Adapted from Rabbi J.I Schneersohns classic: The Principles of Education and Moral Guidance
1. There is a talent for singing, a talent for speaking, a talent for
Everything that we do involves the use of some kind of
There are thousands of different kinds of talents.
Just because someone has a talent, does not mean they will be good at it.
Just because someone has a sweet voice does not mean they will be-
come a good singer. Many years of practice, training, study, and hard,
hard work, go into becoming a top singer.
The tiny nuances that make a difference between a person with a good
voice and a polished voice involves countless hours of polishing.
In a U.S. News and World Report they wrote, that the best athletes are
not the most talented ones, rather the ones who practice the most.
This agrees with the Kabbalistic teaching that we all have various tal-
ents, and in order to make a talent professional, it takes lots of work.
In our own life we must search for our talents; highlight our strong
points, and know what we are good at. These are obviously great
tools for us to succeed financially, and more importantly spiritually.
One Chazan (cantor) I know, sees his job, more than singing for his
lunch; He sees it as a way in which he makes people happy. He always
gives it his utmost. He sings with heart and soul, for to him, it is just as
much a spiritual mission, as a financial one.
Singing is a good example of something that brings a lot of joy to others
and can be both profitable financially and spiritually (by making
At the same time, we need to know our weak points, our faults, and
this is critically important.
For sometimes our faults can rob us of any ability to succeed. Let me give you an example; I am by nature a lazy person. A lazy person finds it difficult to do what they want to do, because the "pressure" to do nothing and chill, is very great.
G-d has given all of us strong points and weak points; we need to do a careful
analysis of our strong points and our weak points.
By knowing what our weak points are, we can work on them, and
If I had a good voice (which I don't) I would not develop my talent
and become a top singer, unless I conquer my innate drive to be lazy. I
would not put in the obligatory hours of practice needed to become a
talented singer. So you see, that conquering your weak points, is just as
important as knowing your strong points, because they work against
In fact, according to Kabbalah, everyone has one major weak point and
by conquering that weak point, everything else will fall into place.
2. There are four categories of weaknesses, similar to the four elements of earth, fire, air, and water.
You will have one of these, so try to discover which one is your battle,
and try to get to work on it.
Earth is heaviness - this is mans drive to be lazy and sluggish. It includes our desire to be sad and depressed. Although sadness is anathema to what we really want, all of the negative desires are really anathema to what we really want, as they are challenges to be overcome.
Fire is the desire to rise above, be greater than, superior to, and more
important than others. This is very low desire; it is the source of arrogance, anger, egotism, and haughtiness. It is at the source of all evil in this world, for man does not hurt another man until he has convinced himself that the other is inferior, of lesser value, less important, or worthless.
This feeling allowed the Nazis to murder innocent Jews, men, women, and children; they killed gypsies; they killed mental people; all because they thought they were some kind of super-race. This despicable, low, repulsive attitude, is what gave them the "moral" right,
to get rid of all people who were "lower and less worthy," or as they saw it, worthless.
Admirably, at the heart of democracy lies the principle that all men are
created equal. America is known as "a melting pot." E-Pluribus-Unum,
the motto on the money, means "from many one." In democracy, the
Biblical idea that all men are created in the image of G-d is inherent.
Every man has inherent value, and is valuable, as G-d is valuable. This
truly lies at the heart of the Kabbalah's worldview; that all souls come
from one father, who loves all men equally without distinction.
Furthermore, this love is not for the exterior qualities, like good looks,
brains, a good voice, or even Biblical knowledge. It is like the love a
parent has for a newborn baby, who is scrunchy, and hasn't developed
any talents. It is bliss, joy, delight, and enchantment. The parent loves
the child because it is their child and it is beautiful in their eyes. Similarly, we are cherished, loved, and treasured in G-d's eyes. We are after all his creation; and if you created a human (as parents do) you would feel unconditional love to it. In this way, every human is your brother or sister, for the vital part of the human is not the body but the soul that gives it life, and all souls have one source; one father, one
spring from where they where drawn, before they entered into the human body at birth, to fulfill a mission of goodness and kindness on earth.
Let’s get back to the four negative desires that people need to counteract.
Air refers to meaningless, brainless, waste-of-time activities. I
think a lot of the four hours, an average person spends watching television should be included in that. I love the way people tell me, that the importance of having a television is for the news. Even if the news were important, it does not take very long at all. The rest of the time is made up flipping channels - finding something with entertainment value. The most popular shows are sitcoms and as Seinfeld
puts it, his is a show about nothing. There you go, from the most
popular sitcom ever, it is a show about nothing. About a meaningless
life, devoid of expectations, higher va1ues, productivity, life, and about
whims, fantasies, and far-fetched ideas. Even an innocent show like
Barney (which my child watches re1igiously) is about nothing. Sure
they may learn one or two good things, but most of the songs are
about "pizza is delicious, my favorite food in town…" "Mac and cheese,
three times please... " If we look at the Disney classics they also are about
nothing; perhaps if you intellectua1ize it a bit you can find some message, but Disney is not in the business of messages, they are in the business of entertainment. The amount of violence on the cartoons today, are actually more than in the movies.
But let’s just focus on the concept of wasting time. Modern society has found numerous ways of wasting time, primarily through the media's ability to be in your
home. Once upon a time, a person could only go to the theater for entertainment; now they have access to it through the media 24/7. Just because something is on TV does not mean, it is true, good, acceptable, up to standard. Even when people get together, often the topic of the conversation is about their favorite television show. It’s as if people
are living vicariously through the television. Instead of living, we are being entertained and we call that living. How about helping people,
giving to people, being nice to people, really feeling part of a sharing
community, making time for loved ones, eating together, laughing
together, helping your child with homework, making time for your
spouse, studying the Torah or something meaningful.
Unfortunately the lure of frivolous, thoughtless, meaningless, brainless, waste-of-
time activities is very great.
Water, refers to our ability to receive pleasure through the instinctual
reward systems in the brain, such as when eating, listening to good
music, intercourse etc.
Many people become "addicted" to pleasure.
They are pleasure seekers. Some become drug-addicts, others are always looking for the latest thrill or adventure. All, eventually realize, that they do not find pleasure in pleasure, for it becomes boring, as the Kabbalah teaches, "a perpetual pleasure is not pleasurable."
Think about eating chocolate indefinitely. Eventually you’ll get sick of it.
