Friday, June 14, 2019

The Rebbe and TIDE

This post appeared as a guest post at

I have responded to comments there. Although many of the comments are drivel, there are many substantive comments and it is worth performing the necessary borer to read them

See also the first comment there.

One point further:
I would not have chosen that title. 
My title, as you see in this post,
was "The Rebbe and TIDE."
Reb Herschel subsequently changed the post title.

A wealth of explanatory articles concerning TIDE is at Of particular importance for the purpose of this conversation is

I have added some images from that article and some other important additional information at the end of this post.

The Avner Institute presents a 1962 letter from the Rebbe to a Yeshiva University professor about the nature of today’s American Jewish youth and why they can no longer relate to Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch's philosophy of "Torah im Derech Eretz, where the Torah is maximized in partnership with worldly involvement."

Rabbi Samson (Shimshon) Rafael Hirsch (1808-1888) was the most influential rabbi of nineteenth-century Germany and the founder of the Torah im Derech Eretz school of Judaism, which stressed that “the Torah is maximized in partnership with worldly involvement.” Author of Horeb and Nineteen Letters on Judaism, Hirsch labored to win westernized youth back to Judaism and helped make Torah relevant to the modern era.

Rabbi Hirsch has been considered controversial among many prominent rabbis, who disapproved of his integration of secular and Jewish studies. Nevertheless, there are some who understand “Derech Eretz” to mean anything elevated through Torah study or practice, and therefore secular studies can be reconciled with practical knowledge or whatever was necessary to earn a living.

Other Jews, however, understand Rabbi Hirsch in the sense of Torah U’Madda, a synthesis of Torah knowledge and secular knowledge–each for its own sake. This is the prevalent philosophy of Yeshiva University, the New York campus noted for its blended curricula. In this view, it is considered permissible, and even productive, for Jews to learn gentile philosophy, music, art, literature and ethics for their own sake.

The following is a letter of the Rebbe. Written in 1962 to a Yeshiva University professor, the Rebbe explains the nature of today’s American Jewish youth and why they can no longer relate to Rabbi Hirsch’s philosophy of Torah im Derech Eretz.

My reactions to the Rebbe’s perspectives are interspersed below, in bold.

I must touch upon another, and even more delicate, matter concerning the teachings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch whom you mentioned in your letter.

There has been a tendency lately to apply his approach in totality, here and now in the United States. While it is understandable that the direct descendants of Rabbi Hirsch or those who were brought up in that philosophy should want to disseminate his teachings, I must say emphatically that to apply his approach to the American scene will not serve the interests of Orthodoxy in America. With all due respect to his philosophy and approach, which were very forceful and effective in his time and in his milieu, Rabbi Hirsch wrote for an audience and youth which was brought up on philosophical studies, and which was permeated with all sorts of doctrines and schools of thought and disciplined in the art of intellectual research etc. Thus it was necessary to enter into long philosophical discussions to point out the fallacy of each and every thought and theory which is incompatible with the Torah and mitzvoth. There was no harm in using this approach, inasmuch as the harm had already been there, and if it could strengthen Jewish thought and practice, it was useful, and to that extent, effective.

What the Rebbe is saying here applies with no doubt to many of RSRH’s works. But TIDE is a philosophy that transcends the writings of RSRH that no longer appeal in style and approach to today’s seekers. As I wrote in a footnote to my “Forks in the Road” article about Chassidus and Misnagdus:

A detailed treatment of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s philosophy as reflected in the writings of his grandson, Dr. Isaac Breuer, is presented in my essay: Dr. Yitzchok Breuer zt"l and World History. I believe it is accurate to state the following distinction: The schools of thought presented here focus on the Avodas Hashem that is the predominant aspect of life. Torah im Derech Eretz, on the other hand, focuses on the totality of life — of a person, of the nation, and of the world —and living that life in a manner consistent with what Torah im Derech Eretz understands to be Hashem’s will and purpose for the person, the nation and the world. Hence, it is entirely possible to not follow Rabbi Hirsch’s system of Avodas Hashem (as presented in Chorev and other works), following, instead, other approaches to Avodas Hashem, such as those presented here, and still be an adherent, on the more global or holistic level, of Torah im Derech Eretz. (Conversely, it is theoretically possible for someone to reject Torah im Derech Eretz yet adopt a Hirschian mode of Avodas Hashem.)

