Thursday, April 19, 2007

Why the J-Blogosphere Matters

(with a nod to DB for the title, who Harry Maryles has an interesting if unsurprising interview with)

Someone wrote what I feel is a poor, terrible letter to Mishpacha magazine complaining about R' Yaakov Horowitz' series suggesting that if we want to stop the problems of kids dropping out and "teens-at-risk", among others, we need to reform our education system. Now, it's one thing to argue [as the letter does] that we don't know if this will stem the tide, even I think you've got to be a complete fool to think it won't help many of the problems in our school systems, but quite another to use terribly poor logic and otherwise stupid arguments to do so:

I understand the logic: If the “best schools” would teach subjects which were interesting to children on the brink, these children might remain. Now these schools teach only Gemara, so these children are bored and fall even faster.

If we teach many secular subjects in our school, will Torah giants emerge? Or does that not make a difference? How does Rabbi Horowitz know that it’s more important to save the falling children? Maybe it’s more important to save the ones with true potential to reach the greatest heights?

Rabbi Horowitz is worried that within a few years many children will fall off the derech. I’m afraid that if his plan for the yeshivos is accepted then the children will fall off the derech — if not this generation, perhaps the next. The responsibility of changing the schools based on a doubtful theory is very scary. (Is the dropouts percentage smaller in girls’ schools which teach secular subjects? I don’t think so.)

Here in Eretz Yisrael, we often have bulletin board messages by the gedolim, warning that if the government forces more secular subjects on our schools, then we will have to abandon governmental aid, to continue the yeshivah studies al taharas hakodesh, without secular studies.

It was revealed to the Taz, who lived during the years of the Decrees of Tach v’Tat, that if he would die, the terrible massacres would be averted. His death would atone for the entire nation. But he said, “I can’t die before I finish writing my commentary on the Shulchan Aruch,” so the troubles began.

We see from this story (in Kisvei Mahari Shub) that we don’t have the correct perspective about what Torah is and what is important.

The Likutei Moharan (64) explains in depth that secular subjects cause heresy. So I don’t comprehend how this topic can be taken so lightly, in newspapers written for ordinary readers, that they should pressure yeshivos to teach more science, more language, less Gemara, and then klal Yisrael will be saved. Please address important questions to the gedolim. Let them decide, and then readers will follow.

Don’t give readers false hopes, based on imagined theories which every true Torah scholar will repulse.

I'm not even sure where to begin, so I won't bother.

I think it's because of people like R' Horowitz, who may not be a "blogger" per se, but definitely contributes greatly to the J-Blogosphere, that shows the importance of the J-Blogosphere. If there's anyone deserving of nomination for Best Contribution in the JIBs, it would be R' Horowitz. And seeing as how there are only a few hours left to nominate... hurry up! :)


  1. I just went on an 11th-hour nominating frenzy, including some of your favorites. ;-)

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  3. That is one weird letter..I don't know if the writer knows it, but he acknowledges that the Gemorah centered education we offer is a change over what was done in the essence, he is endorsing change. Now he would probably claim that the "old school" to which he refers isn't the real "old school" and that we need the more authentic model that was used in European Yeshivas.

    But I would challenge him on that assertion. The European Yeshiva system was a system for the elites. We did not offer formal Jewish education (at least in the school sense) for all children in Europe, especially when one got beyond their Cheder years. The authentic universal Torah education model, that which was initially used in American day schools, IS truly the authentic school model for the kinds of schooling we offer, and I agree with Rabbi Horowitz that we must go back to it.

  4. Is this gut insane? Basically he is saying that we should screw the regular kids because our yeshivos really only have to cater to the elite and gifted. If that is truly his opinion then chas v'shalom he should have a child who does not fit into this elite category. Let's see what he thinks then.

    I'm nauseated.

  5. A dumb letter is its own undoing. Readers are not stupid.