The Listening Teacher

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In a strange case of forgetfulness, Moshe reprimanded Aharon for not eating the meat of the sacrifices (10:18). Aharon, in response, educated Moshe, saying that it was not proper for someone in mourning (after his sons died earlier that day) to eat of the sacrifices. The verse then recounts: “Moshe heard and it was good in his eyes” (10:20).

What did Moshe hear? What was good about it? At first glance, it would seem that the verse is simply saying that Moshe heard Aharon’s assessment and agreed with his ruling. But if that were the case, why not simply say ‘Moshe agreed’? What made it “good”?

One can offer a related explanation, but which goes a step further. Moshe did agree with Aharon’s ruling, but he realized something else by doing so. Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people, was always the one to teach and give to others the lessons of the Torah. For the first time, Moshe was not a teacher, but a student to his student. Instead of speaking the lessons, he was hearing them from someone else.

Teachers -of all forms- oftentimes develop figurative “tunnel vision”: ‘this is the material we need to cover’; ‘this is the parenting advice I want to give’; ‘this is the answer to your problem’, and no other information can enter the discussion. What makes a great teacher, however, is their ability to listen and acknowledge the worth of a student- not simply as receiver of information, but as a worthwhile contributor as well. Moshe not only heard what Aharon said, but he was happy to have heard it, it was good. Moshe, our prototypical teacher, taught us that teaching doesn’t only require speaking, it also means listening.