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Can Faith Be Open Minded?

Why Did Many Chassidim Not Study Philosophy? Likkutei Torah Reah: Maamar Reah Anochei

1 hr 15 min

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Why Did Many Chassidim Not Study Philosophy? Likkutei Torah Reah: Maamar Reah Anochei

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  • A

    Anonymous -11 years ago

     I gave a class on a Ma’amar in Likutei Torah Re’ei on faith and priorities, the material in this class is in my view interesting and important, and anyone who wishes can listen to the class in its entirety. In the class I mentioned the issue of going to college and many comments were posted on the subject. I have elected to write some thoughts on the question but not as a direct response to the questions, but rather as a self contained discourse on the subject. I trust that it will serve some positive purpose

    We live in America where the single most important thing in a person’s life is career, more important than family, more important than religion, morality, idealism or anything else. America has no issue with family, religion, morality and all the rest, they are, as America calls them ‘beautiful things’, but they aren’t life they are accruements.

    In our society, if one prioritizes, any other value system other than career, they are, of course, tolerated in our non-judgmental, multi-cultural society, but they are viewed as people who need to be pitied for their poor judgment.

    If there is anything Chassidus and Lubavitch stands for it is the defiance of this very notion.

    We are first of all Jews and the center of our lives is family and God. This means first of all, faith. Parnassa comes from God, not the college education. A person must be responsible in creating a vessel for Parnassa because this is what the Torah says, but Parnassa comes from God.

    This is what being frum really means. We believe that this is God’s world, and our concerns about all aspects of our lives are within this context and must be addressed as such.

    Do these values have a price? Of course they do, we don’t always see the reward for being frum as we would like to see it, and in the time table we set for God to deliver His bounty to us.

    Never the less, we pay it and pay it willingly.

    The return for this is principal, a life with meaning and purpose, in a society, that is so quickly losing what tiny bit of principal it once had, and the price we pay is more than worthwhile.

    If you study the Rebbe’s approach to Yiddishkeit and kiruv what emerges as a constant, is that every idea and message must be communicated in a positive way. The same is true regarding this question; this is not about what we are losing but what we are gaining.

    This is not about college; it is about life and Yiddishkeit.

    I happen to know firsthand of a Yid who constantly worried about parnassa, and the Rebbe told him that this preoccupation, even if real, would have an adverse affect on his children, and it did!

    When we don’t have enough (and this is so subjective and relative), and it consumes us we teach our children one message. When we don’t have enough and don’t create that mood in our home it gives our children an entirely different message. Is it easy to believe when there is not enough money? Of course not, this is our challenge, but this is what Yiddishkeit is about.

    Reb Moshe Feinstein was visited by a Yid with a big complaint against Hashem. He argued that during the depression when so many went to work on Shabbos he never did, and yet not one of his children was frum! Why and how could God have allowed this to happen? Reb Moshe asked him one question: “when you were moser nefesh for Shabbos, what spirit did you invest in it? Was it one of Joy at being able to serve Hashem, or one of despair and helplessness at the trap Shabbos had put you and your family into”? The man explained as was so common in the America of those days, that his attitude was ‘es iz shver tzu zein a Yid’ (being Jewish is hard). Reb Moshe explained that this was the reason he lost his children. One must do Torah and Mitzvos and realize that they are greatest blessing, not C”V the opposite.

    When God blesses us with plenty how we handle these gifts also has an enormous impact on our families. Is this our wealth and our blessing based on our pursuit of ‘the American dream’ or is this God’s gift to me for me to use and share wisely with others.

    Many of the members in our community have been blessed with the recourses that make it unnecessary for them to send their children to college, yet they also are doing it. Why? Parnassa or ‘to be a mentch’?!

    The Rebbe has three oppositions to college, and each on its’ own merit justifies what the Rebbe holds on the subject. (See Likutei Sichos vol. 15 page 43-4; see also Toras Menachem vol. 7 p. 335 ff. where the Rebbe was actually ‘defending himself’ on this position).

    A. The college environment is decadent and immoral. Many or most people who would be exposed to this environment will at least be compromised by it. The Rebbe even argued with non frum parents (where he could) against sending their children to college.

    B. The material taught, is often against the Torah. It doesn’t take much to plant doubt in a young mind (and 20 or 22 is young). The professor professes to have ‘facts’ while we, he explains very gently, are dealing with faith. These professors are present in some numbers in the so called frum colleges also, and some are actually frum themselves. By the time the student discovers that the ‘facts’ of the professor are subject to review and amendment, and that what he meant by ‘facts’ was that these were the ‘facts’ based on the ‘best evidence available at the time’ and that the ‘blind faith of Yiddishkeit’ is not so blind after all, the damage to the Soul is severe. These Professors aren’t teaching philosophy either, they are teaching Math and Physical, Chemical and Biological Sciences.

