Last week’s stretch of the week was: Make a point of being consciously humble in some way this week.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
PIRKAY AVOS--ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS
The Honor of Your Students Should Be As Beloved To You As Your Own
יהי כבוד תלמדך חביב עליך כשלך
Y'hi Ch'vod Talmidcha Chaviv Alecha K'Shelach
Perek Daled, Mishna Tes Vav
Story: (based on a true story)
The Kaplans from two doors down are ba'alei teshuva. The whole family began their return a few years ago and they recently switched their two kids to Jewish schools. Several of us on the block have been helping out whenever possible, answering questions and extending Shabbos and Yom Tov invitations. It’s inspiring to watch and help with their journey. Early on, my husband and I decided to make sure the Kaplans were not “a project”. We would treat them with the respect they deserved and as friends.
Two weeks ago, we had the Kaplans for Shabbos. Sylvia came to help me in the kitchen while our husbands kept watch over the kids. We talked about the difficulties of starting kids in new schools as I made up the salad plates for the next course. She had some really nice insights on how to help her children adjust, and I was amazed at how she advocated for them. I resolved to consult her after Shabbos about one of my kids and a problem she was having at school.
As I was picking through the cherry tomatoes in my containers, Sylvia went quiet. After a minute, she said, “Um, I thought I learned you have to do that differently.”
I stopped my hands and looked down. What was I doing wrong? I was pulling out the ones I wanted and putting them on plates, right? What was the problem? Wasn’t I the one who usually helped her out with things like this? I was still getting used to the idea that we could now eat at their house.
But then I stopped my thoughts too. I remembered something my cousin once said to me when I visited her and her family just after I came back from Israel.
“I always say that if you want to know anything about the halachos of Shabbos or Kashrus, ask a seminary girl,” said my cousin, who had by then been teaching girls limudai kodesh for over ten years. “Even if you’ve been doing it for ages. The seminary girl learned it all and is so excited about it." It was a part of my cousin's general philosophy of learning from and respecting others. I remember once relating to her a particular idea by Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky that I had just learned that he said regarding an incident in that week’s parsha. She thanked me, acknowledging that it was an idea she already knew but she had not known that it was said regarding this particular issue and was grateful for that knowledge and could now teach it to her students. I had given her something valuable that she wouldn’t have gotten if she had stopped me midway and said, “Yes, I’ve heard this before.”
Yes, I had way more experience running an every-day and every-Shabbos kosher kitchen than Sylvia did, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t be right here. Even if she wasn’t, it was worth a review of the halachos. And regardless of everything, I needed to hear her out. So I put on an open facial expression, hoping my pause had not been too long, and asked her what I might have been doing wrong. She carefully said I had been pushing aside some bad ones to get to the good ones underneath.
I hadn’t realized I had been doing that. Whether the exact action I was taking was technically problematic or not, it was certainly worth it for me to go over the laws of separating. I thanked her for helping me and for the considerate way she raised the issue, and resolved to begin reading ten minutes of the halacha book The Shabbos Kitchen each week and ask any questions I had to my husband or rav.
It was a good lesson. I already knew that while I was helping teach Sylvia how to be an observant Jew, she was a wonderful resource for me when it came to tuning in to each child and had helped me tremendously with my parenting. I hadn’t realized that just because she came to the laws of observant Judaism later than I did, that didn’t mean she had nothing to teach me about them.
"רבי אלעזר בן שמוע אומר: יהי כבוד תלמדך חביב עליך כשלך..."
"Rabi Elazar ben Shamu'a omer…Y'hi ch'vod talmid'cha chaviv alecha k'shelach..."
"Rabi Elazar ben Shamu'a says…The honor of your students should be as beloved to you as your own..." (Perek Daled, Mishna Tes Vav).
The mishna informs us that a teacher must accord his student the same respect that he desires for himself. He must demonstrate respect and treat each student with affection and appreciation, forging a close personal relationship. Indeed, we find many instances in the Talmud in which teachers expressed a filial love for their students, often calling them “my son.”
Many commentators point out that a teacher gains much from his students. Much of the rebbe’s knowledge is derived from interacting and studying Torah with his students. The brighter students ask penetrating and challenging questions, whereas the weaker students force the teacher to clarify the material. Thus, Rabi Chanina stated, “I learned much from my teachers and more from my colleagues than from my teachers, and most of all from my students (Ta'anis 7a).
(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos and from Pirkei Avos with Ideas and Insights of the Sfas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)
Discussion Question Options:
How do we sometimes treat those who we think know or have less than us without sufficient respect?
What can we do to ensure that we give our students, children or those we may help out with enough respect?
How can we prompt ourselves to learn from each person, even those that we tend to teach?
Stretch of the Week:
Ask a student, a child, or someone you usually help out to teach or tell you something from their knowledge or experience.