Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Threat of Euclid

Here in Israel, United Torah Judaism is circulating the following campaign ad:


For those who can't make out the Hebrew words in the poster, the ad says "EUCLID - Not, it's not the name of a medicine. It's the Greek mathematics mathematician that (the Zionists want) your son to learn about instead of learning Mishnayos." It proceeds to detail how it is important for your children to learn good character, yiras Shamayim and Torah, rather than the foreign wisdom that the government wants them to study, etc.

Now, one question that immediately springs to mind is why Mishnayos and mathematics are presented as an either/or. Nobody is saying that charedim should not learn Mishnayos at all; rather, they are saying that charedim should learn mathematics as well as Mishnayos. Which many Orthodox Jews, in Israel and abroad, manage perfectly well. And they seem to do pretty well at achieving good character and yiras Shamayim, too.

But my colleague Leor Jacobi pointed out something else:



It's a Hebrew translation of Euclid, by Rav Baruch of Shklov. He was encouraged to publish it by his rebbe, the Vilna Gaon. He writes in the introduction that the Gra told him that “according to the measure of what a person lacks in general wisdom, he will lack a hundredfold when it comes to Torah wisdom, because the Torah and general wisdom are closely linked together.”

It looks like United Torah Judaism has set itself up against the Zionists and the Vilna Gaon. Strange, no?

62 comments:

  1. There is of course also the sefer איל משולש by the Vilna Gaon himself, on Euclidean geometry. (A new edition has come out, with nice clear print.)

    My father-in-law, o.b.m., was a math teacher. He tutored quite a few yeshiva students when they took math courses upon leaving, or in tandem with, yeshiva. He could never understand how someone would go off the derech from learning math.

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  2. Is this for real? They should be thankful the evil Zionists want them to study Euclid and not Lucretius.

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  3. Their response is going to be that the Vilna Gaon and others like him can learn mathematics. Jewish children should not waste time on such matters.

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  4. It's probably too early in the translation to mention this, but since you brought it up, there is an English translation of Ayil Meshulash in progress at Wikisource:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ayil_Meshulash

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  5. Haredi children learning Euclidean geometry and Hiloni children learning Mishnayot and Jewish ethics. Then we get real unity.

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  6. Haha Brilliant !
    Now, how bout we start putting up some counter-pashkevillin ?
    Now THAT would really spice things up...

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  7. > Now, one question that immediately springs to mind is why Mishnayos and mathematics are presented as an either/or.

    I was taught that doing anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary was bitul torah. So eating and sleeping were okay, maybe even doing something to relax every now and then so you could return to learning fresh, but anything else was a waste of time for which we’d have to answer after death.

    No one was really expected to live up to such a high standard, but it was presented as the ideal. Time spent learning math is time not spent learning mishnayos.

    As for the Vilna Gaon, well, when the bochurim in yeshiva reach the level of the Vilna Gaon, then they can also learn math. Except, of course, that the Vilna Gaon belonged to the magic class of gedolim who knew everything through learning torah and could have built a jetliner had he wanted to, so even he didn’t waste time studying math but just knew it magically through his learning.

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  8. Very ironic. Of all people to choose, they chose the harmless and Gaon-endorsed Euclid.

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  9. The translation should read, "It's a Greek mathematician that your son will learn about instead of learning Mishnayos."

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  10. The Rambam quotes Euclid in the More 1:73.

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  11. My son, who is almost 17 is studying in a Yeshiva Ketana, loves math and has taught himself high-school level math despite never learning algebra in Talmud Torah.
    The Rosh Yeshiva who was not pleased with my son's performance in general amongh other things didn't like his extracurricular occupations, including the math. he claimed that they are coming at the expense of his Gemara learning.
    At the request of the Rosh Yeshiva we took our son to a professorial who gave us his assessment that my son is highly intelligent and full of intellectual curiosity and therefore. in his opinion. would find himself better in a Yeshiva-High school.
    I went to the Rav of the place where we live (it's a very Charedi place) and he didn't reject the idea at all, on the contrary he was willing to write a letter of recommendation if necessary! But since me and my wife where unsure about such a drastic change, the Rav suggested we go together to HaRav Shteinman for his advice.

