Rav Avigdor Miller on College and Toiletbowls

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Q:
Is it OK to go to Brooklyn College in order to make a parnasa? 

A:
I’m not going to pasken any sha’alah. But I’ll tell you this. I had to go to Brooklyn College recently. I went there to help protest against making this homeless shelter in our neighborhood. It was a community protest meeting and it was held at Brooklyn College.

And as I walked in, I smelled a terrible odor. The place poshut had a rei’ach ra’ah. It stank! The whole college had a terrible odor. It smelled bad. You really need a gas mask when when you go into college. There’s no place in America that smells as bad a college! If you go pay a visit to the place of the Mafia, a Mafia den, the Mafia den is perfume compared to a college. I mean it. It’s not an exaggeration.

And therefore, if a person has to go to a college; let’s say he’s a plumber, and he’s going to a college to fix the plumbing there, so he has to walk in. He can’t help himself; it’s his parnasa. So he should hold his nose and walk in. He has to go there; what could he do already?

But to go there and allow yourself to be dunked in their toilet, that’s a different story altogether. Look, if you want to be dunked in their toilet for parnasa, I’m not telling you what to do. Go to your rebbi – he knows you better. Let him pasken for you. I wouldn’t pasken that. I should pasken for you if you should dunk your head in a full toilet for parnasa? It’s too much, that I should be able to tell you that!

TAPE # 852 (November 1991)

Q:
The Rav mentioned last week that many college courses as well the college environment will poison the mind against proper Torah attitudes. But how is our community going to have Jewish doctors, lawyers and accountants?

A:
This gentleman is asks how are we going to have Jewish professionals if nobody goes to college.

Now, I actually did not say that no one should go to college. If anyone gets permission from his local Torah authority – a Torah authority who knows him well – if his rebbe tells him that for him college is good, then it’s a different story. I’m not saying anything at all on that subject.

However, imagine – you’ll have to excuse me for giving the following example. Suppose someone is a plumber. That’s his livelihood – a plumber. He gets a call and he comes to a certain house and he discovers that it’s not a place where a decent man should walk in. But he has come to fix the toilet so he fixes the plumbing. But he hears the goings-on. He hears and he sees,  and when he walks out of that place he smells bad – and not because of the toilet.

There’s no question that he had to pay something – he had to give up something – for his livelihood. “Bi’nafsho yavi lachmo” – With his soul he brings his bread. He has to bring bread home to his family but he had to give away part of his soul for it. Once he walks into a place like that, even though he is entirely innocent, the smell from there is already a part of him. And I don’t know if he’ll ever be able to get it out of himself.

Now, if a man has to go to college – there’s no other way for him and he gets a heter – even though it may be permissible, he must realize that he will be paying for it. Yes, he has paid for it. There is no question that when you associate with low people its going to make a mark, an impression, on your mind that will never be erased. No matter how much you try you will never get rid of it. And its a very expensive price to pay –
[ at this point the tape is cut off – v’chaval al d’avdan]

TAPE # 119 (April 1976)