Chinuch/ jewish education
Education (chinuch) of Jewish children:
We need to instill in our children the right values, chassidish values, Torah values. If something seems important to adults, the children also will look up to that.
And the Rebbe felt that we need to educate children to be Torah Jews: to have proper values, to know that Hashem is truth, that secular values are not Torah, and we need to raise our children in the most pure manner. The Rebbe believed that we need to protect children from the wrong attitudes, from wrong outside influences. All of that is formed from a young age. When we raise our children with purity and holiness, and we teach the children to separate from the non Jewish ideals and from secularism, then we give them the chance to develop their deepest selves and to relate to the world in a healthy, holy manner.
The Rebbe took it to the level of even making sure little children would have only kosher toys: only kosher animals and kosher pictures. He understood how even a baby is affected by what it sees at a young age.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe spoke for many years about the importance of giving children a chinuch based on taharat hakodesh, without secular studies, at least up to a certain age. Secular studies confuse young children and often put their pure minds into all kinds of subjects that are not beneficial to the soul or to the spiritual development of the child.
The Rebbe said:
“The reason why specifically in these last generations the deepest secrets of Torah have been revealed in a way that they can be intellectually grasped, is because the darkness of the world has gotten stronger, including and especially the strengthening of secular knowledge which, because of the way it indirectly derives vitality from the wisdom of Torah, allows for the dangerous situation of “to make them (the Jews) forget your Torah” and therefore the revelation of the oil of Torah (the inner part , the mystical part of Torah, Chassidut) has become as necessary as food…
One of the blatant examples, in the time of the Rebbe Rashab, was that when the enlightenists established themselves in the jewish community, the Rebbe Rashab rose and established yeshivas Tomchei Temimim (as an antidote)…
The revelation of the oil of Torah (pnimiyut of Torah) is also and especially because we are getting closer to the coming of Moshiach…when at that time…the world will be preoccupied with nothing other than knowing Hashem, and how much more so Bnei yisrael will be great sages and know hidden things and they will attain the knowledge of their Creator…
And perhaps it can be said that the progression toward Moshiach’s arrival is also the reason for the increase in the darkness of the world-for due to the strengthening of kedusha there results a strengthening of the opposing side which objects to the arrival of Moshiach, and it becomes necessary to wage war with the opposition which constitutes “fighting Hashem’s wars” until he is victorious…”
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh says that one reason Moshiach is not here yet is because we look up too much to secular wisdom and give importance to non Jewish ideals. This is not what a Jew has to give priority to. We need to look up to the Torah life and wisdom and to already have a Moshiach mindset, which definitely does not prioritize secularism.
For chinuch to be truly effective it should be unadulterated and undiluted by even the smallest trace of secularism. The battleground for the war between kedusha and kelipa is our minds and especially the minds of our children.
The Rebbe campaigned against the trend of sending young men or women to college, especially since that constitutes voluntary immersion in secularism at an age when young adults are free to devote their minds solely to kedusha, holiness.
The forces of kedusha and of kelipa are fighting to control our minds and our lives. We need to give more ammunition to the holy side and that means pushing away secularism. There is no such thing as having a balance of holiness and kelipa, or kodesh and secular studies. It wont work. It only will bring confusion. We need to move closer to Geula. To do that we have to free ourselves from looking up to or admiring secularism which distorts our Torah view of the world.
Our children need to have a strong firm identity as Jews, as holy people. Anything that can affect that identity, especially since many children are not so strong in their identities, needs to be avoided so it will not create conflicts within the childrens minds.
When Chabad started its shlichus in Morroco, many tiny schools were all over the place: nothing formal and many schools just had a few kids. The Joint organization, funded by wealthy American Jews, wanted to help out and offered a lot of money to support the schooling. But when they investigated later, they felt the schools were inefficient and the kids were not learning enough so they asked the shluchim to Morroco to close all small schools and instead they would open a few large formal schools. However, the Rebbe disagreed. He felt the small schools were necessary, reaching many kids who may not otherwise have any Torah education. And when the Joint tried to pressure the shluchim to teach secular studies, the Rebbe totally negated the idea. To the Rebbe, Torah schools have to teach Torah and teach children how to be good Jews and to have good values and morals etc. To the Rebbe, there was no place in a Torah institute for secular studies! And the schools in Morroco were not even schools for Chabad children. They were Sephardim. But the Rebbe’s attitude towards secular studies was very strong for all Jews, regardless of their background. To the Rebbe, secular studies was a non Jewish education and not necessary for Jewish children. Certainly nothing to look up to. To the Rebbe, Torah has been taught successfully for thousands of years and should still be taught in the same manner nowadays.
