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The mishna in Avot (1:6) tells us:

יהושוע בן פרחיה וניתאי הארבלי קיבלו מהם. יהושוע בן פרחיה אומר, עשה לך רב, וקנה לך חבר; והוי דן את כל האדם לכף זכות

When living in different areas I have gone about this in different ways. Having moved to Israel I have struggled finding a personal Rav. Relying on Rabbeim that I had in my previous country of residence is not an option since many minhagim are different, as are the specific laws of the land, and (in particular) very current issues relating to kashrut.

I know many that rely on their Rabbeim from their time in yeshiva; I don't feel that I those connections are the correct ones for me.

I am looking for advice or experience that could help a person in this process.

  • The Mishnah you quote (Avot 1:6) talks more about Talmud Torah in general. The rest of your question talks about having a Rav for deciding [difficult] Halakhah questions. Maybe a more appropriate quote would be Avot 1:16: "רבן גמליאל היה אומר, עשה לך רב, והסתלק מן הספק, ואל תרבה לעשר אמדות". – Tamir Evan Oct 17 '14 at 5:24
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    Was your previous rabbi (before you made aliyah) not able to help you connect with somebody? – Monica Cellio Oct 19 '14 at 1:30
  • @MonicaCellio it is difficult. It depends on who they know and where we are. The Rav of the first community we were in in Israel was totally unapproachable. Our new community is, thank G-d, much better. I guess things take time. Having said this, I feel as though the mentality of (and apparent lack of need for) community Rabbi's in Israel very different. It seems obvious to me that a shul should have a Rav; this is not the case in Israel. – bondonk Oct 20 '14 at 20:54
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For what they're worth, here are my two sheqalim (having recently moved to Israel myself):

  • The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, per the Gemara and HaRaMBa"M, that a person's mentor should stand out in three qualities: modesty, compassion and kindness. All too often, I have run across Rabbis who have been know-it-alls or who haven't given me the time of day. The Rebbe's words have served me well in this regard.
  • My Rabbi back in the US, who I'm certainly still in contact with, always taught us that a true Rav should know his student well: his strengths and his weaknesses. And that a true Rav should know when to be gentle and when to be tough. Some Rabbis love the nonstop fire-and-brimstone/mussar approach to teaching, while others throw some love in with the rebuke.

IMHO, at the end of the day, only the individual can decide for him or herself who will be their Rav. I don't think anyone can make that decision for anyone else. The Rav-student relationship is (or should be) a very intimate one. And only the individual who investigates him or herself honesty and thoroughly will know if a particular Rav will help the individual grow in their 'Avodat HaShem.

Good luck!

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I moved at least five times across countries and have encountered this challenge as many times. I never thought of codifying my thought process but the question is a very good one and it is worth a try.

What I have personally found most helpful has been to

  • pick up a Rav I can learn with (either by attending their shiurim or by learning 1-1). This creates a tighter relation that simply going and asking questions and it allows the rav to get to know me, what I know/don't know, where I stand and for him to customize his answers to my personal situation and level

  • choose a Rav that I respect and admire for his personal character traits, not just his intellect and knowledge. Beyond answering questions, a Rav should push you to grow and it is easier to do that when he is a personal role model

  • if your questions go beyond the basic, pick a Rav who knows a lot of Torah. Not just someone who can give nice speeches but someone who learned for many years gemara and halacha and will not need to rely on generalities. The best way of testing this is to see how the Rav will answer a question. If the answer, its sources, key piskei din are on the "tip of his tongue", you know you have the right person

At times it has taken me many months going around the city, learning with different rabbanim, unless I found the 1-2 rabbanim I clicked with and could then consider my rav. In all cases it has been worth the effort many many times over and I am still regularly in touch with my former rabbanim from 10 and 20 years ago. Behatzlacha!

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