Monday, November 25, 2013

Not Another Science and The Implications of That

"The study of the Torah shall be our main intellectual pursuit... We are not to study Torah from the standpoint of another science or for the sake of that science. So, too, we are to be careful not to introduce into the sphere of the Torah foreign ideas... Rather, we should always be mindful of the superiority of the Torah, which differs from all other scientific knowledge through its Divine origin... [Our Sages] do not demand of us to completely ignore all the scientific knowledge... [but rather] that a person [be] familiar with these other realms of knowledge, but ... only from the Torah's perspective ... and they warn us that neglecting this perspective will jeopardize our intellectual life."

Commentary on  Deuteronomy 6:7 in Wikipedia

This might be where TIDE departs from Torah u'maddah. Now, Rabbi Soloveitchik isn't going to tell you that science is the equal of Torah. But on a practical level he believed you should study science and secular subjects without diluting them. This approach might have been crafted to our era. He worried if you restrict people intellectually that the Torah will lose credibility for them. I know people for whom this is very true. So YU has a full blown yeshiva and a full blown university. The latter is not filtered or controlled like a Catholic university as Aaron Rakeffet explains. Thus you can read any poet. In TIDE, you read Schiller or other idealistic wholesome poets. You restrict the material. The Rav didn't restrict the material even though he didn't consider them equal.

Now there are others in the Modern camp who in my view approach the sciences as if they are equal to Torah. Many in the feminist camp are like this. They really don't understand marriage and/or the gender roles from a Torah perspective and impose secular philosophies on the Torah as if the two are equal. That's how I see the institution of pre-nups. They can't deal with the Torah rule of get. But the Torah must have it it's reasons for not imposing a divorce on a man. Women's emotionalism perhaps? Whatever the reason, the agunah people are trying to rewrite the Torah as they have been influenced by feminism. They view the Torah and feminism as equal so the latter can change the former. Many in the natural science camp are like this as they desperately try to find room in the Torah for the theory of evolution. Same with the Zionist camp in my view. They are too caught up with secular notions of earth bound nationalism and try to change the Torah to suit it. You can argue that this is the problematic offshoot of Torah u'Maddah that the students in studying both subjects on their own terms come to see both as being equal even though the Rav did not.

However, the argument for keeping TuM is a good one, that without it, the Torah will lose credibility, that it can't stand up to rigorous vetting, that it needs silencing and repression to keep people. In an open society like the USA, you will lose people like that. Lots of them.

I find it useful personally to have TuM out there to know that we aren't repressive even though I naturally limit myself to the kosher poets.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Hirsch's TIDE is TIDE for Westerners

Isaac Breuer said that Torah is eternal but derech eretz changes in each era. R' Hirsch defined it for his era. (See Artscroll Bio for the passage).

The Gemara says that most Jews should pursue Torah Im Derech Eretz. I propose that in East Europe most did, ie Eastern European derech eretz. They worked. They were involved in the world to the extent they were allowed. What R' Hirsch did is define Derech Eretz for Westerners.

I am a Westerner. I was in Poland for a grand total of 4 hours back in the 1990s. That's my exposure to Eastern Europe. Even though my ancestors are from the Ukraine, I am a Westerner. Thus, when I follow the Gemara's advice to pursue Torah Im Derech Eretz, I follow that of R' Hirsch.

My derech therefore is not simply TIDE but Hirschian TIDE.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Another Good Definition

"Just for the time being, though, one noted Hirschian told me that, as a two-sentence definition of TIDE, the following is acceptable: "The application of Torah ideals to all situations and environments that G-d has designated for us. And the use of everything from those situations and environments that will be beneficial for Torah purposes, while rejecting that which is incompatible with Torah.""

from bmoftide blog

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vayishlach: Jacob Arrived Whole

This piece of Torah from R' Kook sounds quite Hirschian to me:

Torah of Rav Kook - Vayishlach: Jacob Arrived Whole, adapted by Chanan Morrison
(posted with permission) Gold from the Land of Israel

Having survived the trickery of uncle Laban and the enmity of his brother Esau, Jacob finally returned to his homeland.

"Jacob arrived whole (shalem) to the city of Shechem in the land of Canaan" (Gen. 33:18).
In what way was Jacob "shalem"? The Talmud explains that he was "whole in body, whole in money, whole in his Torah knowledge"  (Shabbat 33b).

