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February 6, 2015


Finding a (spiritual) mentor

by Rabbi Dovid Felt

In an article written for Forbes magazine, Dr. Steven Berglas an executive coach and management consultant who, for over 25 years, was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Psychiatry, declares “find a mentor”. He tells us that this isn’t his personal opinion, rather he affirms that “studies show, most people who succeed have a mentor, a Rabbi (the New York City vernacular for mentor), and only as a last resort an executive coach”. His words are not new to us, the Mishne in Pikei Avos Perek 1 Mishne 6 tells in the name of Yehoshua ben Perachya and Nitai who came from Arblai ‘make for yourselves a Rav”. The Rambam on this Mishne tells us that even if the Rav isn’t the most qualified Rabbi out there, as long as he is someone you can share your issues with and you can respect his input, he fulfills the criteria.

Dr. Berglas continues to list some reasons most people need a mentor. His last and I believe the most important one is “Mentors Know What It Takes To Succeed: Spiritually. Among the best things a Rabbi can do for you is help you by serving as a sounding board” We find an example of this in this weeks Parsha. Yisro came to Moshe after hearing the miracle of the Red sea as well as the battle of Amalek. The question asked is what was unique about this combination that led Yisro to join Moshe? What we know about Yisro is that he had experimented with every known religion and came to the conclusion that Judaism is the only authentic religion. Yisro felt that nothing could shake his faith and with the great miracles of Yitzias Mitzrayim he felt confident in his findings and in himself. When the miracle of the red sea, which was heard around the world, demonstrating Hashem direct protection of the Bnei Yisroel was not sufficient enough to prevent Amalek from attacking the Bnei Yisroel, Yisro started having second thoughts. He no longer was secure in his belief. He felt that no matter how unshakeable his faith may be, no matter how many miracles he saw, he could never be secure about his commitment to Hashem. This led him to go to Moshe, for the only way to maintain ones’ emunah is to be connected to a Rav.

This is most true for an individual person navigating life but it is also relevant for parents as they deal with the challenges of their own lives as well as the responsibilities of raising children.  We may feel that because we are totally devoted and committed to Torah observance it will automatically cross over to our children. What we see from Yisro is that there will be times in our lives that can lead us to question our own devotion, certainly we should not take for granted our children’s commitment.

Felt tips

At this point in the school year we have passed the half way mark. A few things we should be aware that are unique to the second semester. First, the freshness and newness that comes with the beginning of the school year is no longer there. On the other hand by now we should be familiar and know the expectations demanded from us at either by our Rebbeim or our teachers. This familiarity should help us streamline our focus on accomplishing the core material for each class.

To get the most out of the second semester lets try and re-motivate ourselves lets try and create a freshness that will invigorate our commitment to achieving our academic roles. This can be done externally such as providing a reward to be actualized at the end of the school year or internally by seeing if one can do better the seconds semester than the first semester.

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1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Sara Kaufman
    Feb 9 2015

    Beautifully said. Therefore, if we feel as parents that our child needs a mentor, how can we go about assisting in that process? And, what if a child happens to think, as many teenagers do, that they know everything and nobody, certainly not their parents, have anything of importance to tell them. I am quite frankly concerned about our son Benji. He is a very strong-willed person and has told me numerous times that it is his life and I should let him live it without my interference, and that he is quite capable of making his own decisions. Any insights that you can give me would be appreciated greatly. Thank you very kindly for your help.

    Sara & Charlie Kaufman


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