The Torah’s concept of ‘Aseh lecha Rav’ − ‘Establish for yourself a Rabbi’ − is as embedded within the framework of our Jewish existence as Shabbat, Kashrut and Brit Milah.
The term Rabbi does not necessarily refer to clergy; that is a short-sighted and narrow-focussed view. The essence of the term is that we all need a ‘go-to’ person from whom we can receive guidance, advice and, at times, rebuke. It’s the idea that “no matter what I know, accomplish and believe, there is someone in this world above me in the pyramid of life − I am not at the top.”
Your ‘Rabbi’ need not be wiser and more discerning than you, and does not need a plethora of personal achievements to prove credibility. It is the mere presence of someone who can hold you accountable, reframe situations for you and question your assumptions that is the purpose of a ‘Rabbi’.
Even ‘Rabbis’ need ‘Rabbis’; if we consider ourselves to be on top of the pyramid of personal development and assume to know everything, that would be a brazen and arrogant statement.
It is of these people that we have been warned; to quote the Kotzker Rebbe, “Better a wicked man who knows he’s wicked than a righteous man who knows he’s righteous.”
If the wise man is one who learns from everyone, then the person who refuses to listen to anyone can be nothing but a fool.