Acquiring Torah 14: Be Desperate to Teach
Rabbi Akiva gave five instructions to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai when Rabbi Akiva was incarcerated in prison (See Berachot 61b): Rabbi Shimon said to him, “Master! Teach me Torah!” Rabbi Akiva said, “I will not teach you (to protect his student from being imprisoned).” Rabbi Shimon said, “If you do not teach me, I will tell Yochai, my father, and he will report you to the government (for more serious crimes than those for which you were imprisoned [Maharsha])!” Rabbi Akiva said to him, “My son! More than the calf wishes to suck, the cow wishes to suckle.” Rabbi Shimon said to him, “But who is in danger? Is it not the calf (the student) that is in danger?” Rabbi Akiva said to him, “1. If you want to get yourself choked, hang yourself from a tall tree. 2. And when you teach your son, teach him with a book that has been corrected from mistakes. 3. Do not cook in a pot in which your friend has cooked. 4. If one wishes to perform a Mitzvah and profit handsomely, he should eat the produce and will have capital. 5. If one wishes to perform a Mitzvah and have a pure body as well, he should marry a woman, and to him, children!” (Pesachim 112a-b)
Rabbi Akiva said to him, “My son! More than the calf wishes to suck, the cow wishes to suckle.” Rabbi Shimon’s “threat” in front of the Roman guards was a question about using Torah to address more complex threats. (See “Acquiring Torah 13) The cow wants to suckle because the milk is heavy, and because she wants to nurture her calf. Rabbi Akiva’s answer, coded for the Roman guard, addresses the role of Rabbis as teachers: The best teachers are those who love their subject so much that they are desperate to share their wisdom. The only way that Israel will continue to search for the best teachers is if the teachers convey their love for teaching. Israel searches for teachers who love their learning so much that they are desperate to share their wisdom. The teachers are not interested in authority or power. They are not focused on people behaving properly; they simply love to teach. It is that love that keeps Torah alive.
Make a list of the most exciting and precious ideas you have learned, insights that have changed your life. Are you desperate to share them? Do you convey your love for what you have learned when you share your Torah?