular studies could be used to serve Hashem, but still the Rebbe was against teaching it to young children. Only that which is IMMEDIATELY relevant to his avodas Hashem at the current time, should be taught.

          Anything else, while it can be elevated later (as the Alter Rebbe writes about physical things), right now it is perceived as something unG-dly and will blunt the child’s exclusive connection to Hashem.

          1. In the public school I went to, many years ago, arithmetic was completely different than “Social Studies”. Arithmetic has addition and subtraction facts, multiplication tables, order of operations, measuring, weighing etc. It was such an objective set of facts and way of important life-skill building that it couldn’t be left alone.

            Years later it was corrupted with “common core”. Even in non faith based communities, whoever cares despairs about that. So we shouldn’t take in the curriculum, but we do need to make sure children can do basic math (which is not happening in the non yeshiva schools with common core and was always hard for some to teach and learn).

            I think schools have found a way to move away from common core to some extent, but the damage has been done to a lot of kids (I mean in non yeshiva schools where the amount of failure, anxiety, innumeracy and cheating is through the roof, sadly. And our girls schools, and yeshivas who followed that curriculum were so very burdened by the common core imposition as well).

            Arithmetic in it’s non corrupted form is basically not in the clouds academic. It’s factual with practical, doable applications. Try putting fourteen cups of sugar into a recipe instead of 1/4 of a cup of sugar because one didn’t have a basic math and reading education… Most cookbooks are not written in Yiddish and even then one needs to be able to read the math 1/4. Social studies and secular literature take quite a stretch of the imagination to call useful, factual, neutral, etc. Math is essential for Halacha and getting stuff actually done, both mitzvoth and preparation for mitzvoth.

  3. A few he’aros:
    1) while Reb Michoel did get to action right after the Simchas Torah Sicha in 5715, Oholei Torah didn’t till over a year later, on his father’s yohrtzeit in Teves 5716.

    2) the story of Reb Mendel Futerfas is one of him collecting for a similarly named school in eretz Yisroel, but not the Oholei Torah from New York

    3) is there a collection somewhere of the Rebbe’s position in girls’ chinuch? Why does this entire article not apply to them?

  4. Some Schools don’t teach secular subjects-and don’t provide a robust and vast limmudei kodesh education either! With children leaving these institutions not knowing basic matters of tanach, Jewish history, hashkafa, knowing how to express themselves in whatever language they speak etc….

  5. Agreed: Reading, writing (in the language one speaks: English for many) and arithmetic are like tying one’s shoes. Non parochial schools don’t have a great record of insuring the children come away with proficiency in reading, writing and arithmetic in one language. Yeshivas are very underfunded. How do we help ensure children thrive in Yiddishkeit (Jewish studies) to say nothing of the basics that make them feel like functional members of society— bezH beyond the rate of public school kids who fail (or cheat) by leaps and bounds. We have to give this over to Hashem.

    Our schools are struggling in spite of tremendous efforts. And much of the effort is in fundraising. How does the building mortgage and heat get paid? To say nothing of teacher and staff salaries— and retirement benefits are non existent. We literally don’t have the resources that the other type of parochial school, private schools, and public schools have (the latter doesn’t have the heart and “soul” in spite of receiving vast amount of tax payer money). Our children really resent their Jewish education that, without the proper resources, overall doesn’t operate optimally— it’s astounding how often children don’t even have a place in a Jewish school whereas they’d be valued students in public school. I know. I’ve been there. Meanwhile our yeshiva students feel deprived of basic literacy and math proficiency.

    The truth is, those not in the yeshiva system often don’t even achieve success in that. But our children can sometimes experience lack of English reading, writing and arithmetic with resentment. And it came back to bite us when they can’t read “Circle” and “Spotlight” Jewish children’s magazines but they can watch a lot of things on devices that we don’t know how to parent ally control properly because we’re not from the tech age. Reading, writing and arithmetic skills from a young age is important. However, the content areas of the secular curriculums can and should be avoided for chinuch al Taharas hakodesh.

