Have You Considered Paying?

OpEd by Rabbi Gershon Avtzon: Tishrei is always an exciting time in Crown Heights, and bochurim can benefit from many uplifting farbrengens. But there is one thing which can ruin many a good farbrengen.

By Rabbi Gershon Avtzon

Dear reader,

As an introduction: You are entitled to honesty and transparency: I have thought about writing this for a few years now, but hesitated as I felt that you the reader might feel that this is just a “self-serving” promotion. As time passes, I realized that if I remain silent – and the issue persists – that I must include myself in those that are perpetuating the “pollution and not the solution”.

Tishrei is always an exciting time in Crown Heights as thousands of guests (boys and girls) come to spend this special month in the “daled amos” of the Rebbe. This is especially true this year, 5783, as it is a Hakhel year as well. That means that more groups of young chassidim, as well as families, will be coming for (at least) part of Tishrei to be with the Rebbe.

Besides the Tefillos and learning in 770, visiting the Ohel, and being immersed in the general atmosphere of “Tishrei with the Rebbe”, the real opportunity for excitement and growth are the many farbrengens that the bochurim attend. There are many inspiring educators and shluchim that also come to crown heights for parts of Tishrei and sitting at farbrengens with a “different face” (that their usual mashpia) can be very uplifting.

I emphasize the word “can” because – as someone that has been watching this for nearly twenty years – I have noticed a pattern: The talmidei hashluchim of a yeshiva work tirelessly to arrange a farbrengen (that usually includes arranging a host, farbaisen and a guest mashpia) and then one of the following three things happen: 1) The guest mashpia arrives hours late 2) He arrives tired and really unprepared 3) He simply does not show up.

If you are (or were) a bochur, you are probably nodding your head right now. This creates frustration – and above all – a wasted opportunity. In addition, many talmidim stop coming to the arranged farbrengen (and especially not on time) as they don’t want to just sit around and waste their own time.

When I was younger, I simply could not understand how the “guest mashpia” could do that to a group of pure boys (or girls) that have come to be inspired. As I got older, and my own family responsibilities grew, I came to understand the two key causes of the issue. We will begin with the first – and most important cause: It is not that the mashpia does not care, it is simply an issue of being purely volunteer. 

Allow me to “pull away the curtain” from the family life of an idealistic – and inspiring mashpia. He keeps getting calls, and messages, from people pushing him to speak and farbreng. If he agrees, it usually is coming at the expense of his ability to deal with his kids the next day (as he was up all night at the farbrengen) or even the next evening (as he has another place to go to speak/farbeng). This can cause tremendous resentment – especially from the wife who has to now carry the full burden on the household and the children during this very busy month. She acknowledges that he has a responsibility to his bochurim (as that is his shlichus) but why should she have to “suffer” because of other groups of bochurim.

So what happens next: The husband – seeing that his wife is not happy with him leaving for another night (especially while the kids are still up, etc.) comes late to his “chessed project”  or doesn’t come at all (shalom bayis comes first). He definitely doesn’t take additional time off to think about and prepare what he would like to give over. This vicious cycle continues and continues.

What is the solution? It is very simple: Paying the mashpia for his time that he Farbrengs. While the true value of a successful Farbrengen is priceless, even a basic payment (of at least $180) would really change the story. The mashpia feels more obligated to come on time and “perform properly” and the wife feels respected and that her family also received something. If she can now – after a few farbrengens – buy the new shaitel that she had wanted for Yom Tov, or the clothes and shoes for her children, she will be less resentful – and even encouraging – of her husband going out and sharing his time and wisdom with other people.

I will share a personal story: Many years ago, I was invited to farbreng during Tishrei for the Yom Holedes of one of my Talmidim. I told the parents of the talmid that I would come, but I could not promise to stay a long time. At the end of the Farbrengen, the hosts – Rabbi Dovid and Mrs. Miriam Schmukler – handed me an envelope in which there was a nice amount of money, as a sign of appreciation. I was shocked and it was totally unexpected. When I told them that they really did not need to (as the bochur was my talmid!) they said: Would we not pay an entertainer who came to a birthday party? How much more so, should we give money to a real mashpia who inspired our son and his friends? This mindset was so heart-warming and impressive that it stands out until today.

