Becoming A Mashpia (Educator) [#14604]

August 19, 2021


When can a person know if the time has come for him to spread and teach Torah to others?
In relation to this question, if an avreich (Kolel student) has the energies and talents to teach Torah to others, how should he view his Torah learning, since he is ready to sit and learn Torah for all of his life, b’ezras Hashem? Does he need to make sure that he fills his soul’s need to teach Torah to others, since he has the energies for this, or, should he avoid thinking about this at all, and just concentrate on his learning? Should he try to devote some time even now in teaching Torah to others? Or should just he remain fully focused on learning Torah and he shouldn’t think about this?


A person is comprised of three parts: 1) What he receives from others. 2) His own self. 3) What he gives and influences upon others.

Those are three stages of a person’s life. At first a person needs to receive [Torah education] from his parents and teachers. After that, one can gradually build and develop his own character. When one grows up and matures, he can eventually be of influence to others. Compare it to the difference between a child and an adult – a child cannot bear child, but when he grows up and becomes an adult, he can bear children. A person is considered to be like a child as long as he relies on his parents for support, when he is still in the first stage, being a “receiver”.

So a person needs to see if his first stage, “receiving”, was traversed properly. If it was, then a person’s main task now is to build and develop his character, outwardly and inwardly. On the outward level, one needs to be consistently immersed in Torah study, firmly planted in the world of Torah learning. On the inward level, a person needs to develop a deep connection within himself to the holy Torah and to its Giver. After that, one can be of influence to others, from the immense spiritual light that he has gained. When a person is helping and influencing others, he also gains personal blessing from this.

There is a famous analogy of the Maggid of Dubna that illustrates how one can be of influence to others only after he has developed himself first: When a cup isn’t yet filled to the top and we pour it into another cup, the second cup will become filled but the first cup will lose some liquid. Instead of making the first cup lose some liquid, we should fill the first cup all the way until it is overflowing and it spills into the next cup, so that it will still be a full cup, even after spilling into the next cup. [So too, one should only influence others if he is first spiritually ‘full’, where he can then be beneficial to others without compromising on his own growth, as opposed to influencing others before one is spiritually ‘full’, where he will stop growing if he tries to influences others].

However, sometimes a person did not yet complete the first part of his life – the necessity to receive from others – and in many cases, a person also did not yet develop his personality yet. He may seek various teaching positions, though, because he is feeling peer pressure – he will feel that he is one of those “unsuccessful” people in the eyes of his friends, if he doesn’t get a position. Or, alternatively, he may not be finding chiyus (vitality) and sippuk (satisfaction) from within himself, and he hopes that by teaching others, he will find that vitality or satisfaction he is missing. Or, sometimes he may be seeking a teaching position because he is really running away from his own self. It may also stem from a desire for honor, power, money, or other self-serving factors. Therefore, a person needs to examine his motivations deeply, when he seeks to teach and influence others: Why do I want to do this? Then, he can know how to act accordingly, depending on the circumstance.

When a person has not yet developed his character – whether it is because he hasn’t received enough [knowledge] from others or whether he has not yet built his personality – if he tries to teach and influence others in this deficient state, it is a sign of a flaw in his character, and he will not be able to influence correctly.

However, there does exist a need in the soul to influence others. Sometimes, even a very deficient person can help his situation by teaching and influencing others, because he is inspiring and strengthening himself by helping others learn. This is a very common occurrence nowadays. Without going to teach others, a person may find it too hard to work on himself and overcome his weaknesses. It is within his bechirah to choose, if he will be very devoted to working on himself, or if he will begin influencing others.

If one does choose to influence others rather than work hard on himself, one will need to balance his daily schedule. He will need to set aside time of the day where he tries to fix his weaknesses. One needs to be very careful that he shouldn’t run away from himself in the name of influencing others. Firstly, a person who is involved with influencing others may become bombarded by all kinds of responsibilities, as part of his job. Even more so, he may stop growing, because he may no longer want to receive more knowledge from others nor work on developing his character any further.
This does not only apply to one who began to teach and influence others without first working on himself enough. It is also true for someone who was properly developed before teaching others. Such a person also needs to set aside time every day to continue his personal growth. This must be done for all of his lifetime. A person always needs these three aspects – receiving from others, building his own character, and influencing others. It is just that the balance between these aspects is different with each person, and also depending on the period a person is in. But the common denominator between all people is that a person should never be in a position of teaching and influencing others in a way that totally uproots him from his own inner world, chas v’shalom.

The secret of the success of those who are very in touch with their inner world is because on one hand, they are deeply immersed in their own inner world, but they also know how to [leave their private growth and] be of influence to others, giving others all their best.

Practically speaking, generally a person should not seek a place where he can teach and influence. Rather, one needs to daven to Hashem from the depths of the heart: that if he feels a need to teach and influence others, and the need arises for him to do so, that Hashem should enable this to happen, in a way that is pleasant, and not in a way which causes machlokes (dissension) among others. For if there is any machlokes involved in trying to get any position, a person should run from it as if he is running away from a fire.

In the meantime, a kolel avreich should be immersed in his soul in the word of Torah learning and avodas Hashem, along with davening to Hashem, as explained above. One should try as much as he can not to think about this [gaining a teaching position], on his own level (as each person is on a different spiritual level).