Mordechai Breuer on TIDE
Principles of Hirschian Torah Im Derech Eretz and American Hirschian Torah Im Derech Eretz
TIDE (Hirschian Torah Im Derech Eretz) makes Torah the measurement for understanding all of life. We understand Torah from within and don't alter it for outside wisdom. As Rav Hirsch wrote:
…Other disciplines are to be regarded as auxiliary; they are to be studied only if they are capable of aiding Torah study and are subordinated to it as the tafel to the ikkur. The Torah’s truths must remain for us what is absolute and unconditional, the standard by which to measure all the results obtained in other branches of knowledge. Only that which accords with the truths of the Torah can be accepted by us as true. The Torah should be our sole focus: All that we absorb and create intellectually should be considered from the perspective of the Torah and should proceed along its paths. (19 Letters)Accordingly, we will not adopt ideas that are not in consonance with this perspective; we will not accept conclusions derived from others’ premises and mix them with words of Torah.
However, TIDE welcomes all true advancements of human kind in the scientific or social realms:
A secular education is a most beneficial help to our young in understanding the times in which they live and the conditions under which they will have to practice their life's vocation; hence it is most desirable also from the Jewish religious viewpoint and consequently deserving of warm support. But at the same time, and even more important, a good secular education can give our young people substantial new insights, added dimensions that will enrich their religious training. For this reason, too, secular education deserves the support of the religious educator. (Collected Writings, Vol. II, pp. 88-89)(See also R' Hirsch on Leviticus, 18:5 for his proof from Toras Cohanim)
TIDE is dedicated to all mitzvos. It rejects the Medieval Spanish notion of mitzvos as handmaidens to the ultimate goal of philosophic understanding. This notion was influenced arguably by Aristotelian-Arabic philosophers. R' Hirsch's explanation of the meaning and symbolism of mitzvos helps to enhance our love for the mitzvos. Rather, mitzvos are an end goal themselves. Rav Hirsch saw Judaism as "a view of life which lays chiefest stress upon the deed, upon action, and looks upon knowledge only as a means to such action.(Letter 18)."
TIDE encourages us to study all of the Torah including Nach and Halacha, as the Gemara says we should. As R' Hirsch wrote, "Our task in life has no greater enemy, and there is no greater cancer on our present state, than ignorance. Study Torah thoroughly—Torah, the Prophets, Ketuvim (Hagiographia), Talmud and decisors." (Collected Writings, vol. 7, pp. 157) Hirsch also stressed the study of the Hebrew language as a living language.
TIDE reminds us that Jews are supposed to care about all of humankind. We are not in it for ourselves. The TIDE person desires to contribute to his host country, to society as a whole. As R' Hirsch wrote:
It is evident from the concluding verse of this Psalm that Asaph does not think here only of the Jewish people, but also pleads the cause of the salvation of all mankind on earth, all of whose existence and welfare is dependent, first of all, upon the proper enforcement of justice and right. (Hirsch Siddur, p. 214, Psalm for Tuesday)The TIDE person pays special attention to his personal conduct. While in Western countries, we conduct ourselves and maintain our homes and our physical selves with the orderliness and dignity that is characteristic of the West. This is a positive act, it is not a concession to goshmiyus:
Culture starts the work of educating the generations of mankind and the Torah completes it; for the Torah is the most finished education of Man. The fig-leaf and apron, those first gifts which Man possessed on his way to education, were the first appurtenances of culture, and culture in the service of morality is the first stage of Man’s return to God. For us Jews, derech eretz and Torah are one. The most perfect gentleman the most perfect Jew, to the Jewish teaching, are identical. But in the general education of mankind culture comes earlier….Therefore Jews, too, are to attach themselves to, and love all good and true culture and by the ways and manner of their behavior and demeanour appear as educated people and show that being Jew is only a higher state of being a man. (Rav Hirsch on Genesis 3:24)In our beis kennesses (synagogue), we strive in particular for seriousness, dignity, order, and beauty. As R' Yosef Breuer wrote:
Physically, the Kehilla’s German-Jewish character is immediately visible in the Synagogue. Extensive chapters in the Shulchan Aruch stress the vital importance of cleanliness, order, and dignity in the Synagogue. "Our Way," R' Joseph BreuerWith TIDE we strive to build complete communities. Kehillas Adas Jeshurun in Washington Heights has its own day school, mikvah, kollel, beis din, kashrus supervisory organization, publishing company, and senior center.
In TIDE we honor the Gemara's admonition to "teach your son a trade" and engage in the professions, businesses, trades, and other means of earning a living to support one's family in dignity. As R' Hirsch said, "And do not study out of a desire to be a rabbi. Study Torah as a businessman, a tradesman, an artist, a doctor, or a scientist." (Collected Writings, vol. 7, pp. 157)
In AHTIDE, (American Hirschian Torah Im Derech Eretz) we have to be particularly careful in our selection of secular materials and our involvement with secular society. The amount of indecent and twisted material out there is extensive. Moreover, it has infiltrated all realms of society. In the old days, you had pool halls with pool hall type people and you had museums and schools with modestly dressed conservative people. Today, there's nary a difference between the two. So wherever you go, you have to exercise enormous care. One possible approach is to limit secular studies within the humanities to 19th century material or earlier. And early 19th century is better than later 19th century.