Rabbis are guides not dictators!!

I respect my rabbi. I respect the KoD’s rabbi. Until we move, we have two separate rabbis. My rabbi has been my spiritual leader for most of the past 13 years. If I have questions he is the competent local orthodox rabbi that I consult. I don’t believe in rabbi shopping. I ask all my questions to one rabbi. I don’t seek out the rabbi that will be the laxest.  I don’t believe in that. However, when it is KoD that will be doing the asking, he will ask his own rabbi. When we move, the KoD’s rav will be mine.

What I really don’t believe in is running to the rabbi or spiritual leader to ask about every single thing in your life. I live a religious life. I keep as many mitzvoth as I can. I know what it means to live as an Orthodox Jew. Occasionally questions come up – and when I am not sure about halacha I will consult the rabbi. I will not ask him whether the time is right for me to buy a new house, or if my son should be allowed to check his email, or if I should blog about how my husband loves my hair. I will not ask him when I am sick if I should take the medication or pray instead to get better. I won’t ask him if I can go to the movies Saturday night or if it’s ok for me to talk to my friend’s husband on the phone.

Why not? Firstly – because I don’t need rabbinical approval for every single thing I do in this life. I have my own moral compass. I have a brain. I can think things through, discuss with others, and am ok with the majority of my decisions. Not everything we do in life has to have the seal of rabbinical authority. Secondly, do I really think the rabbi wants to be bothered with the minutiae of all of his congregants’ lives? Does he care what brand of Kleenex you use, or whether your laundry detergent sat in a shopping cart where ham sat before? So much of what I hear people have asked their rabbi is narishkeit – nothingness, silliness.

A rabbi is there to teach us, to help us learn and grow. He is not there to control our lives. He is there to celebrate and commemorate with us – hatches, matches and dispatches (births, marriages and deaths); to visit the sick; to pay shiva visits; to help lift us up when we need it; to provide advice and counsel when warranted; to inspire us to be better servants of God. As far as I know, when a man is studying for his smicha, there isn’t a class on “how to control your congregants 101”. Being a rabbi is about encouraging the community to be better people, to be better Jews and to help them get there.

We can think for ourselves. I don’t need a rabbi thinking for me. And I highly doubt he wants to be the one to decide on everything in a congregant’s life.

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26 responses to “Rabbis are guides not dictators!!

  1. When you have a question, you like to ask Twitter before you ask a rabbi. :o)

  2. I totally agree with you. I wonder if some rabbis take to task their congregants if they think they don’t consult them enough and take too many decisions by themselves.

    • i doubt it, I really think they would want their congregants to think for themselves. it has got to be annoying to have to be asked about every little thing!

  3. This is why I LOVE you and cannot get enough of your blog.. because you speak your truth- you are not afraid to be honest–such an admirable quality– I wish MORE people followed your lead.. I know you inspire me to.. the KoD is one lucky guy- and so are your kids– and step kids too!!

  4. i’m of the opinion of “live & let live”. while i personally don’t feel the need to consult with a rabbi for the minutae of my daily life, that doesn’t mean that others have to follow suit. everyone is entitled to do as they see fit. if they want to ask a rabbi (& have a rabbi/rav/rebbe) that is available/willing to advise on every matter then so be it. chassidim in general, are known to consult frequently with their rebbes on issues that i would never dream of asking a rabbi but that is what is done in their communities & it is not for me to judge what others choose to do. similarly, i don’t enjoy being judged by others for my actions as well…

  5. All too often people go to their rabbi for a psak when they really need to think for themselves. Just as often, a rabbi will often issue rulings for things over which he has no jurisdiction (e.g. Internet use in Israel).

  6. This is one of those things that has driven me crazy for years. Too many people want to shut off their brain and rely upon their rav for their thinking.

  7. Good post. Only it could more accurately be titled:

    “Rabbis are guides not gods!!”

