Creating the World: Creating Bnei Torah (Part 1)

The success of a teacher is dependent on the way he looks at
his job. Either he sees himself as a supplier of information and as a class
warden, or as a spiritual stage director, who composes and directs the creation
and expansion of the neshamos (souls) of his students. Yes, he “creates” them,
as we find that Avraham was praised for “creating” the souls of his disciples,
as the posuk states, “ואת הנפש אשר עשו בחרן” [בראשית יב:ה] (“and the souls which
they made in Charan…”). Onkelos explains that helping another increase his Torah
loyalty and observance is considered an act of creation.

In every sense the teacher is a “creator”. He creates lesson
plans, he creates the tools and methods to deliver them, he creates inspiration
in his students, he creates the whole atmosphere of learning in the classroom.
The teacher creates relationships with his students and guides them to have
constructive relationships with their classmates as well. All in all, he creates
Bnei Torah, and inspires them to enter a cycle of continual growth. A teacher
who sees himself as a “creator”, needs only to look back at the original
“Creation” and let the Ribono shel Olam teach him how to achieve optimal
success.

(See the Sefas Emes in Bereishis תרל"ב ד"ה בזוה"ק" who
explains in a similar vein, that the posuk "אשר ברא אלוקים לעשות" [ [בראשית ב:ג
(“that Hashem created to do”) reveals that Hashem created in man and in all of
His creatures the ability to fulfill their purpose. We can add that אשר ברא…
לעשות means that man should learn from Hashem’s Creation – בראשית ברא – how to
accomplish – לעשות- his role.

Or, in the words of the Degel Machane Ephraim, a grandson of
the Ba’al Shem Tov, and a great tzaddik in his own right, in order to change
one’s nature, man needs to emulate his Creator. Just as Hashem created nature
with Chochmoh – wisdom, so too man can create for himself a new nature using
Chochmoh. So too, a teacher can learn from the Creation how to create success in
his classroom.)

Masterplan: The first posuk in the Torah includes the
blueprint for all of Creation: את השמים ואת הארץ – the heavens and the earth.
Before Hashem actually implemented the stages of Creation, He mapped out a
complete picture of what the Creation would look like and how it would function.
He decided in which order to create, (יום אחד, שני, שלישי… ) at which speed (וכל
שיח טרם .. [בראשית ב:ה]) and at what intensity (ויבדל בן אור ובין החושך [בראשית
א:ד]). He also left time for review (וירא את כל אשר עשה..) and rest (וישבת ביום
השביעי [בראשית ב:ב]) Hashem placed limits when necessary (המאור הגדול… המאור
הקטן [בראשית א:ט] ) and eliminated them when He saw fit to do so. (The creation
involving the waters was not limited to the second day.)

A teacher must have a master plan as well. Before the
beginning of the school year, he should not only know which subject or mesechta
he will be teaching, but at what pace, at which depth and at which breadth he
plans to present the material to his students. The teacher must work within
daily, weekly and monthly time limits, cutting edges when necessary and giving
more time to a topic when it is called for. The different commentators he wishes
to use, his expectations from his class and of each student as an individual,
how much time to allot for review, how much homework to give and even how his
students should spend their breaks, are all something a teacher needs to take
into account even before the school year begins.

The need for a master plan for the school year is alluded to
in the first day of Creation, which is called יום אחד and not ראשון (first), for the beginning
of the year stands alone as the basis and foundation for the whole year.

Daily Preparation: The night before each class day the
teacher should create lesson plans for all his classes, deciding which major and
minor points he wants to deal with and what he wants to accomplish the next
day—and stick to it.

השמים represents the learning content, while הארץ represents
how to “bring it down” to the level of the students. Sometimes the most
beautiful or the most inspiring concept will be left stranded beyond the reach
of the students if the teacher did not develop the right means to convey his
message to them.

In fact, a good part of a teacher’s job is creating
interesting and fruitful means of conveying his teachings to his students. The
Medrash explains the posuk ויכלו השמים… to mean נעשו כלים – the heavens and
earth became vessels through which Hashem could generate his Torah into world.
So too, a teacher must find the appropriate means by which to impart his
teachings to his students.

The teacher should review his lesson before presenting it,
looking for faulty logic or misunderstandings. He should put himself in the
place of his students and ask questions on his presentation and answer them.

ויבדל בין האור לחשך – A teacher must choose from amongst his
preparations that which he will include in his lesson and that which he will
leave out, what he will say at first and what he will conclude with.