We need to find out what we are addicted to, earth, fire, air, or water: - laziness, sluggishness, sadness and depression - or arrogance, anger, egotism, and haughtiness - or meaningless, brainless, waste of
time activities like television and movies - or pleasure, through instinctual rewards systems e.g. eating, listening to good music, intercourse, drugs etc.
"O.K I have figured out I am an addict, how do I stop myself?!" The
answer is twofold. Firstly, the reason we are addicts is because we are
not happy. Naturally, a happy person will not indulge in any of the
above-mentioned behaviors. So, firstly, we need to be happy. The way
to be happy is twofold: 1. We need to be appreciative of what we have.
We need to be able to say "Thank G-d, for what I have."
The way to do this is to realize that most of the world lives on less than a dollar a
day. That's barely enough money to buy a loaf of bread. That should
give you more than enough reason to appreciate your comforts in the
western world. Why is it that in the west where we have so many
creature comforts we are so depressed, sad, aimless, and looking to
escape reality, through movies etc. while in the east where people live
on rice they are happier than we are? The answer is, that because we
take for granted what we have; we do not appreciate it, and thus it
gives us no pleasure! If someone from the east came to live in the west
and their standard of living rose to our standard, they would appreciate
what they have!
That appreciation itself would make a very big difference in their happiness levels, I recall working with Russian Jews in Kansas City my hometown. I would often ask them in Yiddish "Vos Machst Do" "How
are you?" Now these Jews came as retirees from Russia, where they
had nothing and thus were dependent on the American government
for a small apartment and a little food stipend, which is how they
lived. They all would say "Abi gezuznt." "As long as were healthy,
were happy." What an attitude! How many of us are happy about our
health in the west?! Again, we don't appreciate this tremendous gift!
I recall my grandfather telling me about his friend, Mr. Safra, OB"M
who had just sold his banks for $3,000,000,000.00. Imagine that! You
probably can’t even picture what $3,000,000,000.00 cash is, I certainly
can't. Imagine $3,000,000.00 cash; that's a lot of money! Now times that by a thousand.
In any event, unfortunately, he was suffering from a terminal illness,
and my grandfather told me that he would give it all away to become
better. So health is more important than all the wealth you can ever
imagine. Again, because we take it for granted we don't appreciate it!
Effectively, in order to not take what we have for granted we need to
continuously be grateful for it. Every morning, we need to thank G-d
for restoring our souls in our bodies, fresh and invigorated, ready for
a new day. In the morning we need to thank G-d for our health and
for everything we have!
(By the way, the first thought you have, influences the rest of your day.
So if you wake up on the right side of the bed - grateful for what you
have - you will have a happy day, conversely if you wake up on the
wrong side of the bed ....
I once practiced the following as I woke up: I would thank G-d for my
legs and various limbs and I would specifically imagine people who
Rachmanah Litzlan did not have them. This made my gratefulness
real. It is one thing to be thankful for what you have, but it is another
to be thankful for what you have when you are cognizant that there
are others who don't have it; so, you are lucky, very lucky indeed to
have it! Those were some of my happiest days. I would go about smiling, for I started my day off right: grateful, appreciative, and happy.)
The second important factor in being happy is humility. Now humility
sounds like a really sage word, almost holy, and in fact it is. There is
no greater source of pain than arrogance, for it leads to anger, resentment, and bitterness (when you don't get what you want, which will
probably be most of the time) and no better way to retain your equilibrium, peace of mind, serenity, and tranquility than humility, which
leads to acceptance, receptivity, openness, honesty, integrity, honor,
respect, admiration, approval, appreciation, enjoyment, delight, joy,
bliss, and happiness!
The way to be humble is the reverse of arrogance. Arrogance is when
you are feeling superior, better than, and more important than others.
So to be humble you have to feel less important, in the shadow of, and
morally insignificant compared to others.
The way to achieve this, is to think of people you know who are saints, really good people who don't waste their time, but do good, are good, help others, are good to
their family, to their children, to their community etc.
I am sure you know some people like this. Say to G-d: "G-d, please help me to learn
from their good behavior;" In this way, you will induce humility and
strive for better and higher goals.
These two points: of being happy through contentment with what G-
d has blessed you with, and achieving humility through aspiring to
higher ideals, cannot be overstated.
If you have these two things alone, you are well on your way to success, for a multitude of reasons. Joy, opens a person's heart, allowing others to enter; and brings about
unity and harmony; which is ultimately what G-d wants from his children.
G-d is like a parent, who loves to see his or her children playing together, loving one another, sharing, caring, helping, acting compassionately and with empathy for one another.
Nothing gives a parent greater joy than to see such good and kind behavior amongst
3. The soul has one chief aim and that is joy.
We all want to be happy. What is happiness? Happiness is joy. It is
feeling happy. As all feelings, it is difficult to describe in words because
a word is used best to describe something physical that has a shape,
and a particular use and thus can be categorized, such as a table, chair,
sofa, lounge suite etc. Emotions are the stuff of the soul and we only
know them from our own inner feelings. An emotion that has never
been felt before would be like describing colors to a blind man. There
would be no way for the person to really understand what you are
talking about. As all of our souls, desire happiness / joy, we can therefore speak about it.
The only question is, what will give us joy? As the
framers of the American constitution put it so well, "the pursuit of
happiness." Once we settle on something that we believe will give us
joy, than perhaps we focus on it and try to do it exclusively, but ultimately it is not the object we are after, but the effect we are looking for; joy.
Interestingly enough, one of the very common misconceptions about
religions, is that they are morose, serious, devoid of pleasure, and joy. I
don't know about other religions, but according to the Kabbalah, it is
precisely the opposite that Judaism is looking for and gives. Judaism is
looking for happiness, contentment, glee, joy, delight, pleasure, and
One of the cardinal mistakes, is not "serving G-d with Joy." People make this mistake because they erroneously separate the spiritual and physical world into two distinct zones. One pleasurable, narcissistic, indulgent, and sinfully good, and the other, idealistic, selfless, altruistic, humane, but not pleasurable and joyful.
Nothing can be further from the truth; The fact is, that there is no greater joy and happiness, contentment and satisfaction, and self-respect than that which
comes from giving, sharing, caring, helping, and being selfless for
others. So in fact, our choice is not between bad-fun and good-altruism
which is serious and lacking in joy, but it is rather between two kinds
of pleasures, a selfish, narcissistic, self-centered, egocentric, insensitive pleasure, or a selfless, giving, altruistic pleasure and joy!