The Frierdike Rebbe once said : “My father (the Rebbe Rashab) proclaimed at a farbrengen: Just as wearing tefillin every day is a Mitzva commanded by the Torah to every individual regardless of his standing in Torah, whether deeply learned or simple, so too is it an absolute duty for every person to spend a half hour every day thinking about the Torah-education of children, and to do everything in his power - and beyond his power - to inspire children to follow the path along which they are being guided."
Click on the link below to see scans of original sources, some in Hebrew and some in English:
The following are several letters the Rebbe wrote on this topic of chinuch, Jewish education.
TRANSLATION OF SOME LETTERS AND SICHOS OF THE REBBE CONCERNING CHINUCH, IN PARTICULAR AS IT APPLIES TO LIMUD HACHOL: (Translated from above)
Sicha of Simchat Torah 5715:
“The correct way is that wherever a Jewish person arrives, he has to lead the whole city, all the area and the whole country. What turns out to be? Instead the person loses himself and not only he does not influence (is mashpia upon) others, but worse, he is being influenced and imitates the foolish behaviors of the country, the area and the city.
Instead that for every matter he should look into Shulchan Aruch and influence his surroundings that the Shulchan Aruch should be their ruler, rather the one who completely rules him is the surroundings, the one “next door” and that is the last word upon which he establishes the conduct of his house.
It is said of the Jewish people when they were in Egypt that they were outstanding there in that they did not change their name, language and clothing. Nowadays, we have no courage, we search out all tricks to make sure it cannot be recognized on the child that he is Jewish. His peyos we cover, if it cannot be cut off completely, his tzitzith we hide, all tricks are used so that it should not be recognizable that he is Jewish.
What should be is that when a Jewish boy walks the street, it has to be recognized from miles that a Jew is walking since Yisroel is a praiseworthy name. Instead and on the contrary, we are embarrassed about it....
We fear what might be when he will be walking outside and he will ask for a certain street and will speak English with a Jewish accent, and then it will be recognized that he is a Jew. Because of this fear he is taught English and other external (or the kelipot) sciences, which makes impure his innocent, child’s brain.
The first three years when a child begins to learn is the time of the whole foundation for his success after that so we take the child and make impure his brain with English, grammar etc. It is preferable that even adults would not know of such things, how much more so a child until the age of nine, twelve and I would like to say older but “when you take on too much it does not benefit”.
G-d says that He does not need any Gan Eden, He does not need the Beis Hamikdosh, He only wants “to dwell among them”: in the brain of a Jewish child: that is where He wants to be. So instead we take this brain and we make it impure it with external sciences!
In truth we would like to learn with the child only these sciences, but since there is a “zaidy” or we fear a Jew in New York (the Rebbe alludes to himself), so we teach the child also Torah. Where is the Jewish pride???
The claim that teaching the child English etc. will benefit the child materially, it will enable him later on to settle easier. This excuse is completely invalid since no one is a forteller to know what is going to happen later, therefore all conduct must be according to Torah.
All matters which are a benefit to a person are stated in Torah. If by learning external sciences there would be some material benefit, there be a law in the Torah stating we should learn such sciences. Since there is no such law in Torah, on the contrary the Torah explicitly states that we are not allowed to do so, and that it renders impure the “chabad” of the soul, this proves that there is no material benefit whatsoever in it, but on the contrary.
We imagine that we will “outsmart” G-d and we will not consider the channels which He gave us in His Torah to succeed but we will search our own channels to learn English etc. through which we imagine we will succeed.
We have to remember that G-d already created the world five thousand seven hundred and fourteen years ago and He rules the world as He wishes and He will also continue to rule as He wishes, according to the Torah.
G-d already gave the Torah to the Jewish people over three thousand years ago, so we see that this “batlonish” (simple) nation without grammar etc. holds on strong. All the nations, with all their sciences, nothing is left from them, and the Jewish people, without any sciences and “beriah Shaft”, a “batlonish” nation, so by holding on to the Torah holds on strong.
