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Torah umadda- secular studies, work and Torah study


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Sivan 8, 5779
I grew up in a haredi community. I want to understand the opinion of Torah umadda what YU stands for, does that mean the rabbis hold that its a mitzva to get a degree to become a doctor or a lawyer or something else?
Rav Soloveichik, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva University, used to say that "Torah im Derech Eretz" (Avot 2, 2) today, means having a university degree. Already the Rambam warned that for a healthy yeshiva boy to live off of tzedaka, food-stamps, or welfare is a chilul Hashem (Hil. Talmud Torah 3, 10), turning Torah into a livelihood. How much more so today, when it lowers the Torah in the eyes of the masses, associating it with poverty, hungry children, exhausted wives and unproductivity. [That obviously doesn't mean to say that young men shouldn't dedicate at least a year, two or more, to intensive Torah study- something which all agree is totally necessary!]. Rav Kook stresses that work is especially elevated in Eretz Yisrael, where it's not only a necessity but actually an ideal, where our rabbis teach that settling the Holy Land is "equated with the rest of the mitzvot combined" (Sifre 12)! The Chatam Sofer (Sukkah 35) stresses that Boaz made it a point to work in the fields at night (Ruth 3, 2), despite the fact that he didn't need the money (for he was a "millionaire", owning vast and productive fields), in order to fulfill the mitzvah of settling Eretz Yisrael, because during the day he was busy as head of the Sanhedrin (Bava Batra 91a)! He summarizes, just as one allots time to laying tefilin and davening at the expense of learning, so too one must set aside time for work in Israel, just as our forefathers did throughout the Tanach. Nevertheless, outside the Land of Israel, I think R. Soloveichik would agree, that if one is so wealthy that he doesn't need to work, he is better off learning Torah fulltime.
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