A Response to Rav Dessler Regarding Secular Study

While much of last week’s buzz concentrated on words that were never uttered, the issue behind it has been around for many hundreds of years. Should Torah chinuch stress limud Torah alone, taking a dim view of any other involvement, or should it include aspects of secular training and acculturation, large or small?

Most of our readers are familiar with the famous comparison made by Rav Dessler zt”l in Michtav Me-Eliyahu vol.3 pgs 355-360. Rav Dessler pointed out that chinuch in Germany, which included secular study according to the directives of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, succeeded in producing laypeople almost uniformly observant. It did not, however, produce Torah giants. Eastern Europe, however, which allowed no secular involvement, produced many Torah luminaries. The price it paid, however, was the many dropouts from observance altogether.

Rav Dessler’s analysis was first published in 1963. Three years later, the journal Ha-Ma’ayan published an anonymous response. This response is not as well known as R. Dessler’s piece, and deserves some attention and thought, whatever people decide is the proper course for them.

It may be true, says the author, that R. Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Germany did not produce many Torah giants. It is not at all clear that secular studies were the culprit. Germany’s observant community was miniscule compared to the five million Jews in Eastern Europe. It is possible that Germany produced as many Torah scholars proportionally as did Eastern Europe. Moreover, the decline of Germany began two hundred years before Mendelssohn’s disciple poisoned the well of German observance, Germany had stopped producing Torah geonim, at a time that no one was studying secular subjects. “Who knows why a specific land produces geonim over a prescribed period of time, only to cease doing so when the privilege is transferred to another venue!”

How accurate is it to see a causal link between secular study and mediocrity in Torah?

The upshot of all this is that the claim that the Frankfurt approach was not capable of transforming gifted students into geonim in Torah is erroneous. It is certainly true that gifted students suffer no loss of talent by engaging in increased study. Thus, quite the contrary to the extent they increase their secular study, their minds are broadened and their Torah studies are deepened proportionately, so long as they truly study for the sake of Heaven. On the other hand, a student lacking in intelligence, who is also denied exposure to secular study, will hardly grow in Torah and become a distinguished gaon due to that denial alone. R. Baruch of Shklov [the talmid of the Gra]…states: “There are Jews who are bereft of intelligence and secular study, which is precisely why they denigrate the wisdom and knowledge they lack. Moreover, they hurl accusations of heresy against the wise, so that they be stigmatized and viewed as outcasts by the masses.

The author salutes those who wish to devote their lives to Torah study alone, following in the footsteps of shevet Levi.

But I worry about all the tribes of Israel…They too are obligated to study and live by the Torah…The approach of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch enables us to educate and produce G-d fearing and Torah loyal young men, and righteous and valiant young women…Had not R. Samson Raphael Hirsch established this approach for us, we would not dare to expropriate it without the prior approval of the roshei ha-yeshiva and gedolei ha-Torah of our generation. But since R. Samson Raphael Hirsch merited producing several generations…all who follow this path walk in a well-trodden path and drink from a well dug by experts. Those who, for the sake of Heaven, oppose this approach must admit that such a ban on secular study in our time and in our countries [i.e. in contradistinction to Israel, as he writes later] would be a “decree that the majority of the community could not comply with.

His conclusion:

It seems to me that both [i.e. the approach that allows secular study, and the one that does not] educational approaches are well-grounded in the sources, and both are essential for the continued existence of the Jewish people in our time. So it shall remain until the redemption takes place.

The identity of the anonymous author later became known. He was hardly an insignificant figure, but a well respected figure in the Torah world. Moreover, discussion about the validity of R. Hirsch’s approach inevitably moves to the last piece of Birkas Shmuel in Kiddushin, where R. Boruch Ber zt”l opines that R. Hirsch’s position was only a hora’as sha’ah, an emergency, stop-gap measure to rescue the drowning German community, and not meant to be implemented elsewhere. It is perhaps ironic that R. Boruch Ber’s words were addressed to our anonymous author, when as a much younger man, he wrestled with the issue of whether to honor his parents’ request that he study in a secular university. (He sent the question to other gedolim as well. All of the chassidishe told him to heed the request of his parents, if that was the custom in their locale. He decided, in the end, to listen to R. Boruch Ber, and left for the Mir.)

By now, the identity of the author ought to be clear. He was R. Shimon Schwab, zt”l.

{The rest of his essay can be read here.

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47 Responses

  1. Dov says:

    Rav Schwab’s reply is fascinating, but it shouldn’t distract attention from Rav Dessler’s original point. Rav Dessler says clearly that avoiding secular studies is making a trade-off – on a societal level it will produce more gedolim, but on the level of the masses it will prevent people from being equipped to function as observant baalabatim.

    It’s very easy for every parent to want their einekel to be a gadol. But is every parent happy to take the risks that Rav Dessler described in case their child is not a gadol? And more to the point, is the overall frum world willing to lose the Jews that Rav Dessler says will be lost with this approach?

    I find it scary that a generation of gedolim, presumably believers in Rav Dessler’s wisdom, is so willing to write off masses of Jews.