So the claim of some material benefit is no claim at all since something which is not according to the Torah cannot bring any benefit, not spiritually and not materially. So parents take and rob years from their children, a part of life of their children. The children are not at fault: they do not have an independent opinion. The parents rule them so the parents take and rob from their life. With which right do the parents come and rob their children of years? This is why G-d gave children, for the parents to take away from their children years in life? Is it right that since a person has a yetzer hara and he cannot take care of the child, should he let it out on the head of the children, affecting their years?
(The Rebbe used many sharp expressions and spoke very emotionally and concluded by saying):
I say it on the basis that Simchas Torah does not hurt so it will be with kindness and mercy.
From a letter to the Hanhollah of the Yeshivah in Montreal, 2 Shevat 5712:
“In answer to their different questions and suggestions, my suggestions are:
It is very proper to organize the studies in such a way that those who want, especially those who come from overseas, should be able to not learn chol studies. For sure there are some cases that although the students themselves want it, the direction should make an effort to persuade them from it”.
From a letter to Rabbi Raphoel Kahan of Tel Aviv, 16 Sivan, 5712:
“As to his question about “chol” studies in their yeshivah, in general it is not from the matters to be very careful to do them (to be mehudar). And being Mehudar in such studies is in fact reprimanded. It is difficult for me to say details about it since I do not know the schedule of the studies up until now, and the demand of it. But it is time already that they should be more confident in themselves. Truthfully it is only right that they should begin in this direction, since “G-d is with us” so as the conclusion of the verse “Bamidbar 14:9) “Do not fear them”. Especially since we actually see how we succeed in every matter that we do with sincerity and without any self-interest. And this is even in such matters that all knowledgeable people supposedly , and more importantly all those that had connections behind the scenes, have said at first that the matter is impossible to attain, and the end result was that we succeeded. So it is very obvious that we should behave with more courage , especially in matters that our Rebbe’s had considered as principals and foundations. Enough for the ones who understand.”
From a letter to a teacher about her brother, 4 Shevat 5715:
“In answer to her letter in which she writes about....that the teachers are not pleased with him because he prefers playing over studying, especially concerning chol studies. Generally it is current by youth to prefer play over study, even at an age older than her brother. Therefore we should not be overly impressed from this. Obviously we have to influence him pleasantly, mainly, through competition and comparison with friends of his age that are more studious.
It would also be proper to diminish the hours in which he studies chol if it is not possible to completely annul the studies since it is possible that this behavior is a hint that he does not want chol studies (although now he does not understand the internal meaning of it) and meanwhile it also influences his devotedness in Kodesh studies.”
From a sicha Yud Shevat, 5737 edited by the Rebbe and printed in Likutei Sichot, vol. 16, p. 145-147:
“....the second issue which concerns today’s era, the way of education of “infants of the house of the their teacher” (expression of mishnah and Gemara about cheder children) . Because of the laws of this country (U.S.) and similar countries, there has been created a frightening state of affairs. It was established that no day of the school year passes by wherein a child does not study chol: not only for a five year old to Mikrah, but even at the age of a ten year old to Mishnah and a thirteen year old to mitzvoth and a fifteen year old to Gemara....And this is the lesson which we need to learn from the baal hillula (the Previous Rebbe), whereby he actually gave his life and also sent other Jews on Mesirut nefesh to establish chedorim for Jewish children and the study in these chedorim should be on taharas hakodesh and not to change chasve shalom the ways of education which have been established by Jews throughout the generations.
So obviously much more so in our days and in this country and similar to it, where there is not chasve shalom a situation of bodily danger, so we have to put the greatest effort into ensuring that the education of Jewish children should be completely based on taharas hakodesh, not mixing in any chol studies, only when the law does not leave any possiblity of not learning chol and only in quantity.
Even those who cannot withstand the test, the truth is though that in many different ways we can get out with a detail of a detail (a minute detail) and in the smallest scale. It is not a must whatsoever that the chol studies should be in the quantity and quality in which they are presently conducted at the schools which are under the direction of G-d fearing men and women.
