The basic ideas presented here derive Guidance written in 1898 by Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad Lubavitch. This discourse was initially composed as a “training manual” for mashpi’im, those rabbis responsible for developing the spiritual character of yeshiva students. In 1943, the Rebbe released these teachings to the general public. He reasoned that since we are now living in the messianic era, with its rapid pace of growth and change, every interpersonal encounter must be utilized as an opportunity for mutual growth.
In addition to the basic principles of education, this work also presents Rabbi Joseph Isaac’s seven skills of a good educator or spiritual advisor. These skills may seem deceptively simple. Yet, each is ultimately procured only through practice and hard work. Reading about it is not enough. A person obviously can read this material for its technical information and gain invaluable insight about the Torah’s system of psychology and education. However, the person who truly desires to develop his teaching and counseling skills must find ways of experimenting and applying the information to his life.
Can a person learn to play violin from studying books on theory, chords and finger positions? Obviously not. The actual skill is only acquired through practice, and one’s progress will directly mirror the time invested in the effort of training his hands to respond to his mental commands — to actually play the instrument in accordance with the musical score.
This is the necessary requirement of internalization or integration — when intellectual awareness becomes “wired” into the physical level of being so that one’s habitual way of behaving automatically expresses those truths. And for this there is no shortcut. Progress is only accomplished through tedious practice and hard work.
That hard work is not only important, it is essential –for everyone. This is because education — in the deepest sense of the word — is everyone’s responsibility. We must all help each other along. The more familiar we are with the basic principles of education, the more successful our efforts will be as we struggle to perfect the human community and thereby fulfill the purpose of our creation.