The Difference Between a Rebbe and a Psychiatrist

In the early years of the nesius, the Rebbe would receive groups of college students for a joint yechidus. The Rebbe would say a few words and give the students an opportunity to ask questions.

On one such occasion in Elul 5712 (1952), a student asked, “What is the difference between a Rebbe and a psychiatrist?”

The Rebbe responded in terms that the questioner could grasp: “When a psychiatrist treats a patient, he sees him from a distance, as a medical case. In fact, while his primary objective is to help this person integrate into a normal lifestyle, the professional is also interested in this experience to advance his knowledge of the human psyche.

“A Rebbe is different. He dedicates himself entirely to the person who turned to him. A Rebbe gets emotionally involved in the person’s life.

“But after all said and done,” the Rebbe concluded, “a Rebbe is obviously not in place of a psychiatrist. Just like if a person needs an aspirin, the Rebbe will refer him to a chemist, similarly if someone needs psychiatric help, the Rebbe will of course not take the place of the doctor.”

(Teshurah Sandhaus, Shevat 5768)

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