"Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them..."—Leviticus 21:1.

This week's portion begins with G‑d's command to Moses to speak to the priests about the special laws and restrictions applicable to them.

What is the meaning of the seeming redundancy: "Speak to the priests... and say to them"? The traditional explanation recorded in the Talmud is that Moses must not only tell the priests about the laws they must follow, but see to it that the adult priests in turn teach their children what Moses had taught them. The original Hebrew of the Talmud reads: "lehazhir—(literally, to warn) the elders regarding the youngsters."

The word lehazhir can also mean "to shine." So, one could alternatively read the sentence, "To cause the elders to shine regarding the youngsters."

The teacher gains even more from teaching than the student gains from learningWhat is the connection between these two variant readings?

When one is given the responsibility to educate another, rather than viewing the obligation as an added burden, he should know that it is actually an opportunity for him, the teacher, to gain even more from teaching than the student gains from learning. It is the teacher's interaction with the student that causes the teacher to be enlightened. When the elder "warns" the youngster, the elder "shines." Along these same lines, there is a Chasidic saying that whenever one takes time away from one's own spiritual pursuits to assist and instruct another, his heart and mind are refined one thousand times.

For people in recovery, this principle is well known. When we turn our attention toward the needs of others who suffer from our disease, we may or may not always be able to help, but – if our concern for our fellow is genuine – we ourselves always benefit from the interaction. Time and again, we see that "giving away what we have been so freely given is fundamental to our continued sobriety."

One should not fool oneself into believing that by answering the Twelfth Step's call to "carry the message" that he is somehow making a sacrifice for the benefit of others. To the contrary, he is the one who benefits most. Experience tells us that when we don't give back we often find ourselves struggling to maintain our own sobriety, while if we dedicate ourselves to helping other alcoholics we are invariably strengthened in our own recovery. Indeed, we are disproportionately illuminated, enlightened and refined in a manner that cannot be achieved any other way. It is uniquely through our efforts with others that we truly shine.