I sometimes think that the experience of Moshe Rabeinu with the Hebrews in the desert is akin to a classroom teacher's experience. Moshe juggled so many balls at once, that it was difficult to keep them all in the air. His students were sometimes unruly and he was called upon to teach a way of life and a set of laws to people who were not always eager to learn. He had many constituencies to answer to, including HaKadosh Baruch Hu, but at the end of the day Moses was alone as a teacher and the desert was an enormous classroom whose school year extended for a very long and tumultuous time.
At the outset of Parshat Devarim we find Moshe beginning his teaching of the Exodus to the kehillah.
Tradition says that Moshe taught the Torah four times, to his brother Aaron, to Aaron's sons, to the elders and then to the Kahal. one can Imagine Moshe the night before his talk reviewing material, organizing his thoughts and struggling to find the right way to present material so that the people might hear and remember. Shema Yisrael.
It is said that the book of Devarim, the final book of Torah, is the book where Torah commentary began. We see this in the way that Moshe's presentation before B'nai Yisrael is not quite the same as it was reported in other books of Torah. This adds one more of the traits of a teacher. Teachers bring themselves into the equation. They bring their own experience, their own magic to the teachings. Moshe brought himself, as a teacher, before each of the learners.
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To Be a Teacher
To be a teacher is to be detective, searching for the learner who is sometimes hidden under layers of negativity or fear or lack of confidence.
Teachers are like gardeners, planting seeds each year. Teachers may not be there for the final harvest, but those seeds are carefully planted and tended.
Teachers are searchers, scroungers and savers who are on constant hunt for just that right thing to excite their learners.
Like Moses before them, teachers are problem solvers who come armed with the wisdom of Solomon and the calming harp of King David. They are like the judges of old, adjudicating disputes.
Teachers are managers of time, content and space and teachers are perpetual students, striving to continue to build and grow.
Teachers are mentors, pointing out paths and possibilities and opening doors.
Teachers are builders of character and knowledge and thus they become the architects of the future.
Teachers are risk takers. Sometimes they are successful, and other times they are not,
but one thing teachers are not, are quitters.
Teachers are most definitely not quitters.
They get back up and try again.
To be a teacher is to be a kindler of lights and for each small accomplishment, for each new skill or insight, a teacher has helped light that light.
And teachers are cheerleaders and challengers.
They are huggers and hand holders
and awesome high-fivers.
To be a teacher is to be a catalyst for change,
devoted to their craft;
soldiers on the front line of creating tomorrows.
And so the book of Devarim begins and as we read this parsha and hear the words of our teacher, Moshe Rabeinu, we can begin to appreciate the art and the devotion to teaching.
Beginning with Moshe Rabeinu and extending to this very day, Ad Hayom Hazeh.
If you can, make a point of thanking a teacher today in honor of Moshe Rabeinu and Sefer Devarim. They deserve it.
Image taken from Wikicommons- School in Leavick. Left to right, standing: Lucille Rudd, Alice McLaughlin (teacher), Williams children and seated Rossman’s children. Source: South Park Historical Foundation, 2004
These are the words that Moses addressed to all Israel on the other side of the Jordan.