    C. There is an isuur (prohibition) to study secular learning for the sake of the knowledge alone. One needs a reason to engage in secular learning, and without it he is not allowed to learn it. In the Rebbe’s world view a well rounded education means more Torah and more Torah.

    On the question of Parnassa, the Rebbe has explained many times that he objects to the preoccupation with ‘tachlis’ (career planning and anticipation). The Rebbe proposed (see Sicha 10 shvat 5715, Toras Menachem vol. 13 page 247 ff. among many) that a Bochur, should not think about his future Parnasa at all. When he gets married and has the responsibility of supporting his family he should then consider his options in how he will support them. At that point he has a halachic right and obligation, to do what he must to support his family.

    Incidentally, it is time someone in Lubavitch should stand up and say, that there is no graduation, for Bochurim, in Lubavitch. The idea of ‘going through the system’, going on Shlichus, learning smicha and then Yeshiva life is over is new and antithetical to the values we believe in.

    The issue so often raised that the boys aren’t learning, now, that is the issue. We must stop the bleeding of our standards and recreate a love and passion and proficiency in Torah. Bring the boys back into the Yeshivos to learn as adults of 21, 22, 23 and so on where the mind is developed and some maturity has been achieved so that the learning and the Yiddishkeit be much more deeply imbedded in who they are.

    But Bochurim’s world and life is Torah.

    Now, I know you may be thinking, how is he now to support his family if he’s first thinking of it now?!

    The answer: This is the price.

    When a young man, who, while single learned in Yeshiva, gets married he will struggle for a few years to have done what the Rebbe would have wanted him to do and with Hashem’s help he’ll find a suitable Parnassa. And he will have done what the Rebbe desires of him.

    I am not at all comfortable saying that after the wedding one is allowed to go to college. The Rebbe corrected Chana Sharfstein’s thesis paper on Lubavitcher life with these words ‘one should not even consider college until they are set in their ways [as a Yid]’and being married does not mean our children are grown up in these ways.

    But at this point it is at least a question that someone who is a Chossid may ask of his mashpia based on his Parnassa concerns. I cannot and will not say that after marriage it is not a concern, but it is a different question, that cannot be addressed with a standard rule, communicated via the internet tumult, but a question to be addressed on an individual basis.

    This is the way a Chossid prioritizes his life.

    Many will and do take this faith a step further, and learn after the wedding for a year or more, based again on the values and priorities of Chassidus.

    And of course, as Lubavitchers, the greatest thing one can do with this life is devote it altogether to others by being a Mashpia of ruchniyus in one form of shlichus or another. This too has a price, but a price paid willingly. If you don’t want to pay it then don’t.

    I often tell my students that I have good news and bad news and it doesn’t really matter which I tell you first because they are both the same.

    The news is that ‘You can do whatever you want’.

    What I said in the class is not my view, but the Rebbe’s view, now do as you please. Before you do, however, try and understand why the Rebbe took this position. Understand that you take responsibility for the choices you make and the consequences that they bring, and you don’t get a second chance to relive them. So, whatever path you choose and whatever risks you expose yourself to making understand those risks.

    Lubavitch has no values outside of what the Rebbe taught us. There really is no such entity as Lubavitch outside of the Rebbe and his teachings. Those people who are leaders and teachers in Lubavitch have a singular task, to inform themselves of the Rebbe’s teachings and pass them along to their students.

    These are the Rebbe’s values. We struggle with the values, so maybe the answer is more faith, more inspiration not more compromise. We want to be Chassidim and fit perfectly well into Olom Haze, it cannot be done.

    We, as a community are losing our Soul. We have forgotten who and what the Rebbe stands for. The very things so many of us were Moser Nefesh for a quarter century ago or a thirty or forty years ago, are now the obstacles in our lives. We each of us, carries a responsibility to our children and to our neighbor’s children to behave in a way that communicates the timelessness of these values.

    If, for example, my child should go to college and not be negatively affected, but my neighbor’s child will, follow my lead or use me as an excuses and their child will be negatively affected, do I have the right to do it?

    We must be Lubavitchers not in name alone but in action, and rejoice in Yiddishkeit, because that is what being a Lubavitcher means. Each of us can and must contribute to make our community more Jewish and with more Jewish pride in all aspects of Yiddishkeit.

