[Avodah] Education of a Torah Scholar

Prof. L. Levine llevine at stevens.edu
Mon Nov 16 09:19:28 PST 2020

The following is from Rav Shimon Schwab's These and Those that I have posted at


Keep in mind that Rav Schwab left RSRH's "day school"  before completing the 9th grade in order to study in Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Zalman's yeshiva gedola in Frankfurt.  Two years later he went to study in the Mir and then in Telz.  Yet he was known for his broad secular knowledge which he acquired on his own.  He showed that there is no need to attend college in order to gain broad secular knowledge.

Yitzchok Levine

in the section "Mensch-Yisroel"

The object of the true Torah education, therefore, is to make
the student conscious at all times of this Divinely imposed task.
To acquire Torah knowledge is our foremost duty, because without
it, we cannot function at all. However, the prime purpose of
all Torah study is its translation into conscious and enlightened
Torah life.

At all times must the unchanging teachings of Torah be applied
to the ever-changing derech eretz. All of our actions, our
attitudes, our relationships to man and beast and our positions
within nature and history are subject to the jurisdiction and the
evaluation of the Torah.

What follows is that the Torah scholar should be well informed
of the "ways of the earth." The laws of nature and the paths of
history should be known to him. He should be well aware of what
happens in the world which surrounds him, for he is constantly
called upon to apply the yardstick of halachah and the searchlight
of hashkafah to the realities which confront us.

What also follows is that the greater the wisdom of Torah, the
more mandatory it becomes that this wisdom be conveyed to the
to a joyous acceptance of the yoke of Heaven. The Torah
scholar must be able to dispel the doubts of the doubter and to
counter the cynicism of the agnostic. He must, therefore, speak
their language masterfully so that he can convince and enlighten

There is indeed a dire need for gedolei Torah, great Torah
scholars, who devote their entire lives to the study and the dissemination
of Torah. The Jewish world today needs many talmidei
chachamim whose lives' tasks are to enlighten it and inspire it
with the love and the fear of G-d. We are ready to accord to those
"messengers of G-d" the highest respects and a loyal following.
These are the "honorary" Kohanim and Leviim of today. Like the
members of the Levitic tribe of old, they are to serve all the other
tribes and teach them the living Torah.

Yet, education and leadership cannot function in a vacuum.
Therefore, it becomes mandatory for the present day "Tribe of
Levi" to initiate and encourage an educational system which can
serve all other "eleven tribes" as well, and that means the vast
majority of our people. It becomes mandatory for the Torah-conscious
educator-not to inspire fear of the world and hesitancy to
meet its challenge, but rather, to fortify the vast majority of our
youth to meet head on and overcome victoriously the thousand
and one pitfalls of professional and business life. Our youth must
be inspired to courageously and intelligently brave the onslaught
of scientific arrogance and the sensual poison that is masked as
intellectual liberalism.

The divine purpose for which Yisrael was created can be served
in every capacity, in every profession, in all human endeavors, as
long as they are not excluded by the halachah.

During every period of our history we had gaonim who commanded
authority within and became our spokesmen without. To
do this they added secular knowledge to their profound wisdom.
There is a colorful roster of immortal masters such as R' Saadya
Gaon, Rambam, Maharal and so forth, all the way down through
the ages to the Gaon of Yilna. They all successfully employed the
so-called "outer-wisdom" as the spice mixers and the cooks for
the royal table of the Divine teaching.

What Rav Hirsch zatzal propagated is not really the principle
itself as much as its introduction into chinuch, into the educational
program for the Jewish school and for the growing youth.
This is the true chiddush which Hirsch initiated! There were always
learned adults who acquired positive attitudes toward worldly
knowledge after they had mastered Shas and Poskim. But Hirsch
innovated a school program for children, starting from the elementary
level all the way up to higher education during the formative
years of life.

True, there was some Torah im rech eretz in the olden days.
It consisted of all day Torah study with one or two hours thrown
in for writing and basic arithmetic. The program of Hirsch expanded
the scope of the derech eretz by adding the full secular
school program to the curriculum. Ghetto life, with its restrictions
and suppressions imposed from without, reduced the need for
"outer" knowledge to a bare minimum. The derech eretz of the
post-Ghetto society required much more time and attention.
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