The Rebbe continues:

However, here in the United States we have a different audience and a youth which radically differs from the type whom Rabbi Hirsch had addressed originally. American youth is not the philosophic turn of mind. They have neither the patience nor the training to delve into long philosophical discussions, and to evaluate different systems and theories when they are introduced to all sorts of ideas, including those that are diametrically opposed to the Torah and mitzvoth, and there are many of them, since there are many falsehoods but only one truth, this approach can only bring them to a greater measure of confusion. Whether or not the final analysis and conclusions will be accepted by them, one thing is certain: that the seeds of doubt will have multiplied in their minds, since each theory has its prominent proponent bearing impressive titles of professors, PhDs, etc.

Here is where the Rebbe conflates TIDE with Torah u’Madda. The adherents of TIDE present secular perspectives as subordinate, yet essential, enhancements of Torah itself. It is TuM, especially in RYBS’s Ramasayim Tzofim perspective, that does not automatically clarify that secular perspectives are, perforce, subordinate to Torah and only validated thereby.

The Rebbe here is, to a very large extent, adhering to classic Chassidic perspectives that associate Chochmos Chitzonyios with kelipos. And not with kelipas noga…

This is very much counter to the Misnagdic perspective of the Gra, which is almost identical to TIDE. The following abridgment of the famous passage in the Introduction to the Pe’as HaShulchan is at

The following is from pages 148-149 of Judaism's Encounter with
Other Cultures: Rejection or Integration?

Given what the GRA said below, one can only wonder why music is not
taught in all of our yeshivas. For the record, a friend of mine who
is the secular studies principal of a Mesivta in Brooklyn wrote to
me that his school does have a course in music appreciation. YL

R. Israel of Shklov (d. 1839) wrote:

I cannot refrain from repeating a true and astonishing story that I
heard from the Gaon's disciple R. Menahem Mendel. It took place when
the Gaon of Vilna celebrated the completion of his commentary on Song
of Songs... He raised his eyes toward heaven and with great
devotion began blessing and thanking God for endowing him with the
ability to comprehend the light of the entire Torah. This included
its inner and outer manifestations. He explained: All secular wisdom
is essential for our holy Torah and is included in it. He indicated
that he had mastered all the branches of secular wisdom, including
algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and music. He especially praised
music, explaining that most of the Torah accents, the secrets of the
Levitical songs, and the secrets of the Tikkunei Zohar could not be
comprehended without mastering it... He explained the significance
of the various secular disciplines, and noted that he had mastered
them all. Regarding the discipline of medicine, he stated that he
had mastered anatomy, but not pharmacology. Indeed, he had wanted to
study pharmacology with practicing physicians, but his father
prevented him from undertaking its study, fearing that upon
mastering it he would be forced to curtail his Torah study whenever
it would become necessary for him to save a life... He also
stated that he had mastered all of philosophy, but that he had
derived only two matters of significance from his study of it...
The rest of it, he said, should be discarded." [11]

[11.] Pe'at ha-Shulhan, ed. Abraham M. Luncz (Jerusalem, 1911), 5a.

This translation actually excludes a key line, and misses a key line elsewhere in the Talmidei HaGra – see'רבי_אליהו_מוילנא:

דעת הגר"א על לימוד חכמות החול

תלמידי הגר"א מעידים שהגר"א ראה חשיבות וערך בלימוד חכמות החול. רבי ישראל משקלוב, תלמיד הגר"א, מביא (בהקדמתו ל'פאת השולחן', ד"ה ומצידה ביאור ארוך; - מובא להלן בהרחבה) בשם רבו

כל החכמות נצרכים לתורתנו הקדושה[31] וכלולים בה[32]

דברים דומים, אך חדים וחריפים יותר, נוכל למצוא בהקדמה לספר "אוקלידוס" המתורגם לעברית על ידי רבי ברוך (בן יעקב) שיק משקלוב, (האג תק"ם), בה מספר המתרגם[33]

