Dec 24, 2014
Mashpia Writes to 13-Year-Old
Illustration photo: Mendy Hechtman

From the COLlive Inbox: Some pearls of wisdom from Mashpia Rabbi Yossi Paltiel to a boy at his bar Mitzvah, on core questions in life.

Dear COLlive readers:

My son was challenged by a relative to call nine relatives and ask core questions that are critical for a bochur to know as he starts his journey in life.

Here are some loving and patiently written pearls of wisdom from the Mashpia Rabbi Yossi Paltiel to a 13 year old as he prepares for his Bar Mitzvah.


Dear Mendel,
I received your letter, and, I must say, you know how to ask ‘em. In nine questions you included essentially all of Chassidus. I'm answering your question by speaking to a voice sensing machine that transcribes, so I'm going to avoid using Hebrew words the machine cannot understand.

1. How does a Lubavitcher Bochur get not caught up in gashmiyus, in materialism?

I think the answer to this question is by being very honest with yourself. I'll tell you what I mean; some people think that a person should either be perfect or nothing. Either I should have absolutely nothing to do with materialism or if I cannot completely separate myself from materialism I might as well be materialistically indulgent with no constraints.

What a lot of young people find is that they cannot be perfect so they give up.
They say to themselves if I really mean this and I am really a Chassidisher person then I should be able to manage myself and control myself from any and all material involvement and temptation.

But this is completely unrealistic and results in depression and failure and despair and resignation.

For a person to manage materialism properly, they must first of all admit that they not only need physical things but that they actually want physical things and enjoy physical things.

Only after they admit this to themselves, should they tell themselves that they want to manage their involvement in physical things and limit it, both for religious purposes and psychological reasons.

After that, they will choose one (and only one) area of physical things where they [‘do Iskafia’-] will limit themselves or not allow themselves to have a physical pleasure, simply because it is pleasure. They will never take on all areas at once. They will limit or stop involving themselves in one thing and as time passes they will add additional things that they will manage.

No Chossid should ever feel that he is suffering because of his (Iskafia and) Chasidishkiet: it must always be something that they take on willingly and freely and happily.

They have chosen to do this and are not forced to do it and they can change it anytime.

Also, the moment you begin to feel burdened and depressed by the pressure you put on yourself, you have to back down; because the real test; whether you are managing materialism in a healthy way or in an unhealthy way, is whether it makes you happier or sadder.

Mastering and controlling yourself should make you very happy; it is the ultimate event of going out of Egypt, breaking out of limitations.
If this mastering and controlling yourself makes you unhappy, that is the greatest proof that it is wrong and needs to be stopped curtailed or changed.
You will only stop yourself from over indulgence in material things if you feel empowered by the challenge; and not forced, controlled or imprisoned by the need for Iskafia.

2. What is the diff between a frum Bochur and a Lubavitcher Bochur?

In one sentence the difference is chayos, Chassidus, adds to Yiddishkiet life and energy and positivity.

The meaning of the word Bochur is a young person.
Young people have a very big upside and a very big downside.

The upside is energy and freshness and enthusiasm and a trust and a hope.
The downside is inexperience an intensity that leads them to be too impulsive. Another frequency found flaw in young people is superficiality, this means they don't deliberate enough, and though they get very excited initially, they may just as quickly lose interest.

In Chassidic terminology this means there is a Chitzoniyus and shitchiyus quality to everything they do.

The solution in young people is a faith and enthusiasm in their Yiddishkiet.
This is what is special about Chassidus for a Bochur, the life and excitement, acceptance and dedication more than compensate for this problem of youth.
This Chayos is a real Emuna in the truth of what he is so dedicated to, that motivates in the Bochur a lack of fear of Olom Hazeh.

A Chassidisher Bochur is very certain about what he believes because of the energy and the soul which defines him.

In other words, Yiddishkiet is always a combination of faith and reason, acceptance and work: commitment to something bigger than ourselves and personal obligation and work.

However, in Chassidus as a whole and to a Chassidisher bochur in particular, the first priority is the energy and faith; while the personal work and achievement, though very important, comes second.

3. How is a 13 year old Bochur supposed to daven?

1) Three times a day, 2) In a Shul, 3) with a Minyan 4) that doesn't go too fast 5) or too slow. 6) You should have a regular place where you stand 7) and you should not pace while you daven 8) you should look in the siddur, 9) and you should slowly learn the meaning of the words, so that over the course of a few years you can know enough to daven with pirush hamilos.

10) If you are able and when you will be able you should attempt to think to Chassidus 5 minutes before davening in the morning, after putting on your Tefilin. There is a letter from the previous Rebbe, explaining 7 reasons why thinking Chassidus then is most appropriate and ideal.

