How does one pick a spiritual guide? There are so many Rabbis today – how does one decide?
About 15 years ago, I asked the same question to one of my Rebbe’s (teachers) in Yeshiva. I asked “how can I know who is a real Tzaddik and whether or not he is for me?” The Rebbe answered that “… in today’s generation there are no real Tzaddikim.”
I asked him: “how I should fulfill the Mishna in Pirke Avos that says that I’m required to acquire a teacher - which according to the commentary of the Tiferes Yisrael means a spiritual mentor?”
He responded: “that Mishna needs ‘re-interpretation’ to fit into our present world - “…the Mishna doesn’t mean that you should acquire a spiritual mentor – it means that you should acquire a Yeshiva.” In other words, the Rebbe was advising me to attach myself to Torah and learning, and to give up any silly idea I had of finding a Holy man in our generation.
The Rebbe was a fine example of a human being. He was kind, learned, and sincere – I was sure that he was giving me his honest opinion – but where did he get it from? How had such cynicism and distrust of Tzaddikim crept into his mind?
The need for a spiritual leader and guide has been established from the earliest of our holy writings. Rebbe Nachman taught us: “Draw close to the Tzaddikim and walk in the paths along which they guide you. Follow their teachings and the truth will be inscribed within you.” Breslevers also say every morning before prayer: we hereby attach ourselves to all of the true Tzaddikim of “our generation” - not only – previous generations.
The problem is that the exile that we live in has deadened our sensitivity for Holiness – as a result - we have become progressively disillusioned and apathetic. We see that our honorable congressmen and presidents are not so honorable – but what’s less obvious is - that our distrust of public servants numbs us to the Truth - that great Spiritual men still walk the face of the earth.
Our Sages promised us that there will be Tzaddikim in every generation and that a Tzaddik is “the foundation of the world.” - That’s not a just a cliché, it’s a Divine Truth. The Tzaddikim of every generation are sent here for us - to purify our souls and bring us closer to G-d - never have we needed them more than now – a time of hester panim (when God’s face is hidden).
We live in a high-risk environment that is inundated with decadence, violence, and immorality - bereft of a Spiritual power many are being engulfed by it. The dangers of today’s world are real threats to us and our children - how can one hope to combat it without help? Moreover, in my work, I have seen time and again – people who didn’t seek sound spiritual guidance, when they needed it, falling into tragic circumstances. A person without a spiritual guide is trying to run his own show - he cannot see the land-mine wires around him. He is like one who is helplessly lost in a maze - if he would only look up he would see the man on the hill (the Tzaddik) – who stands higher – able to see the bigger picture, the Tzaddik points us in the right direction.
Let’s not make the mistake of over-generalizing from the less-than-shining examples of our senators, congressmen – even some religious leaders - to men who can truly bring us success in this world and the next.
Do you really think that Rabbi Brody’s stamina just comes from health food and exercise? It is not a human power that drives men like him. He is filled with a power far greater than human power because he makes himself nothing before his master – Rabbi Shalom Arush – who channels to his disciples whatever they need for a good and successful life.
Most of us grew up sort of believing that G-d exists – though we may not have felt he paid much attention to us. True believers - those with real emuna - don’t just believe there is a G-d - they know it because they feel G-d’s power pulsing through their veins all the time. They have a willingness to receive G-d through their spiritual master and G-d makes them vessels to channel spirituality to us. The Tzaddik wants us to know G-d the way he does - he even wants us our souls to be bigger than his own (see Likutei Moharan I: 66).
So how did I pick Rebbe Nachman, Rabbi Arush and Rabbi Brody?
A holy person once told me that we need be connected to a Tzaddik in this world and in the next world. I gravitated toward the teachings of Rebbe Nachman like a small flame seeking to find its way back into a great fire. It’s not something that I can comprehend – I just felt it – powerfully.
And as for this world, I find Rabbi Arush second to none in his genius for simplifying the complex, lofty concepts of the Arizal, the Zohar and Rebbe Nachman - he writes so simply and beautifully - even my kids can read it.
And Rabbi Brody - he is our front line Spiritual advisor – he methodically and meticulously learns, digests and lives every teaching of his Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Arush - as the English voice of his Rebbe he is disseminating his teachings around the globe – and getting huge results.
We are very grateful for the great help from Heaven that we’ve had as a result of Rabbi Brody’s advice and prayers.
Thank G-d I didn’t give up on my “silly idea” of finding a Holy man.
* * *
Zev Ballen, LCSW has been a practicing psychotherapist for 32 years. He is licensed in Israel and the State of New York. Zev has the endorsements of prominent Gadolei Yisrael such as the Nikolsburger Rebba, Shlita, Reb Yitzchok Fagelstock, Shlita, The Kasaner Rebbe of Forshay, Shlita, Rav Shalom Arush, Shlita, and Rabbi Lazer Brody, Shlita. He resides with his family in Jerusalem where he learns in Rav Arush’s Kollel and maintains a part-time practice. You can write to Zev Ballen at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at: 845-362-8600 (US line) or 054-840-9499 (Israeli line).