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48 Ways to Acquire the Torah: Way #12

Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #12, “Exchanges with students”

Show me a teacher who has never acquired an amazing insight from a student and I’ll show you a teacher who should be fired.

I’ve had my share of boring teachers, who did nothing but lecture.

I’ve had more than my share of master teachers, who created an induplicable atmosphere in the classroom. These teachers did more than convey information; they stimulated me, they provoked me, they stirred my creative juices. I became more than a student. I became a creator.

When the topic is Torah, the topic is infinite. How could it be that a teacher and a disciple study Torah and fail to discover new levels of meaning? How could it be that all of these discoveries stem just from the teacher?

If a teacher of Torah wants to acquire the Torah, he needs disciples, and he needs to treat them in such a way that they realize their own talents. Disciples need to know that they can see in the Torah that which no one else has ever seen.

A teacher of Torah who engages in penetrating exchanges with his students is both an other-centered and a self-centered creature. For he himself will gain in the classroom something he can gain nowhere else. The students gain; the teacher does, too.

If I am a teacher of Torah, perhaps I am aggressive or perhaps I am laid back, but whatever my style of pedagogy, if I create an electric atmosphere in the classroom I create a partnership. Teacher and student, together.

In 1993, at the funeral of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, his younger brother Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik (1917-2001) said of his deceased older brother and of their late father that the two of them, father and son, devised creative readings of Torah together.

The 12th way to acquire the Torah: Exchanges with Students.

Way #1, Study; Way #2, Listen; Way #3, Articulate Speech; Way #4, Understanding of the Heart; Way #5, An Intelligent Heart; Way #6, Awe; Way #7, Fear; Way #8, Humility; Way #9, Joy; Way #9a, Purity; Way #10, Serving the Sages; Way #11, Interaction with colleagues

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Hillel Goldberg

IJN Executive Editor |

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