WE only have to call to their attention and encourage them that their efforts should not be directed so much to being precise in executing the statutes and laws of the country, but rather in executing the mitzvoth and statutes of lehavdil G-d, of which we are sworn and are in effect from Har Sinai” even before the statutes of the country existed.
It is true that the law of t he government is a law, but in addition to the fact that in matters o f yiddishkeit we Jews have no one above us to state an opinion except for Hashem Himself, besides that, even someone who cannot withstand the test of learning only kodesh studies, so in the frame that the statutes of the country allow, the effort has to be directed so that more time of boy and girl students both, and obviously more of their attention, should be tied to Kodesh studies and only what is absolutely a must should be given for chol studies.
This is in addition to the fact that the chol studies should not be in the morning at the beginning of the school day (the first of your dough), it is not at all against the law that the first of your dough should be in such a way that “you shall raise it as an offering for Hashem”: to raise the child to G-d, through the study of G-d’s Torah and only then, when the child is already tired, and we have no choice, then we give a most limited amount of time for chol studies.
And since “I (G-d) do not request...only according to their ability”, therefore it is a sure thing that with the easiest effort and with proper attentiveness we can immediately reduce the time in which Jewish children study chol studies and devote so much more time in quantity and in quality for kodesh studies: what is only necessary is that the resolution should be done in such a way in which we feel the matter is a must since this is the final law in the laws of Talmud Torah, and with that it is a sure thing that we will carry it out.
As we have seen by the baal hahillula (the Previous Rebbe) that disregarding the fact that in those days there could not have been seen any hope in natural means that his efforts in education al taharas hakodesh should succeed, nevertheless we see now the fruits of those efforts with our eyes of flesh.
When we go out to the streets of the big cities in U.S. or elsewhere and we meet grand children that descend from parents who were twenty or forty years ago in Russia and we see how the grandchild walks in the path of Torah and mitzvoth and we ask: how did they hold on to yiddishkeit?
So, when the matter is investigated we find out that his father, educator or grandfather have had an alliance or were in touch with one of the shluchim of the Baal Hahillulah which had influenced him (the father etc.) in matters of yiddishkeit and he learned with him and went into hiding together in the attic or cellar to learn, and that is why he stayed with yiddishkeit.
So similarly by all those who “walk in his paths for ever and eternally” that through the efforts in the above mentioned work to strengthen education on “taharas hakodesh”, they will surely succeed in establishing the Tzivot Hashem which will very soon go out of this last golus in the true and complete Geulah through our righteous Moshiach very speedily.
FROM A SICHA SHABBOS PARSHA VAYEISHEV 5756: EDITED BY THE REBBE MH’M . PRINTED IN LIKUTEI SICHOT, VOL. 2, P. 482:
“Chassidus” explains the deeper meaning of the war of the Greeks (when Chanukah took place) being about external sciences. Although we do not touch the Torah, we agree that Torah should be studied. However since we put Torah and external sciences in the same room, we compare “Greek” science to the Torah, that Torah is a “seichel” (intellect) like all other sciences, so this is tomeh (impure).
Since the whole matter of tomeh(impurity) and taharah (purity) is as the Midrash says, quyoted in Rambam, “Not the dead renders impure and not the water purifies, but a statute I (Hashem) have instituted and a decree I have decreed”. It is a matter of “chukah” (statute) which is above “seichel” (intellect).
This is the meaning of what is said that the Greeks had rendered impure all the oils. Oil is “Chochmah” (wisdom) as known. Even when the study of the Chochmah of Torah is allowed, but Greeks are also allowed there, we allow into the mansion of Torah the Greek schiences and we put them both at the same level. This is what is called “they rendered impure all the oils”. And we need to have mesiras nefesh not to allow this.
The lesson of it in our times: There are those who claim that the Torah is a matter of understanding and grasping. “She is your wisdom and intelligence in the eyes of the nations”. So why should one care if we will mix in to it other sciences? Several hours of learning Torah and several hours of other sciences (lehavdil) and make from the two a close and single item: what damage could there be in that?
This is what the miracles of Chanukah teaches us:
When we follow this path, so not only that the pure oil not not purify the impure oil, but to the contrary, they have rendered impure all oils and the pure also becomes tomeh.
And this brings a destruction, not only spiritually but also materially, G-d should save us.
