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. A higher level of service
1. 'When you will make a sale to one of your people or you will
purchase something from the hand of one of your people' (V'yikra*
Being occupied with one's livelihood as also considered a service of
HaShem* and [is a part of the] Torah*. The reason is that there are
many laws involved with making ones livelihood. The Baal Shem Tov
ZT'L* said, that the person who learns the law 'One who exchanges a
cow for a donkey', is beloved by HaShem [since he is learning
HaShem's Torah.] How much more so is that person who actually does
'exchange a cow for a donkey' and he follows all the laws that the
Torah has for such exchanges. This type of service is even higher
then the one who only learns about it [and does not actually do it.]
The reason is that everything in this world was only created for the
honor of HaShem. From the smallest thing to the largest thing,
everything must conform to the Torah. [For this reasons] from
everything that exists [in this world] one is able to serve HaShem.
[This is true since everything has something in the Torah that
relates to it.]
In everything that exists one can see the wonders of HaShem and how
His wisdom is contained in everything. And even on the most simple
level, we can see that everything has some Torah law or idea that
relates to it. [For example] we are told to measure correctly
products for sale, and by so doing we also perform a mitzvah*.
Chazal* also teach us that one who sits and does not do a sin it is
counted as if he did a mitzvah.
Therefore if one acts with this understanding, then he is occupied
continually in the Torah, even if he should be occupied with his
livelihood. (p. 440 sefer Baal Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem
* * *
II. Serving HaShem as a servant.
2. 'For Me the children of Israel are servants, they are My servants
who I have taken out of the land of Egypt.' (V'yikra 25.55)
I heard from the Holy Light, the Rebbe Reb* Ber of Mezritch, an
explanation of the following teaching of Chazal. They taught that
when HaShem gave the Torah to the Jewish people He held a mountain
over them and said, 'If you will accept my Torah then all is well,
and if not you shall be buried here.' [He asked with regards to
this,] it is difficult to understand the meaning, since the Jewish
people had just said, 'we will listen and we will do.' And from their
own desire they had accepted upon themselves to follow the laws of
the Torah. [Why was there a need to hold the mountain over them?]
The answer is that because they had been on such a high spiritual
level and had perceived the greatness of HaShem, they said 'we will
listen and we will do.' [According to Chazal when HaShem saw this He
said] 'who revealed to them this secret [that one should accept to
listen/obey to the laws of the Torah even before he has heard them.]
This is the language that the ministering angels use...' [What they
answered showed that they were beyond the level that normal men
served HaShem on, and they were approaching that of the Holy angels.]
HaShem therefore showed to them that even though it shall happen that
they shall descend from the high spiritual level they are on, and
descend to one on a much lower level, they are not free from serving
HaShem. He then held a mountain above them to show them they were
required to serve Him even if they could not feel the same enjoyment
in this service as they did when they were on the high level they
attained when they received the Torah. (Until here are his words. The
words of the wise are pleasant.)
This is the meaning of this verse: 'For Me the children of Israel'
i.e. everything should be done for His name's sake [i.e. for Me.]
'Are servants.' This means that even though they are servants, i.e.
on a low level like servants [as opposed to the level of children]
they are still required to serve Him according to whatever level they
are on. And He will be pleased with that service.
'They are My servants who I have taken out of the land of Egypt.'
When He took them out of the land of Egypt. He had at that time given
them the mitzvos of the Passover sacrifice and circumcision while
they were in Egypt. [These mitzvos] were still pleasing to Him [even
though they were on a low spiritual state, as the Midrash* says both
these (the Jewish people) and those (the Egyptians) are idolaters.]
This was true even though they were on the low level of 'servant'.
The verse ends, 'I am HaShem your G-d.' He is HaShem even when they
are on a low level of service and they are required to serve Him that
level. (p. 263 sefer Orach L'Chaim teachings of Rebbe* Avraham Chaim
* * *
III. Never give up
3. 'After he has been sold, he shall have a redemption, one of his
brothers will redeem him.' (V'yikra 25.48)
It appears to me that the Holy Torah is trying to show us that when a
person should see that he is on a very low level of service to
HaShem, and he will feel that there is no longer any hope for him, he
should not give up on himself. Even though he is sold [to his Yetzer
HaRah* and is within it's power] there will certainly be a redemption
for him, and there is still hope for him.
This is the meaning of the verse: 'After he has been sold.' After he
has been separated, i.e. he has been sold and separated into the
service of his Yetzer HaRah. Even though this is the case 'he shall
have a redemption, one of his brothers shall redeem him.' The Talmud*
says that 'they do not become diminished from their preciousness to
Him until they are considered like brothers.' This is the meaning of
'one of his brothers,' the Jewish people are called the 'brothers' of
HaShem. [HaShem will redeem them.] (p. 138 sefer Or L'Shamayim
teachings of Rebbe Meir of Apt.)
* * *
4. 'HaShem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai saying, Speak to the
children of Israel and say to them.' (V'yikra 25.1-2)
[According to Chazal] HaShem chose Mount Sinai [as the place to give
the Torah] because it was the smallest of the mountains. Since that
is the case it would have been better if he chose out a deep valley
[to give the Torah], and not a mountain at all.
However there is here a remez* to an important concept [in the
service of HaShem.] Sometimes it is necessary for a person to be on
the level of 'raise your heart up in the service of HaShem.' For that
reason HaShem chose out Mount Sinai which was a small mountain.
However it was a little bit tall to teach this idea. [One should have
a little 'conceit' in him at times to use in serving HaShem.]
The same thing is here with these verses. HaShem spoke both soft and
hard words. [The verse uses the hebrew words 'dabar' and 'emor' which
Chazal say indicate both strong and soft speech.] First words of
reproach to lower them [in their own eyes] and then soft words to
raise them up.
This is the meaning of the next verse, 'when you will enter the
land'. [The idea of land/earth] indicates humility. 'The land will
have a Shabbos [rest] for Hashem.' This indicates that they should be
raised up. 'Shabbos' is a remez for this since [as it says in the
seforim*] on Shabbos the heart feels raised up and is joyful.
This is the general rule with regards to humility. You should not
come to depression through it, but to a level where your heart is
raised up in joy to HaShem. This is the true level of humility. (p.
124 sefer Divrei Yisroel teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Modzitz.)
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages
of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chometz: Hebrew for leavening
gematria: The numerical value of the Hebrew letters.
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).
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
Mishlei: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
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.
sefer(seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
tisch: Yiddish for 'table' Refers to a meal eaten by a Rebbe with his
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
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
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.
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
ZT'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The
memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous person is a blessing.)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman (email@example.com)
All rights reserved.
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