Another story: When I was just married, I was recruited into teaching for “Beis Midrash L’nashim’ in 770 which is run by Ms. Ariella Benchayoun (a separate discussion should be had if young married men should be teaching women and older single girls). She had a roster of real famous rabbanim and mashpiim and I asked her innocently what the secret of all success was. Her answer was short and simple: “I pay all my teachers – in a timely manner – for all the classes that they teach”.

Truth is, the same issue exists during the regular year. People, especially former talmidim who are now grown up, keep calling their former teachers and mashpiim, and are demanding of the limited time that they are home and available. The wife understands the responsibility towards the current talmidim, but how many hours does she need to “give up” for the former talmidim? If she knew that the former Talmidim, which many are making a proper living, would pay her husband for his time and advice (as they would a therapist and doctor), she would be more willing (or at least less resentful)  to “share” her husband.

The second cause is the mistaken notion that a “good farbrengen” finishes between 3 and 5 am. If that is the case, there is no incentive for the mashpia to come earlier in the night, as he is “stuck” until 3 am. Why come at 10:30 and have to talk for 5 hours, if you can show up at 12:30 and talk for 2.5 hours and sleep in the middle as well (remember: it is all volunteer!)? If it is clear to the mashpia, that you are requesting and are happy with (and paying for) two hours of his time – and the talmidim know that it will start on time and finish at a certain time – the farbrengen would look different.

My point: Many mashpiim will almost never mention payment when they are asked to farbreng. They may feel guilty – as everything is a “shlichus” – or they simply be idealistic.  The goal of writing this is to change the culture: It should be normal that payment is offered (and it should not be the obligation of the talmidei hashluchim to fundraise that payment, it is the obligation of the yeshiva that needs their students to be inspired) out of appreciation of the time and expertise of the mashpia. The talmidim will be the ones that will truly benefit.

I would love to hear your thoughts, critique and feedback on the above.

May we all merit to see the Rebbe teaching us Torah in the Beis Hamikdash – NOW!

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  1. “The goal of writing this is to change the culture: It should be normal that payment is offered”

    Is this for real?

    Don’t we want to have Mashpiem like the yesteryear?

    When paid, it is very different then when its idealistic, its one thing when someone travels to pay, but Tishrei? when people have so many Chazakos where they Farbreng it will all change cause of a few $$$????

    1. %100 it might be a good thing to institute that parents should give money to kids mashpiem, but to officially charge? that’s not the way to go

      kudus to our mashpiem who give away the full day to our bochrim

      every parent please send along a check when your son goes back to Yeshiva

    2. bh
      there is a letter in igros kodesh to the chassidim in Montreal, that since the Chassidim in Montreal need a mashpia.
      And Reb Peretz Mochkin is a chossid that needs parnossa. And so the Rebbe, made the shidduch that he should be the mashpia and that way both problems get solved.

  2. I do understand that it might be a nice thing to pay mashpi’im, but does that mean that if ge doesn’t get payed he should commit and not show up?
    Imagine you made up with someone on mivtzoim to meet somewhere and you just don’t show up, would you also have the same mindset.

    I understand that sometimes mistakes can happen, but to say that it’s fully right for someone to commit and then just not show up or come hours late, is just NOT MENTSHLECHKEIT!

    1. 1) many times they say “maybe”, “can’t commit” and so on. The organizers understand that to be a “yes”. And that’s where the problem starts.
      If they would get payed, then they would actually agree to commit in the first place.

      2) it’s not ideal to decline to farbreng, and ourvmashpiim definitely try to do what’s ideal. True, they get tied down, but they really try.

      I don’t think we should be sitting and grading the mentchlichkeit of our mashpiim. They are more devoted to the cause that all others. They have impossible hours (7:30 a.m. – 11:00, and then again 6:00 – 9:30+) and are underappreciated.
      We should reevaluate our own mentchlichkeit in how we show our appreciation and respect.

      The nature of the world we live in: the more we give, the more we’ll get back!

