Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

More on Rabbeim: Cold as Ice Ain't Nice

"But you've been cold to me so longI'm crying icicles instead of tears"

This is a shailah somewhat similar to the one discussed at length a while back. Is it better for a rebbi/rav/rosh yeshiva to be cold or warm? I'm gonna start off by making the case for each side, and then follow with my opinion:


a) It's good as a preventative measure, to keep the rebbi-talmid relationship from truning into a buddy-buddy one.

b) Some people aren't interested and will just find the warmth to be annoying.


a) Talmidim feel a much stronger connection to a warm rebbi; the fact that they feel he gives a damn about them may very well inspire them to improve.

b) Talmidim feel more comfortable talking about and discussing personal issues with a warm rebbi.

c) In today's era of thin skin and emotional problems, people have more of a need for a warm, caring rebbi.

With "c" in mind, I find it hard to make a case for a Rebbi or Rabbi today to be cold. More than ever, people need the ability to hook up with a talmid chacham. Unfortunately, many people today just don't give a darn about doing the right thing. So for a rabbi to say "I'll wait for him to come up to me" is not going to accomplish much. We need Rabbeim to reach out to the masses.

And I think a Rebbi can be warm without being to shticky or too much of a buddy. Similarly, a rebbi can be warm without being overbearing or too annoying. A common sense approach would be helpful.

Additionally, these days it may be better to err on the side of too much warmth than on side of too much coldness.

I would go so far as to say that cold Rabbeim should be Roshei Kollel, and that's it. Only when someone has gone that far through the system is warmth unnecessary. Even if someone has great intelligence, I think the drawbacks outweigh the positives.

And granted, you might say that some people do better with cold rabbeim than with the warmer variety. I just don't see it, however. I've been to colder yeshivos, and some guys there were into it, but I think there's more of a passion and more sincerity among guys from warmer environments. I've often found the cold approach to leave people with an emotionless, cynical edge. And what's good about that?


Blogger Michelle said...

As a student in a Bais Yaakov for many years, and in Seminary, we were always told to hook up with guys who are close with their rabbeim. At least one of them. One teacher said she asked every prospective son-in-law (i assume during that dreaded interrogation) to whom he asks his Shailos. If he says he doesn't have any, he's dead. If he says, "whoever's around," he's almost dead. But if he has someone specific who he asks, he's a keeper. I went out with someone who went to a Yeshiva that doesn't breed those relationships. The Rebbeim didn't try to "befriend" the students. Luckily, this guy is none the worse for it, but others may have damage. It's so important for the Rabbeim to have a certain amount of warmth so that the Talmidim look up to him, and value what he has to say. Through that, his sincerity will shine through and students will be attracted to that, and become sincere Jews because of the good example set for them. If the Rebbe is cold, they have less respect for him, because he is less down to earth, making the whole sincere-Yeshivish-person idea look unattainable.

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