    1. Interesting assessment. While I agree with a lot of what you wrote (Yeshivos being underpaid, public school kids not necessarily doing that great in basic subjects, etc), I do want to point out that the vast majority of CHILDREN in Jewish schools, both those that don’t teach any limudei chol and those that have a limited/under emphasised limudei chol track are not resentful of “missing out on basic skills”.
      From what I see, both from when I was a student and from children today, most kids wouldn’t notice, think about, or be upset that they don’t know square roots/how to write a proper essay/never read Shakespeare etc etc if not for comments from the parents and other adults around them.
      Those children that do feel, on their own, stymied at their lack of knowledge in limudei chol tend to be the minority and not the majority. And there are schools that cater to them, as mentioned in the above article.
      Personally I feel that part of why parents are frustrated that their children do not learn to read and write English is because unfortunately today the spoken and written language is not yiddish. If you don’t speak or read yiddish fluently, it’s hard not read and write in English either. Families that speak in yiddish tend to be less insistant on learning the English language, and not only because of Chassidishkeit.

      1. Clarification on resentment: Shakespeare (racist “Othello”, anti Jewish “The Merchant of Venice”) and essay writing has nothing to do with this discussion. Those are the problem of those in the cult of academia. Our children, parents, hanhalas, askanim etc. really need a boost so that there’a a sense of satisfaction and achievement in learning limdei kodesh and feeling of competency in basic literacy of spoken languages and arithmetic for mitzvoth and getting things done to elevate gashmius to ruchnius. As the Rebbe said about what has been going on to impede the success (and prompt so much pain and resentment) al pi Teva it’s “taxation without representation… tantamount to religious persecution”.

        Would you consider joining me as I try to earnestly daven and bless askanim in a way that results in having salaries and benefits for enough highly skilled, not burnt out, principals, assistant principals, teachers, assistant teachers and secretaries etc. to work and continue working in chinuch as well as curriculum developers, program directors etc.? I’m not engaging in mind reading about what I imagine was extolled or not in homes.

        Let’s work together. Tefilla makes all the difference, especially for Moshiach now which is surely all of our goal in line with the vision of Nosi Doreinu.

    2. I have been asking around and it turns out I was wrong. The overwhelming majority of the children including the boys in chassidic schools do learn to read “Circle” and “Spotlight” magazines in English. Keeping youngsters away from things they shouldn’t see (on cellphones etc.) is something everyone of conscience whether or not they are part of a faith based community is grappling with. In terms of yeshiva educated children ending up looking at screens rather than excellent, kosher Jewish magazines in English, I was making assumptions based on a few things I’d heard and jumped to exaggerated and false conclusions about but not real research, asking people. What I wrote concerning general levels of reading in English was incorrect and not kosher communication. I truly apologize and will pray to be more careful in the future.

  6. Great article. Ty for mentioning that teaching reading and writing is necessary. As a teacher, I have seen that children who cannot read and write in the only language they speak, are handicapped in their ability to learn kodesh subjects as well, as they are 100% dependent on getting spoonfed by the teacher.
    Basic math comes up in chumash rashi, gemora etc. I heard a story that involved one of the zirkinds. A father went in for yechidus with his son. The Rebbe asked his son how many strings there are in tzitzis and the son could not give the answer the Rebbe was looking for (4×8=36). The Rebbe then told his father to teach him math. I don’t remember the exact story and who it was with, but something along those lines.

  7. another point missed out in this article is that the Rebbe encouraged those that from some reason felt the need to push limmudei chol should at least wait until 9 years old if not till 11-12 pr after bar mitzva, – in other words that it would be better not having limmudei chol as a child even if it meant having it after bar mitzva.

    about english:
    1: in the sicha of simchas torah 5715 the Rebbe includes learning the english language as limmudei chol, and the words “english” and “grammer” are the main “targets” of the sicha.
    so much so that the Rebbe says that the child should ask for a street name with a “yiddishe aktzent”

    2: ohlei torah had horaos from the Rebbe on every part of their curriculum, so the fact that they dont have english means that the Rebbe doesnt want it to be taught.

    here are a few qoutes from the sicha of simchas torah 5715 that address the above: (from toras menachem):

    חוששים שמא ילך הילד ברחוב, וכשיצטרך לשאול מישהו למקומו של רחוב מסויים – ידבר באנגלית עם “מבטא יהודי” (“אַ אידישן אַקצענט”)… ויהי’ ניכר שהוא יהודי!… ולכן לומדים עמו “אנגלית”, ושאר חכמות חיצוניות, כדי לטמא את מוחו של הילד!

