By Laura Seymour
Several years ago, I received an email from my son who studied music at Rice University. A world-renowned teacher came to give master classes, and my son was writing to tell about it (and, of course, send pictures). His words were simple, yet so telling of the relationship of student to teacher.
He wrote, “My teacher’s teacher is here.”
From those words, I heard the reverence of a student for a teacher, which has been part of our Jewish tradition for centuries. We are continually reminded that, “We are standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before us.” All of our knowledge expands by learning from others.
Judaism is the religion that may be credited with the early beginnings of copyright law. When you read Talmudic text it says, “Rabbi This said to Rabbi That who said it in the name of Rabbi Who … ” However, copyright law is to protect the original — Jewish tradition is to give honor to those who said it first. Telling your “sources” gives credit to them but, also important, it gives weight to your ideas and thoughts. When my son tells whom he has studied with, he is raised in esteem as well.
All professions honor those who came before — for us, as Jews, we trace our lineage all the way back. It is said that we all came from one man, Adam, so that none of us can say, “My dad’s better than yours.” This, too, is an important message to remember.
Finally, reverence for teachers is a very important Jewish value. When my son spoke of “his teacher’s teacher,” he was honoring his teacher as well as the elder teacher. This respect and reverence for the teachers in our lives is lacking in many schools. However, today, in many Jewish day schools, the tradition of students standing when their teacher (or any adult) enters the classroom continues.
Our Jewish tradition values learning and those who help us learn — let us demonstrate with our words and our actions the respect and reverence those important people in our lives deserve.
Laura Seymour is director of Jewish life and learning and director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.