A Guide To Teaching Torah

As we mentioned in previous articles, the lighting of the Menorah represents
the teaching of Torah to Klall Yisroel, and more specifically, a Rebbe's teaching
to his students. In this article, we plan, בעז"ה
, to offer a number of new insights into our topic, based on two pesukim at the
beginning of our Parsha (Bamidbar 8:2-3).

Posuk 8:2 reads, "דבר אל אהרן ואמרת אליו, בהעלתך את
הנרת אל מול פני המנורה יאירו שבעת הנרות
." – “Speak to Aharon and say
to him: when you raise up (light) the candles across from the face of the Menorah,
the seven candles will alight.

Personal Example

"בהעלתך…יאירו שבעת הנרות" –

Question: Why did the posuk begin in the second person (active), "בהעלתך
" – when you light – and conclude in the third person (passive) – the seven
candles will light?

Answer:" בהעלתך" refers to the actions of the
Rebbe/teacher, while the candles refer to his students. The posuk teaches that a
Rebbe’s main influence on his students is not from his teachings, but from his personal
fulfillment of his teachings. When his students see that he is faithful to his own
instruction, they will automatically begin to inculcate his lessons. Thus, "
יאירו" is in the passive —it occurs automatically.

In a similar vein, we can explain the posuk in Yishayahu (30:20), "…
והיו עיניך רואות את מוריך ." – "…and your eyes
shall see your teacher
." The main impression a teacher has on his students is
when they "see" him, i.e., his actions, and not only when they "hear" him. When
a child sees that his teacher fulfills what he preaches, he feels the teacher is
honest and dedicated. This feeling imbeds the Rebbe's teaching deep within his student
and generates his interest to fulfill his Rebbe's teachings. On the other hand,
academic learning alone leaves a relatively shallow impression on the student. This
idea is also seen in the posuk " כי נר מצוה ותורה אור…"
– "For a candle is a mitzvah and Torah is light…" (Mishlei 6:23). When a
child sees his teacher fulfilling a mitzvah (and not just talking about it), he
will be filled with the light of Torah.

When is the Rebbe's personal example most effective? When he fulfills the mitzvah
with enthusiasm. This gives an added sense of value to the mitzvah in the eyes of
the student. This idea is alluded to in the choice of the wording "
בהעלתך" – to light, for raising up represents an
active lighting; one done with enthusiasm.

Who Should Teach?

Moshe is told to instruct Aharon to light the Menorah, while the posuk could
have said that the Cohen Gadol is responsible for this avodah. This teaches that
a teacher of Torah should copy the ways of Aharon. Hillel says ( Avos 1:12), "
הוי מתלמידיו של אהרון…אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה"
– "Include yourself among the students of Aharon…love people and bring them close
to Torah
." Hillel mentions two conditions necessary to be effective with students:

אוהב את הבריות – to love and respect his students
without pre judice and without expectations; simply because they are Hashem's creatures.

ומקרבן לתורה – to be able to identify where each
student is holding and work to raise his level of interest and concern for Torah.

In addition, one point leads to the other. That is, in order to succeed at bringing
a student close to Torah, the student has first to feel that his Rebbe loves and
respects him for who he is.

Evolving Lessons

There are three aspects to the Cohen Gadol's lighting of the Menorah:

  1. to light it,
  2. to remove the ashes, and
  3. to prepare the candle for the following lighting.

This is called " מדליק ומטיב את הנרות " (see

Regarding a Rebbe's teaching, the first stage is to teach his lesson.

The second stage is to מטיב – or improve – the
lesson by: (1) refining his own presentation and (2) reviewing the lesson with the
students to see if it is clear and understood.

The third stage is to create a logical flow, and if possible, a raising of standards,
from one lesson to the next.

Student Growth

When the Rebbe first teaches a lesson – as represented by "
בהעלתך את הנרת " , "
" is written lacking, without a vav. Afterwards, when we are told that
the candles are filled with light, representing student understanding and acceptance,
" נרות" is spelled with a vav – a full spelling.
This teaches us that although a student may hear a lesson, his
נר –achievement – is only considered full when
he can light others with his knowledge, " יאירו…הנרות"

Similarly, " בהעלתך " is used at first and not
" בהדלקתך " , to say that the true "lighting" of
the student does not come solely through their Rebbe's teaching, but through the
student’s personal fulfillment. This idea is also mentioned by Rashi who explains
that the use of בהעלתך teaches that a Rebbe must
teach and relate to his student until the student inculcates the lesson to the point
where he can repeat it on his own.

Chochmah and Middos

Question: On one hand, the Torah uses the wording "
" – to raise up. On the other hand, it instructs the Cohen Gadol to
light the candle " אל מול פני המנורה" – toward
the face of the Menorah – toward the side. How can we reconcile these two dinim?

