I’ve been meaning to post this (and other things) for a while, but could not really find the time to do it. Something my rabbi said two Shabbosim ago.
We learn in Pirkei Avos: “Yehudah ben Tema said: Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to carry out the will of your Father in Heaven” (5:23). This is also quoted in Shulchan Aruch (both the regular one and Alter Rebbe’s) and explained and expounded upon in detail in many places. That’s not what I am going to write about.
At the same time, we know that the Rebbe started a “campaign” against little Jewish children having non-kosher animals in the images around them (on their cribs, their clothes, in their books) or as their toys. I am also not going to discuss this, where it is coming from, halachic and spiritual aspects of, etc., etc. There are those much more knowledgeable than me who have done this, and there are better places online and offline where this was discussed.
What I am interested in considering is something my rabbi said. One the one hand, the Rebbe was against spiritually unclean animals surrounding a young child. On the other, Shulchan Aruch and Pirkei Avos tell us to learn from non-kosher animals. What’s going on?
The answer is: “everything that Hashem created, He created for His glory.” And “just because fools worship, sun, moon and the stars, should Hashem destroy His Universe?” We can learn from anyone and from anything and utilize anything for the purpose of holiness. The Rebbe himself was incredibly emphatic on this point, and in my opinion no stream of thought inside or outside of Judaism emphasizes this idea better and clearer (very strongly but without shtus — unlike some other streams of thought) than Chabad. But — there is time and place for everything. Just because we need to be able to learn from unkosher animals and in general impure phenomena in the Universe does not mean they should surround little children.
Little children need to be surrounded by purity, holiness and Torah in its cleanest and most direct form. When they are older, and Torah has penetrated to (or rather revealed) their essence, they can learn from other things.
So, this is what my rabbi said. My question is: should the same philosophy, perhaps, be applied to chochmas chitzoinius (secular studies)? Specifically regarding children.