"והנה בהיותי בק"ק (- קהילת קודש) וילנה המעטירה, אצל הרב אצל הרב המאור הגאון הגדול מ"ו (- מורנו ורבנו) מאור עיני הגולה החסיד המפורסם כמוה"ר אלי' נר"ו (- הגר"א), בחודש טבת תקל"ח, שמעתי מפיו

כי כפי מה שיחסר לאדם ידיעות משארי החכמות — לעומת זה יחסר לו מאה ידות בחכמת התורה, כי התורה והחכמה נצמדים יחד

וצִווה לי (- הגר"א) להעתיק מה שאפשר ללשוננו הקדוש מחכמות [החול][34], כדי להוציא בולעם מפיהם[35] וישוטטו רבים ותרבה הדעת[36] בין עמנו ישראל

The Rebbe continues:

Besides, the essential point and approach is “Thou shalt be wholehearted with G-d, thy G-d.” The surest way of remaining a faithful Jew is not through philosophy but through the actual experience of the Jewish way of life in the daily life, fully and wholeheartedly. As for the principle “know what to answer the heretic,” this is surely only one particular aspect, and certainly does not apply to everyone. Why introduce every Jewish boy and girl to the various heretics that ever lived?

This, too, is a straw-man argument. Indeed, the approach of RSRH is much less about philosophy and certainly not about heresy. The following controversy does exist, but is not at all in line with the Rebbe’s assertion. I have written elsewhere:

Of course, not everyone may agree with Prof. Levi's perspective (that Hirschian TIDE is expressed in the study of mathematics and the sciences, not in the study of secular literature). In a recent essay published in Judaism's Encounter with Other Cultures: Rejection or Integration?, Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion takes a very different view (see also Avodah Mailing List 3:107 at

In his essay, Torah and General Culture: Confluence and Conflict, Rabbi Lichtenstein argues that the madda that complements Torah includes the humanities as well:

And yet at bottom, the notion that Shakespeare is less meaningful than Boyle, Racine irrelevant but Lavoisier invaluable, remains very strange doctrine indeed. Rabbi Lichtenstein writes:

To those who extol chemistry because it bespeaks the glory of the Ribbono Shel Olam but dismiss Shakespeare because he only ushers us into the Globe Theater, one must answer, first, that great literature often offers us a truer and richer view of the essence – the Inscape, to use Hopkins' word – of even physical reality… Can anyone doubt that appreciation of God's flora is enhanced by Wordsworth's description of: A crowd/ a host, of golden daffodils;/ Beside the lake, beneath the trees,/ Fluttering and dancing in the breeze?

Rabbi Lichtenstein continues to assert:

Whether impelled by demonic force or incandescent aspiration, great literature, from the fairy tale to the epic, plumbs uncharted existential and experiential depths which are both its wellsprings and its subjects… Hence, far from diverting attention from the contemplation of God's majestic cosmos, the study of great literature focuses upon a manifestation, albeit indirect, of His wondrous creation at its apex… To the extent that the humanities focus upon man, they deal not only with a segment of divine creation, but with its pinnacle… In reading great writers, we can confront the human spirit doubly, as creation and as creator.

But how does this approach complement Torah?

The dignity of man is not the exclusive legacy of Cicero and Pico della Mirandola. It is a central theme in Jewish thought, past and present. Deeply rooted in Scripture, copiously asserted by Chazal, unequivocally assumed by Rishonim, religious humanism is a primary and persistent mark of a Torah weltanschauung. Man's inherent dignity and sanctity, so radically asserted through the concept of Tzelem Elokim; his hegemony and stewardship with respect to nature, concern for his spiritual and physical well-being; faith in his metaphysical freedom and potential – all are cardinal components of traditional Jewish thought… How then can one question the value of precisely those fields which are directly concerned with probing humanity?

But cannot sources for religious inspiration be found in Torah?

An account of Rabbi Akiva's spiritual odyssey could no doubt eclipse Augustine's. But his confessions have been discreetly muted. The rigors of John Stuart Mill’s education – and possibly, their repercussions – are not without parallel in our history. But what corresponds to his fascinating Autobiography? Or to the passionate Apologia Vita Sue of his contemporary, John Henry Cardinal Newman? Our Johnsons have no Boswells.

