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Chagigah 15b, in the context of relating how Rabbi Meir learned Torah from Acheir, states:

מאי דכתיב (מלאכי ב, ז) כי שפתי כהן ישמרו דעת ותורה יבקשו מפיהו כי מלאך ה' צבאות הוא אם דומה הרב למלאך ה' צבאות יבקשו תורה מפיהו ואם לאו אל יבקשו תורה מפיהו אמר ר"ל ר"מ קרא אשכח ודרש (משלי כב, יז) הט אזנך ושמע דברי חכמים ולבך תשית לדעתי לדעתם לא נאמר אלא לדעתי רב חנינא אמר מהכא (תהלים מה, יא) שמעי בת וראי והטי אזנך ושכחי עמך ובית אביך וגו' קשו קראי אהדדי לא קשיא הא בגדול הא בקטן

'What is [the meaning of] the verse, 'For my lips, a priest shall guard; knowledge and instruction they shall ask from his mouth, for he is an angel of Hashem of Legions (Malachi 2:7)'? If the teacher is like an angel of Hashem of Legions, they should ask instruction from his mouth; And if not, they should not ask instruction from his mouth.'" Reish Lakish said, "Rabbi Meir found a verse and expounded it: 'Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise ones; and put your heart to my knowledge (Proverbs 22:17).' 'To their knowledge' was not said, but rather 'to my knowledge'." Rav Chanina said from here: "Listen, daughter, and see, and incline your ear and forget your nation and your father's house... (Psalms 45:11)." The verses contradict each other! There is no contradiction. This one (ie. when there is no need for a teacher like an angel) is with an adult, and this one (ie. when there is a need for a teacher like an angel) is with a child.

From my personal experience, I know that, while the teachers at my school were very good, only one or two of them seemed to be without imperfections-- and they probably, somewhere along the line, where not perfectly Malach-like.

What is the heter for our chinuch institutions to hire people who aren't of angelic perfection to teach Torah to minors? Is it out of necessity, or is there a different/additional reason?

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    "only one or two of them seemed to be imperfections--" What do you mean by this? Also, isn't the question more directly placed on the students themselves (or their custodians) since they are the ones inclining their ears - as the first-person premise of your question seems to set up? Also, I think the parenthetical reference to "need" is your addition. The advice to listen or not listen to them doesn't sound like it necessitates an obligation. Does it? – WAF May 20 '16 at 20:06
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    Why only ask about minors? Is the space of adult educators completely filled with perfect angels? – mevaqesh May 20 '16 at 20:12
  • @WAF, I assume he meant "without imperfections," and I edited accordingly. ephraim, please edit further if I'm wrong. – Isaac Moses May 20 '16 at 20:28
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    @mevaqesh The Gemara's Teirutz is that adults can learn from an imperfect person, but children cannot. That was the justification for Rabbi Meir learning from Acheir. – user9907 May 20 '16 at 21:33
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    Ephraim nobody is a malach. That together with the fact that we discuss Acher as the one who was not comparable to a malach seems to imply that not being Domeh to a Malach means something else and just about anyone, besides Acher like individuals would qualify. – user6591 May 20 '16 at 22:05
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Shearim Mitzuyanim Bihalacha points out the interesting language concerning Torah 'from his mouth', why did the Gemara not simply say from him?

He quotes the introduction of the Darkei Teshuva to answer this, and I think it will answer your question as well.

Darkei Teshuva wrote: if the Rav says a halacha with proper proofs, then one can learn (be מקבל) from him even if he is not like an angle of God, and concerning this King David said: מכל מלמדי השכלתי from all my teachers I have learned, and:

'איזהו חכם. הלומד מכל אדם. Who is wise? One who learns from any man' (Avos 4 1). However if the Rav does not bring good proofs, but rather says things of his own mind then he would need to be comparable to a Malach of Hashem.

Rabbi Brown in the Sh.M.B. uses this to explain the expression 'seeking Torah from his mouth' which he says implies that the Rav is saying a novelty, from his own mouth without proofs.

Rabbi Brown points to two places where we find just such an expression which actually meant the ideas were said without real backing:

פסחים קיד: רבא הוה מהדר אסילקא וארוזא הואיל ונפיק מפומיה דרב הונא.

סוכה לב: רב אחא בריה דרבא מהדר אתרי וחד הואיל ונפק מפומיה דרב כהנא.

So too with Rebbeim in the yeshivos. None are saying unfounded chidushim for which they would need to be like angels. They are rather teaching the simple truths for which even a non angelic Rebbi would suffice.

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To a certain extent you are right as how can a Rebbi, a 'lowly' human being be on a level of a more heavenly-based מלאך? Surely it is impossible for a man that is essentially ‘earthly’ in form, to draw parallels with a celestially-rooted מלאך?

The answer is that just as a מלאך has no personal aspirations but rather is driven purely to satisfy the will of Hashem, so too a Rebbi must be focused entirely on fuelling the success of his תלמידים. (See HaRav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz זצ"ל in קונטרוס יסודות החינוך מרבותינו גדולי ישראל שליט"א: דברים שנאמרו בכינוס מאות מחנכים ומנהלים רוחניים, כסלו תשע"א, 'הרב הדומה למלאך שכל כוונתו תועלת התלמיד', עמוד 5)

Thus, a Rebbi must be consistent with his appointed title. This means that he must not be deficient in the traits necessary for a מחנך. If a teacher is lacking in his level of observance, character or learning it will serve to hamper his personal example. Failure to be a true role model will abjectly impact on his students. (Refer to משנה תורה, הלכות תלמוד תורה ב:ג. The רמב"ם writes there; "לפיכך אין ראוי להושיב מלמד אלא 'בעל יראה' וכו'" – “Therefore, it is not fitting to appoint a teacher unless he is a G-d fearing person”.)

