Chanuka and the Light of Torah & Chochma by Rabbi Shimshon HaKohen Nadel from Torah Tidbits
"Aharon is instructed, "When you kindle the lamps, towards the center of the Menora shall the seven lamps cast light" (Bamidbar 8:2). According to the Gaon, the branches of the Menora represent the pillars of secular wisdom and knowledge. The center lamp, to which all of the other branches face, represents the light of Torah. Torah is at the center, but its study requires illumination that can only be gleaned from the light of secular knowledge (See the Netziv's HaEmek Davar to Sh'mot 27:20, 37:19, Bamidbar 8:2).
"For many, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman of Vilna (1720-1797), the Vilna Gaon, personifies the perfected Torah personality, with his complete, unflinching dedication to Torah study. Yet the Gaon also possessed a profound knowledge and deep understanding of secular studies, even encouraging the study of secular subjects.
"In their introduction to Aderet Eliyahu, the Gaon's own children attest to the fact that, "by the time he was twelve years old, he had mastered the seven branches of secular wisdom..." One of the Vilna Gaon's closest disciples, Rabbi Yisrael of Shklov, writes:
"He [The Gaon of Vilna] explained that all secular wisdom is essential for our Holy Torah and is included in it. He indicated that he had mastered all the branches of secular wisdom, including algebra, trigonometry, geometry and music..." (Pe'at haShulchan, p. 5a)"
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