Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Preventable Deaths

Amotz Asa-El really gets it. As he reports in the Jerusalem Post there has recently been a rash of preventable deaths of Charedi youths due to their ill-preparedness in attempting to do a little adventurous activity during their summer vacation. Of course as most people know by now, the response of the Israeli rabbinic leadership was to totally ban such activity. What activity should these young men pariticpate in recreationally?

The yeshiva boys," read an announcement that followed a meeting at Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv's house, "should use this time for its intended purpose, rest and strengthening the study of the sacred Torah, and not for... going on trips”

Isn’t that the best way to relax? … by working on Torah learning skills? Right!!! It would be like telling a surgeon to relax by working on his surgical skills… or a plumber to relax by working on his plumbing skills.

People who do the kind of intense studying that Yeshiva students do during the course of a semester in a Yeshiva need to relax by doing an entirely different activity. Doing more of the same is not a way to relax. For some people that means doing something outdoors.

In order to be able to do that properly without endangering oneself one needs to learn the proper skills to do so. One needs preparation. But that just won’t do in a world consumed with Talmud Torah. It contradicts the guiding principle of life as annunciated by Rav Schach just before he died of ‘lernin, lernin lernin’. For those who do not understand Yiddish, lernin means learning Torah. No way can any time be spared to learn some basic survival skills. Nope, just ban the activity instead and stay home!

Never mind that some of the greatest Torah names in recent history have taken vacation trips to places far away from the Beis Hamedrash. Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch had come back from a vacation to the Swiss Alps. He was asked, “Rav Samson, could you not find a better way to spend your vacation then going to see the Swiss Alps? He answered, that he went on vacation there so that when he came to reap his final reward in Heaven and was asked by God, ‘Nu, Rav Samson, have you seen My Alps?’ he wanted to be sure and answer in the affirmative. And he wasn’t the only Gadol to take such vacations.

Amotz Asa-El is so on the money here that any further comment by me would be superfluous. His killer comments on this issue are the following:

TO UNDERSTAND the ultra-Orthodox rabbis' fear of their youths' quest to hike, one must read Knesset member Meir Porush's acrobatic response to the demand that funding for ultra-Orthodox schools be conditioned on their teaching English and math.

After trying to change the subject to the secular system's flaws, which of course are numerous but also immaterial, and after nitpicking over the Hebrew term used for core-curriculum - liba - which comes from lev, or heart, thus ostensibly suggesting that math and English will now be more important than Judaism, Porush finally came to the point: "Only our rabbis can decide what is at the heart of what we teach."