I'm looking for clear sources in gemara or in rishonim that indicate the learning secular studies is something that should be done lechatchila as opposed to perhaps a necessary evil. I've been told by a talmud of Rav Soloveitchik that he didn't like the Yeshiva University motto "Torah U'Mada" because he felt that mada was an integral part of torah. I'm basically asking if something like that exists in gemara or rishonim. (I know it may seem a bit picky, but I'm looking for a source which explicitly says that secular studies are equally important as other mitzvot) Thank you!!

  • Thanks guys, but i couldn't find a hebrew text of the Avraham ben Rambam, and the mishna in Pirkei Avot isn't such a compelling argument, at least not compelling enough for me, and the other answers are not from gemara or rishonim. But thank you both for your suggestions. – Shabi Koppel Jan 1 '20 at 16:20
  • Why are you looking for R Avraham b HaRambam in Hebrew? – Joel K Jan 1 '20 at 16:33
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    Shu"t Harashba 1:418 (to Rashba, not by Rashba) might be a good place to look (starting at the bottom of this page) – b a Jan 1 '20 at 18:16
  • How about from an Achron? Especially a surprise achron like Chassam Soffer? – user6591 Jan 1 '20 at 18:42
  • @user6591 what does the Chatam Sofer have to say on this issue? – Yaakov Pinchas Jan 1 '20 at 23:00

Genesis 1:26 states,

“Let us make man in our demut." Verse 1:27 relates that “G-d made man in His tzelem, in the tzelem of G-d, He made him.”

Thus, people are made in the image of G-d, in the tzelem. It cannot mean “likeness" since G-d has no body and is one. Onkelos renders 2:7's “a living being,” to ruach m’mal’la, “one with the power of speech,” a characteristic of man's intelligence. Maimonides also felt that this denotes intelligence, interpreting the "Garden of Eden" story to be a parable about using one's intelligence. Thus, Maimonides considered it a mitzvah to study science.[1]

In his introduction to book 2 of the Guide, Maimonides states that:

“A man should never cast his reason behind him, for the eyes are set in front, not in the back.”


"The truth is the truth no matter the source."

Thus, he had no quarrels accepting the philosophy of the Greek pagan Aristotle.[2]

[1] Guide 1:1 and 3:27 and Mishnah Torah, Sefer HaMada, Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, chapter 2

[2] See introduction to the Guide

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