Embedded in this week’s Parsha is a fundamental principle that shows us to how increase success in one’s learning.
The Gemara in Eiruvin (54b), partially cited in Rashi on Shmos 34:32, describes how Moshe taught the Torah to Klal Yisroel. Turns out, it was a rather complicated procedure. Moshe taught it first to Aharon, next to Aharon and his sons, after that to Aharon, his sons and the Zekeinim (Elders) and finally to Aharon, his sons, the Zekeinim and all of Klal Yisrael. By the end, Aharon heard the entire Torah four times from Moshe, his sons Elazar and Isamar three times, the Zekeinim twice and Klal Yisroel once. Subsequently, Aharon taught it to Klal Yisrael, then his sons taught and then the Zekeinim. In this way, everyone heard the Torah taught a total of four times.
If so … why didn’t Moshe teach it four times to Aharon, then Aharon teach it four times to his children and so on. The Gemara asks – would it not have been more effective to have Moshe himself teach it four times to everyone? The Gemara answers that it was to give honor to Aharon, his sons, and the Elders, which was shown by the private lessons with Moshe that they received. If so, the Gemara continues, why didn’t Moshe teach it four times to Aharon, then Aharon teach it four times to his children and so on. The conclusion of the Gemara is that hearing directly from Moshe helped the Klal Yisroel be more successful in their understanding of the Torah.
What this means to say, is that while it would have made the most sense educationally to learn directly from Moshe, the Jewish people were made to settle for the seemingly second best educational approach, because the need to honor Aharon and the other leaders outweighed that consideration. Instead of hearing from Moshe four times, they only heard from him once.
Our Rosh HaYeshiva, HaGaon HaRav Alter Chanoch Henach Leibowitz zt’l, asks – was it right to sacrifice even to a small extent, the quality of the eternal transmission of Torah and the spiritual level of Klal Yisroel, just to give honor to our leaders?
They were not losing out by this arrangement; they were harnessing a powerful tool to acquire the beauty and wisdom of the Torah. The Rosh HaYeshiva zt’l offers an eye-opening insight into the secret of how Torah is transmitted from one generation to the next. Even more than the quality of the educational instruction, it is the honor and esteem in which the Torah teachers are held, that impacts the transmission. With proper respect, the leaders’ teachings will enter one’s heart and their full impact will be absorbed and appreciated. On the other hand, where respect is lacking, the lessons and truths of the Torah will not be absorbed properly. By giving honor to Aharon and the other leaders and enhancing the esteem in which they were held by the people, their giving over of the Torah was enhanced and the understanding was deepened to a degree that may have exceeded that which Moshe Rabbeinu himself could have provided. They were not losing out by this arrangement; they were harnessing a powerful tool to acquire the beauty and wisdom of the Torah.
We are all attuned to the importance of a good relationship between our children and their teachers, in terms of our children’s motivation and positive attitude. How much have we considered the importance of the honor and esteem in which our children relate to their teachers, especially Torah teachers, Rebbeim and Moros? Have we considered our role in strengthening our children’s respect for their teachers, and despite occasional differences of opinion worked proactively on building up the stature of the teachers in our children’s eyes?
We see from this episode that being supportive and respectful of teachers is more than good Midos – it is a key to ensuring our children’s success in effectively and thoroughly absorbing the truths of our Torah. This is a responsibility shared by school and home alike – to speak and act in a manner that elevates, in our children’s eyes, the stature and honor of their teachers.
We see from this … that being … respectful of teachers … is a key to ensuring our children’s success in … absorbing the truths of our Torah. How does this work on a practical level? Fathers – do you train your sons to ‘give Shalom’ to Rabbonim and older gentlemen? When you are at shul or any occasion with your son, and you notice the presence of his Rebbi (past, present or future) do you make sure to show honor to the Rebbi and encourage your son to greet the Rebbi properly and respectfully? Mothers, when you’ve sent a note of appreciation to your daughter’s Morah, have you shared your feelings of gratitude with your daughter and shown a genuinely high regard for her teacher? At the Shabbos table, when the topic of discussion turns to Rabbonim, Mechanchim and Gedolim, are they referred to in reverential tones, and are their positive traits and greatness illuminated and emphasized?
By realizing that our attitude towards our Torah teachers and leaders are not just ‘another thing’ that Torah Jews are supposed to follow, but lie at the core of our and our children’s success in Torah learning, we’ll find it easy to excel in developing such an attitude, and thereby merit the Nachas of having children who follow in our ways.
Best wishes for a Shabbos of honor and Simcha,
Rabbi Kalman Baumann