    [YA – My own theory, FWIW, is that they expected parents to understand what remains one of the most important principles in frum parenting: there is a difference between good public policy and what is good for your child. The individual parent has to make the final determination of the best course for his or her child, and not be swept up in the current. At least here in the US we still have that option.]

  2. Tziki says:

    somehow i missed this rav dessler peice…thank you…

  3. Nachum says:

    I think you mean “only” a hora’at sha’a.

    In any event:

    1) Anyone who knows R’ Hirsch’s writings will clearly see that R’ Baruch Ber’s interpretation was incorrect.

    2) If a hora’at sha’a was needed in Germany, 1850, kal v’chomer it’s needed now.

    [YA – 1) I did, and it has been corrected. Yasher koach]

  4. David Nester says:

    secular study according to the directives of R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, succeeded in producing laypeople almost uniformly observant. It did not, however, produce and Torah giants. Eastern Europe, however, which allowed no secular involvement, produced many Torah luminaries. The price it paid, however, was the many dropouts from observance altogether.

    Germany produced as least as many dropouts from Orthodox observance as did Eastern Europe (counting the German Reform el al.) This is in addition to the above mentioned fact that Germany failed to produce its share of Torah giants.

    [YA – R Dessler was speaking about dropouts from “unsere macheneh” – from those who were treated to the reigning Torah chinuch. Germany produced erliche baalei batim. In Eastern Europe, dropouts were rampant in almost all families – including, famously, that of the Chofetz Chaim]

    It should also be noted that Rav Schwab zt”l addressed his shaila to Reb Elchonon, whose teshuva to Rav Schwab is in Kovetz Shiurim II:47 responding similarly to R. Boruch Ber’s response in the Birkas Shmuel. Reb Elchonon continues, saying that the confusion in Germany happened when people thought, mistakenly, that by Jews possessing secular knowledge the gentiles will hate them less. This caused a “negiyos” – a vested interest – that caused the German Jews to desire that their rabbis have a secular education as well.

    It should also be noted that Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l also denounced college in a Teshuva, and in a famous speech delivered to his students, published under the title “The Counsel of the Wicked” (Vaad LeHaromas Keren HaTorah, New York, 1978). There he reiterates that everyone has an obligation to become great in Torah, we should not care so much about Cadillac’s, and that learning Torah is what we should be pursuing, not secular studies. Reb Moshe says in America you do not need college to make a parnassa, and we should be willing to live on little, not a lot, for the sake of Torah, and that R. Nehuray’s statement of abandoning all skills in favor of Torah applies all that more today that we live in a country where you can make a parnassa without college, with no miracles needed.

    Rav Chaim Segal zt”l, the Menahel of the High School at Yeshiva Chaim Berlin was once told by Rav Shach zt”l that if possible, he should not be teaching English studies. In Eretz Yisroel, almost all Chareidi Yeshivos do not have secular studies at that age. Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l made some kind of commitment not to allow English studies on the HS level in Lakewood. The exact details, and if this was actually a Takanah or merely a preference, is not clear and depends who you ask. In any case, Rabbi Elya Svei zt”l, Rosh Yeshiva of Philadelphia and a student of Rav Aharon’s, was asked why he allows English in Philly if Rav Aharon was against it. What difference can there be between the town of Lakewood, NJ and Philadelphia, PA? Reb Elya answered that he has no choice, and that currently, the Baalei Batim would not send their kids to the Yeshiva except under these circumstances.

  5. Dov S. Newman says:

    I note that R. Schwab, in his aforementioned essay, wrote “in every generation a minority of Torah sages engaged in secular study, using it as a handmaiden to serve the cause of Torah.” R. Schwab ended his response writing “Regarding the land of Israel, it has its own halakhic decisors. They are the great masters of the Holy Land, famous in Torah and in the fear of God. All Jews residing in the land of Israel must abide by their decision. No authorities outside the land of Israel may rule on their behalf.”

    It must also be noted that R. Schwab was stoutly opposed to Torah U’Madda which he vociferously separated from TIDE. Indeed, in Selected Essays (pp.160-162), he wrote: “However, in addition to the legitimate shitos we have discussed, there is yet another, more modern version in vogue called “Torah Umaada”. Apparently this is identical with Torah Im Derech Eretz, especially since both claim a belief in the priority of Torah over maada. Both seems exactly alike, but like two left gloves which cannot be worn together, they don’t fit!. . . Rav Hirsch ZT’L has inscribed two emblems on his banner. One is Torah Im Derech Eretz and the other is the so-called “Austritt”, which means severance, or total and non-recognition of any type of institutionalized heresy, “minus” or apikursus. This is also a resolution not to contribute, participate in, or support any cause which accords validity to the disbelief in Hashem or to the denial of the authenticity of Torah shebiksav or Torah shebaal peh. In other words, “Austritt” states that the Torah is our sovereign ruler, and it makes us independent of all those who deny its Divine origin… To summarize, Torah im derech eretz without Austritt is considered treif l’chol hadeios! Even if you call it Torah Umaada.”

