Guest Blogger -
Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
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Who is a Torah Rebbe?
In numerous passages of the Prophets the phrase "B'nai HaNa'vi'im",which literally means the children of the Prophets, is cited. This literal translation cannot be the true meaning of the phrase for there is no relevance to the prophecy or to the incidents of the story to note that the Prophets had numerous children. Don Isaac Abarbenel, contended that the phrase referred to the students of the Prophets who studied ethical and moral conduct from the Prophets. The professional goal of these students was to become ennobled by their ethical conduct that they may be Divinely selected to serve as Prophets by G-d. Thus, the Prophets served as teachers of ethical conduct to students.(see Commentary of Don Isaac Abarbenel, Shmot)
The pragmatic impact of the above interpretation may be gleaned from the ruling of the Rambam pertaining to the basic Mitzvah of Talmid Torah. The Rambam states that "every Jewish scholar has a Mitzvah to teach Torah to students as it is written- 'V'Shinantam L'Vanecha'.[Devarim 6;7 The literal translation is that "one should teach (Torah) to your sons or children.] Tradition has it that "L'Vanecha" means students, for students are called sons (or children) as it says, 'Vayatzu B'nai Hanevi'im, and the students of the Prophets departed'. " (Rambam, Hilchot Talmud Torah 1:1)
Thus, the Rambam explicitly rules that the obligation to teach Torah to students is derived from a verse that deals with the students of Prophets. To the extent that the basic curriculum of the students of the Prophets was ethical and moral behavior, indicates that a teacher of ethical behavior is as much a Rebbe [Torah teacher] as one who imparts textual Biblical or Talmudic Torah principles. In other words the Rav in Yeshivot that teaches morality (the Mashgi'ach or Mash'pia) is to be classified as a teacher of Torah to be afforded proper respect.
A further extension of this concept may be to suggest that parents who imbue their children with "Mentshlich'keit" and standards of moral behavior are also to be classified as Rebbe's to their children and afforded the respect due Rebbe's of Talmud Torah.
Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen