There seems to be something missing from the Torah’s listing of the children of Aaron and Moses (Num. 3:1). Only Aaron’s children are enumerated. Surely they cannot be children of both Aaron and Moses! So why does Moses apparently get some credit for them?
The Talmud offers a wise answer. Aaron was their father, but Moses was their teacher, and “He who teaches his neighbour’s child Torah is as if he had fathered him” (Sanhedrin 9a, 19b). The teacher must regard his pupils as if they were his own children; the pupil must think of his teacher like a loving parent.
It is said that a father brought his only son to the Volozhin Yeshivah and said to Rav Naftali Zvi Berlin, “Please take special care of my son; he is my only child!” Rav Berlin replied, “You have one ‘only’ child; I have four hundred ‘only’ children!”
A parent will never knowingly place a child’s well-being at risk; a teacher must likewise be scrupulously careful to cherish, guard and promote every pupil’s individuality and personality. Regiment your pupils, bark at them, brush aside what makes each child special, and you ought to leave teaching immediately.
Restrict your teaching to the formal lessons in the classroom, and all you have done is to teach maths, geography or whatever, but you have not taught the child. A good teacher teaches not only academic content but how to be a human being. The way you conduct yourself is a lesson.
No wonder the “Reader’s Digest” feature, “My Most Unforgettable Character”, so often dealt with teachers. No wonder the Chassidim say that a student learns not only from the rebbe’s Torah but even from how he ties his shoelaces.