This point can't be overstated either, for again we are not condemning the
good, to a life of seriousness; rather a life of meaning and inner joy,
which comes from knowing that you have made a meaningful difference to the people you love.
The person who only focuses on getting pleasure for himself or herself lacks this meaning in life, and as mentioned before, that the way selfish pleasure works, is, that it soon becomes boring, and it looses its taste, joy, and attraction. One only needs to take a cursory look at the classified ads to see the dubious
forms of entertainment people are looking for all in the hopes to give
themselves a little bit of pleasure, which of course will also fade once
that desire has been indulged.
4. The talents that people have can generally be divided into two
groups: physical talents and spiritual talents.
The physical talents refer to the ability to produce some kind of enjoyable effect, such as a talent to draw, or to weave, or a talent to play a musical instrument etc. and the spiritual talents are talents that effect the emotions, such as a talent for oratory and elocution which stir the emotions of an audience, a talent for teaching and instructing, or a talent for educating and counseling and so forth.
Within each group - the physical and spiritual talents - each talent
produces a different effect. So there is a different effect between drawing and playing a musical instrument, and similarly there is a different effect between lecturing and counseling.
5. The difference between education / learning information, and
Although the two seem quite similar, they are in fact very different.
Education as it relates to the imparting of information, is effectively a
logical process. The teacher needs to break down the concepts into
bite size pieces, that the pupil can "chew." Of course, the greater the
teacher, the smaller the pieces he is able to break the information up
into, and he can teach someone with an even lower level of comprehension than someone who is not such a good teacher or doesn't really understand the materiel that well.
However, a primary difference between education and moral guidance is as follows: When one fails to impart information, he has not harmed the person emotionally,
or for life. The person can always at a later stage learn the information. However with moral guidance, a person who morally guides, with the wrong approach, damages the individual not only emotionally, but also damages their self-perception, their self-worth, their self-image, their self-esteem, and their self-regard which can have a permanent emotional effect on the person tor the rest of their life.
Take this example: A child raised her hand in class. The teacher being
impatient, had a nasty thing to say to the child. That child never raised
her hand in class ever again. (This was told to me by a cousin of mine
who knew the child and taught in that school.) Such is the effect of not showing the correct methods in moral guidance. Generally speaking, educating and guiding a person must be done only through love.
Love, the key that unlocks the heart, that opens the heart, that makes a
person receptive, interested, and concerned and apprehensive about doing the right thing; while shouting at a pupil or child might work temporarily, its effect will certainly die as soon as the fear dies, which is usually very quickly, and eventually the pupil or child becomes immune to the shouting and screaming.
A far, far, far, worse method is laying guilt on a student or child. This means that the child is inherently worthless, and the child believes that they are a nothing, not
deserving of anything good, joyful or pleasurable, and this kind of attitude can pervade their entire life and thinking process.
Particularly young children who are so dependent on their parents are
exceptionally sensitive and perceptive as to what message they are
You can either cherish someone, or ignore them. The child learns and integrates the messages if they are cherished, or if they are ignored. If they are cherished, they learn to form positive
bonds with people, to be open, loving, trusting, caring, giving, kind,
good, and pleasant; but if they are ignored, they become distant, fearful, cold, apprehensive, nervous, worried, anxious, and concerned.
A test was done with monkeys; a child was taken away from its mother for fifteen minutes daily. Initially their heart rate went up and they were worried and anxious, however eventually they learned to trust
that their mother would come back after fifteen minutes and so they
calmed down and didn't mind when their mother left. The second group of monkeys were separated from their mothers for three hours daily; this group did not recover. They had too much anxiety and so
their anxiety levels shot up. They basically became fearful, edgy, nervous monkeys with a high anxiety level.
5. The deception of self-love
We are all born with an innate self-love. This self-love blinds us to any of our own faults. "Know," teaches the Holy Baal Shem Tov "that every fault you see in another, is in you," (for if it wasn't in you, you couldn't see it in someone else.)
The self-love does not allow us to see ourselves in a true light, it is like sunglasses, that color everything, and cover over any faults.
Through self-love; a genuine fool devoid of any intelligence at all, is transformed into a person of great stature in his own eyes; someone who is incapable of simple simple learning, sees himself as a genius; an arrogant person believes himself to be exceptionally humble, kind, and a moral person; and an ugly person can believe that they are absolutely stunning and attractive, as an anorexic person can believe that they are fat and obese; a cruel heartless person, can believe that they have excellent character traits, that they are kind and compassionate, loving, and noble; a jealous person, envious of everyone and everything, can believe that they are magnanimous and charitable, selflessly, giving and caring to others.
In other words, self-love blinds us to our deficiencies; it covers over
what is blatantly obvious to anyone else and deceives us into believing
our own deception.
Anyone who desires to acquire fine character traits and to rid themselves of negative character traits must make a thorough, exacting, incisive, and penetrating self-analysis; they need to break through the deceptive coating and exterior of self-love, and truly and sincerely judge themselves based on what they actually do, what they actually think and what they actually say, and not on a selfish, conceited,
magnified, perception of themselves.
This is truly a very hard thing to do.
Before a person goes to bed at night they should review the day gone
by and judge themselves; if their actions and speech were good or bad
and they should decide what they want to do tomorrow.
This is an exceptional way to get a good idea of what is really going on and not
what one is simply perceiving through the sunglasses of self-love.
You will easily see if your actions tomorrow meet your expectations of to-
day. It will be an objective and clear standard for which to judge your-
self with; devoid of the skewed vision self-love gives.
We should be doubly careful not to pass judgment on anyone else for
in fact we are only passing judgment on ourselves. In Heaven, the an-
gels collect every word we say, and every thing we do is recorded as
well. When we get to Heaven we are shown a video of our actions, as if
it was someone else, and we are asked to pass judgment. Woe to the
individual who has been critical, for in fact, they will be judging them-
selves. They will be the jury in their own trial. Fortunate is the man
who has learned to give others the benefit of the doubt, who has
learned to react compassionately to man’s failings, who has learnt to
judge people favorably, even if it looks unfavorable. Man judges him-
self, and if we see an error in someone else, we have been given an op-
portunity to correct an error in ourselves!
