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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Who's your mentor?

Daf Yomi Nazir 52


Rabbi Mordechai Becher has a great challenge he puts to audiences around the world.
“Who here taught themselves to swim?” he asks, and then continues, “Believe it or not, I’ve asked this question to thousands of people in hundreds of cities and not one person has ever raised their hand!  Do you want to know why?  Because the ones that attempted to teach themselves to swim are (Hashem yerachem) no longer with us. . .”

They once brought a box full of bones into the Kupferschmidt Shul and left it out in the open air, in a roofless area, so as to not cause contamination.  Dr. Todus and his team of physicians entered and declared, “Here there is no spine from a single corpse.”
Clearly, the reason the bones did not contaminate was due to the fact that there was no spine from a single corpse, which implies that had there in fact been an entire spine or skull from a single individual, it would contaminate a nazir, necessitating him to shave his head.

What did the Rabbis do when they had a question about human remains?  They called in the medical examiner.  That’s the first interesting point of this story – our Sages of yore knew that they weren’t experts in everything under the sun and they were not embarrassed to ask a technical question of the experts, in this case the pathologist.

The second interesting point is that when the doctor arrives, he does not enter alone, but with his whole medical team.  Why?  Because before you become a doctor, you start out as an intern and resident.  These younger doctors follow the experienced physician around learning practically how to do the job, gradually assuming more and more responsibilities themselves.

While the mentorship model has survived in the medical profession, sadly it has become less popular in other fields.  Contemporary young professionals believe they know how to practice because they’ve passed all their certifications.  But the truth is, you can’t compare what you learn from a book to what’s actually going on out there in the real world.  If you want to succeed at whatever you aspire to be, you should find yourself a mentor.

Why reinvent the wheel?  Why make the same mistakes that a senior colleague already made and learned how to rectify twenty years ago?  Finding an expert to mentor you will shave years, perhaps even decades, off your learning curve.  You will learn how to skip the steps that your peers are still struggling with. 

And if you’re successful in your field, it’s time you gave back.  Find a mentee or two and show them the ropes of your area of expertise.  Help them achieve their goals faster.  The Talmud tells us that there are two people that we are never jealous of: our children and our students.   The joy you will receive watching a young person whom you have mentored grow is immeasurable!

If in the material world we require mentorship, how much more so when it comes to spirituality, which is intangible.  How could you ever master something you can’t see all on your own?  Sure, you have the Book.  But in Judaism, the Written Book was always accompanied by an Oral Tradition.  Why?  Because if nobody ever successfully taught themselves how to swim, then certainly nobody ever successfully taught themselves how to fly!

The Torah teaches you how to fly.  When you master Torah, you grow wings that allow you to soar higher than any physical bird.  You can soar to the Heavens.  But to learn how, you need a mentor, you need a rebbe (Torah teacher).  You need someone who can guide you beyond the written text.


Mentorship allows you to fly.  Mentorship in your field allows you to fly past your peers and past the steps you would ordinarily be required to take in order to achieve success.  Mentorship in spirituality allows you to fly to the Heavens.  May you find the right mentor for your every aspiration in life and beyond!