Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lipman, Lapid Launch Literacy 'Lightenment

We are the people of the book. From time immemorial, the Jewish people have always had a high level of literacy, despite their host country's desire to keep them from attaining higher education.

Along with this desire to keep Jews out of colleges, has been the double edged sword to have them somewhat educated in the basic Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic, so that they could engage in commerce with the natives of the land.

Yet this always received stiff opposition from the rabbis, as the inability to communicate was a safeguard against assimilation. Additionally, any time spent on disciplines other than Torah was suspect and viewed as time wasting.
Many within the Jewish community felt that Jewry would benefit by becoming acclimated to Modern Society, but just as many felt that we must keep our distance for Torah and our way of living to thrive.

This debate raged in 1782 when Rabbi Naftali Hertz Wesseley printed his Divrei Shalom V'Emes, which featured reasons why secular knowledge was necessary, yet his opponents were vehement in squashing his arguments.

Another attempt was made in the 1840's in Russia when Max Lilienthal met with the great Roshei Yeshiva and Rabbis of that era in a vain attempt to get them to update the curriculum.

This debate has been recently renewed in Eretz Yisrael, whereby the Yesh Atid party, under direction of Yair Lapid has directed the Orthodox Ner Israel graduate Dov Lipman to assist in introducing changes to the Chareidi curriculum.

In some ways this mirrors the great debates of yesteryear. But in other ways, not. This is different from Russia trying to Russify their subjects, whereby the Czar should not be telling Volozhin how to run their Yeshiva. In Israel, however, the government is paying for the education, so perhaps they do have a right to dictate how to spend taxpayers money. It seems like they are willing to let them teach what they want, as long as the participants are willing to pay for it.

In any event, RNHW was chastised, Max Lilienthal was run out of the country, and Dov Lipman has earned the contempt of his alma mater.

לא ימושו מפיך ומפי זרעך ומפי זרע זרעך אמר ה' מעתה ועד עולם

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