It’s a question of limudei chol (secular education).
In Frankurt-am-Main they taught limudei chol in the school of the frum Jews. A man who went there told me once that he learned more Yiras Shamayim (fear of Heaven) from his science teacher there than he learned from his rebbe, because...the science teacher utilized all the lessons to talk about Yiras Shamayim. It’s possible for a teacher to inject now and then certain thoughts in the minds of students that will give them more benefit than what they heard in the mesivta where the rebbe was teaching Gemara and Halacha (Jewish law).
If you’re learned already—you know Mussar, you learn Halacha —and you want an encyclopedia in order to use it to help other people become frum using the information that you might pick up, go ahead and do it. Otherwise forget about it, because you’re not capable of dealing with the Apikorsus (heresy) in these books.
I personally think limudei chol are a good thing if they’re done in a kosher way, because limudei chol leads you to Yiras Hashem if it’s done right. If you’re capable of distinguishing, then it’s alright, but most people shouldn’t bother bringing any other books in their houses, because they’re not capable. Children will read them and they’ll make a wrong impression.
A man once brought me some books. I put them in my bathroom and I keep them there. I get benefit out of them, but he wouldn’t get any benefit from them. (#E-083, Learning to Live Successfully)"
The 19th century wasn't just the century of Hirsch, it was also one that generally demonstrated far more dignity, modesty, and humility than ours, at least as far as the average person was concerned. I like to get a glimpse into it whenever I can.
Here's an example of an subtle and, on reflection, perfectly sensible insight of Rabbi Hirsch on an aggadita (Yoma 69a). The story has Alexander the Great marching towards Jerusalem intending to destroy it. Shimon Hatzadik, wearing the bigdei kehuna gedola, sets out with Jewish nobles and torches to meet the young warrior king. they finally met at dawn: "when (Alexander) saw Shimon Hatzadik, he dismounted from his chariot and bowed before him. They said to him 'a king like you should bow to a Jew?' He answered, 'the image of this one was victorious before me in the place of my war.'" (דמות דיוקנו של זה מנצחת לפני בבית מלחמתי) Now I had always assumed that Alexander meant that he had seen the image of Shimon in a dream or vision before each battle. Perhaps I heard it taught that way from one of my rebbeim. But the truth is that the gemara says nothing of the sort. And just what does "victorious before me..." actually mean? As it turns out, Rabbi Hirsch mentions this gemara (Collected Writings, volume II, page 432) and writes: "...he saw in Simon the embodiment of the ideals that had inspired his own military campaigns." Academic tradition has it that Alexander was a student of Aristotle, so he would most certainly have been a man of ideals. He probably would not have seen himself waging such violent wars just for personal power and glory, but for some higher purpose. It's not impossible to imagine Alexander recognizing in Shimon Hatzadik some kindred spirit and perhaps even the appearance of a philosopher. All this makes perfect sense and, although we can't be completely sure that there's no better pshat in the gemara, it certainly does a great deal less damage to the words themselves than the one with which I'd grown up. But there's something more: of course God could have arranged for Alexander to be shown visions in his dreams. But why should we assume He would? Isn't it more reasonable to imagine two intelligent and idealistic individuals inspired to change the course of history through the power of their personalities, rather than through a "cheap" miracle? Isn't is remarkable that God could create such a species as man that can honorably arrange its own affairs, rather than a race of children that needs constant babysitting? That, I believe, is the larger chiddush of those few words of Rabbi Hirsch. Guest Post by Boruch Clinton
So what do I see here in this presentation on Yeshiva Samson Raphael Hirsch? I see too much wonderfulness for words. This is balanced yiddishkite, inspired, dignified. The women are dignified and modest, the men are dignified and trustworthy, the kids are dignified and sweet. There's a calm in the air. Words fail me because what is shown here is such a kiddush Hashem, so much what we are supposed to be.
excerpt, posted with permission וידבר ה 'אל משה ואל אהרן ויצום אל בני ישראל ואל פרעה מלך מצרים להוציא את בני ישראל מארץ מצרים .אלה ראשי בית אבתם... הוא אהרן ומשה אשר אמר ה 'להם הוציאו את בני ישראל מארץ מצרים על צבאתם .(ו, יג-כו) ' ה spoke to משה and אהרן and commanded them regarding the בני ישראל and regarding , פרעה king of מצרים, to take the בני ישראל out of the land of מצרים. These were the heads of their father’s houses… This was אהרן and משה to whom ' ה said: ‘Take the בני ישראל out of מצרים according to their legions. (6, 13-26) Why does the תורה interrupt 'ה’s command to משה and אהרן and proceed to record their ancestry? Furthermore, why was it necessary for the תורה to include the descendants of שמעון, ראובן , and the other branches of לוי’s family? The תורה prefaces משה and אהרן’s successful efforts to redeem the בני ישראל with their family tree. The תורה recounts their genealogy to make it clear that the great leaders of בני ישראל were ordinary people descending from ordinary families. They were not to be depicted as divine “Sons of G-d.” This is contrary to the way in which leaders of other nations are portrayed. This is the purpose of the תורה telling us their biological lineage. However, one should not think that the average person can become a prophet or a leader. Not everyone can be chosen to be 'ה’s messenger regardless of whether he has developed his potential. משה and אהרן were selected because of their outstanding qualities. Despite the fact that there were other, older sons of יעקב, it was from לוי that the emissaries of ' ה were selected. Even within the tribe of לוי there were other families. משה and אהרן were not picked at random, but were picked due to their exceptional qualities. Rav Hirsch To sponsor, comment, or receive the Tiferes Tzvi before Shabbos, e-mail: email@example.com
If forced to characterize Rabbi Hirsch's overarching mission in one sentence, I will usually say it's all about learning to apply God's will to every aspect of our personal and civic lives ("to see the world through God's eyes"). That, it seems to me, was Hirsch's primary concern. And it should therefore be the main focus for his talmidim.