11) What you should not do is ever stop davening with a Minyan and davening longer. This should not happen until you are much older or perhaps never at all.
I know there are many young boys doing this and it is wrong, very wrong. And the proof is that they don't stay with it. After a while they stop, but they continue not davening with a Minyan using their former holiness as the justification for the current neglect of what davening is really supposed to be.

Now I'll explain a little bit.

The most important thing to know about davening in general and especially the davening of a young person is that it must be normal.

In our tradition there are many examples of people davening for many hours. Some people imagine that people who did this were living disconnected spiritual lives; they then attempt to imitate them, by acting out the Mishuga’asen ahead of the serious work and Chassidus.

But this is not true at all: the greatest Chassid, who was the most serious daveners, if he wasn't fooling himself, did what he did in a way that was very much connected to his regular life that gave integrity to his exercise.
Davening is not living in a fantasy; its working hard and serving the creator of the world. You must be very careful not to let hopefulness and fantasies cloud your objective sense of self in this area.

4. Teach me one Vort that you know from the Rebbe that's important for me.

There was a young man who was learning in 770 who was brilliant, and he knew it, he was therefore quite arrogant with pretty good justification.

His friends who were raised in the tradition of ChaBaD, that one of the worst things one could be is arrogant, couldn't stand his arrogance. They repeatedly reprimanded and teased him about it, telling him (in ways that only Bochurim can) how inappropriate for a Chassid this was.

Eventually he realized that he had a serious problem, and he actually went into the Rebbe to discuss it.

He expected to be given a method by which he could humble himself and crush his tendency towards arrogance.

But the Rebbe did nothing of the sort; he told him the following “nu, zul Chutch Zain mit vus”. This means: don't worry about your arrogance, it's actually a good thing or it could be a good thing, just make sure that whatever you think of yourself, you actually are.

If you think you're a scholar, or a genius, or a very pious person, just be all those things.

Many people think that our tradition believes, in crushing people’s egos, but the Rebbe didn't think so. The Rebbe understood that the greatest motivation for accomplishing great things in this world is ego.
Ga’ava can be a very good thing don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

5. What’s the diff between how a Lubavitcher Bochur dresses compared to the rest of the world?

In short the answer is you must dress like a mentch but clothing must never be something which is very important to you.

In the world it is acceptable to be busy with how you look. According to Halacha for a man to be too busy with how he looks may actually problematic, but many people have found heterim (justifications and excuses) to explain why even men are allowed to do this.

In many of our Yeshivos today there are dress codes with standards for shoes, shirts, pants, hats and so on. All of this is symptomatic of our times, where young men are preoccupied with how they look. It’s unfortunate, because it would be far better if it was a non-issue, and there would be no need to create rules, because the values would be the way they're supposed to be.

And those values again are: you have to be decent, you have to be presentable, but it's never allowed to become that important.

6. Why is it so important to have a Rebbe?

The most basic answer to this question is because each one of us need somebody to tell us what we must do right now. The Torah is ancient and its truths timeless, but in each time, there's a different emphasis and a different priority.

The Rebbe is the one who tells us what God wants from us specifically now.
This is very important and very serious, and unfortunately many people don't think it is, because a lot of people think that Jews are always doing the same thing no matter what, and that is not the case.

Nothing about Judaism changes ever, but at the same time so much of the world changes, and accordingly, so much of what we must do in implementing Judaism changes.

In the last two generations the changes that have taken place in the Jewish world have been historic, and they require a leader of historic proportions.

It has been centuries since the need for such a leader has been so obvious and critical.

On this level the need for the Rebbe is very obvious: and not to understand this is very foolish and sad.

What this means to you, is, that the Rebbe tells us what we must do and we do it. Nothing is more important in the Chossid Rebbe relationship than doing what we're told.

But this is only the basic and practical issue, and there's more to the idea of a Rebbe, much more.

Judaism in general and Chassidus in particular believe in Souls, Neshamos.
We further believe in the interconnectedness of all souls (Tanya Ch. 2). We further believe that all the souls make up one body with some are the head, some are the eyes, others the nose or the mouth while others are the arms, legs, fingers, toes, hair, skin and nails.

All the souls are spiritually connected as are all limbs of the body.
But just as in a body, a head is far more important than any other limb, as it is the nerve center of the entire body, similarly in the collective body of the Jewish people the Rebbe is the head.

