Monday, October 8, 2007

Make a Rav for Yourself

This Shabbos, the Ribbono Shel Olam sent us a lot of guests and we enjoyed them immensely. During the afternoon meal, the conversation at the table was dominated by the question of what it means to become part of a community, how does a baal teshuvah find his or her place, and other questions of a spiritual nature. And one of our guests was very obviously in a dilemma about what her next move ought to be; she wanted direction, but she also seemed very set in her ideas about what would be right for her.
Later on in the day, when I had some time to myself, I realized that this is part of the meaning of the statement of the Sages in Pirkei Avos: "Asei lecha Rav..."--"Make a Rav, a master who'll be your teacher, for yourself." One would think that the Mishnah ought to say, "choose a Rav," or perhaps, "find a Rav," but it doesn't. It says to make your mentor. So it occurred to me that it is not the objective value of the potential teacher, what he has to teach, that makes him the Rav--it is my willingness to accept his marus, his authority, over me that invests another person with the power to guide my life. And if I am not willing to accept that authority, then I never truly have a Rav no matter how many lectures I attend or even how many questions I ask.
Just to complete the Mishnah, I'll bring a beautiful thought from Reb Nosson of Breslov, zt"l: "...U'knei lecha chaver..."--"Acquire a friend for yourself." Reb Nosson offers a play on words; knei in Hebrew can be the singular masculine command form "acquire!" but it also means, "a pen." He writes, and it's brought in the Milei d'Avos from Likutei Halachos I don't remember where, that your pen (or your keyboard) is your true friend. Use the pen, use writing as a tool to develop your Torah thoughts, your prayers, your connection with other people by offering them chizuk, encouragement.
May we all merit to enjoy a gezunte vinter, a healthy winter, and a good year.

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