  3. Yasher koach for bringing up these important points.

    We live in a time and culture where for every service and expertise it is common to charge top dollar for short increments of time, and these expenses are paid without question – from graphic design or home repairs to therapies or financial consultations.

    Meanwhile, we continue to expect that those who serve our community as mechanchim and mashpiim – or mechanchos and mashpios – give graciously and endlessly for no or little compensation. They should give many hours every week (even every night) to advise and support their mushpaim/os, and also speak or farbreng for every school or group that needs inspiration.

    They also have lives. They also have expenses. As a community, and as individuals, it’s time we reconsider our attitudes about those who give us what is most important – ruchniyus support – and enable their needs to be met with dignity. What would we pay a “professional” for a talk or even a short consultation? Shouldn’t our mashpiim be compensated at least as well for their expert guidance? If we feel not, what does that say about our priorities and values?

  4. This is by far the best oped of the year!

    Our mashpiim hold themselves to impossibly high standards, and we’re the ones that lose out.
    They won’t ask for money, we have to offer – for every farbrengen, shiur, advice session etc.

    This should become the new normal.

  5. In Eretz Yisroel it’s an accepted practice to pay for a mashpia to come and farbreing.
    R’ Reuven dunin was known to charge as well.
    A shliach in EY told me he asked one of his close friends from yeshiva and a very chassidishe mashpia if he can come and farbrieng, his response was “sure, just please call my wife as she arranges my calendar” and she was the one to give the clear pricing for his time.
    And when people pay for something it’s valued much more.

  6. Absolutely correct!
    And on that note, When we call rabonim, when we (or our teenage children) call their Mashpi’im, we should set a timer how many minutes (or hours!) we spoke with them, and compensate accordingly. If you don’t know how much, ask a tutor (married, not a bochur) how much he charges per hour.
    To “A Yid”: please make believe you are that maspia.

    1. Again Why are people mixing up everything into one big Cholent?

      It’s 100% right for parents to give money for their son’s mashpiem

      Its 100% wrong to charge for a Tishrei Farbreng…

        1. cause next you know there will be a entrance fee…

          it will also stop many young Talmetai Hashluchim etc from organizing and running Tishrei programs/Farbrengins

          it seems more like the problem is that there is no payment/reward system for mashpiem, the Tishrei Farbrengins should be their chance for free exposure “ad”

          just like there are expo’s for all other industries Tishrie can be sort of a “Mashpiem expo”

          Payment can and should be made by parents or Yeshivas….

    1. afilu lshitascha the rebbe never said that when you break down the windows you don’t have to pay him to farbreng (besides the cost of the windows!)

  7. There is a letter of the Rebbe not printed in Igros Kodesh to the Montreal Chabad community in which he requests them to arrange payment for R’ Peretz Motzkin as the community mashpia. It’s accepted to pay rabbonim, why are mashpi’im any different? The Rebbe Rashab set up an entire system to fund mashpi’im in various towns. In our times there is a dearth of people dedicated to nurturing Anash. Awareness of the simple solution suggested by the article, is the first step towards rectifying the situation.

    1. that is about a permanent position which is pretty obvious that it has to be paid for…. every Yeshiva pays their Mashpiem, am I wrong?

      this is about Tishrei when this Mashpia has this Chazaka and this Mashpia always Farbrengs in so and so Sukkah, is it so wrong not to pay?

      Did R Yisroel. R Yoel, R Pinye להבל״ח R Sholome, R Nachemn, R Shalom, ever take money for any of the Tishrei Farbrengens (let alone about a whole year…)

      Did we become a “pay for play…”

      Are we going to pay for every time we walk on the streets in CH??

  8. There’s actually a reshimah of the tzemach tzedek explaining al pi Kabalah why you should only speak when you are being paid. And that if you’re not making a livelihood by speaking, who says that you should be opening your mouth at all? (unless you are a prophet and God Almighty himself commanded you to speak)

    בהוספות לדרך מצותיך עמוד392

  9. On one hand we are devoted to going on Mivtzoim friday without any expectations from the Mekurav (i think there is a sicha the Rebbe excludes any type of plan for paybacks when doing Mivtzoim) so we the Bochurim and anash are all supposed to give free time to others and sometimes very difficult experiences of rude Mivtzoim offices.

