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May 30, 2010

Secular schools and the lack of religion

Strange - Two issues about the same topic on the same day are always strange, and makes you wonder if it is a coincidence (is anything?) or somehow connected (more than "in the great scheme of things").

The first issue is Rav Ovadya Yosef's latest shiur that is sure to upset a lot of people. Rav Ovadya spoke about sending children to secular schools and said that someone wh does not educate his children in the ways of Torah and mistzvos will receive his punishment in both this and the next world.

Rav Ovadya said that in the secular education they don't teach about anything [Jewish] - not Pesach, not Sukkos, not holidays, not Shabbos, nothing. Their teachers are rebellious who are also mechalelei shabbos and eat non-kosher food, so what should the student do? he will be like that as well.

Rav Ovadya is stating what is wrong with the secular school system that does not teach jewish values and therefore ends up in the state it is in with horrible levels of violence and, according to the yearly results, decreasing levels of general education with fewer and fewer students succeeding in the matriculation exams along with lower and lower placement in education levels on international standards.

Perhaps if he were not so sharp and insulting about it some would actually listen to him and his ideas rather than reject him outright. Nobody wants to listen to someone who calls them names and derogatory comments.

The second issue is the Education Ministry has issued a directive that when students are learning Torah, and copying verses, they should don yarmulkas out of respect.

Whether that is smart or not, and necessary or not, respect that is forced and demanded is rarely achieved.

The teachers are opposing the directive saying that in the secular state system, the Bible has cultural value and not necessarily religious value. The reading of the Bible in secular schools should not be seen as a religious issue, but as a cultural one.

I am not sure what is unique about the Torah in Jewish culture, when not including the religion of Judaism at the same time. Is Jewish culture simply matzo balls and kreplach, with some money lending and smart people thrown in? To me, Jewish culture includes religion, and I see nothing wrong with being respectful to the religious aspect (though whether that respect should be forced or manifested in that way is a different discussion).

I am happy that they are studying the Torah regardless of whether or not they wear a kipa. Sure, there were always people who studied Torah and it didn't have an effect on them. In general, knowing our Torah and Jewish history is a good thing, even if initially it is not learned for that purpose. From studying it "She'lo l'shma", it leads to studying it "l'shma".

I don't even hope that the Torah study they do makes them religious. I am happy they are studying it and will be aware of our history and culture and be exposed to it to some extent, as they would not be exposed to it at all otherwise. And maybe some of the Jewish values imparted in the Torah will affect the students as well, and when we have all these problems with lack of respect and lack of values that also harms the general education, perhaps some of that will be improved by the imparting of Jewish values in the classroom.

8 comments:

  1. Rav Ovadya is stating what is wrong with the secular school system that does not teach jewish values and therefore ends up in the state it is in with horrible levels of violence and, according to the yearly results, decreasing levels of general education with fewer and fewer students succeeding in the matriculation exams along with lower and lower placement in education levels on international standards.

    Yeah because everyone knows how peaceful the Torah-learning, Yeshiva-going folks can be.

    WRT decreased test scores, etc. I'm curious, what are the overall results when one compares the various different 'levels' of school (public, Mamad, private yeshiva, etc) and if R'Ovadiah's statement bears any actual fact rather than simply being 'fire and brimstone preaching'.

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  2. Mud slinging, calling people names, accusing them of terrible acts, all the things Rav Ovadya says will just have the opposite effect, apart from which they are loshon hora in a bad way - in my opinion. It may be that people have their reasons for sending their kids to the secular system, but it does not automatically mean that they are secular, and not religious at all. As for enforcing a law requiring wearing kipot, also a bad move, better a recommendation, but not enforced. That will also have the opposite effect.

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  3. Rafi, I think different crowds will respond differently to different messages.
    True, the media records and reports on everything he says so everyone gets to hear his words, but his main crowd there at the Yazdim are generally people who will respond better to the fire and brimstone than everyone else. That seems to be who he's mainly speaking to. He can't always speak the way the seculars would want it being heard - he needs to address the needs of his main crowd too. Otherwise, he'll never get a chance to speak to them in a way they'll respond since you could always say "Oh no! The media's watching!"

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  4. For non-Jewish kids studying Bible in the US, I wouldn't see a point to them wearing a kippah. But for Jewish kids in the Jewish State to don a kippah when studying the Jewish Bible, yes I think it's wholly appropriate.

    Forced respect? Yes, what's the problem. We're talking about kids. Teach them. Don't they ask foreign dignitaries visiting the Kotel to wear one? No one complains about religious coercion. So why not show them a proper way to behave? Let them see that what they're studying is not just cultural, as Jews, albeit secular, it has more value than that. I think it's a great idea.

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  5. http://www.state.nj.us/agriculture/divisions/md/pdf/farmersneededlist10.pdf

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  6. The teachers are opposing the directive saying that in the secular state system, the Bible has cultural value and not necessarily religious value.

    Couldn't the argument be made that culturally, the study of Bible has been accompanied by the respectful act of of covering one's head?

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  7. yoni - maybe but I dont know that that is true except for in very recent history

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  8. Rafi G.,

    I think that learning Torah for "cultural", as opposed to religious, reasons is even more recent than that.

    (The "Vebbe Rebbe" section of last week's Torah Tidbits had a good treatment of the history of the kippa.)

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