The third chapter of Bamidbar begins with: “These are the descendants of Aaron and Moses on the day that the L‑rd spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai. These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.”

A number of perplexing questions immediately arise when reading these verses.

  1. This was not, in fact, the day that G‑d spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai.

  2. The Torah states “These are the descendants of Aaron and Moses” but then only enumerates Aaron’s sons, and does not mention Moses’!

Spiritual Descendants

Rashi, quoting the Talmud, explains that by virtue of the fact that Moses taught Torah to Aaron’s sons, in a spiritual sense, he is considered their father.

This idea is the subject of an entry in Hayom Yom, which is connected to this Torah portion. The Rebbe, quoting his father-in-law, the Sixth Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, writes:

“My revered father, the Rebbe Rashab [the Fifth Rebbe], related that he heard from his father, the Rebbe Maharash [the Fourth Rebbe], that the Tzemach Tzedek [the Third Rebbe] heard the Alter Rebbe [founder of Chabad] referring to himself as the son of the Maggid of Mezritch and the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov.”

The Alter Rebbe was the disciple of the Maggid, who in turn was the disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. This clearly aligns with the above-mentioned teaching of our sages that “whoever teaches Torah to the son of his fellow man, Torah regards it as if he had begotten him.”

This also explains “… the day that the L‑rd spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai.” Moses didn’t simply speak the words of the Torah to Aaron’s sons; rather, he taught them the Torah precisely as he learned it from G‑d on Mount Sinai. Studying with Moses in this manner caused a spiritual transformation in Aaron’s sons to the extent that they became Moses’ spiritual children.

We Are All Teachers

So, what does it take to be a Torah teacher? Are there qualifications? Contrary to popular misconception, anyone and everyone can be a Torah teacher!

Do not think that to teach Torah to another, you must first spend many years studying in a great yeshivah, that you must first be ordained as a rabbi, or that you must first become a great Torah scholar. There is no need to study the entire Talmud multiple times, to memorize it, and to know it backwards and forwards before becoming a teacher.

Not at all.

All you need is to care enough to share your Torah knowledge.

A person can attend a Torah class or listen to a Torah thought online and then turn around and share the subject matter with someone else. That person is now a Torah teacher! And sharing a Torah thought you just learned with someone else does not only make that person your student, rather “whoever teaches Torah to the son of his fellow man, Torah regards it as if he had begotten him.”

Imagine the potential we have! Find someone and teach them Torah! You’re not a “certified” Torah scholar? Share with that person the last Torah thought you studied. You become their teacher, and you can literally transform their life.

As the Rebbe often said, “If you know aleph-bet, teach aleph-bet. And if all you know is aleph, then teach aleph!”

Be Your Soul

The 32nd chapter of the book of Tanya—the fundamental text of the philosophy of Chabad, written by the Alter Rebbe—is known as the “heart of Tanya.” The Hebrew word for heart is lev, spelled lamed bet, whose numeric equivalent is 32. The subject matter of chapter 32 is ahavat Yisrael, the love that we are required to have for our family—our fellow Jews.

How is it possible to develop a genuine love for another? The Alter Rebbe explains that there are two components to a human being: the G‑dly soul and the animal soul. A person must distinguish between these two souls, focus on the G‑dly soul, and become less sympathetic to the desires of the animal soul.

I had the privilege to study this chapter many years ago with my father, Rabbi Sholom B. Gordon, of blessed memory.

My father’s message throughout was: How can you truly love another person? This is accomplished by minimizing the importance of the body and maximizing the importance of the soul. If we look at ourselves as a body, it’s not going to work. If we look at ourselves as a soul, it is going to work!

If you are your body, life is a zero-sum game; if there’s only one piece of cake, only one of us can win. But if you are your soul, there is no competition! When there is a mitzvah to be done, I want you to have a share in it as much as I want it for myself—because it’s not about me. It’s about G‑d.

If I am my body, then my needs and wants are physical. Come what may, you’re a threat to my happiness. But if I’m my soul, then my desires are spiritual; they are G‑dly—if I put on Tefillin, I want you to as well; if I give to charity, I want you to as well; if I pray, I want you to as well; if I study Torah, I want nothing more than to share it with you. Come what may, you’re a part of my happiness.

If we view ourselves as bodies, ahavat Yisrael cannot happen; if we view ourselves as souls, ahavat Yisrael will abound.