  8. Lady Lock and Load

    I guess you don’t like it when I tell you to ask a Rov about stuff. sorry! I am the type that likes to get advice from rabbonim.

    • I am glad it works for you, LLL. It just doesn’t work for me on the small stuff.

      • Lady Lock and Load

        What do you consider small stuff? I was just speaking with the grand daughter of Rav Shmuel Bernabaum (Rosh Yeshiva of the Meir) may he rest in peace. She told me that she often calls a gadol to ask advice..what to do when she caught a student cheating, chinuch questions for her own children. I was pretty surprised but she is so young and has many questions. She has no problem asking about anything, she feels that this is what the gedolim do and want to do for klal yisroel.
        Of course when you ask a Rov for advice it doesn’t mean you MUST do what he says. There are many people that are thinking, smart individuals who want to know what to do and they get advice from a Rov they know and trust and have a relationship with. The rov is not interested in CONTROLLING you and ordering you about but wants to help out.
        A wise person is a person who asks and I think it is a beautiful thing to have a Rov who you trust and are close with and can give you advice. Not that I would call for just about anything and everything, but things that are important to me. I am not exactly sure what you find objectionable in people asking shailos.

        • I object to bothering the rabbis with questions like which brand of mayonnaise to use, or whether to invest money in a certain stock or mutual fund or what model of car to buy.

          Rabbis are there for spiritual help and guidance. they don’t need their time wasted with narishkeit. I have called for help with my kids with school etc where i needed a rabbinical point of view. I think one needs to know what is important to ask a rabbi and what one can figure out on one’s own.

          My two main things that I would always ask would be a niddah question or kashruth. I just don’t know enough.

          • Lady Lock and Load

            Oh, thank you for explaining. I agree with you, I would not bother a Rov with every thing that comes up in my life. In fact, I always feel like I am bothering the rov when I call to ask stuff and the rov always has to reassure me it’s okay and that is what he is there or.
            (by the way, our Rov down here is fantastic!)

  9. You know what? I go to two different rabbis. I feel horrible saying that, but I do. Sometimes I feel as though my personal rav isn’t strict *enough.* And that’s saying something because I’m not super machmir or anything. I mean, I dunno. People tell me I’m more frum than most people in our community. Does it make me nuts to go to a rabbi who I think will give me a more legit answer?

    • you need to be able to trust the answer that you get. whether its on the maykil side or the machmir…you need to be able to have faith in the answer.

  10. the idea of asking one rabbi is antiquated and has been rejected by gedolim over the years.

    you should ask a competent authority, and if he doesnt give you the right answer, u can freely consult another competent authority….

    • and pray tell, how do you know he hasn’t given you the right answer??!

    • And, in fact, your Rabbi himself is “required” to ask a competent authority (often his Rav) when he doesn’t know the answer or is unsure about it.

      • My Rabbi has told me that he is consulting other rabbis. I like the fact that he won’t pasken if he isn’t sure.

        • today’s rabbis are not “mechadesh” anything new. so even if you are “mechapes kula” u can “shop” around so long as you are asking competent rabbis. it would also be nice if you told rabbi #2 that you had already asked rabbi #1….

    • The law-i disagree. In fact you are not supposed to shop around for the best answer that suits your needs. What I’ve heard is that once you ask & get an answer you are supposed to stick to it & not disregard it & go shopping for one who will give you an answer that will make you happiest.

      • sorry batya but that was something fed to you in beis yaakov.

        the halachick process doesnt work that way.

        but i guess that works for you and your sheeple…

        DM me for details…

        • The Law-it’s nice to know that you think you know what was or was not fed to me at BY but if it makes you feel good to think that, then suit yourself & keep shopping around to get all the kulos that you like.

          • In fact you are not supposed to shop around for the best answer that suits your needs.

            i only got snippy since you started with that, when in fact, it isnt a fact…

            see Shu”t Divrei Chachamim, Klalei HaPsak from R. C.P. Sheinberg….

            seek and ye shall find….

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