Similarities Between Yeshivas and Humanities Departments

  • Both endorse a zealous ethos of pure intellectual activity, as separate from the real world as possible, either as a “life of the mind” or “Torah Lishma”.
  • Both endorse or romanticize poverty.
  • Both hold practical skills and working people (outside of their field) in contempt, and invest very little time in providing instruction in anything that is not exclusively valuable to them.
  • Both despise money and power publicly yet depend for their very survival on the largesse of the wealthy and their foundations or on grants given by the government.
  • Both speak of their contribution to society while considering writing “popular” works, or simply works that normal people can read, to be beneath them.
  • Both claim to endorse broad horizons, even when they specialize heavily in very specific fields.


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4 Responses to Similarities Between Yeshivas and Humanities Departments

  1. fred says:

    this is a very interesting post.

  2. Pingback: Sorry, But It Just Ain’t So: A Response to Prof. James Davila on Liberal Arts | QED

  3. Shlomo says:

    #1 – was once true, likely as a relic from monastery intellectual culture (and THAT culture is actually quite similar to yeshiva culture). Nowadays, I think the widespread vocal endorsement of radical politics in humanities departments is spurred by the criticism that those department do not in fact have any influence on the outside world.
    #2 – Yeshivas romanticize their own poverty, and not because of they like poverty, but because mass full-time Torah study inevitably leads to poverty. Humanities departments, beyond the dying monastery influence, romanticize only the poverty of others.
    #5 – I think the yeshiva world does put out a large number of popular works, and if anything the amount of “lomdus” published by roshei yeshiva is dropping.

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