• When Secular Studies Are Unavoidable

    We live on shlichus and am part of the board of our local day school. The curriculum includes limmudei chol (secular studies). Are there certain policies that the Rebbe would want me to try to implement in the school in regards to limmudei chol (besides cancelling the limmudei chol all together which is currently not possible)? Rabbi Gershon Avtzon of Yeshivas Lubavitch – Cincinnati answers • Click to Read

    Question:

    We live on shlichus and am part of the board of our local day school. The curriculum includes limmudei chol (secular studies). Are there certain policies that the Rebbe would want me to try to implement in the school in regards to limmudei chol (besides cancelling the limmudei chol all together which is currently not possible)?

    Answer:

    Before answering the specifics of your question, it is important to once again emphasize — even though it is clear from your question that you are aware of it — the Rebbe’s definitive opinion and personal “campaign” against including secular studies as part of the curriculum. To be clear, limmudei chol is not limited to philosophical matters, but applies to any secular subject (Igros, Vol. 11 p. 403;  # 3784).

    For Parents Who Want the Best For Their Children…

    The following are a few quotes:

    (1) “In our times, we need to work with great strength so that all Jewish children learn only holy subjects the entire day”. (Igros, Vol. 22 p. 475; #8648).

    (2) “The obligation to prevent the learning of limmudei chol is the obligation of every parent that wants the best for their child.” (Igros, Vol.16, p. 48; #5965).

    (3) A letter written to Rabbi Moshe Pinchos Katz in response to notifying the Rebbe that he arranged for his son and friends to have a full day Limmudei Kodesh program: “I am so happy to hear this good news…please feel free to share my letter with others as well.” (Igros, vol. 10 p. 43; #3008).

    It is important to point out that the Rebbe stresses that it is not enough that the child does not attend secular studies, rather that the time should be filled with learning or reviewing subjects of Kodesh in a monitored setting. (Igros, Vol. 6 p. 302; #1810).

    Give Limudei Kodesh Prominence
    Still, the Rebbe did share very clear directives for schools that for whatever reason do teach secular studies.
    1) Limmudei Kodesh should be taught in the morning — when the child’s mind is fresh — and secular subjects in the afternoon. The Rebbe adds: “At the very least, the first period of the day should be a subject of Kodesh.” (Igros, Vol. 13 p. 125; #4397).
    2) To try to arrange that the majority of the day is designated to learning Limmudei Kodesh (Igros, Vol. 12 p.287; #4097), at the very least, there should be equal time. (Igros, Vol. 10 p. 299; #3257).
    3) If the choice of the teacher of secular subjects is a non-Jew or someone that is Jewish but not observant, it is better to hire the non-Jew. The reason: The child has no other interaction with the non-Jew and thus will not be negatively influenced by their behavior. A secular Jew, however, who the children feel more connected to, can have a negative influence. (Igros, Vol. 15 p. 171; #5483).
    4) To try to incorporate Jewish themes into the secular studies. The Rebbe gives an example: When teaching world history, Tanach can be taught. (Igros, Vol. 12 p. 492; #4269).
    5) To instill in the students who are learning secular subjects a sense of mission. They should be explained that they are receiving tools — proper writing and speaking skills —  which they should be using to spread Yiddishkeit amongst those which are not yet affiliated and will be impressed by a frum Yid that can speak in an articulate manner. Thus, their learning and the success of their learning, is centered on the mission of spreading Yiddishkeit. (Based on Igros, Vol. 12 p. 74; #3883).
    What Will Be With Basic Life Skills?
    To the question that many ask: “How will someone that has not learned secular subjects attain the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful in the workplace?” The Rebbe respondes (Igros, Vol. 14, p. 102; #4855): “It is unfortunate that we see that students have an easier time learning and retaining the secular subjects. Therefore, within a short time of them leaving Yeshiva after having received the “spiritual vaccine” against the impurities of the world, they are able to quickly learn the necessary skills to make a living.”
    The Moshiach Connection:
    The Rebbe (Likkutei Sichos vol 1 page 112) compares the temptation to learn secular subjects to the decree of Pharaoh of throwing the boys into the river. Just as in the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim the Jewish mothers had the faith and fortitude to stand up to the decrees of Pharaoh, and in the merit of this faith we all merited redemption;  the same is in our generation:
    When we stand up and show our trust in Hashem by giving our children a pure education al taharas haKodesh, we will merit the Geula.

    68

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