To be sure, Rabbi Lichtenstein's arguments are impassioned and eloquent. I cannot speak for Prof. Levi, but I imagine that he would argue that in the absence of solid and conclusive evidence from Chazal and other classic sources, Rabbi Lichtenstein's position cannot be considered normative.

It is well beyond the scope of this review to contrast Rabbi Lichtenstein… with Prof. Levi… It is tantalizing to reflect on the different statements with which they approach the gap between the perspectives they champion and the dominant Torah-only school.

Rabbi Lichtenstein:

Advocates of Torah u-Madda can certainly stake no exclusive claims. It would not only be impudent but foolish to impugn a course which has produced most Gedolei Yisrael and has in turn been championed by them. Neither, however, should exclusionary contentions be made by its opponents. While Torah u-Madda is not every one's cup of tea, it certainly deserves a place as part of our collective spiritual fare.

Prof. Levi (p. 251):

I cannot conclude without addressing the sharp contrast between what we have learned here, concerning the centrality of the Torah Im Derech Eretz principle, and what we see in the yeshiva world… I have heard from several great Torah scholars that this opposition is a temporary injunction (hora'ath sha'ah). In time of emergency, it is indeed sometimes necessary to deviate from the Torah's demands in order to save the Torah itself… This was especially important after the terrible Holocaust that visited European Jewry.

To Rabbi Lichtenstein, his approach is an available option. Prof. Levi, on the other hand, sees his approach as normative. To me, Rabbi Lichtenstein’s approach is only an option because he subscribes to his illustrious father in law’s Ramasayim Tzofim perspective of TuM. In my opinion, RSRH, on the other hand, would see Rabbi Lichtenstein’s approach as modified by TIDE as normative. After all, RSRH was an admirer of Friedrich von Schiller (see The Lord of the Rings has its place in Hirschian TIDE, although perhaps not in the TIDE of the Gra.

The Rebbe continues:

The whole problem is a delicate one, and I have written the above only in the hope that you may be able to use your influence with certain circles in Washington Heights, that they should again re-examine the whole question and see if the Rabbi Hirsch approach should be applied to the American scene. My decided opinion is, of course, that it should not, and I hope that whatever measure of restraint you may accomplish through your influence will be all good. I hope to hear good news from you also in regard to this.

I don’t know to which side of Washington Heights the Rebbe was referring, but I believe he would have received strong-worded rejections from both the east and west sides of the Heights.

The Rebbe continues:

Enclosed is a copy of my message to the delegates of N’shei Chabad, which I trust Mrs. Goodman will find interesting, since the contents of the message are intended for all Jewish men and women.
I was gratified to read in your letter that you recall our conversation with regard to your writing of your memoirs, and, as in case of all recollections in Jewish life, the purpose of which is to give it expression in actual deed, I trust that this will be the case also in regard to your memoirs.

I want to take this opportunity to mention another point which we touched upon during our conversation, and which I followed up in writing. I refer to the movement of Torah im Derech Eretz, which has sometimes become a doctrine of Derech Eretz im Torah, alluding to the saying of our Sages that derech eretz came before Torah. However, the term derech eretz is interpreted as a college education, and it is claimed to be the doctrine of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch of blessed memory.

This is such a simplistic understanding of TIDE that it is staggering to me that the Rebbe could have written such a distorted statement.

Rabbi Joseph Breuer, A Unique Perspective, pp. 387-388:

Generally, the superficial student deduces from the TIDE precept… the necessity of acquiring secular knowledge, i.e., the training and proficiency in worldly cultures and professions… a broader sense, Derech Eretz embraces the “earth way” of a Yehudi, who seeks self perfection in all his actions and strivings under the rulership of the Will of God.

The Rebbe continues:

As you will recall, I made the point in my previous letter on this subject that in my opinion, with all due respect to this policy and school of thought which had their time and place, they are not al all suitable for American Jewish youth and present times and conditions, especially in the United States. I even made so bold a move as to try to enlist your cooperation to use your influence to discourage the reintroduction of this movement on the American Jewish scene, since it is my belief that your word carries a great deal of weight in these circles here.

