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  • Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

What Uncle Fruyim taught me

Pirkei Avos, Perek Rishon


My uncle Reb Ephraim Dov Ber Majeski, a”h, whose yahrtzeit is on the 26th of Nissan, didn’t have the opportunity to study Chassidus as a bachur. Several years ago, when I was working in a yeshivah in his neighborhood, he asked if I would teach him Chassidus. “But Uncle Froyim, it feels funny for me to be teaching you!” He was a distinguished talmid chacham and old enough to be my father. He smiled and explained: In the first chapter of Pirkei Avos we’re taught aseh l’cha rav, make for yourself a rav. The word aseh is peculiar here. It would seem more appropriate to use the words kach l’cha, take for yourself, or b’ror l’cha, choose for yourself. The Rambam explains that the mishneh is teaching us that even if someone is superior in many areas, nevertheless, if there’s an area in which someone else is ahead, make them your rav. My beloved uncle taught me such an important, yet often overlooked, value. There is much to be gained by having the humility to learn from others, no matter who they are.

There are countless Chassidus shiurim available online. Why didn’t my uncle just listen to one of those? The wording of the mishneh is “take for yourself a rav.” The benefit of having a rav is not merely to amass knowledge (which can be done by listening to a shiur) but to develop a relationship and gain direction. To maximize the benefit of having a rav, I must take one for myself, a personal guide who knows me. There are many teachers out there today giving classes online, but no matter how qualified they are, they are talking to a faceless audience. Their guidance is generic and not tailored to me or my struggles. I may learn a lot of information from them, but I will still need that one voice who’s my personal rav. Similarly, we are instructed to have a rav, singular, not rabbanim. I may gain a lot of knowledge by following a variety of influencers, but I will probably be left with a jumbled, incoherent sense of direction. I was unworthy but I was blessed, because my dear uncle would sometimes call me to discuss a piece of Torah. “When it comes to Chassidus, you’re my rebbi.” I don’t doubt that Uncle Froyim knew what a gift he gave me by pushing me to be his Chassidus teacher. Uncle Froyim, I treasure the hours that we learned together and I am still struggling with the void your passing has left in my life. I look forward to learning Toras Moshiach together. Gut Shabbos, Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

SPONSORED BY The Flint family l’zecher nishmas Reb Avraham Michoel ben Yaakov Shimon Halevi a"h

The Moshe Group Moshe and Rivky Majeski