Matos and Massei – The Impression of a Teacher

The newest addition to Food for Thought: The Spanish Edition! Haga clic aquí para leer en español. Please share this with your Jewish Spanish speaking family, friends, and associates.

Why is it that the Jewish people are considered the Children of Hashem? Isn’t everyone created by Hashem, and therefore wouldn’t Hashem be the father of all of creation?  The answer to this question is found in the Radak on the last pasuk of this week’s haftorah. The haftorah is the second of three special haftorahs read during the Three Weeks, culminating in Tisha B’Av. It is mainly from the second perek of Yirmiyahu, but the last verse for Ashkenazim is in Yirmiyahu 3:4 and says: “Will you not from this time call Me, ‘My Father! Master of my youth are You!”

The Radak says that based on how the pasuk is read, Yirmiyahu is telling the Jews: ‘Isn’t it that now that the rain has stopped and there is a drought you should have returned (repented) to Me and call Me, ‘My father, Master of my youth are You’ who raised them in their younger years which refers to the exodus from Egypt which is when the Jews entered under the wings of the Holy Presence and they were taught the knowledge of Torah and wisdom.’ (Click here and here for Hebrew text.)
In the first paragraph of the Shema we say at least twice a day: “You shall teach them to your sons” (Devarim 6:7). Rashi on that pasuk says that the sons referred to are students, and we find in many places that students are called sons. In Bamidbar it says: “These are the descendants of Aharon and Moshe” (Bamidbar 1:3). Rashi there points out that Moshe’s children aren’t mentioned, only Aharon’s. This teaches us that one who teaches another’s son Torah is considered as having given birth to him.

This is why the Jewish people only are referred to as Hashem’s children. Since Hashem gave us the Torah and taught it to us, he transformed us, His students, into His personal children.

However there is a blaring question on the Radak. The Radak, mentions (based on the previous perek which we read in the Haftorah), that there was a famine in the land, and it should have aroused the Jewish people to do teshuva and return to their Father In Heaven, and they would all proclaim “‘My Father! Master of my youth are You!” Wouldn’t it make more sense that a famine would stir up repentance out of fear of the Almighty, All Powerful Hashem Elokim, and they would proclaim ‘Master Of The Universe, King Of All Kings are You?’ Why would they turn to Hashem out of His attribute of being a father and teacher through their punishment of famine, rather than Hashem’s attribute of royalty and power?

It seems that an act of rebuke more likely elicits a response of fatherhood and love as opposed to kingship and awe. We see from here what a profound and impactful impression a teacher can have on his students to the extent that he is viewed as the student’s own father and is the natural response when faced with Divine reproach.