The Matzav Shmoooze: Revamping Mesivta Secular Studies

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Dear Editor,

A recent comment on addressed revamping mesivta secular studies.

Here’s what I wish to say:

While I learned in BMG, I would not be so crass as to grant myself a title of Lakewood lamdan. But I can proudly say I am a Philadelphia alumnus. To be clear, it was a privilege to be a talmid of the renowned Philadelphia Yeshiva in the late ’70s. My classmates were of the highest caliber, in kishron, hasmada, and middos tovos. But there was a well-known fourth dimension as well. Secular studies were treated with respect and taken seriously (an approach which continues on today).

While most of the graduates went on to become well-known tamidei chachamim and roshei yeshiva, several of my contemporary talmidim went on to become well-known attorneys, doctors, dentists  and other professionals  (including the well known “Mentch on the Bentch” and another top-tier attorney who had learned by Rav Avrohom Yehoshua Soloveitchik). Malcolm Honlein is also a Philly talmid. It is thus clear that any suggestion that secular studies in mesivta is bitul torah is simply batul umevutal ke’afra de’ara.

One could correctly contend, however, that not every mesivta bochur is “Philly” material. A valid point indeed. I would suggest that instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, we revisit the substance of the subjects studied. It seems to me that if there was a focus on Jewish and world history, civics, and basic writing, bochurim would actually find great value in these courses. The value of advanced math and science, to the average mesivta bochur, is de minimis.

Revamping the current curriculum is entirely appropriate. In fact, it is standard practice for educators to constantly revisit and modify curriculum (unfortunately in American schools for the purposes if replacing traditional values for current re[pro]gressive norms).

Finally, unfortunately the point espoused by the prior “lamdanim” regarding “bittul torah” is half true – the bittul part. This condescending attitude towards secular studies inevitably develops towards an attitude of bittul; to wit, that’s not important; he’s not important. Ani halamdan ve’afsi klum.

Thank you, Philly.

A Grateful Talmid
(Who is currently a professional with an Ivy league graduate degree)



  1. Well stated; sefasyaim yishak mashiv divrei nechonim. Now if only the “2 dinim lamdanim” would be masig that there’s also ailu veilu….. Just dreaming….parshas hashavua is oisek with the kiyum chalomos.

  2. Let’s cut to the chase. The arrogant imbecile who unloaded his human waste for all to see, is basically saying as follows:
    Going to college = Parnassa tova li’olem va’ed
    Staying in kosley hayeshiva = life of poverty

    I’m choshesh that the letter writer never went to Philly, or any mainstream yeshiva, for that matter.

    P.S. “you are currently a professional”. Oh really? Why can’t you share with us what you actually do? Besides for the piece of toilet paper hanging on your wall, HOW DO YOU SUPPORT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY???

    • I am sorry, but I have seen too many guys who have stayed within the “kosley hayeshiva”, and who cannot even be understood in the English language for pete’s sake, who now have a lot of children and no means to provide for them. While attending university is no guarantee of parnassah, the suffering of those who cannot abide by a life of deprivation to learn Torah, or cannot subsist on a rebbe/mechanech’s poor salary, and have no other choices available to them to make a good and honourable parnassah because they it was ingrained in them that general studies are treif and bittul Torah, cannot be ignored. You are doing just that, some exceptions notwithstanding.

    • You said the author of the article, quote: “is basically saying as follows:
      Going to college = Parnassa tova li’olem va’ed
      Staying in kosley hayeshiva = life of poverty”


      • it is definitely implied as he lists all the professionals (lawyers, doctors, dentists) who attended philly including himself who even merited to attend an Ivy league school.

    • Your response really does not speak well for those who oppose secular studies for high school bochrim.Are you real or a troll? Or are you one those embittered people on government programs with too much time on his hands? How do YOU support your family, pay tuition etc?

    • Wow, such a way with words. Maybe he missed Chafetz Chaim seder. Maybe he needs some English classes. Either way, there is a serious lack of education.

  3. Relax I did not see him say anything derogatory against staying in the koslei hayeshiva. Reb Shmuel himself said in a recent yated interview that it is important for bochurin to know how to write and express themselves.

