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Rav Eitan's Preidah Speech to Students of 5771-Torah Squared

Torah Squared

Rav Eitan

I came to Midreshet seven years ago as a teacher of teachers. At Yeshiva University, I had been teaching women at the Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies. My students were college graduates learning full-time in a high-level program of Gemara and Halakhah. All of them had years of serious learning behind them. All were intelligent and highly motivated; the best were brilliant thinkers, creative synthesizers, incisive questioners, and charismatic personalities.

For me, the privilege of teaching such a talented group was immeasurably enhanced by my awareness that the majority of them were planning to be teachers themselves. I felt that everything we learned together was leveraged, its significance magnified, by the unseen but felt presence of all of my own students future students as if we were learning not only Torah, but Torah squared and even cubed. We were learning not only then-and-there in our own cloistered Beit Midrash, a small group exploring and synthesizing together; we were learning Torah to the second, third, and fourth power. The methods and skills we sharpened together would then be the tools my students would use to teach their own students.

At its best, teaching even just the students right in front of you can be nothing short of intoxicating. Sharing a perspective which in a flash transforms peoples way of understanding; blowing their minds by making the obvious suddenly strange and the strange magically obvious; touching them by suffusing the familiar with meaning and deep personal resonance; the experience of teaching can be exhilarating, the high it provides even addictive, as so many of you discovered over Shavuot. But teaching not only your own students, but through them, their students as well, is magic multiplied by bliss.

So when I arrived at Midreshet seven years ago, something was missing for me. I had gone from Torah squared teaching teachers to simply Torah, teaching my own students and no more. I wondered if I would get the chance again to teach Torah taken to that higher power, to teach students who would then stand in their own classrooms before their students. I admit that I was disappointed. But since then, and especially this year, Ive come to see that I judged too soon.

The first way in which I judged too soon is simple: My graduate school students were five to ten years older than all of you, and from our Beit Midrash, at the end of our years learning together, they were proceeding directly to their own classrooms. I made aliyah and then, every November, on my trips for Midreshet looking for outstandng students like you, I would encounter them, my former students, in one school after another. It was quick nachas. With my Midreshet students, whom I taught when they were much younger, it was a good five years or so before they found their own classrooms. But that is where Im finding them now I just had to be a little more patient.

The second way in which I judged too soon is deeper, and it applies to every single one of you, whether you cant wait to greet your first students or youd never dream of entering a classroom as a teacher. What I realized what you were teaching me not only on Shavuot in your all-night shiurim, but what you were teaching me all year long is that all Torah is Torah squared. There is no such thing as Torah to the 1st power. Every Jew, every mother especially, is a Torah teacher. Everything I teach, everything all of us at Midreshet and all Torah teachers around the world teach their students, is being taught to the future teachers sitting right there in front of us.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed odd that I hadnt put it all together before: The Torah itself describes two different kinds of Torah teachers: First, the Kohanim the professional teachers, whose daily task is to stand in the classrooms and Batei Midrash of Klal Yisrael before their students. This is the kind of teacher represented by all of us at Midreshet, the category which describes my graduate students. But the second type of teacher far more numerous is the fathers and mothers of Klal Yisrael. The Torah doesnt say that the Kohanim are to teach the children of Klal Yisrael. Its the mothers and fathers.

From the earliest days of the history of , even before , it is the parents who are appointed as educators for their children. Along with the which we observed while still slaves in came the command to teach our children all about it:

? ... ( :-)

Later, reminded the parents to tell their children what they had seen at :

... , , ... ( :-)

If we have children and grandchildren, we are automatically their educators. As we say twice every day, parents are teachers for whom the classroom is the size of life itself:

: ( :-).

It turns out that every one of us is actually home-schooled " ". Even when we all pile into the car and go somewhere, the parent classroom comes along with us " ". It is teachers who tuck us into bed at night "" and teachers who shake us gently awake each morning "". Go home and tell your parents that youve decided to go into Jewish education. And if they have a problem with that, explain gently that you are only following the example they themselves have set in raising you, teaching every day.

It took me a long time, but I finally realized that I still am a teacher of teachers. Every one of us at Midreshet is engaged all year long in teacher education. I meet Midreshet alumnae with their children, and I realize Im meeting my former students, and their students.

Yesterday, at our beautiful final Shabbaton, we had what else? a panel, in which teachers spoke about what inspires them. Afterwards, I realized I had left something out, so I want to share it with you now. One of the things that inspires me most in life is the opportunity to teach you. You make it possible, for me and for all of us teachers at Midreshet with your incredible love for learning, with your amazing questions, with your hard work in classes and in the Beit Midrash, with your shining personalities, your smiles, your jokes, your laughter, your spirit, your passion to do good and to become better.

taught his student, ", that " , " The mother cow desires to nurse her calf even more than the calf desires to suckle. If you are a teacher, you have a message to share, but you remain mute, the message bottled up inside, unless you have students to hear it.

But I would go even further. implies that the teacher is already the person he is, that all she lacks is an audience; but for me, and perhaps for some other teachers, its precisely reversed: What inspires the messages we share is the fact that we have students in front of us to teach. Not only would we be silent without students, but we ourselves would never be challenged to rise to even that level that we can achieve, if not for the responsibility and privilege of sharing what we have with our students.

The same is true not only of classroom teachers, but also of parent-teachers. As you will discover 'once you have your own children (meaning your own students), having those children and encountering the need to be their teacher for life is itself what will endow you with the wisdom to do so. Without those children-students, you might never achieve that wisdom, that courage, that passion. One might engage in mitzvot half-heartedly, superficially, never wondering about their meaning, rarely bothering to connect with them deeply. But once that child is placed into your arms, once your little baby turns to you, his teacher, his connection to ', and asks you to explain that moment, that question, is what will teach you and remind you how precious your legacy is, how much it means to you.


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In the name of all of your teachers, this is the I give to you: May you continue to grow in , as you have done so inspirationally this year; may you succeed in all your pursuits in and find your with ease; may you be to bring many beautiful, wonderful children, your own little students, into the world; and that those children be just like you.


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