According to the medieval commentator Rashi, these three areas are directly related to Jacob's previous ordeals. Physically - Jacob healed from the lameness the stranger had afflicted upon him in their mysterious struggle at Peniel. Financially - he did not lack money, despite the expensive gifts he had offered this brother Esau. And spiritually - he had not forgotten his Torah learning, despite the long years of intensive labor at Laban's house.

Jacob's Holistic Perspective

In truth, Jacob's wholeness was not to be found in any quantitative accomplishments. It could not be measured by how fast he could run, by how many sheep he owned, or by the number of scholarly discussions he had memorized. Rather, Jacob's wholeness was in his holistic approach towards these diverse spheres.

People think that the pursuit of excellence in one field entails neglecting other areas. A person who seeks perfect health and physical strength will come to the realization that one needs money to attain this goal. But the pursuit of wealth can become such an all-absorbing goal that it may come at the expense of one's original objective – good health. Ironically, the anxiety to acquire wealth can end up ruining one's health.

It is clear that both good health and financial security help provide the quietude needed to refine character traits and attain intellectual accomplishments. However, these different areas, instead of complementing one another, often compete with each other. We suffer spiritually when our desire to strengthen the body and cultivate social living (which requires certain financial means) are not understood in their overall context.

The perfection of Jacob – the "ish tam," "the complete man" (Gen. 25:27) – was in his ability to live in a way that no single pursuit of excellence, whether spiritual or material, needed to contradict or detract from other personal goals. On the contrary, when they are understood properly, each aim complements and strengthens the others.

This is the profound message of the Talmudic statement. Jacob was whole in body and wealth, and from both of these together, he found the inner resources to be whole in Torah. Jacob exemplified the trait of emet, truth - "Give truth to Jacob" (Micah 7:20). He demonstrated how, in their inner depths, all accomplishments are united together; all reflect different facets of the same inner truth.

(Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 73-74. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. III, p. 209)

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Minority

“We find ourselves in the minority. Should we therefore lose confidence and despair of our own cause? Is it always the numerical majority that the noblest, most important and promising tasks are entrusted?…” Collected Writings, Vol.II, page 233.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Return to Basics: A Call to Revitalize R’ Hirsch’s Torah im Derech Eretz

linked post

by Daniel Adler

How is it that over the past few decades, Yeshivos all over the United States have produced students that are “un-Jewish” (to use a Hirschian phrase)? By that I mean that, after twelve years of a Jewish education, many of them are not committed to Judaism at all. Not until after high school, when students learn in Bais Medrash/Seminary for a year or two (often in Israel), do they become committed to a Torah lifestyle. A second problem that presents itself comes as a result of the Yeshiva day school system naturally feeding into a kollel lifestyle. This lifestyle has become automatic for many Yeshiva/Bais Yaakov graduates: they do not decide as individuals whether or not a kollel lifestyle is appropriate for them. These two problems not only afflict the Yeshiva world; they also affect the insular Chassidish world.

Based on my own experiences in Yeshiva and upon anecdotal evidence heard from neighbors and friends, I can list a number of reasons why these problems exist. These include: Appearances (some parents force their children to fit into a “Yeshivish lifestyle” regardless of their child (ren)’s personality and leanings); Peer Pressure (both students and their parents desire to be like everybody else, which has resulted in a “cookie cutter” society); Apathy (today’s students are indifferent toward Judaism due to either superficial study or multiple distractions/outside temptations); Judgmentalism/ Fear (intellectually curious students are often branded as heretics for asking questions); and Insularity (studying anything other than Gemara is considered, at best, a waste of time). These ideas are probably familiar to the reader from his/her own personal experiences.

An effective solution to “un-Jewish students” or to students who have mindlessly “chosen” a kollel lifestyle, is a return to R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch’s educational system. Both the modern day Yeshiva system for boys and the Bais Yaakov movement for girls are based on R’ Hirsch’s ideal of Torah im Derech Eretz. In fact, without R’ Hirsch’s successful educational program (in the 1800s in Germany), the Bais Yaakov movement would likely not have been started and the modern day Yeshiva system would not exist as it does. Unfortunately, today’s Yeshivos and Bais Yaakovs have strayed far from their original forebear’s weltanschauung. This is undoubtedly due to a takeover of the Yeshiva system and its ideology into every phase of life – and the Hirschian school of thought has seemingly lost this struggle. To a large extent, even the supposed successors of R’ Hirsch have given up on him. What then, can be expected of everybody else?

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