CHASSIDUS                        BS'D

                       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.

Acherei Mos/Kedoshim I. Actions matter 1. 'Do not turn to the fortune tellers and mediums.' (V'yikra* 18.5) I heard [the following teaching] in the name of the holy man of G-d, Rebbe* Yakov Yitzchok Z'L* of Lublin. The word 'fortune tellers' [Heb. Ovos] is similar to the word meaning 'desire.' As it says '[And HaShem*] did not desire...'[Heb. avo] This is a remez* for those people who are satisfied with themselves because they have a desire to serve HaShem. [The word] 'medium' [{Heb. Yidonim} is similar to the word meaning to know.] These are the people who know the way [to serve] HaShem. But this is only with their thoughts and not with actions. However it is not sufficient to just have the desire, or the knowledge of how to serve HaShem. One needs to do the actions. He should be on the level of 'His actions are more then his understanding.' (p. 98 sefer Avnei Zichoron teachings of Rebbe Yakov Yitzchok, the Chozeh of Lublin.) * * * II. The heart matters 2. 'You shall observe My decrees and My judgments...' (V'yikra 18.26) You should see what I have said [elsewhere] with regards to the ending verse of the Torah*. The verse ends with the letter 'lamed', [the last words being] 'In the eyes of all Israel.' And [the Torah] starts with the letter 'beis', [with the word] 'In the beginning.' [Heb. Bereishis] This [spells out the word] 'heart.' [Heb. lev As Chazal* teach] 'The Merciful One desires the heart.' The main thing [in the service of HaShem] are the thoughts in ones heart and not the actions alone. As Chazal teach us, 'Two people are eating their Passover offering. One is eating it to fulfil the mitzvah* of eating the Passover sacrifice, and the other eats it to stuff himself. The one who eats it to fulfil the mitzvah of eating the Passover sacrifice the verse says, "The tzaddikim* follow them." The one who eats it to stuff himself the verse says, "The wicked stumble in them." Even though they are both doing the same action. They are both eating the Passover sacrifice after they are already satisfied from their meal. However, their thoughts are not the same, and the main thing is the thoughts of the heart. It says in the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avos*, 'Rabbi Eliezer ben Yakov said, 'He who does one mitzvah acquires one defender.' The Bartenura* explains that it means he gets an angel who relates good things about him. The meaning is that an angel is created from the mitzvah that he has done according to the greatness of the enthusiasm he had when he did the mitzvah. This is the life that the angel, who was created from his doing the mitzvah, has. If he does the mitzvah without any kavanos* and intentions in his heart, then the angel is a body without a soul. (p. 245 sefer Orach l'Chaim teachings of Rebbe Avraham Chaim of Zlotchov.) * * * III. Source of holiness 3. 'You shall be holy because I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.' (V'yikra 19.2) We can explain this verse according to the teaching that appears in the Talmud*, 'There are three partners in [the birth] of a person, The Holy One Blessed is He, his father and his mother.' It is explained there that the portion of HaShem is the nashamah* that He has placed in him. The portion of the father and mother is the physical body of the person. This is what HaShem says: 'You should be holy because I am holy.' The meaning is that [your holiness comes] from the portion that you have which is from Me. You nashamos were stored under the Throne of Glory, and it is pure with all manner of purity. Because of my portion you should have no fear [that you will not be able to be holy.] Only, 'Each person should fear his mother and his father.' [This means that] each person should have fear because of the portion that comes from his father and mother. That is his physical body, which draws him to all kinds of evil desires. With this portion you need to serve [HaShem] and watch [over it, so that you will not come to sin.] (p. 116 sefer Ner Yisroel. Teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin and his descendants. This is from Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin.) * * * IV. Being prepared for holiness 4. 'You shall be holy because I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.' (V'yikra 19.2) [The word] 'Holy' [Heb. kedoshim] is a word which implies [a need for] preparation. (As Tosephos* explains with regards to the word 'mekadeshos', where he explains that the word means to prepare.) This means that a person always needs to be prepared to be a vessel to receive holiness from HaShem. [This is] 'Because I, Hashem, am holy. The meaning of this is that HaShem [is saying that] he is prepared and waiting all the time to bestow holiness and all types of good things. However what is holding this back is [that] the one who will receive [it is not prepared.] This is similar to what we learn from the story of the Rebbe Reb* Elimeilech ZY'A*. He asked in heaven, why it was that they did not answer [our prayers?] They sent him to go to the Maggid* of Mezritch (who at that time was already in the world of truth.) [He went and asked] why it was that they did not answer [our prayers all the time. The Maggid] answered that from above no evil descends into this world, G-d forbid. Only all types of good things descend to Israel. [The problem is that] when it comes down below [to this world] the one receiving it turns it into evil. For this reason the Torah commands, 'You shall be holy.' You should attempt to be prepared to receive the good that comes down below and not cause damage to it by making it turn evil, G-d forbid. (p. 116 sefer Ner Yisroel. Teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin and his descendants. This is from Rebbe Avraham Yakov of Sadagura.) * * * V. No one will be lost 5. 