    Now if a Mashpia is asking to be paid to do his Mivtzoim to be Mekarev bochurim and anash (outside of his job) then, why shouldn’t we be paid to do Mivtzoim by Tzach, it’s very difficult and we all have expenses we can use the money for.

    Both have to be true, the Mashpia (and his wife) should be fully devoted (within their allocated time-frame) spreading Yiddishkeit amongst bochurim and anash (yup, that’s the job) and the Anash (not bochurim) should be mindful to send an envelope to the Mashpia before Yom Tov or by a Simcha of his family (son’s bar mitzvah, chasuna etc).

    I disagree with the idea that payment has to be systematic, with Farbrengen Tarifs (as in EY) it is just sending the wrong message to bochurim and changing the whole philosophy of being devoted like Avraham Avinu or the Baal Shemotvs Talmidim, or the early years Shluchim who went with their wives without any thoughts of compensations but bh were rewarded beGashmius much more than ever expected

    1. Of course every chossid – indeed every Yid – is expected to go out of his or her comfort zone and give tzedaka with their time as well as with their money. Mivtzoim, hachnasas orchim, bikur cholim etc… This is what we do! Helping a Yןd bgashmius ubruchnius and not charging for every favor.

      HOWEVER: In the case of mashpiim and mashpios, they are generally giving several hours of their time every single day or night to guide and support their former students, all IN ADDITION to their official job of working with current students. On top of all that, they are expected to serve as “guest speakers” for every mosad who needs a farbrengen or program. When all of this is expected to be volunteer, it becomes an unsustainable life for them and their families.

    2. If they are totally devoted ‘within their time frame’- there will be no farbrengens for guests during tishrei. Period.

      That’s the whole point

  10. Reb Pinye Korf did not charge to Farbreng. Not that everyone has to be on his level, just this is an example of a real Chossid

    1. We have many “real Chassidim” amongst us – all the mashpiim and mashpios giving endless amounts of time for phone calls, and even farbrenging for free! That’s exactly the point.

      And their mesirus nefesh in not charging for their time should not be an excuse for their beneficiaries to be ungrateful and not offer payment on their own. Be a mentch.

      1. You are right, but to charge for a Farbrengen?

        How about setting up a entrance fee….?

        rather write a op-ed that parents should give a few times a year to their sons/daughters mashpia/s for example Tishrei, Chanukah, Purim, Pesach, end of year, which is a very popular thing in the Poilisher/litvish world

        1. The point here is not that the bochurim (or any participants) should have to pay to join a farbrengen

          It’s that if a farbrengen is organized for a group, whoever is organizing it should take responsibility to pay the most important expense – compensating the Mashpia for the many precious hours he is giving – just as they pay for food or mashke.

          Especially when it is organized on behalf of a Yeshivah, it is the responsibility of the Hanhallah to pay their “guest speaker”.

  11. If you’re willing to pay $120+ for any starting coach or therapist in the shchunah, for 45min session. Why not pay your Rabbi/ mashpia/ Fabrengener.
    Thanks so much! Great point

  12. Why is everything turning around money?! Why is since shatchanim we HAVE to pay anything?! For shatchanim, for counselors at camp…. and now mashpiim?! Rabbi avtzon, dont you think the “money in the air” is starting to take over the air?! Husbands should pay wives for their services and vs versa – someone might say it’s a partnership. What partnership today?! Honestly?! And above all: when was our Rebbe ever paid for a farbrengen? And mind you, MANY! We owe the Rebbe too much to even pay back.

    1. If you want a service, you pay for it. You don’t want to pay? No problem. Find a free Farbrenger, who may or may not show up.

      1. It’s all about the mindset. Wait till it touches your money and then we’ll see your reaction. BTW you owe your mother lots of money from being born till today. Did you even start to pay her or it was your mindset of “her body her choice?!” It only goes down from there.

        1. My reaction is one that I pay for services I choose to employ. I do it all the time. I chose to pay $4.95 for a Latte the other day.
          Don’t forget the point of this OpEd – not at all to charge every individual Bochur coming to the Farbrengen, rather to raise awareness by the organizers that they should offer pay for their services. If the Mashpia chooses to volunteer as a Shlichus, good for him, but we can’t enforce a Shlicus unto him. What’s so argumentative about that?
          Regarding my mother – what???

