Shabbat Parashat Noach | 5764
From the works of Hagaon Harav Shaul Yisraeli zt”l - Make for your Self a Rav - From Harabbanut V’hamedinah, pp. 24-25
[The following words are from notes for an address at the installation of a colleague as a community rabbi. The identity of the colleague is unknown; the period is the early State years. One needs to have witnessed Rav Yisraeli’s extreme humility in order to fully appreciate this address.]
The need to make for oneself a rav is one of the fundamentals of Judaism. Everyone, according to his personal level, must find someone on a higher spiritual level to whom to listen, even to surrender himself to the rav’s instructions even when they are difficult to implement and understand. Our Rabbis referred to this concept when they said, “The fear of your rav should be upon you like the fear of Heaven” (Avot 4:12). It is for this reason that the main part of the Torah remained oral, [so that one would feel the need to engage an authority to inform and interpret]. Torah is not the way you want to explain it, but rather the way it was given and passed on. Accepting the Torah means surrendering to the authority of the Torah, including lowering the ego and being fully obedient.
The exhortation, “Make for yourself a rav” (Avot 1:6) was addressed to the student, who is the one accepting the authority. It does not tell the master to make a student for himself to accept his authority. The gemara (Yoma18a)says that the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) should be elevated (financially) from that of his brethren. This [beyond the practical implications] implies that to the extent that his flock elevates him, to that extent it will have a Kohen Gadol. The same is true of a rav. To the extent that the community accepts his guidance and authority, to that extent it will have a rav. If the rav’s word is accepted only selectively, then his influence and the good he can bring about will be severely compromised.
A member of the congregation must not say to himself that it is too late. “Let the rav impact on my children; I’m too old to change.” This type of protecting oneself from being influenced is a dangerous form of giving up hope and is dangerous not only for the parent, but for the children as well.
Some words to the appointed rav. To come out with correct halachic and/or practical conclusions requires siyata dishmaya (Divine Assistance). The learning and the actions of one who accepts upon himself to be a “servant to a holy nation,” who has obligations to the community and whose word people are supposed to heed, is qualitatively different from one who is on his own. He must be more careful and more calculated, as his words and deeds cause an echo and leave an imprint. Not everything which could previously be said can now be said, under the new circumstances. Not every time one would opt to remain silent on an issue does one still have the right to do so. On the more optimistic note, the siyata dishmaya becomes much more prominent when one has accepted upon himself such an obligation, and things which were previously harder to achieve can now be achieved.
There was a period in the pioneering stages of the Israeli community that people, including traditional Jews, felt that a rav was unnecessary. They felt that the spirit of renewal must bring with it freedom from authority and guides. Baruch Hashem, we are being cured of that unfortunate mindset. Let us bless you that now that you have a rav, the change will be felt with an increase in spirit, excitement, and dedication to Torah and mitzvot, and that the thirst for the word of Hashem will be positively quenched.
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