    In summation, there is no way to satisfy everybody, or even most people in addressing this question, simply because the arguments are based on emotion and fear and worry. These emotions, fears and worries are legitimate, and they are often based on one’s own personal experience, but the elixir and antidote to this is not, God forbid, to touch our Soul or the values that are Soul is, and we must become, but to become stronger ‘with faith’. It won’t change the basis of the worries, fears and emotional concerns, practically at all, but at the same time they will change them completely. Because we will have become different people.


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  • H

    hi -11 years ago


    Rabbi Paltiel, what would you say to all those people who do not have a Parnassa, what should they do? 

    And you can't tell me that all of those that are struggling lack Betochon, I know many very Ehrliche Yidden who struggle. 

    Isn't college as a vessel for a livelihood a good thing?

    The "story" of the Alter Rebbe's support of the Czar vs. Napolean, i.e. ruchniyus health over gashmiyus wealth comes to mind here. Perhaps the question here is one of Bitachon. If I am meant to live comfortably...will that be able to happen without a college education? And if I am meant to struggle -ch"v - will a college education somehow outwit the Aibeshter? 

    P.S. I have a large family, and lots of tuition debt...and kids that would consider college - if I agreed to it.

    You have a large family, debt, and kids who would consider college. It sounds like even with bitachon you are struggling. Are you suggesting that you would prevent them from going to college, guaranteeing that they will have to struggle as you do? Are you so selfish as to want them to have to struggle, too?

    What if you go to college and don't study philosophy? Say you study only mathematics and computer programming...is it OK then?

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  • H

    hi -11 years ago

    We need Univ.
    As a frum girl at a non-Jewish university, I can tell you that there is a thriving Jewish community there, with shuirim on campus, a kosher cafeteria, and a huge Jewish chevra to be with. In addition, I know that when I graduate, I will be able to make a good parnassah and together with my husband, provide for my family. Since I plan on sending my children to Jewish schools and not begging for money from others, university education is a must whether you like it or not.

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  • RA

    Rabbi A -11 years ago

    Your Bashing

    Rabbi A

    rabbi,i sat in your shurim for a few years. where you bashed going to college and how a person should not go to learn a trade before getting married.i did as you taught and now i struggle daily to make a parnasah and now to learn a trade that will provide enough money for the outrages tuition fees will be an extremely up hill battle.

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    • A

      Anonymous -11 years ago

      Re: Your Bashing
      Please contact me.

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  • TS

    the struggle -11 years ago

    the struggle
    I got my hands on as much material from the Rebbe on the subject before I made the decision to go to college. 

    What hurts me most is the many young balei batim in their late 20's and 30's struggeling to support their familes. They confide in me that they resent the system and the mashpiim that taught them not to go to college. More and more these parents are planning to make sure their children have a career plan that includes college before the kids get married. What I wish is Rabbi Paltiel, who is an incredible mashpia and positevly influneces so many - vani hakoton besochom - would address: how can parents who took their mashpiim's advice to a level where they now resent them for it be expected to raise balanced, ehrliche chasidim? Meanwhile there are those that took the advise and applied their own filters that continue to respect and learn from their yeshiva mashpiim. The irony is great but this is the realty. 

    Pointing to the Rebbe does not cut it. Shlichus, chinuch, moshiach, kashrus etc. all now have protim imbedded in them that are haipich of the Rebbe words. Please don't ask me to elabrate or we will end with a laundery list of how much has changed in lubavitch over the last 20 years.

    What will be with these parents who now resent their leaders for advising them not to go to college and their children who are the future of Lubavitch?! Mashpiim perhaps need to get together to discuss their styles and the long term negative impact it can sometimes have on their mushpoim if it is not done right. 

    Mashpiim are the driving force behind Lubavitch and we would be nothing without them. This is a constant throughout Lubavitch history. What I think has changed is the level of resentment that is seen in recent years by those that have gone on mesiras nefesh to adhere to every last sylable uttered by their mashpiim.

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  • M

    me -11 years ago

    The system has failed us. It's hurting us, our children and grandchildren if we don't take action. Who can pay tuition these days? We have no alternative.

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  • I

    isaac -11 years ago

    What about learning math and engineering? Architecture? Law? Medicine? ETC!!!!???

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  • A

    Ah -11 years ago


    Uh ....

    'Why don't we go to college?' Look around you. We do. Don't whitewash reality.

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  • H

    Hi -11 years ago


    College a Parnasa

    Rabbi Paltiel, You got to be in touch with your time, many Minhogim and Halochos were enacted for the times: Bishul Akum, Stam Yaynom…. Mishum Chasonos. 

    We live in the Internet age, a time that Parnasa is a challenge; Koddesh does not have many opportunities. We need to encourage and provide our children the tools to be able to make a Parnasa, it might be best for the person to go to college/university. Today we have BH many jewish colleges that facilitates our children to be in a Jewish environment. 

