What exactly is "Torah Im Derech Eretz" and "Torah Umada." I am not looking for a translation but rather an explanation of Yeshiva University's philosophy regarding these things. What are the differences between these two things? Is there are difference? What are the exact philosophies here?

Furthermore: What is Rav Hershel Schachter's opinion on all of this?

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    Be aware Yeshiva University may have different views about this than other institutions/movements and may even have different views among its Roshei Yeshiva.
    – Double AA
    Jan 1, 2012 at 3:10
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    For a comprehensive study of the issue from the gemara on see Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm's "Torah Umadda" available at amazon.com/Torah-Umadda-Norman-Lamm/dp/1592643094
    – Double AA
    Jan 1, 2012 at 3:11
  • I am aware (15 characters)... Jan 1, 2012 at 3:12
  • @DoubleAA I am looking for Rav Herschel's Schechter's opinion in writing. Jan 1, 2012 at 3:25
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    @yitznewton, Sorry, that was a quote. To paraphrase the discussion that followed, Rav Soloveichik did hold that studying secular knowledge makes a better ben torah than one who studies only Torah, but RHS said that was true for someone with RYDS's abilities. For (the vast majority of?) his talmidim, this was not the case.
    – YDK
    Jan 1, 2012 at 16:12

1 Answer 1


Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet suggests the following distinctions between Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's Torah Im Derech Eretz and Rabbi Joseph Dov Soloveichik's Torah UMada.

  • Torah im derech eretz. Civilization integrated into religious worldview.

    • This is an ideal. Ask me, "what should I study?" Your religious studies should be helped by civilization.
    • This encompasses study of the humanities. A person could know partial differential equations from today until tomorrow, but if they've never studied literature then they're missing out on their religious experience!
    • Secular studies are only useful in that they can be integrated with a religious worldview. Philosophies for which there is simply no room in Judaism should not be studied. In the Hirschean educational model, the math and history teachers could either be observant Jews, or non-Jews. But there was no place for non-observant Jews' views -- as it was really all one integrated curriculum.
  • Torah *u*Madda -- both Torah and knowledge of the outside world.

    • Maybe in a totally theoretical sense a person could be a shoemaker in Meah Shearim and study only Torah and shoemaking, and not need any broader education. "But on a practical level, we have to engage the outside world, and if we're going to do so anyhow, let it be on the level of the New York Times and not the New York Daily News."
    • Any advanced secular study -- math, engineering, physical or social sciences, humanities -- is engaging the world in this way and thus commendable.
    • You study Torah, and then you study the outside world. Even if the outside world includes challenges. When students complained to Rabbi Soloveichik of a secular-studies class they were taking that challenged some Orthodox beliefs, he replied "you have to have two heads, what's the problem?" (Though he later addressed some of these challenges in his lectures.)

Rabbi Schachter's view, as I understand it from hearing a few of his lectures, could be called a practical-minded intersection of the two. He appears to have a mixed view on the theoretical value of fine arts ("we got tickets to the Symphony, it was a German composer. Everyone else said it was so inspiring, I could see the Nazis marching, I could feel the wickedness!") But he understands in a very real way that people need decent educations, if nothing else to earn a living, as well as to understand reality so that halacha can be applied to it. He will frequently cite general history as a source of lessons. On the other hand he sees little value in a dual curriculum requiring studies such as the New Testament (other than perhaps a history course which may occasionally cite a line or two to provide historical context). When challenged by the precedent of such a curriculum, he admitted "I say it was wrong then, and it's wrong now."

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    This is totally against the Zohar Mishpatim 123a. Jan 1, 2012 at 15:58
  • @HachamGabriel, What is? Torah Im Derech Eretz, Torah u'Madda, or R' Schachter's view?
    – jake
    Jan 1, 2012 at 16:51
  • @jake I think all of them. Jan 1, 2012 at 16:53
  • @jake the Zohar prohibits the taking of other books and using them to explain or even aid Torah study. Jan 1, 2012 at 17:00
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    @HachamGabriel, That seems a bit hypocritical. :)
    – jake
    Jan 1, 2012 at 17:09

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