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Why Do I Need a Spiritual Mentor?

Why Do I Need a Spiritual Mentor?


Each and every one of us needs a spiritual teacher and mentor, or a mashpiah, to help us maximize our soul’s potential in divine service, as it says in Ethics of the Fathers (1:6), “Make for yourself a teacher.”1

Here are some of the reasons:

  1. The sages in the Mishnah tell us that “one cannot examine his own defects.”2 While the sages were referring to someone who wishes to diagnose himself with tzoraat, usually translated as leprosy, this statement is also understood allegorically and is explained that it is very difficult for us to be objective about our weaknesses (or, for that matter, about our strengths) and we often under-estimate or over-estimate what we can or cannot do. A mentor who knows us well can help us see ourselves objectively, and guide us to use our strengths and work on our weaknesses so that we grow in our Judaism.
  2. The Talmud tells us that “a prisoner cannot free himself from his prison.”3 So, too, a mentor provides us with the outside help that we need to lift ourselves up from the prison imposed upon us by our own destructive instincts.
  3. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement, explains in his classic work, the Tanya, that there are two distinct souls animating the body and fighting for its dominion: an “animal soul” and a “G‑dly soul.”

    The animal soul is driven by the self-centered desires of physical life, and the G‑dly soul by the selfless quest to serve G‑d.

    Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s successor, Rabbi Dovber, explained that the animal soul has no interest whatsoever in the triumph of someone else’s animal soul; by contrast, the G‑dly soul’s only desire is that the will of G‑d be fulfilled, so it desires the success of the G‑dly soul in others as well.

    When a person grapples alone with his or her spiritual ills, there is a one-on-one struggle between these two selves. But when two people get together, the animal soul of each (working by itself, independent of the other) is overwhelmed by a double onslaught of the two G‑dly souls working together.4

    While any good friend can help us for the reasons above, a mentor is someone who knows us well and has the wisdom of experience that makes his or her guidance that much more effective.

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, strongly encouraged everyone to have their own personal spiritual mentor, quoting our sages who say, “One who is embarrassed cannot learn.”5 Therefore, he said, if you want to learn how to improve your spiritual life and standing, you must not be embarrassed to ask about and discuss all your concerns with someone who can guide you. 6

Watch Who Can Be My Mentor? and read Are We Objective? from our selection on Mashpia: Spiritual Mentor.


At times translated as a “master,” i.e. take the advice seriously, as a slave accepts the commands of his master (Rabbi Menachem Meiri ad loc). See also Maimonides ad loc. Others translate this to mean you should always have one rabbi that you turn to at all times (Rabbi Obadiah ben Abraham, the Bartenurah, ad loc).


Mishnah, Negoim 2:5, referring to .


Talmud, Sanhedrin 95a.


As recorded by the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, Igrot Kodesh vol. 2 p. 73.


Ethics of Our Fathers 2:5.


Heichel Menachem, vol. 3 p. 255.

Chaya Sarah Silberberg serves as the rebbetzin of the Bais Chabad Torah Center in West Bloomfield, Michigan, since 1975. She also counsels, lectures, writes, and responds for’s Ask the Rabbi service.
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Anonymous las vages December 16, 2015

Spirituality I often find myself within this website, reading headlines like these, thinking that I will be understood. It is just not the case. Although This site claims spirituality, it is a religious view point. I am not saying one cannot be both, however, I would love someone to address the spirituality of "transcendence" and "enlightenment" and the "journey." I do not mean in essays that avoid the real matter, I mean a guide for helping those who are travailing in a spiritual dimension. I wonder if you understand what this means. I wonder If gets it! As of now it just sounds like words. Reply

JDV September 19, 2014

Have a Mentor It is a Friday night and after going to a Reform service, only to please my husband, I decided to at least learn something by conferring with Chaya.

Chaya, you are simply the best - pure and simple. Don't know what I would do without you. Reply

JDV March 14, 2012

Spiritual mentor Chaya has done it again! My husband and I, married this year for 30 years, have had our share of marriage counselors - why? Not to bring on divorce but to prolong marriage. These men (the Jewish ones at least) have, at times, served as spiritual mentors as well. Would recommend it to many couples. remember, no one is perfect in this world! Reply

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