Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Secular education and Rav Shach

Relevant to our discussion of the relevancy of secular studies are two stories about Rav Shach - who was not shy about expressing his strong views on a wide variety of issues.

The first story I heard from Rabbi Gershenfeld - Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Shlomo in Har Nof. Rav Leff - the Rav of Mattisyahu is also the head of the high scholl Maarava - which provides high level of secular studies to its elite student body. Rav Leff took the job at the insistence of Rav Shach. One day Rav Leff heard that Rav Shach had made a strong attack on Maarva and secular study. He hurried to Bnei Brak to offer his resignation to Rav Shach. He told him he did not want to be part of an institution that Rav Shach opposed. Rav Shach responded. "You are to remain as the principal of Maarava and I will continue attacking it."

I was told that originally Maarava was created for students who didn't really fit in yeshiva and thus were going off the derech because they had no place. With the development of the school these misfits were able to be saved. However with time, people who were not misfits were attracted to the school. Students who would have been very successful in a Torah only environment - wanted to have careers and become professionals. This necessitated Rav Shach's attack which was to make clear that Maarva was only for those people who would have been lost otherwise. It was not an option for a successful student.

The second is mentioned in the autobiography of Prof Aharon Kirschenbaum. The biography itself can be downloaded here.teaching Jewish law


  1. reminds me of a story about Chico Marx, one of the Marx brothers. In real life he was a heavy gambler. People he knew did not wish to play cards with him, so he had to pay his friends money to play with him.

  2. All of this is a long-winded attempt to hide behind the proverbial curtain. In Europe, which is the supposed society that the Chareidim are trying to imitate, most people didn't learn past cheder. They went and worked while the most intelligent, with the voluntary support of the community, learned full time to become the next generation of religious guides and leaders.
    What is going on today is an innovation and since innovation is forbidden, we get long speeches and essays on how important learn-don't-earn for everybody is so that we don't get a word in edgewise to say "Hey, you made this all up"

  3. The problem is the connection of the leadership to the people. Shlomo HaMelech and Rechavam HaMelech lived in lovely bubbles where all their needs were attended to while the people struggled with the work burdens and taxes imposed on them until finally, a clueless Rechavam wound up causing the kingdom to be divided.
    The Rebbe/Godol who sits and learns all day and never has to worry about where his next meal is coming from or who pays his bills has no clue what it's like for the masses and thinks "Just as I can sit and learn Torah and do nothing else and it all works out, so it is for the community!"

  4. And they can write seforim on bitachon, based on their privileged position, ie not worrying about parnassa, because the community throws money at them. Then they also claim to be not bribed.

  5. Although one could argue that rechavam didn't listen to the zekeinim, but listened to the young graduate hotshots, and followed a disastrous course. On the other hand, rambam says that too old sages are too strict, and cannot head the Sanhedrin. Something that goes against the concept of moetzes gedolei hatorah. How can a gadol be too strict? There's no limit, especially when the MO are being lenient!

  6. In fact, one of the fallacies of anti derech eretz people is that they make the Torah a spade to dig with _ whether it's regular salaries, collections, government stipends etc.
    By trying to be extra frum, it turns out violating halacha.


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