Make Yourself a Teacher

Rabbinic Tales of Mentors and Disciples

Susan Handelman

  • Published: December 2011
  • Subject Listing: Jewish Studies, Education
  • Bibliographic information: 176 pp., notes, bibliog., index, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World
  • Series: Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies
  • Contents

National Jewish Book Award finalist in
Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice category
Make Yourself a Teacher is a teaching book and a book about teaching. It discusses three dramatic, well-known stories about the student and teacher Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus from the Oral Torah. The stories of R. Eliezer serve as teaching texts and models for reflection on the teacher/student relationship in the Jewish tradition and in contemporary culture, with special emphasis on the hevruta mode of Jewish learning, a collaborative process that invites the reader into a dialogue with teachers past and present.

Susan Handelman considers how teacher/student relations sustain and renew the Jewish tradition, especially during troubled times. As a commentary on historical and contemporary educational practices, she asks a range of questions about teaching and learning: What is it that teachers do when they teach? How do knowledge, spirituality, and education relate? What might Jewish models of study and commentary say about how we teach and learn today? Handelman not only presents pedagogical issues that remain controversial in today’s debates on education but she also brings the stories themselves to life. Through her readings, the stories beckon us to sit among the sages and be their students.

Susan Handelman is professor of English at Bar-Ilan University, Israel.

"Susan Handelman's analysis skillfully combines philosophical, theological, literary, and academic insights, and the result is an original, sophisticated, and riveting exposition." - Robert Eisen, author of The Peace and Violence of Judaism

"The readings of traditional Jewish stories in this volume are themselves teachings in a most profound sense. Striking a rare balance between intellectual rigor and intense personal engagement with her subject, Susan Handelman not only explains but enacts a vital and often moving experiential mode of learning and of communicating knowledge. These narratives, explored and questioned through the chapters of this book, point toward valuable ways in which student-teacher relationships in contemporary culture can be repaired and enhanced." - Ora Wiskind Elper, author of Wisdom of the Heart

"Few people are as suited to explore the intersecting realms of practical pedagogy, academic scholarship, and traditional Jewish learning as Susan Handelman, whose Make Yourself a Teacher shares with its readers - regardless of which of those three arenas they are most at home in - a rich set of issues and challenges, filtered through her sensitive reading and analysis. The result is the type of thinking and reflection so needed by anyone invested in Jewish life, culture, teaching, and learning in the twenty-first century. That she does so by reaching back to the first century's Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus is testament to Professor Handelman's ability to bridge these realms which are so often tragically isolated from one another." - Jeffrey Saks, author of Spiritualizing Halakhic Education
A Note on Translation and Transliteration of Hebrew
Notes on Notes

"I Only Want the Piece Which Is in Your Mouth"

1. "Torah of the Belly": Rabbi Eliezer Starves for a Teacher

2. "The Gates of Wounded Feelings"" Rabbi Eliezer Is Banned

3. "Father! Father! Israel's Chariot and Its Horsemen!": The Passing of Rabbi Eliezer


Selected Bibliography

"The book was written to be accessible and its insights, literary and education, are relevant to the many readers of these rabbinic sources, and to teachers and lecturers seeking insight from Jewish sources.-Pinchas Roth, Association of Jewish Libraries Reviews, September/October 2012

"Her book wonderfully demonstrates the creative interplay between traditional learning and contemporary intellectual freedom . . . Rabbis, and all of us, would do well to internalize Handelman's call to see teaching as not an add-on but a central category of human experience . . ." -Yehudah Mirsky, Jewish Ideas Daily, March 2012