Not My Bar Mitzvah Speech

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5 Responses

  1. Ori Pomerantz says:

    How do you reconcile human progress in the field of Torah study with the concept of Yeridat Hadorot – that each generation is further away from Sinai and therefore understands less Torah than the previous one?

    If there is progress in talmud Torah how come we are bound by rulings of earlier sages, even when the apparent reason for that ruling is gone (for example, celebrating holidays for two days outside of Israel despite the fact that the calendar is fixed and we do not have to worry about getting the date wrong)?

  2. Toby Katz says:

    Intellect without speech is virtually useless. What kind of civilization have the dolphins built?

    R’ Nachman Bulman (my father) held that a talmid chacham must have the ability to express himself well in speech and in writing. The ability to communicate what you have studied is an essential part of “knowing” something. He bemoaned the fact that many bnei Torah nowadays speak four languages — Hebrew, English, Aramaic and Yiddish — all of them poorly; consequently they actually have “no language.” He held that a Torah scholar must know at least one language very well. This has obvious implications for the kind of chinuch we should be giving our children — should be but mostly aren’t.

  3. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “…all of them poorly; consequently they actually have “no language.”

    What–“yeshivish” doesn’t count as a language? There are certain concepts which are expressed beautifully in this “shprach”. 🙂

    “Orthodox children often gain academic exposure to sophisticated concepts years before they have to undertake the responsibilities of adulthood. With each new encounter a reference to rabbinic literature is drawn upon, and the classical terms become associated with tangible experience. The result is the English, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish amalgam that this book terms Yeshivish”(see link below).

    But seriously, one of my rebbeim expressed the same idea as your father, and encouraged bnei torah to learn how to express themselves in whatever language of their choice. In fact, if I recall correctly, when he speaks to Chassidic yeshivos, they don’t understand his classic Yiddish, and they ask him to switch to English!

    http://www.rowmanlittlefield.com/Catalog/SingleBook.shtml?command=Search&db=^DB/CATALOG.db&eqSKUdata=1568216149

  4. Dovid Gottlieb says:

    R. Bulman’s comments are painfully true even as they are of a different focus than R. Sorotzkin’s explanation.

    To that point, however, perhaps the best critique was offered years ago by R. Emanuel Feldman in his Editor’s Column in Tradition. He memorably compared one who presents Torah in poor English to someone who carrying their tefillin in a brown paper bag – it’s unbecoming at best and degrading at worst.

  5. Dovid Gottlieb says:

    “He memorably compared one who presents Torah in poor English to someone who carrying their tefillin in a brown paper bag . . .”

    I am not sure if this qualifies as ironic (and I hope not illustrative), but just to clarify: the “poor English” in the previous comment was a typo. The sentence should read, “someone who carries their tefillin in a brown paper bag . . .”

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