    To make a long story short, Rav Shteinman suggested keeping him in the regular Yeshiva but accommodating him with a modification to the regular curriculum: instead of learning bekiyus in the afternoon, he had a longer noon break to spend on extracurricular studies and afterwords had a chavrusha with someone in a Halacha Kolell.
    concerning my son's interest in math Rav Shteinma didn't see any problem, he smiled and said "What's the problem? is there anything wrong with knowing that 1+1=2?"
    My the front of my apartment is full of campaign signs supporting United Torah Judaism, this anti-Euclidean sign isn't among them.

    IMHO, Euclid is the least of the dangers facing the Charedi community, so is the anti-Euclidean Charedi sentiment that is evident in this campaign sign and so are those who think that anti-Euclidean sentiment is the danger facing the Charedi community...

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  12. In fairness, your translation isn't exactly what it says. What it realy says is this:

    "EUCLID - Not, it's not the name of a medicine. It's a Greek mathematician that (the Zionists want) your son to learn about instead of learning Mishnayos".

    So it's not really mathematics they are attacking, but the history of mathematics.

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  13. MO

    Also, speaking of learning Mishnayos, Maseches Kilayim will not make any sense (specifically the 3rd and 6th perakim) without math. Tosafos Yom Tov in fact uses Euclidian math for his proof (he quotes Euclid by name).

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  14. Yeedle: You are, of course, completely correct with your translation, and I feel rather foolish. I am not sure what the ad's point is, though; the arguments about enforcing secular education in Israel are not about secular history (which nobody is proposing to enforce in charedi schools), but rather about mathematics.

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  15. Perhaps UTJ should speak to Rabbi Moshe Lonner of Yeshivah Torah Vodaas, and some of his rabbinic proteges.

    In a "A Sukkah Is Burning:Remembering Williamsburg's Hasidic Transformation"(pgs 46-47), Dr. Philip Fishman, who went on to an academic career in statistics and computer science, warmly reminisces about the elective math courses taught at Torah Vodaas in the 1950's.

    Similarly, Dr. Yitzchak Levine wrote in the Jewish Press about Rabbis Belsky and Steinwurzl:

    “...About twenty years ago my eldest son applied to Mesivtha Torah Vodaath for admission to the ninth grade. Part of the admissions procedure involved an interview with the General Studies principal, Rabbi Moshe Lonner, z”l, who had served in this position for many years. My son and I both met with him, and, during the course of the interview, he asked me about my educational background and what I did for a living. When I replied that I had a PhD in mathematics and that I was a college professor, he was obviously pleased. (I subsequently learned that Rabbi Lonner had an advanced degree in mathematics also.) He then proceeded to outline the general studies curriculum with emphasis on the mathematics component. He spoke of the math courses in the ninth, tenth and eleventh grades and of the excellent instructors he always strove to hire. I then asked him,

    “What mathematics do you teach in the twelfth grade?” He became somewhat crestfallen and replied, “What can I tell you, Dr. Levine? It is not like it was years ago, when boys like Rabbi Belsky and Rabbi Steinwurzl would stay after school and attend an extra math class that I taught. It is not like it was years ago.”

    A friend of mine recalled that when he studied in Torah Vodaath, he and other boys would forgo their lunch hour to attend a calculus course that Rabbi Lonner taught. It is indeed “not like it was years ago.”

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  16. Rav Chaim Kanievsky's Shekel Hakodesh on Hilchot Shekelim and Kiddush Hachodesh has a mathematical work called Kuntres Hamanot which takes up the last 3rd of the book.

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  17. The "mistake" of math or mathematician is of so little consequence. The point of the entire poster is clear.

    But my dear fellows, are you not like Rip Van Winkel or perhaps better Captain America, that has now awaken.

    Has the author and most of the commentators awaken?

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  18. A slightly better translation would have the first word as "no" instead of "not".

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  19. Obviously, the ad is political propaganda. The audience may neither no the difference nor care. There is nothing wrong with learning about Euclid or that 1+1=2, it's just not what mathematics is about. There is a problem with learning math in a charedi school system, but it'snot what they are saying it is.

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  20. I might be getting my rabbi stories mixed up but didn't the Vilna Goan learn math in the bathroom?

    I can see the compromise now...

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  21. Strange? Not at all. Once you understand that these people are in the process of creating a new religion, there's no reason to be surprised at any changes they make or any past Rabbis they diss. They are leaving Conservative Judaism in the dust.

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  22. Wow. I didn't realize Gimmel had gone so far off the cuckoo scale.

