A Spiritual Mentor

Lichvod the editors of the Erev Shabbos editorials,

It is obvious that the Erev Shabbos editorials are as the title implies. They are always a befitting essay “from” the Torah “by” talmid(ei) chacham(im) “for” bnei Torah. It is also apparent that they aim to please all. They begin with a Chassidic vort or story and usually end with a “vort” from the yeshivah world.

They are all terrific (if that is a befitting critique for a Torah thought).

[The editorial for] Parashas Chukas, 9 Tammuz, was no exception. I would just like to add to the “lesson culled from Chazal” (Sanhedrin 101a) by Hagaon Harav Chaim Shmuelevitz, zt”l, “In order for an individual to appropriately deal with life’s challenges, he must have a Rebbi, a spiritual mentor who will guide him in the proper direction, because ‘chavivin yissurin,’” it was so crucial for Rabbi Eliezer “to stay alive.”

My Rebbi and father-in-law, Rav Gifter, zt”l, has a slightly different take on this Chazal which goes a bit beyond Rav Shmuelevitz and explains, further, why Rabi Eliezer said, “Nechamtani — You consoled me.”

This thought can be found in the book Rav Gifter by ArtScroll (pp 384-385).

The first three students compared Rabi Eliezer, saying, “You are greater than (1) the sun, (2) rain and (3) parents.” These three exist only in this world, intimating that the Rebbe was teaching us in this world which is finite. Nevertheless, he will continue to teach us in the Next World.

Rabi Akiva consoled him by saying, “Chavivin yissurin — Pain and suffering [are] beloved.”

Telling his Rebbi, “You are still our Rebbi (in this world), for by example, by the manner in which you have accepted your suffering, you continue to teach us important lessons. Even in your illness, you are still teaching us.” This is what consoled Rabi Eliezer: that his mission of being a Rebbi to Klal Yisrael continues even in this situation, albeit in his time of suffering.

By no means is this a criticism, chas v’shalom, of how you end your editorial: “The need for each of us to have a spiritual mentor whom we respect and admire has never been greater.” To the contrary, it certainly conveyed the gist of Rav Chaim’s thoughts (no easy task).

Nevertheless, Rav Gifter’s thoughts go a step further, in which case it would have ended, “We live in an era of unprecedented challenges and obstacles. The need for each of us to have a spiritual mentor who can teach and guide us through suffering and challenges — even by example — has never been greater.”

Thank you for your time,

Rabbi Yaakov Reisman, Lawrence, New York