All the commandments that were given to Moses at Sinai, were given over together with their interpretation. As it is written (Exodus 24:12): "And I gave you the Tablets of Stone, the Torah, and the Mitzvah." 'the Torah"--this is the Written Torah... "and the Mitzvah"--this is what we refer to as the Oral Torah... (Maimonides' introduction to Mishneh Torah)

I hold down one full time job, as mother to my four small children. But I work two part-time jobs as well: writing for and editing a weekly publication, and teaching high school students. Both jobs demand a fair degree of intellectual rigor. However, the emotional tenors of the two are completely different.

My writing work, while challenging and creative, is relatively stress-free. I work at my own pace, following up on whichever ideas catch my fancy. While writing, I lose track of time; the hours fly by in the buoyancy of my creative energy.

My critics are not shy and freely express their displeasure with my work. Teaching, on the other hand, is incredibly difficult and stressful. It demands hours of unpaid preparation. My critics are not shy and freely express their displeasure with my work. Compliments, on the other hand, are rare. When I finish teaching for the day, I feel drained to my last drop of energy.

Writing is a fairly painless way of communicating thoughts and ideas to a wider audience. I don't have to stand in front of a reluctant group and force them to read my essays. Whoever isn't interested in reading what I wrote simply turns the page or clicks their cursor to something else, and I never need to know about it. Writing is also time and cost effective. Through writing one article, I can potentially communicate with hundreds or even thousands of people. Good writing is concise - as a rule, I aim to make my point in 1,500 words or less. Reading an article of 1,500 words takes about ten minutes.

When teaching, I must face a group of people who don't necessarily want to be in class at that moment learning that particular information. When someone isn't interested in my lesson, it's painfully obvious. Time-wise, teaching isn't very economical. I can only teach a limited number of students at a time. I need to fill a class period of forty-five minutes, eight times a week. That's a whole lot of words, and a whole lot of effort to keep them all meaningful, interesting and inspiring. No wonder teaching so often feels like a drain.

With all the stresses of teaching, I sometimes toy with the idea of cutting back my teaching hours so that I can spend more time writing. But I don't entertain that idea for more than a few fleeting moments. Giving up teaching would be a sure way to bring my writing career to a halt.

For all its drawbacks, teaching has one clear advantage over writing. When I teach, I'm addressing a live audience. When I write, I'm communicating with a computer screen. Sure, I know my audience is out there somewhere. But they're removed from me; I don't know them by name or by face. Nor do my readers know the woman behind the screen; they have no idea whether or not my words match my deeds. My students know. I can hide nothing from them. They challenge me to truly be what I claim to be; to live by the ideals I teach them. They don't only learn from my words. They learn from my actions, from the way I interact with them, even from the way I dress. In other words, they learn from me.

When I present a lesson, I can't just deliver it to some amorphous audience out there, and hope that a few random people will find my words apt. I need to carefully consider the personalities and needs of my students and tailor my lecture accordingly. Very often, this means that I must give up the lessons that I would like to teach in order to impart the lesson that they most need to hear.

Teaching forces me to grow constantly. When writing, I have plenty of opportunities to edit and rewrite; to scrub out any mistakes. When teaching, my flaws are exposed for the world. I need the humility to acknowledge my imperfections to a group of ever-critical and all-knowing teenagers. I need to be a friend, mentor and authority figure all at once, and to do all these while still managing to cover all the material in my syllabus. Teaching is my chance to see whether my ideas work in the real world, when faced with everyday stresses and pressures.

When I'm not teaching, I can't write. I need the stimulation of interacting with sometimes indifferent, sometimes challenging, but always dynamic students. Without them, I feel my well of inspiration dry up. My students force me to grapple with myself and confront who I really am and what I stand for. They teach me to be forthright, to share my idealism but temper it with humor and practicality. These are the hard-won life lessons that I use in my writing. As the Talmudist Rabbi Chanina said, "I have learned a great deal from my teachers, even more from my colleagues, but from my students I have learned most of all."

I think this is the reason why G‑d gave us the Torah in two components: the Written Torah, and the Oral Torah.

This is my chance to see whether my ideas work in the real world, when faced with everyday stresses and pressures. For many generations, only the twenty-four books of the Tanach (bible) were transmitted in written form. All the rest - Jewish law, customs, lore, and interpretations - were passed down orally, teacher to student. Only when the Jewish people were on the verge of being exiled and dispersed did Rabbi Judah Hanassi decree that the time had come to record the Oral Torah in writing. He compiled the Mishnah, and this paved the way for many other written works.

However, the primary mode of transmission of the Jewish tradition has remained oral - teacher to student, parent to child. This has kept Torah study warm, vibrant, alive. There's no comparison between reading information in a book, and having it imparted by a live, caring person who strives to live the message contained in the text. Ethics of the Fathers lists forty-eight qualities necessary for mastering Torah. Of these, nearly half involve interpersonal skills, including "close association with colleagues, sharp discussions with students, a good heart, being loved, loving G‑d, loving His created beings, bearing the burden with his fellow, judging him favorably, establishing him in the path of truth."

Torah study is not just about acquiring information or knowledge. It provides us with real-life tools to be better people and make a better world.