לק"י

 

Mishpatim: Finding a qualified Torah Teacher
 

"And these are the judgements which you shall place before them" 1

One of the most important decisions that a person faces (in today's world) involves his or her choice of a good teacher (Mori). A qualified teacher ensures the accuracy of the lesson and is more likely to be taken seriously by a prospective student.  But how does one go about making such a critical decision?  What does one look for in a good teacher?

In Torah she-be-al-peh (Tractate Avot II:6), it says that "an impetuous one can not teach". On this statement, the RMb"M zs"l makes the following comments: "The Rabbis also taught (Eruvin 55a): 'The Torah is found neither with the proud and conceited, nor with those who travel to distant lands.' They base themselves allegorically on the verses (Deut 30. 12-13): 'It is not up in Heaven...nor is it across the sea...' This they interpret: 'It is neither with the haughty nor with those travelling beyond the sea'. " 2

The first line of this week's Torah portion Mishpatim also alludes to the qualifications and behavior of a worthy Torah teacher. In Torah she-be-al-peh, it says the following about the previous verse:

which you shall place before them- It was taught: Whence is it derived that a teacher must give reasons for his statements to his students and not just utter them as fact? From: 'And these are the judgements which you shall place before them' [Set them on the table, as it were, for ease of observation] (Eruvin 54b). It was taught: R. Shimon b. Yochai says: 'And these are the judgements which you shall place before them' -- Just as this 'placing' is not evidenced by all, so you are permitted to steep yourself in words of Torah only before those who are worthy (Yerushalmi Avodah Zarah 2:7). It was taught: Whence is it derived that a teacher must arrange his teaching for his students as a set table? From (Deuteronomy 4:35): 'You have been shown to know,' and: 'And these are the judgments which you shall place before them' (Mechilta). 3

From the above verses, we can learn the following qualifications of a good teacher:

1) The teacher must be able to give reasons for his statements. Regarding this qualification, a qualified teacher should be able to explain a law (in simple terms) to a young child.  At the same time, the teacher should be able to find (or look up) the sources for his explanations when prompted.

2) The teacher must be considered worthy. By worthiness, we mean that a teacher should be learned and genuine in his speech, thought, and actions.

3) The teacher should be able to bring down and organize his teachings in an understandable manner. That is, the teacher should be able to demonstrate the source and meaning of the law or teaching in an organized manner that is conducive to comprehension and absorption. This may also apply to qualification number one (above).*

4) A teacher must not be haughty.

1 Shemoth 21:1
2
Maimonides Commentary On Pirkey Avoth, Paul Forchheimer, Feldheim, p.61

3
Torah Temimah, HaRav Boruch HaLevi Epstein, Shemoth, p.139

*  Site Admin.

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