  6. Dov Kaiser says:

    Of course, R. Boruch Ber’s writings are valuable in that they tell us what R. Boruch Ber thought about R. Hirsch’s position; they do not tell us anything about R. Hirsch’s position itself, which is clearly that Torah im Derech Eretz is an ideal, not a concession. Indeed, this was R. Schwab’s interpretation of R. Hirsch’s position, and it is evident from R. Hirsch’s writings. I doubt whether R. Boruch Ber had actually read R. Hirsch’s writings, as they were only available in German in his lifetime.

    I only raise this clarification in the interests of avoiding historical revisionism, particularly as Torah im Derech Eretz as an ideology has largely fallen out of favour in contemporary Charedi circles.

    [YA – Many years ago, a Hirschian told me that they take it for granted that R. Boruch Ber’s teshuvah was a hora’as sha’ah, and he really knew that RSRH meant his own shitah to be correct.]

  7. Richard St says:

    It seems to me that there is much confusion about this subject.

    1 Are we talking about the difference between going to work and staying in learning?

    2 Are we talking about undertaking a course of secular study with a view to obtaining a better job, e.g. in a profession?

    3 Are we talking about studying secular subjects later on in life (e.g. age 20-60) in one’s “spare” time as opposed to learning Torah Subjects?

    As regards Question 1, surely this has been decided many centuries ago. Chazal is replete with discussion of going to work and earning a living. Consider for example Pirkei Avos, Perek 2, Mishna 2, “יפה תלמוד תורה עם דרך ארץ, שיגיעת שניהם משכחת עוון”. Derech Eretz is described by Rashi, Rambam and Rabbeinu Yona as Parnossoh.

    As regards Question 2, studying to help one earn a living should be part of earning a living. However, there are always concerns about the environment in which one studies. Hence, presumably the value of orthodox places of further education (which seems to have been at the centre of last week’s discussion).

    As regards Question 3, I suspect this is really what R’ SR Hirsch may have been referring to (having read some of his writings), but rarely gets discussed.

  8. Baruch Pelta says:

    I think it is important to maintain a nuanced understanding of R’ Schwab. Here he sounds ideological in his promotion of TIDE, but in These and Those, TIDE doesn’t sound like much more than Torah uparnassa. Moreover, R’ Schwab did write the haskama for R’ Elias’s commentary on the 19 Letters which de-emphasizes R’ Hirsch’s ideological emphasis on TIDE.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    Especially (!!) when a religious Jewish community wants to be somewhat isolated and self-sufficient, it needs enough religious Jews to be available and properly educated/trained to perform all vital functions. So it would need religious merchants, professionals, skilled tradesmen and the like. They need some means to become proficient. If the Jewish community wants to shield them from bad influences in non-Jewishly run institutions, it needs to promote and help fund the proper Jewish institutions.

  10. dovid landesman says:

    R. Yitzchak
    Kol hakavod. One correction, however. If I am not mistaken, the question that Rav Schwab addressed to R. Boruch Ber [response brought in Birkas Shmuel], Reb Elchanan [response brought in Kovetz Hearot], Rav Avraham Bloch and the Imrei Emes of Ger was not about his personally attending university [which he did]. Rather, it concerned his plan to open a yeshiva in Bavaria when he returned there to assume a rabbanus. He wondered whether he should follow the derech of Eastern Europe – Torah only – or whether it should follow the derech of Frankfurt – TIDE. I have often quoted the response of the Gerrer Rebbe – kol mah shetomer lecha Sarah shma b’kolah. Rav Schwab, who told me the story when I interviewed him for the biography of Rav Breuer, admitted that he had not the faintest idea what the rebbe meant. He asked the gabbai who told him that Sarah was an acronym for Shamshon Rafael Hirsch. In the end, Rav Schwab did not open the yeshiva as he had to flee Germany shortlky after returning there.

    [YA – Thanks for setting the record straight – and for sending me the piece in the first place. The version that I used I heard in a shiur by R. Hershel Schachter shlit”a, given a number of years ago.]

  11. E. Fink says:

    And what about prior to 18th century Europe?

    Did our great great grandfathers, the rishonim and many achronim supplement their learning with secular jobs? How did they get those jobs? Did they not speak the local language? Did they not know how to run a business?

    When did the anti-education movement start? (And when will it end…?)

  12. another Nathan says:

    dovid landesman’s citation of the Imrei Emes is interesting. My father, AH, attended the Ger Mesivta in Warsaw. He told me that the program was half a day limudai chol, half a day Limudai Kodesh. An elderly Gerer chassid told me that the problem at the Mesivta was not the Limudai Chol, but the crushing poverty of the students, which led to many of them abandoning Torah studies, and abandoning Torah.

  13. Baruch Pelta says:

    I agree with Dov Newman’s understanding of R’ Schwab’s opinion; indeed, I would think it also worthy of note that in R’ Lamm’s book on Torah Umadda, he separates it very clearly from TIDE precisely because of Austritt.