He Soul is 1) the source of all the souls of his generation, 2) he feels each and every one of our souls (and all of us collectively) 3) keeps us together and 4) is responsible to continue giving us life, both materially and spiritually.
In other words, most of a Rebbe does for Yidden, they simply don’t know, because it is spiritual and subliminal. The instructions he gives to his Chassidim and his generation are secondary to the inner soul connection he has with us.
What this means is quite involved, and for the purpose of this discussion, what I wrote will have to be enough.

7. What should a 13 Bochur learn in Chassidus?

Probably the most important things for you to learn right now would be the Sichos (talks) and Igros (letters) of the previous Rebbe. Because in his talks and letters, he teaches, in a very warm and living way, using many stories and classic short but fiery thoughts, what Chassidus is.

There is nothing like having a Rebbe for a teacher: or: there is nothing like having a warm personal Chassidisher Farbrengen with a Rebbe.

I would propose to you that there are three things you need to learn at this point.
Number one Tanya. Nothing is more important in the life of a Jew and especially in the life of a Chossid than Tanya.

If you could memorize some of it by heart so that you can carry it with you wherever you go, and use it as a way of keeping yourself busy and (therefore) protected from the environments you will be in, that is ideal.

But whether you can memorize it or you cannot, you must learn Tanya.
You need to know about the Godly Soul and Animal Soul, the war between them, and hear about the possibility of winning the realest war in our lives which is the war we have to fight with ourselves, to be people and not animals.

To learn about self-mastery and self-control, discipline, responsibility, consistency and hard work.

To learn about the possibility for a human being to own the one thing in the world he can actually possess: which is himself.

We do this by making good choices, teaching ourselves self-control and discipline, so that we have the strength to stop ourselves when the tests becomes severe, and the ability to make ourselves act when we're really lazy.
All this you will learn from Tanya.

In addition you must learn Likutei Sichos for the purposes of establishing a connection with the Rebbe, and knowing the specific directions that he gives us for our generation.

You must learn at least 1 Sicha a week.

In addition to both of those you need to spend time learning the Sichos and Igros of the previous Rebbe as I mentioned before.

When I was a teenager I read these things in bed before going to bed, and it was a very important influence in my life.

If Yiddish as a language is not too difficult for you, I would advise you to do the same. If Yiddish is too difficult for you, then you must make a time every day to learn some of the Sichos with somebody who can help you with the language.

8. What does it mean for me to live with Moshiach?

It means to have a feeling that you personally miss him and need him. That Moshiach is not only an idea written about in holy books that holy people worry about, but something that is really necessary for you and your life.

This is impossible unless you understand what Moshiach means. You need to learn that this idea has practical significance and it's practically achievable,
Even though only God can bring him we can set up the circumstances that will allow God Almighty to bring him down into this world. It has so much to do with our work on ourselves and on our environment.

We're not big people we cannot change the world all by ourselves but each one of us can do something very significant in affecting the whole world: Jews and non-Jews, in a way that brings the idea and the reality of Moshiach closer
As you know the Rebbe would very often sight the RaMbaM who teaches each of us (from the Gemara) that we must see the world as balanced (50/50) and the one good deed we do is the one that will tip the scale for us personally and for the entire world a s a whole in the direction of good and bring down Moshiach.

9. How can I connect to the Rebbe?

This question has already been asked and answered in the HaYom Yom.
Learn his teachings, follow his directive that means do what he says to do in all aspect beginning with ChiTaS, RaMbaM, being a real Tumim, and then reaching out to others on Mivtzoyim etc.

Also to participate in Farbrengens where the warmth and joy in other words the soul of Chassidus can get inside you and then call out from within you your own soul, your own Chossid.


You asked me ‘only a few’ questions but these are far from ‘just a couple of questions’.

On the now passed occasion of your Bar Mitzvah my wife and I wish you your parents grand-parents etc. only health revealed good and much nachas from you.
And you, well you must toil, devote every ounce of strength God almighty gave you to grow in Torah and Mitzvos and eventually in Middos.

- Rabbi Yossi Paltiel

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
Thank you so much Rabbi Paltiel
Thank you COL for posting- please post more things of this sort
(12/24/2014 7:37:26 PM)
exceptionally beautiful and on target.
Thank you for sharing positive and good quality pieces COL.
(12/24/2014 7:43:25 PM)
So meaningful
Thank you or posting so down to earth and so much to think about. Thank you col for posting these meaningful articles.
(12/24/2014 7:48:34 PM)
straight to the point
so deep yet so clear!
(12/24/2014 7:55:28 PM)
with the old breed
oh boy... at 13 you want it all...just go for emes one step at a time and ask the boss for help.. it is not easy but it is worth it...
(12/24/2014 7:56:07 PM)
nittel nacht
1) Three times a day, 2) In a Shul, 3) with a Minyan 4) that doesn't go too fast 5) or too slow. 6) You should have a regular place where you stand 7) and you should not pace while you daven 8) you should look in the siddur, 9) and you should slowly learn the meaning of the words, so that over the course of a few years you can know enough to daven with pirush hamilos.

what's wrong with davening "too slow[ly]"? Davening is not a race.
If it helps him to pace while davening, it's fine (except for the verse of Shema Yisroel and the Amidah).