    I think we should give them a bit of free advertising. Share that poster on Twitter, Facebook, wherever your Anglo Charedi friends might hang out, along with the byline: "UTJ opposes teaching math to schoolkids. You sure you want to give them your vote?"

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  23. Of course, if the general population knew math (beyond a 8th grade level) we would all be better off.

    That being said, this old canard about the Gaon's talmid writing a book on math has been discredited for the following reasons:

    1) He never wrote it- it's a forgery. (Proof: Euclid stole geometry from us)
    2) He retracted the volume on his deathbed.
    3) He only wrote it for kiruv purposes
    4) It's actually a volume of kabbalistic drush written in a mathematical language to hide its true content
    5) He was allowed to write it, but we're not allowed to read it.
    6) He was compelled to write the book by the government authorities.

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  24. > My son, who is almost 17 is studying in a Yeshiva Ketana, loves math and has taught himself high-school level math despite never learning algebra in Talmud Torah.
    The Rosh Yeshiva who was not pleased with my son's performance in general amongh other things didn't like his extracurricular occupations, including the math. he claimed that they are coming at the expense of his Gemara learning.

    There’s the biggest problem with the yeshiva system in a nutshell. This kid might be a brilliant mathematician, but is instead forced to be a mediocre Talmudist.

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  25. My father had a comment when he saw this poster: "So let them learn non-Euclidean geometry."

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  26. I have to say that Menashe's post made me very sad.

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  27. Who learns Euclid in school anymore (I never heard the name while attending a non-religious high school)?

    This shows something important about Chareidism-- namely how bound up it is with Haskalah. The battles of Chareidism are the battles of the 18th and 19th centuries. They have no other framework to put their struggles even when these frameworks (such as studying Euclid) do not apply anymore.

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  28. That of all things to object to the UTJ would choose harmless Euclid, endoresed by the Gaon, no less, and used by many rishonim in exppaining Mishnayot,is not just ironic; it's crzy. The depth of ignornce displayed is unbelievable. And no, Yeedle, asuming you were serious, the issue is Math, not history of math.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  29. The address of the Telshe Yeshiva, located near Cleveland in Wickliffe, Ohio is...

    28400 Euclid Avenue.

    Shomu shamayim!

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  30. G*3 said...

    > There’s the biggest problem with the yeshiva system in a nutshell. This kid might be a brilliant mathematician, but is instead forced to be a mediocre Talmudist.

    There are false assumptions here:
    1) Just because my son loves math and can teach himself doesn't mean he wants to a mathematician nor does it guarantee he will be a brilliant mathematician. I tried sending him to private math lessons with homework and he wasn't interested, math is a hobby for him.
    2) Who is forcing him to become a Talmudist? We are giving the opportunity to learn Talmud and math, his future path is still opened. the fact that we chose at this stage to keep him in a regular Charedi Yeshiva Ketana instead of a Yeshiva-High school, doesn't mean he still can't be a mathematician if that will be his choice.
    3) Why assume he will become a mediocre Talmudist? Perhaps he will become a brilliant Talmudist? And why assume he isn't interested in becoming a Talmudist?
    4) Even if we assume that my son could be a brilliant mathematician, but is forced to be a mediocre Talmudist. Is the a brilliant mathematician more important for the betterment of the world than a mediocre Talmudist? If my son where to become a "run-of-the-mill" Kollel man for the rest of his life, is the world worse off? Is my son is happy with this outcome is he worse off? I know there is no guarantee he will be happy as a Kollel man but last I checked, being a brilliant mathematician is no guarantee to happiness either.
    If my son could be a brilliant professional world champion Rubik's Cube solver but instead is forced to become mediocre Medical Doctor, would I be justified in saying that is the biggest problem with the Western educational system?

    As far as the Yeshiva system is concerned, no educational system in the world is perfect, in my son's case I believe the system proved flexible enough to accommodate his situation.

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  31. Dan - brilliant irony! Actually, very appropriate. The old Telzers would never have tolerated what goes on in the name of Torah nowadays.

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  32. The value of Euclid goes beyond geometry (see below from Wikepedia), and relates to critical thinking. Abraham Lincoln studied it by lamplight to sharpen his lawyering skills. And(tongue in cheek)the Elements *can* lead to kefirah, since Baruch Spinoza tried to recreate it, and Einstein referred to it as a "holy little geometry book"...

