Does Judaism promote secular learning?
Does Judaism Promote Secular Learning?
There are different points of view today on this subject depending on who you are learning from.
But in general the 7 secular sciences are considered "Novolot Hochma", immature wisdom. This is as found in both Sefer Kol HaTur, which are supposed to be the teachings of the Vilna Gaon and are also found in the teachings of the Maharal of Prague.
You can think of this in terms of Sulam, the ladder in Yaacov's vision in Beit El. The rungs of the ladder are different kinds of wisdom. Some are closer to the material, physical plane of existence and others are closer to the spiritual. The higher wisdom, the wisdom of the Torah, is further removed from physical, material existence. But to climb the ladder you need to use all the rungs. You don't skip.
It is important, especially for young children, to have an initial and primary foundation for sacred study. However, in order to have a mature understanding of the wisdom of the Torah, extensive knowledge of the secular sciences is also required. They complement each other.
This approach was also favored by Ramban, who sought practical knowledge of how it worked in order to properly capture Poskim's decisions from previous generations. Knowing how things are on the physical plane of existence cannot be learned above. This is what G ‐ d explained to the angels when they opposed Moshe taking the Torah from above to give to the Jewish people. The angels have little or no connection with the physical. The Torah is to be used on the physical plane.
On a deeper level, Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla in Sefer Ginat Egoz relates this to the double letters in the Hebrew alphabet. There is nothing in the material world whose root and source are not above. This "fractal" type of relationship is derived from the double letters. Knowledge of both upper and lower wisdom gives a complete and mature understanding.
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