It teaches in the Mishna (Avot 1:6) that every person must find a “rabbi,” one’s teacher and spiritual guide. We must be very cautious choosing a rav, a spiritual guide. Many people falter by looking at external appearances and popularity, rather than for internal true wisdom and righteousness in the person.
Since Rebbe Nachman teaches that prayer is our primary connection with Hashem, a true rav will teach us and encourage us to pray. A true rav should be a man of prayer, a true ba’al t’filla, master of prayer.
A true rav should follow Aharon Kohen haGadol and be a man of peace, who never speaks badly of others or looks for the “not so good” in others. When a person knows that what one has to offer is “top quality,” the person doesn’t have to say anything bad about another’s “merchandise.” Peace and truth should always go together, as in, “Love truth and peace” (Zachariah 8:19).
A rav should have peace and truth as part of his internal characteristics, and should be able to strengthen us in our emuna in Hashem. A person who has internalized truth and peace respects everyone, including those who don’t like him or belong to his particular group. A rav loves everyone, and he lives what he teaches.
Many of us make the mistake of saying, “At my low spiritual level, anyone on a higher level will do.” People who are severely sick, G-d forbid, do not go to just anyone. No, they usually try to find the best physician possible. How much more so when we seek a true spiritual guide, a rav? Rebbe Nachman teaches that the further away a person is from Hashem, the greater spiritual guide we need (Likutei Moharan I:30).
In our low generation, with so many bad habits, bodily lusts, and obstacles standing in the way of Torah, prayer, and mitzvot, we need a true tzaddik and spiritual guide to help us overcome all of our challenges which stand in the way of serving Hashem and drawing closer to Him.
Many people claim to have a monopoly on “the truth.” There are many so-called “truths” in our society. However, the genuine truth that never changes is the truth of Torah, which has been faithfully passed down from generation to generation by the great tzaddikim.
The Torah is called “light,” as King Shlomo says, “For a mitzva is a lantern and Torah is light” (Proverbs 6:23). The tzaddikim are also called light, “The light of the tzaddikim shall rejoice (ibid, 13:9). Those who submit to the true tzaddikim bask in spiritual light, which will eventually penetrate and illuminate our souls, bringing us closer to Hashem. May we each merit Hashem’s help in finding such a true spiritual guide…
Based on The Garden of Knowledge, by Shalom Arush.