March 28, 2022

Yevamot 21

We are taught in Massechet Moed Katan 28a that Rav Chisda was blessed with good Mazal, and this is affirmed in today’s daf (Yevamot 21b) where we are told that Rav Chisda was – seemingly proactively – informed by astrologers that he would be a teacher.
However, this prediction was somewhat vague, and Rav Chisda was therefore unsure of what, precisely, was being said. Does ‘teacher’ mean an expert Torah scholar – whose primary gift is knowledge and who is ultimately a teachers’ teacher? Or does teacher mean a schoolteacher – whose primary gift is the ability to engage young people to learn and understand ideas, and who – where necessary – consults more knowledgeable scholars and teachers about the things they do not know?
This question of what kind of teacher someone chooses to become continues to be a question in the mind and hearts of prospective teachers, and while there are those who choose the latter and over time become the former, there are some who think they want the former, but over time are drawn to the latter. So the question is: how did Rav Chisda decide which he was?
The answer recorded by the Gemara is that he reflected on what his primary gift was, and having been able to solve a complex halachic problem based on his own knowledge and logic, it became clear to him that he was seemingly more attuned to be the former than the latter. Nevertheless, the question remains of how did Rav Chisda know that his halachic intuition was right?
I believe that one answer is the fact that Rav Chisda was blessed with good Mazal, and therefore he felt confident to make such a decision and see himself in that way, whereas it is possible that another person, with the same ability to solve complex halachic problems based on their own knowledge and logic would not have felt that they could hold such a position.
We often think that particular jobs or specific positions are given to those with the greatest knowledge and skills. But knowledge and skills themselves are not enough. Instead, what is essential is that people believe in themselves and have confidence in their knowledge and in their skills. And because Rav Chisda did, he felt able to decide which he was.
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