Just as Hashem created different species, so too, He created
people with differing levels of comprehension. Therefore it is up to the teacher
to prepare his lesson on a number of different planes, so that all his students
can benefit. He should ask clever students more complex questions and easier
questions to average students. Each student will feel the class is given on his
level and enjoy it.

In השמים…הארץ, the שמים is written in the plural and הארץ
in the singular to teach us that the Torah can be taught on many different
levels, but needs to reach the ground with a prefect fit for each individual.
(The גמטריא קטנה of שמים is 12 and so is that of הארץ.)

The ending of the first day of creation with יום אחד teaches
us how to approach each day’s lesson.

  1. Each day should have a self-contained lesson plan.

  2. Each day expect a measured degree of accomplishments.

  3. One should use all his abilities and strengths to achieve
    maximum success.

  4. All of the day’s events, whether good or bad, should be
    looked at as a single unit, all necessary to build up the students in the long
    run.

Clarity and Geshmack: The first day Hashem created light.
Light represents clarity; clarity of ideas and clarity of thought. The basis of
all accomplishment is clarity. When Daniel mentions Torah teachers, he refers to
them as ,כוכבים who enlighten their students with their Torah, their chochmoh
and their Yiras Shamayim.

וירא.. את האור כי טוב—אור refers to Torah, as it is written
תורת אור and טוב, as well, refers to Torah, as in .לקח טוב נתתי לכם תורתי…

Clarity, and the good or the enjoyment—the Geshmack—it
brings to a person comes through Torah. It is advisable for a Rebbe to present a
problem to his students and show how it can be solved through the chochmoh and
clarity of Torah.

Rav Avraham Erlanger, shlita, Magid Shiur in Yeshivas Kol
Torah, pointed out in a recent gathering of educators in Bnei Brak, that the
Rebbe should show his students the beauty, the depth and the splendor of Torah
logic and reasoning. He said that when the lesson is clear and Geshmack, the
talmidim are attracted to the Torah and are prevented from developing outside
interests.

Rav Uri Veissbloom, Mashgiach in Yeshivas Nachlas Levi’im in
Chaifa, mentioned as well at the above gathering, that each shiur should be as
clear and interesting as possible, so that the students will go away with a
Geshmack feeling – a joy of learning and an appreciation of Torah.

The shiur should be enjoyable, interspiced with stories of
Gedolim which stress great middos and Yiras Shamayim.

Encouraging students: The students should be encouraged
to think on their own and discover their inner strengths. Rav Veissbloom shared
with his listeners the following incident to stress this point.

A certain student in the Yeshiva found it extremely difficult
to grasp the learning although he put forth a major effort to do so. One day,
Rav Veissbloom, who was then a magid shiur, introduced that day’s shiur with a
declaration that there would be no shiur until one of the talmidim explained to
him a difficult Rashba (early Talmudic commentary). The student in case reviewed
the Rashba a number of times along with the rest of the shiur until suddenly he
understood the Rashba and he told Rav Veissbloom of his great find. Rav
Veissbloom gave him a tremendous complement. From that point onward, said Rav
Veissbloom, the student’s mind began to open up and he eventually became a
talmid chochom.

Students should be encouraged to achieve on their own, as the
posuk statesפרו ורבו (בראשית א:כח) —be fruitful and multiply—succeed in
your own learning and use that as a springboard for future achievements.

When a student achieves on his own, he is filled with a
feeling of simcha. The same clarity which pushes a student to nod his head in
tacit agreement when he hears it from his Rebbe, turns into an excitement of
simcha, a feeling of discovery, when he reaches the understanding on his own.
This is why there is a mitzvah of simcha on Yom Tov and not on Shabbos,
according to the Sefas Emes (פםח עמ’ 84 ד"ה "עוד") for Shabbos is given to Am
Yisrael as a gift, without effort, while Yom Tov is decided upon by Beis Din, as
representatives of Am Yisrael, and this self-achievement fills one with simcha.

The students should feel they come away from the shiur with
clarity, with inspiration and with a satisfaction that they are engaged in words
of wisdom.

Overburdening Students: A teacher should not overburden
his students or confuse them, unless he feels it is beneficial for their
achievement.

Just as Hashem let His creation rest between days and on
Shabbos, so too a Rebbe should give his students time to rest, review and digest
the material learned that day. This time for rest should be considered an
integral part of the student’s day and as a creative act in itself, just as
Hashem used the word for creation ויהי to refer to the lull between days of
creation.

To be continued…