By Rabbi Yisroel Leichtman
And these are the laws that you
shall place before them (Shmos 21:1)
The Parsha begins with G-d instructing Moshe to teach
the Torahs laws to the Jewish people. Interestingly, this
is expressed by telling Moshe to place the laws before them.
paraphrases the Mechilta, that placing the laws before them means
that one should teach Torah just as one would set a table for guests,
with everything prepared and in its proper place. It is not enough
to teach the information two or three times until the student can
repeat it by rote. Rather, one must insure that his students understand
the underlying principles and reasoning as well.
teaches us what is expected of both the teacher and the students
of Torah. The teacher is expected to prepare a feast for his students.
As the Yalkut Lekach Tov brings from Sefer Zichron Meir, a teacher
must take his raw knowledge and put it through the whole cooking
process, so to speak, before it can be brought to the table. The
student is expected to do more than just repeat what he has learned,
he should truly digest it. As Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt"l writes,
"one has to work through the subject to the point that he feels
as if it is his own." It is not enough that the student goes
through the material, rather the material must go through him and
become part of him.
Talmud (Eruvin 54b) we can see to what degree one must apply himself
as a teacher and a student, and what the eventual reward will be.
relates that Rav Preidah had a student whom he would have to teach
the same material four hundred times until he would grasp it. One
time there was a mitzvah that Rav Preidah had to go to perform immediately
following his lesson with this student. This time the student did
not absorb the subject matter even after the customary four hundred
times. The student explained to Rav Preidah that he was unable to
concentrate as he was constantly anticipating Rav Preidahs
imminent departure. Rav Preidah calmed him and assured him that
he would remain with him until he understood. He then taught the
material another four hundred times at which point the student finally
said that he understood. The Gemarah concludes that a heavenly voice
asked Rav Preidah if, as a reward, he would prefer to live an additional
four hundred years or that he and his entire generation go to Olam
Haba, (the World to Come). Rav Preidah answered that he would prefer
that he and his generation merit Olam Haba upon which Hashem responded
that he would receive both.
provides a lesson and source of encouragement to both the student
and teacher, both in the classroom and in the school of life. The
student must know that perhaps the reason he did not comprehend
the material is because he did not review enough. Alternatively,
there might be external factors impeding his concentration or causing
him anxiety. He shouldnt despair, but rather apply himself
fully and go over the material once again. The teacher must be prepared
to make numerous attempts to reach his students before conceding
defeat. Sometimes the teachers only answer is patiently reteaching
the material time and time again, frustrating as this can sometimes
be, all the while reassuring the student that with enough review
he will eventually comprehend.
G-ds granting Rav Preidah extra years of life was to demonstrate
that all the extra time spent with his student was not wasted. Rather,
this time would be paid back to Rav Preidah tenfold.
Through his efforts, a teacher, by successfully reaching those he
is teaching, will merit that not only he himself but also those
he touches and indeed potentially his entire generation, will reach
new heights in the World to Come.
Published and İFeb 20,
1998 by the Chicago Community Kollel