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.



I. Tzaddikim*


1. 'Bring near the children of Levi' (Bamidbar 3.5)


The Midrash* says on this verse, 'The Tzaddik will sprout like a palm

tree, and like a cedar of Lebanon he will grow tall.' [The meaning of

this Midrash is as follows.] There are two types of Tzaddikim. Each

of them is a complete Tzaddik.


The difference between the two is that one of them is always attached

[in his thoughts] to HaShem*. He always does that service to HaShem

he is required to do. However he is a Tzaddik for himself, and not

for others. He does not influence others with his righteous actions.

He is compared to a cedar that Chazal* say has no fruit. He is a

tzaddik for himself and has no fruits. He has not returned others to

the proper way, and has not increased the number of the righteous in

the world. What he does is only for himself. Even so he has a great



However the second Tzaddik is compared to a palm tree, that has

fruit. He 'will sprout like a palm tree'. This means that he takes

those precious souls that have been stained with sins and he makes

them sprout [and become cleansed of sin. By so doing] he increases

the good that is in the world.


This is the meaning of what Chazal say, in the place of a Baal

Tshuva* even a complete Tzaddik cannot stand.' This means the second

tzaddik, who is called a Baal Tshuva.  [Baal tshuva literally means

'a master of tshuva.'] He is a master, and a lord over tshuva because

he is able to return others to the good. He 'brings [people] back

from sin' and causes tshuva to appear in the world. His reward is

very great. It is much more then the first tzaddik even though he

[the first tzaddik] is also a perfect tzaddik. (p. 453 sefer Baal

Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. This is from sefer Tzvuos

HaRivash #125)


                                * * *


II. Kavanos*


2. 'The children of Israel did all that Hashem commanded to Moshe,

so they did it.' (Bamidbar 1.54)


It appears to me that we can explain this verse according to the

simple meaning. When a person desires to do any mitzvah*, it is

certainly impossible for him to do it with all the possible kavanos

that apply to that mitzvah. [It is well known that just as HaShem is

limitless, and it is not possible for a human to fully comprehend

him, so the kavanos of each and every mitzvah are limitless as they

are a representation of HaShem's will.] However if the person does

the mitzvah without any kavanah, on a simple level, intending to do

it just because HaShem commanded it. He will certainly do all that is

required for the mitzvah [not just the action of the mitzvah but also

what he is required to do with regards to kavanos.]


This is to proper way for one to do a mitzvah. He should attach

himself to HaShem when he does the mitzvah, and he should pray that

he should have in mind all that is needed for this mitzvah.


That is the meaning of the verse, 'The children of Israel did all

that HaShem commanded Moshe.' This means that they did the mitzvah

with this particular kavanah: that HaShem commanded it to Moshe. The

meaning of 'according to what HaShem commanded Moshe' is that

certainly there are in this command many hidden ideas. However we do

that which is in our ability [because HaShem commanded it to Moshe.]


The verse then says, 'and so they did it.' The meaning is that in

their doing the mitzvah with this intention they cause it 'to be

done' according to all the secrets involved with this mitzvah that

HaShem commanded to Moshe. They cause [these kavonos] to be done [by

their performance of the mitzvah in this simple manner.] (p. 101

sefer Mevasar Tzedek teachings of Rebbe* Yissochar Ber of Zlotchov.)


                                * * *


III. Attachment to Tzaddikim


3. 'Raise up the heads [i.e take a census] of the children of

Israel...  And with you there shall be one man from each tribe, a

leader for each family.' (Bamidbar 1.2,4)


It appears to me that from this verse we have a remez* for an

advantage in attaching oneself to the Torah scholars and the

Tzaddikim of the generation. The reason is that they are the ones who

bring the person to the fear of HaShem. We see this from Moshe as the

verse says, 'they were afraid to approach him.' Since they approached

him only by gazing at him, [we see that] when they would look at him

[that was enough to cause] the fear of Hashem to burn within them.


This is the level of 'kissing' [Heb hashukah], as the Mishnah*

teaches, 'A vessel of stone is purified by "kissing" i.e. by joining

together water [from the vessel] to other water [from a mikvah*. The

slightest touching of these two waters was sufficient to bring

purification to the vessel.]


[With this we see] the meaning of the verse 'I will kiss him [Heb

yishkeni] with the kisses of my lips, because your breasts are better

then wine.' Wine is not effected by 'kissing' only water, and [as

Chazal have taught] the Torah is compared to water. For this reason

with every word that came from the mouth of HaShem, when the Torah

was given, they achieved an attachment to HaShem.


