Girls are often taught to ask boys they are dating if they have a rebbi they are close to. Sometimes, they pose this question as early on as the very first date.
We all know that having a rebbi is indeed important. However, a bachur who attends a large, mainstream yeshiva, where the rebbi-to-talmid ratio exceeds 20:1, and hasn’t experienced any major problems or life-altering decisions in life, will likely not have a rebbi with whom he is close. That’s just the reality.
Such a bachur might have a rebbi or rov who he would feel comfortable enough asking life-related questions later on when need be, but not “a rebbi he is close to,” and that doesn’t make him abnormal. In fact, that’s more often the way it is.
The problem is that girls don’t seem to understand this. In fact, the girls’ parents also sometimes don’t, perhaps because they themselves did not attend a larger type yeshiva where what I described above is the norm.
What is the answer to this conundrum?
Before addressing your specific question, I feel it must be said that having a rebbi is not merely “indeed important.” It a basic tenet of yiddishkeit, explicitly stated in Pirkei Avos, in the immortal words, “assei lecha rav.” It seems to me that the basic implication of the word “assei” is two-fold. Firstly, having a rav is not optional – it is a directive – and, secondly, it may require hishtadlus and dedication to accomplish.
The importance of having someone with daas Torah as a guide in life cannot possibly be understated. A yid is not meant to wander through life seeking counsel only for highly problematic and life-altering matters, leaving all other decisions to be made on one’s own, solely as they see fit. Sadly, to a degree, this has become antithetical to the mindset of many bachurim; who mistakenly believe, that as b’nei Torah, learning a few blatt Gemara and a bit of mussar obviates them of this responsibility.
Of course, this does not mean one needs to ask a shaila on every prat in life, especially as one grows older and becomes more experienced. However, as a bachur, it is the groundwork of having a rebbi with whom one can discuss all sorts of matters that sets the stage for being able to make future decisions, as an adult, based on the past hadracha one has received.
With enough exposure to a competent rebbi, and having absorbed mass amounts of daas Torah directly in relation to one’s life, one becomes exponentially more capable of knowing what their rebbi would likely say about a particular matter, and can then use their best judgment in how to proceed. But, lacking that exposure and those many prior conversations, one is k’eveir hoilech b’afailah.
Returning now to your question, as an alumnus of three large, mainstream yeshivos, and having never been in a shiur of less than 20 bachurim, I can attest that you are correct on one point. It is not entirely uncommon for a bachur to traverse their entire yeshiva journey without having a single rebbi they are close with.
Where I would take issue with your narrative, though, is in your assertion that it is inherently unlikely that a bachur who never had any “major problems” will ever have a rebbi they are close with, and that young women and their parent’s should simply accept that at face value.
By vast majority, despite the high rebbi to bachur ratio in larger yeshivos, rebbeim do make themselves readily available to their talmidim. All one needs to do is ask to talk. And then ask again, and again, until the relationship is formed. It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes the ability to accept guidance even when it’s not particularly what one wants to hear. It requires a measure of being mevatel daas atzmoi, while also not turning into a mindless automaton. That is the nature of assei lecha rav.
While it is true that not every rebbi will be of the right temperament or personality for the techunas hanefesh of every bachur, fortunately, bachurim are not limited to having only one option to choose as their “rav.” Once a bachur has reached the age of 22, between high school and bais medrash, in most cases, they will have had seven or eight rebbeim. They will also most likely have had at least one or two Roshei Yeshiva, various shoialim u’meishivim, and exposure to other rebbeim in yeshiva.
Somewhat conservatively then, by the time a bachur is dating, he should have had roughly a dozen opportunities to become close with a rebbi. With those numbers, and with the various ages and personalities of rebbeim that a bachur will have had exposure to, it should be reasonable for a bachur to find at least one person with whom he can be comfortable with.
As such, given the paramount need for a rav, and the relatively easy access and availability of rebbeim, when a bachur states that he does not have a single rebbi with whom he is close, it begs the question, why?
Was it willful neglect stemming from a feeling that having a rebbi for anything more than the most serious of issues is unnecessary? Was it laziness or apathy in not exerting the time and effort to cling to a rebbi who could have been a good match? Was the bachur of a shy or timid nature and simply unable among the throng to vie and battle for the attention needed to establish that relationship? Did the bachur earnestly try to establish a rebbi–talmid relationship but was unsuccessful, despite his best efforts, or did he find none of his options suitable to his needs? Does he have a family rav who fills this role, or perhaps his father or another relative or family friend is a notable talmid chochom and that is whom he turns to for hadracha?
There could be many answers as to why a bachur does not have a rebbi in yeshiva he is close with, and not all of them are inherently concerning, but it is most certainly a fair and integral question to ask – the goal being to discern if the bachur has anyone in his life with daas Torah whom he turns to with any regularity.
Consequently, when a bachur states that he is not particularly close with even one rebbi, it should be understandable why a young women or her parent’s might want to gain a better understanding as to why that is the case.
It is my hope that this reply will bring you to reconsidering your position, and that b’ezras Hashem Yisborach, you will find the ability to be mekayaim “assei lecha rav,” b’hiddur mefoar.