    – ג’ השנים הראשונות שבהם מתחיל הילד ללמוד, הם הזמן שהוא היסוד העיקרי להצלחתו בעתיד. ודוקא בזמן זה לוקחים את הילד ומטמאים את מוחו ב”אנגלית”, “גראַמאַטיקע” וכיו”ב!

    הלואי שגם גדולים לא היו יודעים ענינים אלו! ועאכו”כ ילדים – עד תשע שנים, עד י”ב שנה – והייתי אומר גם לגבי השנים הבאות, אלא ש”תפסת מרובה לא תפסת”!…

    בה בשעה שהקב”ה אומר שאינו זקוק ל”גן עדן”, אינו זקוק לביהמ”ק, ואינו רוצה דבר, מלבד הענין ד”ושכנתי בתוכם”, דהיינו שרצונו של הקב”ה לשכון דוקא במוחו של ילד יהודי – לוקחים מוח זה ומטמאים אותו בחכמות חיצוניות!
    —–
    היכן היא הגאוה היהודית (“וואו איז דער אידישער שטאָלץ”)?!

    מה שטוענים, שכאשר ילמדו את הילד “אנגלית” וכו’, אזי תהי’ לו תועלת בגשמיות, שיהי’ לו קל יותר “להסתדר” בחיים – הרי זו טענה שאין לה מקום כלל, שהרי אף אחד אינו “יודע עתידות”; ובכל ההנהגות יש להתנהג ע”פ תורה.

    כל דבר שיש בו תועלת – נכתב בתורה, ואילו היתה תועלת כלשהי בגשמיות בלימוד חכמות חיצוניות – הי’ צ”ל דין בתורה שצריכים ללמוד חכמות חיצוניות. ומכיון שאין בתורה דין שכזה – ואדרבה: מפורש בתורה שהדבר אסור, ושעי”ז מטמאים חב”ד שבנפש – פירוש הדבר הוא שאין בזה שום תועלת בגשמיות, ואדרבה!

    הם חושבים שיוכלו להתחכם על הקב”ה (“מען וועט גיין איבערקליגן דעם אויבערשטן”), היינו, שלא יתחשבו בדרכים שהקב”ה נתן בתורתו כדי להצליח, אלא יחפשו דרכים משלהם, ללמוד “אנגלית”, ועי”ז להצליח. – ובכן: עליהם לזכור, שהקב”ה ברא את העולם לפני חמשת אלפים שבע מאות וארבע-עשרה שנים, ומאז מנהיג אותו תמיד כרצונו, וגם להבא ימשיך להנהיג את העולם בהתאם לרצונו – ע”פ תורה.

    הקב”ה נתן לבני ישראל את התורה כבר לפני למעלה משלושת אלפים שנה, ומאז, רואים אנו שהעם ה”בטלן”, שאינו לומד “דקדוק” וכו’ – עומד איתן (“האַלט זיך שטאַרק”)!
    —-
    ואעפ”כ, באים הורים וגוזלים שנים תמימות מילדיהם, חלק מחייהם של הילדים!

    באיזו זכות באים הורים וגוזלים מהילדים את ימיהם?! האם לשם כך נתן הקב”ה ילדים, כדי שההורים יקחו מהם את חייהם?!…

    וכי משום שיש לו יצר הרע, ואינו יכול “להסתדר” עמו (“קאָן זיך ניט איינקערן מיט אים”) – עליו להטיל זאת על ראשם ועל ימי חייהם של הילדים?!…

    1. Yes, if a child is reasonably proficient in Yiddish/Hebrew, and can read/write in that language it is ok if he speaks English “mit a Yiddishe aktzent”.

