Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hashkafa Issues: Helping Students Engage with the 4 Questions: "Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is our purpose here? Where are we going?

A session at a Yom Iyun devoted to topics that should be issues for yeshiva high school students.

Session Handout:

Helping Students Engage with the Four Questions:
"Where did we come from? Why are we here?
What is our purpose here? Where are we going?"

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer

The Basics:


1. Why believe in G-d?
2. Why believe in Torah Mi'Sinai?
3. What is Nevu'ah and what was unique about the nevu'ah of Moshe Rabbeinu?
4. Is there and what is Hashgachah Pratis?
5. Why do bad things happen to good people?
6. To what extent does free will exist?
7. Why are the decrees of Chazal binding?
8. Are the Rambam's Ikkarim subject to dispute?

Where Did We Come From?

The Past

1. How do we deal with the Age of the Universe?
2. How do we deal with Evolution?
3. How do we deal with discrepancies between Jewish and secular chronologies?

Why Are We Here?

Avodah and Machashavah

1. What is “Good?” Why is Judaism “good?” Why is Judaism good for me now?
2. What is “Idealism” and how is it achieved?
3. What is “Happiness” and how is it achieved?
4. What does it mean to be a part of a “Mamleches Kohanim v'Goy Kadosh?”
5. How can we make Tefillah meaningful?
6. What is Torah Lishmah?
7. How do we define Tikkun Olam?
8. What are appropriate motivations for being Machmir vs. being Meikel and vice versa?
9. What is the problem with Nivul Peh?

Gender Relations

1. Why is Negiah forbidden?
2. Why is self-pleasuring frowned upon?
3. Why are teenage boy-girl relationships questionable?
4. Why is homosexuality forbidden? What is the status of homophobia?
5. Are women inferior to men, or vice-versa?
6. What is our stance on co-education?


1. Why to learn Gemara?
2. Why to not learn Gemara?
3. Should boys and girls have different curricula?
4. What are the various attitudes towards secular studies?


1. What is Zionism? What is Religious Zionism? Is there Religious non-Zionism?
2. What was the Satmer Rebbe's position and how does one respond to it?
3. Why are there various different approaches in regards to reciting Hallel on Yom Ha'Atzma'ut?

Hashkafah-Secular Society

1. What should be our attitude in regards to secular music?
2. What should be our attitude in regards to other secular entertainment?
3. What should be our attitude in regards to sports – participatory and spectator?
4. What are the various approaches on insularity?
5. What are the differences between Torah-Only, Torah-im-Derech-Eretz and Torah U'Madda?


1. Why do some men wear black hats and jackets and some not?
2. Why are there various standards in regards to Tzeniyus for women? And men?
3. What is Modern Orthodoxy and what is Charedism?
4. What is Da'as Torah and how should we relate to it?
5. Why do some people have problems with Chabad-Lubavitch?

Where Are We Going?

The Future

1. What happens to the Neshamah after death?
2. What judgment takes place?
3. Is there a Heaven and is there a Hell and what are they?
4. What do we believe concerning Gilgulim?
5. What happens at Techiyas HaMeisim? When does it take place?
6. What is the role of Mashiach and what happens during Yemos HaMashiach?
7. When and what is Olam HaBa?


  1. are there going to be further shiurim to cover the topics on the list not covered yet?

  2. IY"H What's a good night and time for the West Coast?

  3. What happened to Rabbi Schiller? Doesn't he usually help you cover these sorts of issues?