May 1, 2018, Israel
Still studying the books that I was taught as a child. Study never ends.
Our teachers! What a gift. Throughout my years of teaching I find that my teachers are with me, though many have long since passed into a different world. I remember them when I teach, their messages come to life when I look at a student.
I remember dear Rabbi Heisler who told us of his father; that as a child the last thing he heard when he was falling asleep was the sound of his father studying Torah, and I remember how a teacher must be a positive role model and lead by example.
I think of dear Rabbi Jacob Wehl, my Talmud teacher, who stressed that it is all a matter of priorities; if you cared about your studies you would find both the time and the money, and he was a man with little of both.
I recall dear Rabbi Eliezer Laine who invited me into his home to experience a Sabbath among the Hasidic Jews, and I understood that our homes must be open to our students.
I recall sweet Rabbi Simcha Wahrman, a great scholar, and the pride we all felt when he published his first book, and we all bought copies even if we could not fully understand the content; and I learned that we support each other.
I recall our math teacher, Mr. DeSimone who threw an eraser at me once for not paying attention. I recall how a test was a "Performance" and how much better that sounded, and I learned not to make students nervous about an examination.
I recall my principal in Miami, dear Rabbi Alexander Gross, who would put his arm around each one of us and say, "How are you my child?" and I learned that every student is like a child to the true teacher.
And my martial arts instructors whom I have written about extensively in these blogs, and my university professors.
I recall when we learned the Talmudic passage, He who has taught you even one letter must be honored as your teacher for your entire life.
For your entire life!
That had an impact on me.
These are not my former teachers, they are my teachers, for the lessons they have taught me still guide me. Their books line the shelves of my library and I display them with pride.
A student who does not acknowledge his teachers is an ungrateful student. How can he expect respect from his own students if he sets such an example? This too I learned as a child. If you do not honor your parents your children will not honor you.
We learn in the Scroll of Esther "He who says something in the name of he how said it brings redemption to the world". This lesson is learned from the incident where Mordechai "The Jew" told Esther about a plot to assassinate the King of Persia. Esther told this to the king and the plot was uncovered. Esther provided this information and gave Mordechai credit for this. Later on when Mordechai was in trouble and the entire Jewish population was in trouble, the King of Persia remembered that it was this Mordechai who provided the information that saved the king's life. And thus the entire Jewish population was spared.
From this incident the rabbis said, he who says a lesson (a "thing") in the name of he who said it originally, brings redemption to the world. Thus you will see in the Talmud, and in all Jewish books, Rabbi Yehuda said in the name of Rabbi Gamliel who said in the name of Rabbi Yitzhak. The source of this wisdom is always acknowledged. Even if you have added to this wisdom you still acknowledge and honor the source.
In my blogs over the past decade I have tried to pass on the lessons that I have learned from previous generations. I acknowledge and respect all my teachers.
I was invited to teach Krav Maga at a Jewish high school in New York. I was told the principal was a Rabbi Besser. Rabbi Mordechai Besser? I asked. Yes, it is he. Well, he was my first high school history teacher when I arrived in America for 8th grade.
I went to see him at once.
He was surprised why the Krav Maga Grand Master asked to see him. I sat down in his office and he remembered me at once. I told him that he can visit my home in Israel and see a shelf full of American history books. Yes, it was you Rabbi Besser who inspired me to study American history. I still remember your lessons about George Washington and Valley Forge. I remember the battles we studied even though I had trouble reading English.
Sitting at his desk was not a Krav Maga master but a grateful student acknowledging his teacher.
A student, of any age, acknowledges his teacher. It is to the credit of a student to acknowledge his teacher. It honors both.
I did not create Krav Maga, whatever I have developed was only possible because of the training I received from my teachers, that is why their names are all over my website, even teachers with whom I only trained briefly, all are honored and recognized.
About a year and a half ago I heard that my principal was celebrating his 90th birthday. Of course my family and I attended. Ninety years old but I can still picture him in our house of prayer speaking about Rabbi Kook, the man against the stream, who stood up for what was right.
Then it was him speaking of his teachers, and now it is I speaking of my teachers. That is how wisdom is passed on honorably.
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