    But as long as we’re noting things, I would just note that R’ Seligman Baer Bamberger and R’ Marcus Horovitz obviously disagreed with the ideas Dov is quoting, to say nothing of the Rav (with his support for involvement in the Synagogue Council of America) and R’ Ahron Soloveitchik (the models of Torah Umadda presented in Logic of the Heart, Logic of the Mind).

  14. Yissaschor says:

    Has anyone written a critique on Rav Burech Ber’s analysis?

  15. Micah Segelman says:

    In response to earlier comments, especially that of Baruch Pelta:

    I found an essay by R Hirsch called, “The Relevance of Secular Studies to Jewish Education” where he explicitly makes many arguments that clearly go beyond “Torah uparnassa”. This is published in Volume 7 of the collected writings pages 81-100. While it’s representative of many of his writings it is the most clear on this subject that I’m aware of.

    My recollection of These and Those (I’d like to reread it)was that R Schwab made very nuanced arguments in favor of both the “Torah only” approach and the Hirschian approach and that he went beyond simply “Torah uparnassa.”

    Can you demonstrate that R Schwab took a very narrow view of TIDE in other published writings?

  16. Joe Hill says:

    Micah Segelman, perhaps this is in line with what you are looking for. It is a quote from Rav. Schwab’s Selected Essays (p. 151):

    “Shameful are the ways of the glorified am haaretz who… condones the aberrations which Hirsch condemned, such as religious nationalism, Orthodox-Reform collaboration and neutral Judaism. Foolish are those who sympathize with the “Department Store Academy”, where Brisk and Slobodka are offered on the first floor and Graetz and Dubnow on the second. When such a person takes Rav Hirsch’s name in vain, wielding Torah Im Derech Eretz like a weapon against recognized Torah schools, he becomes somewhat ridiculous! “What a travesty! Rav Hirsch, who was the warrior without compromise against those who hated the Torah, has to let his memory be invoked today against those who love the Torah…”

    It ought to be noted that Rav Schwab has harsh words regarding the tendencies of modern orthodoxy.

  17. Baruch Pelta says:

    If I understand correctly, Dov Newman is actually Rabbi Dov Newman. My apologies.

    Rabbi Segelman, I am not sure if that first paragraph is addressed to me, but if it is, I am well aware of that essay. I wrote an essay in the Hakirah journal where I attempted to make the very point that R’ Hirsch goes far beyond Torah uparnassa; I never indicated otherwise. I see R’ Schwab’s These and Those as extremely pragmatic (a bit more than torah uparnassa, but not too much. There isn’t much emphasis on the idea of learning secular studies lishma or because increasing one’s knowledge of the world increases one’s knowledge of Torah, which is explicit in the essay of R’ Hirsch you mentioned). But the strongest published writing of R’ Schwab I can bring a raiya from is his haskama for R’ Elias’s book.

  18. Baal Habos says:

    >The individual parent has to make the final determination of the best course for his or her child, and not be swept up in the current. At least here in the US we still have that option

    You would think. But in reality it is often beyond parental control. It is the Roshei Hayeshivos that have the clout and influence. And we know what that means.

  19. yitznewton says:

    Joe Hill said:
    …the aberrations which Hirsch condemned, such as religious nationalism, Orthodox-Reform collaboration and neutral Judaism. Foolish are those who sympathize with the “Department Store Academy”, where Brisk and Slobodka are offered on the first floor and Graetz and Dubnow on the second.

    Well, notice that he’s referencing non-Torah trends in Jewish history and thought particularly, not secular studies at large. IOW, the Torah of TIDE should be undiluted with alien philosophies. This is certainly vintage RSRH.

  20. yitznewton says:

    WRT R’ Schwab’s words against TUM, I have never seen the argument specified clearly or cleanly, including the CIS Schwab “trilogy.” Perhaps I missed it there. Furthermore, R’ Lamm himself has multiple formulations. R’ Harry Maryles, and presumably others, dismisses the idea of any substantive differences, IIUC. Does anyone have a clear formulation of RSS’s objections?

  21. YEA says:

    Rabbi Schwab initially (pre 1960’s) viewed TIDE as a hora’as sha’ah. He completely changed his view of TIDE as a hora’as sha’ah later on.
    The following is a quote from the Selected Speeches of Rav Schwab (pg. 243):
    “So about thirty years ago, I took a second view of Torah Im Derech Eretz by first studying in depth the writings of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch zatzal. Soon I found out that my notion of the Hirschian philosophy as a mere hora’as sha’ah was totally wrong. He did not consider his leitmotif as time-bound. It was not a compromise, it was not a heter, it was not a kulah, it was not meant to be b’dieved but lechatechila . True, he did not say to the Gedolei Yisrael of Eastern Europe, “kiblu da’ati— Accept my opinion.” He realized they would not accept his Weltanschauung. They followed mesoras avoseihem the traditions of their teachers. But Rav Hirsch also had behind him a solid mesorah from gedolim who showed him the way. From the time of Chazal through the period of the Geonim; the Rambam; the Chachmei Sepharad through the Talmidei Hagra all the way down to his own Rebbe, the Oruch L’ner and his disciples. Rav Hirsch had his mesorah.”

