(Heard from Rav Shimshon Pincus Z”L)
I once gave a ride to a wonderful teenager who studies in a Hesder Yeshiva in Israel. This wonderful boy is the son of a prominent American born physician who has resided in Israel (where he practices) for many years and who has a very choshuv family all around (including this boy).
I don’t know why, but at some point during the ride, I opened my mouth and asked the bochur if in his imagination, were Moshiach to come today and the holy Rambam would get up with Tchiyas Hameisim, would he wear a Kippa Serugah (a knitted white yarmulka) similar to what this boy was wearing? After some hemming and hawing, the boy reluctantly admitted that he didn’t think so.
Well, several days later I received a thank you note from this boys father, who is a Talmid Chacham in his own right. The letter stated; “Kvod Harav Pincus, thank you very much for giving my son a ride recently. He told me about the question you posed regarding the RAMBAMS probable mode of dress and I therefore have a question to ask of you as well.
In your imagination, were the RAMBAM to get up today with Tchiyas Hameisim, do you think he would be offered a teaching position as a Rebbe or Rosh Yeshiva in any of today’s Chareidi mainstream Yeshivos, given his prolific accomplishments and standing in the world of Medicine, Philosophy etc.”??
Wow!! That was a real punch this father gave me and I deserved it considering my interrogation of his son!
However, the truth is, I do have an answer to offer for this Doctors question, which I feel is the pure truth (I did not answer the Father specifically, but I’d like to share it with you nonetheless).
The RAMBAM himself writes in his Seforim in very strong terms regarding his pursuits in Medicine and Academia. He writes that “I swear” that all of my accomplishments in these pursuits, were nothing more than “maidservants” “cleaning help” and the equivalent thereof. However my passion and love for Hashems Torah Hakedosha, “Hi hagevia, ayeles ahavim v’yalas chein” – “She is the sole love of my life and the head of my household”!
Let me explain what the RAMBAM is saying here, by way of the following analogy.
Imagine for yourself a rich individual who lives with his family in a very large mansion. In order for the house to run smoothly, he must hire professional cleaning help, including live-in maids and female cooks who help his own wife with the daily chores and maintenance.
Now imagine one day, a member of the family notices the man of the house looking at one of his maidservants in a manner that would suggest more than a simple passing gaze. Rather, it would seem that the man of the house has become infatuated with this woman. The family member should (correctly) advise him to immediately release this woman from her position and have her leave the house and his employ! Now imagine if this fellow would persist and argue, “but I have no choice, I need her here to help my wife with all of the chores etc.”…. The proper response to this fellow is to practically shout; YOUR HOUSE SHOULD BECOME A PIGSTY BUT THROW THIS WOMAN OUT OF THIS HOUSE IMMEDIATELY, BECAUSE OTHERWISE YOUR ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD WILL BLOW UP!!!
In other words, it it clear that the potential disaster to his entire family life which this man is (literally) flirting with, is far more dangerous than the thought that his house might become messy!
This, then, is what the RAMBAM was proclaiming loud and clear for all future generations when he discussed his connection to his pursuits outside of Torah! He was emphatically stating that all of his accomplishments in Philosophy, Medicine etc., which were all necessary and important to his sustenance, were nothing more than “maidservants” etc. However, he was testifying and indeed swearing, that he never developed an unhealthy passion for these pursuits which would have steered him away from his true passion and ONLY love for the Torah Hakedosha!!
And I might add here; How does one know and how can one determine the truthfuleness and veracity of the RAMABAMS self testimonial? The answer is simple. Pardon me for being direct, but where there is love…there are children….
Who were the “children” of the RAMBAM? The RAMBAMS children were his illustrious descendants, including his Son, who were Gedolei Torah and Ovdei Hashem!
In addition, the RAMBAMS priceless “children” which he bequeathed to the Jewish people for all of the generations, are his brilliant and classic works on the entire Shas/Torah which are studied in all of the Yeshivos until today!!
You won’t find people studying the RAMBAMS accomplishments in medicine and philosophy etc. in any of the Universities, but there is nary a yeshiva or beis medrash anywhere in the world that doesn’t have worn out copies of the RAMBAMS works!!
There is no greater testimonial to the RAMBAMS own testimony than the above!
Herein, lies what I believe is the answer to this fellows original question and it’s intended implications, when he inquired as to whether the RAMBAM would receive a teaching position in any of today’s mainstream Yeshivos.
The reality of our times is that people tend to be weak in our spiritual resolve and commitment, in the face of all of the distractions (whether of an immoral, cultural, social, or other nature) which we are constantly bombarded with.
Kept in the proper context, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with many of the pursuits, accomplishments and degrees in the various arts, professions, sciences and academia. In fact, when these pursuits enable a person to feel a sense of accomplishment, not to mention the ability to earn an honest living, he is to be commended for such efforts.
However, these pursuits are intened to be nothing more than “maidervants”, “cooks” etc. (like in the above scenario), to enable us to properly navigate the vicissitudes of life and to achieve our true purpose on this Earth.
However, our problem is one of “balance”. We tend to get so caught up in these areas, that we forget our true purpose on this Earth and instead we develop an unhealthy “passion” and “infatuation” for our “maidservants”.
If we would collectively have the ability to be able to keep everything in the proper perspective today – as in the RAMBAMS life and times, then the mainstream Yeshivos would have nothing to fear from secular education (and perhaps might even embrace it).
However, history has proven that we collectively teeter on the brink of developing an unhealthy passion and infatuation of/for these secular pursuits as a means unto itself (instead of simply a means to an end). Therefore, the Chareidi Yeshiva system has determined that it has no choice but to counter this threat (by moving to the other extreme) by removing any emphasis etc. from pursuits in these areas, in order to hopefully reinforce and channel our efforts into the pursuit of the one true passion – growth in Torah and Avodas Hashem!!
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