“Make to You a Teacher”

2'Asei l'kha ravThe title of this post seems to contain a typo, or bad English.  I know.  I’m just doing a literal Hebrew-to-English translation here to get your editorial or linguistic attention.  Do yourself a favor and start learning.  (See item ‘l’ in list below.)  Or, as Thoreau put it in Walden (1854):

“It is worth the expense of youthful days and costly hours, if you learn only some words of an ancient language.”

‘Asei l’kha rav, it says in the writings of the Sages, “Make to you a teacher.”   There are many, more fluent ways to translate this three-word byte of ancient Jewish wisdom (Pirkei Avot 1:6, ca. 200 CE).  These three Hebrew words comprise the first part of a short verse, the whole of which is similarly compressed (and some would say cryptic).  The rest of the verse — saved for later, just FYI here — includes something about a friend, and something about judgment.  But we’ll get to that in detail another time; for now I want to demonstrate the possibilities contained in the first three words.

Here’s my brief analysis of the three words individually:

1. The first word is the imperative, or command, voice of the Hebrew verb “to do” or “to make.”  So it could mean Do! or Make!

2. The second word is the preposition “to” or “for” with a suffix indicating “you,” in the default gender (masculine) and default number (singular).  So it could mean “to you” or “for you.”  The connotations implied in variations such as “for yourself,” “of your own,” or even “yourself into” are also legitimate.

3. The third word means “teacher.”  (And is the root of the word “rabbi,” which also means teacher.)

Just three words, with a few possible translations of each, and now you’re ready to write a Ph.D. thesis!  You can calculate how many literal meanings might be derived.  Here’s a short list of translations I came up with, some less literal than others, some including the friend aspect.  Which interpretations(s) do you like?  What would you add to the list?

a) Find a teacher and gain a friend for life.
b) Create a teacher for yourself.
c) Make one of your friends into a teacher.
d) Make one of your teachers into a friend.
e) Make yourself into a teacher.
f) Create a relationship between yourself and a teacher.
g) Choose a teacher and commit to living your life according to his/her teachings.
h) Find someone to go to with hard questions.
i) Groom someone you know for becoming your future teacher.
j) Everyone should create a teacher at least once in their lives.
k) Be proactive in your own education.
l) Do yourself a favor and start learning.
m) Choose friends who are teachers.
n) Study with friends.

Or maybe, even — and this, admittedly, is a stretch, but I still like it —
(o) Learn from your students.

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This entry was posted in Adult Education, Hebrew, Judaism, Language, Reading, Thoreau, Why Not Hebrew? and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to “Make to You a Teacher”

  1. rich suval says:

    I remembered a favorite teacher from the past, and learned it once again.

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