What does davening with a minyan mean? Should he go in order at his own pace (which is NOT called "with the minyan") or should he skip in order to say the silent Amidah with the minyan?
(12/24/2014 8:14:18 PM)
i am a fan
I listen to Rabbi Paltiel on the radio a lot. I consider him my teacher.
(12/24/2014 8:22:06 PM)
agree 100%
very well answered
but this should not only be for a 13yr old it should be for all chassidim
I really answer number 5, unfortunately in todays age lots of
bochorim and girls are too into fashion and they dont even realize something is wrong with it---poor values
(12/24/2014 8:31:33 PM)
How does one contact this esteemed Rabbi if one has questions
I have never seen such clarity and realistic Chassidishkiet

how can I be in touch with him ?
(12/24/2014 8:36:33 PM)
Chassidishe nachas
What a beautiful challenge to have these questions asked to relatives and mashpiim before your son became bar mitzvah such a meaningful way of preparing for the big day, something to learn from:) Chassidishe nachas!
(12/24/2014 8:50:22 PM)
thank you col
you really gave me clarity please post more of this sort
(12/24/2014 9:31:34 PM)
This was so inspiring, practical, and informative. As someone who did not have a family member mashpiah on that level, it is awesome to hear this advice. Through this short article I feel like I get a lot of the points that have NEVER been explained to me clearly before.
(12/24/2014 9:33:20 PM)
T.T. of the Capital District Alum
Rabbi Paltiel always knew how to build a bochur up without tearing him down... The good people in chinuch never change. Yasher Koach, Rabbi Paltiel!
(12/24/2014 9:58:46 PM)
Thanks or posting
So refreshing reading such meaningful articles like this that can help us raise and educate our children with direction and clarity. Keep up such articles. Maybe a weekly post from a mashpia on Chinuch, hiskashrus would be great!
(12/24/2014 10:34:03 PM)
can we please have more of this? this is so refreshing
(12/24/2014 10:58:56 PM)
What about some clarity for my teen age daughter
Its such a wonderful and confusing age - and she is trying so hard- who can I ask these sort of questions to ..

What is the daily learning /davening that is expected from a girl

anyone ?
(12/24/2014 11:04:22 PM)
Disagree with a couple of points
1.I have seen with my own eyes kids that are old and still try to convince themselves that they say the words. I am thirteen and I daven slowly because I know if I do them normal pace for adults-I am not saying every syllable properly.
2. It's obvious from chassidushe sources that a young brochure should not Dave bearish us however I personally find my davening to be empty and full of either non related thoughts or machos have zoros r"l. I daven with the tzivos Hashem siddur and read every word I can until I would be late.
(12/24/2014 11:34:57 PM)
a mother
kol hakavod well explained!
(12/24/2014 11:40:33 PM)
a bachur who wants more help
Dear rabbi Paltiel can u plz do. A weekly essay ??
(12/25/2014 1:01:09 AM)
what about a farbrengen once in a while
For bochrim of different ages like mesivtah, zal, by rabbi Paltiel on collive?
(12/25/2014 1:02:23 AM)
Saved to my hard drive :)
Rabbi Paltiel's advice is not only applicable to bar mitzvah boys, I am an old lady and there is a lot in there that can help me too, I am saving it to my hard drive so I can reread it regularly.

I second the suggestion of #19, a weekly essay would be fantastic! (And completely in keeping with the saying, if you need something done, ask a busy person!!!)

Meanwhile, for anyone who might not know, Rabbi Paltiel gives many shiurim on and they are archived there, you can pretty much pick what you want to learn about.
(12/25/2014 4:29:28 AM)
special brand of clarity...

(12/25/2014 6:32:15 AM)
you can hear, and read, Rabbi Paltiel whenever you have a chance!
i agree COL please feature him more
(12/25/2014 6:40:53 AM)
Thank You !

