Our parsha concludes with the verse, “You shall guard the words of this covenant, and perform (literally, “make”) them, in order that you may prosper in all that you do.” Our Sages address this command in Massekhet Sanhedrin 99b: “Reish Lakish said: ‘Anyone who teaches someone else’s child Torah is regarded by the Torah as though he made him’… R. Elazar said: As though he has made him – in terms of Torah, as it is written: ‘You shall guard the words of this covenant and perform them’.”
The Netziv, in his Ha-Amek Davar, explains what R. Elazar means: that following all the warning and rebuke, Moshe advises Bnei Yisrael that “when the destruction of [Divine] punishment comes, you should once again establish words of Torah – i.e., that others should study Torah.” To his view, what the verse is teaching us is that the way to preserve the covenant, following the rebuke, is to “make them”: to start teaching Torah to others, to “make” people, to complete that which is lacking in their understanding of Torah, “in order that you may prosper…”.
The two Amoraim quoted in the Gemara emphasize that a person who teaches someone else’s son has, metaphorically, “made” him
But a different teaching, from the beginning of Massekhet Sanhedrin (19b), provides another definition of the relationship between a person and his student: “R. Shmuel bar Nahmani said in the name of R. Yonatan: Anyone who teaches someone else’s son Torah is considered as though he gave birth to him, as it is written (Bamidbar 3), “These are the generations of Aharon and Moshe” and then it is written [only], “These are the names of the sons of Aharon” – to teach you: Aharon fathered them but Moshe taught them, therefore they are called his sons.”
Here we find the teacher being considered as though he bore his student.
There are two aspects to a person who teaches Torah, and two messages that the teacher conveys to his students.
The teacher first of all passes on the tradition that he received from his own teachers and Rabbis, and their Rabbis in turn, all the way back to Moshe who received the Torah from Hashem. For this reason we recite daily the blessing, “Blessed are You, God, Who teaches Torah to His people, Israel.” Every day Hashem teaches (in the present tense) Torah, and this instruction issues from the mouth of the person who teaches Torah. Every day the Creator grants a person renewed vitality for his Torah, and therefore every time he teaches Torah he is, as it were, giving new life and vitality to his student. He turns his student into part of the Jewish tradition; in this sense, he “bears” or “gives birth” to him. His role is to convey to the student the message that one day he – the student – will be responsible for the continuation of the tradition of Torah.
A brief review of the story of Creation, in Sefer Bereishit, reveals that there are three different terms used to describe the creative process: “beriah” (creation); “yetzirah” (formation); and “asiyah” (making). The act of “asiyah” is explained by the commentators as the provision of the final vessels or tools by means of which the process may operate. In defining the role of the Torah teacher, our Sages selected the concept of “asiyah” – making. In other words, the role of the teacher is to provide the student with the vessels of thought: analytical ability, abstraction, the importance of accuracy concerning every word and even every letter. In every generation a new intellectual vessel is added, and the Torah teacher must be aware of these changes. His task is to knit the old with the new such that his students’ generation will continue to study Torah with zeal and dedication.
New groups of Torah MiTzion representatives are departing for Kollels overseas, bearing the enormous responsibility of continuing the tradition of our holy Torah, and of spreading Torah via the suitable vessels throughout the communities in which they find themselves.