This is one of the easiest ways we can know what is wrong with ourselves. In general our self-examination itself will be somewhat lacking as we are examining our-
selves and thus we are somewhat biased in our favor. However when
we find something wrong with someone else, know that you have
found something wrong in yourself! and you now have the ability to
rectify a character defect in yourself!
How do we rectify a character defect in ourselves? Maimonides
teaches, that if a person is stingy, they should become magnanimous
and distribute large amounts of money to charity. After repeatedly
swinging in the opposite direction, their stinginess will he broken and
they can now go back to the middle road, which is always the correct
path (apart from anger and arrogance, both which need to be removed
completely.) This is an exceptional method of changing a bad habit
into a good one; by swinging into the complete opposite direction un-
til one feels that the bad habit is broken and they can now even-out
and get back to the middle of the road.
Just as in a war, one must constantly "know thy enemy," to properly
fight the enemy; Man's life in this world, involves a fierce battle be-
tween good and evil, truth and falsehood, what is in good taste and
what is in bad taste, what is kind and what is mean, what is nice and
what is selfish, to be helpful and not to hurt, to praise and not to in-
sult, to love and not to ignore, to see the good in others and not the
bad, to be charitable and not stingy, to act selflessly instead of narcissistically, to be noble instead of ignoble, to be merciful and not heartless, and last but not least in any way, to be happy and not sad.
Practically speaking, a person must study the Mitzvos of the Torah,
(may I recommend my book "Meditations for your Soul.") The Mitz-
vos of the Torah, are the practical examples of how to achieve good-
ness and kindness and not to do the reverse; for example, being chari-
table, or loaning money interest free to people who need it, and many
other good deeds one should do; and likewise, many bad things one
should not do, like not insulting people etc. I know that we find it
hard to hear that there are things that we shouldn't do, as we have
been brought up democratically thinking that we can do what we
want. But if that were the case, would you like it if someone were to
insult you, mock you, steal from you, give you a bad name, take re-
venge, say bad things about you to another even if they were true,
Chas-Vshalom kill you. Freedom does not mean, free to harm people, it
means free to help people!
The founding fathers of America were very religious people (which is why we have thanksgiving, to offer thanks to G-d for the peace between the Indians and the pilgrims.)
They wrote on their money "In G-d We Trust." They were escaping religious persecution and thus they created a constitution that allows every man to serve G-d as he or she sees fit. They certainly were not giving a license to kill, to be mean-spirited etc. and it is not enough if a person only doesn't transgress what is legally binding, for that is not a moral person but a pragmatist.
A moral person does not do to others that which they do not want others to do them.
So we need to incisively and judiciously judge ourselves and see if our
behavior is on par with how we would want others to treat us. We
may be very surprised to learn that it is far, very far from it.
Furthermore, we must examine the behaviors of our family and close
friends and point out to them privately, gently, and in a way in which they know we are saying it for their sake and not to feel morally superior to them.
Often self-love is so great that a person simply cannot
see their own faults. Then, with no malice, but with much love, a
friend, a true friend, should tell those they cherish in the kindest, gen-
tlest way, about the moral defect, to allow the other person to correct
A true friend cares not only about another person’s body, but also
about their soul, their spirit, their morality, their humanness, their
moral dignity, their G-dliness and their levels of compassion.
Most importantly, we must examine our own shortcomings, because
our own shortcomings are hidden in the cloak of what is "pleasurable,"
"good," "desirable," and "what will make me happy."
In this day and age when freedom exists to do whatever we want, we are at an added
risk of taking this freedom and abusing it to the point where we be-
come little more than animals; constantly indulging ourselves in
whatever pleasures and instincts that crop up into our minds.
Should we, the only creature with the capability of rational thought be no
greater than an animal pursuing the very same desires, that the food
that we consume, pursued prior to becoming our food. (The desire of
the ox for instinctual gratification.) The fallacy of Darwin's theory of
evolution has given great license to behave like an animal, for after all,
according to that theory we are just a smarter version of the ape, and
we have no higher calling.
Apart from the fact, that there has never been proven a specie change such as frog to the next stage of the evolutionary process through fossil records, although there would have to be trillions of fossils with trillions of different kind of weird half-breeds in-between species, and there are none of those (although
within species there is an evolutionary process like a bacteria picking
up an immunity to a drug and reproducing itself;) I myself heard at a
lecture, that the major supposed link between the ancient skull of the
ape to the human (you know all those great pictures they have of the
ape slowly evolving to an upright human) from a person who worked
in South Africa on the specimen, was in fact a specie of ape that they
found and it was not a human.
The very few supposed links to what must have been according to Darwin's theory an evolution of millions of years with thus billions of fossils remaining, do not match with
what their own theory predicts. Scientist today have rejected the theory of evolution for Intel1igent Design, that G-d has created the universe. The more science we learn and the more we realize how complex everything is, the more we know that only the greatest scientist in the world, G-d himself, could have designed every part of nature.
This is not the place to go into it, I only mention it to say that we are
souls in bodies, our bodies do have instincts like animals, however our
souls yearn for G-d, for goodness, for humanness, for kindness, for
justice, for helping, for sharing, for caring, for giving, for compassion,
for mercy, for love and harmony.
The choice between good and bad is a very difficult one for what is bad is not something that smells bad, looks bad, feels bad, tastes bad, rather it seems good, fun and nice, and "it will make me happy." For this reason we easily get blinded and persuaded to follow what is
wrong and detrimental to our soul's true happiness and real pleasure,
with lasting and permanent joy; and in its place we take "drugs" that
numb ourselves to the real purpose of why G-d sent our soul to live
6. What is the purpose of the souls descent from heaven to earth?
Abraham the first Jew exemplifies the purpose of a souls descent into
this world. Our sages teach, that G-d desires a dwelling place (a home,
a place to feel comfortable and welcome) in this world. Heaven was
created for earth, not the other way around. G-d's desire in creating
souls was so that a soul may descend into this world and purify, elevate, and extract the good from the bad, and like a home needing repairs: polish it, fix it, repair the holes and paint it with bright shining glowing colors.
The perfect home for G-d is where there is harmony. A broken down,
ramshackleed, leaking, unfinished home for G-d, would be a world in
which there is strife, jealousy, anger, resentment, hatred, fighting, animosity, and ill-feeling from one person to another.
So our souls mission is twofold: firstly, we must rid ourselves of these attributes as discussed in the previous chapters and thoroughly examine ourselves and
our behavior as discussed.
