Volume 31 Number 58
                 Produced: Wed Feb 16  5:19:07 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

College and (IMHO) related issues
         [Melech Press]
Observance vs. enlightenment
         [Chaim Mateh]
Rav Yehudah Gershuni zatsa"l:  Sheloshim
         [Prof. Aryeh A. Frimer]
Secular College - challenges (2)
         [Hanno Mott, Rise Goldstein]
Secular college: challenges
         [Sholem Berger]
Secular colleges (and Jewish High Schools)
         [Chaim Wasserman]


From: Melech Press <mpress@...>
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 01:01:40 -0500
Subject: Re: College and (IMHO) related issues

It is inevitable that our own experiences color how we understand the
world, even in the face of much evidence that contradicts our
impressions.  "Anonymous" comments

> Most of our young (and not-so-young) people are going to have to
> venture out into "the world" at some point, whether we like it or not.
> As such, I would respectfully suggest a lesson to be learned from
> experiences like mine.  If we want to minimize the risks involved of
> "losing them from the derech" when they venture out, we should bend
> over backwards to alleviate the intolerance and hostility within the
> observant community.

There is little doubt that experiences such as anonymous' occur, but it
is simply absurd to describe them as major causes for the fall out in
observance in youngsters exposed to the secular university world.  The
vast majority of those whose observance decreases as a result of that
exposure (or later exposure to the business or professional world)
change not because of the response of the observant but the influence of
the non-observant.

I am more surprised at Steve's misunderstanding of my statement.

> I was surprised at the following statement from Dr. Press regarding
> higher education:
> >However, if I had to choose between observance and enlightenment, there
> >is no question.  Much of the discussion of this issue seems not to
> >believe that commitment to the modern world pales to insignificance
> >compared to commitment to Torah.
> Our problem in Modern Orthodoxy is that we compartmentalize. The
> spiritually conscious observant Jew IS enlightened! As Rav S.R. Hirsch
> taught, exposure to science, arts, literature and culture serve to
> enhance our understanding of God's Universe and our own nature. >

I did not suggest that we cannot integrate; I like to believe that my
life has been one of such integration.  I do, however, assert that there
are times when choices must be made and that at such times the primacy
of Torah must be uncompromisingly clear.

Melech Press, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology, Touro College
<mpress@...> or melechp@touro.edu


From: Chaim Mateh <chaimm@...>
Date: Fri, 11 Feb 2000 14:46:38 +0200
Subject: Observance vs. enlightenment

In v31#50,  Steve <stevehome@...> wrote:

<<exposure to science, arts, literature and culture serve to enhance our
understanding of God's Universe and our own nature.>>

Science I can understand how it can enhance our understanding of G-d's
universe and by marveling at His wonders, bring us closer to Him.  But
how does gentile art and literature do that, or anything else positive
for the Torah Jew?

<<A rich university education allows us to appreciate the accumulated
knowledge of civilization.>>

Is there a need or requirement to appreciate the accumulated knowledge
of civilization?  Which civilization?  Roman?  Byzantine?  American?
What necessity is there for the Torah Jew to know those civilizations,
let alone appreciate them?

BTW, you imply that only those with "rich" university education can
appreciate etc.  Does that mean that science nerds with a few science
degrees, who might even despise the liberal arts, canNOT appreciate that

<< The knowledge of Torah allows us to evaluate such knowledge in moral
terms -- such that we accept that which is compatible to Torah values and
reject that which is incompatible.>>

Chochma bagoyim is not a Mitzvah but rather a saying that there is
chochma among the goyim too.  Does this mean that we are required to
seek after that chochma?  _If_ we come across that knowledge, then of
course we should determine whether it jives with Judaism and if yes, and
it's helpful knowledge, then fine.

<<The arts need to be consciously assessed as to their moral value.>>

_WHY_ must we assess gentile arts and literature as to their moral
value?  Is Judaism lacking in moral value that we must actively seek
external morality?

Kol Tuv,


From: Prof. Aryeh A. Frimer <frimea@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 12:03:57 +0200
Subject: Rav Yehudah Gershuni zatsa"l:  Sheloshim

