The Rebbe Told Me Not to Use Self-Help Books

Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar, director of the Aleph Institute, shares a fascinating unpublished response that he received from the Rebbe advising him to turn to “true Torah leaders” with questions on education and the like and not “outside books.”

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Self-development is a popular topic, and many are looking for ways to improve their own selves and how they educate their children. With the number of secular books available on “self-help,” some are inclined to turn to them and extract kosher advice for life.

Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar, shliach of the Rebbe to Bal Harbour, FL, and director of the Aleph Institute, shared a fascinating unpublished response that he received from the Rebbe on where to look for guidance on education and wellbeing.

In a conversation with, Rabbi Lipskar shared the background story:

“In 5741 (1981), I was going through some things, and I began looking at various self-help books. At some point, I notified the Rebbe of what I was reading, and this was the Rebbe’s response.

“Interestingly, the Rebbe had given me the same response eleven years earlier in 5729 (1969). That’s why this maineh begins, כמענתי מאז, as I have answered in the past.”

The Rebbe’s response (free translation):

“As I have answered in the past:

“In the realm of education and the like, to learn and teach and follow its ways, you can rely – with an assured heart – upon the true Torah leaders, without any need whatsoever to look in outside books. If you see an urgency to do so, you should consult a practicing rov who knows you.”

The text of the Rebbe’s response as transcribed at the time by Rabbi Lipskar:

כמענתי מאז
בשטח החינוך והשייכות לזה
ללמוד וללמד ולהתנהג על פיהם
ובלב בטוח יכול לסמוך על גדולי התורה האמתיים ואין צריך כלל וכלל לחפש בספרי חיצוניים ואם יש נחיצות בזה יתייעץ עם רב מוה”ר המכירו

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  1. Thanks for the post. I’m not saying the title can’t be an interpretation of the ma’ane or a derivative, but let’s be clear, the ma’ane was in regards to education, not a 50 year old who’s looking for a book on time management or how to best handle their anxiety.

    1. Rabbi Lipskar’s case was about general life issues, not education in the narrow sense.

  2. The current translation is much less nuances than the rebbes actual words.

    The correct word choice for lechapes is “seek” not “look” and nechitzus is “need” not “urgency”.

  3. One more point where the English is much stricter than the Rebbe’s own words:

    ואם יש נחיצות בזה

    “If you see an urgency to do so” vs.
    “If there is a need for this”

    Miles apart in application.

    1. ואם יש נחיצות בזה יתייעץ עם רב מוה”ר המכירו

      Regardless of the exact translation of נחיצות,
      the Rebbe’s instruction is the same, discuss with etc.
      Thus the Rebbe’s answer is stand alone strict, in this matter, regardless of exact translation…

    2. From Google translate (and you can also check a dictionary):

      הֶכְרֵחִי, נָחוּץ, צָרִיך, חִיוּנִי, מְחוּיָב הַמְצִיאוּת
      דָרוּשׁ, נָחוּץ, מְבוּקָשׁ
      חִיוּנִי, הֶכְרֵחִי, מַהוּתִי, יְסוֹדִי, נָחוּץ, תַמצִיתִי
      נָחוּץ, חִיוּנִי, דָרוּשׁ, צָרִיך
      נָחוּץ, דָרוּשׁ
      מִיָדִי, נָחוּץ
      דָחוּף, בָּהוּל, נָחוּץ


      צורך = need

      צורך is a very commonly used word in the Rebbe’s responses, and yet, he does not use it here.

  4. can we have a video from Rabbi Lipskar discussing this? just a little more context. what was he looking for? did he ever speak with a Rov? What did the Rov say?

  5. Firstly, this seems to have nothing to do with “self help” books? Perhaps it would be worthwhile to give some context as to what R Lipsker was actually asking about?

    1. It doesn’t matter what you call them. The Rebbe says not to take advice from any “outside books” (ספרי חיצוניים) and instead to go to Torah leaders.

      It’s surprising how some people have such a hard time accepting this, and feel the need to twist and reinterpret the Rebbe’s clear words.

      1. You’re absolutely correct. There seems to be an entire group of people who are so attached to secularism that they can’t be open to the possibility that this is wrong.

        Kudos to for keeping the truth alive!

      2. Perhaps those people have a hard time understanding this, because they have real life experience with their children, themselves, their spouses, or others, and have followed the directives of Rabbis’ advice on topics they’re not trained to handle with disastrous results

        1. That is why the Rebbe wrote that he should consult “true Torah leaders.” People consult in unqualified rabbis instead of real rabbonim and then they are upset when it doesn’t work out.

          Just as there are qualified and unqualified doctors, the same is true with rabbonim. You need to find the qualified people.

    1. The Rebbe may have been more cautious with self-help books because they can see unholy things and also possibly be misinterpreted. An actual human therapist has less of that concern, as seen from the multiple letters where the Rebbes encourages people to seek psychotherapy, but never encourages reading, self-help books.

      1. I read in a self help book written by a prominent psychotherapist that the proper way to handle unhealthy anger is by squeezing the scattered barking into an “assertive” bullet. You calmly but firmly get your point across in a healthy effective manner. That is against what Tanya calls for in the end of chapter 12 (zero tolerance).

        Just because statistics prove it works for 80 percent of humans does not mean it works for couples of the Jewish race who feature the trait of sensitivity. Researchers simply do not have sufficient data culled from this isolated population to reach any meaningful conclusion.

        Unless you don’t believe in the lore that we are different. But you can’t argue with genetics.

        1. Tanya addressses the Nefesh Elokis. Secular books address the Nefesh Hasichlis. Never heard of this method, but Do you have any data suggesting that this method would not work as well for 80% of Jews?

        1. אגרות קודש חלק ט״ו עמוד רכב, רלז, אג״ק חלק ט׳ ע׳ שג, ליקוטי שיחות חלק ל״ו עמוד שכד, שכה, שכו, לקו״ש חלק כ״א, עמוד 436, חלק ל״ט ע׳ שכד. For English letters See “Healthy in Body Mind and Spirit” from Sichos In English copyright 2007, pages 23, 82, 117, 162, 181, 200, 201, 210, 215, 224, 227, 228 and 236

    1. The article says:
      “The text of the Rebbe’s response as transcribed at the time by Rabbi Lipskar”

  6. Thank you Rabbi Lipsker for sharing this. Thank you Aleph for being there for me when nobody else would.

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