"Moshiach is ready to come now-our part is to increase in acts of goodness and kindness" -The Rebbe

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Consult with a Guide, not a Crutch

Consult with a Guide, not a Crutch

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver

The Frierdiker Rebbe once responded:
In answer to your question: The Rogatchover Gaon would have said [in response to such a query] “You are an idler. You idled away the time and didn’t learn, and therefore you don’t know, and so you ask what you were able to know [through your own study]. If you wouldn’t have idled away your time and you would have studied, you would know yourself, and you wouldn’t need to ask.” The same applies to your question: It’s easier for you to write a letter and ask than to bother yourself to find the Halacha in Shulchan Aruch, never mind to seek it in the works of the later halachic authorities.


Igros Kodesh Admur HaRayatz, Vol. 6, pp. 70-71.
Perhaps this principle can also be applied to consulting with others who ought to provide spiritual guidance of some sort—one’s mashpia, Rav, or asei lecho Rav (see here for further explanation). Some people, perhaps subconsciously, view their mashpia as the one responsible for their spiritual growth, which they neglect because, they think, why bother? They can visit the mashpia for inspiration from time to time. They neglect to study Halacha because, they tell themselves, they can simply ask their Rav when a question arises. They also neglect introspection and making a personal reckoning, because why bother? They can simply ask their asei lecho Rav to do it for them. And even when they do learn Torah, they learn it in a detached, theoretical way, because they do not foresee any of it having practical relevance, as it has not been uttered by their mashpia, Rav, or asei lecho RavAnd so on. 


Nothing could be further from the truth.


These roles exist to provide not crutches, but guidance. There is a balance required here. You do need these supports and you can’t go it alone, but you still have to do the work yourself. Think of them like a swimming instructor. He doesn’t swim for you. He shows you how to swim, and then he gives you helpful pointers to improve your swimming further, but then you splash and flail around in the water on your own, and eventually you learn to float and dive and swim, and then swim better and faster. Likewise, the mashpia, Rav, and asei lecho Rav are here to guide you in your service of Hashem—they direct and inspire you to learn, fulfill, grow, change, and lead. But once the meeting with the guide is done, you are left to do the learning, fulfilling, growing, changing, and leading yourself.


Thus, the very act of consultation presupposes that the seeker of the advice is a mentch—a Jew striving to improve, who recognizes that the ball is in his court. And even if he lacks sufficient motivation, he recognizes that the fault is in him, and that he alone is to blame for his low performance. The guide then has material with which to work. 

In contrast, one who uses these spiritual guides to excuse himself from exerting effort thwarts them from fulfilling their task, and what is worse, this makes them complicit in
 his misconduct. For then instead of the mashpiaRav, or asei lecho Rav guiding the person to true self-motivated inner growth in his divine service, they facilitate laziness, mediocrity, and failure.



Receiving guidance brings wisdom, clarity, and purpose. But the hard work you have to do yourself—before, during, and after your consultation.

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