As the Rambam tells us about Chanukah, that the Greeks had spread their hands to their property and their daughters, and this all is tied with “that they rendered impure all oils”.
Because in truth a non Jew cannot have any rule over a Jew. And how do they rule? It is when we let the Yevonim (Greeks) approach: “Your breakers and destroyers will go out from you.”
But when we do not let the Greeks come close, when we do not allow the Greek sciences in the hall of the Beis Hamikdash, then the oil is pure oil.
FROM A LETTER OF FIRST DAY OF ROSH CHODESH MARCHESHVAN 5717:
In answer to his letter....in which he writes the reasons of the opposition to the opinion not to clog the brains of the children with external matters , as in the words of our sages and teachers of blessed memory, to the contrary...to feed them (with force) like a bull (is forced to accept the yoke on him: Baba Basra 21:A and Rashi) --Kodesh studies—so the reasons of the above mentioned (to refute this opinion) are a wonder since they have no room in “seichel” (only, as it seems , in their wishes and it is this wish that bribes and errs the seichel, specifically it is understood that he is right in his conduct, only that it is necessary to make the strongest efforts possible that they (the children) should not be left unoccupied from all matters, but rather they should occupy them with Kodesh studies and with revising their studies and the like, and Hashem Yisborech should make him meritorious and give him success to break through the ice which seems to exist in the matter in their holy community, and he should overturn the cold to warmth and light of Kedusha (holiness), to Chassidishe warmth and light.
With a blessing to good news in all the above.
ABOUT NEWSPAPERS ETC.
The Rebbe said: It was a minhag (custom) of Jewish women throughout the centuries not to read newspapers, not to study secular subjects at all, and not to put on make up, etc. Have they been so careful in these areas to follow the tradition? Or at least not to publicly go against the tradition? If we add in areas of spiritual darkness, surely it is necessary to add in positive light, i.e., lighting Shabbos candles by all, regardless of their previous family tradition not to light.
Dvar Melech, p. 102
(This was a response to a girl who wrote the Rebbe that her lighting Shabbos candles is against her family tradition. )
The following is a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe on tuition and how no child should be refused schooling based on lack of ability to pay.
By the Grace of G-d
29 Tammuz, 5737
Silver Springs, Md.
Greeting and Blessing:
This is to acknowledge receipt of your comments on “A Thought of the Week” on the subject of Torah study, wherein you take exception to the story of Hillel and the doorkeeper of theBais Hamedrash, as related by our Sages and cited in the said “Thought.”
Needless to say, in relating this story and including it in the Torah (meaning – teaching, instruction), the Sages did not intend to focus on the doorkeeper’s conduct with a view to condemn him. The real purpose of the story is to bring out a two-pronged lesson, both for those who are in the category of the doorkeeper and those who are in the category of seeking admission to the house of learning, as pointed out in the said “Thought.”
First of all, there are several points in the story which you have apparently overlooked:
It should be self-evident that the doorkeeper had no idea that his refusing to admit Hillel would result in any danger to him (Hillel).
It should also be self-evident that the charge of a (relatively small) fee for admission was necessitated by the need to defray the costs of maintaining the school. It only reflects the general state of poverty of Jewish communities in those days which could not afford to provide free tuition to advanced students. This can also be seen from the poor economic situation of Hillel himself.
It may be assumed that had Hillel sought assistance or intervention, he could have gained admission without imperiling his life. But in view of his character and extraordinary humility, as related in various places in the Talmud and as indicated in this episode itself, it was out of the question for him to accept charity or any special favor. He would only use his own hard-earned money for admission, and even if he could be admitted free, by way of a special “scholarship” as it is now called, it would be at public expense, which would not be acceptable to him.
A further mitigating circumstance is the fact that – insofar as the doorkeeper is concerned – Hillel had been paying the admission fee daily, prior to the incident. Undoubtedly, the doorkeeper did not know that Hillel was paying for it with half of his daily earnings, for true to his character, Hillel would surely not have boasted about it. It is therefore reasonable to assume that Hillel was well able to pay for his admission, but for some reason did not want to pay it on that particular day.
