There’s one major difference between the anti-emuna media in Israel and between those of us who began to learn Torah after completing advanced degrees in higher education: whereas the anti-emuna media writes constantly against traditional Torah education – a subject it knows nothing about, we Baalei Teshuva are keenly familiar with both sides of the fence, secular education versus Torah education.
A typical example of the mind-poisoning media appeared in a leading secular Israeli news website a few days ago. The writer, an ignorant self-appointed education expert, claimed with high-browed self-righteousness, “the lack of core studies in haredi education are liable to create serious illiteracy problems within Israeli society.” Really?
While taking a breather between rounds of fervent dancing this past Simchat Torah, I sat down in the corner of our synagogue and opened a volume of Rebbe Natan’s classic Likutei Halachot. I began reading a difficultly-worded discourse on the inner dimensions of partnership law in unvoweled Hebrew script.
Before I knew it, little Yonatan – a cute little Gerrer Chassidic five-year old with ice-blue eyes and long blond sidecurls – was in my lap looking for a piece of candy. I pulled one out of my pocket and agreed to give it to him if he could read a few words of Rebbe Natan’s discourse. Sounds like I was cruel, doesn’t it? Little Yonatan fired away: shoresh hashutfut d’kedusha nimshach…
Not only did he get two candies, but a big blessing, hug and a kiss too.
Illiteracy problems? Not in our neighborhood.
Let’s see a classic contrast between secular education and Torah education, something (an example of many) that you’ll never see in the secular media:
To this day, school children around the world – including secular Israel – learn that Columbus discovered America in 1492. The more upbeat schools that teach that Leif Ericson the Viking discovered America nearly 500 years earlier in about 1002 CE. Yet, despite Ericson’s voyage, Medieval pre-Columbus Europe still thought the world was flat. The historical truth is that Christopher Columbus encountered stiff resistance about his idea of sailing away westward to try and reach the East Indies. His contemporaries – the same church-leader Inquisitors who instigated the infamous Spanish Inquisition and the expulsion of Spain’s Jews the same year that Columbus set sail, 1492 – were positive that Columbus would sail off the edge of the Earth which they believed to be flat.
The Torah scholars of Spain knew that Columbus wouldn’t sail off the edge of the Earth. How? They knew – as documented in the Gemara – that the world is round as early as 2300 years ago. Both Columbus and Leif Ericson were like monkeys in the trees eating bananas when our sages already knew that the world was not flat, but round. Yet, when those Torah scholars refused to compromise their holy faith, the “enlightened” Inquisitors tormented them to death.
Open up the Gemara in tractate Avoda Zara and turn to page 41a. The Gemara is discussing what type of statues are idolatrous; the discussion has nothing to do about whether or not the world is round. Our sages mention that any statue of a human image holding a ball is decidedly idolatrous, since a ball represents the globe. Tosephot (Avoda Zara 41a, middle of the page, section that begins kakadoor), our 12th Century CE Gemara commentators emphasize that our sages learned that the world was round from the Yerushalmi Gemara (see tractate Avoda Zara 18b in the Yerushalmi), which proves that our sages knew over 2300 years ago that the world was round!
Kids with Torah education don’t grow up with nonsense and fantasies in their brains. At a tender age, they learn not only how to read Hebrew but Rashi script as well. Three years before their Bar Mitzva, they’re already learning Aramaic and Talmudic logic as well.
What some children learn in a year of geometry, Torah kids can learn in two pages of Gemara (see tractate Succa, pages 7-8).
Any agriculture graduate will quickly discover that the Gemara in tractate Chulin teaches much about bovine anatomy and physiology that Animal Science 404 does. Ask your Dairy Science professor if he can give you two quick ways to differentiate between the milk of a kosher animal and the milk of a non-kosher animal without comparing amino enzymes in the lab. He won’t be able to. Now ask our sages in tractate Avoda Zara, page 35b: they’ll tell you that kosher milk is white, whereas milk from a non-kosher animal will have a yellowish or greenish tint. Also, you can’t make cheese out of the milk from non-kosher animal.
The Vilna Gaon was a genius who knew mathematics, astronomy, physics, and anatomy – he never opened a secular book in his life.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev was also a genius who knew both natural sciences and social sciences on their innermost level. Rebbe Nachman reveals how plants obtain their medicinal properties. He casually mentions that a person’s handwriting reveals the inner secrets of that person’s psyche and his level of emuna (see Likutei Moharan I:173). Graphology has become popular among psychologists, prospective employers and law-enforcement agencies in the last three or four decades; Rebbe Nachman knew that it’s the real deal over 200 years ago.
The famed Chazon Ish also never opened a secular book in his life; yet, he had no problem instructing the head of neurosurgery from a leading Israeli hospital how to perform a difficult brain surgery that other doctors considered impossible.
We could go on and on, but the point is clear. Hashem revealed the secrets of His universe to Moses. People ask, why didn’t Moses invent a car or a computer.
He didn’t need to. Also, he didn’t want to detract from his Torah-study time.
Before the era of Google Search engines, many people couldn’t believe in a Heavenly Court that recorded and archived all a person’s thoughts, speech, and deeds. If Yahoo search can tell you anything about a person, then you can bet that the Heavenly Court has been doing so for the last 5771 years.
People say, “What about making a living? What about learning a profession?”
Rabbi Chaim Uri Freund, the head of the Toldot Aaron Yeshiva in Jerusalem, found a unique way how to avoid thinking about Torah while in the bathroom. He obtained a university textbook in mathematics, and taught himself differential calculus while in the bathroom. He finished the book in six months.
I took Rabbi Freund’s example and learned HTML in the bathroom.
Yeshiva graduates have the ability to learn Hi-Tech subjects proficiently, or anything else for that matter, in the shortest duration.
Rebbe Nachman warns us not to waste our brain capacity on non-Torah subjects. In that respect, by giving your child a television or a computer, you destroy the child’s learning potential with your own two hands.
Don’t let your child be like a monkey in the trees. Give him or her a Torah education; it’ll be the best decision you ever made.
(We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal Lazer Beams