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 work of a Tzaddik*
1. 'Noach went with G-d.' (Bereishis* 6.9)
The Alsheich* explained that this verse means that Noach didn't try
to cause the people in his time to do tshuva*. All his righteousness
was for himself. Therefore it says, 'Noach went with G-d.' [He went
with G-d alone, and not with the people in his generation.]
The Midrash* says, 'After Moshe Rabbeinu* had performed all the
miracles: the splitting of the Yom Suf*, the war with Amalek, and
all the other miraculous things he had done. [Then he made the
tabernacle.] And after he had made the tabernacle he sat down to rest
from his work. HaShem said to him, "Why are you sitting? You still
have a difficult job to do. You must teach the Jewish people how to
perform the sacrifices."
The meaning of this Midrash is that for a Tzaddik, performing
miracles is not [their main] job. Their main 'job is to teach the
Jewish people how to serve HaShem*. Rebbe* Shlomo Karliner said, 'The
greatest of all the miracles is to be able to inspire a Jew to the
point that he can say a word before HaShem.' (p. 9 sefer Shema Shlomo
a collection of teachings of Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin. This is taken
from the sefer Beis Aharon from Rebbe Aharon of Karlin [the second of
that name who was the grandson of Rebbe Aharon of Karlin who was the
Rebbe of Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin])
* * *
2. 'These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a perfect Tzaddik
in his generations. Noach went with G-d.' (Bereishis 6.9)
Rashi* says that the main 'generations' of a Tzaddik are his good
deeds. A person who serves HaShem with all his strength will merit
that HaShem's will permeates all of his works. He is referred to as
the 'generations of Noach.' This is because from the performance of
his good deeds he causes enjoyment [Heb. neechah] to HaShem.
However it is important for him to understand that he must humble
himself and not try to strive for levels of service that are above
his abilities. For if he does he can Chas V'Shalom* fall from the
level he has attained. Who was greater then Moshe Rabbeinu of whom
it is said, 'and he was afraid to look at G-d.' [Which means that
even he understood the limits of his abilities and what his true
place was in serving HaShem.]
The way one can do this is to always remember that he is a creature
of flesh and blood, formed from the dirt of the earth. Therefore how
could he dare to enter into the court of the King? One should learn
from the nature of 'earth' which allows all to walk upon it [and he
should never consider himself higher then others.] Therefore he
should fill himself with the midah* of humility and lower himself
like the 'earth'.
That is why the verse says the word 'Noach' twice. The second time is
to teach that even though he brought pleasure to HaShem with his good
deeds he remained quiet about them and 'rested.' [Heb. noach] I.e.
he was lowly, like the 'earth'. That is the meaning of 'Noach went
with G-d.' He was always afraid to look above his level. (p. 20 sefer
Ner Yisroel teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin whose Yortzheit* is
3 Cheshvon* which is in the week we read the parsha* of Noach)
* * *
III. Good friends
3. 'These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a perfect Tzaddik
in his generations.' (Bereishis 6.9)
Rashi says, '[The verse says] "In his generations." Some of our
Rabbis explain this as a compliment.... Some explain this as a
criticism. i.e. According to his generation his was a Tzaddik, if
he had been in the generation of Avraham Aveinu* he would not have
been considered as anything important.' The questions on this
teaching are well known. How can they explain this negatively when it
is possible to explain it in a positive manner? [Especially when the
verse itself says he was a Tzaddik.]
We can say: When a person finds himself in good surroundings, with
friends who desire to hear the word of HaShem. We find that besides
the simple advantage of joining together with others, which is
helpful in serving HaShem, there is a secondary advantage. It
strengthens his midah of humility. This is because when they sit
together, each one can see that his friend has midos which are
greater then his. And from this he becomes humbled.
It is not this way when one lives in a place where people are not G-d
fearing. These surroundings cause two evils. First, it is hard for
him not to be inclined to follow after their evil actions. Second,
it causes him to always be filled with thoughts of his own greatness.