    (It is important to note that a prominent frum sociologist mistakenly took a statement of Rav Schwab in this essay completely out of context and presented the pre 1960’s view as though it was Rav Schwabs’ final view on the matter. I had the opportunity to ask him about it and he told me that he realized that he had made a mistake in the way he represented Rav Schwabs’ view on the matter).

  22. Charlie Hall says:

    Observant Jews had been attending university in Europe centuries before Rav Hirsch. Nobody seems to have objected prior to the 19th century.

  23. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Does anyone have a clear formulation of RSS’s objections?

    RSRH viewed “Derech Eretz” as a tool, both in terms of a profession and the ability to relate to Torah-true ideology in an informed, appealing and contemporary way. But he adamantly opposed the idea that external sources were needed, or even desirable, for fertilization of Torah thought. He saw the Torah as the sole source for the actual formation of the spiritual-ethical character of the Jewish people, collectively and individually. RSRH’s admiration of Schiller was solely because he was in touch with the Torah’s outlook.

    Torah UMadda, in its practical application, views external sources as worthwhile in their own right, and acceptable as informing Jewish spirituality and ethics, so long as they don’t openly clash with Halachah. It is here that Zionism gains traction, it is here that Western University curricula (as a canonized body of knowledge) gains traction, and it is here that TIDE and TuM part ways.

    I have seen it cynically suggested that the contemporary TIDE opposition to TuM was only order to avoid the ‘taint’ of being associated with Modern Orthodoxy. The unswerving integrity, fiscal and intellectual, of the KAJ kehillah belies such claims. There are real, fundamental differences between TIDE and TuM.

  24. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >They followed mesoras avoseihem the traditions of their teachers. But Rav Hirsch also had behind him a solid mesorah from gedolim who showed him the way. From the time of Chazal through the period of the Geonim; the Rambam; the Chachmei Sepharad through the Talmidei Hagra all the way down to his own Rebbe, the Oruch L’ner and his disciples. Rav Hirsch had his mesorah.”

    Rav Hirsh and the the Oruch L’ner were colleuges nor a “talmid/rebbe.” They were both inspired by Haham Bernays who was one of the first traditionalists to become concious of the need to make adjustments to the traditional approach in order to battle reform.

  25. shlomo zalman says:

    I have had the opportunity to speak with many young adult learners who have the intellect and stamina to become the next generation’s Gedolei Torah. Their beki’us is phenomenal and their amkus is extraordinary. However, because they lack a basic secular education, they are unable (unwilling?) to comprehend and accept important concepts in mathematics and statistics, human psychology and sociology, and biology/medicine. They cannot become true leaders and yet one day they will be accepted as such.

    The European gedolim were unfortunately exposed to real-life trials of suffering and tragedy. They also often taught themselves secular subjects, whether it was literature or mathematics. They were politically involved because there was no way to shut it out. They were worldly enough to know that our Earth is a terribly complicated place and this was internalized beyond their particularistic acumen for a Ktzos here and a Pri Megadim there. They knew what they did not know. That is why they became gedolim. Encyclopedic knowledge and depth of understanding in traditional Torah sources is possibly necessary, but in no way sufficient. In our times, the yeshiva-only iluyim of today are sheltered from the world they will lead in the future. As a result, they will be proven to be woefully inadequate in decades to come unless they broaden their base with secular education and are exposed to the world ouside of their dalet amos.

  26. Baruch Pelta says:

    Re Yea:

    When R’ Schwab wrote an essay elaborating on his original view of TIDE, it was refuted by another young man in Frankfurt. The young man who was right all along was Jacob Katz.

  27. Micah Segelman says:

    Joe Hill-
    That is a very important quote from R Schwab – thank you. It doesn’t address the question, though, of whether R Schwab took a different approach to TIDE than R Hirsch did – Austritt is clearly very Hirschian. The quote from YEA is, however, very relevant to this issue. That R Schwab himself changed his approach to TIDE over time.

    Baruch Pelta –
    I’ll have to consult the sources you mentioned. R Schwab’s thought is fascinating specifically because of his strong ties to both the TIDE world and the Eastern European Yeshiva world.

  28. Tzei U'lmad says:

    I think this whole thread is shining testimony to the value of Cross-Currents, and how a discussion with serious hashkafic ramifications can be informed and kept on a high level.
    I don’t think anyone has mentioned that Rav Schwab in his essays of coined the phrase “Talmud Torah Im Derech Eretz” to make the point that Torah was not just practiced, but to emphasize the primacy of learning within the framework of Torah Im Derech Eretz.

  29. dr. bill says:

    Baruch Pelta writes: “The young man who was right all along was Jacob Katz.”

    Prof. Katz ztl was encouraged by others in Frankfurt to write a response to R. Schwab ztl. It is intersting that it was not just R. Schwab who re-examined his position; Prof. Katz regretted his rather ascerbic tone in attacking both the content and style of R. Schwab’s essay. See page 96 of “With my Own Eyes,” Prof. Katz’s autobiography.