    2. I was hoping someone would bring this up.

      We cannot expect our mashpiim to have the level of mesiras nefesh that the rebbe had and give of so many hours. And certainly we cannot expect it of their families (regardless of compensation).

      That being said,

      1. The Rebbe was paid a salary just like the staff of mazkirus was
      2. Maamad has been traditional among chassidim for generations

    3. The Rebbe said in a Farbrengen during Sefira that he the reason he can make a joyous gathering is because it is his Parnasa.

      The discussion here isn’t about if Mashpi’im should demand payment, it’s about the responsibility of the one arranging the Farbrengen to provide food and space (rented if needed) and someone to Farbreng who has prepared properly. It’s possible to get away with asking for stores to donate leftovers etc. for food, and to use space given as a favor, and to ask the Mashpia to donate his time Farbrenging, cover his own travel expenses and use his own time (= lose income during that time) to prepare. But then you haven’t set it ip to succeed. You might get lucky, but can’t count on it.
      If you invest in making it a well planned, properly organized event, and raise the funds to cover paying for the above, you have set it ip for success.
      Our children’s inspiration needs to be invested in as much as every Shliach invests in inspiring his community.

  13. There are fees to attend shiurim for ladies too and you know what? A lot of ladies can’t (and don’t) attend given those circumstances. I understand that everyone needs money to live but most of us, with growing families and stretched income(s), can’t pay for an extra like that – certainly not on the regular.

    1. Indeed, finances are a challenge for most people these days. There are many important expenses people can not afford and this is where tzedaka comes in – whoever is in a position to sponsor and support should do whatever they can do help their community, whether by subsidizing tuitions, sponsoring food for Yom Tov, or myriad other causes.

      But the need for help does not become the responsibility of the one providing a service. Do we expect the grocer to provide free food for all those who struggle to pay the hefty bill? Do we expect the clothing store owner to give out free clothing because the expenses are too great for the average family?

      No, they need to make a living. They deserve to be paid properly for their goods or services. And those in a position to help others afford these expenses – or sponsor them on their behalf – should do so.

      1. As many are forgetting, and as some have pointed out, the point of this article was NOT to set up an entrance fee for each participant joining the Farbrengen (although that concept does indeed exist). This is about the Yeshiva/Shul/Neighborhood Committee etc. as a Mosad paying their speaker. Is calling him/her a “Farbrenger” instead of “speaker” a reason not to pay them?!

  14. I think Rabbi Avtzon’s points are good ones, even if in theory many (including myself) don’t agree with it.

    I think what a lot of commenters are trying to say is that the farbrenger shouldn’t be expecting payment but people should be menchen and give something. If not at the farbrengen, then maybe before Yom tov or a simcha etc., especially for someone who does this full time.

    I 100% agree with Rabbi Avtzon’s point that farbrengens do not need to last until 3 am, even during Tishrei. If it’s a good, toichendik farbrengen, there is a value to it. Otherwise, I don’t think most bachurim (and older people!) don’t have the stamina for such long and late farbrengens, not to mention having a productive day the next day.

    1. Why can’t payment for a speaking engagement – which in the case of a farbrengen, is quite a long one! – be expected?

      Everything else mashpiim do in giving of their time to speak to individuals is volunteer, and must be that way. Mentchlichkeit would dictate that when feasible, one should compensate their / their children’s Mashpia for his/her time, but it must be optional so that everyone can receive the guidance they need.

      But why should an experienced, qualified speaker have to farbreng / speak for free, for any mosad that wants? That should be the one opportunity they have to expect respectable compensation for their time.