    From Wiki:

    "The Elements is still considered a masterpiece in the application of logic to mathematics. In historical context, it has proven enormously influential in many areas of science. Scientists Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, and Sir Isaac Newton were all influenced by the Elements, and applied their knowledge of it to their work. Mathematicians and philosophers, such as Bertrand Russell, Alfred North Whitehead, and Baruch Spinoza, have attempted to create their own foundational "Elements" for their respective disciplines, by adopting the axiomatized deductive structures that Euclid's work introduced.

    The austere beauty of Euclidean geometry has been seen by many in western culture as a glimpse of an otherworldly system of perfection and certainty. Abraham Lincoln kept a copy of Euclid in his saddlebag, and studied it late at night by lamplight; he related that he said to himself, "You never can make a lawyer if you do not understand what demonstrate means; and I left my situation in Springfield, went home to my father's house, and stayed there till I could give any proposition in the six books of Euclid at sight".[18] Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote in her sonnet Euclid Alone Has Looked on Beauty Bare, "O blinding hour, O holy, terrible day, When first the shaft into his vision shone Of light anatomized!". Einstein recalled a copy of the Elements and a magnetic compass as two gifts that had a great influence on him as a boy, referring to the Euclid as the "holy little geometry book".[19]"

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  33. Thanks for this post R Slifkin, clearly shows some of the mistaken priorities in the charedi world.

    I was also browsing through the Torah/Science/Chazal source listing from 2006/2010, and was wondering if a one document version of it exists if I wanted to print it? Thanks.

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  34. I can verify that Rav Belsky attended Rabbi Lonner's course in trigonometry that was a senior year elective given after normal school hours in Torah Vodaath. He was also the star student in this and other secular subjects. Such secular knowledge and extensive reading did him no harm - other than in the eyes of some Hareidim. Others call him a genius for his store of knowledge, in addition to the sifrei kodesh that a talmid chacham is expected to know.

    The cited pashkvil should be embarassing even in the Hareidi world for its demonstrated ignorance as well as narrow-mindedness. You can't properly analyze some sugyot and mishnayot without some knowledge of geometry. Those more serious yeshiva students whose eyes glaze over when encountering such sugyot should feel embarassed by their ignorance and strive to achieve a minimal knowledge of such matters.

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  35. There is a flaw in your argument in bringigng Rabbi Sklov.
    The man is dead now how do you know what he would say if he would be living in Bnei Brak in 2013?
    Its a different generation which requires a new perspective.
    Take for example mixed seating by weddings etc. In my day, great Rabbonim would grace the tables by these charedi simchos, yet today even MO usually have separate seating.
    Its because today immorality is so widespread we need to combat it head on.
    Same with this mathematics issue, its for the leaders of OUR GENERATION to decide what the dor needs not a zoologist from Bet Shemesh

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  36. Do you have some source for secular subjects being taught as a general rule in yeshivos prior to, let's say, 200 years ago? Did Jews suffer as a result of not formally studying them?

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  37. "He was also the star student in this and other secular subjects"

    Here is an interesting quote from R. Daniel Eidensohn in conversation with R. Belsky(Daas Torah Blog, “Rav S. R. Hirsch & his contemporary incarnation – Rabbi Slifkin”, 11/6/11, Comments) :

    “I had a discussion a number of years ago with Rav Belsky in which I asked him about his knowledge of Science. He said when he went to high school the sciences were taken seriously. He noted that because secular subjects have become marginalized the rabbis have become increasing ignorant of these fields – even when it applies to fields such as medicine and kashrus.”

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  38. I wouldn't call Rav Belsky any kind of scientific expert. But in his circles, a little scientific knowledge and jargon goes a long way.

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  39. Reb Yid: you are correct, in the old days, children learned only Torah in Yeshivos. And their fathers taught them a trade, so that when their time in yeshiva was up and it was time to get married and raise a family, they had some productive and marketable skills that they could use to earn a parnossa.

    Do you have some source from even 50 years ago, that married men spent their entire lives in the yeshiva and were actively discouraged from earning a living and encouraged to live off tzedaka?

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  40. "But in his circles, a little scientific knowledge and jargon goes a long way."

    I'm not one to judge, but it's known that R. Belsky is knowledgeable about a broad range of topics both within and outside of Torah. I doubt, though, that being self-educated qualifies him to teach science in a university or makes him a medical authority to file an amicus curiae on metzizah b'peh.