  30. Only on Cross-Currents! says:

    It’s nice to see this subject discussed intelligently with good points made by both sides – only on Cross-Currents! But I have to say it’s a bit in the clouds – let’s bring all these high-flutin ideas down to earth for a moment. I assume some of these commentators have actually had 8th-grade boys. Is every one of them magically ready in 9th grade to spend 8+ hours a day learing Gemara? Will this be advisable for all, or even most, teenage boys? If not, then what should they do with the time they can’t be learning – Woodworking? Lounging around? Of course, they should spend some portion of their day learning math, English, and other life skills needed to function in society. It’s simply unrealistic to think that every boy heading to Mesivta should be on a kodesh-only track. Letters written by Gedolim in pre-War Europe, where only a **very** small and select group of boys proceeded past Cheder to Yeshiva, are simply not applicable in the context of today’s educational system, where ALL boys stay in Yeshiva into their teens. Our community’s problem is that when this issue is discussed, it becomes a ‘Torah Umadah vs other hashkofos’ debate. Let’s just use common sense and provide educational options for all of our children, al pi darkom, and hopefully, we’ll be able raise a generation of well-adjusted ehrlich bnei torah. (ps: this applies in Eretz Yisroel too – teenagers are made form the same stuff even in Artzinu Hakdosha)

  31. Baruch Pelta says:

    But he adamantly opposed the idea that external sources were needed, or even desirable, for fertilization of Torah thought.
    The above quote from Rabbi Eckstein’s comment is, in my humble opinion, not true at all. I refer readers to the essay referred to by Rabbi Segelman.

    Just one sample quote from that essay:
    …there is…a spiritual harvest that can be won from secular studies, even for those who seek to grow in the theoretical knowledge of the Jewish religion. Our understanding of the philosophy of life and the Wellanschaaung taught in the sacred writings of the Jewish religion is dependent in no small measure on our insights into the character and the development of nature and society. Any knowledge that serves to enrich the intellect in any manner will also enhance our insights into the philosophy of Judaism.

    The fact that Rabbi Eckstein disagrees with the above statement but holds up Breuers as a paradigmatic example of TIDE shows exactly how far that community has gone from its founder’s path.

  32. Binyomin Eckstein says:


    You misunderstand what I mean by “fertilization of Torah thought”. I don’t mean secular studies as a tool for understanding Torah. I wrote that TIDE views Derech Erezt as a tool for understanding Torah-true ideology in an informed way, and I meant it. I mean forming a weltanschauung from external sources.

    Rather than me proving a negative, see RYY Weinberg’s essay “Torat Chaim” on RSRH –
    היו מי שטענו נגד הרב הירש שהוא כאילו הרגיש אהדה מיוחדת לתרבות האשכנזית וכאילו הודה בזכות קיומה של הפילוסופיה המודרנית בתור השלמה לתרבות-היהודית לשם הפראתה המחשבתית. אני לא מצאתי סמך לדעה זו בכתבי-הירש, אדרבא, הוא נלחם נגד הנסיון למדוד את היהדות בקני-מידה פילוסופיים ודרש, להיפך, למדוד את הפילוסופיה העולמית בקנה-המידה של תורת ישראל.

  33. Nachum says:

    “The unswerving integrity, fiscal and intellectual, of the KAJ kehillah belies such claims.”

    In a discussion like this, advocates of claiming some sort of difference between TiDE and TuM often simply make up a definition of TuM for them to knock down as a strawman, or pick one of many interpretations possible to do so to. That’s not honest. R’ Lamm himself lists many versions of TuM, including R’ Hirsch as one- his own view sort of melds a lot of different schools. The more KAJ protesteth, the more it seems as if *real* TiDE is pretty much identical to YU of today.

  34. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >I mean forming a weltanschauung from external sources.

    I don’t know about this. I am no expert on TIDE but from the little Hirch I have learned on Chumash, there seems to be more than a bit of neo-Kantian philosophy. Maybe if you expanded on your distinction between “understanding Torah” vs. “forming a weltanschauung”? Would our understanding of Torah not form our weltanschauung? And if we judge an external source as being compatible with Torah, does it itself not become part of Torah? Is the Rambam’s neo-aristotalianism or for that matter his “קבל את האמת ממי שאומרו” something that you trully believe that R’ Hirsh would reject out of hand? Maybe the answer is yes but I would like to see this in Hirsh’s writings if you could point me in the right direction.

