We can also find hints for guides and advisers when we compare the behavior of a real tzaddik to that of a regular rabbi or rebbetzin. Not that anyone is perfect, but certain aspects tell us if things are on the right track.
For example, on page 136 of Words of Faith Vol II, we meet Rav Yisrael Karduner, one of the Breslov tzaddikim of the previous generations, who died in Tiveria in 1920.
Rav Karduner was known for his tremendous fire when he prayed or even just made a blessing, and also for his bleak poverty. His home literally lacked even bread and he went out into the fields to talk to Hashem while wearing torn ill-fitting shoes. Yet even then, he simply cried out to Hashem to either give him shoes or give him the mindfulness (daat) to really accept that he doesn’t need shoes.
In fact, his most oft-quoted words are: "There was someone [Rebbe Nachman] who called out 100 years ago, 'Never give up!' And we still hear that voice today."
At that time, Rav Karduner suffered greatly from attacks by those opposed to the Breslov path. Rav Karduner’s disciple, R. Yisrael Ber Odesser, possessed a particularly tender & sensitive soul, and suffered horribly from the opposition.
Once, R. Yisrael Ber Odesser poured out his heart to Rav Karduner. Rav Karduner listened as R. Yisrael Ber Odesser expressed his profound suffering and distress.
After he finished, Rav Karduner empathized, “Indeed, I also suffer and am discouraged like you from the venom of the difficult attacks.”
Then Rav Karduner encouraged him, “But I am able to stand because I used the ‘healing signs’ of the Rebbe. In their power, I am able to hold on…”
Please notice that Rav Karduner did not tell his chassid, “Oh, you think you have it bad? You should see what they do to me.” Or, “Well, just let it roll off your back. After all, I don’t let it get to me.” Or, "Just feel sorry for them. I mean, don't you feel bad for them?"
Nope. No one-up, no competition, no put-downs, no minimizing the very real pain of rejection and verbal abuse.
Nor did Rav Karduner chirp, “Just have emuna! Just daven! Gam zeh l’tovah—it’s all for the best!”
(Even though such phrases are true: A downcast person needs emuna, needs to daven, and everything really is for the best. But Rav Karduner knew that Rav Yisrael Ber already knew all that. Yet like most of us, he's familiar with the concepts, yet the intense abuse got him down anyway. That's totally normal.)
Instead, Rav Karduner listened. Then he empathized. In fact, though he was Rav Yisrael Ber’s mentor, Rav Karduner wasn't above admitting: “I am discouraged like you.”
Like you. And Rav Karduner called the attacks what they were: venom. Difficult.
Then Rav Karduner gave the necessary chizuk and humbly explained that the only way he himself withstood the attacks was not on his own merit, but on the strength of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings.
Rav Karduner’s behavior is a helpful directive for us all:
- Encourage; give chizuk.
May Hashem grant us all the wisdom, binah, and daat to say the right thing in every situation.