But once in a while, when working through his writings, I come across an entirely unexpected observation about something largely tangential to that focus. It might be the exquisitely subtle way Hirsch can reveal a unique insight into a poorly understood midrash or aggada - or into a complex halachic sugya, for that matter. Or, as it recently struck me, it might be sharp and, as far as I can tell, original evidence for some area of emunah.
Take what he wrote to Beraishis 1:20 as an example: one can see evidence for the permanence of a nefesh in the fact that our memories and personalities survive the transience of the cells and nerves that purportedly carry them. If there is no physical mechanism that can account for the perpetuation of our "selves", does that leave only nefesh? I'm no biologist and I would never draw conclusions, but might this not deserve some discussion?
And what about Hirsch's simple formulation (unfortunately, I can't remember precisely where he wrote it): how could there be laws of nature without a Lawgiver? What force compels each of the elements to behave so predictably? Why don't they randomly switch and reverse their characteristics with each other?
Nobody does it better than Breuers. The shofar blast took me by surprise. Note the very modest women all with their heads covered. Note the men all in jackets, ties, and hats. Note, the derech eretz in how people interact with each other. Note the children helping out. Note the dignified food arrangements. Note the general cheerfulness of the people. Note the numerous "Charedi" rabbanim in attendance, for example, Rav Ausban of Telz.
"In the Jewish land, where the Divine law has full scope, nothing was supposed to germinate or blossom or ripen without bringing the Jew obligations as well as enjoyment. A duty is attached to every enjoyment, and it alone gives the enjoyment its true taste by turning what otherwise would be selfish and animal into a human acknowledgment of Divine love." Judaism Eternal, Volume 1, Chapter V, Shebat, p. 33.
Some interesting quotes from a wonderful writer John Steinbeck. I generally am averse to contemporary secular literature, but Steinbeck rises above. Whereas many novel writers are consumed with their own decadence (Fitzgerald, Hemingway), Steinbeck got outside himself and wrote about poverty (Grapes of Wrath) and religious struggle (East of Eden). When reading Steinbeck one doesn't feel as though he's writing about himself. I wonder if his German-American heritage left him less decadent and more focused on values. Also, he lived in the prime of America and not in the decadent cities.
Here are some quotes:
A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ.
If you're in trouble, or hurt or need - go to the poor people. They're the only ones that'll help - the only ones.
Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.
A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.
In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicable.
No man really knows about other human beings. The best he can do is to suppose that they are like himself.
Time is the only critic without ambition.
We spend our time searching for security and hate it when we get it.
"Produced some years ago by Steve Fox (Fox Video Productions, Teaneck) for a SRH Dinner. Posted with permission."
When it rains it pours. Or is it that geula comes by surprise and it overwhelms. This youtube channel which is the work of a Breuer's person is giving us such a view into the beauty that is the KAJ Kehilla. I can't even describe what this is doing for me personally. It's fantastic.
"A very weighty subject was discussed before the general membership. Rav Schwab Zt'l had announced his retirement and requested that a new Rav be brought in. The President is urging the members to move the process along."
ויבאו שטרי בני ישראל ויצעקו אל פרעה לאמר... תבן אין נתן לעבדיך ולבנים אמרים לנו עשו והנה עבדיך מכים וחטאת עמך. (ה, טו-טז)
The foremen of the בני ישראל came and cried out to פרעה, saying…Straw is not given to your servants, yet they tell us, ‘Make bricks!’ Behold your servants are being beaten, and it is a sin for your people. (5, 15-16) There are several ways to interpret what וחטאת עמך means. רש"י holds that the foremen were telling פרעה that these decrees are bringing sin on his people. Ibn Ezra says they were rebuking פרעה himself, by telling him, “You are sinning”. However, they did not tell him outright, they only hinted it to him. However we explain this comment, what was the purpose of telling it to פרעה? Was פרעה so righteous that he would change his ways because of what they were telling him!? On the contrary, in the eyes of פרעה the backbreaking labor that was decreed was no sin at all! Rav Shimon Schwab זצ"ל explains that the foremen were warning פרעה. He was giving orders that were impossible to fulfill, thereby causing them to transgress his command. Nonetheless, פרעה’s taskmasters beat them for it. This being so, ה' will act מדה כנגד מדה and punish פרעה for something that will be impossible for him to do. This ended up occurring when ה' took away פרעה’s free will and he had to transgress the command to let the בני ישראל go. Nonetheless, ה' still punished him for transgressing. Another explanation is that the foremen meant that since פרעה commanded them to do the impossible, his respect would be cheapened because the Egyptians will see that the Jews are not fulfilling his laws and they will no longer fear transgressing his word.