    Like Chasidishe stories, some may tell tall tales about their rebbeim's knowledge of secular studies (similar to the exaggerated quote in the Ami article about frum scientists--“I sent them to the biggest scientists, who understand science far better than anything they read on the web").

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  41. a chossid from BelzJanuary 16, 2013 at 10:01 PM

    I must put in my 2 cents here.
    I feel for RNS to say "Rabbi Belski is no expert in the sciences yet in his circles it goes a long way" is downright chutzpah.
    I fully understand your position in not trusting Rabbi Belski on the sciences as he is no expert, yet in this very post you seem to contradict that notion yourself.
    You see the ziknei hador who are involved with the inner workings of klal yisruel day in day out for decades have more expertise in what this nation needs,mathematics or mishna, far more than a mere 37 year old who studies the inner workings of leopards.
    So Rabbi Slifkin, its time to come clean, do you follow the experts yes or no,if you dont follow Rabbi Belski as he is no expert in the sciences you have no right to voice your opinion on the expertise of gedolim who know this nation so much better than you.

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  42. Your comment is not very coherent, but I'll address what I think you are asking.

    I respect the opinion of experts in realms where expertise is relevant.

    In science, expertise is relevant. Rav Belsky is no kind of expert in any field of science, as far as I know.

    In matters such as how much time to allocate to secular studies, there is no such thing as expertise, since, as Rav Bloch says in Shiurei Daas, this depends on hashkafos and values, which differ between communities etc.

    The irony of UTJ is that they claim to be following some sort of pristine mesorah, but they are clearly not.

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  43. Menashe ,

    My comment was meant for the yeshiva system in general more than your son in particular.

    I get it, if you see learning gemara as the reason the world exists, as the yeshivish world does, it follows from there that math is just a distraction. Unfortunately, that means that guys are given only one option, gemara, and made to feel like they failed if they don’t excel at it.

    Your right, of course, your son may not be a great mathematician. But then again, maybe he would. His yeshiva would prefer than we don’t find out, because either way, the yeshivish world holds that a guy who struggles with gemara (whether or not that applies to your son) is greater than someone who excels at anything else.

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  44. MO said,"This shows something important about Chareidism-- namely how bound up it is with Haskalah. The battles of Chareidism are the battles of the 18th and 19th centuries. They have no other framework to put their struggles even when these frameworks (such as studying Euclid) do not apply anymore."

    On the surface, at least, the similarity with the battle against the haskalah is very striking: a secular government, compelling yeshivot to incorporate secular subjects into the yeshiva curriculum, and trying to explain to them that it's for their own good.
    What is different now to make charedim less suspicious about the Board of Education's motives?

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  45. Euclid is basic mathematics? I always thought it was much more advanced. As in "They want them to learn high level, not needed for every-day living, math".

    Most people don't use even high-school level math in their daily lives, relying instead on basic mathematics. So the fact that chareidi high-school equivalents in Israel don't teach math anymore isn't really the same as not learning math...

    And Euclidian math isn't "basic math".

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  46. I, too, am embarrassed by this UTJ poster, especially your hostile translation of it, Rabbi Slifkin.

    Why do you add only the phrase "(the zionists)"? Why not "(the evil, hook-nosed, zionists)"?

    Surely such an addition would reveal the proper level of your contempt and be far more effective in embarrassing me and my fellow UTJ voters, the Torah Leaders who stand behind advise UTJ, and, by and large, Israel's Torah community.

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  47. A bit of preaching to the choir here, but if math is required to understand (some) Gemarah, then what about it exactly is "secular"?

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  48. Reb Yid: There were no yeshivot (in the modern sense) before 200 (well 210) years ago. If one were going to have studies beyond cheder, one learned with the shtot Rov.

    But I thought Lobachevsky and Riemann proved that Euclid was mathematical kefira in the 1800's anyway :)

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  49. "So let them learn non-Euclidean geometry."

    LOL Yossi - Great comment by your dad!

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  50. UTJ voter, what is your point? That RNS has as much contempt for UTJ as UTJ has for everyone else? And if so, so what?

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  51. "The address of the Telshe Yeshiva, located near Cleveland in Wickliffe, Ohio is...

    28400 Euclid Avenue."

    Dan, it's even worse than than. The entrance to the Yeshivah is off of . . . Bishop Road.

