What are hashkafic reasons that some Jewish schools not teach secular science and only focus on religious education, when there are doctrines in Kabbalah about the natural universe being manifestations of Hashem and the Torah? It seems like there are a lot of reasons from kabbalistic doctrine why learning about Hashem’s attributes from the natural world would be important. Is there a reason in Judaism why not studying science or other secular subjects would be a good thing?

Do any Rabbanim have writings which explain this philosophy?

  • anash.org/the-rebbes-view-secular-subjects
    – shmosel
    Commented Jan 18 at 22:04
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    Ashkenazi extremism that bundled over the centuries but was consolidated with the formation of the Charedi movement in the 19th century. Sefardim never had such negative attitudes with teaching basic mathematics and science etc in yeshivot Commented Jan 19 at 5:35
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    @KapinKrunch Initially it probably had to with access and then as these things go eventually hardened into this is way we do things, it's our mesorah, minhag etc
    – Nahum
    Commented Jan 22 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


Putting aside the general issue of secular studies in Yeshivas this question assumes that (1) everyone is agreement that there are a lot of reasons from kabbalistic doctrine why learning about Hashem’s attributes from the natural world would be important and (2)if science were taught in a general sense in Yeshivas then such knowledge would be derived.

If that were true then the question would not be limited to contemporary Yeshivas, one can ask the same question about Volozhin or for that matter go all the way back to Sura, Pumpedisa and Nehardea and ask the same question as none of those places taught science or any other secular subjects. Much of the opposition to Yeshivas teaching secular subjects is the result of the precedent set by those places. (Yes, I know there were exceptions) There is much debate on this subject and ability to bring proof either way from Torah sources spanning millennia . The fact that it was not done seems to indicate that doing so for the sole purpose of teaching such subject is not the correct way.

If someone were studying a specific secular science for the sole purpose of understanding Torah then not only there be no opposition it would be supported. Rav Ahron Kotler who was from the strongest opponents of secular subjects in Yeshivas told someone that studying a book on botany to understand something written in Seder Zeroim it would be considered Limud HaTorah (I heard this second hand) Conversely some of the big proponents of learning science do not seem to end up understanding Torah from what I see from them. (I saw an article not so long ago written by someone who actually heads a Torah/Science group. He had written an article questioning why the Mishna says something about fish scales (kaskeshes) that doesn't seem to always be scientifically true. The article was complete nonsense and ignorance because what he was referring to as scales would not have the halachic status of fish scales (kaskeshes)according to the Torah. Therefore the article's question did not start. )

  • Do we know what was taught in sura and pumbedita? Volozhin fine.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 23 at 15:15
  • see From Yavneh To Pumpedisa or other books discussing that time period
    – Schmerel
    Commented Jan 23 at 15:19
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    As for your anecdote, we have many examples too of Torah scholars misunderstanding reality because they weren't trained to understand it. Saying "go pick up a botany book" without any training is clearly a poor way to learn things. That's why anecdotes are poor proofs.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jan 23 at 15:23
  • The difference is that most Torah scholars do not advertise themselves as being the great experts in understanding whatever non-Torah related fields they are commenting on. This guy does claim to be the great expert on understanding Torah as a result of his scientific knowledge. Which is why he has relevance to the question.( I do not agree with the extreme Daas Torah crowd either)
    – Schmerel
    Commented Jan 23 at 15:34

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