ויאמר משׁה אל־יהושׁע בחר־לנו אנשׁים וצא הלחם בעמלק מחר אנכי נצב על־ראשׁ הגבעה ומטה האלהים בידי׃
Moshe said to Y'hoshua, "Choose men for us, go out, and fight with `Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with God's staff in my hand." (Exo 17:9)
Medieval Jewish commentator Rashi says:
"Choose ... for us" that is, for me and you; Moshe compared Yehoshua to himself. From here the Sages have said, "Let the honor of your student be held in esteem by you as your own honor." (Cited in Yorah Daiah 242:33)
Moshe, who by all counts had been very highly honored by Hashem, brought his student and disciple to his side and addressed him as an equal. This denotes of the true humility of Moshe (Num 12:3). I heard it said one time that 'True greatness is the ability to make others feel great!'
Here is a true anecdote from a Rabbi/teacher who understood this principle:
- When Rabbi Akiva Eiger's children were preparing his response for a publication, Rabbi Eiger wrote to them: "Among the response, you will undoubtedly find many letters to those who have studied in my yeshiva. Please do not refer to them as my students, for I have never called anyone my student. How can I know who has learned more from whom?" (Introduction to Tshuvot Rav Akiva Eiger).
As the mark of a true teacher, Rambam said, ,
- If his students do not understand what they have been taught, a teacher should not be angry with them. Rather he should repeat the lesson until they understand.
- A student should not say, "I understand" when he really does not understand. he should ask for the lesson to be repeated until he comprehends it, even if it entails several repetitions. If his teacher grow impatient with him he should say, "Teacher, what you are teaching is Torah and I must learn it; but my mental capacity is limited!" (Hilchot Talmud Torah 4:4; Yorah Daiah 246:10,11).
In his book, Love Your Neghbour' Rabbi Zelig Pliskin comments on this saying, "I once heard it said, "If you ask a question, you might be considered a fool for five minutes. But if you don't ask a question, you will remain a fool your entire life."'
Once at a writer's conference someone said, "We need to stop looking at people as 'wrong', and instead start look at them as 'lost'"
I think that it couldn't be more true. As teachers, we must always remind ourselves that we were not born with the knowledge we profess. Like everyone else, we were born ignoramus'. We also need to also keep in mind that we did not teach ourselves. Someone took the time to teach us either personally, on paper, or on digital tools. Everyone of us sits on the shoulders of the knowledge of someone else. At the end of the day, we are only the products of Hashem's infinite patience, as we do not know how long Hashem had been trying to drive the point home up to the day when we said, 'Eureka!'
We need to resist the temptation to look down on those who have not yet received the knowledge we have. The key to resist that temptation is to remember where we come from. Who knows, it is possible that one day, those on whom we look down today will surpass us. The true mark of a teacher is in the number of students who have surpassed him.
Remembering these things helps us all to look at the people we teach, whether they are our children, our friends, co-workers, employees, or congregants with compassion, love, and respect, just like Moshe did with Yehoshua.
The greatest sign of thankfulness we can show for the knowledge that has been imparted to us is to invest our time in teaching someone else what we know with the patience and grace that others, and ultimately Hashem has shown us.
Here is another true anecdote of a Rabbi/teacher
- Rabbi Praida had to repeat each lesson 400 times to a certain student until the student finally grasped the information. Once when they were studying together, someone interrupted Rabbi Praida and asked him to go with him to perform a mitzvah. Rabbi Praida waited until he was finished repeating the lesson the usual 400 times, but the student did not comprehend the lesson. "Why is today different than usual?" asked the Rabbi. "From the moment that you were asked to accompany those people, I was unable to concentrate on what you were teaching me." replied the student. "I kept thinking that you were going to leave right away. Rabbi Praida then repeated the lesson another 400 times, and for this Hashem granted him exceptionally long life and his entire generation merited Olam Haba. (Eruvim 54b)
Here are some more teaching nuggets,
- Besides possessing a thorough grasp of the subject matter that is to be taught, a teacher must sincerely be interested in the welfare of his students. he should try to help them with their personal needs and problems, and should show them understanding and sympathy. (Shivti B'hais Hashem, pp.16,30)
- A teacher should not use sarcastic remarks or ridicule ...(Bava Metzia 58b)
Our Master was a great teacher. He was tireless and patient. He used familiar talmudic parables so the simple and uneducated people could understand Him (Mat 13:10-11). He spoke to people in a relate-able language.
Once while going through Samaria, people refused him hospitality, a very grave sin. The disciples (reacting to the already acrimonious politics between Jews and Samaritans) wanted to punish the people and the area with fire and brimstone but the Master refused. Several year later, those very disciples found themselves ministering to that very same city. This shows that Phillip had learned his lesson about being a patient teacher from the grace, patience and foresight of the Master, (Luk 9:52-56; Acts 8:25).
Very often we find opposition when we try to share the truth of Messianic Judaism to those who have been raised in traditional churches. This can lead to derogatory and condescending attitudes from those who claim to 'know'. How unlike the Master this is How unlike the faithful Rabbi who repeats his lesson 400 times! The Master never looks down on us for our ignorance but like the patient teacher that He is, teaches us the lesson not 400 times but 7 x 77 times.
May we impart on others the patience He has, and ever continues to impart upon us.
May we learn to follow the apostle's injunction,
... and a slave of the Lord shouldn't fight. On the contrary, he should be kind to everyone,
a good teacher, and not resentful when mistreated.
Also he should be gentle as he corrects his opponents. For God may perhaps grant them the opportunity to turn from their sins, acquire full knowledge of the truth, come to their senses and escape the trap of the Adversary, after having been captured alive by him to do his will. (2Ti 2:24-26)