The fact that we liken our Rebbeim to angels is a testament to the high regard with which we view them. They serve to mould and fashion our children into 'עובדי ה, and for this alone, we must endeavour to ensure that our children receive the correct level of teaching. Indeed, Rabbi Moshe Shternbach שליט"א notes that one must be quick to ascertain that their children have a רבי who is a ירא שמים and this means seeing him with your own eyes to verify if he will provide a good example. (See ספר אורחות הבית, חלק ראשון, פרק ששה עשר, אות ז', עמוד קכב. He writes, "והיו עיניך רואות את מוריך היאך הוא מתנהג באורחות חייו וכשהוא מתפלל שיהא לדוגמא ומופת לתלמידיו" – “And your eyes themselves should see your teacher, how he acts in his daily life and when he davens he should be an example and source of wonder to his students”. In a similar vein, the חפץ חיים adds: "מאד מאד יתחזק האדם לראות שבנו ישיג חינוך טהור בידיעת התורה והמצות וכמו שנהגו אבותינו מלפנים בדרך החינוך ללמד את בניהם חומש ורש"י שיהיו עי"ז יהודי נאמן לד' ותורתו" – “It is highly important for a person to see that his child receive a pure chinuch with Torah knowledge and Mitzvos, and like our fathers before them were accustomed in the ways of chinuch to teach their children Chumash and Rashi, and through this, a Jew will believe in Hashem and His Torah”. As written in בית ישראל, מאמר לכלל ישראל)

Ultimately, in order for a teacher to positively influence others, it is an obligation on them to first fill themselves with יראת ה' and only then can they influence others. (ומצדיקי רבים, פרק א', 'ירא שמים',עמוד ג)

Rabbi Yaakov Neiman זצ"ל in his דרכי מוסר also explains how important it is for a teacher to be a ירא שמים. When an educator has this מדה his influence is all the more impactful on his תלמידים. For example, when a teacher relates the miraculous experiences of יציאת מצרים, and his absolute 'אמונת ה is evident, it enters into the heart of his students and leaves a lasting impression. (See 'דרכי מוסר, פרשת יתרו, 'והגדת לבנך. He begins by asking why it was that יתרו was so excited by משה’s report of the miracles that had occurred in the build up to and during יציאת מצרים, when he had already heard the same account prior? R’ Neiman answers,אינו דומה שומע מפי הרב לשומע מפי התלמיד תלוי מי המשמיע – “One cannot compare hearing something from the mouth of a Rov to hearing it from the mouth of the student, as it is dependent on the speaker.” This means that it was only when יתרו heard the miraculous happenings of מצרים from משה that it left a lasting impression.)

Conversely, when a teacher says something that lacks conviction, his students will see this lackadaisical approach and will not absorb the message. For this reason, R’ Neiman writes elsewhere that it is crucial that a Rebbi teaches with a mindset that is completely לשמה (See 'דרכי מוסר, פרשת תרומה, 'אחריות של המורה והמחנך). It is only when an act is performed לשמה that Hashem can allow His שכינה to settle. This is because when a person is of pure heart and mind; his resulting actions truly reflect his intentions. This purity consequently provides a foothold for the Divine presence to cling to. This means that teachers have a tremendous responsibility as when they avoid acting in a לשמה manner their students may not learn properly. This in turn, can result in disinterested students which can ח"ו leave them open to foreign and evil influence.

In both cases R’ Neiman brings the story of אלישה בן אבויה, the point you raised in the first part of your question who became known as אחר, a once leading Torah sage, who became an apostate and is since referred to as "אחר" (literally; “the other one”). Quoting תוספות on מסכת חגיגה ט"ו in the name of the ירושלמי, R’ Neiman relates how אחר believed himself to be doomed to failure from the outset. תוספות comments that אבויה was one of the great men of ירושלים, and on the day of his son’s ברית he invited all the distinguished men of the city to sit in one room and ר' אליעזר and ר' יהושע to sit separately in another room. After the dignitaries had eaten and drunk, they sang songs and did alphabetical acrostics. Seeing that the men were engaging in interests of theirs, ר' אליעזר and ר' יהושע felt that such action justified them occupying themselves with their own interest, namely, תורה study. They started with תורה, moving on to נביאים and then כתובים. Such was their enjoyment that fire descended from heaven and surrounded them. Upon seeing this phenomenon, אחר’s father remarked that due to the evident might of תורה, if his child would survive, he would dedicate his child to תורה. Thus אחר concludes, since his father’s intention was not לשמה the study of תורה did not endure for him. We learn from this story how important it is to have correct and heartfelt intentions. As seen by the case of אחר, failure to act in way that is לשמה can have catastrophic results.

Thus in short, the imagery of teachers as angels is not alluding to be something that they cannot be, but rather symbolic of an aspiration to provide an example that serves to inspire those under their charge. They should be יראי שמים and בני עליה which in turn, will no doubt serve to inspire their תלמידים and make them positive role models.

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