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G‑d in High School

G‑d in High School

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Question:

I know that everything I do can be meaningful. My rabbi says that everything we do has to be an act of preparation for Moshiach. But how can studying for my high school diploma be a preparation for Moshiach?

Response:

Dr. Paul C. Rosenbloom was a religious Jew and a professor of mathematics. He once told the Rebbe about a rabbi who had visited his home and expressed disapproval of the bookshelves. "How can you keep secular books together with Torah books on the same shelf?" the rabbi lamented.

The Rebbe replied that to place Torah in one world and science in another borders on having more than one G‑d. Rather, all knowledge should have the same purpose, to further our awareness of the one Creator of All Things.

So, too, your high school studies are a way that you can further your awareness of G‑d. And since Moshiach means a time when G‑dliness will be obvious, furthering your awareness of G‑d and making Him more obvious in your life fits right in to the preparations for Moshiach.

Here are some suggestions on how to find G‑d in your studies:

When you study biology, you can marvel at the complexity, detail and precision of G‑d's creations. How can a person praise G‑d without contemplating the many miracles of life?

When you study history, you can ponder the Divine Providence with which G‑d ran the show at that particular period, and His mysterious reasons behind it.

When you study English, you can think about how G‑d split the world up into many different languages at the time of the Tower of Bavel, and how prior to that there was a unity prevalent among all mankind—which we need to bring back.

These are all just examples. Do the same with every subject—find the point in it that you can use to connect it with something G‑dly. When you open up your books, don't think "I hate this pointless stuff that has no connection to Judaism or anything real," rather think that "I am now going to dig until I find something that is real here, and then I will focus on that and make it the most important aspect of this subject for me."

Rabbi Moshe Goldman is the Director of Chabad of the Waterloo Region in Waterloo, Ontario. He is also a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
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Rabbi Moshe Goldman Waterloo, ON July 20, 2009

Jewish studies should be the first item on the schedule because a Jew ought to begin his day by directly connecting with G-d, through prayer and Torah study.

But having "mixed" bookshelves does not contradict this these priorities, as far as a daily routine goes.

From your mixed bookshelf, start the day by taking down a book of Torah, or a Siddur (prayerbook). Afterwards you can take down a book on nanotechnology, etc. Reply

Yehudis July 16, 2009

Yet the Rebbe said that Jewish studies must be in the morning and "secular studies" in the afternoon so I don't understand how to reconcile this with the Rebbe's comment about the books on the bookshelf.

Somehow, even if we seek the G-dly component of a subject, it does not acquire the status of a "Jewish subject" i.e. Torah, and it is not equated with Torah study. Reply

Chuck Calabasas, CA July 15, 2009

I am a school psychologist working in LA County's juvenile court schools. It is sad that so many of ourt student, throughout the country it seems, are told that the purpose of school is to make them able to earn more money when they graduate. Not only is the argument unconvincing, it is untrue. Jews and non-Jews alike should read your column. Reply

Dr. Shimon Lessoff Kfar Chabad, Israel July 15, 2009

As a University researcher applying statistics to differential systems (Stochastics), I am often amazed by the incredible order of G-d's creation, even in events that we perceive as random.

Classical texts (Chovot Levovot, Moreh Nevuhim) use probability as logical evidence of a creator. The Talmud includes many statistical arguments.

G-d really is everywhere. Therefore we shouldn't fool ourselves. Don't just pretend to see Him by making imaginary connections. With honest effort you will find Him.

One final point: R. Mendel Futerfass ZYA taught us in Yeshiva that a student (even of G-dly wisdom) must serve G-d not only through learning, but also through upright behavior. Help and encourage fellow students. Be meticulously honest. Show gratitude. Be humble and lend a hand to others. Keep your tongue, your eyes, and even your thoughts focused on serving Him.

Thus, Yosef found G-d in Pharoe's dungeon. R. Mendel in the frozen hell of Siberia. Even so in the cold halls of academia! Reply

Sarah MI/USA July 13, 2009

Statistics are the measuring tool we use to examine and express our findings about our world. We use the language of statistics to express that something is important, or not.

Example: Normally, the sun goes across the sky, at this pace, in this position in the sky each day. How do we know what the normal is? Statistics. And then Yehoshua and the Jewish army needed a lthe sun to stay still.. The sun stopped. Open miracle, but only if you understand how unusual it is.

That is the purely HaShem part. For those who still need more incentive to study: I had to work really hard to learn the material in my "Stats for Poets" class. I use the info from that class, and the way it taught me to look at the world every day, not just at work, but in life. I hope that I have given Duby and Anon some reason to study too! Reply

RaCh'Yem Colorado Springs, Colorado July 12, 2009

This artical is encouragement to those who need to hear. because it is very true!