However that is not enough, we cannot and
must not protect ourselves and expect G-d to be happy, we must protect others as well.
We are all G-d's children, we can’t do good, then think that we are somehow morally superior and we will thus be rewarded.
Abraham lived in generation of idol-worshipers, people who
offered their own children as sacrifices in their pagan practices.
Abraham managed to convince most of the known world at that time to
stop this practice. He was respected as the "saint of the century" (I
don't believe there was a Times article about him: ) He was considered
to be the noble-man of his time, people admired and emulated him and
he loved people.
We find that when G-d wanted to destroy the worst
city at that time, a place filled with evil mean-spirited really bad people, Abraham prayed for them. So he loved all people, and his loved was reciprocated.
He opened up a free hotel as he knew that G-d loves
kindness, so he would give people free food and then he would tell
them to thank G-d for the food, and he would insist that they thank
G-d and in this manner he would teach people that there is a singular
G-d who loves them, who cares about them, who created the world,
who looks after the world, who cares what people do, and we all have a
moral responsibility to please G-d, by acting justly and kindly to one
Abraham literally changed the world. We need to do that too.
We need to be lamplighters! In the olden days, there were lamplight-
ers. People needed to physically take a fire to the lamps in the cities
and light those lamps, for they were filled with kerosene and needed to
be lit. Sometimes people would need to get on a boat to go out to a
island to light a fire at the lighthouse. Lamplighters knew that with-
out their light, ships would crash into rocks, people would drown,
money would be lost, and life would be chaotic and frightening even
on the regular streets.
Well, you have been charged, not only with
refining yourself, but becoming a lamplighter; you must refine other
people as well. We live in an age of great confusion; we don't know
where to go, where to turn, whom to seek counsel from, we don't
know the very basics of life and your mission is to take the knowledge
you get from Judaism and from the Kabbalah and share it with some-
one else and if need be, travel to the distant islands of the world and
teach people there.
In case you think this is impossible or farfetched think about the Cha-
bad-Lubavitch movement. Fifty years ago there were barely fifty people
praying in the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneersohn's synagogue.
In fifty years, this pious, unassuming, fearless, scholarly, generous, devoted, loving, brilliant, courageous, knowledgeable, compassionate, messiah-like figure, established thousands of lighthouses called Chabad Houses around the world.
Selfless, compassion orientated institutions were created in every major city, wherever you go, from 50 original congregants.
The Rabbis and their wives without charging
and barely making a living, in a caring, educational, inspirational, humane, manner, - teach, feed, advise, help, fund, assist, love, and convey eloquently, consistently, passionately and fervently the light, warmth, joy and pleasure of Torah, Kabbalah and traditional Judaism;
As Alan Dershowitz says about the Chabad Shluchim's Rabbis and their wives, they take the "oy" out of Judaism, making it pleasurable, joyful, engaging, compelling, gripping, enticing, and meaningful.
Every day of the week millions of Jews around the world are directly
affected and touched by these Rabbis and their wives. I had the honor
of helping many of them around the world and their selfless dedication, and loving-kindness serves as a beacon of light to every Jew in their community for how to live, ethically, happily, and lovingly, with
Jewish pride, and how to, without need of remuneration, provide un-
stingingly to their fellow Jews.
As mentioned in the second chapter, in order to grow spiritually you
need to take role-models that will inspire you.
You now know why your soul was sent into this world. Where you
are, is not an accident. In fact, nothing is an accident. The direction the
wind blows and every leaf it turns along the way is designed by the
same scientist-creator that created this world with scientific precision.
You are where you need to be to make a world of a difference to some-
7. Innate and learned - virtues and weaknesses.
Every person, no matter if he is a prince or pauper has strengths and
weaknesses. Of course, we are not talking about physical, but spiritual
strengths and weaknesses, virtues and character defects.
The reason G-d did this, is so man should strengthen his strong points
and weaken his weak points, replacing them with noble and virtuous
Why did G-d give us weak points in the first place? Wouldn't it have
been so much easier to only have to amplify our strong points?
The answer is, that one cannot estimate the moral satisfaction one receives from changing a weak point and replacing it with a virtue.
The analogy given by Rabbi Josef I. Schneersohn (the Lubavitcher
Rebbe who preceded Rabbi Menachem Schneersohn) is of a farmer
who sows two fields; one is a good field with excellent earth, filled
with nutrients that make everything grow just right.
Then he has another field filled with rocks and it has a clay consistency and it is very
tough to plow and sow. The farmer works hard at both fields and in
the end reaps the exact amount of crops.
From which field does he get
more satisfaction? Obviously, the field where he really has to exert
himself, for from that field, not only does he get a financial benefit, but a
moral satisfaction as well.
By working hard and constantly sowing
that bad field, he gets far greater pleasure, delight, and enjoyment
from its crops; for they are a testament to his strength, tenacity, per-
sistence, perseverance, resolve and determination.
This is the sign of a true man (and woman.) True strength is not brute force (for then a
horse is far stronger than a man) true strength is the ability to control
one’s instincts, one’s innate inborn desires, and replace them with beau-
tiful noble virtues. (Something that a horse cannot do!) This is in fact
the greatest gift that G-d has given us, that we can choose to be good
people through our own effort. If all we had to do was press a button
and presto we are good, we would receive no joy in our goodness. As
one philosophical friend of mind puts it "we don't want things easy!"
If G-d had created us as angels we would find no personal satisfaction in doing good
and being a good person, for that would simply be the
norm, it would have taken no effort on our part and in a sense, it would
actually be meaningless. I like to give the example, that if someone
holds a gun to another's head and says "give charity!" it doesn't mean
that the person is a good person for having given charity; if however,
when you yourself are challenged between taking a vacation or giving
away your air-miles to someone who needs to go to their fathers funeral
and you give it to them (as one couple I know did) then you
have really done something really great.
We do not realize that the greatest kindness G-d has given us is our
ability to choose between good and bad, between right and wrong,
between what is holy and unholy, noble and ignoble, selfish and self-
less, as we mentioned in greater detail before. This and this alone con-
stitutes the only real lasting joy that man can achieve on earth and
this joy, unlike a piece of chocolate cake is lasting; it is permanent, you
will take this knowledge of who you have become through your hard
effort and toil with you to Heaven, and with you to the Messianic
times when G-d will remove death and when you will live eternally.