Proud M .P.
(12/25/2014 7:35:50 AM)
So to the point
Great thoughts to think about and to the point this is really for all ages and a lot of good reading for all ages girls and boys . Thanks for posting this, clear to the point inspiration
(12/25/2014 11:36:13 AM)
A Lubavitch 'Dear Abby'
In light of the incredible response from the entire spectrum of Lubavitch (men, women young and told, Shluchim and Baalei Battim etc. ) there is obviously a thirst for such clarity in the modern age. Perhaps COL can publish it weekly column in the spirit of Dear Abby that can address the many questions are all facing now days. Granted not answer apply to everyone however it will generally very good conversations. Do you perhaps the panel of mashpiam (both rabbis and rebbitzens).
(12/25/2014 3:10:30 PM)
Yehudis Bluming for Teenage Girls

I would contact her-

She understands their heart and really connects and relates to them

Chassidish yet with it
(12/25/2014 3:31:53 PM)
wow. i esp. loves the first question. thank u rabbi paltiel!
(12/25/2014 5:05:32 PM)
Thank you!
...From a Bubby who also gained from this piece, and who hopes to spread the knowledge to others IYH.
(12/25/2014 6:38:42 PM)
to #19 who wants a weekly essay
R' Paltiel did just that for a very long time. The essays, on Chassidus, were published in Beis Moshiach. I have copies of them in a binder. They are excellent. I asked him years ago when he's publishing it as a book. Got an ambiguous answer about the work it will take. Those who know him, nudge him and offer to help!
(12/25/2014 9:39:47 PM)
Just read
Finally got a chance to read great meaningful content that is so needed today. We need as much inspiration we can to raise the youth today. Keep up such articles.
Thank you for sharing
(12/26/2014 12:05:41 AM)
Rabbi paltiel is 100% right about davening longer. Sometimes boys get the impression taught by certain yeshivos that it's 'chassidish' to open up a sefer chassidus smack in middle of davening, or that is important to either fake it or really self lament in middle of davening I.E. Shuckling with your eyes closed thinking about who knows what - that is what rabbi paltiel is saying. Usually these acts are empty- I clearly remember that stage of my mesivta life, and many of my peers admitted to me they don't know why they do it or what they are doing - they just see others doing it in middle of davening so the follow suit. Although chassidus does sometimes embrace the fake it till you make it attitude, davening is clearly not a time for faking it. Saying each word with Pirush Hamilos WITH The Minyan is the IS THE IDEAL WAY TO DAVEN according to chassidus. If you are holding at a stage where your Mashpia says to learn some chasidus in middle of Davening to snap you back in to the proper mode, I guess we can't argue, but many don't agree with it at all.
(12/26/2014 12:46:26 AM)
Hakaras HaTov
R' Paltiel wows us again. Yasher koach.
(12/26/2014 1:28:50 AM)
Thank you COL for posting this article.
This article brought up 30 plus comments on chassidus! Thank you col for bringing it up.
(12/26/2014 1:57:51 AM)
Was so priviledge to have Rabbi Paltiel as a teacher...
This is absolutely amazing and Emes. It's well written and thought out. I miss Rabbi Paltiel and his amazing classes.
I will print this and put it on my fridge to remind us of what our true goals are.
(12/26/2014 11:28:05 AM)
so inspiring!
first of all, the father who suggested this as a hachana to his son's becoming a bar-mitzvah is doing something right with regard his child's chinuch; hats off to him. second, i don't know what other answers the bar-hamitzvah received , but it's gratifying to know that he recognized this answer as one so special and inspiring he decided to share it with us. how good is that! third, thank you, rabbi paltiel for taking this young bochur's request seriously and putting so much thought and effort into answering him. look at the deep response it has generated from the public. btw, it does seem, doesn't it, that when we don't pontificate AT our young people but rather communicate WITH them we have a greater chance of dvorim hayotz'eem meen ha'laiv actually neechnaseem el ha'laiv. finally, consider the hashgacha protis in all of this: a young bochur makes a request of a mashpia. hundreds, if not thousands, benefit from the answer; and who knows, perhaps this may serve as the catalyst for a phenomenal long-running feature on COL. all of which serves to remind me: ashreinu mah tov chelkainu. how very blessed are we to be chasidai chabad; and how truly lucky to have amongst us mashpiim such as rabbi paltiel et al.
(12/29/2014 2:27:26 AM)
This is perfect! So important and inspiring!
(12/31/2014 7:44:36 AM)
Rabbi Paltiel breathes and lives all of these ideas, you can only begin to imagine the kind of thought and preparation he would have put into this - his ideas come from the heart and hence reach our hearts, in a very pure place. I encourage you to seek him out as a religious leader. And find your own practise that is real and within reach for you all! Chag Sameach
(5/23/2015 4:06:44 AM)
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