      However, today that is rarely the case. Kids aren’t usually exposed to languages other than English, at least not enough to master them. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to teach English, so that they are reasonably competent in one language (their spoken one).

      There’s no need for kids to be illiterate in three languages…

  8. Concerning the Zirkind story just mentioned, nevertheless the Rebbe didn’t say to institute math in the school, or get him a tutor etc.. but to only teach him a few basics at home that would suffice. Aside from the fact that there exists so much math and arithmetic to be gained from Torah itself. Gemora, Rambam – kiddush Hachodesh, martial laws in Shulchan Aruch etc.. are replete with adequate amounts of math etc.. for every Jew Boruch Hashem.

    The Mishe is Pirkey Avos 5:21 (that we learned this past shabbos) says that as Jews we must always learn and toil in Torah for everything in the world is in it; look deeply into it; grow old and gray over it, for there is nothing more edifying for you than it.

    The same would apply to reading and writing the basics in English to get by. Yossi Paltiel grew up without knowing how to read and write English and nevertheless today is one of the most prolific, proficient and erudite speakers in Chabad worldwide!

  9. I fail to understand how RMMS could hold the positions outlined in this article.

    First of all, secular education is mandated by NYS law. How could he take a position that violates Dina d’Malchusa Dina?

    Secondly, secular knowledge is crucial to Torah knowledge. The following is from
    The Debate Over Secular Studies Among the Disciples of the Vilna Gaon by B. Raphael Shuchat
    The Torah U-Madda Journal , 1998-1999, Vol. 8 (1998-1999), pp. 283-294B. Raphael Shuchat
    Source: The Torah U-Madda Journal , 1998-1999, Vol. 8 (1998-1999), pp. 283-294

    The Vilna Gaon (Gra) saw value in the study of secular knowledge and made a point of educating himself in these fields. R. Israel of Shklov, the youngest of his disciples, writes: This is what he [the Gra] said, “All knowledge is necessary for our holy Torah and is contained therein.” He knew them all thoroughly and mentioned them; the wisdom of algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and music which he greatly praised. He used to say then that most of the inner meanings of Torah and the secrets of the Levites’ songs and the secrets of Tikunei Zohar cannot be understood with- out this [knowledge of music]. . . . Only concerning medicine [did he limit his study thereof]. He knew human anatomy and all things relevant to it, but concerning the composition and prescription of medicines, which he wanted to learn from contemporary physicians, his saintly father commanded him not to study it so as not to diminish his Torah study in case he might have to save lives . . . and of the wisdom of philosophy he said that he had studied it thoroughly.”

    and

    Despite studying philosophy “thoroughly”, the Gra had a negative attitude toward it; this, however, was not the case with the sciences in which he showed great interest. It was this love for sciences which motivated him to write an essay on geometry trigonometry called Ayil Meshulash, an unusual act considering he wrote nothing else in book form.5 A further proof of the positive attitude toward the sciences can be found in the introduction to R. Baruch Shick of Shklov’s translation of Euclid’s geometry. tells the following story: When I was in the holy and grand community of Vilna, by Rabbi, that great light, the great Gaon, my master and teacher, illuminator of the exile, the well-known saint, our honorable teacher Elijah, may God guard and protect him, in 5538 [=1778], I heard from his holy mouth that to the extent that one lacks in knowledge of other wisdom, he will lack one hundred fold in Torah know- ledge, for Torah and [general] knowledge are linked to one another . . . and he commanded me to copy into our holy language whatever is possible from general knowledge.