Rav Yehudah Gershuni:  Sheloshim
by: Jonathan Chipman <yonarand@...>

Just one month ago Rav Yehudah Gershuni (or "Reb Yudel Grodner," as he
was affectionately called), passed way, at the age of 92.  I would like
to say a few words about this unusual personality, to whom I owe a debt
of personal gratitude as the Rav who awarded me semikha (Rabbinic
ordination).  Rav Gershuni belonged to the last generation of old-time
Lithuanian lamdanim, who were still trained on European soil. His entire
world was encompassed in the milhamtah shel Torah (the "battle of
Torah"), the exciting, dynamic, often noisy and contentious struggle to
understand and clarify the Torah.  His generation was most alive in the
shakla vetarya, the arguing in the Beit Hamidrash or in the discourse of
talmidei hakhamim to interpret, understand, and apply the Torah and the
     Over and beyond thorough knowledge, he demanded of his students the
ability to think creatively in Torah.  In his halakhic studies and
collected responsa - Kol Tzofayikh, Kol Yehudah, Sha'arei Tzedek and
Hokhmat Gershon -he dealt with the full gamut of contemporary problems.
His interests focused upon two or three main areas. First and foremost,
as a religious Zionist thinker and posek, he addressed himself to the
full range of issues, both theoretical and practical, ensuing from the
existence of a Jewish state in the modern world: the nature and status
of a secular Jewish state; issues of warfare and army; the possibility
of renewal of the Sanhedrin; whether a government may jeopardize its
soldiers to release hostages or POW's; whether a spy may/should commit
suicide to avoid betraying state secrets; the morality of arms sales;
extradition abroad of Jewish criminals; problems relating to archeology;
the Brother Daniel case (of an ethnic Jew who had converted to
Christianity, become a monk, and as such wished to claim Israeli
citizenship).  In this respect, he was very much a pioneer, addressing
actual issues of the day; he went far beyond such figures as Rav Hayyim
Hirschensohn, during the early part of the century, or even of Rabbis
Herzog and Maimon (Fishman) in the early years of the State, who dealt
with these problems in an essentially theoretical way.  In addition, he
addressed the full gamut of contemporary halakhic problems generally,
including bio-medical issues such as euthanasia, abortion, and
transsexuality; technology and kashrut; etc., etc.
    Rav Gershuni was a prime example of the "Halakhic Man" celebrated so
eloquently by Rav Soloveitchik.  He and those of his ilk were not deeply
immersed in pietism, in the quest for perfect fulfillment of the
commandments.  The mood was more one that said: we know what the
halakhah requires of us; it is sufficient to do that which is required
of every Jew; we do not seek out humrot, stringent interpretations of
the law.  Indeed, the humrot which have become so popular in recent
decades were in some sense seen as a sign of religious unhealth rather
than of greater devotion.
    A telling example of this: Rav Gershuni was once present at a sheva
brakhot, a festive meal in honor of a newly-wed couple, together with a
distinguished Jerusalemite Hasidic figure.  The latter was dressed in
his Sabbath finery, with long, brocaded black robe, fur shtreimel, face
framed by beard and payot.  Rav Gershuni was clean-shaven; he wore a
white summer suit, and a cream hat: to all external appearances, he
looked like any ordinary Jew from Flatbush or Coney island.  During the
meal, the two engaged in a discussion of some point, which rapidly
became a heated argument.  Rav Gershuni quoted source after source:
Bavli, Yerushalmi, rishonim and aharonim - early and late authorities.
As the discussion progressed the hasid, who had never met Rav Gershuni
before and was not introduced, seemed more and more puzzled: who was
this man, where did he come from, and how was it that a person of such
obvious learning paraded none of the external signs of Rabbinic piety?
After the meal, when I told him who Rav Gershuni was, he say: "Oy, you
should have told me earlier!"
    In addition to his personal qualities, it should perhaps be
mentioned that Rav Gershuni, who was 92 years old at his death, was a
living link with the legendary Torah giants of two and three generations
ago.  Born in Grodna, Lithuania, he studied in his youth with Rav Shimon
Shkopf and Baruch Ber Leibovitz; he then came to Eretz Yisrael where, in
the late 20's and early 30's, he was privileged to study with the old
Rav Kook.  (He later moved to America, where he raised his family and
taught in a small yeshivah he ran in Bensonhurst and in Flatbush; in his
later years, he returned to Jerusalem, where he continued to teach and
write until old age).  He may thus aptly be described as one of peleitat
beit sofreihim, "the remnant of their scribes."  May his memory be a


From: Hanno Mott <hdm@...>
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2000 23:27:20 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Secular College - challenges

> From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
> Leah S. Gordon notes:
> > When I attended MIT, it was a matter of course for me to e.g.  skip
> > class on chag and get notes afterward, or reschedule exams.  Many of
> > my Ortho Hillel friends, who had never been in this kind of situation,
> > were unwilling to miss class (and would go but not take notes--which I
> > found inappropriate and not in the spirit of chag).  Some even made
> > personal "exceptions" to take exams instead of asking the professor
> > for a different test date--which, by the way, I never had a problem
> > arranging. (There were stories of one or two mean professors who would
> > be bad about it, but I never experienced this.)
> I grew up going to public school and became observant after college.  It
> has always amazed me how people could deal with missing all those
> classes, especially at the very beginning of the school year.  For those
> of us who are just average or even above average, but not brilliant,
> this seems like a VERY difficult trial.  I'm not in such a hurry to
> condemn those folks who felt a need to go to class and refrain from
> taking notes.
> I really don't know how anybody manages to miss all those classes and
> still do well.  My hat is off to you, as it were.