  4. The value of advanced math and science, to the average mesivta bochur, is de minimis.” Agreed, 100%. I’ve been singing that song for years. I disagree with the writer’s valuation of world history, though; a basic knowledge is important, but not an in-depth one.

    Based on my own experience and exposure to the secular job market and workplace, here’s what’s needed to succeed and do well:
    -English: Extremely important
    -Math: What’s taught thru 8th grade is extremely important, beyond that is rarely used by most professions. (There may still be reasons for high school level math courses, such as thinking skills, but not for most jobs themselves.)
    -Science: Very little taught in this subject has any practical use.
    -History: Very little taught in this subject has any practical use. Despite this, basic history is still important, simply so people understand and don’t repeat historical mistakes.
    -Jewish History: Very important, IMO. We should know where we came from and how we ended up where we are, the history of our tefilos, our seforim, and our different cultures.

  5. @road: That is not what he is saying at all! Sounds to me that you are very much on the defensive, and he hit a nerve. Or, due to the fact that you did not learn any secular studies, you cannot understand a simple statement. He is saying that learning limudei chol is NOT bittul Torah, nor a waste of time, if done properly. One never knows what skills one may need later on in life, and not to take advantage of an opportunity to learn some rudimentary secular skills seems foolish. Closing the door at such a young age to possible avenues of parnassah seems very short-sighted. One can certainly be a ben torah as well as a professional. And one can “sit” in yeshiva all day and not be a ben torah at all! There are many people who are “stuck” in a life of poverty because they lack the skill and knowledge necessary to get a job that will pay them a living salary; skills that could have very easily been acquired in high school secular studies, had it been available or had he taken advantage of it.

  6. We’ve been….
    While I certainly do not know the author of the post, I do not know you, either. He may be relaying personal experience, or stating his opinion. Let’s assume that he is who he says he is – a professional, who learned at Philly and BMG. Does that bother you?
    “Arrogant imbecile”, “human waste”, “piece of toilet paper”….
    Whence all the anger and bitterness? Has it, perhaps, happened to YOU, that you ended up staying between kosley yeshiva and living the life of poverty, or, quite the opposite – having gone to college, having received a professional degree, you never made it in life?
    I am absolutely sure that the Gedoley Yisroel who oppose secular education would never, no matter their upset or shita, would sink to the level of name calling and disgusting words used against a person whom you do not even know.

    Whether Derech Eretz kodma leTorah means decency and kevod habriyos, or having a parnassa to enable one to sit and learn, which mainstream yeshiva produced such a vile, foul-mouthed, and arrogantly self-righteous boor, as yourself? I am choshesh that perhaps a lesson, or two, in civics, would have taught you some basic civility, perhaps…..
    And, by the way, how do YOU support your own family, if you do?

  7. I am shocked that Matzav printed such hateful and hurtful words written by “We’ve been down this road before”.
    This is beside for the fact that s/he apparently didn’t read or understand the article and that his/her comments don’t make much sense at all.

    I hope that “We’ve been down this road before” has never been to a “mainstream Yeshiva”. It would be a tremendous chillul Hashem were people to see that yeshivas produce people with such a lack of mussar, sensitivity, and basic mentchlichkeit.

  8. To “we’ve been down this road before”, you are simply put a naar. We a raising a generation who can’t put together 3 coherent consecutive sentences

    They are not taught basic skills such as writing, communicating properly with others, public speaking, basic math, computer skills.
    I was appalled to find out last week that secular studies in many mesivtas was the exception to the rule and that most yeshivas don’t offer it. The yeshivos consider their lack of secular studies as a badge of honor. I blame the parents. Because if the parents would insist that it’s important for their children to have a secular education the yeshivos would start offering it.

  9. Calm down everybody if we learned secular studies in yeshiva or not if it’s that important after yeshiva
    We are “smart” enough to learn it then the missing parts
    We are a smart people
    Another curriculum choivas halevovos shark hbitachon

  10. Dear Nameless,
    It is sad to see someone that has learnt in great yehivos, had the opportunity to absorb Torah from the gedolim… and at the end, he is proud of some “Ivy League degree”.
    What you left obvious to all to see, is that your way of thinking is totally perverted by the Ivy League schooling lifestyle, and has no relations to daas torah.
    You are proud that some of your yeshiva colleagues got some good jobs? so what? bottom line, they failed in yeshiva…
    I know many much wealthier people that don’t have a “professional IVY League degree” to hang on the wall.