In order to separate himself above the actions of those around him,
[he is forced think of himself as being above them and their foolish
actions.] Even though in this second case it would be allowed to have
such thoughts, as the verse says, 'raise your heart in the service of
HaShem.' It is still not comparable in value to serving HaShem with
With this we can understand what Rashi was saying: Noach, since he
lived in a generation of wicked people, was forced to consider
himself greater then them. [He had to] look at them as the lowliest
of creatures, and unworthy of [being friends with] him. He should
separate from them. However if he had been in the generation of
Avraham he would not have needed to act in this manner, and consider
himself important as I explained above. [He would have had someone
together with him who was worthy for Noach to join together with.]
This is what Rashi means, '"in his generation"... some explain it as
a criticism.' This means because that generation was a wicked one,
where the people did evil actions [it had a negative effect on
Noach]. So Rashi says further, 'because of the generation he was a
Tzaddik.' Since they were so wicked he had to consider himself a
Tzaddik so as not to learn from their wicked deeds.
Rashi continues, 'If he had been in the generation of Avraham however
he would not have considered himself as worthy in his own eyes.' This
means he would have been able to strengthen himself with the midah of
humility. (p. 143 sefer Eteres Shlomo teachings of Rebbe Shlomo of
Bobov ZT'L grandson of the Rebbes of Tzanz and Dzikov [whose
Yortzheit is 3 Cheshvon] and grandfather of my Rebbe, Admor* of Bobov
* * *
IV. Overcoming one's nature.
4. 'And all the fountains of the great deep were broken open'
The Midrash says, "the verse uses the word 'great' [Heb. Rabbah] when
they sinned, as it says 'their sins were great.' When they were
punished it uses the word 'great' as it says 'the fountains of the
great deep were broken open'." [The Midrash is here telling us that
they were punished midah kenegid midah*. They sinned with 'great' and
they were punished with 'great'.] We need to explain how, according
to their actions, this was considered as punishment midah kenegid
The people in that time were accustomed to following after whatever
their eyes desired. Through their wicked actions the world was
filled with adultery. All the people followed these wicked ways. They
would then try to justify their actions with foolish excuses. For
example they would say that it was only their nature to act this way.
In so doing their physical desires conquered them, and they had no
desire to fight against these desires. They would say that everything
follows after it's 'nature' and one cannot do anything about it.
But this is totally false, because one is required to strengthen
himself against his 'nature' as it is taught in the Yavatz* siddur*.
There, in his explanation of the meaning of the blessing we say
daily, 'who spreads out the earth over the water', he states that
HaShem makes a great wonder in that the nature of water is to rise
about earth. The earth itself is by nature hard, and hence it should
sink and the water should rise above it. However HaShem declares
that the 'earth should be spread over the water.' From this we should
learn the lesson that we should not follow after our yetzer*, but we
should overcome our nature.
Therefore they followed after their desires and didn't control their
yetzer, until the result was that their ways were totally degenerate.
And when they gave the excuse that it was because they followed their
'nature, HaShem went midah kenegid midah. [They would not act
contrary to their inborn nature, so] he caused all the fountains of
the great deep to break open. Following it's own nature the water
below rose up and destroyed all the people (p. 3 sefer Or P'nei
Yehoshua teachings of Rebbe Yehoshua Rov* of Galanta, the Rebbe of
Mori* HaRav* Shmuel Kraus Z'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.
Alsheich: Jewish Biblical commentator Rabbi Moshe Al Sheich
Avraham Aveinu: Hebrew name of Abraham
Bereishis: First book of the Torah. Called Genesis in English
Chas V'Shalom: Hebrew for 'G-d forbid'
Cheshvon: Eighth month of the hebrew calender
HaRav: The Rov (see Rov).
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad.
midah kenegid midah: Heb. measure for measure
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
Mori: Hebrew for my teacher.
Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of
referring to Moses.
Parsha (Parshos): A portion of the Torah read each week.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group
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.
Shlita: Hebrew Initials for the words: Sh'Yichiya L'Aruch Yomim Tovim
Amen. (He should have a good long life amen)
siddur: Jewish prayer book.
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic
Yavatz: Hebrew initials for Yaakov ben Tzvi. Name of Rabbi Yaakov
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 Suf: Hebrew 'sea of reeds'.
Yortzheit: Yiddish for the day of the anniversary of a death
Z'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechorono LeVaracha (His memory is
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
All rights reserved.
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