homepage homepage programs

Parashat Bemidbar: Beyond the Subject Matter


As the genealogy of the Israelite tribes is recorded in the Parashah this week, it is puzzling that when the children of Moshe and Aharon, his brother, are listed, it lists only the children of Aharon.

“These are the children of Aharon and Moshe…Nadab and Abihu, Elazar, and Itamar.”

This seeming inconsistency leads to a profound Jewish value, that parenthood and education are two sides of the same coin. Since Moshe taught Aharon’s children, it is considered as if he fathered them, and from here our Hachamim declare, “Whoever teaches another person’s child Torah is considered as though he fathered them and has a parental obligation towards them.”

The mathematics instructor fulfills his obligation when he successfully teaches the desired knowledge to his students. There is no requirement that the teacher become concerned about the student’s wellbeing. In fact, the only indicator of the instructor’s excellence is the score his student obtains.

In the Torah, this is not enough. Scholastic achievement is only one facet of the teacher’s responsibility.

The reason for this difference is that the Torah provides, not only the principles of life but also, the goals in life. If a student has fully mastered the subject matter of Torah but has not been taught to integrate it to achieve the ultimate purpose of life, the instruction is incomplete. In order to fulfill his responsibility, the instructor must go beyond the subject matter.

Just as a parent is concerned about a child’s ultimate adjustment in life and does the utmost to enable a child to achieve success, so must the teacher of Torah dedicate his efforts to the totality of the student’s success.

~ Rabbi Shaul