Now is the time to get to work (as Moshiach is coming real soon and
the challenge to be good will completely fade, for G-d will be revealed
to the naked eye and no one will consider anything but goodness. An-
other great part of this challenge is the fact that so few people do it.
The reason for this is, that most of us simply cannot control our in-
stinctual urges and are basically prisoners of our instincts; how sad
for a prince to be locked up and forced to live in a grimy labor camp
contrary to his true spirit, his innate dignity morality and stature! We
need to unshackle ourselves, remove the chains of temptations, lazi-
ness, pride, arrogance, and the incessant drive for lust, and meaning-
less, frivolous, waste-of-time activities. We need to find our mission in
the world and work at it. And yes, it is like the field with many stones
and filled with clay, it takes so much effort that we say: "can this be the
meaning of life, to toil so hard when I can do nothing, and enjoy it
too?" And the answer is, that your joy is commensurate with your toil-
ing, if you do not work hard, you can not appreciate or enjoy the fruits
of your labor; for there needs to be labor in order to create your fruits,
your effort, your achievement, your personal victory, your successful
spiritual mission in life.
There is no greater pleasure than the pleasure of man's toil in trans-
forming evil into good.
This is why G-d has given us negative desires, for precisely by over-
powering these desires and replacing them with better ones, we have
the greatest pleasure, of knowing that we have earned a status among
the righteous people, such as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of
the Zohar (the first and primary book of Kabbalah) who achieved the
conversion of darkness into light, and bitterness into sweetness.
To use a modern example, that my younger readers will relate to eas-
ily. In every video game we need to knock out a whole bunch of bad
guys in order to finish the level. The true joy is not to be able to sim-
ply breeze through a level and collect points, the true joy is knocking
out the bad guys; similarly, by weeding out our negative behaviors we
knock out the bad guys in us, and we then move from level to level,
increasing in our good points and elevating ourselves higher and
However in every level in a video game there are always bad guys, so
we never really end our constant battle against the bad guys, (until
the Moshaich will come and permanently destroy evil from the face of
the earth.) But we do get a lot better at it; we develop skills and tricks
and eventually gain control over the situation but the fight is eternal,
which is why we play the game!
8. Nature and Nurture
Mans natural drives are both inborn and learned, they are both nature
and nurture, they are instinctual and picked up, they are innate and
added on to, however, even what we have innately, does not necessarily
become who we are, unless of course we allow it to do so.
Then it can become inextricably bound up with us, tied to us completely and in-
separably with a firm hold and grip. Likewise habit becomes second
nature, and a habit that we have learned or picked up somewhere can
become just as much part of our personality as inborn instincts can be.
(The story is told of the philosophical debate between Maimonides, a
great Rabbi, scholar, philosopher, and scientist, and other gentile phi-
losophers of the time. The question was, can an animal pick up a habit
which is not innate? These philosophers trained cats to stand and
walk on two feet, and to act as waiters serving a meal to guests. The
philosophers believed this proved their point, they invited Maimonides to show him their achievement. Maimonides had in a little box in his coat, a mouse, and as all the cats were carrying the trays he
let the mouse out and their innate instincts took over. They dropped
the trays and chased the mouse on all fours.)
Understandably, the amount that something becomes rooted in some-
one’s make up, very much depends on how much it is used, practiced,
and adapted. Just as a positive quality and talent does not become pol-
ished or activated if it is not used, similarly a negative character defect.
Just as one does not become wise without continuous study, so to, ones
bad characteristics neither develop nor broaden without being continually exercised.
For this reason, we often see in children that a specific talent reaches a
certain level of proficiency and it does not develop further. The reason
for this is, that the talent has not been fine tuned, practiced, worked
on, or emphasized. For this reason, the talent comes to a standstill, and
whatever was achieved remains, but it is left at that.
Likewise a negative trait may also come to a standstill, the reason for
this is that ones external environment might be a good one, one in
which such a negative trait does not have an opportunity to rear its
ugly head; this has a very good effect on containing the level of nega-
tivity to a minimum, for it has not developed; like a talent for singing
needs to be developed to become really good.
However, even someone who has left a negative characteristic of their
personality to grow unchecked (which is unfortunately often the case
with us in the western world, that never infringed on our freedom of
expression) even such a person, no matter how low they have become
can change themselves.
The reason for this is because, every person has a soul that descended into this world and prior to its descent, G-d administered an oath to the soul to "be righteous (to be good) and to not be wicked (evil.")
When G-d gives someone something to do, it is
not a hypothetical situation, the person has the ability to do it!
It may be hard, really hard, really really hard, but it is possible.
A person can change themselves from the very worst negative traits to the greatest
heights of nobility, kindness, compassion, humility, love, honor, de-
cency, morality, and ethical virtuous behavior.
G-d will help an individual who sincerely desires to change. This of
course is one of the reasons why G-d created the person, to make this
change, and certainly G-d's assistance is assured.
So we may never say something is too ingrained (or "you can’t teach
an old dog new tricks") for when G-d is there for us, nothing, but
nothing, is beyond our possibility, particularly something for which we are created to achieve.
9. Who can be an educator, counselor / moral teacher?
Not everyone who is prepared to become a counselor is fit to do so. As
mentioned before, there is a great difference between someone who is
guiding someone's life and someone who is imparting information.
While even teaching requires strenuous effort, this cannot be com-
pared to a counselor who must be first fit himself to be a guide before
he can take on the responsibility of guiding others.
The reason for this is, that in guiding people, it is never neutral.
It is like giving someone directions, there may be one or two ways to get to the destination, but at least five hundred that lead away from the destination.
Certainly nobody wants to lead someone who has come to them in the wrong
However if they themselves are not morally prepared and
they have not refined themselves, they certainly have no ability to
guide someone else in the right direction.
This would be like someone
who has never traveled in a city giving someone else directions of how
to go to their destination in that city, when they themselves have no
idea and are only guessing.
As mentioned, the chances they will get it
right, are very slim indeed.
The first step in preparation to begin as a counselor to others, is a far
greater and more scrutinizing introspection and self-examination than
anyone else needs to do.
As mentioned, to truly replace ones negative desires with good ones, it
takes a lot of introspection to try to ascertain what ones negative in-
born and learned behaviors are.
So the counselor must first try to eradicate his negative desires, replacing them with positive ones and fine-tuning his pre-existing talents for the good.
