By Laura Seymour
A number of years ago I received an e-mail from my son who, at the time, was studying music at Rice University in Houston.
A world-renowned teacher had visited and conducted master classes for students, and my son told me all about it (and of course, sent pictures).
What struck me, however, was his comment: “My teacher’s teacher is here.”
In those words, I saw the reverence my son had for his teacher and even his teacher’s teacher.
That same reverence has, for centuries, been an important part of our Jewish tradition. We are constantly reminded that we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us; that our knowledge is constantly expanded by learning from others.
Furthermore, Jewish tradition constantly credits the writings and sayings of those who came before us. The Talmud is rife with such examples of sages passing on knowledge to other sages, who honor the originator of such knowledge — Jewish tradition gives honor to those who said it first.
Crediting sources is the right thing to do, of course — more importantly, it gives weight to ideas and thoughts. When my son tells others who he has studied with, his esteem increases in the eyes of those others.
In addition to crediting knowledge when that credit is due, reverence of teachers is very important in Judaism. When my son spoke of “his teacher’s teacher,” he honored his teacher as well as the elder teacher (and demonstrated justifiable pride in both).
Unfortunately, respect and reverence for teachers in our lives is lacking in many schools today. But in many modern Jewish Day Schools, that tradition, respect and reverence for teachers remains. It’s common, for example, for students to stand when their teachers (or any other adults) enter the classroom.
Our Jewish tradition values learning and those who help us learn. It’s up to us to demonstrate, with our words and our actions, the respect and reverence those important people deserve.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.