'Don't let the land spit you out for having made it impure, as it spit out the nation that was there before you.' (V'yikra 19.2) My grandfather [Rebbe Mordechai Yosef of Izbitza] said from this verse there is a promise from HaShem to Israel that not a single soul from the Jewish people will be lost G-d forbid. The explanation is as follows. [The word] 'land' is a remez for the midah* of 'the kingdom of heaven', that, as the Zohar* says, 'has no eyes.' This [concept] teaches us the idea that appears in the Talmud, 'The one who steals a measure of wheat and plants it in the earth, it is proper that it should not sprout.' The meaning is that the main point behind the 'sprouting' is the trust that a person has in the Eternal. [Because of this] he plants his seeds. This is the meaning of what Chazal teach. The one who steals a measure of wheat and plants it, shows that he does not have trust [in HaShem.] If he would have had trust in HaShem he would understand that one person cannot touch what has been prepared for his fellow. He would not have stolen. From his stealing, we see that in truth, he did not have faith. For that reason it should not have sprouted. [The only reason why it grows is because] the world goes according to the nature it was created with. This means that because the land 'does not have any eyes' to observe what goes on in it's depths it [allows the seeds] to sprout well. For if it had eyes to see what occurred in it's depths it would see that this [planting] did not come from trust in HaShem. Even though it might appear that it was done with faith in HaShem, that is not the case. Similarly we find [it was the case] with the Kittim*. The verse says, 'They did not know the decrees of the god of the land, and he sent among them lions and they are killing them.' Because they didn't have a trace of service [to HaShem] the land was not able to bear them and the lions came to bring destruction among them. Afterwards when one of the kohanim (priests) went among them and taught them the decrees of the god of the land then the lions stopped destroying them. [This was the case] even though they were not sincere. [As Chazal said] they found a figure of a dove on Mount Gerazim [where they worshipped.] They continued worshipping idols even after they outwardly changed. Even with this the land was able to bear them because they were serving, even in an insincere manner. Even though they were still serving idols the land did not feel this, since the land had no eyes. This is the meaning of the verse, 'Don't let the land spit you out for having made it impure, as it spit out the nation that was there before you.' HaShem is promising to the Jewish people that if they would go to the land and they would bring 'eyes' to the land, then it would be called, 'The land that HaShem your G-d watches over continually, the eyes of HaShem are on it...' This means that also the land will feel in it's depths [what is going on] and it would have eyes [to see] who is serving HaShem in truth. Not a single soul of the Jewish people will be lost because in the depths of the heart of a Jewish person it is filled with desire and service [to HaShem.] Even though we see from time to time that this [desire] is hidden in the Jewish people. It is only a garment. [It appears that way] but in the depths of their hearts they are called 'Israel' and they are pure. This the land also understands, so that even if we see occasionally in the Jewish people impurity and hiddenness. This is only a garment. In their depths they are bound to the light of the desire of HaShem. That is the meaning of 'Don't let the land spit you out...' Not a single soul of the Jewish people will be lost. (p. 117 sefer Tepheres Mordechai, teachings of Rebbe Mordechai Yosef Eluzer of Radzyn.) --------------------------------------------------------------------- Glossary: Bartenura: Jewish commentator on the Mishnah. 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 Kavanah(Kavanos): Hebrew word for 'intention'. Kittim: Name used by the Rabbis for the Samaritans. 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. mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah. Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of referring to Moses. nashama(nashamos): Hebrew word for soul. Pirkei Avos: A Tractate of the Mishnah 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. remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts. 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 Tosephos: commentary on the talmud by the talmidim of Rashi Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe. V'yikra: Hebrew for the book of Leviticus 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. Z'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechorono LeVaracha (His memory is a blessing.) Zohar: Hebrew/Aramaic Rabbinical Kabbalistical work that is one of the most important sources for Kabbalah, and was very influential with Chasidim ZY'A: Hebrew initials for Zechiso Yugan Aleini, His merit should protect us --------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ( All rights reserved. Issur Hasugas Givil