But getting back to a more philosophical mode,
I do have a question: If one were to say that many (most?) Rabbis
today (and for that matter, other clergy as well) simply dont
get it, where does it leave us? The fact is that
people do need leaders and authorities, and cannot go it alone.
So where are individuals to turn when they need direction.
To play devils advocate: Some even argue
that the masses are simply too simple and busy with their own
survival to be able to make true life choices. The public lacks
the intelligence to even choose leaders. If we allow laypeople
to challenge the Rabbinate and all forms of authority we are
left with anarchy.
So, yes many rabbis may be corrupt and many others
may be ignorant about the basics of the soul, but then what
should people do if they cannot find a true Rabbi? Couldnt
the argument be made that better an inadequate Rabbi than no
Rabbi at all?
Thank you again,
Since you mention anarchy, I must make a confession.
I have always been obsessed with anarchy, and I must admit,
that I have been accused in my time of being an anarchist.
After writing an article several months ago on
of leadership, one fellow angrily dismissed my words by
saying that I simply cant handle authority. While that
may be true, that doesnt mean authority per se is always
a good thing. As they say, Just because Im paranoid
doesnt mean nobody wants to get me.
Ok, so what exactly is anarchy. Websters
defines it like this:
Etymology: Medieval Latin anarchia, from
Greek, from anarchos having no ruler, from an- + archos
ruler. Date: 1539.
1 a : absence of government b
: a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to
the absence of governmental authority c : a utopian
society of individuals who enjoy complete freedom without government
2 a : absence or denial of any authority or established
order b : absence of order
No doubt that there is an unhealthy form of anarchy
especially in context of one who simply has no rules
in his/her life and just follows his own hearts desire,
destructive or not. They call that nihilism.
Etymology: German Nihilismus, from Latin
nihil nothing. Date: circa 1817
1 a : a viewpoint that traditional values and
beliefs are unfounded and that existence is senseless and useless
b : a doctrine that denies any objective ground
of truth and especially of moral truths
2 a (1) : a doctrine or belief that conditions
in the social organization are so bad as to make destruction
desirable for its own sake independent of any constructive program
or possibility (2) capitalized : the program of
a 19th century Russian party advocating revolutionary reform
and using terrorism and assassination
But allow me to submit another translation of
anarchy: Rebelling against corrupt systems and the mediocre
status quo, in search for truth. Not accepting the way things
are just because people and so called authorities
say so. In other words: the search for G-d not anything
man-made but a true G-d, Who transcends all our structures
Not an anarchy that is driven by reckless abandon
or plain narcissism. Not an anarchy that is a smoke screen for
doing whatever you like. But an anarchy that is revolutionary.
It may not always know how to be channeled, but it is driven
by the desperate quest for something higher something
more than our conventional pedestrian diet.
Conformists dont change the world. Anarchists
do. That is, anarchists according to my definition, when they
channel their energy into positive revolution.
There is a thin line between true faith and true
anarchy a very thin line. Just like there is a thin line
between genius and madness, between faith and heresy, between
tragedy and comedy. Thats how extremes work. Passion can
go both ways. In Hebrew its called shtus dkedusha
holy insanity, separated by a thin line from unhealthy
insanity. [In another context, the Talmud says: The greater
the person, the greater his yetzer hora (evil inclination)].
Though this doesnt answer your question,
I just couldnt resist the temptation to get in a few words
Now to your actual question.
Let me begin with a great analogy I just heard
from my old time friend and colleague, Rabbi Yossi Shemtov,
the Chabad shliach (representative) in Tucson, Arizona. After
chastising me for not calling him when I was in Scottsdale,
he shared with me the following reply he gave someone who asked
him about the distinction between different Rabbis.
Some Rabbis, he said, are like surgeons and others
are like pilots. What is the difference between a surgeon and
a pilot? When someone is in need of surgery, G-d forbid, he
will be very cautious and search around for the best possible
surgeon. Why? Because his life is at risk, and he wants to ensure
that whoever is cutting him open is the most qualified expert
in performing this particular surgery.
Why then is it that when the same person books
an airline flight, with all the risks of air travel, he doesnt
go searching for the best pilot in the world?
The answer is because the pilot is flying together
with you on the airplane, and he is exposed to the same risk
as the passenger. The surgeon, on the other hand, is not lying
on the slab with the patient. If the surgery doesnt go
well, G-d forbid, the surgeon remains intact [except for possible
Some Rabbis are like great surgeons. They are
brilliant scholars, erudite legal experts, eloquent orators.
Many of us who see a Rabbi as an outsider, one who
is not in the same boat with us, will go searching
for the best surgeon. We will look for the greatest scholar
and expert. However, there are Rabbis who are like pilots
they may not be the best, but they are in it with us. Our problem
is their problem. Our celebration is their celebration.
We are not looking for perfect Rabbis;
we are in search of Rabbis who humbly appreciate the value of
Divine souls and know that we are all sacred souls struggling
in an agnostic world.
As I wrote in the first part of How
to Find a True Rabbi, we are never given a challenge that
we cannot overcome. The mere fact that we live in a world like
ours and that many of us are confused as how to recognize a
true mentor, this in itself tells us that G-d has built in an
immune system that allows us to overcome this challenge
and that we can and must be able to find the rights answers
and the true mentors.
Perhaps this is the calling of our times
to ask the right questions and discover our true Rabbis. I would
even go one step farther. Even if we dont have all the
knowledge, even if we are ignorant and were not given the best
educational opportunities, our calling today may be at least
to use the knowledge we do have to understand the criteria for
a true Rabbi, and demand yes, demand that standard
for our communities and families.
I for one can simply not accept the resigned approach
that because of public ignorance we have to suffice with mediocre
Rabbis. Yes, I would prefer anarchy to that choice. But I dont
believe that we need to resort to anarchy. We must believe in
the ability that our generation can discover truth, and do not
have to be brainwashed or programmed like blind sheep.
Nothing is more dangerous than the elitist approach,
which insecurely believes that a few keepers of the flame
must dictate the rules for the ignorant masses. We must respect
the dignity of each persons individual soul and believe
in the fact that we are all together in the same boat
and the same plane.
Frankly, if you dont believe in that, what
then do you believe in? To believe in G-d and not believe in
the Divinely ordained spirit within each human being and that
each person can access this soul is, at least in this humble
writers opinion, ludicrous. If you dont have confidence
in G-ds creatures you basically dont have confidence
So, yes, we are in need of teachers, leaders,
Rabbis, but we also have the ability to identify the true standard
of a Rabbi and demand of our rabbis to live up to that standard.
If you call that anarchy so be it.