    Shomu Shamayim, indeed.

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  52. Shades of Gray wrote

    "Perhaps UTJ should speak to Rabbi Moshe Lonner of Yeshivah Torah Vodaas, and some of his rabbinic proteges."

    Rabbi Lonner is, to the best of my knowledge, no longer in this world.

    Thanks for quoting from my article in the Jewish Press.

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  53. Dr. Levine, I have a somewhat similar story about my oldest son who was looking for a bet-medrash after graduating from a yeshiva ketana. I took him to my old alma mater that had relocated to Flatbush. My son took one look at the bet-medrash and offered the observation that all the guys wore white shirts. That did not sit well with him. We then met for a little while with my old classmate, Rav Belsky, but my son's impression and objection didn't change. Ultimately that son went to YU, became one of Prof. Feldman's proteges, got private semicha, and became a chaplain.

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  54. Dr. Levine,

    I stand corrected about R. Lonner Z'l. This is from Dr. Fishman's book about R. Lonner which you can view on Google books("A Sukkah Is Burning: Remembering Williamsburg's Hasidic Transformation", pgs. 46-47):

    "In addition to his administrative talents he was also a fine mathematician and my excellent teacher of trigonometry and advanced algebra during that last senior year. These elective classes were taught by him after regular school hours, between 6:30 and 7:30PM for those students who were motivated...Some years after my graduation these advanced classes were cancelled. Rabbi Lonner--who always took pride in the excellence of his high school math curriculum—told me and others of his sadness over this turn of events. Happily, I was recently informed by the current assistant principle, Rabbi Moshe Lamm, that trigonometry is again being taught and that he is teaching it. He is continuing a worthy tradition."

    (I imagine the current trig class is for meeting the NYS Regents requirements, rather than optional)

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  55. "So it's not really mathematics they are attacking, but the history of mathematics."

    Might I offer a different interpretation? I figured (hoped?) that they weren't attacking learning math, maybe not even advanced math. And I didn't think it referred to learning about the history of math. Rather, I suggest they were attacking "Greek Wisdom". (And they picked the wrong example, thinking Euclid was a top representative of Greek Wisdom.) And by "Greek Wisdom", I don't mean literally ancient Greek Wisdom, but whatever would be considered analogous to that category nowadays.
    -- Again, this is just a suggestion.

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  56. Or, and who knows if this is a stretch, maybe they confused Euclid with the philosopher Euclid of Megara:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euclid_of_Megara

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  57. Maybe Euclidian geometry can lure gullibe people into being parallel to the derech (PTD).

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  58. Even Rishonim like Rambam did not have mathematics as part of the curriculum for "tinokot shel beit rabban". Leaving it as a skill to be learned by advanced students preparing for the transition from davar katan to davar gadol. Similarly the gra wasn't encouraging teaching geometry at primary school level. (this is ignoring arithmetic needed for parnassa and calcuations which arise in studying davar katan, neither of which need the many hours which schools give for secular studies)

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  59. Perspectives on Secular Studies

    http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/list-audio-shiurim/43-philosophy/541-perspectives-on-secular-studies


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  60. I've really enjoyed following the give-and-take on this post, but it was especially interesting to read the comments about my grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Lonner, z"l. I appreciate the opportunity to connect with a side of him I was barely aware of. I will definitely check out Dr. Fishman's book.

    That said, I wonder (knowing of him what I do) exactly where he would stand on the political issue.

    Always fascinating, Rabbi Slifkin.

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  61. None of this should be surprising. It's become a widespread trend in the amongst the ultra-orthodox to neglect secular studies. See this story which has just broken in New York:
    http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130122/crown-heights/english-is-absent-math-doesnt-count-at-brooklyns-biggest-yeshivas#ixzz2IpSNuqSn

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  62. Science has always been a part of yeshiva studies. The great Moses ben Maimon was one of the most learned men not just in Mishna Torah but he was a toxicologist and wrote the first treatise on poisonous plants. My roots are from the same part of Spain as Maimonides and my grandfather was a talmudic scholar at the Telshe Yeshiva in Lithuania. I chose toxicology over studying Torah. But science is not more important, it is equally important. I am using my science to help destroy and control the exact types of chemical and biological weapons that are in Syria (and I may even have to go there at some point in time). It is my strong faith and knowledge of Torah that I learned from my grandfather that allows me to be a good scientist.

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