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Bad Influences

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#1 torah613



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Posted 18 October 2012 - 09:14 PM

On the old site, the moderator spoke about the importance of not exposing ourselves at all to bad influences amd staying completely away:


I saw the following from Rav Hirsch:

“Collected writings of RSRH volume VII”. - Page 413:

“He was a wonderful man who was imbued with true Jewish spirit and he was a shining example of piety. His home was filled with torah and mitzvos, an oasis in a world that was filled with moral and spiritual corruption. Anything that bore even the faintest tinge of un-jewish belief was kept far away. This man was one of the most outstanding and devoted champions of tradition in Jewish communal life, he fought against all forbidden innovations. He viewed so-called modern education as the worst threat to Jewish survival. Moreover, in order to protect his children from the poison of modern education he not only anxiously isolated them them from every contact with the modern world but filled them with arrogant contempt for all other knowledge and scholarship that he deemed as nothing compared to the study of torah. So what happened to this man?

It is said that this man died of a broken heart, grief stricken because not even one of his children remained Jewish, not in feeling or practice. All of them, as teens and later in manhood, had been spiritually ruined by the very things he had so zealously sought to protect them.

But anyone who would have evaluated this fathers approach could have predicted these sad results from the outset. The very best way to have our children catch a cold on the very first time they go outdoors, is to shelter them from fresh air. If we want our children to develop a resistance to every kind of weather we must expose them to wind and rain at an early age in order to harden their bodies. This rule holds good not only for a child's physical health but equally for his spiritual and moral well-being.

It is not enough to teach our children to love and perform their duties as Jews within the home and family, among like minded companions. It is wrong to keep them ignorant between the present-day differences between the world outside and the Jewish way of life, or to teach them to regard the non-Jewish elements in the Jewish world as polluting, infectious agents to avoid at all costs.

The reality is that our children will move in circles influenced and shaped by these results. They will come within the radius of this secular human wisdom, whether it be in lecture halls of academia or in the pages of literature. They will then come to overrate secular studies in the same measure they have been taught to despise them. You will then see that your simple minded calculations are as criminal as they were perverse. Your child will consequently begin to doubt all of Judaism which (so, at least it must seem from your behavior) can exist only in the night and darkness of ignorance and which must close its eyes and the minds of its adherents to the light of all knowledge if it is not to perish!”

Doesn't this seem to contradict the hashkafa that the moderator explained?

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 21 October 2012 - 01:05 PM

No. What's the connection?

Do you think that Rav Hirsch is saying that you should go send your children to socialize with drug dealers, or do you think he would say you should tell your children to stay away?

Of course he would say to stay away. But if you live in the projects it would be futile to merely rely on keeping your children away. You also need to communicate to them that drugs aren't worth it.

That's what Rav Hirsch is saying. Of course you should stay away from bad influences. But if your children will not or cannot stay away from them, then you need to make them understand that the bad influences are not as attractive as they seem. (Believe it or not, Rav Schwab writes that when he was a kid, all the Bar Mitzvah boys, including himself, would receive a set of Schiller like they did a set of Rambam and Minchas Chinuch! Secularism was just totally out of control in Germany back then.)

So in Rav Hirsch's time, when the winds of Haskala were blowing with gale force, you need to make sure your children understand that secular knowledge is not nearly as valuable as the secularists and the Maskilim claim it is. Who would disagree with that?

But of course, Rav Hirsch agreed that if you could keep your children away from bad influences, you should - which is why he says, in the piece that you quoted from him, that he is saying what he is saying only because for this particular Yetzer Horah, preventing exposure will not work. But when it will work, of course that's what you should do.

Which is why, of course, Rav Hirsch doesn't say to run around introducing your children to all Avodah Zorahs and Taavos in the world. Rav Hirsch was talking strategy, not Hashkafa.

And of course, where strategy is concerned, every time and place - and every individual person, even - needs a unique assessment to see what is the best strategy for him / then / there. And also for the particular Yetzer Horah. You don't want to introduce a slightly addictive personality to even one taste of opium, for example.

The Hashaka is to avoid bad influences as much as possible. The strategy is to help each individual grow according to his abilities. Rav Hirsch's writing reflects that.

Nobody disagrees with this. On the other end of the spectrum, the Satmar Rebbe used to speak in different Shuls in Satmar on different Shabbosos. He had very different crowds on very different levels, and he had to address them all.

In the Shul where his Chasidim davened, he would speak sometimes about the prohibition of wearing Shatlach (meaning, Shatilach aren't sufficient); and in some other Shuls he would speak about how they are obligated to wear Shaitlach. For some people it was a step up and for others it was a step down.

The ideal, obviously, he held, was not to wear merely a shaitel. But you need to deal with everyone on their level.

That's all Rav Hirsch was doing.