The Mishnah in Avos (Perek 1 Mishnah 6) teaches:

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

A person should "make for themselves a Rav". Is the simple meaning of the mishnah in regards to learning Torah, to have a specific Rebbe or Rav to learn from? Or is it specifically referring to someone who will decide halachic questions for you?

The "nafkeh minah" would be someone who is able to "pasken" for themselves should still according to the Mishnah have a Rav to learn from?

Or perhaps the meaning of the Mishnah is a combination of the 2? Or perhaps something else even?

  • 2
    +1 very good and important question. I think Rabbeinu Yona among some others, perhaps, Avot Derav Nattan, address this. I'll try to find it. Note also the careful language used in this Mishnah that states "MAKE" a rav vs. "ACQUIRE" a friend. I'll try to address this also, as I think it is related to your question.
    – DanF
    Mar 31, 2016 at 18:50
  • @DanF please do! It was inspired by a Rav that I know who told me that when he first became a Rabbi he would pasken shailos in his own home and his wife who was "very frum" didn't always like his psakim, she would yell at him saying "You know halacha but you don't know mishnayos!? Aseh lacha Rav!" We must have someone else to ask our shailos. Keep in mind these weren't even "Hilchos Niddah" shailos which there is already a question if the husband may pasken (out of concern that he'll be too machmir .. Now a days it's probably the opposite.)
    – Yehoshua
    Mar 31, 2016 at 18:55

2 Answers 2


Among other reasons, a person is alway "nogeia bedavar". That is because you are involved in the matter, it is always better to have someone who can be objective in reaching a decision. There is a story (I have seen different names) in which a rav had a court case and the dayan found against him. After the decision, the rav went to talk to the dayan and asked how he reached the decision. The dayan took out a sefer and showed that the exact case was discussed there. It turned out that the sefer was the one that the rav had written on the relevant subject.

Thus as well as having someone to learn from (or with) one should always have someone to ask.


There are multiple explanations to this, and I'll try to add others as I locate them.

For now, see Rav Bartenura's who quotes Ramba"m. The term "rav" doesn't mean a "rabbi" necessarily, but a teacher. The point is that you have to appoint someone as a teacher so that you can learn from him. I believe that the idea is that you should learn not just halachot, Torah, Gemarrah, etc., but learn behavior as well. I.e., he should be a mentor.

He (Ramba"m) points a conflicting adage in Talmud Avodah Zarah 19 that states that one should not learn from just one rav, but from many. They resolve the conflict by stating that in Avodah Zarah, it refers to advice where it is good to hear multiple opinions. (E.g., if you needed advice on career choice, where to live, etc.) But, regarding learning Gemarah (I assume this applies to any Torah learning), it is best to learn from one rav so that you don't blemish your learning.

Avot D'Rabi Natan 8:2

היה רבי מאיר אומר: הלומד תורה מרב אחד למה הוא דומה? לאחד שהיה לו שדה אחת, וזרע מקצתה חטים ומקצתה שעורים, מקצתה זיתים ומקצתה אילנות. ונמצא האדם ההוא מלא טובה וברכה. ובזמן שלומד משניים שלושה, דומה למי שיש לו שדות הרבה. אחת זרע חטין, ואחת זרע שעורים, ונטע אחת זיתים, ואחת אילנות. ונמצא אדם ההוא מפוזר בין הארצות בלא טוב וברכה:

Paraphrased translation: Rav Me'ir said that one who learns from a single rav is like someone who has one field and he plants a bit of wheat, barley, olives and trees. That person is filled with good and blessings.

But if he learns from 2 or 3 people, it is like someone who owns many fields. In each field, he plants only one of each of the items mentioned above. In the end, he is a person scattered among all the lands with no goodness and no blessing.

The analogy, here, is that a single rav helps one organize his thoughts and gives him purpose to what he is doing. You can think of the planting of the seeds to being analogous to a person's thoughts, desires, and questions. They're all different. But directed to a single rav, that rav directs him how to organize all this and he gets a blessing by being focused and directed vs. getting multiple opinions and senses of direction from different people - even if they are all ravs.

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