DERECH HaBAAL SHEM TOV
Ahavas HaShem, Ahavas Yisroel, Ahavas HaTorah
THE WAY OF THE BAAL SHEM TOV
Love of G-d, Love of fellow Jews, Love of the Torah
Note: A '*' next to a word indicates that it is translated/explained
in the glossary at the end. Three '*' (* * *) in the text indicates a
break between two sections. A single '*' (*) indicates a separation
between different teachings on the same subject. Anything found
between '[' and ']' are my comments and do not appear in the source
material. Everything else is from the original as is cited at the end
of the article.
1. 'So shall you bless the children of Israel...' (Bamidbar* 5.23)
The usage of the word 'so' is difficult to understand in this verse.
In another verse it says, 'Take the Levites... and purify them. So
shall you do to them.' In that verse it is appropriate [to use the
word 'So'] since the verse has already said 'Purify them.' Then it
says, 'So shall you do.' [This refers to what shall be done to fulfil
the command of purifying the Levites.] However here, how can it say
'So shall you bless...' since there has not been written any command
[for the Kohanim to bless the people.]
[The answer is] that it is known that the actions that Aharon did
brought him to the level that he would always love to make peace. He
would make peace between a man and his friend. [From this] he merited
to make peace between the Jewish people and their Father in Heaven,
as it says in the Zohar*. This comes from his [Aharon's] love of the
Creator, [hence] he loved His son [the Jewish people.] And he desired
to make peace and love between a man and his fellow. This was all
from the source of love [which he was attached to. Aharon] came to
bless the Jewish people from this love.
This is what the verse says:
'To Aharon and his sons say.' [This means that] it is proper to use
the word 'so' because Aharon and his sons, who are the talmidim* of
Aharon and are called 'sons', have the nature that they desire to
bless[others. For them] it is proper to use the word 'So shall you
bless.' [Since their nature was to bless, the verse only needed to
tell them how they should bless others.] (p. 95 sefer Divrei Emes
teachings of Rebbe* Yakov Yitzchok, the Chozeh of Lublin.)
* * *
II. Bringing down Spirituality
2. 'All the days of his abstinence [Heb. nizro] he shall be holy to
HaShem*' (Bamidbar 6.8)
I heard it said in the name of Rebbe Yakov Yitzchok ZTvK'L* of
Lublin[, the Chozeh of Lublin, that the meaning of the words] 'All
the days of his abstinence' refers to when we say [during the Shabbos
musaf* prayer] 'keser' [lit. crown. The word] 'nazir' [abstinence]
also means a 'crown.'
'He shall be holy to HaShem.' The meaning of this is that a person is
required to see his Rebbe on Yom Tov*. [This means at the time] when
they say 'keser.' [By doing this he causes] that a great light [of
holiness] will rest on his Rebbe. Then he will likewise be able to
attain some of that light. [Until here is the teaching of the Chozeh
The explanation of this teaching is: We say 'We will give a crown
[Heb. keser] to you HaShem.' There are [two levels] 'days of this
world' [Heb. yomei Olom] and 'ancient days' [Heb. yomei kedom] The
[meaning of this is that the 'ancient days' refers to a very lofty
spiritual level, while 'days of this world' refers to this physical
world.] The main purpose of our service of HaShem is to bring down
[spiritual blessings] from the 'ancient days' to the 'days of this
[And this is the meaning of] 'We will give a crown to you HaShem.'
i.e. to bring down from the level of 'crown' until the level of
'HaShem'. [To bring the lofty levels of 'ancient days', i.e.
'crown'. To the 'days of this world' i.e. HaShem, the who is was and
This is the meaning of 'All the days of his abstinence.' His service
to HaShem should be on the level to bring down from the high
spiritual levels. From [the level of] 'nizro' which is the level of
'crown' to all the days of this world. i.e. 'The days of this world'
shall 'be holy to HaShem.' (p. 150 sefer Or L'Shamayim teachings of
Rebbe Meir of Apt.)
* * *
III. Bringing the redemption
3. 'Take a census of the children of Gershon also according to their
father's house.' (Bamidbar 4.22)
We can explain this [verse] according to what it says in the Talmud*,
'If the Jewish people would keep Shabbos twice, they would
immediately be redeemed from exile.'
This is the meaning of the verse: 'Take the census.' [Heb rosh lit.
raise up the head] This refers to the holy Shabbos which is called
'head.' It is 'The final act of His creation, which was the first
thing in His thoughts.' [Shabbos is the last day of the week, but was
first in the mind of HaShem.]
