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  • Who Do You Talk To?

    As a taste of the long awaited Geula when “our counselors will be restored to us,” the Rebbe makes a big deal about everyone having a personal mashpia to talk things through with. Mrs. Shterna Alperowitz, founder of the “Shura Rishona” organization responds to all questions on a most crucial subject of Asei Lecha Rav • By Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    Shterna Alperowitz, Beis Moshiach

    When we speak about hiskashrus to the Rebbe, it would be appropriate to discuss fulfilling one of the most fundamental instructions of the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach – “Aseh Lecha Rav”, through which Chassidim connect to the Rebbe himself.

    In 5746, the Rebbe strongly recommended that each Jew should have a mashpia, explaining what is stated twice in Pirkei Avos – “Asei Lecha Rav” (Provide yourself with a teacher). It is written the first time together with the instruction of “Acquire for yourself a friend”,  and the second time it adds “Provide yourself with a teacher and free yourself of doubt”, which speaks of the appointment of a rabbinical authority to determine what is permissible and what is forbidden.

    The earlier edict of “Provide yourself with a teacher and acquire for yourself a friend” means to make or appoint someone who is a true friend who can help you in fulfilling the rav’s instructions, someone with whom you can speak openly on matters of Avodas Hashem.

    The Rebbe explained the concept behind this teaching: Since “man is close to himself” and “love covers all transgressions”, he may be literally unaware of his true state. Therefore, he needs someone from the outside who can assess his situation objectively, and he should come to him periodically to give him a report and get advice regarding his Avodas Hashem.

    We are specifically talking about matters of choice, “Know Him in all your ways”, since on subjects relating to halacha – this is the job of rabbinical authorities. Thus, if someone asks a mashpia a halachic question, he should refer him immediately to a rav!

    On what issues can a mashpia provide answers?

    For example, decisions on what to learn and where to learn, what kind of job to accept, etc. If we’re talking about women with children – how to achieve balance between their tasks in life – work, household responsibilities, etc. in a proper manner. Essentially, the job of the mashpia includes all the “gray areas.”

    From the moment that a Jew rises in the morning until he goes to bed, including the hours of sleep, everything must be in accordance with his shlichus. On the other hand, it’s clear that you don’t have to run to your mashpia for every little thing. However, with the passage of time, you already learn for yourself what is correct to do and what isn’t, and you’ll know what is unnecessary to ask.

    REPORTING TO A FLESH-AND-BLOOD HUMAN BEING

    In one of the sichos where the Rebbe speaks about “Asei Lecha Rav”, he brings the story of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, whose students asked him to bless them before his passing. What blessing did he give them? “May it be Hashem’s will that the fear of Heaven be upon you like the fear of a human being.” His students were stunned. “What? Is that what you have to say to us? To fear Hashem as we fear a human being?” “Yes,” he told them. “When a person commits a sin, he doesn’t say, ‘If only Hashem won’t see me…’ – while he knows that Hashem sees him, he can ‘deal with Him’…, – instead, he says, ‘If only man will not see me,’ i.e., he doesn’t want to be embarrassed before others…”

    The Rebbe comes and says that we must take this nature – the feeling of embarrassment from others – and make good use of it for our Avodas Hashem.

    In other words, I shouldn’t ch”v stop feeling embarrassed, since it is written in Shulchan Aruch, “Don’t be embarrassed by the scoffers.” Instead, taking into consideration the fact that I am ashamed by my situation, I should simply start extricating myself… I should try to get some help through an open and frank conversation with my mashpia, who can assist me in getting out out of this shameful condition.

    What If I Can’t “Open Up”?

    While it would be ideal for the connection to be open, candid, and truthful, nevertheless, even a person who feels embarrassed and has difficulty opening up must choose a mashpia.

    As the coordinator for the “Shura Rishona” Organization at the Beit Rivkah high school in Kfar Chabad, I know girls who have said that they are typically shy, and the task is too daunting for them. However, when they took a mashpia, I clearly saw how they made incredible progress. To make things easier, I suggest that as a first step they sit and learn together without getting too revealing. Slowly but surely, the connection will strengthen and develop. Many girls take one mashpia and “practice” with her, and they slowly grasp the matter. Then, they begin to realize that they need to take someone more mature with far more experience in life.

    It’s clear that it’s more effective when there’s openness and a true connection. However, even if there is no openness, the very fact that I know that there’s someone to whom I report – this already improves the situation. This says to the animal soul, “Hey! Don’t go any closer!… It will be very unpleasant for you afterwards to talk about what you want to do.”

    Utilizing the “Unpleasantness”

    After “Didan Notzach” in 5747, the bachurim danced and danced, and the Rebbe “brought them back into line” when he spoke about preparations for Yud Shevat, starting thirty days before – on Asara B’Teves. Every ten days, each would have to come and be tested by his ‘rav’, who would then actually report to the Rebbe how the person had prepared himself: what he learned, and what were the test results. The Rebbe emphasized that the bachurim should know that he is receiving these reports. Naturally, this had an effect on the bachurim and caused them to study far more seriously, specifically because it would otherwise be very “unpleasant.”

