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. Who to trust.
1. 'And it was at the end of two years' (Bereishis* 41.1)
The Midrash says, "'Praised is the man who has trusts in HaShem*'
this is Yosef." My grandfather ZT'L (the Baal Shem Tov) has a
teaching on the verse, 'Blessed is the man who trusts in HaShem, and
HaShem is what he trusts in'. He said that there are three things
with regards to trusting: the person who trusts, the one he has trust
in, and the action or method that his trust depends on.
This is the meaning: HaShem is the one whom a person has trust in.
Through Him he will get all that he needs, so long as he goes in His
ways. The person who trusts is the person himself. However as to the
action or method, even though he has trust that HaShem will provide
for him, he nevertheless feels that there is some action he must do.
He feels that the action that he is doing will cause him to have his
needs met. This action can be some type of business deal or something
of that nature. [He feels it is the action that brings to fruition
the trust that he has in HaShem.]
However this person has yet to come to the true understanding of
faith. The foundation of faith is to believe that there is HaShem
and nothing else. That in truth he does not need to do any action
that will cause him to gain his needs. This is because it is HaShem
who brings about all the situations in life. Even if he would not
occupy himself with his business deals, HaShem could provide for him
his needs according to His great mercy.
This is the meaning of the verse, 'Blessed is the man who has trust
in HaShem, and HaShem is what he trusts in.' That is to say that his
trust is totally in HaShem. He is the one he trusts in and there is
no action that he trusts in to bring about his needs. He doesn't need
to do anything for HaShem to provide for him. Everything depends on
HaShem. Even if he has something that he does for his livelihood, he
does not believe that this is what supplies his needs. He has a
perfect faith that it is HaShem who provides for him. It is HaShem
who wishes that he be provided for in this manner, and not that there
is any real need for him to do this action. He should only trust in
HaShem. This is a very high level of service of HaShem. (p.277
sefer Baal Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. This is taken
from the sefer Degel Machneh Ephraim.)
* * *
II. The nature of Tshuva*
2. 'And the ill looking cows ate ... And Pharaoh awoke' (Bereishis
A little further in the Torah* it says that when Pharaoh retells the
story of his dream to Yosef he changes it. He says that you couldn't
tell that the ill looking cows had eaten the other healthy ones. This
was not mentioned when the dream was first being related by the
It seems to me that all the stories in the Torah are a remez* in
order to instruct us in the proper way of serving HaShem. It seems to
me that the dream of Pharaoh is a remez for the person who has sinned
and continued to act wickedly until his actions have caused all his
seven bad midos* to swallow up the seven good midos he had.
There are seven ways of serving HaShem. 1. To love Him. 2. To be in
fear of Him. 3. to glorify Him. 4. to succeed in the battle with the
Yetzer HaRah* for His sake. 5. To praise Him. 6. To be attached to
the Holy King. 7. To accept His Rulership over you. The verse says
'And G-d has created these against those' [This indicates that for
every good midah there is it's opposite which is bad.]
HaShem has created the Yetzer HaRah [as a test] in order to turn a
persons attention to the foolish affairs of this world and its
emptiness. To lead him on a way that is not good, so that he will
love the things of this world, and to fear things other then HaShem.
To beautify other things. And the same with all the other midos. The
foolish person walks in darkness and follows after his Yetzer and so
he causes (G-d forbid) his seven good midos to be swallowed up by the
seven bad ones of the side opposing HaShem.
Now when the sinner is sinning, every day he continues in his
foolishness. However long he does not do Tshuva, he does not even
feel that he is doing anything wrong and he weakens the power of
holiness that was in him. In fact what happens is the opposite. He
thinks of himself as a great Tzaddik* who is upright, and going in
the proper way.
