Levi Liberow, Beis Moshiach
One of the things that define our generation, being one al saf haGeula — on the threshold of Redemption, is the unprecedented shefa, the never-before-seen abundance. “Today’s poor man” say many, “lives in better conditions than the millionaire of yesteryear.”
Spiritually too, our generation is blessed with a tremendous shefa of Torah due to the advent of cheaper printing and better technology. One of the things that define our generation, being one al saf haGeula — on the threshold of Redemption, is the unprecedented shefa, the never-before-seen abundance. “Today’s poor man” say many, “lives in better conditions than the millionaire of yesteryear.”
What this has done to the mekablim, to those on the receiving end of all this generous goodness, is a topic onto itself. But what I wish to address here is what this has done to the mashpi’im, primarily how this impacts the mashpia-mushpa relationship.
From the dawn of Toras and Darkei HaChassidus, starting from the Alter Rebbe (as alluded to in Hakdamas HaMelaket of Tanya), the “office” of mashpia was established.
His job, as his name implies, was to supply the Chassidim of his town with the spiritual sustenance they required to thrive in their life as Yidden. His main tool was the shefa — being a Chassid of a higher caliber, he knew, understood, and “worked through” Chassidus better than the others who in turn looked up to him and came to him for guidance.
Over the generations, the mashpia’s role developed to become the ma’atikei ha’shmuah — the transmitters of the unwritten aspects of Chassidus: memories and stories of the Rebbeim and older Chassidim, niggunim, biurim, etc.
The mashpia, traditionally, was the supplier of the Chassidishe information and this, in turn, made him the source of Chassidishe inspiration.
Today, things are different. To hear about the Alter Rebbe or about Reb Hillel Paritcher you don’t need to push at a farbrengen and piece together half-sentences. You can comfortably recline in bed and read Sippurei Chassidim galore.
Want to learn Reb Michel Zlotchover’s niggum b’nuscah Reb Michoel Dvorkin? You don’t have to travel the globe to find a Chassid who heard it from him. You can hear him yourself singing it on your MP3 device…
The shefa, it would seem, left the mashpi’im without work…
But is this indeed the case? Are mashpi’im intended just to transmit information?
In the famous sicha on Bias Eliyahu (Hadran of The Rambam 5746; Dvar Malchus nu. 12), the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach provides us with a wonderful explanation of the conflicting opinions as to Eliyahu Hanavi’s task: the Chachamim are not debating the facts of Eliyahu’s arrival. They are arguing about which of these is his primary task.
This is not just a pshat in a Rambam, it’s also a tool that can be used in understanding the core of any given topic: while concepts are multifaceted, they all have a primary function.
So too with mashpi’im: a mashpia was (and in many ways still is) a provider of Chassidishe information, but when we read many sichos and letters of our Rebbeim (especially since the founding of Tomchei Tmimim), we see that the Rebbeim demanded and expected hismasrus — devotion and self-submission to the mashpi’im. In many, many answers to bochurim who presented questions in matters of avoda, the Rebbe defers the question back to the mashpia in his yeshiva…
The reason for this is quite simple: a mashpia’s primary mission is to be a mechanech which means to mold a young bochur into an oved Hashem. He’s not there just to give the mekabel information, but to make sure he uses the information correctly.
I like to think of a mashpia as a combination of a doctor and a parent. The doctor diagnoses the problem and prescribes the treatment and goes on to the next patient or to whatever else he wants to do. The parent is the one that makes sure his child is following through and being healed.
A mashpia is both: he’s the one giving the bochur the information he needs, and must make sure it is being applied correctly.
In 5737 (see Sicha of 20 Kislev), the Rebbe called for a rejuvenation of the mashpia position. One of the points the Rebbe emphasized is that the mashpi’im should not wait for people to come to them, but be proactive and turn to their mushpaim.
Bochurim too need to realize this. Many times bochurim feel that appointing an “Asei lecha rav” is just to be mekushar, and the extent of the connection comes out to be just about that, completely forgetting “the spirit of the law” – that this person is supposed to bring about a significant improvement in one’s spiritual life.
There’s lots of information out there, there are bochurim who know more than their roshei yeshivos and mashpi’im, but is all that information being used and applied correctly?
We know that a mashpia is there to help us make decisions when we’re in doubt. But who teaches us when to be in doubt? And what about the requirement to constantly grow in our Avodas Hashem? Does a mashpia have anything to do with that?
Incidentally, in what is perhaps the earliest source for mashpi’im — the Alter Rebbe’s introduction to Tanya — the mashpia is not so much a Chassidus information supplier as much as he’s the person to turn to when one is experiencing spiritual troubles and can’t seem to find the solution himself in the pages of the Tanya.
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