From the first verse in Bamidbar 3 we learn that it will be all about the descendants of Moses and Aaron. Yet as the chapter gets underway, only the sons of Aaron are mentioned. Why then are they described as Moses’ descendants? Shouldn’t they have been referred to solely as Aaron’s line?
Rashi says that because Moses taught Aaron’s sons Torah, they became his descendants. Moses, sometimes described as the great lawgiver, is said to be our greatest teacher. This exemplifies the high regard which Jewish tradition holds for teachers of Torah. Indeed, teaching Torah to children is Talmudically equivalent to having given birth to them (Sanhedrin 19b). Teachers can have an immense impact on their students.
Many people can remember the names of their childhood teachers, even after multiple decades have passed. The best teachers are not only learned in their subjects, but have a spiritual impact on their students. They teach enthusiasm and a positive attitude (or not). My high school art teacher taught me to have patience, my English teacher taught me to carefully value my words, and my childhood Hebrew teacher taught me to love the language in a way I have never forgotten. We have all had teachers who were so enthusiastic about their subject that they inspired us to want to learn more; and unfortunately we may also have experienced quite the opposite.
Teachers may also learn from their students, when they are themselves open to receiving wisdom. Perhaps Moses learned to be a stronger leader by teaching Aaron’s sons, his nephews, during their meandering journey between Egypt and the Holy Land. Education can be a way to take people from slavery to freedom, from oppression to liberty. And one of those people can be your very own self.
Shanee Banafshe Michaelson is an attorney, teacher, and a long-time resident of Los Angeles.
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