When I went to the graduate division of the NYUlaw school -admittedly
many years ago-, classes were held once a week for two hours.  The first
3of 4 weeks'classes occured on Chag. The class that was scheduled for
that Thursday night was considered the most technical in the tax
program.  It meant studying a little harder but I didn't consider
attending which would have been difficult since I stayed over Chag with
my uncle in Brooklyn and it would have been difficult to walk to
Greenwich village in those days. I got a good grade in the course, but
it was difficult not impossible so it merely meant a little extra work.

On the other hand, I must admit that when I went to law school in
Cincinnati where I grew up, a required course met once a week on Shabbat
morning.  I walked toschool ][about a 45 walk] and listened to what went

It may be a semantical difference but there is a difference but a
difficulty and an impossibility

Hanno D. Mott
A practising attorney in New York.

From: Rise Goldstein <Rbg29861@...>
Date: Sun, 13 Feb 2000 20:05:24 EST
Subject: Secular College - challenges

Freda B. Birnbaum wrote:

>  I grew up going to public school and became observant after college.  It
>  has always amazed me how people could deal with missing all those
>  classes, especially at the very beginning of the school year.  For those
>  of us who are just average or even above average, but not brilliant,
>  this seems like a VERY difficult trial. 

I make no assumptions about anybody's level of intelligence when I say
that, among my own dati peer group, it seemed to me that EVERYBODY
worried about this, irrespective of major, irrespective of career plans
(e.g., premed), and irrespective of all else.

>  I really don't know how anybody manages to miss all those classes and
>  still do well.  My hat is off to you, as it were.

I can only speak for myself.  I was VERY careful to keep current with
the reading assignments (but NEVER read these on Shabbat or yom tov).
Also, when I returned to class, I made sure to arrange to see the
professor or teaching assistant if there was anything I couldn't follow
as a result of my absences.  If I still didn't understand, I would seek
help from non-Jewish classmates who had a better grip on the material
than I did.

I would further note that I made sure my professors knew when and why I
would be absent.  Most were very decent about allowing me to make up
work, INCLUDING exams; in dealing with the ones who weren't, I took my
recourse through appropriate university channels.  I NEVER ended up
forced to take an exam, or penalized for not taking one, on Shabbat or
yom tov.  In one graduate course, I was penalized for not turning in
homework on the assigned dates (chagim), even if I turned it in early
rather than late, and filed a grievance against the professor.  The
grievance was not resolved to my satisfaction, but I got through the
course with a respectable grade anyway.

Rise Goldstein (<Rbg29861@...>)
Silver Spring, MD

From: Sholem Berger <sholemberger@...>
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000 00:27:28 GMT
Subject: Secular college: challenges

>Many of my Ortho Hillel friends, who had never been in this kind of
>situation, were unwilling to miss class (and would go but not take
>notes--which I found inappropriate and not in the spirit of chag).

Intuitively, yes, it's not in the spirit of chag (or yontev -- take your
pick!). However, I would imagine there to be some halachic leeway. First
of all, not going to a class might constitute a hefsed where one's
present or future parnose is concerned, which might be a mitigating
factor allowing attendance (especially if no outright melokhe is
involved in so doing).

With regard to medical education, I belive a tshuve by R' Moshe
Feinstein (sorry, I don't have the reference handy) goes to some length
to show that medical students should attend classes on Shabbos (again,
providing no prohibited forms of labor are involved), due to the
classes' necessity to the future performance of a mitsve.

Sholem Berger


From: Chaim Wasserman <Chaimwass@...>
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2000 20:57:49 EST
Subject: Re: Secular colleges (and Jewish High Schools)

David I. Cohen wrote << Which leads me to the next point: High
School. Why is it that our Jewish high schools are (with some notable
exceptions) are afraid of students who ask the tough questions? Is there
a faster way to turn off a thinking teen ager? >>

This syndrome (read that also disaster) is not only in high schools but
in seminaries in Jerusalem. Our generation will pay dearly with hoardes
of frop-outs to conservative Judaism and to secular Judaism because at
this crucial period in their lives these students did not have a
sounding board by which to formulate their attitudes. Questioners are
treated as anti-social disordered personalities, in some cases.

We (Jewish life according to Torah) will lose like we did between the
two World Wars here in America. This created the missing generation out
of which reform, conservative and secular Judaism were molded.

chaim wasserman


End of Volume 31 Issue 58