On the roof of the Aish center looking down at the Western Wall with Chevra & Davai in 2011

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Are You My Rebbe?

There was once an orphan who was left at the entrance of a kibbutz when he was a baby.  The kibbutznicks took him in and raised him as their own. They took turns taking care of him so they could all share in such a precious mitzvah.   He spent time with all the men of the kibbutz, talking to them, learning from them, gleaning the positive qualities that appealed to him from each and every one.  Even though each man had many similarities to his fellow kibbutznick, there were also many differences in both substance and flavor. This went on from day to day and from year to year until he grew from a boy to a man of his own.

When he reached an adult, he asked the question that everyone knew he’d ask one day, but they still never came up with a good answer... “Who’s my father?” 

The silence was deafening as the men stood speechless finally confronting the very question that they had no answer for... Until one of the many men who had helped shape this young man replied… “We all are.”
This may or may not have answered what the young man was looking for. He knew he was an orphan.  He knew that he had no biological father to speak of.  What he was really asking was, which one if you is going to be the one that I call “my father”?  Which one of you should I call my name “Paloni son of ____”?  Which one of you shall grant me an inheritance? Which one if you will escort me to my chuppah?  Which one of you will help me shape my identity?

In his search for an individual answer, be found a collective one. In his search for an individual identity, he found his identity within the group.  This may not have been the answer he was looking for.  It may not have been the ideal answer, but it was his answer.

This story represents so many Baal Teshuvas searching for our spiritual father.  Our Rebbes are Chabad.  They are Aish HaTorah.  They are Or Samaech.  They went to Chofetz Chaim, Shappels & Berel Wein’s yeshiva.  How do we choose one of our spiritual fathers above the others?  How do we pick our Rebbe? 

They’re all so different.  They are all part of us, but their views are too different for us to be them.
They say that America is a melting pot, a place where different people can blend together to become one.  If that’s so, then we are the melting pot for Baal Teshuvas.  We take different ideas from our different Rebbes and the shape us into who we are.

The benefits are extraordinary.  Today’s Baal Teshuva isn’t interested in the any old fights.  We aren’t interested at attacking the minor differences.  We celebrate the beauty of the many facets to Torah and the approach of very different people.  Unfortunately, the challenges are enormous, for we have no one spiritual father.  We may struggle with our identity as Baal Teshuvas, not knowing who our spiritual father is.  Which minhag do I take on?  Which nusach do I daven?  Who is my Rebbe? 

While it would be ideal for us to find one Rebbe who understands us, its a tough role to fill.  For we have been spiritually raised by the collective.  A new BT can dance between the teachings of the Chassidim and the teachings of Vilna, from all spectrums of the Jewish life. This isn’t the ideal answer, but for some of us, it’s the only answer, they all are our Rebbes.  

May it come speedily in our days, may it come immediately today, the coming of the one and only Rebbe for the Baal Teshuva, the righteous Moshiach, please come to us and guide us.

I once read, in the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that the Holy Temple had a separate entrance for each tribe, but it also had one extra entrance... For those don’t know which tribe they’re from.

Inspired by my dear friend Yosef Chaim ben Yeshuah HaLevi who never seems to give up his desire to find his long lost Rebbe.

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