By Rabbi Leib Bolel
The phenomenon is well known: when you buy a new car, that same model car is suddenly at the forefront of your awareness. If that same car model happens to come into your peripheral vision, presto! You notice it.
This experience has frequently happened to me, but recently manifested itself in a slightly more interesting way. I was working with a client in crisis and I knew had he been a little proactive beforehand, he most likely would not have found himself in the position he was in. This conversation occurred shortly after I had just finished studying a well-known principle in Pirkei Avot that loudly resonated in application to his situation. The Mishnah teaches us, “Aseh lecha rav.” The depth of understanding of these three words are beyond the scope of this article, but a common understanding of this verse is “Make for yourself a rabbi,” meaning – find a rabbi with whom one can learn, question and interact.
The Mishnah is not prescribing this notion of finding a rabbi as a result of a specific need, rather these words guides and encourages us to be proactive in developing a close, ongoing relationship with a teacher and mentor.
The Hebrew word “aseh” literally translates to “do,” be assertive. The Mishnah is teaching us proactivity, not reactivity. When we navigate the daily tasks, responsibilities, and dilemmas that confront us, people may tend to be reactive rather than take simple steps to either prevent, or be better prepared to handle anticipated situations. In contrast, when advising others, we might have greater clarity to encourage our friends or peers to be proactive in their lives.
I vividly recall a police officer talking about road safety in elementary school. One of the comments he made resonates with me until today. He noted that he would observe older siblings walking their younger siblings to school and were meticulous to stop at every road, busy or quiet, ensuring their younger sibling would stop, look both ways, and only then cross the street. However, once the older sibling had dropped off their brother or sister at school and it was now time for them to continue walking to their middle or upper school a couple of blocks away, the same caution they exercised with their younger sibling disappeared; they would run across the road with little concern.
Some of us are great at offering others advice, but when it comes to addressing issues relating to ourselves, we can be dismissive and not pay that same attention that we devote to someone else.
The word “aseh” in the Mishnah – “do” – is the firework of this sentence. One must be proactive in finding, in this instance, a rabbi. This same message applies to finding a doctor, attorney or any other professional we may ever need. We wouldn’t want to find ourselves in a position of not knowing a good doctor and then G-d forbid find ourselves in a medical emergency. When my client faced his predicament, I immediately recalled our car analogy and the Mishnah. Had he been minimally proactive, he would have averted the dilemma.
Situations may be very apparent when guiding someone else, however, never underestimate the importance of seeking or accepting advice yourself; an outside perspective could provide the simple solution that you are looking for. Even before you find yourself in a situation that warrants another’s input, be proactive and find the right person who will be there to advise you.
Leib Bolel, an Executive Coach, is forward thinking when it comes to all things nonprofit and synagogue. With a successful history as a pulpit rabbi where he led his synagogue to double its membership while bringing its average membership age down, and having served as board member on several nonprofits, he now helps nonprofits and synagogues, and works with rabbis to exceed their goals. For more information visit bolelcoachingandconsulting.com