  11. im trying to understand mr “MK”
    why is the fact that he has an ivy leauge degree diametrically oppsed to him absorbing torah from gedolim
    he did both.
    he did not fail in yeshiva
    he did both and is now supporting his family bechavod
    i happen to be a proud philly talmid as well

    kudos to the one who wrote this article

  12. The legendary menahel of Mesivta Rabbi Chaim Berlin, R’ Chaim Segal TZATZAL continually told us that if we misbehaved during LIMUDEI CHOL and did not try to do our best we were OIVER on GENEIVAH from our parents as part of the tuition payments covered LIMUDEI CHOL.

  13. “I know many much wealthier people that don’t have a “professional IVY League degree” to hang on the wall.”

    Sure there are ,
    But there are probably more who tried and….

    • Yes, there were plenty yidden thinking out of the box thruout generations and ended leaving the box altogether.

      Nothing wrong with the yeshivah link you sent me to…..BUT. Just start with little things out of the boxs and snowballs into big things, if not this generation its the next…

  14. Most of the big heimisha names in real estate and big business today, who are supporting the yeshivo’s did NOT go to college. The so called “professionals” are hardly ever heard from as far as large donations to mosdos are concerned. This is true, in the Chassidishe, Sfardishe , and Litvishe velt. A working stiff with a fancy degree ain’t going to get him places. Just saying.

    • I don’t know where you live, but I know many people who have fancy degrees, make a lot of money, and give a lot of tzedakah, as well as supporting shuls and mosdos. Your opposition to knowledge does not make everyone with an education stingy. Just because some people have made it without an education, it doesn’t mean that an education doesn’t help. Besides, most professions require degrees. Lawyers, doctors, CPAs, and numerous other professionals require college degrees. Good luck getting a college degree with an 8th grade education.

    • Yes, but the regular people who are making ends meet without becoming gvirim DO actually need to be able to come across as basically intelligent and coherent – unlike many of those who have left comments to this post.

    • Look at this person spouting nonsense as fact! So all those docters and lawyers? What about those business owners with degrees? What about the scientists? You think people who invent things for the jewish community dont have any enginering degrees?

  15. Simply a fact,
    Perhaps that is true, especially because a professional education and a job has salary ceiling, even if very high, while business does not.
    The other side of the coin is that most of those on programs or tomchei shabbos packages ALSO do not have higher education. The vast majority of them don’t. So, saying that 10 gevirim ended up super rich straight out of their yeshivos, without listing the 100 who remained super poor, isn’t perfectly honest.
    Not everyone is cut out for business, has the acumen, the skills, or the financial backing needed to get off the ground. Just as the ma’amar of Chazal that a thousand enter the Beis Hamidrash and one exits as a posek, great many attempt business careers, and very very few make it rich.
    Lastly, it’s not the large donations that lie at the heart of this matter. It is the ability to support one’s family without needing assistance, to put decent food on the table, and to pay one’s children’s tuitions. Were this to happen, there wouldn’t be the need for those large donations to mosdos from the few successes you mentioned.

  16. The author should have stressed that having a profession builds character perhaps(punctuality, initiative, honesty, self-discipline, and so forth).

    However we ought to ponder:Does it still?

    For one ,
    it’s been explored elsewhere but rarely in conjunction with questions that are inextricably related to the issue of what work is, and how we’ve settled on “full-time jobs” as the only path to being a happy, productive adult man.

    In the postmodern workplace men are being be feminised because the “boss” happens to be a woman. It is extremely difficult to work at a high level (Banking, Accounting) for a woman boss.

    Until now, the principle of productivity has functioned as the reality principle that made the American Dream seem plausible. ‘Work hard, play by the rules, get ahead’, or, ‘You get what you pay for, you make your own way, you rightly receive what you’ve honestly earned’ – such homilies and exhortations used to make sense of the world. At any rate they didn’t sound delusional. By now they do.


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