Thursday, July 16, 2009

Your Jewish Life Coach

Do you have a life coach? For those unfamiliar with the term, life coaches work to help clients determine and achieve personal goals.

While life coaching as a profession in western society is a recent development, Judaism has always encouraged, in fact expected, people to have a guide in their life - a rabbi. The importance of having a rabbi involved in one's life was expressed by Rabbi Joshua ben Perachia, a leader of the Sanhedrin in the first century of the Common Era, who said: “Make for yourself a rabbi, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every person favorably" (Ethics of the Fathers 1:6).

Rabbi Joshua didn't say that you should “have” a rabbi, but that you should “make for yourself” a rabbi, implying that making a rabbi must be a proactive activity. A rabbi is meant to be more than the person who leads synagogue services and officiates at religious ceremonies. A rabbi is meant to be a “life coach,” a person to whom one can turn to get advice and guidance.

In more traditional circles, individuals ask their rabbis questions of halacha (Jewish law), and also seek their aitza (advice) when major decisions need to be made. In the Chassidic community, the chassidim will go to the rebbe for advice on major and even many minor life choices.

Rabbi Joshua's words bear two important messages: 1) that a person should find him/herself a teacher because no person knows everything. Even a rav (rabbi) needs a rav, and 2) that having a rabbi is not a passive activity. One must “make a rabbi for him/herself,” meaning that he/she must seek a rabbi with whom they are comfortable and then must work to build the relationship.

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