Aside from incisive, critical, and significant self-examination, a coun-
selor must have the following two approaches in his preparation for
The first is deliberation, contemplation, analysis, scrutiny,
and examination of the pupil with the aim of preparing the most deci-
sive, analytical, beneficial, and important teachings for the pupil.
The second is politeness. A teacher who educates with anger, rude-
ness, arrogance, conceit, and smugness, will fail to impress his pupil
into becoming a better person.
On the contrary he will be educating them just by the way he is speaking on what not to do, how not to be, and the pupil emulating his teacher might learn the wrong and repugnant behavior.
So how a teacher speaks is fundamentally important. It
must be with politeness throughout. Although the point is to convey a
lesson, a moral, an ethical teaching, nonetheless, the manner in how
this ethical teaching is conveyed is also an ethical teaching.
A good example of this was the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneer-
sohn who taught with clarity, patience, forbearance, love, compassion,
in a gentle voice, humbly, with a pleasant demeanor, often with a smile
and the pupil always knew that what he was saying was for the good
of the pupil and not his own need.
Furthermore, the teacher must find sayings which are appropriate for
his lessons; It is not enough to have a great concept or even to talk
pleasantly, politely, gently etc. One needs the appropriate sayings,
which will impact an individual. If a person is speaking to the Chinese, obviously he will not succeed with using American sayings like “it’s way out of the ballpark.” He will need to learn the sayings of the Chinese to communicate his message in a way that hits home.
In general, this would mean understanding the culture one is in, and
using examples and parables from pre-existing phenomena which the pupil is already accustomed to, making the comprehension easier and more readily understood.
When Rabbi J.J. Hecht was offered a rabbinical position he told the
Rebbe that he couldn’t make speeches, so the Rebbe offered to give him the concepts for his speeches which he later compiled into a book.
It is most amazing, for the Rebbe left the world of high Talmudic academics and entered into the world of the simple businessman who is far removed from pre-existing Judaic wisdom. The Rebbe wrote
speeches for these people. One speech I recall was the concept of “no deposit, no return." Just as someone cannot take money out of the bank if he has not deposited money into the bank, the same is with G-d judging us on Rosh Hashanah for a good sweet year, there needs to be
spiritual deposits, such as acts of goodness and kindness for there to be
a "return from the heavenly vaults." We see from this, that by using a
modern example, one which all of the congregants could understand,
the Rebbe was able to convey a profound and very important teaching
to the "pupils." I also recall as a child attending the Rebbes talks to
children. For the first time I could understand what the Rebbe was
saying, as he lowered his talks so that little children could understand
the morals that he was teaching, using parables from our world. He
had the ability to know where everyone was up to intellectually and
culturally, and use parables from their world to catch their attention
and convey lessons. A counselor must also be in the world of the per-
son s/he is helping, understanding their world and helping them un-
derstand what they need to do, using parables and examples from
their world that resonate with them, which relate to them, which are
understandable to them, which have meaning to them, which can be
easily comprehended by them, which are not convoluted, to complex,
intricate, obscure, or difficult to understand; making the parables un-
clear and unintelligible, although they may be simple and comprehen-
sible, and filled with great meaning and relevance to the counselor,
based on his many years of study and ability to understand esoteric concepts.
Imagine for example Einstein explaining to a child e=mc2. If he does-
n't remove the mathematical code and talk in the child's language, us-
ing examples that the child can relate to, there is simply no way the
child can understand it. I will explain this concept for a child, to give
you an example of how the greatest scientific discovery can be com-
prehensible to a young child. In everything there is power, power is
what makes cars move, it makes the lights turn on, it is what allows
fire to burn, it allows our air conditioners and heaters to make cold or
hot air for us. Even in the tiniest things there is hidden a lot of power.
Einstein teaches that there is so much power in every tiny thing that
it could allow all the cars to move, all the air-conditioners and heaters
to work, all the lights to switch on and make a lot of fires. Scientists
have learned how to take the energy from the tiny things and when
we turn on our lights and when everyone turns on their lights, it all
comes from the energy from those tiny little things. (By the way, I
told this to my daughter and tested her on it and she understood it.)
When a teacher does this, the lessons will be permanently engraved in
the pupils mind and not for a short duration. My daughter in nursery
school at the age of three was taught by her teacher about "Soldier-
Vitamins" and "Jerry-the-Germ." Her teacher painted a vivid picture
of how Jerry-the-Germ comes into their tummies and makes them
sick, but Soldier-Vitamins go and fight Jerry-the-Germ. She never for-
got this lesson and whenever she is sick she knows its Jerry-the-Germ
and she needs to take Soldier-Vitamins to fight Jerry-the-Germ.
So when a teacher uses the appropriate examples and analogies that
resonate and make sense to a student, the student will always remem-
ber the words that s/he was taught.
The fruit of education does not grow overnight. Just as the fruit of a
tree take many months to grow until they are perfect and it was only
with much effort and labor by the farmer that the tree actually pro-
duced nice fruit in the first place, similarly, in order to help a pupil get
rid of a negative charter trait and replace it with a good one, takes al-
lot of time. It simply does not happen overnight. And just as most of
the actual work in producing the fruit is done by the tree, not by the
farmer, the actual work of self-examination, introspection, changing,
refining, elevating, and uplifting a person comes from the person
A teacher must be very careful not to use slang or lower his stature in
the eyes of the pupils. By lowering his stature in the eyes of the pupils
he becomes someone unfit to teach, and in this way they will not re-
ceive any lesson that he has to say.
Even if a teacher is talking about something bad he should carefully
couch the terms in saying some-thing "not good," and the like,
for the moment he dirties himself with
negativity, he will forever be tainted in the eyes of the pupil as a per-
son who is uncouth, ill-refined, non-cultured, thus lacking the ability
and moral authority to teach him.
Many educators and counselors err here; They think that by thunder-
ous noise and shouting they can get their message across, when in fact
they are diminishing their stature in the eyes of the pupils, and even if
they have momentarily succeeding in shouting their messages to their
audience it will have no lasting gain whatsoever as true wisdom is accepted
in a humble, quite, and intellectual manner.
Furthermore there are many educators who think that by shouting at
and humbling their pupils they can achieve the desired results; whatever
results they may have achieved, will only be temporarily, for as mentioned
wisdom is imparted gently, almost quietly, intellectually, and rationally.
