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48 Ways to Acquire the Torah: Way #46

Pirkei Avot, “Ethics of the Fathers,” states in chapter 6:6: “The Torah is acquired in 48 ways.” This week: Way #46, “Making one’s teacher wiser.”

The relationship of Torah student to Torah teacher is profound, and tricky.

The profundity is the obligation to transmit, and receive, the tradition precisely. A space probe to Mars that, at launch, is one-thousandth of a degree off will eventually veer millions of miles off target. The responsibility to teach Torah accurately is heavy; the slightest imprecision will have immense, negative consequences.

So much for the profundity in the relationship.

The trickiness lies in the obviously superior knowledge of the teacher. Yet, each teacher is, or was, also a student. That student, his inferior knowledge notwithstanding, became a teacher because he completed his own teacher’s knowledge in some way. To guarantee accuracy in the transmission of the Torah, every student must make his teacher wiser.

Otherwise, mistakes creep in and widen from generation to generation.

Transmission is two-way pedagogy. This the trickiness.

Most Jews at the Western Wall feel the long arc of tradition, connected to the generations that came before. When students acquire the Torah, that same profoundity is felt. In part, it derives from the student enlightening the teacher.

The 46th way to acquire the Torah: Making One’s Teacher Wise.

Hillel Goldberg

IJN Executive Editor |

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