These are the offspring of Aaron and Moshe on the day HASHEM spoke with Moshe at Mount Sinai. (Bamidbar 3:1)
These are the offspring of Aaron and Moshe: It mentions only the sons of Aaron, yet they are called “offspring of Moshe” because he taught them Torah. This teaches us that whoever teaches his friend’s son Torah the verse speaks about him as if he had fathered him. (Rashi) (See Sanhedrin 19B)
This is a truly amazing Torah notion! Whoever teaches someone else’s child Torah, it is considered as if he had actually fathered that child. Why is the statement by the sages, quoted by Rashi above, worded that way? Why does it refer to “his friend’s son”? What would be lacking if it had just stated that someone teaches another person or a child?
We can perhaps key into an answer with another question. Why is Pirke’ Avos, Chapters of the Fathers, called “Chapters of the Fathers”? The sages quoted there are not the “Avos”-“Fathers”. The Talmud tells us “Only three are called Avos!” Those are Avraham, Yitzchok, and Yaakov! Why then are they called “Chapters of the Fathers”? One answer is that Avos can mean the general category, like the Avos and Toldos Malachos of Shabbos – Major Categories and Subsets of Forbidden Activities! These statements therefore are principles of life, classic and applicable to all generations. Another approach may help explain how the Rabbis quotes in Avos are actually considered Avos!
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes in the Mesilas Yesharim in Chapter 19 on the subject of Chassidus, “It is befitting that the actions of the pious person should be directed toward the good of his entire generation- to enhance their standing and shield them (from punishment). This is expressed in the verse (Yeshayahu 3:10) “Praise the righteous for the good (he has done) for they eat the fruit of their deeds.” The entire generation eats of his fruit…
This means that that he should pray on behalf of his generation seeking atonement for those who need atonement, urging repentance for those who need it, and promoting the defense of the entire generation…
The Holy One blessed be He loves only those who love Israel, and to the extent that he increases his love for Israel the Holy One blessed be He increases his love for that person. These are the true shepherds of Israel, whom the Holy One blessed be He holds dear; those who sacrifice themselves for His flock, beseeching and laboring on behalf of their peace and well-being, constantly standing in the breach to pray for repeal of the harsh decrees against them and for the gates of blessing to open wide on their behalf. This can be compared to a father who loves no one more than the person who has shown genuine love toward his sons. Human nature attests to this!”
The Baal Shem Tov had said, “If you love the father then you love the children and if you love the children you love the father!” The righteous ones quoted in Pirke Avos distinguished themselves by providing for the spiritual needs of their generation.
Similarly the Chofetz Chaim adopted a generation and wrote numerous Seforim addressing the needs of fellow Jews who had been conscripted into the Russan army for extensive tours of duty and for Jews landing on the shores of America. He is most famous though for his campaign to cut out the crime of Loshon Hora from the Jewish People.
Many great leaders such as the Chazon Ish, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and Chanoch Leibowtiz ztl. never had physical children of their own. However that did not stop them from adopting masses of spiritual orphans. They were dedicated with the understanding of the love a father has for a child and knowing that this is not just a person lacking a father but “a friend’s” child in desperate need of fatherly guidance. DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.