“You should choose from the whole nation men of valor, who fear Hashem, honest men who hate money… and they shall judge the people at all times.” (Shemos 18:21–22)
The concept of going to a dayan or rav to get advice is one critical to our mesorah. A person can wonder: Why should I ask daas Torah about aspects of my life that are not connected to halachah? What can a rav tell me about politics or social issues?
This question stems from ignorance. The Chofetz Chaim quotes Rebbe Itchele M’Volozhin who said there’s no question in the world that you cannot find an answer for in the Torah. One just needs the right eyes to see where it’s written. (Rav Elchonon Wasserman, Kovetz Maamarim)
A coffee date with my old friend Aliza was rare, as we live in different countries. We reveled in playing catch-up as the conversation jumped from topic to topic.
“So, I don’t know what to do.” Aliza swirled her straw. “Should I send my teen to camp? All her friends are going! On the other hand, I don’t think she’s camp material. She’s usually happier staying at home.”
“Why don’t you ask your rav?” I scooped up some whipped cream from the bottom of my glass.
“Why should I ask him about something like this?” Surprise was evident in her voice. “It’s not halachah based. I don’t believe in running to a rabbi each time I can’t decide what to do. Why would he know any more than I do?”
I tried to hide my shock, suddenly aware of something beyond miles that had come between the two of us. “How could you not ask your rav? My shoulders simply aren’t big enough to bear the yoke of responsibility for every aspect of my family.”
There’s another question on this pasuk: Why is it a requirement that a judge should hate money? He’s already forbidden to accept bribes, so what difference does it make if he’s the type of person who likes money?
A judge who likes money or has any other personal interest will not be able to be completely subjective in any of his advice. That’s simply the natural characteristic of a person — he can be wise, but if he’s not objective, his advice won’t be appropriate.
The degree to which a rav lives his life according to Torah, that’s the degree to which his advice will be based only on Torah. In the words of Rabbeinu Bechaye, if he’s a true ben Torah with no outside knowledge influencing him, then his advice can be relied upon as being pure.
The same ratio works for those who seek daas Torah. A person who puts in a 100-percent effort to find daas Torah will merit finding it 100 percent. Someone who doesn’t try at all won’t receive it at all. (ibid.)
My husband and I sat with our daughter in the rav’s dining room.
“What happens if he says no?” whispered my daughter.
“Then that’s what we’ll do, because that’s our answer.”
My daughter desperately wanted to go to school abroad, but we were equally hesitant to send her so far from home. After we presented our points, the rav turned to my daughter. “Tell me your reasons.”
As my daughter spoke, I saw the rav deep in thought. “You should go,” he said unequivocally when she finished, and went on to present his reasons. “Any questions?” he asked.
“No, the rav has answered them.” Thus, a heavy decision was lifted off my shoulders, despite my not having received the answer I would’ve liked.
We live in a time of chaos, where the world is spinning quickly. Advice that was applicable yesterday may no longer be so. If we’d ask Hashem, “What’s the meaning and purpose behind it all?” we’d find the same guidance as always: Look in the Torah and find an answer to every question. (ibid.)
We’ve just finished the sheloshim for our rav, whose tafkid in This World was suddenly complete. While reeling from a feeling of abandonment, I know that the rav’s guidance is still influencing our every movement. By accepting the Torah, we’re accepting that every facet of our lives is governed by it. Therefore, I know what our rav would advise now: Go find daas Torah.