The Lethal Challenge of Learning Torah from Others

If we know from elsewhere (for example, Avot 4:1) that there is no such thing as an empty man, why did so wise a man as R. Elazar (Taanit 20) make this mistake? While some of the reasons are specific to him and the particular situation, he was also likely moved by the natural tendency to focus on self and resultantly consider ourselves in a more favorable light than others.

If this attitude is more easily applied towards those who are really far less accomplished or talented than us, as in the story of R. Elazar, we nevertheless find ways of applying it to our peers as well. Since it is natural to prefer one’s own work, it is natural to discount that of others as not quite up to par. It is therefore rare for someone to think of his peers as truly equal to himself, rarer still to think of them as having something to teach him. To read more at the Jewish Press, click here

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