Laws Pertaining to Teachers of Torah

  1. Chazal tell us that the world exists because of the merit of the children learning Torah with their Rebbe. From this we learn that the spiritual reward for teaching children Torah is very great. The Shechina dwells wherever children learn Torah with their Rebbe. Rebbe Shimeon Bar Yochai once said, when going to visit a cheder, that he was going to see the face of the Shechinah. (Zohar, Lech Lecha). And, indeed, it was the custom of people who were dedicated to Torah to visit the cheder when they had completed their work in order to see the face of the Shechinah. Anyone who enters a cheder should be aware that he enters a place where the Shechinah extends Her wings protectively over Her young. The Rebbe must keep this in mind, apply himself faithfully to his sacred task and see to it that the cheder is kept clean: “your camp should be holy.” Rebbes should be aware that they are responsible for instilling faith in the young.
  2. A Rebbe must prepare himself for class so that he can answer questions correctly. The verse “cursed is he who does the work of G-d with deceit” (Yermiah 48:10) applies to a Rebbe who doesn’t prepare himself adequately and gives his talmidim wrong information. Moreover, the time spent in teaching misinformation is time wasted which can never be recovered, time in which the Rebbe actually prevents the talmidim from learning Torah.
  3. The verse “cursed is he who does the work of G-d with deceit” (Yermiah 48:10) also applies to a Rebbe who comes late to class or leaves the class in the middle of the lesson: he is depriving his talmidim of the opportunity to learn Torah. For this reason, the Rama (Shulchan Oruch Choshen Mishpat ח"ס ו"ש) writes that a Rebbe should not stay up too late at night because it may impair his ability to teach the next day. He should also avoid fasting, even in atonement of averos he may have done, for this, too, may impair his teaching. A Rebbe who was unable to daven before class should rather daven by himself during the break than delay his class. Every minute of learning is precious to G-d. For this reason, a person should avoid disrupting a class to speak to the Rebbe or one of the talmidim unless it is about an urgent matter that must be addressed before the break.
  4. If any worker who is given an hourly wage is forbidden to be late or to leave early, certainly a Rebbe, whose work is so important, must be careful to avoid cutting his lessons short because he is late or leaves in the middle of his class. According to the Zohar, the learning of the children he teaches negates harmful decrees against the Jewish People.
  5. Of course, if a Rebbe needs to pause to take a drink, etc. in order to keep up his strength to teach, he is permitted to do so. He should have no hesitations. Similarly, the break between classes and other things which the children need in order to renew their ability to learn contribute to the learning and are permitted.


Laws Pertaining to Teachers of Torah (Part 2)

  1. Those who teach righteousness to the multitudes will shine like the stars (Daniel 12:3). According to the Gemora (Baba Basra 8b) the verse applies to rebbes in chadarim and Talmudei Torah. Rashi explains that those who teach righteousness are those who educate their students to the right path in life. The Maharsha explains why a rebbe is compared to the stars. We only see the stars at night, but even during the day they see and serve the world. Similarly, even when the rebbe is not in the presence of his talmidim he should be concerned about them.
  2. Besides teaching his talmidim musar, the rebbe should also, from time to time, tell them stories of great Rabbonim and Tzaddikim that will inspire them to deepen their Yiras Shamayim, improve their midos, and intensify their dedication to learning. A Rebbe wants these stories to make a deep impression on them, so he himself should model the qualities they teach in the way that he speaks and davens.
  3. When the talmidim don’t understand a point that the rebbe makes, he should not get angry. Rather, he should repeat it as often as necessary until they grasp what he is saying. The rebbe who is not overly strict with his talmidim and patiently explains his lessons until they understand brings merit upon himself and his generation for which they are rewarded in the world-to-come, while he, himself, is rewarded with a long life.
  4. Talmidim are obligated to respect the rebbes who have taught them Torah (Chumash, Mishneh, Gemara, etc.), even those from which they have not acquired the majority of their learning. A talmid should feel gratitude to each one of his rebbes for guiding him to the world-to-come. A talmid who rebels against his rebbes will not have a long life (Chagiga 5a. ayain sham), and from that we can infer that a talmid who respects his rebbes will live a long life.
  5. Because the rebbe invests all his time and energy educating his talmidim, his principal and the parents of his talmidim should show their appreciation with occasional words of praise and encouragement. They shouldn’t hold back for fear that he will become overly self-assured. And if it is necessary to bring a shortcoming to the rebbe’s attention, it should be done in a discrete and pleasant way.
  6. Parents should, of course, show interest and concern for their children’s education and make a point of speaking to the rebbe about their children every once in a while. This can be very helpful for the child. The father should make an appointment with the rebbe—not just catch him for a casual conversation on Shabbos or at shul.
  7. Parents should realize that they have entrusted their most cherished possession—their child—with the rebbe. And the rebbe should teach with the awareness that the parents of his talimidim have shown him great confidence entrusting their children with him. He should make every effort to take good care of them and return them to their parents enriched by the education he has given them.


MDhalachalMaase is written by HaRav HaGaon R’ Shammai Gross
Translated by Rabbi Tzvi Abraham