  35. Baruch Pelta says:

    I don’t think I misunderstand Rabbi Eckstein; perhaps he misunderstands me. Rabbi Eckstein maintains that Rav Hirsch felt that one’s can’t “[form] a welltanschauung from external sources” while Rav Hirsch maintains that “our understanding of the philosophy of life and the Wellanschaaung taught in the sacred writings of the Jewish religion is dependent in no small measure on our insights into the character and the development of nature and society.” Part of “forming a [religious] weltanschauung” is understanding the texts and Rav Hirsch clearly maintains that understanding those is “dependent” on secular studies.
    Rav Hirsch felt that Jews should be unafraid of evolution and that such a doctrine was compatible with Judaism. Due to their reverence and deference to non-TIDE gedolim who quake at the science, the community referred to by Rabbi Eckstein today disagrees. Feldheim not only won’t print a book defending evolution (and thus doesn’t serve as R’ Slifkin’s publisher anymore), but is the go-to company for people who wish to refute it (e.g. R’ Feldman and R’ Meiselman). It is a case study in how TIDE without intellectual openness is not really the TIDE of R’ Hirsch.

  36. Dov says:

    Another question is not being addressed seriously: How bad does poverty have to get for people to acknowledge that more secular studies is needed to keep food on Israeli chareidi tables?

    An earlier commenter quoted Rav Moshe as opposing college because parnasa at that time in America did not require it. Here in Israel there is increasing poverty in the chareidi world, and an increasing acknowledgement that there simply is not opportunity for the chareidi segment of society to earn decent parnasa.

    Without arguing about how bad it is, my question is how bad does it have to get before it mandates secular studies “altst” lilmod libno umnus? 25% unable to afford weddings or medical care? 50% unable to afford weddings for their kids? At what point do we say “OK, there’s no choice?”

  37. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Charedi Leumi – see letter 18 of the Nineteen Letters. Guess who he is criticizing!

    Baruch, evolution is not a spiritual-ethical-religious weltanschauung. It is either a fact or it isn’t. A weltanschaaung means a worldview of whether the Torah is open to acceptance of scientific fact as fact, and I am sure that RSRH’s determination that it is, was based on his understanding of Torah itself. Had he thought that the Torah’s viewpoint of science was that it did not represent any hard truths, he would have resisted evolution tooth and nail, irrespective of any consensus of scientists, editorials, or pundits.

  38. S. says:

    >Rav Hirsh and the the Oruch L’ner were colleuges nor a “talmid/rebbe.” They were both inspired by Haham Bernays who was one of the first traditionalists to become concious of the need to make adjustments to the traditional approach in order to battle reform.

    It was H. Bernays who was R. Ettlinger’s colleague. Both of them were students of R. Avraham Bing (although H. Bernays was 6 years his senior) and they even studied together be-chavrusa. R. Hirsch was 10 years younger than R. Ettlinger.

    It’s true that a difference of 10 years obviously diminishes as people get older; by R. Ettlinger’s death R. Hirsch was a rabbi in his 60s who had been in the rabbinate for over three decades. But R. Hirsch really was from the generation following R. Ettlinger, and in fact R. Ettlinger was a teacher of R. Hirsch, and he even ordained him. Furthermore, R. Hirsch came under the influence of H. Bernays at the direction of R. Ettlinger.

    All of the above information with sources is contained in Judith Bleich’s dissertation on R. Ettlinger.

  39. Bob Miller says:

    As I understand it, for Rav Hirsch ZT”L, some form of evolutionary theory consistent with Torah was conceivable, but none was yet demonstrated to his satisfaction.

  40. Chareidi Leumi says:

    >Charedi Leumi – see letter 18 of the Nineteen Letters. Guess who he is criticizing!

    I always understood R’ Hirsch’s assersion that the Rambam approached Judaism from the outside as being a setup to his real agenda of criticizing Rambam’s take on Taamei HaMitzvot. That being said, you are right that he does “accuse” the Rambam of allowing outside influences to build his world view. Actually he does much more than that in that he accused the Rambam of having a completely foreign pattern of thought. I fully understand why R’ Hirsch would feel the need to do so since the Rambam was the darling Rishon of the reformers and admiting to certain portions of the Rambam’s thought would be in R’ Hirsch’s eyes “ceding ground” to reform ideas. However, it is precicely because he is so exteme in his rejection of the Rambam that this is not a valid source for demonstrating that Hirsh believed that outside wisdom can be a formative component of a Jewish worldview. If the Rambam (in R’ Hirsch’s eyes) integrated neo-aristotalean ideas into his worldview while having (in R’ Hirsch’s eyes) a “Jewish thought pattern” would such an approach still be illegitimate in R’ Hirsch’s eyes? This becomes an even more potent question in light of the neo-Kantian influences apparent in R’ Hirsch’s Humash commentary (see also Dayan Grunfeld’s intro to Horeb where he discusses Kant’s influence on R’ Hirsch as well as the new translations of HaKuzari HaHadash written by R’ Hirsch’s grandson R’ Yitzchak Breuer as an argument for TIDE and which uses Kantian philosophy in a very explicit manner). So I pose to you the question again. Where in R’ Hirsches writings do we find that outside sources may not be building blocks our funumental worldview? It seems that in the 19 letters, R’ Hirsch is simply upset regarding how much weight the Rambam gave aristotalean philosophy, but regarding the fact that he engaged in it and let it have an influence.