I want to note with gratification that on the basis of unofficial and behind the scenes information which has reached me from the circles in question, the point which I made with regard to this school of thought has been gaining evermore adherents. It is becoming increasingly recognized that a college education is not a vital necessity and is not even of secondary importance. Many begin to recognize that the Torah, Toras Chaim, is, after all, the best sechorah (reward), even as a “career.” In the light of this new reappraisal, attendance at college is being recognized as something negative and interfering with detracting from the study of Torah. So much for the younger generation.

Again, the simplistic, reductionist understanding of TIDE.

The Rebbe continues:

However, the older generation, especially those, whose own character and background has been fashioned overseas, in Germany, still cling to the said school of thought. The reason may be because it is difficult for a person in the prime of his life, or in a more advanced age, to radically change his whole outlook and reexamine the whole approach in which one has been trained and steeped, in the light of contemporary conditions in the United States, or it may simply be due to inertia and the like.
In view of the above, and inasmuch as a considerable impact has already been made in the right direction, I consider it even more auspicious at the time that you should use your good influence in this direction. All the more so since, judging by your energy and outlook, I trust you can be included with the younger generation and not the older one. For the younger generation is not only more energetic and enthusiastic about things, but is more prone to take up new ideas which require an extra measure of courage, to be different from others and to face new challenges. I believe that you have been blessed with a goodly measure of these youthful qualities.

It is indeed a tragedy that the younger generation did not receive education in precepts of TIDE. Every time a Jew alleged to be Torah-true gets caught in fraudulent and deceptive dealings the tragedy is manifest. Rabbi Breuer penetrating aphorism concerning Glatt Yosher comes to mind. As he writes (ibid., p. 369):

God’s Torah not only demands the observance of kashrus and the sanctification of our physical enjoyment; it also insists on the sanctification of our social relationships. This requires the strict application of the tenets of justice and righteousness, which avoids even the slightest trace of dishonesty (emphasis in the original) in our business dealings and personal life.

I might conclude that this subject is timely in these days, on the Eve of Shavuot when the first condition of receiving the Torah was the unity of the Jewish people so that it could be receptive to the unity of G-d, as expressed in the first and second of the Ten Commandments. For the unity of G-d means not only in the literal sense of the said commandments, but that there should be no other authority or power compared with G-dliness, until there is the full realization that “There is nothing besides him.” And this idea is brought about by the One Torah, which is likewise one and only and exclusive, so that when we say that it is Toras Chaim, it means that it is literally our very source and only source of life in this life, too, and that there can be no other essential source or even a secondary source next to the Torah, even as far as our daily resources in the ordinary aspects of the life are concerned.

And we conclude with the words of Rabbi Breuer (ibid., pp. 534, 536):

RSRH, together with his contemporary rabbinic leaders considered TIDE, as he enunciated it, a necessity, and declared emphatically that it was not a הוראת שעה. His eminent successor, Rav Dr. Salomon Breuer, said just shortly before his passing that he was convinced that this approach “will be מקרב הגאולה"

...The TIDE approach is the right one for ארץ ישראל and the Disapora. The waves that rush over the TIDE approach at the present time will run out and they will also take their victims with them. As we have stated, the TIDE approach must unfortunately expect to suffer losses, with its demand of perseverance and dedication to Torah. This will be true until the time of Moshiach, when the Prophetic promise (Yeshayahu 60:21) ועמך כולם צדיקים will be realized, במהרה בימינו.

