about Rabbi avraham epstein
words of torah
My educational philosophy is that learners must become teachers. We process and apply knowledge most effectively when we have to articulate it to others. This is illustrated by the well-known passage in the Talmud (Bava Metziah 85b) which describes the sage Rabbi Chiya. He once asserted that he single-handedly assured that Torah learning would never be forgotten by the Jewish people. What was his secret?
Said Rabbi Chiya: I plant flax seeds and grow crops of flax which I then harvest and produce nets. With the nets, I trap deer, feed their meat to orphans, and use the hides to produce parchment for Torah Scrolls. I personally write the Torah scrolls and then I go to a location without Jewish Schools, I recruit 5 children to whom I teach, each one, one of the 5 books of the Torah. I do the same with the six orders of Mishna. Then I say to the students, now you teach each other!
The passage concludes; “How great are the works of Chiya!”
This passage teaches us two inspirational ideas. First, look at the selfless dedication it took to build those children…Rabbi Chiya did it all himself! Why? Why not simply buy the books retail? R’ Chiya understood that only with the highest purity of motive, only when everything is done for the Sake of Heaven can there be any enduring results. So he planted, and trapped and wrote the Torahs himself to ensure that his commitment to G-d shone through his actions and sanctified all that was done for the education of the Jewish people.
Secondly, R’ Chiya showed us that students and learners will master material when they take ownership of it and teach it themselves. When they take on the responsibility of being the conduits through which God’s wisdom flows, then they become elevated and they also ensure that Torah is not forgotten, that they are the perpetuators of Jewish knowledge themselves.
Let us take inspiration from this passage to make sure that all we do for our students is the Sake of Heaven, and let’s work to make our students master teachers.
every student according to their way
to educate is to inspire
“Chanoch l’na’ar al pi darko.*
“Educate a child according to their way.”
Every student is a precious individual, brimming with their own unique potential.