Horav Moshe Feinstein z.l., takes note of the fact that Moshe did not wear the veil on his face when he taught Torah to Klal Yisrael. He infers two valuable pedagogical lessons from this fact. First, a rebbe/teacher must be able to make eye contact with his students in order to delve into their hearts and minds. He must attempt to understand every aspect of their lives. He must literally find out what makes them “tick.” A rebbe should not shy away and “hide” his face, remaining aloof from his students. He should always be accessible to them, to guide, inspire and offer encouragement. This idea applies similarly to parents, who are the primary mentors of a child.
Another lesson indicated by Moshe Rabbeinu’s behavior, notes Horav Feinstein, is the demand placed upon the student to see his rebbe at all costs. Nothing should stand in the way of a student’s developing a warm, friendly relationship with his teacher. The rebbe is not the only one who can seem distant. Often the student’s lack of self-confidence, or the converse — an overactive ego — prevents him from establishing a close attachment to his rebbe. This lesson is very important, since the “relationship” in any given interaction is the primary factor of its success.
We suggest another reason that a rebbe’s face must be seen by the talmid, which is derived from this pasuk. In a thesis on education Horav S.R. Hirsch z.l., takes lessons from the Hebrew language concerning the most meaningful and correct method for attaining success in the art of education. He explains that in Hebrew the word vcr is used to refer to the work of the teacher and the educator. This word, which literally means “to multiply,” characterizes the teacher or rebbe (hcr) as one who increases or multiplies the knowledge of his student. The use of this word connotes what should be the prime objective of the educator: to “reproduce” himself in his students, to mold and shape the spirit and character of his students in his own image.
The imprimatur of a rebbe should be manifest in the talmid. The teacher who views his educational charge in this manner will undoubtedly do everything in his power to see to it that his image, both intellectually and spiritually, is worthy of “reproduction.” This is probably the meaning of Chazal’s dictum in the Talmud Chagigah 15b, “If the Rav is compared to an angel of Hashem seek Torah from him.” For the sake of his students who aspire to emulate him, a rebbe should meticulously guard himself against any transgression or character deficiency, so as not to incur a replication of his failure in his students.
This is the purpose of looking at the rebbe’s face. Metaphorically, this adjures us to look at the image, replicate it, imprint it on our minds, and characterize it in our personality. We should seek to “see” our rebbe, so that we are able to derive the greatest benefit from him.