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. The wicked and the righteous
1. 'And it was evening and it was morning...' (Bereishis 1.5)
The *Midrash says, '"And it was evening" these are the deeds of the
wicked, "and it was morning" these are the deeds of the
I heard my master *ZT'L [the Baal Shem Tov] explain this according to
what it says in *Pirkei Avos 'There are four traits of those who give
charity...' The question on this *Mishnah is well known: How can you
say that there are four? The one who doesn't give and doesn't want
others to give is not from those who 'give' charity. The same is
with the other teaching there about the four traits of those who go
to the *Beis Midrash to learn. [The who neither goes nor learns has
no real relationship to the Beis Midrash.]
He explained it according to what he learned in a dream on the verse,
'I considered my ways and turned my feet to your commandments.' It
says in the Midrash (mentioned above), 'It was evening these are the
deeds of the wicked, it was morning these are the deeds of the
Tzaddikim ...' The Midrash continues and says that we don't know
which ones deeds *HaShem desires more, so it says 'and G-d saw that
the light was good' meaning that the deeds of the Tzaddikim are more
This is strange. Could it be possible that HaShem desires the deeds
of the wicked? So he [the Baal Shem Tov] explained this according to
what he learned from his *Rebbe, that King David was born by nature
without a desire for serving G-d. Therefore he considered his nature
which were inclined towards material things, and did the opposite.
This is the meaning of the verse, 'I considered my ways and turned my
feet to your commandments' meaning that he made himself to go in the
way of HaShem even though it was contrary to his nature.
[It's from seeing the 'deeds' of the wicked and doing the opposite
that one brings pleasure to HaShem. The same is with the one who does
not give charity and the one who does not learn. From them we can
learn to do the opposite and serve HaShem.]
These are the ways of the wicked: eating, drinking, joy, laughter and
similar things. And these are the ways of the Tzaddikim: fasting,
crying, mourning and such things. Sometimes it happens that one is
overcome with depression due to fasting and such, so at that time one
must adopt the actions of the wicked, i.e. to eat and drink and
remove from yourself any type of depression. And, likewise, when one
sees the *Yetzer gaining control over him he should 'dress in black'
and be depressed.
One must be careful and weight in a scale how to act. This is the
meaning of 'and they didn't know which was more desirable. [One needs
to examine the ways of the wicked, and either do the opposite, as
explained above, or use them to further your service of HaShem.] (p.
23 Sefer HaBaal Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. This one is
from the sefer Tzifonis Peneach from Rebbe Yakov Yosef HaKohen of
* * *
II. Only one day.
2. 'And it was evening and it was morning, one day' (Bereishis 1.5)
*Chazal say in the Midrash, '"And it was evening" these are the deeds
of the wicked, "and it was morning" these are the deeds of the
Tzaddikim, "one day" this is *Yom Kippur.'
We can explain this according to what it says (*Shabbos 153a), 'You
should repent one day before you die. [To which the Talmud asks.]
Does a person then know when he shall die? Therefore you should
repent today perhaps tomorrow you will die. You will then find that
all your days are spent with *tshuva.' From this we see that the
Tzaddik is constantly doing tshuva for one day only [i.e the present
day], and from this his whole life is spent in tshuva.
While the opposite is true for the wicked. Chazal say that the one
who says, 'I will sin and then I will do tshuva he is not given the
opportunity to do tshuva.' So we see that the wicked sins only for
one day. Everyday he says I will sin now and do tshuva tomorrow. So
his whole life is spent in sin, and he never has a chance to do
tshuva as we said above.
From this we can see what the difference is between a Tzaddik and a
wicked person. It is 'one day' of tshuva. The Tzaddik says he will do
tshuva today, and the wicked man says he will to tshuva tomorrow.
