Summary: Spiritual vitality begins when we teach God’s Word and touch others with God’s love. Christians will not only be known by their words, they will be known by what they say and by what they do. Be like Jesus and demonstrate God’s love today.
We had all filed into the large auditorium to receive our diplomas. It was finally time to graduate. After reading dozens of books and sitting through countless lectures and writing even more papers the moment had finally arrived. I was actually going to walk. I was going to receive my college diploma.
The students were all standing? when the faculty came in. They came marching in from the back in a single file line wearing robes that looked much different than ours. Their robes were ornate. Some were purple, others had stripes on the sleeves and some even had hoods. A few professors had gold rope laced around their necks and colored collars. The undergrads watched in awe wearing our simple black robes and hats as they paraded past in all their glory. It was a fantastic commencement ceremony with a good key note speaker and in the end we all walked away with huge college debt and a tiny pieced of paper that said we completed a college degree.
After the ceremony the professors all shook hands with us students and went on with their lives. Then Monday morning they put their robes back in their closets for another year went back to their offices and classrooms as usual. And those of us who graduated returned our rented robes and began to look for work anywhere we could find it.
In ancient times, the Rabbis were like professors. They were the ones who had earned all the ornate colors and stripes on their commencement robes because they were the most educated people in their day. It was a position that very few people obtained because of the strict requirements and lengthy schooling that it took to achieve.
A historical Jewish book called a “Mishnah,” describes the educational process for a young Jewish boy in ancient times to become a Rabi. It contains rabbinic interpretations of Scripture written down during the second century AD and reflects what was true during Jesus? It says:
At five years old [one is fit] for the Scripture, at ten years the Mishnah (oral Torah, interpretations) at thirteen for the fulfilling of the commandments, at fifteen the Talmud (making Rabbinic interpretations), at eighteen the bride-chamber, at twenty pursuing a vocation, at thirty for authority (able to teach others)
Ancient Jewish schools were always associated with the local synagogue in first century. Children began school at age 4-5 in “Beth Sefer” which was comparable to our modern elementary schools. The students were responsible for memorizing large portions of the Torah which is the first five books of the OT. After completing Beth Sefer only a handful of the best students would continue their education in “Beth Midrash” which would have been the same as our Junior High. These students would learn along side adults. They would study the prophets and other writings that enhanced their understanding of the OT Scriptures. They continued to memorize Scripture since most people didn’t have a copy because they were all hand copied and very expensive to produce.
Not all students finished Beth Midrash and for those that finished only the best of the best students sought permission to study under a famous Rabbi and would leave home to travel with the rabbi and study under him. These students were called “talmidim” in Hebrew which translates into English as the word “disciple.”
The students were passionately devoted to their rabbi and copied everything that he said and did. They were not just looking for a passing grade, they were attempting to line up their life with the rabbis in every way. As the rabbi lived and taught his understanding of the Scriptures the talmidim listened and watched and imitated the rabbi in hopes of someday becoming just like him.
After years of living and studying under the rabbi he would bless some of his talmidim to spread their wings and become a rabbi themselves who would have their own talmidim or disciples. There were several types of rabbis, but most were only permitted to teach the Scriptures. These types of Rabbis were called “Torah teachers.”
But there was another group of rabbis that only the best of the best of the best would even become. These were the rabbis that were so smart that they were allowed to teach their own interpretation of the Torah. These rabbis had “s’mikhah” or authority to make new interpretations and pass legal judgments. Any Rabbi with “s’mikhah” was the best of the best of the best. When they spoke people listened. (www.followtherabbi.com)
Remember that old E.F. Hutton commercial? It said that “when E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” The commercial always showed two people talking in a crowd then as soon as they said “E.F. Hutton says.” Then the crowd would go silent and everyone would look at them.