Therefore it is properly stated in this verse that he saw the cows in
his dream, which is a remez to the sinner who when he sins it is like
he is sleeping. It does not say anything about recognizing that the
good ones having disappeared into the bad ones. This is because the
good that is in him is as if it were asleep. And he is spending his
life in a dream and so it is not even possible to say that one
'couldn't see that they were eaten up.' Since he is so drunk from his
actions he doesn't even know that he doesn't know. [He can't even see
that he has lost his good midos.]
However after he awakens and starts to do tshuva, he is like one
awakening from sleep. He has awakened from the sleep of foolishness
and he feels sorry for his actions and he does tshuva to HaShem. And
he feels bad over the actions he had done because of the greatness of
his sins. And his eyes become opened to the greatness of the damage
he has done through his actions. And from heaven they help him to see
how he should act after he has awakened from his sleep which had
caused his seven bad midos to swallow up the seven midos of holiness.
Also the sins that were not revealed to him he recognizes. 'And they
swallowed them up but they still appeared ill fed.' This means that
he had sinned so much that he didn't even recognize it. [But now he
sees that he had really sinned.]
This is the remez of the dream and his awakening. The Baal Tshuva*
when he returns and speaks to his heart about the great blindness
that he had before this. He laments of the sins he had that were so
bad that he didn't realize that he had lost his good midos until he
awoke. And he sighs and has a broken spirit and returns to HaShem. He
accepts that from now on he will no longer sin and he will go in the
paths of truth. (p. 74 sefer Avodas Yisroel, teachings of Rebbe
Yisroel the Koznitzer Maggid*)
* * *
III. The true Cause
3. 'And they said one to his brother, surely we have sinned
concerning our brother...' (Bereishis 42.21)
The Torah is giving us a remez. We should understand that if some
disaster comes to a person (G-d forbid) and he does not see any sin
that he did which could be the cause of it. He should assume that the
reason is that he had an opportunity to instruct or help someone in
serving HaShem, or to do some good thing and he was lazy and did not
This is what the verse says.
'Surely we have sinned concerning our brother in that we saw his
soul's anguish when and he begged our help.' We should have
strengthen him in serving HaShem and save him from the anguish of his
soul and from the difficult trials he was going through.
But 'We did not listen, therefore this trouble has come upon us.'
[Because we did not listen to help him to serve HaShem, this disaster
has come upon us.] (p. 31 Sefer Divrei Emunah vol 2 teachings of
Rebbe Avraham Yitzchok, Admor* m'Toldos Aharon ZT'L)
* * *
4. I would like to end this week with a little piece from one of the
many letters written by the Toldos Aharon Rebbe ZT'L (whose Yortzheit
is during Channukah) to his Chasidim.
The main thing is not to give up hope no matter what happens, because
it is written, 'I am HaShem and I do not change.' HaShem watches
over every single person in every single act. No one can hurt even a
small finger in this world if it has not been decreed from above.
It can be compared to water where if you look into it your face sees
another face. So it is that according to the strength with which one
is attached by his faith to Hashem, and in His providence, so will
Hashem guide him in his life. By having simple faith in HaShem one is
able to bring on himself all kinds of blessings even outside of the
normal order of things. This is what Chazal* say, 'even a wicked
person who has faith in HaShem His mercy surrounds him.' (#136b sefer
Asefos Meksuvim part 1, letters from Rebbe Avraham Yitzchok, Admor
m'Toldos Aharon ZT'L)
Admor: Hebrew initials for: Adonenu Morenu VeRabenu (Our master, Our
teacher our Rabbi). This is a title commonly used with Chassidic
Rebbes. Admor of Ger, Admor of Satmer etc.
Baal Tshuva (Baalei Tshuva): Hebrew for someone who is a repentant
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
HaRav HaKodesh: The Holy Rov (see Rov)
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).
midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad.
nashama(nashamos): Hebrew word for soul.
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.
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.
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
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic
tzitzis: Strands that hang from the corners of a talis
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 Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
Zohar: Hebrew/Aramaic Rabbinical Kabbalistical work that is one of
the most important sources for Kabbalah, and was very influential
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
All rights reserved.
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