[Avodah] Torah and Secular Knowledge before Ghettoization

Prof. Levine larry62341 at optonline.net
Sun Jul 4 10:13:21 PDT 2021

At 01:13 PM 7/2/2021, Zev Sero wrote:

>That has nothing to do with what the standard of education was for 
>children, whether before Jews were "locked in ghettos" or after.
>For that matter, I don't believe Jews were ever "locked in ghettos and 
>hence had little or no contact with the outside world".   Jews generally 
>lived in the same area even when they weren't forced to, for the same 
>reasons we generally do so now; but even where they were forced to those 
>areas were not prisons.  There were places where the Jews locked 
>themselves in at night, for safety, just as many non-Jewish compounds 
>did.  But they had all the contact with the outside world they needed. 
>They had to, since most Jews made their livings by trade of some sort, 
>which required such contact.
>So as far as I know there was no change in Jewish education in response 
>to such a supposed locking-in.  Those who felt the need for outside 
>knowledge were able to learn it, but they were generally not children. 
>Those who thought their children needed such knowledge, and had the 
>necessary resources, were generally able to provide it, but most people 
>felt no such need, just as now.

I have the feeling that you did not take the time to read the essay mentioned in my post, namely

<https://web.stevens.edu/golem/llevine/rsrh/relevance_secular_studies_jewish_education.pdf>The Relevance of Secular Studies to Jewish Education (Collected Writings VII)

 From this essay

In the present essay we will not go into detailed explanations to demonstrate that a serious study of Jewish scholarship requires familiarity with many areas of general human knowledge. Anyone even superficially acquainted with, say, Rabbinic literature knows about the significance of mathematics and astronomy, botany and zoology, anatomy and medicine, jurisprudence and ethics in the deliberations of our Sages. He will therefore not underestimate the extent to which disciples of Talmudic learning can benefit from familiarity with these fields of general knowledge. 


Thus, we see that everything new that the student learns about the nature and structure of things is an aid to his understanding of the Hebrew language. These few examples should be enough to show us how the teaching of the Hebrew language stands to gain from the various areas of secular studies. 


Consider the very first pages of the Pentateuch. Think how much more readily the light from the wisdom reflected in these pages and the moral strength nurtured by them will find their way into the hearts and minds of our young students if, before reading the Bible, they have already learned to perceive the world as an abundance of forces operating in accordance with certain laws and if they already know something of the history of men and nations. They will then be in a better position to picture the context of time and space upon which this Book of Books seeks to shed light with the rays of the concept of God. The purpose of this light is to help mankind as a whole, and Jews in particular, find their proper place in the world order arranged by God. 

Please take the time to read the entire essay.  

RSRH's approach to secular studies is based on  Torah principles that Those who proceeded him surely knew and followed.  RSRH was a real talmud chocham and this was attested to by one the sons of the Chasam Sofer after meeting him


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