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.
I. Joy on Succos
1. On the holiday of Succos every Jew should renew his service of
HaShem* with joy. This can be compared to a king who had a son who
fled from him. After a period of time he returned to his father and
to his service. The king didn't want to reward him because he was
not sure that he was sincere and if his returning was from a sincere
desire [for the king] and not from fear of the king. However when he
saw that he served him with joy and love he knew that he had returned
in sincerity with a full heart. This is the level of [the joy of]
Succos. (p. 144 sefer Toras Avos teachings of the Rebbes* of Solonim,
Lechovitz and Kobrin. This one was from Rebbe Avraham of Solonim.)
* * *
II. Tshuva* on Succos
2. It is well known what it says in Sefer Yitzerah* that there are
three bechinos*: World [Heb. olam. which refers to a physical
location], Year [Heb shanah. which refers to a particular time] and
Soul [Heb. nefesh. which refers to a particular person. We can
understand] this to mean that there are three bechinos that inspire a
person to tshuva. [Each relates to a certain time of the year.]
Rosh HaShanah* is the bechinah of Year [Heb. shanah]. The holy and
uplifted time that raises the person high up. Higher then the level
of 'Rosh.' [Heb. lit the head, or highest level. This is achieved] by
doing tshuva. [i.e. the time of Rosh Hashanah causes the person to
do tshuva and be uplifted.]
Yom Kippur* is the bechinah of Soul, as it says that 'you shall
afflict your souls'. For the same reason it says, 'and you shall
answer and say', which Rashi* says means that one should lift up his
voice. In the great holiness that shines from this day itself the
soul is raised up very high. [i.e. by afflicting one's soul it causes
one to do tshuva and he is uplifted from that.]
Succos is the bechinah of World. The bechinah of 'in the shade of
your wings I am hidden.' A place higher above the highest places.
[i.e. the sitting in the Sukkah causes one to do tshuva and he is
uplifted from that.] (p. 135 sefer Yismach Yisroel, teachings from
Rebbe Yerachmiel Yisroel Yitzchok of Alexander.)
* * *
3. 'On the fifteenth day of the month when you gather the grains of
the land, you shall have a celebration.' The simple meaning of this
verse is difficult to understand. [Why is it that] because 'you
gather the grains of the land' you should 'have a celebration'?
I think we can understand this teaching according to what it says in
the Midrash*: [The verse says] "'you shall take them on the first
day'. But isn't it the 15th day and not the first? It is the first
when counting [new] sins."
The Kedushas Levi Z'L* explains that on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur
people repent because of their fear of HaShem, and hence [according
to the Talmud*] their intentional sins are considered as if they were
accidental. So why should he start to count them [after he has
repented]? It is better he should not remember them. But on Succos
one does tshuva from love and so the intentional sins are actually
considered as mitzvos*. (Up to here are his words)
The Jewish soul has a desire to serve the Creator because it is a
part of Him and desires to become attached to it's source through
mitzvos and good deeds.
[However] the sins that one commits come to the person from his
physical body as it says 'the Yetzer* of a man is evil from his
youth' [which the Rabbis say means] from when he is born. The
physical body is called 'earth' as it is know from the drash*: 'and
he called to the heaven' that is the soul from above, 'and to the
earth' that is the physical body.
This is what the verse means:
'When you gather' to the side of holiness.
'The grains of the field' i.e. the sins that come from ones
physical nature that is called 'land.'
'You shall have a celebration' [i.e. this is to be done on the
Succos]. (p. 121 sefer Yativ Panim teachings of Rebbe Yekisiel Yehuda
I. For HaShem's sake.
1. 'Save us because you are our G-d, saves us'. We pray and ask that
You save us [from the exile, but] only for Your sake [and for no
other reason. This is] in order that Your godliness and lordship of
this world should be revealed in this world. Because you are our G-d,
[therefore] you should save us. This is the real 'saving', i.e. that
you should be revealed as our G-d, the king of Israel and her
redeemer. (p. 498 sefer Divrei Elimeilech teachings of Rebbe
Elimeilech of Grojizk)
* * *
II. An eternal redemption.
2. 'Because you are our Redeemer'. On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur
HaShem makes a spiritual redemption for every Jew. [However on
Hoshanah Rabbah] we are asking that He make a redemption that should
be enduring and which will last for ever. Because You live and exist
forever, so should it be that our physical redemption and the
redemption of our souls [should be eternal]. (p. 498 sefer Divrei
Elimeilech teachings of Rebbe Elimeilech of Grojizk)
* * *
III. Praying in order to pray.
3. 'Save us, [because of] the three hours.' We can explain this
according to what the Talmud says that the first Chasidim used to
take an hour to prepare themselves for prayer. [During that time]
they used to pray that they should be able to direct their hearts to
their Father in heaven.
We pray three times a day, and since each prayer requires an hour [we
have three hours in preparation]. Therefore we pray and ask HaShem to
save us so that he may find our hearts prepared for Him. And that we
should direct our thoughts in those three hours so that the Yetzer
will not destroy us. (p. 154 sefer Beis Yitzchok teachings of Rebbe
Yitzchok of Vorki and his descendants. This is from his son Rebbe
Yaakov Dovid of Amshinov.)
bechina(bechinos): a subdivision of an Inyan*. Every Inyan has many
Drash: A method of Biblical interpretation ascribing moral or ethical
meaning to verses in the Torah.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
Hoshanah Rabbah: Last day of the intermediate days of Succos. It is
considered to be similar to Yom Kippur in that it is a time of
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group
Rosh HaShanah: Heb. New Year Holiday at the beginning of the year.
Sefer Yitzerah: Hebrew Kabbalistic work.
Succos: Holiday after Yom Kippur where people sit in booths
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has both
an evil and good inclination within him, that are at 'war' to see
which of them the person will follow.
Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement, the most holy day of the Jewish year.
Z'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechorono LeVaracha (His memory is
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