Acquiring Torah 21: A Fresh Perspective
Rabbi Pereda had a pupil whom he taught his lesson four hundred times before the latter could master it. On a certain day having been requested to attend to a religious matter he taught him as usual but the pupil could not master the subject.
‘What,’ the Master asked: ‘is the matter today?’
‘From the moment’, the other replied. ‘the Master was told that there was a religious matter to be attended to I could not concentrate my thoughts, for at every moment I imagined, now the Master will get up or now the Master will get up.’
‘Give me your attention,’ the Master said, ‘and I will teach you again,’ and so he taught him another four hundred times.
A Heavenly Voice issued forth asking him, ‘Do you prefer that four hundred years shall be added to your life or that you and your generation shall be privileged to have a share in the world to come?’
‘That,’ he replied, ‘I and my generation shall be privileged to have a share in the world to come’.
‘Give him both,’ said the Holy One, blessed be He. (Eiruvin 54b)
On a regular day he had to repeat a lesson four hundred times? Was that not an indication that the student was not sufficiently advanced to understand the Rabbi’s lessons?
The student obviously understood his teachers commitment to him. He always sensed that his teacher was totally involved and focused on conveying the lesson. However, once he felt that his teacher’s mind was somewhere else, he could not absorb any of the lesson.
The Rabbi was not rewarded by heaven for his willingness to teach every lesson so many times; he was rewarded for acknowledging that his student could not focus because his mind was somewhere else. He accepted responsibility and willingly repeated the lesson a second set of four hundred times. A person who can acknowledge that even repeating the same lesson hundreds of times demands that not a single repetition be by rote, and that his lack of focus, or conveying a lack of focus, dilutes the power of the lesson, is a person who can not only look at a text hundreds of times, each review fresh and exciting, but he can also look at himself with the same fresh clarity.
Such a person who can always see the words of Torah, no matter how familiar, with a fresh perspective, and applies the same fresh perspective to himself, lives on in this world a life that is an expression of the World to Come.