Friday, June 11, 2010

Hug a Rabbi

What's your favorite teacher memory?

A. A remarkable, true teacher story
B. A challenge for all readers
C. The recipe for making your very own rabbi!

A. First, the remarkable story.

Solve for n, if 100 – n = 25

Starting to sweat? Then you must not have had Paul Miller as your math teacher.

Which would be unusual, since 75 years ought to be long enough to each just about everybody.

No, that's not a typo.

Here in Baltimore, there is a Jewish math teacher who has been teaching for 75 years.

That's 3x25 years.

It's such a remarkable and uplifting story, I’m inviting you to read it in full here.

B. The challenge for all readers

Did you ever have a teacher who changed your life?

Did your child/grandchild/nephew/niece ever have a teacher who went the extra mile?

Do you have any idea how hard it is just to be an average teacher?

My wife has always been diligent about giving a gift with a hand-written thank you note to all of our children's teachers every June. I urge you to do the same. If you can't afford a gift, a hand-written note is perfectly adequate. If you can't afford the stamp, send an email. Let them know how much you appreciate their work this past year.

You may want to print out the Paul Miller story and send it with your thank-you notes.

C. The Recipe

What's the Jewish slant on this?

Well, first and foremost, appreciation is supposed to be a hallmark of being Jewish. The word “Jewish” comes from Yehuda which means thankful.

But more than that….Everyone needs a teacher. Even we adults. When it comes to wisdom, we call this teacher a rabbi, a rav or a rebbe.

What's the difference?

Reb - equivalent to "Mr."
Rabbi - someone who has taught you some Torah or Jewish wisdom.
Rebbe - your primary teacher in one or more areas of wisdom.
Rav - someone, usually a rabbi, with whom you have a mentoring/coaching relationship, wherein you never "agree to disagree"

(To make it more confusing, "rav" is also used as a generic title in the place of "rabbi".)

(Also, it's OK to have more than one rav for various areas of life, but not more than one for the same area of life.)

Says the Talmud: "Acquire for yourself a friend, and make for yourself a rav."

This is the question for your table: Why does it choose the word "acquire" for a friend but "make" for a rav?

Think about it.

The answer, it seems to me, is this: For someone to be successful as your rav, in addition to inherent wisdom, they have to know your personal situation. What is good for the goose is not always good for the gander, so to speak. Therefore, you don’t just go to someone and say, “Will you be my rav?” Rather, you go to someone with specific questions, listen to the answers, try to follow them. Then go back with more questions. The more you go, the more you challenge, the more you listen and learn, the more that person becomes your rav. That’s the recipe for making yourself a rav.

By the way, everyone needs a rav. Even a rabbi. And every family needs a rav, not two.

Once again, think about it!

And don’t forget to send those thank you notes.

Shabbat Shalom

I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught. - Churchill

Oh yeah...PS: