Do you know the phone numbers of all of your siblings and your three closest friends? Since the advent of the PDA (personal digital assistant), and perhaps even since the beginning of speed dial, people have experienced a decrease in their ability to remember basic information.

It is therefore hard to imagine what life was like in the age before printed books were common, when most knowledge was passed orally from teacher to student. For the majority of human existence, however, oral transmission was the basis of education. (After all, movable type printing was only introduced to Western civilization in the 1400s.)

To memorize and understand great tracts of text and law takes both discipline and diligence. Those same qualities are required of those who teach. Studying the Torah is a great mitzvah…but so is teaching it. (As it says in Deuteronomy 31:19 – “And you shall teach it to the children of Israel.”)

In an oral society, as the repository of knowledge, the teacher assumed great responsibility. Rabbi Eliezer, one of the great sages of the Talmud, believed that a teacher is obligated to teach a student the same lesson four times. Rabbi Akiva, on the other hand, insisted that a teacher must teach the same material to a student many times until the student masters the material! (Talmud Eruvin 54b)

Whether education is oral, as in the past, or written, as in the present, there is a great lesson to be learned. Each student must be taught according to his/her ability and needs. Some students pick up information as soon as it is taught, but others need it repeated, two, four, ten, or even 100 times. And that’s okay too.