-10

B"H

This question is clearly NOT opinion based because it is only asking for any official published justification for college from any rav or rabbi in response to the very specific points mentioned in the sources. Nothing opinionated about it.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that it was prohibited for Jews to go to college.

Letter:

It is therefore more obvious than ever that no Jew has a right to give of his time, and even more so of his heart and mind, to matters which not only do not help but are very likely to hinder in the fulfillment of his sacred task and purpose. One of these matters would be to spend several years in college, and especially in a college environment.

It is certain, however, that college will not help fulfill the true and inner desire of the Jew to carry out his above mentioned task and purpose in life, so that even at best it would be an irretrievable loss of time and energy.

It is therefore my sincere hope that you will discard the idea, and do so not only because — as you told your father — you wish to be guided by me, but also because you will recognize that the idea does not represent your own true thinking and desire. I hope, moreover, that you will use your good influence in this direction with your friends who might entertain a similar idea in the mistaken belief that it might be a good idea.

Another:

I can therefore state with the fullest measure of conviction and responsibility that he who sends his child to college during the formative years subjects him to shock and profound conflicts and trials and invites quite unforeseen consequences . . .

To put the matter in bolder relief, by way of illustration. Take the general attitude to polio, G-d forbid, and the precaution taken against it. Fortunately, the incidence of polio is not widespread, and where it strikes, it cripples only a part of the physical body; yet though the odds are farfetched it would be reckless not to take the necessary precaution. Unfortunately, the victims of college education are numerous indeed and most widespread, by far in the majority, and the harm is even more far-reaching.

But nevertheless, there are still some Jews who claim to be Torah observant that are in universities.

How is this justified? Have any official rabbonim responded to the letters of the Rebbe?

Authoritative sources only.

16
  • 10
    It sounds like no matter whatever answer someone gives, it will not suffice, since it will contradict a prophetic statement according to you ..so not sure what you are trying to achieve
    – sam
    Commented May 22 at 3:29
  • 7
    Is this a pashkevil or an actual question?
    – shmosel
    Commented May 22 at 3:32
  • 1
    @sam authoritative sources for anyone trying to justify it . Not act question has to gain an answer that will charge one's view, I will always have the same view I have, but the purpose of this question is at least to try to understand the "other side", so I know how to properly refute them in the future. What I do with the information I gain is not the concern of anyone else here, but the question itself is still a valid question. Commented May 22 at 3:33
  • 1
    @Awtsmoos--עצמות ,everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I am not here to argue with anyone for that matter ,the question just comes off wrong . If you would remove the initial paragraph, I think you would have gotten some good response
    – sam
    Commented May 22 at 3:37
  • 1
    Didn't the rebbe himself attend university? Commented May 26 at 1:32

1 Answer 1

4

Please see this pamphlet published on the website of N'shei Chabad:

https://asktherav.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/College-Booklet-Applying-the-Rebbes-Position.pdf

See also https://derher.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/College-Sivan-5777.pdf and https://collive.com/what-is-so-wrong-with-college/

It is best to read the pamphlet in full, but I will summarize it briefly:

At first, the pamphlet carefully considers (p. 3) “the Rebbe's statements about college.” It states (p. 3): "At the same time, in a changing world, understanding how the Rebbe’s position applies practically can be confusing. What would the Rebbe say today – sixty years later? Given the challenges of parnassa and the need for a degree for certain positions, would the Rebbe change his position? And what would the Rebbe say about Jewish colleges? What about online courses?"

This is the pamphlet's conclusion (p. 30) set out in full:

Conclusion

Before a Lubavitcher chossid considers pursuing a degree, he should make an honest cheshbon nefesh about what is right for him and his future family b’ruchniyus. After serious thought, several critical questions must be discussed with a qualified Rav and mashpia, who is well-versed in the pertinent issues:

  1. Who am I? What is the Shlichus for which my neshama was sent to this world? What does it mean to me to be a chossid of the Rebbe?

  2. Is now the appropriate time for me to be concerned with parnassa? Is it relevant? Is it necessary?

  3. If parnassa is a current concern, what are the available options that do not involve a degree?

  4. If a degree is deemed necessary, what are the options available that are the least problematic, both in the areas of environment and of the studies? Which institution? Which degree? Which courses?

  5. Assuming there will remain concerns of טמטום המח והלב from the secular teachings no matter what, how can I minimize them? Can I counter the influence of secularism with a significant schedule of learning Chassidus and touching base regularly with the mashpia?

Unless absolutely necessary, college should be avoided until after the formative years (approximately age thirty), and especially until after marriage.


The pamphlet was clearly prepared with great care and with input from significant contemporary rabbis and others from Chabad. The Chabad rabbis named in the pamphlet as having reviewed it are:

• R. Ezra Schochet – Los Angeles • R. Shmuel Bluming– Crown Heights • R. Levi Yitzchok Raskin – London, England • R. Yosef Braun – Crown Heights • R. Akiva Wagner – Toronto • R. Levi Jacobson – Toronto • R. Nochum Kaplan – Crown Heights

and the "invaluable assistance" of the following Chabad rabbis is acknowldged: R. Yehuda Leib Schapiro, R. Shmuly Avtzon, R. Mendel Blau, R. Yitzchok Meir Gurary, R. Shimon Hellinger.

In case there is any confusion the word "college" is used as a synonym for "university."


For a recent non-Chabad viewpoint see this article Is It Proper To Attend A Non-Jewish university? (Jewish Press May 15, 2024) Rabbi Zev Leff, Rabbi Jonathan Muskat and Rabbi Steven Pruzansky

4
  • Interesting. Basically the same thing, college is bad, in general don't go. For sure not university. Only if absolutely necessary maybe one can go to a Jewish "program". Not the same as college. The letters the Rebbe wrote are eternal. If they were true then they are true now. The other sources you cited say pretty clearly not to go. One of the main points was not to do any kind of trickery to a livelihood , only rely on Hashem directly Commented May 24 at 11:03
  • My understanding is that college is a synonym for university in American English. See studyusa.com/en/a/107/…. You can earn a bachelor's degree at either a college or a university. However, students in the U.S.A. prefer to use the word "college" rather than the word "university" when they talk about four-year undergraduate programs and bachelor's degrees.
    – Edward B
    Commented May 24 at 11:12
  • @Awtsmoos--עצמות I am sad that you conclude Basically the same thing, college is bad, in general don't go. The pamphlet was clearly prepared with great care and with input from significant contemporary rabbis and others from Chabad. I suggest that a better conclusion is MAYBE and Before a Lubavitcher chossid considers pursuing a degree, he should make an honest cheshbon nefesh about what is right for him and his future family b’ruchniyus. After serious thought, several critical questions must be discussed with a qualified Rav and mashpia, who is well-versed in the pertinent issues
    – Edward B
    Commented May 24 at 13:59
  • A degree is not the same as college. That pamphlet is talking about only considering specific kinds of frum programs to get degrees. Not university. Not any kind of secular college for sure Commented May 26 at 2:02

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .