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This Mishna at first glance seems to offer a simple lesson about the importance of being a role model and how one influences others. This Mishna is cited in Yoma 87a explaining that it would be inappropriate for one’s students to enter Gan Eden, paradise and their Teacher, the one who raised them to spiritual heights should wind up languishing in Geheinom. Psalms 16:10 “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will you suffer your pious one to see the pit.” The Marasha ZT’L ZY’A notes the text begins referencing to the individual and concludes in the plural conveying the notion that a teacher and disciples are bound together and share the same fate. Similarly, one who influences others to lead lives of sin will not merit repentance as it would be wrong for one’s students to languish in Geheinom while their mentor repents and enters Gan Eden, Paradise. The Talmud proves this by citing “If a man burdened with the blood of another flees to the pit, let no man help him.” (Mishle 28:17) which the Midrash (BaMidbar Rabbah 21:5 ) that when one bears the responsibility for another’s spiritual death by leading one to sin shall be denied an opportunity to repent and earn a place in the World to Come.
The character of the teachers is significant as Toesfoth Yishainim ZT’L ZY’A despite how pious Rabbi Meir was his mentor Acher was denied the opportunity to repent. Toesfoth Yeshanim opines Acher was the exception that illustrates the rule. Acher was always problematic being evil at his core throughout his life. The implication is Rabbi Meir became a pious leader not because of . . but in spite of Acher. Whereas if one is essentially righteous but sins and that sin was an aberration is who the Mishna is discussing. One who generally has made a positive influence on others will be offered the opportunity correct one’s imperfections.
Rabbi Yzchak Isaac Yehuda Yechiel Safran ZT’L ZY’A the Rebbe of Kormana reads the Mishna as expression of G-d’s administration of justice. If one who positively influenced others to embrace Torah and Mitzvot but succumbed to a particular sin will in a future life be confronted by the same temptation and pass the test. Whereas one who influenced others to embrace sin through time such a person in numerous reincarnations will repeatedly fail the tests, the G-D given opportunities to repair the damage one has caused.
There are two major lessons come across the first is how significant the role of an influencer really is. The recognition that one who influences others shares a destiny with them. Therefore one owes to those they influence to exhibit the type of behavior that has a positive influence on others. One who teaches must realize the teacher is not just an information presenter but someone who has a hand in developing another person.
The other lesson is G-D is so committed to one’s success that even if it takes the course of generations G-D will make sure each person can repair one's own mistakes.