If one does not have the intellectual potential to devote oneself to the study of Scripture, this should be the foundational goal of ones study. Yet success or failure in our study is determined by how much of Scripture we get into our hearts and minds and how obedient we are to the principles and teachings found within it. In our generation, we must use a systematic approach to Torah study in which we must be firmly rooted in the sacred texts that form the basis of our nation's spiritual heritage.
"When one study's the complexity of the subject, it is brought to simplicity when mastered" Reply

c July 12, 2009

I agree with Valarie.
When we discuss whether or not our lives are G-dly, we should talk about why we live our lives, instead of finding random connections and hints to G-dliness. Likewise, school. School is a preparation for life and that in itself makes it G-dly, because we need the tools and the knowledge and thus the power to live as Jew. Reply

Beverly Kurtin Hurst, TX May 5, 2009

The short answer is everywhere. With every breath we take, every morsel of food we eat, every drop of water we drink G-d is in it. He isn't "up there" somewhere; he is right here, all around us, how else could could our prayers be heard or answered? Particle Physics describes G-d perfectly. As for algebra and trig, etc. I still marvel at how everything is in balance. I cannot recall how many times in my adult life I have had to use algebra and trig to solve problems that had nothing to do with mathematics. When you are in high school, you can use the presence of G-d to help you find both him and the solution to your questions. Reply

Duby Morristown, NJ February 13, 2009

this was brilliant .... so many times in school, we all had this attitude of "why do we need this in 'real life'" --- and so many times teachers didnt really have answers (im talking about the REAL annoying subjects like Trig and Algebra :):) ...

in any case, this was a real eye opener :)

thank you for writing it ! Reply

p.wanjohi nairobi, kenya February 13, 2009

True, all knowledge naturally or intrinsically leads to the Torah. There is no branch of knowledge -- be it art, science, history or sociology -- that is outside of the Torah because knowledge is Torah. If only we could comprehend... Reply

Inge Reisinger February 13, 2009

Thanks for wise words. Reply

Stan Frank Cote St. Luc, Quebec February 12, 2009

The more the complexity & increased knowledge that we now possess, the clearer we see the greatness of G-d. When I studied chemistry, math, & physics, our understanding of atomic & molecular structure was "fashmirt". It really was blurred & made little sense. But as we did more research the basic structure is reduced to a simpler particle & wave elements.
Just as complex Torah is, more & more study reveals the simple truth, that the way of our G-d's path to a real meaningful life is to love our fellow man, as G-d has always loved us. See how complex issues can be resolved by study. God made it easy for us to prepare ourselves for life eternal, all we have to do is study the map of life, i.e. Torah. Without study, we are as the animals in the field. Reply

Anonymous Boca Raton, FL February 12, 2009

I meant how to find G-d in statistics...

When I meant by condescending is that I did not want in any way to minimize Rabbi Goldman's meaningful article with my comment. Reply

Jimmy Staten Island, NY February 12, 2009

I don't either mean to sound condescending, but what are you talking about?

Do you mean to ask how to find G-d in stats? If that's what you meant, why would that be condescending? If that's not what you meant, what did you mean? Reply

Jelena Ayalah Kalderon Belgrade, Serbia February 12, 2009

Dear Rabbi Goldman,
your answer is the most beautiful and the most meaningfull of all.
I am a phycisist. After I started learning Torah, step by step, day by day, year by year, I found deepest meaning not only in science I love, but in my entire life.
Rabenu Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides) said in The Guide for the Perplexed: "Study astronomy and physics if you want to comprehend the relation between the world and God's management of it."
Being talented for natural sciences, especilly physics, I have found myself blessed. Thank G-d! Reply

Anonymous Boca Raton, FL February 12, 2009

I dont mean to sound condescending, but what about statistics? Reply

Valarie Winnipeg, Manitoba February 12, 2009

I whole heartedly agree with Rabbi Goldman. One can find G-d in all things, after all, isn't G-d our creator? But, schooling prepares us for life, in so many ways that we do not realize at the time we are in our daily classes. This is only one of infinte manners for us to prepare ourselves for Moshiach's arrival. We learn purpose, compassion, strength, character, and too much more of what G-d wants not only from us but most importantly for us. Rabbi Goldman i think, has only just touched the surface of all we can find in school that allows G-d to be an integral part of life. Reply

Aliza February 5, 2009

Thank you so much for these tips. They are wonderful and will help me to appreciate G-d in every aspect of my studies. Reply