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. 'You will offer [to sell] yourselves there, to your enemies for
slaves and [female] servants, but no one will purchase you.'
Before the Baal Shem Tov's soul left him said the verse, 'Let not the
foot of arrogance come to me.'
[Then] he said, 'You will offer yourselves there,' [refers to
offering yourself] in your hearts. 'To your enemies.' You will at all
times consider [your situation] with a broken heart. And you will
consider yourselves as if you were given over and sold to your enemy,
the Yetzer HaRah*.
'For slaves and servants.' [You will consider that] all of your
actions had only been in order to receive a reward, which is the
level of a 'servant.' [As opposed to the level of a 'son' who does
not serve in order to receive a reward.]
All this you will consider in your hearts, because it says, 'You will
offer,' and not that 'You will be offered.' [This implies that] in
your hearts you will consider that you are being offered.
And then 'none will purchase you.' There will be none who will be
able to rule over you. [i.e. You will be free of the Yetzer HaRah.]
He said in these words, " 'And none will purchase you.' If you will
be broken and humble. You will consider in your hearts that you are
filled with evil and sold and given over into the hands of your
Yetzer*. And that all the mitzvos* that you did were done in order to
receive a reward. That you are going to be slaves and servants. That
you have not yet done the will of HaShem, or brought joy to your
creator. Not one day in your life. Then, 'none will purchase you.'
There will not be any evil that will have a control over you. You
will be connected with the Source of life." With these words his
nashama* left him on the first day of Shevous* before davening*. (p.
589 sefer Baal Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.)
* * *
II. Serving HaShem in many ways.
2. 'On one road will they go out against you and in seven roads will
they flee from you.' (Devorim 28.7)
In general, [every one of] the Jewish people has the midos* of fear
of HaShem*, love of HaShem etc. They have all of the seven midos for
[the service] of HaShem. [The reason that they have] all this is so
that HaShem should be able to bestow upon Israel all the good things
of this world.
In opposition to this there is the fear of things other then HaShem.
The same is with love and the other midos. [These can all be applied
to things other then the service of HaShem.]
The difference is that with the midos from the side of holiness, they
are able to be unified together and exist at one time. But the other
midos, [those that apply to things other then HaShem,] cannot be
united. When one has fear for something other then HaShem, he cannot
have love at the same time. And the same is with all of the other
midos. However with the midos of holiness one can serve HaShem with
all seven at once together.
This is the remez* of the verse:
'On one road they will go out against you.' This is because with
regards to things other then the service of HaShem, there can only be
one midah at a time. There is either fear or love or one of the other
seven midos. But there cannot be all seven at one time. However you
are able to serve HaShem with all seven at once. This is the remez
that your enemy cannot come out to you with more then one midah. But
you have all seven midos.
Therefore they will flee from you. And that is what the verse says:
'And in seven roads will they flee from you.' (p. 91 sefer Kedushas
Levi teachings of Rebbe* Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev.)
* * *
3. 'You have seen everything HaShem did before your eyes in the land
of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land. The
great trials that your eyes saw. Those great signs and wonders. But
HaShem did not give you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears
to hear until today.' (Devorim 29.1-3)
The Rebbe said, 'If I would know that I would accomplish something
with it. I would travel to Germany [where many Jews had abandoned the
way of Torah] and shown them miracles like those that Moshe showed to
the Egyptians. But a Jew does not take into consideration miracles.
'This is what Moshe himself said, "You have seen everything HaShem
did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his
servants and to all his land. The great trials that your eyes saw.
Those great signs and wonders. But HaShem did not give you a heart to
understand or eyes to see or ears to hear until today." [Even though
they saw many miracles it still required help from HaShem to
understand what they saw.] (p. 69 sefer Toras HaYehudi HaKodesh
teachings of the Yud HaKodesh.)
* * *
IV. Going to the Tzaddik living in your time.
4. "And you shall go to the priest that shall be in those days...
and you shall answer and say" (Devorim 26.3,5)
We need to understand what is the meaning of 'in those days'. Rashi*
Z'L* explains that it means 'that you only have the priest who is in
your days' [There is only this one and no other]. Also we need to
understand about the speech that is made when one brings the first
fruits to the Temple. The Jewish man brings two or three fruits in a
basket and the Torah* requires that he has to say a long speech over
them before HaShem.
It is well known that the Tzaddik* has the power to raise up the
actions and prayers to HaShem [of those who join themselves to him].
He is able to make them all fly up.
This is why the Torah commands that the man appear before the priest,
i.e. the Tzaddik of his generation, that will be living in his days.
