I was the principal of Yeshiva Ohr Naftoli in New Windsor, New York, for six years. This year, I returned to seeing clients in private practice and left my position as principal. But it was a wonderful experience to be associated with such an esteemed and respected yeshivah.

At some of the Yeshiva dinners, each of the honorees was presented with a beautiful painting of a gadol that his family was particularly close to. A talmid of the Mir received a painting of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l. Another received a painting of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l and another a painting of Rav Chaim Kanievsky zt”l.

One year, the Yeshiva honored the police chief of New Windsor, Chief Robert Doss, as an expression of gratitude for his assistance with the Yeshiva. There was a table of his colleagues on the police force at the dinner who seemed very impressed by the Yeshiva, although they probably had no understanding of the speeches emphasizing the value of Torah and chinuch.

I was curious what painting they would present him with. Which gadol does he ascribe to? Would they give him a painting of his superior or of the first police chief of New Windsor?

The rosh yeshivah made the presentation and called up Chief Doss to receive a painting…of himself. It was a beautiful painting of the chief in his uniform, looking intense and vigorous.

I can’t imagine that there was even a fleeting thought to present any of the other honorees with a portrait of themselves. The Torah teaches us to always be thinking beyond ourselves, and to look upwards to those wiser for guidance and direction. That is why pictures of our rebbeim and mentors adorn our walls. Would anyone hang up a picture of himself, even one in which he is wearing talis and t’filin on his own wall?

The secret to our national longevity is based on our unbroken tradition, passed down from father to son and from rebbe to talmid.

Having a rebbe/mentor helps us maintain a sense of perspective and keeps us humble.

The Navi states about Yehoash, one of the kings of Yehudah: “He did what was correct in the eyes of Hashem all the days that he was taught by Yehoyada HaKohen” (M’lachim II 12:3). The tragedy of Yehoash is that when his rebbe, Yehoyada Kohen Gadol, died, he was swayed by miscreants who prevailed upon him to commit tragic sins. This included the heinous murder of Yehoyada’s son and successor, Zecharyah Kohen Gadol. It was Zecharyah’s blood that bubbled on the floor of the Beis HaMikdash for decades.

In our chain of tradition, we not only speak of our family lineage, but also of the teachers and yeshivos that formulated our thinking and Torah outlook.

It’s been said that “humility doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” This is a vital point. We have to take care of ourselves and value our abilities. But we also need to utilize those abilities to enhance the lives of those around us.

It’s also said that EGO is an acronym for Easing G-d Out. When we are too focused on ourselves and our own ego, we become unpleasant to be around. Conversely, we like to be around people who think and care about others, and to use their talents and capabilities to assist others.

Sometimes, humility is conveyed as self-abnegation and the need to put oneself down. That is a tragic and damaging distortion. A person must recognize his talents and capabilities. However, he also must feel that his accomplishments are a fulfillment of his responsibility; doing so doesn’t make him better than others.

No matter how old one is, one’s rebbe continues to infuse him with spiritual vitality, perspective, balance, encouragement, and chizuk. In fact, even well after one’s rebbe has left this world, the example and imprint that his rebbe infused into his soul remains in perpetuity. It’s a beautiful thing to hear someone say, “My rebbe explained…” decades later.

As this week is the week of 3 Tamuz, the yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it’s worth noting the incredible influence the Rebbe had, and continues to have, upon thousands of his chasidim and students, many who do not consider themselves Lubavitch, the world over, who were influenced by his brilliance, wisdom, and foresight.

Whether one has a picture of his rebbe on his wall or not, the mental image of his rebbe remains seared in his soul and continues to influence his progeny in perpetuity.

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, a rebbe at Heichal HaTorah in Teaneck, New Jersey, is a parenting consultant and maintains a private practice for adolescents and adults. He is also a member of the administration of Camp Dora Golding for over two decades. Rabbi Staum was a community rabbi for ten years, and has been involved in education as a principal, guidance counselor, and teacher in various yeshivos. Rabbi Staum is a noted author and sought-after lecturer, with hundreds of lectures posted on torahanytime.com. He has published articles and books about education, parenting, and Torah living in contemporary society. Rabbi Staum can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. His website containing archives of his writings is www.stamTorah.info.