Answer: In order for a student to follow the teachings of his Rebbe, two elements
are required: (1) an understanding of the material learned, and (2) a willingness
to subject himself to the teachings of his Rebbe. One without the other, will not
suffice. The lighting of the candle upward – " בהעלתך"
– refers to his understanding of the lesson, while the acceptance of his Rebbe's
words is expressed in " אל מול פני המנורה" – where
the student, through humility, reverence and acceptance, inculcates the words of
his Rebbe.

Measuring Improvement

It is vital for a teacher to measure his student's progress for a number of reasons:

1. To see
if the student is paying attention to the lessons.

2. To see
if his teaching methods are effective.

3. To take
a child's misbehavior in proportion.

4. To give
himself strength to take on new students.

5. To be
able to compare the student's development in school with his development at home.

6. For the student himself to see that he is making progress,
in order to increase his confidence and self-satisfaction.

We see this idea alluded to in the spelling of the word "
נרות" . At first, it is spelled without a vav,
signifying an unaccomplished student. The posuk concludes, "
יאירו שבעת הנרות" – including a vav, signifying
accomplishment on the part of the student. However, a teacher should be aware that
accomplishment and progress comes with a day-in and day-out effort, which can see
the child rise and then fall periodically. It is incumbent upon the Rebbe to constantly
pick his student up and pull him forward.

This is hinted to in the Cohen Gadol's responsibility to
מדליק ומטיב the candles:

מדליק – to teach the student, and

מטיב – to deal with his difficulties and downfalls
and bring him back up.

Eye-to-Eye Contact

A Rebbe's success with each student is dependent, to a great deal, on his personal
contact with him. Before a student is ready to receive Torah from his Rebbe, he
needs to feel that his Rebbe respects him as an individual and that he takes his
individual situation into account when relating to him. This is alluded to in our
Parsha, where the " " נרות (candles) – representing
the students, had to be lit " אל מול פני המנורה"
(representing the Rebbe). The Rebbe must make eye contact with each student, suggesting
the development of a personal relationship.

The benefit of a direct relationship with each student is found in the posuk
in Mishlei (27:19) " כמים הפנים לפנים , כן לב האדם לאדם
." – "As one's face is reflected in water, so too is the heart of man
to man.
"The commentaries explain that a person's mood is a reflection of the
mood of the person he is talking to. Thus, in order for a Rebbe to inspire his students
to listen to him and accept his teachings, he needs to take a positive, caring approach
toward each child.

Students As Teachers

Although a Rebbe is far more advanced in learning and personal conduct than his
students, he should nevertheless not diminish their honor, as the Tanah says in
Avos (4:12), "The honor of your student should be beloved to you as your
own honor." Why is this so? Our answer is found in Meseches Ta'anis (7a). Asks Rav
Nachman bar Yitzchok, "Why is the Torah compared to wood, as it says, "
עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה" ? He answers, "to teach
us that just as thick wood is ignited by first lighting thin twigs, so too, small
talmidei chochomim sharpen the minds of great talmidei chachomim. Rebbe Chaninah
said on a similar note, that "I learned more from my students than from my teachers
and colleagues” (ibid).

Our posuk " בהעלתך את הנרת אל מול פני המנורה יאירו
שבעת הנרות
" , seems to be ridden with a contradiction. On one hand, it mentions
that the six candles had to face the middle candle, as Rashi explains that the three
eastern candles faced the middle candle and so too did the three western candles;
leaving the middle candle in it's own category. Then, in an apparent contradiction,
the end of the posuk categorizes all seven candles together.

We can explain the apparent contradiction with the Chazalim above. The beginning
of the posuk refers to the initial teaching of the Rebbe, while the end of the posuk,
where the Rebbe is equated to the students, refers to the deepened understanding
a Rebbe gets from interaction with his students. He too is like them, for just as
they learn, so does he !

Don't Worry About Results

The purpose of the Menorah was to light the candles and this is what Hashem commanded
of Aharon – " יאירו שבעת הנרות " . However, when
the posuk reveals to us Aharon's response to Hashem's command , it does not mention
the actually lighting of the candles. The Torah is alluding to us that Aharon was
only concerned about fulfilling Hashem's command and left the result of his actions
in Hashem's Hands.

Similarly, we find by bircas Cohanim, that Hashem said that the Cohanim should
" ושמו את שמי על בני ישראל ואני אברכם " – "They
should place My name on Bnei Yisroel and I will bless them
" (Bamidbar 6:27).Here,
we see that the Cohanim's job was to place Hashem's name on the Jewish people, but
the actual blessing was left for Hashem to place. This is the idea that the results
of our actions are in Hashem's hands.

In the context of education, the Magid Midubno (in his commentary on Megilas
Rus, on the posuk " ויהי רעב בארץ " ) says that
if an adult gives reproof to a child, even if the child does not listen at times,
the adult is not to blame, for he did all that he can be expected to do.

Educators, on one hand, must be totally dedicated to their students, but on the
other hand, they should be aware that the final effects and results of their words
and actions are in Hashem's hands.