[He should join himself together with the Tzaddik in serving HaShem.]
'And he will take the basket' [Heb. TaNE] , [the letters of this
Hebrew word is] a remez for the tune [Taamim the tune for reading
the verse from the Torah], vowels, [Heb. Nekudos] and letters [Heb
Osios.] And he [the priest] shall place it before the alter of
HaShem your G-d. [Which means that the Tzaddik] will raise the Torah
learning and prayers up to HaShem.
"And he shall answer [Heb. anisaw] and say". Even though you have
times in which it is hard to serve HaShem with Torah learning and
praying as you should. [The word] 'answer' [refers to] the level of
being poor [Heb. ani] and lowly. [Meaning that he is on a low level
of service to HaShem. The next words:] "And say". You should do what
is your part, to learn and to pray before HaShem. [Even though you
find it hard, you should do what you are able to. Then join yourself
to the Tzaddik who will raise this to HaShem.]
This is the remez of the mitzvah of the first fruits. Even if you
bring only a few stalks with very little of the fruits, even two or
three pieces, before HaShem. [i.e. even if your service of HaShem is
on a very low level.] And you shall bring them to the priest, that is
[you shall join yourself to] the Tzaddik of the generation, he will
raise them up to HaShem. (p. 266 sefer Tepheres Shlomoh teachings of
Rebbe Shlomoh of Radomsk)
* * *
V. Serving HaShem with joy
5. "Because you would not serve HaShem with joy, and a gladness of
heart, from an abundance of possessions." (Devorim 28.47)
Why is it that because of not serving HaShem with joy they should
have all those severe punishments come to them [as the verses here
describe?] If they are serving HaShem what is the difference if they
have joy in this [service] or not? However we can say that the
meaning is that because their joy was in their not serving HaShem
[they received this punishment.] It was not enough that they did not
serve Him, and they were not depressed from this. They were joyful
and their hearts were glad that they threw off from themselves the
service of HaShem.
In a slightly different way we can explain that it means that all the
sins that a person does (G-d forbid) come to him because he does not
serve HaShem with joy. Instead he serves HaShem like one performing
something learned by rote. This type of service [by rote] makes a
person cold and he comes to forget that there is a creator. The end
result is that he comes to do whatever sin will come into his hand to
This is because the one who knows there is a creator, even should he
have a physical desire to sin, his fear of G-d will hold him back so
that he does not sin. This is not the case with the one [who serves
without joy and becomes cold and hence loses his knowledge of G-d.]
>From the sins that this person does he will merit all the punishments
that are mentioned in this portion.
However, if he was to investigate the matter and consider what is
happening and why he has sinned, he would see that the cause was that
he does not serve HaShem with joy. That is why he is suffering and
that is the meaning of the verse 'Because you did not serve HaShem
with joy...' (p. 64 sefer Ohel Torah teachings of Rebbe Menachem
Mendel of Kotsk.)
* * *
VI. Finding your way in Elul*.
6. The Holy Rebbe of Tzanz used to tell parables during the third
meal of Shabbos during the month of Elul which proceeds Rosh
HaShanah*. One of them was:
'There were two people lost in a forest. One of them was going alone
and he was lost for many days in the forest, and he had no idea of
the right way to go to get out of the forest. Suddenly he saw
another person going in the forest towards him. A great joy rose in
his heart that now, finally, there would be someone to show him the
correct way out of the forest. When they came to each other, he
asked him, "Brother, tell me. What is the best way to go. I have been
lost in this forest for many days."
The second one answered him, "I cannot tell you what is the proper
way. I have also been lost here for many days. However one thing I
can tell you. The way that I have been going you should not go. It
is NOT the correct way. Come let us together chose out a new way." '
When the Rebbe finished the story there were tears in his eyes from
emotion. Then he said, 'I am not able to tell you anything except
this. The way in which we have been going until now we should not
follow any more. This way is an error. Let us try for ourselves a
new way.' (p 267 sefer Otzer HaChaim customs of the Holy Rebbe Chaim
Zechisom Yugan Aleini v'Al Kol Yisroel
Devorim: Fifth book of the Torah. Called in English 'Deuteronomy'.
doven(davening): Yiddish for pray.
Elul: Sixth month of the Jewish year
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad.
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
nashama(nashamos): Hebrew word for soul.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints
in the Torah for various concepts.
Rosh HaShanah: 1. Heb. New Year Holiday at the beginning of the year.
2. A tractate of the Talmud
Shevous: Jewish holiday 50 days after Pesach
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
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
Z'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechorono LeVaracha (His memory is
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