On Social Behavior & Leadership 1/52

Tuesday, 24 October, 2017 - 2:46 pm


-      Rebbe Yehoshua Ben Perachia -

On Social Behavior & Leadership

1/52 : By Rabbi Mordechai Z. Hecht


He was the head of the Jewish Court (Nasi Sanhedrin) in the 2nd century CE. He was a known zealot in establishing law and order in the Jewish community. Some even attribute him as being the one who denounced the infamous Yochanon the High Priest (Kohen Gadol) as a Sadducee- (Tzidokee) and had him impeached after 70 years of service in the Temple.

Some further attribute him as the one who pushed away Yehoshua the Notzri, learning from his mistake and becoming the author of the following statement. One of the very few statements in the entire Talmud quoting him.

 “Yehoshua ben Perachyah and Nittai the Arbelite received [the Torah] from them. Yehoshua ben Perachyah says, "Set up a master for yourself. And acquire for yourself a friend. And give everybody the benefit of the doubt." (Avos 1:6)

This statement of his is a monumental one. Some say, the “friend” refers to a student-friend (Talmid, Chaver).The methodology of good education must be that every teacher should refrain from causing too much awe and fear upon their students, for then they won’t be able to absorb the teachings.

Students are Priceless

Furthermore, in conjunction with an additional Talmudic passage, “from my students I have learned more than anyone” (Talmud Taanis 7a) we deduce comfortably that a wise teacher would go ahead and even pay for good students, for that would ultimately serve in the teachers best interest as he may just learn more from his friends and students than anyone else.

Teachers have a tendency to dominate and use strict and severe terminologies and methods, when in fact what our sage here is teaching us is, that as he has found, that methodology just won’t work.

In our 21st century we could call Rebbe Yehoshua a prophet, or would we better say, “there is nothing new under the son” – love-respect works better then fear-severity, as any experienced educator would serve to prove.

One Final Say

Interestingly, the commentaries stress here on this ethos something else as well. Humans love information. We love doing research. We always want to hear more opinions on matters, yet often what we are left with is a whole lot of information and jargon and no “executable-wisdom”. We need to journey to find structure and guidance and advice that we can apply and execute precisely in our lives. There are other teachings which advise us to gain wisdom from all.

The connection with Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Perachya and Noach is the fact that Noach apparently did not go out of his way to obtain disciples and friends and bring them closer to G-d (unlike Avraham who Maimonides rules, inspired Tens of Thousands to follow the way of monotheism). Albeit he did not personally believe G-d would actually destroy the world, still he mad eno effort.

Eventually, Rabbi Yehoshua when realizing this as no way to serve G-d and maximize one’s potential on earth, he made a public statement - We must make friends and we must have students and we must establish for ourselves a good teacher and mentor or even master who will guide us properly and who’s advice we will accept not forcefully but willingly.

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