    We do understand that there is risk of what we learn in college, it is important to raise our children with the ability of handling the education that they might encounter in college, by providing them a full education when they are younger. A full education encompasses an education in math, science, English, etc.. 

    Children with a full education do not know less Kodesh than the children who study only kodesh, it is quantity versus quality, the children that go only to kodesh do not have more quality just quantity. 

    The child that has a full education has the tools and the Jewish security to go to higher education and provide for his family, and help our Yeshivos and Sheluchim…

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  • Y

    Yaakov -11 years ago

    thank you
    thank you Rabbi for all the hard work you put into these classes. I get so much from your shiurim. Mashiach now!

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  • D

    Dismissed -11 years ago

    Everybody is Different

    There are people that have a need to know what is true and why it is true, just like we have a need to be loved and to be cared for, so too is the need for reason. 


     I assume that you, Rabbi Paltiel, are not one of such people - and I don't think that there is anything wrong with that - but don't just dismiss people who have such a need because it is insensitive to a real need - and I think that you will agree that it is wrong to dismiss those who are different than yourself. 


    In general, when someone wants to find out the truth they must be completely objective, that means that they must remove themselves from either side completely, just like Dayanim by a Beis Din, if they have even a slight bias to one side they are not allowed to sit on the Beis Din because their ability to find the truth is not complete. 


    Why is it different when it comes to something so important as Yiddishkeit that these rules don't apply?

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    • A

      Anonymous -11 years ago

      Re: Everybody is Different
       Let me attempt (but only once) to explain what was said and intended in the Shiur.


      Let us use the following analogy. Say you were in a relationship and you asked the person with whom you had this relationship why they love you. You explained that you had a need to understand what motivates them to love you; I suppose that the person you loved could on some level explain reasonably why they loved you.


      What would happen if this relationship went on for a long period of time and you continued asking the same question why do you still love me, what about me makes you love me after so much time and familiarity, that should have dampened the love. Why do you still love me?


      At a certain point the significant other would begin to wonder, why do you keep asking the same question, don’t you understand that true love withstands the tests of time and hardship and so on, and you would ‘rationally’ explain that as a rational person, you need to understand. You need to keep logic in the relationship for always, because you are a logical person.


      To allow the relationship to become ‘taken for granted’ would be bad both on an interpersonal level and on an intellectual level.


      What do you think would happen to the relationship? Logically you are right, one must always question, always renew the basis for the relationships we have in our life. This is however, not a=what would happen in fact. Your continuing need for questioning would raise in the person you love the very basic question: are you capable of loving altogether? Love means getting past the logic and the negotiating that initiated the relationship in the first place to a place of acceptance and, yes, taking for granted, not in a complacent way but in a trusting way that this relationship is real and wholesome.


      When it comes to God we need a relationship not a logical connection. The priority in any Jew is to have this connection not the logic and the proof that supports it. Often, quite often, the need for the constant justifying of this relationship is not the need to know the logic behind the relationship, but because of an inability to have the relationship altogether.


      In other words, logic is a safe barrier that can be used to separate between us and God. It is hard to argue against because it is after all ‘logic’, but the end is a cold and distant (and unsustainable) relationship with Him.


      Chassidus from its’ inception has made this its’ entire goal. It is far more important, infinitely more important, to have the relationship, then to understand it. And this is the real reason Chassidus has been under scrutiny for all these years, why not question, it is Jewish to question.


      The answer is: you may question, but at what cost? Can you as religious believing Jew afford to question?


       Just as in your relationship with your spouse and children, logic that is cold and objective, ‘like in Beis Din’, is logically benign and should be harmless to the relationship but simply ‘check it logically’; yet in reality it may undermine the relationship altogether, and may even call into question one’s ability to have this level of connection entirely, similarly in our relationship with our Creator, if we want the connection, this must come first, and all questions must be in that context, which means that they are not without a bias and tendency. The relationship is the absolute, and our ability to understand it (or not) becomes the variable.


      In other words, even if I cannot understand it all, it is all true. This allows for the relationship to be real, and on God’s terms not on ours. In other words it allows us to transcend our limited minds and egos, which is where this relationship (and on some level all real relationships) exists in its’ entirety.

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  • Y

    yossi -11 years ago

    what is the source of the story cited in the beginning of the shiur?

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    • A

      Anonymous -11 years ago

      Re: source
       Otzar Sipurei Chabad, vol. 17 p. 250.

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Yossi Paltiel

  • August 10, 2012
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  • 22 Av 5772
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