In Parashat BeMidbar (3:1), the Torah announces that it will begin to list the genealogy of Moshe and Aharon. However, in the ensuing Pesukim, only Aharon’s children are listed. To explain the seemingly erroneous reference to Moshe, Rashi (3:1 s.v. VeEileh Toledot Aharon UMoshe) explains that Aharon’s sons were considered Moshe’s because Moshe taught them Torah. As a source, Rashi cites the Gemara (Sanhedrin 19b) in which Rabi Yonatan states, “Kol HaMelameid Ben Chaveiro Torah, Maaleh Alav HaKatuv KeIlu Yelado,” “Anyone who teaches the son of his friend Torah, the Torah considers it as if he gave birth to him.”
The Gemara cites many ways in which one can “be considered” someone’s child. However, the one most prominent is teaching Torah. The reason for this is the special status of the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah. The Gemara (Kiddushin 30a) states that learning Torah from one’s own grandfather is considered learning directly from Har Sinai (according to Maharsha’s interpretation of the Gemara). Torah study is considered “KeNeged Kulam” (equivalent to the rest of the Mitzvot) when compared to other Mitzvot, so it is already a quintessential Mitzvah. Furthermore, helping someone else fulfill a Mitzvah is considered the greatest charity one can give. When these concepts are combined, we see that teaching someone else Torah is perhaps the greatest act one can perform. This is why teaching someone else’s son Torah makes the child considered one’s own.
The Chafeitz Chaim explains that teaching someone else Torah is considered clothing the needy. One who is without Torah is considered bare and does not enjoy the normal comforts of a regular individual. By enriching the person with Torah, one gives the person the ability to feel part of the spiritual world instead of being cut off from it without Torah. The Chafeitz Chaim also quotes Beit Hillel, who say that teaching sinners Torah can remove the sin from them and cause their posterity to be free of transgression.
Torah learning may be the single most important mitzvah one can fulfill. In the same light, teaching someone else Torah may be the greatest action that humans are capable of performing. It is for these reasons that Torah is so important to the lives of Jews and that the Torah considers Aharon’s sons to be Moshe’s offspring as well.
Let this be a lesson to us all. May we merit to be great teachers of Torah and to teach our own children as well as those of others. The widespread teaching of Torah will be instrumental in fixing our society and bringing the ultimate salvation. Let it facilitate the coming of Mashiach BiMheirah VeYameinu.