Chodesh Tammuz: A message from Rav Barak Saffer:

The Key Ingredient

When deciding on a Yeshiva nowadays, it is obvious that the ability to forge close relationships with Rebbeim is high on the list of priorities for any incoming Talmid. Undoubtedly, in this day and age a core requirement for any successful Rebbi is his ability to extend himself to his Talmidim in often unimaginable ways. However, as we will see, the most important ingredient for the ideal Rebbi-Talmid relationship will be often be missing, regardless of the efforts of the Rebbi. Unfortunately, this key ingredient when lacking can prevent one from forming the ideal bond with his Rebbi.

The first Mishna in Pirkei Avos teaches us that Moshe who received the Torah at Har Sinai passed it on to Yehoshua, thus beginning the transmitting of Torah sheb’al peh throughout our history. Not only was Yehoshua the successor to Moshe as the leader of our nation, he is recorded as being the first link in our glorious mesorah. It is interesting to note that when the Meraglim are enumerated in the beginning of Parshas Shelach the Ramban says that they were listed in order of their greatness. Yehoshua was fifth on the list. Besides Kalev three others preceded Yehoshua on the list. If he wasn't even the greatest of the Meraglim why was he chosen to pass on the legacy of Torah?

In answering this question we will also gain an understanding of the key ingredient necessary for the Rebbi-Talmid relationship. The Torah in its description of Yehoshua states " U'mesharso Yehoshua Ben-Nun, Na'ar, Lo Yamish Mitoch Ohel" (Shmos 33:11). Besides the hasmodah necessary and referred to at the end of the pasuk ("Lo Yamish Mitoch Ohel"), two other words stand out. The Ibn Ezra asks why the term "Na'ar" is used in describing Yehoshua if he was fifty six years old. He answers that it relates to the term "U'mesharso" referred to earlier in the pasuk. "Umesharso" tells us that Yehoshua served Moshe. Shimush (service) of a Talmid Chacham is usually thought of as a physical act, such as getting the Rebbe a cup of water or driving him to a wedding etc. However, there is much more to shimush than the mere physical act. The Ibn Ezra points out that the term "Na'ar" informs us that Yehoshua served Moshe a Sheirus Na'ar. He served Moshe as if he was a Na'ar. He was fifty-six, yet he was a young lad before Moshe. The goal of Shimush Talmid Chacham is not the act of serving but the mindset it produces. One must serve a Rebbe to reach a mode of subservience critical for the Rebbe-Talmid relationship. This is crucial in order for there to be a proper transmission of Torah.

While a goal of the Rebbi might be to train us to be independent in our understanding of Torah, if the Talmid's mindset is that he knows as much as the Rebbe, he can not become part of the glorious chain of our Mesorah. One can only become part of the Mesorah if he becomes subservient to the Ba'alei HaMesorah. For a greater appreciation of the need for subservience to a Rebbe we must try and understand a difficult Gemarah in Baba Kama (20b), the mesechta that we will be learning this coming year in the Yeshiva. The Gemarah relates that Rav Chisda asks a question of Rami Bar Chama. Rami bar Chama, his Rebbi, refuses to answer Rav Chisda until he serves him in some way. Rav Chisda does in fact serve him by wrapping a turban around his head. Only after this act of shimush does Rami bar Chama answer Rav Chisda. At first glance this Gemara seems difficult. Can you imagine asking your Rebbe a sha'ila, and him telling you that he will only answer you after you go make him a coffee?

Rav Shimon Shkop explains the Gemarah as follows. Rami bar Chama understood that his chiddush was a highly abstract idea (see Tosafos : Afkurei Mafker Baba Kama 20b) and feared that even someone as great as Rav Chisda might disregard or might not make the necessary effort to understand the chiddush. Rami bar Chama felt that Rav Chisda needed to be placed in the proper mode of subservience, only then would Rav Chisda give the time and effort needed to understand his Rebbe's words.

We currently live in a secular world that has lost all respect for authority. Unfortunately, even in some Yeshiva's today the Rebbi must conform to the Talmid and not vice versa. In a society where freedom of speech, inquiry and thought are the ultimate values, the teacher and student have become equals in figuring out the mysteries of the universe. We need to appreciate more than ever, that even the bright, sharp student can not become a true Talmid if he disregards and rejects the Rebbi's words the moment it comes out of the Rebbi’s mouth. We must understand that without proper subservience to one's Rebbi the most crucial ingredient for the Rebbe-Talmid relationship will be missing.

ShimiushSS Shimush of a Rebbe will facilitate the mode necessary to truly understand and penetrate the deep sevarah's of the Rebbe. Yehoshua taught us how by humbling oneself with a sheirus na'ar, it can enable us to become part of the Mesorah. If we take these Rebbe -Talmid lessons to heart, we can create unique, special, segula relationships with our Rebbeim, the eternal bond of a Moshe and a Yehoshua.