It is the same with the Tzaddikim. [As the Mishnah states,] 'All

those who are connected to what is pure, are pure.' Praised is that

person who attaches himself to the tzaddikim. Even if he himself is

on a very low level of service to HaShem, the power of the tzaddik

will raise him up. [The smallest attachment to the tzaddik will help

the person.]


We find this to be the case with regards to the generation which left

Egypt and wandered in the desert. When they were attached to Moshe,

they lived in peace without any problems.  However when they argued

with him they descended lower and lower, and they were set upon by

the Yetzer HaRah*, and their enemies attacked them.


This is the meaning of the verse, 'The Tzaddik will sprout like a

palm tree.' The Tzaddik is like a tree and all of his talmidim are

like the branches and leaves of the tree that are attached to it.

When the tree sprouts and grows fruit, all the leaves and branches

share the fruit with it. [The tzaddik as he rises higher will take

his talmidim higher with him.]


This is the meaning of what the Mishnah says, 'The wool on the head

of the sheep, the bones and the limbs, as long as they are attached

together they go up [on the alter], when they are separated, they do

not go up.' This is a remez to those people who are on a low level of

service, and are compared to the bones and limbs. If they are

connected to the Tzaddik, then they can rise up [to higher levels of

service to HaShem] and if not, then they can not.


This, then, is the meaning of [the verse] 'And with you there shall

be.' If they will be connected with you [i.e. the tzaddik]


'One man from each tribe. [Heb. mateh]' Even if he is on a low [Heb

l'mateh] level of service.


'A leader [Heb rosh] for each family.' He can rise up to the top [Heb



The main thing is that he should [consider himself] secondary and

nullified to the Tzaddik and not be arrogant. This is because the one

who is arrogant and will oppose the tzaddik will be overturned [and



There is also here in these verses a remez to another virtue of the

Tzaddikim. That is that they must always exhibit humility. If they

do so they will be able to lead their generation as the verse says,

'Moshe and Aharon among Your Priests... HaShem our G-d you have

answered them, a forgiving G-d you were, because of them.' The

meaning is that the more HaShem forgave them and raised them higher

up they [the tzaddikim] acted with greater humility.


This is the meaning of the verse, 'What more he made them suffer they

increased.' The more they are made lowly [i.e. they are humble] they

increase [and reach higher levels of service.]


'I [HaShem] dwell with the one who is broken.' The Shechina* rests

upon the Tzaddik who is small in his own eyes, in order for him to

strengthen those who are lowly in spirit and those with broken

hearts. Through this [his humility] the Tzaddik has the ability to

strengthen and to raise up even those who are lowly and broken. (p.

180 sefer Teferes Shlomoh teachings of Rebbe Shlomoh of Radomsk.)


                                * * *


IV. The goal of service of HaShem


4. 'Raise up the heads [i.e take a census] ... ever male according

to their heads.' (Bamidbar 1.2)


We need to understand why the verse uses the word 'heads'? [Heb

galgoles] Also we need to understand why it is that later when

discussing the census of the Levites, it does not use this language.


It seems to me that we can answer these questions in this way. In the

holy seforim* we find discussed at length how a person's rational

soul should dominate his heart. This is the main goal of the service

of HaShem. This idea is specifically discussed in the sefer Lekutei

Amorim [Tanya*] (see what it says there about this from chapter 9.)


According to this idea we can explain the Torah verse as a remez that

the children of Israel should be on the level of 'head'. This means

that the head, i.e. the rational soul, should dominate. It should be

the primary 'life' of the person.


With this idea it is understandable why 'heads' is not mentioned with

regards to the children of Levi. The census of the children of Levi

is different from that of the other Jews. With the other children of

Israel they did not count the children, only those from the age of 20

and older. However with the children of Levi they counted even the

small children down to one month old. For that reason they could not

use this language of 'head' since the idea of the rational soul

dominating the heart is not applicable to such young children. [It is

something that one must be older in order to achieve.] (p. 71 sefer

Yirbeh Torah teachings of Rebbe Yissachar Ber of Voideslav.)






Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers

bris: Hebrew for circumcision


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'.

kol v'chomer: Inference from a thing that this lesser/lighter to a

   thing which is greater/more stringent


melamed: Hebrew for a teacher of young children

Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations

mikvah:Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification

Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.

mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.


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.

Rov: An official rabbi who renders legal decisions. Many of the

  Rebbes were both a Rebbe of Chasidim, and the Rov of the city in

  which they lived.


sefer(seforim): A Jewish religious book.

Shechina: Hebrew word denoting the divine presence.


Talmud Chocham(Talmidei Chochomim): Hebrew for Talmud sage, refers to

  one who is learned in Jewish legal texts.

Tanya: Important chassidic work By Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

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 HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.

Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination



Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman  (

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