Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier
Seth, the high school senior
We had the honor this year of spending Simchas Torah in West Bloomfield, Michigan. During the pre-hakafos farbrengen, someone teased my brother-in-law Shneur, the shliach, about the fact that people refer to him as “Rabbi.” “It’s time that you be referred to as shliach [Chabad emissary], not like someone who just took on a rabbinical job.” After the snake convinced Chava to eat from the eitz ha’daas, he was cursed by Hashem without a chance to defend himself. Rashi explains: From here we learn that we may not intercede in favor of one who entices people to idolatry, for had He asked the snake, “Why did you do this?” he could have answered, “If I told her one thing and You told her another—whose words should she have obeyed?” The Chasam Sofer wonders why Rashi chooses this defense instead of a better one: You created me to convince people to sin, how can You now punish me for doing my job?!
In truth, however, this is not a good argument. Convincing Chava was part of his job, but he went well beyond the call of duty by turning Chava herself into a convincer who in turn got Adam to sin as well. Many seforim write that we can learn lessons from how the snake, i.e., the yetzer hara, does his job. He’s not satisfied with merely convincing; he wants to create convincers! During the dancing at hakafos, my brother-in-law proudly introduced me to Seth, a senior at a local public school. “Not only did Seth start putting on tefillin daily, he now brings his tefillin to school and puts them on with other Jewish students as well!” Rabbi Silberberg didn’t just teach Seth to do a mitzvah, he turned him into a teacher and propagator of mitzvos. The Rebbe once wrote to a teacher: The ultimate success is when you have “grandchildren,” when your students themselves teach others what they’ve learned. The Rebbe then went on to reference sources in chazal which say that the proper title for a teacher is “rebbi,” but when someone’s students become teachers themselves, then their teacher earns the title “rabbon,” a teacher of teachers. In which case, it seems that Rabbi Silberberg has indeed graduated from the title “rabbi.” And mazel tov, Seth, you’re now a rebbi! A Gut'n Shabbos, Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier Crown Heights  Toras Moshe  Igros Kodesh, vol. 13, pg. 214