Friday, March 17, 2023

Secular studies

 Rashbatz (Magen Avos 2:19): Know how to reply to the heretic. This is the justification of our practice to learn secular knowledge in order that we can reply to them and tell them that they have no proofs that contradict the Torah and Prophets. This is not a violation of the prohibition of learning books not included in the Bible - that applies only to books like Ben Sira which are part of the ancient Wisdom Literature or books written by heretics which lack wisdom and are just a waste of time. Furthermore, the prohibition of learning Greek Wisdom… does not apply to wisdom which is learned through intellectual analysis but refers to a skill that existed in Talmudic times for communicating by hints and allusions… In fact, this skill is not inherently prohibited but was prohibited because of its role in a particular event in the Destruction of the Temple…. The apparently prohibition to keep your children away for higayon - but higayon is not logic or rhetoric. Rashi says it refers to idle chatter… In sum, those books which are based upon intellectual analysis are not prohibited and someone who reads them should accept that which is true and will learn to reply to their claims which are against the Torah. We find this with R’ Meir whose teacher was a heretic and would accept the truth and discard the falsehoods… Furthermore Chagiga (11b) states that one can investigate anything concerning this world but not which above or below it and not which is before and after it. Therefore, it is permitted to investigate scientifically anything connected with this world. We are only prohibited to read those books which don’t contain knowledge concerning reality.

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