How profoundly can a professor affect his university students? Could he, perhaps, shape the rest of their lives? The Avner Institute presents an interesting letter, written by the Rebbe to a professor in a California University. The Rebbe describes the potentially tremendous role that he could play in the life of his student, and the great responsibilities that accompany him in delivering his lectures. To learn more about the Rebbe visit: www.Portraitofaleader.org
By the Grace of G-d
20th of Kislev 5732
Greeting and Blessing:
I was pleased to receive regards from you through our mutual and esteemed friend Rabbi S.D. Raichik, who has written to me about his visit with you and your participation in the worthy cause, in which you also took in your children as partners.
In the light of what Rabbi Raichik has written to me about his acquaintance with you, I am confident that you will utilized your distinguished position, which brings you into personal contact with Jewish youth, to strengthen also their Jewish identity. To be sure, the courses which you teach are undoubtedly far removed from the religious and spiritual aspects of Jewish identity. However, it is surely unnecessary to emphasize to you that students generally look up to their professors not only as experts in their particular field, but also as persons and individuals who have accomplished a great deal in their life, and have attained high status. Consequently, the views and ideas that a professor expresses, and especially his personal way of life and world outlook, directly and indirectly influence the students, and create in them a desire to emulate their professors. And even those who for one reason or another are rebellious inwardly recognize that the achievements of their professors should be emulated.
In the light of this, a professor in college or university has an extraordinary opportunity to benefit his students by word, and even more so, by example. Even if an extra effort in this direction may entail certain difficulties which are sometimes not imaginary nor magnified, but real – the thought of how much good a little extra effort might be, and how much it can be reflected and multiplied in the lives of the young people who so badly need guidance and inspiration, should make all such difficulties worthwhile.
Although the above has been written in general terms, with a view to disseminating Jewish values, etc., it is important to bear in mind the dictum of our Sages of blessed memory that “the essential thing is the deed,” namely the actual Jewish experience in the daily life. For, Judaism is a way of life that is not relegated to several days in the year, specific holy days, or even Shabbos, but embraces the entire Jewish life each and every day. It is for this reason that the Torah and Mitzvoth are referred to as “our life,” indicated that it must be continuous and uninterrupted, just as life must be continued and uninterrupted. Herein the Jewish religion radically differs from any other religion in that it is not something additional to a person, but is intimately the person himself, for a Jew and the Torah and Mitzvoth are inseparable.
Much more could be said on this subject, but I trust the above will suffice. I will only conclude that inasmuch as we are about to celebrate the festival of Chanukah, when we will be lighting the Chanukah candles in growing numbers from day to day, indicating the need to spread the light of the Torah and Mitzvoth in a growing measure, since it is written, “A Mitzvo is a lamp and the Torah is light,” thereby illuminating the Jewish soul of which it is said, “A lamp of G-d is the soul of man” – may this be so with you and me and all our people.
With esteem and blessing,