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B'Midbar/Numbers 30:2 So Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the Children of Israel
Rashi comments that Moshe accorded honour to the princes or heads of the twelve tribes by teaching them first before going on to teach all the Children of Israel afterwards. Rashi asserts that all the Torah was taught this way: first to the leaders and then to the people, and he quotes the incident of Moshe's face shining when he came down from Mt. Sinai with the second set of tablets: "Then Moshe called to them and Aharon and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moshe spoke to them. And afterwards, all the sons of Israel came and he commanded them to do everything that the L-rd had spoken to him on Mt. Sinai" (Shemot 34:31-32, NASB).
Teaching the leaders first was not only a matter of honour and public relations, however. It was also an important demonstration of how Torah was to be preserved and taught from generation to generation. Moshe modelled the process that would be needed to make sure that the message was successfully and correctly passed on. The leaders were known and trusted by the men of their own tribes, so Moshe taught them (who all knew him) first, then taught the people when the people could see their leaders agreeing with what he said, and the leaders could be responsible for follow-up explanations and confirmation once the initial teaching was done.
We find Rav Sha'ul teaching the same principle to Timothy when he writes, "And the things which you have learned from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim 2:2, NASB). Rav Sha'ul is urging Timothy to teach faithful men - "trustworthy" as another translation has it - who will in turn teach others to that the teaching passes on through reliable people.
Of course, this also follows the teaching of the Master Himself. "Therefore, go and make people from all nations into talmidim ... teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20, CJB) were Yeshua's words to whom? To the people of Israel ? No, to His particular disciples, His chosen leaders who were to spread the gospel to the whole of Israel and to the world beyond.
Further Study: Jeremiah 35:6-10,18-19; Ezra 7:25-25
Application: As leaders, teachers or parents - all engaged in passing on the tradition of faith to the next generation of physical or spiritual disciples - we need to follow the Master's methods.
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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