    We thereby see how the Rebbe gives much significance to such reports. I can tell you from personal experience that the girls who started filling out “Shura Rishona” report forms regularly in the ninth grade underwent a tremendous emotional change by the time they reached twelfth grade. A drastic change. Whereas, those who said, “What difference does it make…why should this help?” – made little to no progress.

    Just as the Rebbe said in the aforementioned sicha: anyone who didn’t make a report to the Rebbe – this didn’t mean that he learned but merely didn’t report it, it means that he really didn’t learn… In other words, a failure to make a report is a failure to do the actual deed.

    You Need To Initiate

    Thus, even if the mashpia is unavailable, you can still send her a message. Furthermore, if the mashpia is too busy for the moment, you can temporarily take someone else in order to use the time in a proper manner.

    We must take responsibility! We can’t wait for the mashpia to initiate contact. While a serious mashpiah cares about her “mushpa’at” (otherwise it would be impossible to have an influence!…), however, the mushpa’at simply can’t expect the mashpiah to call her and initiate the contact.

    I’m not saying that it’s forbidden for this to happen; it’s permissible for a mashpiah to call and ask, “What’s happening?”, out of a sense of Ahavas Yisrael, particularly if there was something dramatic. But nonetheless the responsibility for establishing the connection lies with the “mushpa’at.” The mashpiah usually has many mushpa’ot, and she can’t be available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for everyone. Therefore, you have to set an appropriate time. The conversation need not be long and drawn-out; you can even learn something together. This will already prove most energizing.

    Double Trouble (For the Nefesh HaBehamis)

    There is another matter existing in a discussion with a mashpia. The Mitteler Rebbe says that when two Jews meet and speak about matters in Avodas Hashem, this represents “two G-dly souls against one animal soul.” Why? Because every animal soul is an egotist, remaining all to itself! In contrast, as soon as the G-dly soul sees its friend, it connects to him and comes to his aid. Therefore, it comes out as two against one, and this represents the power of every two Jews speaking about matters of Avodas Hashem. They have double the strength of each other on his own.

    We have to understand that this is an instruction from the Rebbe, and it’s the Rebbe’s way to provide me with answers! As women often tell me: “The Rebbe saved us! What would we do without this?… I honestly don’t understand how women manage without a mashpiah. A mashpiah is a life saver! As soon as I appoint my mashpiah and I do my avoda properly, the mashpiah then has the strength to give me the right answers that the Rebbe wants to convey through her.

    AUTHORITY AND RESPONSIBILITY

    What if we come to a situation where the mashpiah is a friend who assumes authoritative powers she doesn’t really possess, refuting the proficiency of teachers, rabbanim, etc.?

    This is absolutely not what being a mashpiah means. For not everyone can be a mashpia, rather it must be someone of authority!

    It’s quite common for the high school girls to take a friend for a mashpiah “for show,” and the mashpiah feels as if she’s in the clouds – “Wow! I’ve just been given all the keys!” Letting the appointment “get to her head,” she can tell her new protégé, “Now you don’t have to listen to the teacher.” This would be absolutely terrible!

    The mashpiah is not meant to take authority that was not bestown to her. She needs to have bittul to the Rebbe’s instructions and say: “Rebbe, someone just appointed me as a mashpiah. Please help me to say the correct things for this person to hear…” You literally should ask for Hashem’s help in this matter, and yes, it’s even permissible for a mashpiah to say, “I don’t know, I have to think about it”, or for her to seek advice anonymously with her own mashpiah.

    Sometimes, in the course of a discussion, the mashpiah detects that the person is in need of treatment. In such a case, she simply can’t sit by quietly; she must take responsibility and refer her “mushpa’at” to the right people – whether it’s a doctor, a rav, or a psychologist… She doesn’t have to be the psychologist or the social worker, however, she does have to be a true friend, someone I feel really cares about me.

    We must remember that we aren’t expecting the mashpiah to be “perfect”, nor even a “beinoni” of the Tanya. The Rebbe says that someone who knows just the letter Alef should teach the letter Alef. Each on her level – without shirking the obligation to have a positive influence upon others. We have to take responsibility and not act with false humility.

    In the maamar of Basi Legani 5720, the Rebbe explains in the name of the Baal Shem Tov that the inappropriate humility of Zecharia ben Avkulas eventually led to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash… He thought, “Who am I and what am I, and what good will it do if I say something?”

    Therefore, the way to correct this is not to act with false humility, and… yes, take responsibility and say with true humility: “Who am I? – I am a Chassid of the Rebbe, and I do what the Rebbe wants, and if the Rebbe believes that I am a suitable mashpia, then apparently I am”, and then devote yourself to the task.

    We must carry out this task responsibly and with complete bittul to the Rebbe, and this brings the Redemption, when there will be a fulfillment of “And I will restore your judges as at first and your counselors as in the beginning!”

    ***

    The magazine can be obtained in stores around Crown Heights. To purchase a subscription, please go to: bmoshiach.org

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