Friday, June 6, 2008

New perspective on R' Aaron Kotler's opposition to secular studies - from a PH.D on BMG

I've just come across a very amusing dissertation on Beth Medrash Govoha. The title says it all.

A school for scholars: The Beth Medrash Govoha, The Rabbi Aaron Kotler Jewish Institute of Higher Learning in Lakewood, New Jersey: A study of the development and theory of one aspect of higher education in America

S. R. Lewitter - 1981 - Rutgers University

Take a look at the impressive list of subjects that a pupil must master in order to qualify for their First Rabbinic Degree:






Students of BMG are of course, world famous for their proficiency in the Major and Minor prophets, the philosophical writings, etc.


Although, a distinguished alumnus of BMG seems to have had a somewhat different opinion. The point he raises really needs to be discussed at length. V'od Chazon L'Moed.


Lewitter has an interesting theory to account for R' Aaron Kotler's opposition to secular studies (even today most Lakewood Mesivtas do not teach secular studies).


R' Halivni records an interesting conversation he had with R' Aaron on this subject. See "The Book and the Swrod" pgs. 85-87:

They were in the car together and R' Aaron was trying to dissuade Halivni from his decision to go for a degree. They passed underneath the Battery-Battery Tunnel. R' Aaron exclaimed "all water, on the top water, below water, and on the sides water."

I couldn't resist and said, "R' Aaron, this is what they teach in college."

A study of the attitude of prominent Rabbinic figures such as R' Aaron, R' Moshe and (acharon choviv) R' Yaakov to secular studies and similar subject and the development of American "ultra"- orthodoxy is certainly a "major scholarly desideratum".

3 comments:

Bill Selliger said...

A study of the attitude of prominent Rabbinic figures such as R' Aaron, R' Moshe and (acharon choviv) R' Yaakov to secular studies and similar subject and the development of American "ultra"- orthodoxy is certainly a "major scholarly desideratum".

Norman Lamm did a very nice job in "Torah Umadda". To be clear, he did not analyze the differences between the opinions of various "acharei acharonim", but he does present a systematic approach to various views on the subject. You should check it out if you haven't already.

Also (and I'm sure you know this too), Yoel Finkelman has written on the subject - specifically regarding Lakewood. I have one article of his; email me if you want it. (BillSelliger-at-yahoo-dot-com).

evanstonjew said...

You didn't mention the punch line that I heard from Halivni, I don't know if it is the book. R' Aaron was supposed to have responded " But we have one(a tunnel) already." Halivni said that the Satmer Rav would not have responded this way and had a broader understanding of progress.

wondering said...

"below water, and on the sides water"? Is that Daas Torah?

Actually the tunnel is underneath the ground.

 
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