A Heavenly Argument

The first mishnah in Bava Metzia outlines a scenario where two litigants are arguing over the ownership of a garment:

If two people came to court holding a garment; and this one, the first litigant, says: I found it, and that one, the second litigant, says: I found it; this one says: All of it is mine, and that one says: All of it is mine; how does the court adjudicate this case? This one takes an oath that he does not have ownership of less than half of it, and that one takes an oath that he does not have ownership of less than half of it, and they divide it.

Chassidim would say that this mishnah describes Jewish outreach efforts, and the privilege of teaching Torah to a fellow Jew:

Two souls are arguing over a third soul who found its way back to a Torah way of life. The first one says, “I was the one who merited to inspire him because I had him over for a Shabbat dinner.” The second one says, “I merited to inspire him because I taught him aleph-bet.” How does the Heavenly Court adjudicate this case? They each take an oath that they do not have less than half of the merit, and then they happily agree to share it!

This, chassidim would say, is how they teach this mishnah in Heaven.

A Spiritual Famine

In his introduction to Tanya, the Alter Rebbe discusses the profound connection between a Rebbe and a chassid (disciple).

There were chassidim—including my father—who memorized the Alter Rebbe’s introduction to Tanya (called the Compiler’s Forward) and recited it by heart each day.

I remember walking with him to the synagogue on Shabbat morning and hearing him quietly talking to himself. When I asked what he was saying, he explained, “I am reciting the words of the Alter Rebbe’s introduction to Tanya; it’s what connects a chassid to a Rebbe.”

In it, the Alter Rebbe instructs those who have questions about what is written in Tanya to seek guidance from others in their community. He then requests that those who are able to answer these questions should not exhibit “false modesty and humility,” writing: “It is well known how bitter is the punishment of he who ‘withholds food’ [i.e., who withholds Torah knowledge from one who seeks it], and also how great is the reward [granted to one who shares such knowledge].”

“G‑d forbid,” says the Alter Rebbe, “that someone should refrain from sharing his Torah knowledge with another person.” Can you imagine if someone had storehouses filled with grain during a time of famine and withheld food from starving people? Certainly not. Well, we are experiencing a spiritual famine! People are starving for Torah knowledge, and we are responsible for sharing whatever we have. And if all we have is an aleph, we must share that aleph.

We Cannot Say No

The Hebrew words for “How bitter is the punishment of he who ‘withholds food,’ and how great is the reward granted …” are “onesh hamar, al mone’ah bar, vegodel hasechar.”

One morning, as my father recited these words, he shared with me that when he first memorized them as a small child, he thought to himself, “Wow, that rhymes! Is this poetry?”

These poetic words, which have been with me since I was a young boy, played a key part in my decision to broadcast the daily Torah classes online at

For many years, we had a wonderful class on the daily Chumash and Tanya portions locally at Chabad of Encino following our morning services. It’s hard to keep a good thing secret, and word of our classes reached the rabbis and staff at When they asked if I would agree to broadcast these classes online, I politely declined. I explained that we have a good thing going here, we have a great group, and we have a good time. I really was not interested in turning the classes into a commercial production and broadcasting them via the internet. I worried that it would introduce a level of formality that would take away from the terrific dynamic of our class.

Again and again, over several years, I was asked to change my mind, and my answer was always the same. I really had no intention of changing my mind until one day the rabbi from called again, and I turned him down once more. “Rabbi Gordon!” he said, in a last-ditch effort, “Don’t you know what the Alter Rebbe writes in his introduction to the Tanya – onesh hamar, al mone’ah bar, vegodel has’char?! It’s a pretty serious thing to say no to a request like this, and there’s a pretty great reward waiting for you if you say yes!”

“You got me!” I responded—as memories of that pivotal conversation with my father as a young boy washed over me. “I’m in,” I said. “When do we start?”

This is the argument that persuaded me to take the leap and broadcast these classes on the internet.

The Alter Rebbe says, if you have the ability to share these teachings, you must share them. You’re not perfect? Nobody’s perfect. You know an aleph? Teach an aleph!

Let us all strive to be Torah teachers—each of us on our own level—and may we all be blessed with an abundance of spiritual sons and daughters. May our efforts in sharing our Torah knowledge hasten the arrival of our righteous Moshiach and the era of the Ultimate Redemption, a time when—as the Alter Rebbe concludes the above referenced section in the Compiler’s Forward, quoting the Prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah —“‘no longer will one man teach another…[to know Me], for they will all know Me…’ ‘for the knowledge of G‑d will fill the earth as the waters fill the sea.’ Amen. May this be His will.”