Friday, August 26, 2005

Seeking Truth

R. Michael J. Broyde on truth-seeking:

[W]hen I look back at my experiences at YU, I see that a number of different people at a number of different times reinforced to me a sense of the complex mission of YU. That complex mission was to truth-seek, and not to be content with half-truths or incomplete truths (never mind to be repulsed by falsehood).

No single person sold me on that mission -- but many shared it with me. I still remember speaking to R. Michael Hecht (an unsung hero of Yeshiva, if there ever was one) when I was in eleventh grade about a complex topic that I was troubled by. He turned to me and said "truth seeking is complex, and a lot of hard work. Think about this topic some more and then we can speak again." It was then that I began to understand that frequently the goal of YU was not to point me to a specific result, but rather to force me to develop a set of truth-seeking skills that allow me to discern the difference between truth and falsehood. Dr. Barry Potvin similarly shared with me a sense that scientific research was really a search for truth (and not just a tool to get into medical school). Dr. Moshe Bernstein shared the same vision in the context of Bible study, and that was surely the vision of Talmud study in R. Mordechai Willig's shiur, where I was privileged to sit and learn for a number of years -- exposed to the hard analytical learning of gemara and halakha on a daily basis, with truth being the currency of the realm...

Even as a student, I sensed that this search for truth was somewhat disquieting to many. Many students simply wanted to go on their merry way not plagued by any doubts, examination of the world around them, or digression from their professional goals, and this created some social tension within the community. Other students had already searched for truth and had found it and spent their time at Yeshiva not searching for truth but proselytizing for the truth that they had found and needed to share. Both of these results, I now realize, are inevitable in a healthy environment that seeks truth.

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