Choosing A Rav [#2364]

Question:

I would be happy if the Rav can direct me on the best possible path in how I can find a Rav for myself, and what am I supposed to look for in a “Rav”. Thank you.

Answer:

“Make for yourself a Rav” (teacher): Chazal state, “Yehoshua ben Perachya said: Make for yourself a teacher” (Avos 1:6). In Avos D’Rebbi Nosson (ch.8) they said, “One should make for himself a teacher on a permanent basis, and learn from him Chumash, Mishnah, Midrash, halachah, and aggadah (homiletics). This is for the purpose of having a Rav who will teach him Torah. (See the Maharal’s novel interpretation of this in sefer Derech Chaim to Avos 1:18).

Besides for the above, one needs a Rav to rule the halachah for him, and he also needs a Rav to give him advice. Of this Chazal said (Avos 1:16), “Rabban Gamliel said, “Make for yourself a teacher and be removed from doubt.” This refers to having a “Rav” who will rule the halachah, as explained in the commentary of the Raav (ibid). The Meiri (ibid) writes that even the wisest king needs someone to give him advice. Furthermore, Chazal state (Avodah Zarah 19a) that “Anyone who learns Torah from one teacher will never see blessing. This is with regards to sevarah (logical thinking), but in Gemara (the teachings of the Torah), it is better to learn from one teacher.”

So, altogether, a person needs 4 rabbonim: 1) For Gemara, a person needs 1 teacher. 2) For “sevara(to learn how to think properly), one needs several teachers. 3) A person needs a Rav to give him advice. 4) A person needs a Rav to rule the halachah for him. (And, according to the Maharal, a person makes each person into his “Rav” in the sense that he can learn things from every person.)

Practically speaking, when making for yourself a Rav: the Yalkut Shimeoni (Mishlei 938) says that you should become like dust to a Rav and make him like a king over you. The sefer Merkeves HaMishnah says that “make for yourself a Rav” means that you should be in awe and fear from him. The Alshich (Vayikra 9) says that you should not wait for a Rav to come to teach you – rather, it is you who should seek the Rav to teach you. And if it should happen that the Rav doesn’t want to accept you, you should still go to him and try to appease him very much, and beg him very much, and fall at his feet, until he eventually agrees to become your Rav.

Besides for making for yourself a Rav in the simple sense, you should also make your friend into your “Rav” [when it comes to a certain matter], as mentioned earlier [in the name of the Maharal]. The sefer Avodas Yisrael (Likkutim: Avos 1:6) says that every person should make his friend into his teacher, meaning that you should allow others to reprimand you if they notice a flaw in your behavior. The sefer Agra D’Kallah (parshas Lech Lecha) says that you should run by foot, from city to city, in order to merit finding a Rav who you can learn from.

Who is fitting to be a Rav? The Rambam (Avos 1:6) says that even if someone is not befitting to be a teacher to you, you should make him a teacher over you, because learning from oneself is not as good as learning from another. Learning from another person makes you retain your wisdom better. Furthermore, the Rambam says that one should make another person into his teacher even if the other is equal in wisdom to him, or even if the other is not as wise. A person also needs to make another person into his Rav so that he can be removed from doubts. Rabbeinu Yonah writes (ibid) that one should make his friend into his Rav, even if he is wiser than the friend, so that he can remove himself from doubt. The Talmud Yerushalmi explains, “Go bring for me an elderly person from the marketplace so that I can rely on his word and permit it for you.” Therefore, one should make his friend into a “Rav” for himself and ask him about anything he is doubtful about.

Taking this further, Chazal state “Who is wise? One who learns from all people.” The Maharal (Derech Chaim 1:6) explains that “Make for yourself a rav” does not refer to a rebbi muvhak (your primary teacher), for that wouldn’t require a teaching that you should make him into your teacher. Rather, “make for yourself a rav” means that even if another isn’t fit to be a rav, make him into your teacher, because it is not possible that you won’t learn something from him. It is enough to make him a rav over you if you will learn just one thing from him. Similarly, the sefer Toldos Yaakov Yosef (parshas Kedoshim) writes that you should make every person into a Rav over yourself. Even more so, he writes that “Make for yourself a rav” means that you should connect with many people just as you would with a Rav [in order to learn things from many different people]. Chazal (Beraishis Rabbah 61:1) said about Avraham Avinu that his two kidneys became like two Rabbonim who advised him, and he learned Torah from them (another version reads “From himself, he learned Torah”.

However, all of the above is not referring to a rebbi muvhak (primary teacher). Of a rebbi muvhak, it is said (Moed Katan 17a) that he must resemble angel of G-d, and if not, one should not seek to learn Torah from him. Finally, one should view Hashem as his main “Rav”. For we are called “children” of Hashem, and He is called Avinu, our Father. We are also called His talmidim (students), and He is our great Teacher who taught us the Torah at Har Sinai, and ever since. The sefer Avodas Yisrael (Likutim: Avos 1:16) says that when one is learning Torah or davening, he should make Hashem into his teacher, by visualizing in his thoughts that Hashem is present and is teaching you. This is the level of one who has d’veykus in Hashem.

Practically speaking: To find a rebbi muvhak (primary teacher), one needs to seek a truthful person, and he should be someone who, according to your current level of understanding, is close to the root of your own soul. One needs to daven and cry to Hashem for this, because it is not possible to decide [who one’s rebbi muvhak is] based on human logic alone. One also needs to know what the qualities of this Rav are, and what he is able to receive from him. Sometimes a person needs a few Rabbonim, as mentioned earlier.

Besides for having a Rav to learn Gemara, sevara, halachah, and advice, one also needs a Rav to acquire a daas (thinking) that is aligned with the Torah: a truthful perspective on the world at large, the many different details and ways of the world, according to a Torah lens. One also needs to acquire a rich treasury of knowledge about the inner, spiritual world, and about character, and holiness, etc.

One can learn about this from the Rav’s actions, words, and thinking process, and from [becoming more aware of] the very havayah (being) of the Rav.