Friday, September 30, 2005

On Children's Aspirations Part II

In my previous post, Mississippi Fred McDowell made the following comment:

>He looked at her and said "We had hopes that he'd aspire to be a Rosh Yeshiva."

This is exactly the kind of stale thinking that Eliezer Berkovitz deplored, particularly in his history of Halakhah, "Lo Bashamayim Hi". He points out that in a real society there simply must--must!--be doctors as well as sanitation workers as well as scholars as well as even artists and poets--and zoologists too. The Torah envisions us as having a real society. Sadly, to many in leadership positions like your son's principal don't get that.

Truthfully, it doesn't take Eliezer Berkovitz to tell you that a society can't have *everyone* doing the same thing. Even in primitive hunter-gatherer societies, where the vast majority of the population of any given group *did*, in fact, hunt and gather, you still had some specialists who performed other necessary tasks. This is all the moreso in the non-hunter-gatherer society that we live in.

The problem, as I see it, is that much of the Chariedi Yeshiva world wants it both ways - they want to be isolated and have their own community free from the influence of the "outside world" and yet, still be able to have Torah as everyone's occupation. They look back at Jewish history and read Midrashim on the existence of the Jews in the wilderness, where they spent all their time learning Torah (taking, for the sake of argument, that this is factual) and all their needs were taken care of by heaven.

Unfortunately, we don't live in that sort of world. We don't have manna coming down from heaven to provide us with food. Our clothes and our shoes do, indeed, wear out. We don't have heavenly clouds to provide shelter for us. We have to go out and earn our living by the sweat of our brow. And this is all well within the guidelines of the Torah. The Torah clearly recognizes that people can be farmers, business people, shipwrights, craftsmen, etc. - and not on a "if you can't/won't learn full time" basis - but as a preferred option. Sure, in some pipe dream world it would be nice if everyone could be a Rosh Yeshiva. In a similar scenario in the secular world, it would be nice if everyone could grow up to be the President of the United States. But that isn't going to happen. And the fact that there are millions of people who don't become the President doesn't take away from their intrinsic self-worth. Likewise, someone becoming a zoologist, a computer programmer, a doctor, a lawyer, a plumber, etc., doesn't take away from their intrisic self-worth as a Jew. Certainly one is required to learn when he can - no one is disputing that - but the idea that people are "failures" or "disappointments" because they don't want to (or don't have the temperment to) be engaged in Torah learning 24/7 is downright fallacious.

The Torah recognizes that a society has to have people of all occupations to survive. It's too bad that there are segments within our population that can't see this obvious fact.

The Wolf

9 comments:

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

The Dor Ha-midbor analogy is interesting.

Of course the Dor Ha-midbor died in unmarked graves in an undiscovered dessert.

Mis-nagid said...

They're buried with the abominable snowman. Elvis sang at the funeral, and Jimmy Hoffa gave a stirring eulogy.

daaty said...

tHE CHAREIDI YESHIVA WORLD SEES THE ROSH YESHIVA AS THE GOAL.If we find one out of a thousand we are happy.But what happens to the other 999?

The Hedyot said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your point, but IMHO, your argument is insufficient and even kind of contradictory. For example, at one point you acknowledge that not being a learner should not be construed in any way as less than ideal, but in another part you say:

“We don't have manna coming down from heaven to provide us with food. Our clothes and our shoes do, indeed, wear out. We don't have heavenly clouds to provide shelter for us. We have to go out and earn our living by the sweat of our brow.”

This statement implies that in an ideal world we would all be learning all the time, but due to our current reality we are forced to engage in other activities. Using such an argument only supports those who push the “Learning is the end all and be all for everyone” argument. After all, isn’t that the ideal according to such a view? And don't we want to encourage our youth to reach for the ideal?

A different (and better IMHO) argument to present is that God wants this world to be built and bettered, and for each of us to find our unique path to fulfillment and satisfaction, which we can do best by accomplishing and achieving all that we can, using all of our unique skills and talents. We all have different paths to reach that goal. The true ideal is that we all utilize our God-given capabilities to be the most we can be. For some that most is to invent new technologies. For others, to teach. For others, to study molecular biology, or nature, or animals, or to explore other cultures, or to be a criminal psychologist, or a rov, or a therapist, or an engineer, or a marine biologist, or a sports instructor, or an artist, or a community leader, or a nuclear physicist, or a plumber, or a kollel person, or a defense attorney, or a film producer, or a stay-at home parent, or... whew!

The Hedyot said...

If it truly is proper that everyone should be learning, why did God officially only designate one tribe to be the learners (Levi)? (Actually, there might have been a second, if we are to take the whole Yissachar/Zevulen idea of one tribe supporting the other as reality. But even if so, it was only them, and no other.)

Still Wonderin' said...

"For others, to teach. For others, to study molecular biology, or nature, or animals, or to explore other cultures, or to be a criminal psychologist, or a rov, or a therapist, or an engineer, or a marine biologist, or a sports instructor, or an artist, or a community leader, or a nuclear physicist, or a plumber, or a kollel person, or a defense attorney, or a film producer, or a stay-at home parent, or"

These are the people in your neighborhood,
in your neighborhood,
in your neighbor-hoo-ood.

These are the people in your neighborhood.
They're the people that you meet each day.

The Hedyot said...

These are the people in your neighborhood...

Maybe your neighborhood. Not the ones my family lives in.

Anonymous said...

My very socialist teacher in (public) school once even acknowledged how terrible it would be if everyone were the same and he showed up to McDonald's and there was nobody there to flip his burger.

I wonder what the Orthodox world would be if we did not have professionals for the top poskim to speak with about medical issues, legal issues, and more.

BrooklynWolf said...

Anon: I wonder what the Orthodox world would be if we did not have professionals for the top poskim to speak with about medical issues, legal issues, and more.

Actually, Anon, that was the subject of my very first post.

For whatever it's worth (and that's probably not much at all), I asked Heshy this very same question when he posted that Jews are forbidden to attend college. The conversation went as follows:

Heshy:As Jews we oppose all young Jews attending college as college is a place where people lose their minds through the study of atheism and evolution.

Wolf:Does your post mean that there should be no frum doctors, lawyers or dentists, since college is a prerequisite for these professions?

Heshy:We dont need Jewish doctors.Let the goyim be the doctors.We should be the Torah scholars.

Wolf:No Jewish doctors, hmmm? You don't think it's useful to have someone with medical knowledge who can help when it comes to a medical halachic question?

Heshy ::crickets chirping::

The Wolf