Now for the lessons of this story:
Insofar as those who are in the category of the doorkeeper, those in charge of admission to a Yeshiva or similar institution, they should bear in mind that Torah study is a matter of life for a Jewish boy and girl and should seek every possible means to make it available to each and every Jewish boy and girl. Even if there may be a doubt that a particular applicant might be trying to evade paying for tuition, no child should be turned away; nor should any applicant be made to feel embarrassed in any case of hardship. Unfortunately these principles have not always been fully observed in admissions to some Day Schools andTorah institutions in the present time.
And for those who are in the category of seeking admission to Torah learning, the lesson is that no sacrifice should be too great when it comes to Torah study. Even those who have been learning Torah every day, and it is a question of missing just one day (as in the case of Hillel), the same sacrifice should be made not to miss even a single day of Torah-study.
There is surely no need to elaborate further on the above.
To conclude on a more personal note – seeing your interest in Torah-study, as is evident from your annotations, I am confident that you realize its underlying principle, which is – as our Sages define it – “learning for the purpose of practicing,” for “the essential thing is the deed,” namely, the fulfillment of the mitzvos in the daily life and conduct. This includes, of course, the mitzvah of v’ohavto l’re’acho komocho, the Great Principle of our Torah, which makes it the duty and privilege of every Jew to work for the dissemination of the Torah andmitzvos to the utmost of one’s ability, both by “words coming from the heart” and, even more effectively, by showing a living example.
THE FOLLOWING IS PART OF THE NOTES OF YECHIDUT OF A CHABAD RABBI IN THE MONTH OF TEVET 5715:
In the year of 5715, after Simchas Torah, in which the Rebbe Shlita had spoken about chol studies, that children should not study chol until the age of 9, 10 or 13, in which he commented, “If I would not be reserved I would say even later” and I have heard that he also mentioned girls.
Rabbi S.P. was not in New York for that Simchas Torah and he was doubtful if the above also included Pittsburgh.
Therefore I asked the Rebbe Shlitah:
1. Does the above also concern Pittsburgh?
2. Does it also concern girls?
The Rebbe shlita answered: “All the claims are the advice of the yetzer hara and there is no difference between boys and girls, and between New York or Pittsburgh etc. “ And his blessings for Chassidishe nachas from all the children.
(Similarly had asked Rabbi Y.L. O.B.M. Zeitlin of the Rebbe : Is there a difference between boys and girls in avoiding the study of external sciences? And the Rebbe shlita answered: Although in relation to the mitzvah of Torah study there is a difference, however, in relation to making impure the brains there is no difference between boys and girls.”
In 1955 the Rebbe said that Chabad schools should be run al taharas hakodesh, without secular subjects. He even said “ I would want them (the students) not to learn secular subjects at all, but since if you grab too much you grab nothing, I ask that at least until age 12 they should not study secular subjects.”
The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s view on attending colleges or universities:
Jews have always been a "minority among the nations," even in the best of times. At the same time `their laws differ from those of any other people," and they differ not only in regard to special occasions, or special aspects of life, such as Shabbos, or Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but they differ in their way of life and in every aspect of the daily life. For the Jew, the Torah and Mitzvoth are the guide of daily life and the source of life and true happiness, and this is the simple meaning of "Toras Chaim" — Law of life, and the definition of the Mitzvoth as the essence of Jewish life, "whereby Jews live."
It is clear that being in the minority, Jews must have special reinforcement from childhood on, in order to be able to hold their own in the face of overwhelming odds.
If it was difficult enough to live as a Jew in countries where Jews were persecuted, confined to Ghettos, etc., there was one redeeming factor at least, namely that under those circumstances Jewish adherence and loyalty to the Torah and Mitzvoth was not put to the test. An individual Jew could sever
his ties with his people, but that involved a sudden and complete break; it was therefore rare and extreme. But in the free countries, and under present economic and social conditions, there are no outside barriers separating Jew from gentile; the road to assimilation is wide open, and the danger is
all the greater since the process is a gradual one. No sudden break with tradition is entailed, but gradual deviation, step after small step, leads in that direction. There is a well-known parable for this, about the boy who strayed from the road and later found himself in the midst of the woods. He got there by making a small false step off the road, which led to another, and yet another.