  41. Baruch Pelta says:

    As I understand it, for Rav Hirsch ZT”L, some form of evolutionary theory consistent with Torah was conceivable, but none was yet demonstrated to his satisfaction.
    Bob, he doesn’t say that it is “conceivable” that there is “some form of evolutionary theory consistent with Torah.” He’s talking about mainstream Darwinism and how that is completely compatible with Judaism:
    “Even if the latest scientific notion that the genesis of all the multitude of organic forms on earth can be traced back to one single, mot primitive, primeval form of life should ever appear to be anything more than what it is today, a vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact…Jewish thought, unlike the reasoning of the high priest of that notion, would nonetheless never summon us to revere a still extant representative of this primal form as the supposed ancestor of us all. Rather, Judaism in that case would call upon its adherents to give even greater reverence than ever before to the one, sole God Who, in His boundless creative wisdom and eternal omnipotence, needed to bring into existence no more than one single, amorphous nucleus and one single law of “adaptation and heredity” in order to bring forth, from what seemed chaos but was in fact a very definite order, the infinite variety of species we know today, each with its unique characteristics that sets it apart from all other creatures.)”

  42. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    Charedi Leumi – I strongly recommend you read Rabbi Elias’ comments to the Nineteen Letters, as well as Rabbi Shelomo Danziger’s piece in Tradition 6:2 regarding RSRH. It is clear to me that RSRH’s usage of Kantian (among others) terminology and conceptualization were precisely the informed, appealing and contemporary vehicle of presentation of what RSRH thought to be organic to Torah, but this does not provide a shred of evidence that his weltanschaung was influenced by these thinkers. While I agree that his criticism of the Rambam was motivated by its abusers, the essence of the critique is an adamant rejection of foreign influences on formation of Torah thought. Why RSRH criticized him, and the ferocity of the critique, does not diminish the import of the critique itself. On the contrary, it is eye-opening that he saw such attempts as leading down the path to profound falsehood, to the point where he averred that the Rambam would have been the first to throw the Moreh into the flames had he seen the results.

  43. Akiva says:

    Hi Rabbi Adlerstein,

    I heard the following additional nugget on the above incident from one of Rav Schwab’s grandchildren:

    The Gerrer Rebbe never wrote back to Rav Schwab. Rav Schwab bumped into him in Europe some time later, introduced himself, and asked the Gerrer Rebbe if he had received his letter & why he did not reply.

    The Rebbe looked Rav Schwab up and down with disdain & said “Youngeh-menschikel, Kol Asher Tomar Ailecha Sarah Shema Bekolah” and walked away.

    Rav Schwab was perplexed with this quote from Bereishis. The Rebbe’s gabbai told him that when the Rebbe said “Sarah”, it was roshei teivos for Shamshon Raphael Hirsch.

    The family understood this to mean that despite the fact that the Rebbe wasn’t going to implement Rav Hirsch’s educational program back in Ger, it was wrong for Rav Schwab to cast any aspersions on his community’s Mesorah.

  44. Bob Miller says:

    Baruch Pelta,

    If you look carefully at the words you quoted above, “…what it is today, a vague hypothesis still unsupported by fact…”, you will see in them Rav Hirsch’s assertion that the evolutionary theory of his day was still only an undemonstrated, not to mention unproven, hypothesis. His point was that it or some other theory of that type could—if actually demonstrated—be reconciled with the Torah point of view.

  45. Baruch Pelta says:

    I completely agree, Bob; I never indicated otherwise.

  46. Chareidi Leumi says:

    Here is what R’ Yitzchak Breuer wrote in his autobiography regarding Kant (and he is clear that he feels he is walking in the steps of his grandfather on this):

    “God caused to rise among the nations the exceptional man Kant, who, on the basis of the Socratic and Cartesian scepticism, brought about that ‘Copernican turn’ whereby the whole of man’s reasoning was set in steel limits within which alone perception is legitimized. Blessed be God Who, in His wisdom, created Kant! Every real Jew who seriously and honestly studies the Critique of Pure Reason is bound to pronounce his ‘Amen’ on it. ‘Go not about after your own heart and your own eyes,’ or, in Kantian language, ‘pursue not the messages of your inner and outer experience – for, pursuing them, thou wilt be unfaithful to Me’: the whole Kantian theory of perception is the most adequate commentary on this fundamental injunction of the Torah.”

    Kantian philosophy has no true parralels in classical Jewish thought yet it is clear that Hirsch’s grandson felt that it must make up a fundumental component of Every Jew’s worldview.

  47. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    RSRH to Vayikra 18:4-

    “Other disciplines are to be regarded as auxiliary; they are to be studied only if they are capable of aiding Torah study and are subordinated to it. The Torah’s truths must remain for us what is absolute and unconditional, the standard by which to measure all the results obtained in other branches of knowledge. Only that which accords with the truths of the Torah can be accepted as true. The Torah should be our sole focus: All the we absorb and create intellectually should be considered from the perspective of the Torah and should proceed along its paths. Accordingly, we will not adopt ideas that are not in consonance with this perspective; we will not accept conclusions derived from other premises and mix them with the words of the Torah. ” (See there for more)

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