This is the meaning of the Midrash: 'And it was evening these are the
deeds of the wicked [i.e. that they say they will sin and repent on
the next day], and it was morning these are the deeds of the Tzaddik
[who says he will do tshuva today], one day, this is Yom Kippur.'
i.e. the day to do tshuva. The Tzaddik says he will do tshuva today,
and the wicked says he will do tshuva tomorrow. So we find the
Tzaddik spends his whole life in tshuva. and the wicked spends his
whole life in sin since he never has the chance to do tshuva. (p. 10
Divrei Yisroel teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Modzitz)
* * *
III. Serving HaShem after the Holy Days.
3. 'This is the book of the generations of Adam, on the day that G-d
made him, in the image of man He made him.' (Bereishis 5.4)
We need to consider what is the relationship of this reading to the
present period which is the end of *Tishrei and the Shabbos when we
Sanctify the month of *Cheshvon.
In the holy days of the month of Tishrei everyone does things to
better himself through prayer and supplication. There are however
different levels in people and what they pray for. Some only pray for
material things, while others desire that they should do tshuva from
fear. In general the Jewish people at this time do tshuva from the
highest level of fear.
How does one recognize that he has done tshuva from the highest level
of fear? The verse says in *Koheles, 'The end of the matter is, all
is heard, fear G-d, and do his *mitzvos.' The meaning is this: 'the
end of the matter', after the end of the holy days of Tishrei, if at
that time 'all is heard' i.e. he does the mitzvos even before he has
the knowledge to fully understand them, this is a sign that he 'fears
G-d and keeps his mitzvos.' [The sign that he is on the highest level
of fear is that he accepts upon himself the yoke of the Mitzvos.]
This is the higher level of fear where HaShem is recognized by him as
the master and ruler, the level of 'elokim', which is the meaning of
'fear G-d'. By so doing his prayer is considered like a sacrifice.
The words 'the end of the matter' [Heb. sof devar] has the same
*gematria as 'sacrifice' [Heb. korban] (352). 'All is heard' [Heb.
HaKol Nishmah] has the same gematria as 'prayer' [Heb. tephilah]
(515). [That is to say that if at the end of Tishrei he is serving
HaShem on the level of 'all is heard, then he makes his prayer to be
on the level of a sacrifice to HaShem.]
The verse says: 'this is the book' [Heb. zeh sefer] which is the same
gematria as 'the end of the matter' and 'sacrifice'. Our prayers
should be acceptable to You like as if it were a sacrifice, in order
to eliminate any bad judgement from Rosh HaShanah when the three
books are open. [So we see that this verse is also a *remez to the
idea that the service at the end of Tishrei can make ones prayers to
be on the level of a sacrifice.]
In the end of Tishrei when we read Bereishis we see what will be at
the beginning of the next year at Rosh HaShanah which is the creation
'at the beginning'. That is the day when we start anew our deeds and
in which the first man was created. And now we read this section to
awake that time. And this is the meaning of 'this is the book' i.e.
the book of life. [That we should merit to be of those who are
inscribed in that book.]
It is called the 'book of the generations' because in it is related
the actions of men. The word 'toldos' [generations] means actions as
we see in the verse which says, 'And these are the actions of Yaakov,
Yosef...' which Chazal say refers to the events that occurred. This
is 'the book of the generations', the book that has in it all the
actions of the person, and his thoughts etc. 'In the day that G-d
created him' which is Rosh HaShanah. These actions 'sweeten' anything
bad as if it were a 'sacrifice' which is the same gematria as 'this
is the book'. Therefore his prayer is acceptable to HaShem the same
as a sacrifice due to his learning of Torah. [Because of the learning
of Torah his prayer is acceptable.] (As *Mishlei says, 'If you turn
your ear from hearing Torah also your prayers will be an
abomination.) (p. 38 Sefer Ahavas Yisroel teachings of Yisroel of
Beis Midrash: Jewish house of study
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
Cheshvon: Eighth month of the hebrew calender
gematria: Numerical value of the letters of the Hebrew words
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
Koheles: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
Pirkei Avos: A Tractate of the Mishnah
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints
in the Torah for various concepts.
Shabbos: Tractate in the Talmud
Tishrei: Seventh Month of the Hebrew calender
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
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.
Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement, the most holy day of the Jewish year.
ZT'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The
memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous person is a blessing.)
Copyright (c) 1996 by Moshe Shulman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
All rights reserved.
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