The Importance of Teaching

The Bible in describing the Levites talks about the descendants of Aaron and Moses, but then only subsequently talks about the descendants of Aaron. Rashi, the first commentator Jewish children learn from and quite frankly continue studying for a lifetime, who lived around the year 1040-1105, comments that this teaches us that “Whoever teaches . . the son of his fellow man, the Bible regards as if he had begotten him.”

It is interesting, then, to reflect on this as the Bible is essentially saying that teaching of this type, is providing a type of sustenance that is as if they had actually fathered or mothered a child. I have commented before in another post about how in medical school, the common refrain was “see one, do one, teach one” when it comes to learning medical procedures. This deepens the value to understand how deep and important it is to become a teacher of those around you.

For many the pursuit of knowledge is a selfish pleasure that is for some a way to feel better about themselves. I have encountered these sad folks. They often like to show off and rattle on fact after fact not teaching but trying to impress you with their vast knowledge. In their pursuit to “be impressive” they forgot that there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom leaves traces and ripples outward effecting others. Recitation of facts impresses, but doesn’t leave a lasting impact.

When, however, you are blessed to have been taught by someone who preserves your freedom, isn’t interested in the slightest with impressing you, and challenges you, you can understand why the Bible sees this person as a parent to you. He / she is fact allowing a part of you to be born, waking up a part of you that may have been sleeping.

Such teachers are few and far between but that doesn’t negate YOUR responsibility, which is to teach valuable information you learn. Firstly, the student has to be willing to learn. Shoving food down the throat of a person not hungry does no one good and can be harmful. If they just want that knowledge to show off and build a castle of facts without a firm foundation of respect and a yearning for wisdom, it’s not your place to teach them. It’s also not your place to teach someone because you think they need it to improve their life. People must be ready to learn, not to be imposed upon because you think they “need” it.

I can tell you from my own life that the quote from Buddha that is oft repeated, “When the student is ready the teacher will appear” has been very true in my life both for myself as a student and even more surprising as to being called to teach individuals when I never would have foreseen that. There is a magical bond between a student and a teacher, it is therefore not a surprise for me to encounter this comment from Rashi as I did this morning.

Thank you to Rabbi Yossi Ives for pointing this out in one of his articles.

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Jonathan Carp, MD

Dermatologist, health food entrepreneur, beach addict, and health teacher.