Torah Guidance

By: Daniella Weiss  |  October 22, 2023

By Daniella Weiss, Staff Writer

Personally, I feel privileged to attend Yeshiva University, Stern College for Women. It is a great blessing that the Jewish people today have their own college where they can decide what to teach their students at an academically advanced level, and to enable the spiritual growth of their students through Torah classes ranging from Tanach to Halacha. At Yeshiva University, the Torah U’Madda approach is a core value and provides the foundation for the institution. This approach, as from the Yeshiva University website, “is the pursuit of the study of Torah along with secular disciplines, but its highest form is a level of integration in which each pursuit enriches the other.” It’s a mitzvah (positive command) to make a parnassah (living) to support a family, and secular studies are a mitzvah to learn as said in the Gemara (Kiddushin 82a), a man should teach his son a trade. I am writing this article because it’s important to raise attention to something when you have the ability to stand up. We learn this from the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah, in the section on Teshuva, that one of the twenty four deeds which hold back repentance, is one who has the ability to inform others of a mistake and refrains from doing so is held accountable. As a student, I feel it is my responsibility to speak out as Pirkei Avos (2:5) says, “in a place where there is no leader, strive to be a leader.”

Since Torah U’Madda implies by its definition that the secular studies must, “enrich” the Jewish studies, they therefore cannot be at odds with one another. Thus, it is essential that all of the secular classes cannot infringe on proper Torah Hashkafa and Halacha. Sadly, I must regretfully say that some classes have been found not to meet this standard. Like many students at Stern, I attended a Jewish Orthodox High School where I learnt secular subjects. All appropriate Jewish Schools have Rabbanim who are consulted to ensure that only appropriate and tasteful content is being taught to the students entrusted to their institution. I have heard from other students, but I can speak even for myself, that I have sat in a music class where I learned about and listened to Baroque music written about a love story in Greek mythology. As I sat there, I thought to myself that perhaps this would fall under the violation in the Torah, to be exposed to heretical ideas to hear how Greek Gods interacted with mortals. I sat there silently, because I must take this class as a required course to graduate with my degree. How can this be at a Torah institution, where I have learnt beautiful lessons about Tanakh and Halacha? In another class, a literature course, I sat there and listened to a story that portrays what should be private between a husband and wife and graphic language about the human body. There is also language in the novels that any decent human being should never say. How can this be? How can I stay silent? In my heart, I know that there is something wrong. This can’t be something that a Jewish girl can let her ears hear or her eyes read. Yet I have yet to find someone who speaks up. Here I stand because I can’t remain silent. There must be a change. Heretical ideas and immoral ideas are prohibited for Jewish men and women, as well under the verse in Bamidbar 15:39, “and you shouldn’t follow after your heart and your eyes that you stray after. ” The goal of this writing is for the sole purpose of trying to raise awareness, so that the Rabbanim at Yeshiva University will review what is being taught to students in  secular subjects like music, literature, and art history. Then, they can ensure that only material that aligns with the Torah Hashkafa of Yeshiva University are being taught. This may not be changed while I am at Yeshiva University, sadly, but at least I write this for future students so that they shouldn’t hear or read what I did in these classes. It’s important to stand up for what’s right so that there will be a change.