The conditions and environment in a country such as this can, therefore, [require] an even greater spiritual reinforcement of the Jewish boy and girl than ever before and elsewhere. This reinforcement must be of such strength and duration that the Jewish child will always be conscious of the fact that no matter what the environment is, he is the bearer of the sacred tradition of the Divine Torah and Mitzvoth, and belongs to a people that is holy and different. For this, it is essential that right from the earliest childhood to adolescence the Jewish child should receive the fullest possible Jewish education, throughout his formative years.
Hence, when a Jewish boy completes his compulsory education, it is an absolute must that for a couple of years, at least, he should dedicate himself to the exclusive study of the Torah and sacred subjects, in a most conducive atmosphere of a Yeshiva, without distraction of secular studies, all the more so as the teenage [years] are crucial and formative and of lasting effect, in the crystallization of the character.
This would have been my opinion even if the college entailed more that the distraction of secular studies. Actually there is much more involved. Theoretically a college and its faculty should not try to impose any particular views, much less a way of life, on the students. Actually however, the student cannot help being impressed, on the conscious and subconscious level, by the views, outlook and way of life of his professors. These, as well as the whole atmosphere of a college, are unfortunately, not comparable with the Jewish way of life, and frequently if not always, quite contradictory to it. This is so even in colleges which are theological, or having so-called religious studies. Needless to say, the whole atmosphere of college is in violent conflict with the Shulchan Aruch way of life, whereby the
Jew is totally committed — in every detail and aspect of his personal daily life — to the Torah and Mitzvoth and the service of C-d, as is written "You shall know Him in all your ways," to which a whole chapter in Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim (Ch. 231) is devoted: note there.
In other words, the Jewish boy (or girl) entering college, yet desiring to retain the Jewish way of life in accordance with the Torah, finds himself tossed about in the raging waves of conflict between two contradictory worlds. He is at a further disadvantage in finding himself in the minority camp, since those sharing his views and convictions are few on the college campus, while the forces pulling in the opposite direction are overwhelming, forces he must confront at every turn — among the student body, faculty members, text books, newspapers and periodicals. It is very doubtful whether even an adult and mature person who is subjected to such "shock treatment" day after day, would not be shaken; how much more so a teenager.
Needless to say, I am aware of the argument that many Yeshivah boys attending college, or even college graduates, remain loyal to the Torah and Mitzvoth. The answer in simple. The number of such students and graduates who have not been seriously affected is relatively small indeed, much smaller than imagined. They are so exceptional that the wonder of it attracts attention, since those that go astray under college influence are taken for granted, while the one that still puts on Tefillin calls forth amazement. One may use the analogy of the shoe-shine boy who became a millionaire and everyone talks about him. It is not because he was a shoe-shine boy that he attained success, and no one will suggest that in order to become a millionaire one should start in the shoe-shine business. The greater the exception and sensation, the greater is the proof of the rule.
Some people ask, if there is really such a conflict between attending college and remaining an
observant Jew, I can speak from experience and personal knowledge, having attended various colleges
and seen the painful inner upheavals of Jewish students, and having for many years been the confidant of Jewish students who are otherwise reluctant or ashamed to open their hearts, I can therefore state with the fullest measure of conviction and responsibility that he who sends his child to college during the formative years subjects him to shock and profound conflicts and trials and invites quite unforeseen consequences...
To put the matter in bolder relief, by way of illustration. Take the general attitude to polio, G-d forbid, and the precaution taken against it. Fortunately, the incidence of polio is not widespread, and where it strikes, it cripples only a part of the physical body; yet though the odds are farfetched it would be reckless not to take the necessary precaution. Unfortunately, the victims of college education are numerous indeed and most widespread, by far in the majority, and the harm is even more far-reaching.
Another point which is often the subject of misconception — the importance attached to a college degree from the economic point of view. Statistics show that the majority of college graduates eventually establish themselves in occupations and business not directly connected with their courses of study in college. The moral is obvious.
ANOTHER LETTER FROM THE REBBE ON COLLEGE:
By the Grace of G-d
16th of Teves, 5727
New York, N.Y. 10017
Greeting and Blessing:
Thank you for your thoughtfulness in sending me a copy of …………. in which your letter was published, and which contained also some of my views on the question of college attendance.