We are able to 'raise up the head of the children of Gershon.' These
are the children of Israel who are exiled [Heb. nigrashim] from their
We can also explain it according to the verse, 'Even if I will place
you among the nations, I will gather you' [from exile.] Through the
learning of Torah* we are able to bring closer the redemption.
This is the meaning of 'Raise up the head.' With the holy Torah,
which is called 'head.' As the verse says, 'Your first [Heb.
rosh] word is truth.' Also the letters of the word 'head' are the
first letters of the words: 'Sixty Ten-thousands letters' [which are
the number of letters] in the Torah. Through the holy Torah we are
able to 'raise up the head of the children of Gershon', the children
of Israel who are exiled [Heb. nigrashim] from their land. (p. 166
sefer Kol Yakov teachings of Rebbe Yakov Tzvi Yalish a talmid of the
Chozeh of Lublin.)
* * *
IV. Not being jealous
4. THe Midrash Rabbah* on this parsha* says, '[With regards to] all
the reckonings that Moshe, Aharon and the princes of Israel counted
of the Levites. After they reckoned the Levites according to the
family of the children of Kehos, and the family of the children of
Gershon.... Then he included them all together again. This is to show
you that they were all equally loved by HaShem.'
I have heard with regards to this that even though the service of the
children of Kehos was much more lofty then the service of the
children of Gershon and Merari since they carried the Ark. And also
the service of the children of Gershon was greater then that of the
children of Merari. Even so, when the children of Merari did the
service that belonged to them, it was considered by HaShem as
important as that of the children of Kehos.
From this we learn that a person should not be jealous of his friend,
even with regards to his service of HaShem. He should be satisfied
with the Service to HaShem that he has received to do.
With this idea we should consider what is said in the prayers, 'The
[angels called] Ofanim, and the Chayos HaKodesh rose up to the level
of the Serafim.' The Ofan was not jealous of the Chaya, and the Chaya
was not jealous of the Seraf. The Ofanim and the Chayos were raised
up [to a high level] equal to the service of the Serafim. If one is a
spiritual person he can understand this.
With this idea we can understand what Chazal* say later in the
Midrash* that 'The person with Tzaras* got this because he entered
the domain of another, which was not his. This we learn from [King]
Aziyah, who desired to do the service of the Kohanim. He was jealous
of the service of the Kohanim, and [because of that] the Tzaras broke
out on his face. This is midah kenegid midah*. He [Aziyah] wanted to
rise to a level of service that was not his, therefore he was
expelled from the community [as the law is with regards with a person
who has Tzaras.] (#96 sefer Igra d'Pirka teachings of Rebbe Tzvi
Elimeilech of Dinov.)
* * *
V. Blessing HaShem
5. The Midrash Rabbah says, 'The verse says, "May HaShem lift up his
countenance to you." Does HaShem show favor? Doesn't it say, "Who
does not show favor." How can this be? [HaShem says,] I have written
in My Torah, "You shall eat, and you shall be satisfied, and you
shall bless [HaShem your G-d."] A Jew sits together with his wife and
family, and they don't have enough to eat to satisfy themselves.
They raise their faces to Me and bless [Me.] They are careful with
themselves to make the blessing even [on an amount the size] of an
olive or an egg. Therefore "May HaShem lift up his countenance to
This Midrash is very difficult to understand. However we can explain
it this way. If a person gives his friend a very small gift. This is
not highly considered by the receiver. However if a King gives him a
gift, even if it is a very small one it has a great value to him.
Because it was the king who gave it to him, it becomes very important
to him and he has great enjoyment, [The enjoyment] is even more then
if it had been a greater gift from a common man.
It is the same way with the blessing after eating. Even though the
Torah tells us that we need to eat an amount that satisfies us, it
all depends on the person. Since we know that the King, the King of
Kings is the one who 'gives bread to all flesh.' He prepares for
every creature his needs so that he can exist. We see from this that
even if he eats only the size of an olive, [the food itself] is very
important [to him.] He gets enjoyment from it very much, since it
came to him from the hand of HaShem. As we see from the parable.
This is the explanation of the Midrash:
'How can this be? [HaShem says,] I have written in My Torah, "You
shall eat, and you shall be satisfied, and you shall bless [HaShem
your G-d."] A Jew sits together with his wife and family, and they
don't have enough to eat to satisfy themselves. They raise their
faces to Me and bless [Me.]' This means that they look at who it was
who gave the food to them. Because of the importance of the One who
gives it, they have enjoyment from a small amount. From this they
come to be satisfied and they bless [HaShem.]
This is also the midah* of HaShem. He shows favor to them. He has a
great desire for the small service they perform for Him. Since He
looks at the one who does this service. Even though we are sons of
men with small minds, even so we serve Him. That is the meaning of
'May HaShem lift up his countenance to you.' (p. 114 sefer Kol
Simchah teachings of the Rebbe Reb* Bunim of Peshischa.)
