There was this saying among the sages: "May you be covered in your rabbi's dust." If you were the best of the best of the best and a rabbi took you into His flock to be schooled in his "yoke", or teachings, then you literally and physically followed closely behind your rabbi as he traveled from one town to the next, teaching. And as you walked behind the rabbi, he would kick up dust and you would become caked in it and so following your rabbi closely came to symbolize your commitment and zeal. And then Bell points out the one thing that is all "wrong", upside down and strange about the rabbi Jesus. He skipped the seminaries, and places of power and goes straight to the fishing docks and factories. Jesus begins calling blue collar "joes" to drop what they were doing and follow Him. Simon Peter, and the Zebedee brothers, to name just a few, were fishermen and Jesus simply comes up to them and say, "Follow me and be my disciples." These blue collar "joes" had long since given up being smart enough and sharp enough to follow a rabbi. They were holding down steady jobs, living for the weekends, when Jesus swings by and says, "I want you to follow me."
Alternatively, a rabbinic idea that can be shown to have influenced Jesus in his relationship to his pupils is the idea of imitation. As W. D. Davies points out "The life of the rabbi was itself Torah. It was not enough to learn the words of the rabbi, but necessary to live with him, so as to absorb his thought and copy his every gesture" (Setting of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 455). Jesus in Matthew 10:24-25 says:
Students are not above their teacher, nor servants about their master. It is enough for students to be like their teacher, and servants like their master.The saying is parallel with one in Sipra on Lev. 25:23 which states: "It is enough for a servant to be as his Lord". And in their commentary Davies and Allison (2.197) eloquently state that "The imitatio Christi runs like a bright thread throughout [Matt] 10.5-25". While not as catchy as "dust", we are on much firmer ground historically to say that disciples both then and now are to emulate Jesus' life.