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. 'And Yitzchok said about his wife, "She is my sister"' (*Bereishis
There are two types of love between two people. The first is that
which one has for someone from whom he receives some enjoyment or
other favor. The love comes because this person is of good character
and acts towards him based on that. The love that he has is based on
this good character. This is the love that a man normally has for
his wife because he has enjoyment from her. In order for there to be
this type of love there has to be a secession of this enjoyment, for
if it was continual, he would have no enjoyment from it. (As *Chazal
say, an enjoyment that is continual is not really enjoyment.)
There is another type of love, which is that of a brother for a
sister. He loves her for herself and not because any type of
enjoyment she gives him. In this love there is no secession. If she
would also have good *midos, he would have enjoyment from these midos
also [but they are secondary to his love of her.] From this we see
that his love is greater then the enjoyment he has from her since
from his love comes his enjoyment [and not vis versa].
In the first type of love, however, this is not the case. The
enjoyment is greater then the love since the love comes from the
enjoyment that she brings him. And this is why Yitzchok said about
his wife 'She is my sister', since that was the level his love for
her was on. (p. 108 Toras HaMaggid teachings of the *Rebbe Reb Ber,
the *Maggid of Mizretch)
* * *
II. Looking at a *Tzaddik
2. 'We see [lit. seeing we see] clearly that *HaShem is with you'
It appears that we can explain this verse in the same manner I
explained a different verse in the *Parsha of VaYaira. It says there:
'And he saw..., and he ran to great them', which means that their
minds received enlightenment from him. This is because when a person
looks at a Tzaddik, it adds spiritual light to the person's soul.
For that reason, Chazal say that one is required to see the face of
his *Rebbe every *Yom Tov. When Avraham saw the men he realized they
were Tzaddikim, so he ran to great them. [This realization came from
just seeing them.] (See what I have said there on this idea.)
That is the meaning of the verse here. It says the doubled language
[seeing we see] which means from our seeing your (Yitzchok's)
appearance alone we gained another 'seeing'. That is to say that from
the appearance of your holiness our minds are enlightened, and a holy
light shined upon us. This is why the verse ends, 'HaShem is with
you'. We see that the *Shechina rests on you. From this we were
filled with a holy light that came from a holy man like you on whom
the holiness of HaShem rests. And because of this we came to you. (p.
15 sefer Kedushas Levi from Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev)
* * *
III. Prayers that are Accepted
3. 'And Yitzchok entreated of HaShem because of his wife who was
barren and HaShem allowed Himself to be entreated of by him.'
*Rashi says, 'by him and not by her. This is because there is a
difference between the prayers of a Tzaddik the son of another
Tzaddik to the prayers of a Tzaddik the son of a wicked man.'
We can explain this according to what I have heard from Rebbe Zev of
Zitomer. In the prayer where it says, 'who chooses musical songs
[Heb. Shirei] of praise', he explained it to mean that the creator
chooses the praises of those who consider themselves as extraneous
[Heb. Shireiim]. These are those who when they are praying they
consider themselves of little importance.
To further understand this, we have to realize that the main method
of serving HaShem is with humility, and to truly feel one's own
lowliness. This means that when one stands before HaShem to pray he
considers that because of his actions he is not worthy to speak
before Him, or to ask for anything, whether it be a small matter or a
big matter. He only asks that he should be helped in the merit of
This type of prayer is accepted by HaShem as the verse says. 'HaShem
is close to all who call on him, all those who call on him with
truth.' This means: to whom is it meant that 'HaShem is close to
those who call on him', i.e. to accept their prayers. Those who call
on him with truth, i.e. in the merit of his ancestors [and not their
When one is a Tzaddik the son of a Tzaddik he can pray for HaShem to
hear him in the merit of his ancestors. But someone who is a Tzaddik
the son of a wicked person cannot ask in the merit of his ancestor,
but according to his own actions. Such a prayer is not answered by
HaShem as quickly, because He 'chooses musical songs of praise', i.e.
those who considered themselves as extraneous when they pray. [As was
Now, Yitzchok was a Tzaddik the son of a Tzaddik and his prayer was
made in the merit of his ancestor. But Rivka, was a *Tzaddekus
the daughter of a wicked man and she prayed to be answered in her own
'And Yitzchok entreated of HaShem because of his wife ' means that he
prayed 'because of his wife'. He did this because her prayers were
'barren' because she couldn't pray in the merit of her own ancestors.
Therefore 'HaShem allowed Himself to be entreated of by him.' This is
because HaShem listens to those prayers of people who make themselves
as if they were extraneous when they pray.
This is the meaning of Rashi that the prayers of a Tzaddik the son of
a Tzaddik are not like those of a Tzaddik the son of a wicked man.
Because the former can pray in the merit of his ancestor he considers
himself as if he was nothing and HaShem hears his prayers. This is
however not the case with one who cannot pray in the merit of his
ancestor. (p. 26 sefer Bas Ayan from Rebbe Avraham Dov of Veritch a
*talmid of the Maggid of Chernobel)
* * *
IV. Service of HaShem
4. "And he called the name of the well 'Contention'... and its name
'Opposition'... and he called her name 'expanse'" (Bereishis
This is the way that one progresses in the service of HaShem. In the
beginning the *Yetzer HaRah tries to overcome him and convince him
with all kinds of arguments that he should not serve HaShem. This is
called 'Contention'. [The Yetzer HaRah contends with him, in order to
restrain him from serving HaShem.]
After that, when he has overcome the Yetzer HaRah, it again arises
against him to oppose him and cause him to fall. This is all done in
order to weaken his hands in the service of HaShem. This is called
If he then overcomes the Yetzer HaRah, then HaShem will shine upon
him. 'And now HaShem has made room for us and we will be fruitful in
Therefore even though the wells that Avraham dug were closed up by
the *Pilishtim and filled with sand, the well of Yitzchok will always
remain. This is because Yitzchok's wells were made by an extra
exertions of his strength. And everything that a Jew achieves be
serving HaShem by exerting himself will remain forever like an iron
The first letters of 'Esek' [Contention], 'Satnah' [Opposition] and
'Rachovos' [expanse] spell out 'wicked' [Heb. rashah] and also 'gate'
[Heb. shaar]. This teaches that when one overcomes the Yetzer HaRah
he changes over from being 'wicked' to entering the 'gate', as the
verse says, 'this is the gate of HaShem, only the Tzaddikim may enter
it.' (p. 19 sefer Beis Avraham teachings of Rebbe Avraham [II] of
Bereishis: First book of the Torah. Called Genesis in English
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages
of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
Maggid: In Europe this was a person who would give sermons on moral
subjects. Many of the first Rebbes was Maggidim (pl. of Maggid).
midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad.
Parsha (Parshos): A portion of the Torah read each week.
Pilishtim: Hebrew for Philistines
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
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.
Shechina: Hebrew word denoting the divine presence.
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Tzaddekus: righteous women
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic
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.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
Yom Tov: Hebrew name for 'holiday'
Copyright (c) 1996 by Moshe Shulman (email@example.com)
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