Only through fulfilling all of the above mentioned provisos, that:
1. The counselor must make a thorough and incisive self examination and self growth;
2. The counselor must make a thorough examination in his assessment of the pupil and what the pupil needs;
3. The counselor must communicate his lessons with the utmost politeness and respect for the pupil without any anger or derogatory remarks at all;
4. The method of communication must be using parables and examples that have meaning to the student, which come from the students world, which the student can relate to and readily appreciate and comprehend;
5. The realization that proper moral growth like the fruit of a tree takes a lot of time, both the times allotted by the counselor, and the greater amount of time that the pupil must work on himself through
his own self-examination and growth;
6. A counselor must not diminish his stature in the eyes of the pupil
using slang or bad words even to describe negative things;
7. Education is not done through shouting, but through calm teaching;
8. Shouting at a pupil even to teach a concept or to force them to learn something, is never productive;
9. And a thorough appreciation of the importance of these provisions for proper moral guidance;
will and can ensure proper moral counseling and spiritual growth, leading to happiness for both the counselor and pupil.
9. To properly help a pupil, one must clearly evaluate what his short-
This is a far more strenuous task than evaluating a student to study a
To understand the level that a student is up to, a teacher can merely
test him and get a good idea of where his current comprehension level
is up to. Reading is a good example. One only needs to ask a student
to read, to understand the level that they are at and what level they
need to begin teaching.
However, when it comes to recognizing a pupils shortcomings, firstly,
there must be a thorough analysis of what the pupils shortcomings are
in the first place. Then there needs to be an understanding of how
deeply entrenched these shortcomings are; are they a part and parcel
of his personality, his makeup, his identity, or are they superficial to
him, learned behaviors, that can be easily unlearned.
This is only part of the thorough examination needed before educat-
ing a pupil morally. The other thorough examination must be on the
cultural milieu that the student lives in. Does the student come from a
wealthy home causing a sense of superiority over poor people that
needs to be worked on. Is the pupil from a small town incorporating a
village mentality which has both positive and negative aspects to it.
The environment a person lives in has a major affect on their person-
ality; One cannot compare the attitudes of a person that comes from a
village to the attitudes of a person that comes from a big city; Neither
create perfect attitudes, there is some good and some bad in both.
Furthermore, all people are inherently good, possessing a soul; the dif-
ference lies in how the soul expresses itself, in what specific talents
they enjoy expressing themselves in; so a teacher must also be able to
understand the talent of the individual, in order to help the student
develop those talents for the good.
Moral guidance is not only for children, it is also for adults. Although
the manner of conveying the guidance obviously differs from a child
to an adult, however the essential nature of what is important to con-
vey and the goal of moral guidance is exactly the same, be it an adult
or a child.
A counselor must learn what the essential character of a pupil is, in
order to properly understand what their talents and abilities are; for
example, I have one daughter who is very bright and loves to learn,
furthermore, she has an ability to apply what she has learnt to her life
although she is only five. So to develop her I need to learn with her
ethical stories, giving an example of how she should behave in similar
My younger daughter is also very clever, however her essential nature
is more into sweetness; she is incredibly sweet, always smiling and
laughing, so her current need is to provide her with a lot of love, so she
can continue to love others and give to others.
This gives an idea of the importance of understanding the essential nature of an individual
so one can increase the good points of it.
I also know of two specific weak points in each of my daughters and what needs to be done to correct these weak points. In one daughter the weak point was learnt and in the other, it is innate.
Some behaviors will be appropriate for a child and inappropriate for an adult. Some actions would be appropriate for one adult and for another it would be inappropriate.
For example for a scholar to engage in mindless chatter, waste-time watching a movie, would be a serious offense to his abilities to engage in more intellectual and rewarding pursuits. However someone devoid of an ability to study Torah due to innate lack of a capacity to learn, it would then be acceptable for him, if not commendable to be engaged in simple chatter and the like.
Another example would be, that a man should not be engaged in priming himself (of-course he needs to look respectable) and be too engrossed in his looks; however such behavior is perfectly normal and commendable for a woman, as beauty is innately part of a women's makeup and inner desire and part of her general contribution to the world.
Furthermore, a counselor must know the limitations of his pupil. If he
will try to give a simple person lacking an ability to properly reason a
completely refined and polished look, not only will he not succeed,
but he will ruin the individual in the process.
10. In the famous classic Jewish book on ethics “Duties of the Heart” the author asks if self-examination is the same for everyone.
He concludes that it is not.
In matters relating to Torah study as well as to self-examination, such as discovering what it is that you have been placed on the world to do, there are vast differences!
Every person must use their own intellect, to understand what it is that G-d
wants from them.
They need to make this supposition based on their
own understanding of how much G-d has done for them, how much
G-d loves them etc.
It is simply impossible to expect more than a person is capable of doing.
Every person must study Torah (moral guidance) either by studying
Torah themselves, or by going to public lectures; (in fact these days
with www.Chabad.org one can study indefinitely Torah online in
clear and lucid English. I know a person who had classes with his
Rabbi for 25 years and in six months learnt more than in 25 years,
according to his Rabbi, from the www.Chabad.org.)
Furthermore, everyone must contemplate what G-d has done for
them. They must realize that not only has G-d created the world once
upon a time, but continually looks after it. A wise queen asked
King Solomon "What does G-d do since he created the world?" “He
makes marriages” replied King Solomon. "Why that's the easiest thing
in the world" replied the queen. She took one thousand male
servants and one thousand female servants and married them. It was
not a day later that most were complaining, and a few had quite a few
black and blue marks to prove that it didn't work.
From finding our spouse, to finding our jobs, G-d is intimately involved in every single
detail. The Talmud writes, that a button does not fall of a person’s shirt
(causing them a slight aggravation) if it wasn't decreed on high first.
Even the job of who will be a janitor is decided in Heaven; in fact
every single good thing that comes your way (and everything is good,
even if you don't see it at the time) is all decided by G-d in Heaven.
The only thing which is real!ly in your power is to recognize that eve-
rything comes from Heaven and thus give G-d the respect and honor,
G-d deserves. All the good in your life has come about directly
through G-d's personal influence in your life. G-d is like a loving
mother, but all powerful; always giving his beloved child, everything
she needs. Of course, G-d wants a person to choose their own moral
development in order that they can feel good about their results, as
mentioned before; however the table is set and all we need to do is
choose the right foods to eat, like a mother who brings all the food to
the table and all the child needs to do is eat politely and graciously.