    R. Yhonason Eybeschutz in Yaaros Devash 2:7 (as translated by L. Levi in Torah and Science pages 24-25) writes:
    For all the sciences are “condiments” and are necessary for our Torah, such as the science of mathematics, which is the science of measurements and includes the science of numbers, geometry, and algebra and is very essential for the measurements required in connection with the Eglah Arufah and the cities of the Levites and the cities of refuge as well as the Sabbath boundaries of our cities. The science of weights [i.e., mechanics] is necessary for the judiciary, to scrutinize in detail whether scales are used honestly or fraudulently. The science of vision [optics] is necessary for the Sanhedrin to clarify the deceits perpetrated by idolatrous priests; furthermore, the need for this science is great in connection with examining witnesses, who claim they stood at a distance and saw the scene, to determine whether the arc of vision extends so far straight or bent. The science of astronomy is a science of the Jews, the secret of leap years to know the paths of the constellations and to sanctify the new moon. The science of nature which includes the science of medicine in general is very important for distinguishing the blood of theNiddah whether it is pure or impure … and how much more is it necessary when one strikes his fellow man in order to ascertain whether the blow was mortal, and if he died whether he died because of it, and for what disease one may desecrate the Sabbath. Regarding botany, how great is the power of the Sages in connection with kilayim [mixed crops]! Here too we may mention zoology, to know which animals may be hybridized; and chemistry, which is important in connection with the metals used in the tabernacle, etc.

    (It is worth noting that similar lists may be found in R. Abraham Ibn Ezra’s introduction to Chibbur Hameshicha Vehatishbores and R. Bachya’s commentary on Avos, end of Chapter 3.)

    Dare one suggest that RMMS was unaware of all of the above, because if he were, then how could he hold the position on secular studies outlined in this article?

    Professor Yitzchok Levine

    1. The commenter is clearly ignorant of the position of Chabad (and Chassidus in general) and seeks to ask on it from other sources, which with all due respect don’t bind the Chabad Rebbeim.

      In Tanya ch. 8, the Alter Rebbe clearly outlines the harm of secular studies on the intellect of the neshama. Only great people who can learn those subjects truly lsheim Shamayim.

      The position of the Vilna Gaon is well known. Yet, it’s also known what happened to many of his students who went to study secular studies…

      If you would really like to understand the Chabad position, I would reccomend you do your homework first.

      For a better understanding of the Rebbe’s position, see at length in Shaarei Halach Uminhag, Vol. 3, p. 246.

      1. As “גברא אגברא קרמית” pointed out, the position of the Vilna Goan is basically irrelevant in this context.

        Once it was brought up, however, id like to add something interesting about that.

        It is well known that the Vilna Goan wrote a book on mathematics. What is probably less well known is that the contents of the book was studied and written only at times when learning Torah was prohibited (ie, during certain days, in certain impure places like bathrooms, stables, etc)

        Even so, the Gra himself writes that having studied and written all the above sciences and wisdoms, he can attest that it is all a waste of time. I don’t remember the exact leshonos, but I believe he calls them “shtusim” and “empty” though I could be wrong about that.

        So even if it was necessary to bring in the Gra’s opinion on the matter, let’s realize that he did not completely hold of learning limudei chol.

    2. Who is this “RMMS” you are talking about?
      It seems like you are referring to the Rebbe. But why dont you refer to him as such, instead of spelling out out his initials?
      Secondly this article is written for that care about the Rebbe’s opinion, not those who anyways know better then the Rebbe. So what exactly is point of your long winded comment, to tell Chassidim to ignore their Rebbe’s stated opinion? That is preposterous.

      Do give you the benefit of the doubt, you seem not to be aware of the platform you are writing on, and are not aware that this platform is to lay out the opinion of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to his Chassidim, and not to try to convince the rest of the world on this matter.

      Being that as it may, you should do your homework before you write on specific platforms?

  10. There’s a well known story how the Alter Rebbe warded off from his chassidim, caught and exposed Shmon Hakofer – the hidden and sly heretic who was very close to the Vilna Gaon that lured many of Gaon’s students to college and university that were lost to Yiddishkeit unfortunately.

    In this part 2 video clip Rabbi Yossi Paltiel why the Rebbe was adamantly opposed to the Gaon’s approach of Torah & science etc.. and negated college attendance/ secular studies. Part 1 is also very powerful.

    https://youtu.be/4hDIh9eCD-I

  11. Is there any difference with regards to limudei chol for girls and boys?
    Is there any reason that some Yeshivos do not have chol yet the girls schools do?

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