      1. Just to put into perspective that not everything in life & especially in Chabad community needs to be surrounded by money money money YES Mashpiyim SHOULD & NEED to be appreciated for their time & devotion that they have for the Bochurim, but to stretch it so far to start requesting money as payment? do we criticize Mashpiyim by farbrengen? to we actually care if they come a bit late Most Bochurim understand & are thankful for what Mashpiyim do, not always is it verbalized or in this situation paid for, cuz if you’re doing it for business then they’ll never be an end to this. Lipoyes yes Mashpiyim are doing an amazing job Give a tip but Kol Chayim Shelanu should NOT be after how much we get paid…..
        P.S. just remember that article how we said that our children shouldn’t be brought up on how much well get from this…

  15. This article specifically addressed tishrei not some one off farbrengen in middle of the year.
    I think ppl may not realize that for 6 weeks straight mashpiim are asked to farbreng almost EVERY NIGHT! Often asked to give shiurim to israeli guests during the day too.
    Its practically a full time job- just that for mashpiim living in crown heights its ontop of their full time job!! And thats besides the regular tishrei hecticness that everyone has and the hosting etc.
    Each yeshiva asks for ‘just one or two farbrengens’ – but there are tens of yeshivas here!!! And when the mashpia says ‘ im not sure …’ Bec its hard to refuse chassidishe bochurim who want a good thing! They are pushed…

    Take a moment and imagine yourself / husband / father going out night after night for a month straight! – during the most hectic month of the year – including Friday night, Yom tov night from 10/ 11 pm till wee hours of the morning. And still keeping up with work schedule.
    Would you agree?!?!

    I don’t think that paying mashpiim would make their work any less selfless!!!

    By a wife of one mashpia who values his incredible shlichus, and wishes he’d be shown a little appreciation. Yes my husband gets sick every year after simchas Torah. It just catches up… Hurts to see ppl think that some appreciation would make such mesirus nefesh – pay for play! Were only a few days into tishrei – hes already fabrenged 8 times in last 2 weeks plus several shiurim and talks…

    Wishing everyone much hatzlacha in their shlichus, finding where they give selflessly without limits and having lots of strength to keep going!

  16. Just curious – why can’t mashpiim ask for money?
    Shluchim do it all the time. They ask people for what they need to do their shlichus. Why would it be inappropriate for a mashpia to do the same?

  17. About Time we’re getting around to appreciate the hard and amazing work that our Mashpiyim (& families) go through for our community!!!

  18. There’s a Mashpiya in our Community that had health issues from staying up nights (For Farbrengens) & days (For his Family), IS THIS NORMAL is this what we call appreciation for our Mashpiyim who go to lengths of Mesiras Nefesh for the Bochurim? & then we start mentioning Money its a lot more then just money its more showing that we care & are thankful for all that the Mashpiyim do for us.

    1. תשאל כהנ״ל ל׳בן חמש למקרא׳
      ולכאורה התירוץ הוא, א״כ ׳התוועדות חסידית׳ נהפך ח״ו לניאום וכו׳, שהרי -לפי שיטה זו – זמן התוועדות מוגבל לפי כמה משלמים וכו׳.
      וגם, לפי שיטה זו יש לשלם עבור כל שיחה עם המשפיע, שהרי הוא טורח כו׳, ומה יהי׳ אם הוא במצב דחוף וצריך לדבר עם המפשיע ואין לו כסף? (אפשר לעשות אינטשורנ׳סעבור משפיעים…)
      ועיקר: משפיע מהותו וענינו הוא להתוועד, וכיון שכן, מהי הטירחה כו, הרי אם אחד שהוא אוהב לאכול יש לו טירחה? ועד כדי כך שצריכים לשלם לו?

  19. its mentchlich that people, from their own, should understand to compenstate a mashpia, especially a married one with a family, for their time and dedication.

    If theyre giving so much, and we expect mesirus nefesh from them etc., shouldnt WE have a little “mesirus nefesh” also, and pay for something we value so much?
    Ok, dont call it pay, but showing appreciation and that we value it.

    if you value something, you pay for it.

    I dont know if mashpiim should ask for money, but, I think the audience, i.e. the ones asking him to speak, should have the decency to pay him for his time and service, which often is some of the most valuable things you can get. Life advice.
    Our soul.

    If we really value that, and expect him to be “alltruistic”, we should also be, and show that we value that.

    I dont think it should be the bochurims responsibility though.
    either the mosad/yeshiva.

    Understand that a Mashpia has a family, and needs parnoso.
    He doesnt have a super paying job as it is.

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