[NOTE: This week I am adding two new features. First will be excerpts
from the sefer Midrash Rivash Tov, which is a collection of letters
and excerpts from various seforim* about Rebbe Yisroel Baal Shem Tov.
The second is the beginning of a translation of the sefer Alpha Beta
by Rebbe Tzvi Hirsch of Nedvorna. It is a small sefer but great in
* * *
VI. Midrash Rivash Tov
6. The main thing with regards to the learning of Torah is that it
should be done for the sake of HaShem's name. He should learn in
order to observe, and do. It all goes according to the intentions of
his heart. This is what causes the completeness of the performance of
a mitzvah*. Before learning you should prepare your thoughts, and
have in mind that you are learning for HaShem's sake without any
other foreign intentions. AS I HAVE BEEN WARNED WITH REGARDS TO THIS
BY MY GREAT TEACHERS IN TORAH AND CHASSIDUS. AMONG THEM MY FRIEND,
HARAV* THE CHASID, THE WONDER OF OUR GENERATION, REBBE YISROEL BAAL
SHEM TOV ZT'L*. The intention in learning Torah for HaShem's sake
that is the most acceptable is to attach himself to the letters with
holiness and purity, with action speech and thought. He should
attach the five levels of his soul in holiness. The mitzvos are a
candle and the Torah is light. The letters make one wise and bestows
a holy light and strength.
When you merit to understand and attach yourself to the letters with
holiness YOU WILL EVEN BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND FROM THE LETTERS FUTURE
EVENTS. Therefore it says that the Torah enlightens the eyes. It
bring sight to the eyes and causes the light to be attached to them
with holiness and purity, just like the letters on the breastplate of
the Kohen Gadol. From the time I attached myself with love to MY
TEACHER HARAV YISROEL I UNDERSTOOD CLEARLY THAT HE ACTED IN THESE
WAYS, WITH HOLINESS AND PURITY WITH HIGH LEVELS OF CHASSIDUS AND
SEPARATION. HIS WISDOM WAS RIGHTEOUS, AND IN HIS FAITH HE LIVED. THE
HIDDEN THINGS WERE REVEALED TO HIM, THE GLORY OF HASHEM HAS HIDDEN
THIS THING. (p. 19 in the name of the sefer Sod Yachin e'Voaz by
Rebbe Meir Margulios.)
* * *
VII. Alpha-Beta by Rebbe Tzvi Hirsch of Nedvorna
[Emes] Truth: To speak truth. To not allow any false words to leave
your mouth. For this one must have Mesiros Nefesh* in order to attach
himself to the body of the king, as is known.
[Emunah] Trust/Faith: To be faithful to his words to fulfil
everything that he says. Even if someone would give you all the money
in the world you should not change your word. Included in this is to
not consider even in your thoughts any falsehoods, or foolishness in
order to fulfil the verse, 'And words of truth in your heart.' And
that which arises in your heart to do, whether a specific midah, or a
good custom, and even more to do a mitzvah, you should fulfil it.
Even if you have not stated it aloud, [you should do it] in order to
fulfil 'And the words of truth in your heart.' Those things which
help one to do this are: To speak very little with other people. To
not have many thoughts at once. Just have in mind a single thought of
the service of HaShem. Even when it comes to the service of HaShem
you should consider only those things that you are able to do now.
The reason is that the multiplicity of thoughts causes confusion and
keeps a person from serving HaShem.
Zechisom Yugan Aleini v'Al Kol Yisroel
Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages
of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
HaRav: The Rov (see Rov).
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
mesiros nefesh: Hebrew for self sacrifice
midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad.
midah kenegid midah: Heb. measure for measure
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
Midrash Rabbah: Major Midrashic work on the Torah
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
musar: Hebrew for moral instruction.
Parsha (Parshos): lit. 'portion' refers to the portion of the Torah
read each week.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Rebbe Reb: A title added to a few special Rebbes as a sign of their
higher spiritual stature.
sefer(seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible
b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law
c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tzaras: A skin growth described in the Torah, that is sent to
Yom Tov(Yomim Tovim): Hebrew name for 'holiday'
Zohar: Hebrew/Aramaic Rabbinical Kabbalistical work that is one of
the most important sources for Kabbalah, and was very influential
ZT'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The
memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZTvK'L: Hebrew initials of the words:Zechor Tzaddik veKadosh
LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous man and a Kodosh -
a holy man is a blessing)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman (email@example.com)
All rights reserved.
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