May I suggest that while your letter is good as far as it goes, it does not emphasize sufficiently the role of Jewish parents in this program, which is mentioned only in passing. Since you have to do with Jewish youth, including of course your own children, surely you know that it is usually the parents who are pushing their children towards secular college education. Ostensibly the idea is to give the impression that the main reason for it is an economic one, that is in order to provide a source of livelihood for them, and perhaps some parents actually delude themselves in believing that their children could not get on in the world without a college degree. However, the fact that a substantial percentage of parents press their children towards college education not for economic reasons, but in the mistaken belief that it is essential to human perfection, as if one could not be a perfectly good man, or a good Jew, without a college education. Indeed there are parents (and I am talking about orthodox parents) who admit this openly, saying that the study of the Torah is only one of the 613 mitzvos, and there are mitzvos which some Jews observe with hiddur, and the learning of Torah is one of them. But when it comes to their son or daughter, they wish to see their children attain the highest spiritual advancement which, they think, is conditioned upon higher secular education. This unfortunate tendency has become almost a “normal” attitude even in Yeshivos and Day Schools, where the main emphasis is often placed on the secular department, and it is expressed in many ways, such as special recognition of achievement in secular studies, etc., whereas achievement in Gemoro and other Hebrew subjects merely merit a pat on the back, and sometimes not even that. It is therefore not surprising that when a Jewish boy graduates from high school, he receives gifts and acclaim, whereas his mastering of several Mesichtos goes by unnoticed by his parents, unless there is a Zeida in the family who could take pride in such achievement.
Needless to say, this tendency is reflected also in the comparative salaries of Hebrew and secular teachers, their general standing in the community, etc., as I pointed out elsewhere.
This is one of the basic ills of our Jewish community which has to be recognized and treated until cured.
FROM TORAS MENACHEM VOL 1:
The first three years of age, which is when a child begins to learn, is the time that is the main foundation of his future success.
Yet it is specifically during these years that people take their child and contaminate his mind with English, grammar and the like.
If only the adults too would not know these matters. How much more so the children (should not study secular subjects) until the age of 9 years or until twelve years-and I say this applies to the following years as well, of not for the fact that if you try to hold too much, you end up losing everything-if one places too much demand upon people no one will listen (so this is the Rebbe’s compromise, until 12).
This comes at the same time that Hakadosh Baruch Hum says that He needs neither gan geden or the beis hamikdash: He wants nothing but to dwell specifically in the mind of a yiddisher child- and instead this mind is taken and contaminated with external (secular) knowledge!
The truth is that parents want the child to study only secular subjects. It is only because there is some zeideh who demands that the child learn yiddishkeit or because they fear a yid who sits in the New York (ie. The Rebee), that they teach him Torah at all.
They claim after the child learn s enlgish and the like, he will be able to earn a parnassah and he will be more set for life. This claim has no substance, since no one knows the future: all of one’s conduct should be according to Torah.
Every single thing of value is written in Torah. If there was any material benefit to be had from acquiring secular knowledge, there would be a law in Torah commanding one to gain that knowledge. Since there is no such law, and in fact Torah states explicitly that this study is forbidden because it contaminates the Chabad (the intellectual faculties of the soul chochma, bina and daas), this means there is no benefit even materially. On the contrary.
They think they can outsmart Hakadosh Baruch Hu…..
They will search their own route, to learn English, and they decide the child will be successful this way.
They should remember that Hakadosh Baruch Hu created the world thousands of years ago and since then He has been running it according to His will….
The parents come and steal the pure years from their children….they steal a portion of their children’s lives. By what right do the parents steal from their children their days? Was it for this purpose that Hakadosh Baruch Hu gave them children?
IN IGROS KODESH VOLUME 11:
Regarding what is written in Tanya at the end of chapter 8 about the wisdom of the nations of the world, you ask whether this applies only to philosophy or also to other wisdom.
It seems that you wish to distinguish between them. You believe philosophy should be prohibited as it deals with matters against religion but in contrast mathematics is not problematic.
However the Alter Rebbe in Tanya plainly refers to all wisdom including math. He writes chochmos in plural. Chochmos of the non Jewish nations. He states that the spiritual impurity, the tumah, from learning these chochmos comes from kelipas nogah which means that the wisdom is not heresy. (so all secular knowledge contaminates the mind even if it is not technically forbidden to study).