Am I My Brother’s Spiritual Keeper?

In the personal affairs market, life coaching has not reached it’s potential, but in the upper echelons of corporate America it is alive and kicking. In well run larger corporations, the higher level executives contribute greatly to the company’s success, so they invest in coaching for their top people. A friend in a Fortune 50 company has a coach to help him improve in various areas of his life. It’s an extremely valuable service and it’s unfortunate that most of us don’t have access to such help.

There is one area where we do have coaches, in the spiritual dimension of our lives. In yeshivos and seminaries, the Rebbeim and teachers serve that role. When we leave those havens, our Shul Rebbeim serve as spiritual coaches through their drashos and their personal guidance. An underutilized avenue of valuable spiritual coaching is also available from our fellow Shul members. This coaching takes two forms passive and active.

Passive spiritual coaching occurs when someone sets a positive example for his friend or neighbor. In our Shul, certain members felt the local Yeshivos would be a better place to daven. My Rav felt that the effect members have on each other is important and often overlooked. The words and behavior of a Rav or a full time Yeshiva student are to some degree discounted, because they’re living more spiritually focused lives than the working person who spends much time in secular pursuits. However when a person sees a friend or neighbor in similar life circumstance, spending that extra 30 minutes learning, taking on another chesed or working on his davening, it makes a impact. Over time, these impacts foster growth.

Active spiritual coaching, although not as common, can take the form of a Mussar Vaad, or an agreement among friends to help one another. However, most people that I know are reticent to give direct spiritual advice to someone else. In a recent play-listed shiur, Rabbi Yosef Viener, Rav of Kehilas Shaar Shamayim, Monsey. states that we each have a continuing obligation to help our friends and neighbors grow. How we do that depends on the situation. In another shiur, Making Sense of the Final Exile – Part 1, Rabbi Viener related a story of a Shul member phoning his friend every morning for months at 5:30 am, to attend the pre-Shacharis Daf Yomi shiur. The called member was appreciative and hopeful that some day he would heed the call and wake up early to attend.

Individually and as a community, we benefit from peer-to-peer spiritual coaching. The forms that this takes will differ from Shul to Shul and member to member. As growth oriented Shuls continue to mature, we’ll hopefully see many more successful models.