See also the discussion at:

Some more information I found this evening about the Rebbe and Chabad vs. TIDE:

1. It is fascinating to me that the Rebbe equated RSRH with the Drush Ohr HaChaim of the Tiferes Yisroel:

ו) ועוד להעיר - שהפליאה אדרבה על אלה שאין רוצים להסתפק בהפירושים שקדמונו - עכ"פ בהנוגע לפירושים ע"ד הפשט, שלמדו בהם את התנ"ך וביארוהו כל צרכם. ואפילו בהביא בחשבון התגליות וכו' הרי לזה מספיק הערה בשולי הגליון, ואין כל צורך בעריכת פירוש מחדש. ובהתבונן להמצב בדורנו וכו' וכו'- הנה פלא הדבר שדוקא בני דור הצעיר רוצים לחזור אל המקורות, אלא שאותם שנלחמו במשכילים בצעירותם- נדמה להם שגם דור החדש רוצה להלחם, ובמילא אוחזים בתכסיסים וכלי זיין שאין בהם כל צורך כלל. ואם בכלי זיין גשמיים מתוך שאינו צריך אינו נאה (שבת ס"ג א') - הרי בהנוגע לרוחניים הוא גם מזיק. וכנראה במוחש מכל הספרות, שבסגנון החדש קורין לזה אפולגטית, האט מען דערפון צרות עד היום [לרבות הדרוש אור החיים של בעל תפארת ישראל, ספרי הרב הירש ועוד, ועד בדור דורות לפנים - פרושי פילון (ידידי') האלכסנדרי שרצו להתאים אף כי בכוונה טובה, ליפיפותו וכו' - אך שאינה שייכת ואינה אמיתית בכגון דא] וד"ל.

2. I think this page says it all. In the final analysis, the Rebbe was following the path of his illustrious predecessors. We adherents of TIDE must therefore not be surprised at the Rebbe's distaste for TIDE:

Finally, from Our Way:

and from Glatt Kosher - Glatt Yosher:


  1. About your choice to guest post... Does visiting a web site that spends the majority of its content tearing down other derakhim violate e first pasuq of Tehillim?

    1. He asked me to guest post. Otherwise I wouldn't have a written a post altogether. Moreover, he sat on my right side for ten years in my daf yomi shiur. I have a debt of hakoras ha'tov.

    2. I'm curious if you would say the same about Seriously, why are these objections only applied when the speaker is more left-wing than the objector?

    3. Who is the speaker if not the objector? I had no idea what you're talking about.

      And both are on the left objecting on those to the right. At least, Harry does so far more often than his anti-Open Orthodoxy posts. So what's this "only ... more left-wing"? How do the two differ?

      Your comment was entirely opaque. I couldn't tell what you said, about whom you said it, or even that you were saying it to me!

      But Harry's blog... The inundation of posts that simply make snide remarks without knowing the topic, reading the post, or even claiming either, was knowable in advance. Slifkin attracts some leitzim, but not to the extent that it drowns out any possibility of real conversation.

    4. I have seen far more objections of such a nature directed at left-wing critics of right-wing segments than right-wing criticism of left-wing segments. That is what I'm saying.

  2. See also

  3. Although many of the comments at are drivel, there are many substantive comments and it is worth performing the necessary borer to read them.

  4. BTW, see also

  5. Evidently derision of TIDE is not a new thing in Chabad. See the Rayatz's comments at - especially footnote 6. I am pleased to see the Telzer Yavneh system denigrated in the same breath. Both sides of my heritage - Yekkish and Telzer - dismissed in one fell swoop.

    1. Yeah, well... When we discussed my business trip and the local shaliach's rather enlightening answer to my problem with the tail of the first pereq of the Tanya, I didn't repeat my conversations with him about my book or about The Mussar Institute.

      They dismiss all derakhim, and really without bothering to know them first. And why bother learning them -- they're dismissible! What was enlightening about this post was that I see that it's not Chassidic adherence to a rebbe driving it, an attitude of "if the rebbe says Rav X's thought it pointless, then I don't to look at it to know it's pointless." But the rabbeim too "know" that all other dereakhim are inferior and not worth looking into before publically criticizing them.

    2. Yes. Points to include in my forthcoming bestseller, "Why I am Not a Chosid."

  6. A wealth of explanatory articles concerning TIDE is at Of particular importance for the purpose of this conversation is If someone can read the latter article and still assert the Rebbe characterizes TIDE correctly I will be astonished (unless said someone is a Lubavicher Chosid, who cannot attribute inaccuracy to the the Rebbe).

  7. Some interesting research I found confirms that the grading system certainly doesn't help make people sophisticated: