A Torah Teacher’s Guide (3)
Reaching One’s Students
"תצוה" can be understood to mean "צוותא" –
connection/togetherness – meaning Hashem commanded Moshe to identify with and
connect with the people (שפ"א תצוה ליקוטים). Only then would the people heed his
words to bring to him the olive oil for the Menorah, as the posuk says, "ואתה
תצוה (צוותא) את בני ישראל ויקחו אליך (למשה) שמן זית זך".
Moshe was the first "Rebbe" of Klall Yisroel. However, the
same applies with each and every Rebbe throughout the generations. Before he can
be מצוה – command and demand – of his students, he needs to first connect with
them; show concern with their needs. (The use of the phrase " בני
ישראל" alludes to the posuk, "ושננתם לבניך",
which Chazal say refers to students, and from which we learn that students are
considered children – בנים.) Only once
a student feels his Rebbe is on his side, will the Rebbe be able to fulfill the
second definition of מצוה – to command and guide his students down the path of
Teach the midah of quickness — זריזות
"ואתה תצוה…ויקחו אליך…לעלות נר תמיד"
The wording of "תצוה" is used to emphasize how a mitzvah
should be done – with זריזות – quickly with zealousness, now and in the future (Rashi
on Vayikra 6:2). (When one is commanded to do something, he works
quickly to perform it, for usually the commander has power to do him harm if he
doesn’t fulfill the command as expected.) Here, Moshe is encouraging the Jewish
people – his students – to work quickly to bring the oil for the Menorah.
Question: What is the meaning of "quick, zealous action",
now and in the future?
Answer: The Sefas Emes (פ’ זכור תרל"ד ד"ה "תצוה")
explains that when one does a mitzvah quickly, without delay and with vigor and
enthusiasm, the effect of that mitzvah lasts forever. When one performs a
mitzvah with זריזות, he labels it as important, as something of superior value,
worth doing before other endeavors. This will cause him to repeat the mitzvah
again and again until the necessity of its fulfillment becomes ingrained in him
to the point where he passes the urgency to fulfill mitzvos to his descendents,
as our posuk concludes: "לעלות נר תמיד".
This idea is found in Chazal in the expression, "זריזים
מקדימים למצוות" – "Quick, enthusiastic people are the first to fulfill
mitzvos" (Pesachim 4a). Since the mitzvos are important in their eyes, they
jump at the opportunity to perform them, and performing mitzvos becomes second
nature to the person and his family who is influenced by his behavior.
The characteristic of זריזות is mentioned right at the
beginning of the Braysah of Pinchas ben Yair (after זהירות) (on
which the Mesilas Yeshorim bases his work), meaning it is a foundation
upon which all further development of the student stands on. (This is also an
understanding of מיד ולדורות.)
Therefore, first and foremost, a Rebbe should try and implant
the characteristic of זריזות — of eagerness, quickness and zealousness — in his
students, to serve as a basis for all their future development. This will give
inspiration to the students and have them place great value on their learning.
Teaching Students How to Learn
"ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל ויקחו אליך שמן זית זך כתית למאור"
"ואתה תצוה את בני ישראל" – Moshe, the Rebbe, teaches
Torah to Bnei Yisroel, encouraging them to apply themselves in learning.
" ויקחו אליך" –
Once the students have exhausted their own energies and resources, they need to
bring their work to their Rebbe, for analysis and direction.
" שמן" – Just as
the זית (olive) is the source of שמן (oil), so too, the Rebbe should have his
students trace their learning back to its logical source, to see if learning
stems from a credible source. Also in order to see if he can find proofs to his
" זך" – The
Rebbe should help his student clarify his learning so that it can stand up to
questions asked on it. This idea is alluded to in the gematriah of "זך" –
27, representing the 27 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, hinting that one’s
learning must be able to stand up to a full range of questions.
כתית" – Only once the learning has been plugged into a
biblical or talmudical source and has held its ground against questions, can it
be considered sound enough for it to be "כתית – cut off – and used as a proof in
another area of Torah.
" למאור" – All
this in order to shed light and clarity on a yet unclarified topic or question.
A Rebbe’s Job
What is a Rebbe’s job? To teach? Understandably, a Rebbe must
teach his students. But what is the goal of his teaching? The posuk tells us –
למאור – to produce light, meaning to raise the spiritual, intellectual and
behavioral level of his students.
Reaching the Light of Torah
Chazal tells us that only one who "kills" himself over Torah
will truly acquire Torah. The Sefas Emes sees this idea alluded to in our
phrase "כתית למאור". Only one who is "כתית" (to crush) – meaning he crushes
himself with Torah learning – will be able to reach "למאור" – the light of
Chazal (Gemorah Menachos 86a) explain that "זך כתית
למאור" means that only the oil for the Menorah – for light – needs to be זך
וכתית and not the oil for the menachos (meal-offerings). Why? For
menachos represent derech eretz – manners and behavior – which can be
improved with limited effort, as Chazal say in Avos, "דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה" –
"Manner and behavior come before Torah" – meaning they are only an
introduction to Torah. However to acquire Torah itself, one must immerse himself
fully in Torah learning and exacting fulfillment of mitzvos. Thus, "כתית" – in
order to reach the אור of Torah. The Sefas Emes adds (תצוה תרל"ח ד"ה "במדרש")
that through great effort the spirituality of a person is revealed.
A Rebbe who doesn’t demand of his students, prevents them
from seeing the light of Torah and of revealing new levels of their own
spirituality. On the other hand, a Rebbe who does have great demands of his
students, will eventually see them grow in Torah, feel simcha in their
learning and he will eventually see them develop great respect for Torah and for
their Rebbe who taught them Torah.
To be continued.