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HALACHA-----secular studies and books


iwill Posted - 24 December 2003 22:35

Is there a prob with reading secular fiction for pleasure?

MODERATOR Posted - 29 December 2003 21:22

Sichos chulin and sifrei milchamos - empty writings (prose and parables and such) and stories of wars and the like - are prohibited as per Shulchan Aruch OH 307:16, as being Moshav leitzim. This is if there is nothing productive to learn from them.

Science books and books of chachmah are prohibited to learn regularly, even by yourself (certainly in class) but permitted to read occasionally, as per Shulchan Aruch (Ramah) YD 246:4.

goodgirl Posted - 29 December 2003 22:34

Are you saying I cant learn science books in class?

MODERATOR Posted - 29 December 2003 22:50

Excellent question. Rav Elchonon Wasserman says he's not sure. The issue is, the prohibition to learn those things may be due to bitul torah, which does not apply to girls. Or maybe not, he says. Maybe learning those subjects is not a problem of bitul torah but a bizayon HaTorah - a slap in the face to torah - which would apply to women too.

But for guys, its an issue. If we're going to prohibit college on these grounds - and the poskim absolutely do - why wouldn’t we prohibit high school as well?

Some say because state laws require education until a certain age, your learning those secular topics is not for the sake of knowing them, but rather for the sake of fulfilling a legal requirement, which means it has a utilitarian purpose, and would not constitute bitul torah. But that svara is pretty weak, and many states don’t require you to finish high school anyway.

The Mesivta High School Menahel of Chaim Berlin, Rabbi Chaim Segal z"l, once asked Rav Shach if there is a heter is to have English in high school and Rav Shach told him there isn’t any.

I also know someone who asked Rav Elya Svei why they have English in his HS in Philly, and he said because if they didn’t have English people wouldn’t send their kids there, so its either that or nothing.

I would imagine that some time in the future, there will be more and more high schools with a minimal amount of English studies. American Jewry tends to get more and more frum. I know there are already a high school or two that doesn’t have English, and many high schools cut out the last semester of the senior year and have the kids learn all day.

But as I said, with girls it may be very different. For you its not nearly such a problem.

was2frum Posted - 06 January 2004 8:09

I don’t get R' Elya's answer, didn’t R' Chaim Volozhiner close down his yeshiva rather than institute a secular studies program? and I was always told that Jews don't believe "the ends justify the means"?

MODERATOR Posted - 06 January 2004 15:30

Well, I cant speak for anyone else so you’ll have to ask R. Elya. But in general, what you’re saying is not so simple.

While its true that we don’t make compromises, and the Netziv (not R. Chaim Volozhiner) closed down the Volozhiner Yeshiva rather than institute secular studies, all that is good when by not compromising, or by closing down the Yeshiva, the students wont be having secular studies.

America was - and is, for the most part - a situation where, close the Yeshiva or open the Yeshiva, the students will just go somewhere else with secular studies. To another Yeshiva, and then the compromise is made anyway. And all the Yeshivos stopping secular studies was and is not possible, since so many people running Yeshivos don’t look at secular studies as treif.

In a situation such as that, where you don’t have control over a single student's not learning secular studies, the issue now becomes, what you cant do at once, perhaps you should try to do slow, by educating the students in your place as opposed to allowing them to go elsewhere, where they will do a lot worse. Of course, add to all that, the fact that indeed there are compulsory education laws as well.

But again, the above is mere speculation. If you want to know why a given person did something, you have to ask them.

iwill Posted - 13 January 2004 12:54

Ok, so if one can derive a moral lesson from "empty prose" then what's the story--for girls?

wickles Posted - 05 September 2004 21:53

I don't understand. It's assur to go to college?

MODERATOR Posted - 05 September 2004 22:05

In general, yes it is. Please see the Secular Studies forum for details.

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