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. Shabbos Chol HaMoed*
1. 'The song of songs that is to Shlomoh.' It appears to me that we
can understand this according to what it says in the Alsheich* on the
prayer, 'a great king who is glorified with praise.' For this merit
that we have in being able to praise His great name, we should
glorify HaShem. That is the meaning of 'who is glorified with
praise.' We glorify HaShem because we have merited to praise Him.
This is the meaning of 'The song of songs that is to Shlomoh.' We
sing because we have merited to sing to His great name. This is a
beloved song, more then any other song that we have merited to sing.
We sing a song to HaShem that we have merited to sing to His great
name. We sing a song for all the songs that are for Shlomoh [which
Chazal* say refers to HaShem.]
Another explanation is that the perfect service to HaShem is when one
has a burning desire for Him continually. This is the joy one has
that he has merited to be one of HaShem's servants, who does His
will. HaShem has many types of holy angels who serve Him above, but
He has chosen men formed from dust [to serve Him.] There is nothing
greater than this.
The truth is that the Tzaddikim* serve HaShem even with their eating,
drinking and sleeping. But this is not the perfect service of HaShem.
The perfect service is to have his soul attached to HaShem with
prayer, song and praises. This is the meaning of 'song of songs.' We
need to sing to Him that we have merited to say songs and praises
before Him. 'That is to Shlomoh.' This refers to the perfect [Heb.
shlamos] service, which is not the case with eating, drinking and
sleeping. (p. 64b sefer Kedushas Levi teachings of Rebbe* Levi
Yitzchok of Berditchev.)
* * *
2. 'Your two breast are like two fawns' [Heb. afarim. Rashi* says
this refers to Moshe and Aharon.] We can understand this according to
what Chazal have taught, that in the merit of his humility Moshe
merited to receive the Torah. We can also say that Avraham Aveinu*
who [Chazal teach us] fulfilled all the Torah likewise did so in the
merit of his humility, as he said, 'I am dust [Heb. afar] and ashes.'
It is well known that no one will be able to rise to the level of
Moshe, as it says, 'there will not arise one like Moshe.' Chazal have
said, 'a person should say when will my actions approach those of my
ancestors.' [When will I act in a way that is similar to them. We
can approach them, but not be on the same level.]
This is then the meaning of the verse, 'Your two breasts' this means
the two Torahs, the written and the oral Torah. They shall be
observed by you like two fawns [Heb. afarim]. Like [the two people
who considered themselves] dust [Heb. afar]. As Avraham said he was
'dust and ashes'. Because of that [i.e. your humility] you will merit
to the Torah. According to your level of humility you will merit to
the Torah as the Torah is compared to a deer.
This is what the verse says after that, 'who graze [their sheep] like
roses.' As the Talmud* says, "those who say the Shema* in the morning
and at night fulfil the mitzvah of 'and you shall occupy yourself
with it [learning Torah] day and night." This is 'who graze [their
sheep] like roses. The Zohar* tells us that 'roses' means the
recitation of the Shema. [Those who serve with humility will merit to
learn the Torah.] (p. 301 Haggadah* Or Shevos Yamim Haggadah with
teachings of Chassidic Rebbes. This is from Rebbe Moshe Chaim Ephraim
of Sedelkov the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov.)
* * *
II. Shevi'i Shel Pesach*
3. 'And they believed in HaShem and Moshe His servant.' I heard in
the name of the Baal Shem Tov that the reason why one has to travel
to the Tzaddik in his generation and it is not sufficient to learn
from seforim* is openly stated in the Torah. The verse says, 'HaShem
said to Moshe, write this as a book of remembrance and place it in
the ears of Yehoshua.' Even though HaShem said to write it in a sefer
that should have been enough. However even with it written down the
verse says that Moshe should tell it over to Yehoshua. He should
speak to him, one to another. That is because the main thing is what
one hears from the Tzaddik of that generation. Moshe was the Tzaddik
of that generation.
The Midrash* teaches on the verse, 'Now Israel, listen to the
judgments...' This can be compared to a king who has two crowns which
he gave to his son. With time the son lost one of the crowns. The
king said to his son, be careful and don't lose the second crown
since you have already lost the first one. (Look there at what the
The same is with Israel. They had two crowns: 'we will hear' and 'we
will do'. After the sin of the golden calf they lost the crown of 'we
will do.' There was only left for them the crown of 'we will hear.'
Therefore HaShem warned the Jewish people, 'Now Israel LISTEN to my
judgments...' This means to say that they should be careful of the
second crown as they had already lost the first one.
Therefore when you learn in a sefer which is the level of 'we will
do' [learning is an action] it does not have the power to inspire [to
the service of HaShem] so much. This is because the crown of 'we will
do' has been lost. However if you hear from a Tzaddik, the level of
'we will hear', which is the crown that they still have, it will stay
with him. Therefore it is necessary to go to the Tzaddik in his
generation and make a connection with him. (p. 88 Haggadah Baal Shem
Tov. Haggadah with teachings from the Baal Shem Tov.)
* * *
4. Chazal say that [acquiring a] livelihood is as difficult as the
splitting of the Yom Suf*. I heard an explanation of this by the Rebbe
Reb* Bunim of Peshischa ZT'L*. He said that by the sea not one of the
Jewish people even considered that it was possible for the sea to
split and that they would pass through it. Each one had considered
another way for them to be saved from this trouble. But HaShem saved
them in this particular manner that did not occur to them at all. It
is the same way with one's livelihood. HaShem provides for each and
every person in a way that he would never have considered.
There are two methods that HaShem uses to run things in this world.
The first is according to the actions of the person. As the Baal Shem
Tov taught on the verse, 'HaShem is your shadow.' Just like a shadow
does what the person does, so HaShem deals with the person according
to his actions. The second method is that HaShem is good both to
those who are good and those who are evil. This comes from the great
mercy that HaShem has towards all of creation.
We find that HaShem used the second method in Egypt where the Jewish
people were not worthy that HaShem should do for them miracles. But
HaShem desired for their good that they should be redeemed. The
redemption from Egypt was based on the compassion of HaShem and not
because of their actions.
This is the meaning of the verse in the song, 'why do you scream out
to Me, tell the children of Israel to move on.' The Zohar says that
'to Me' refers to the place that is the source of His compassion
without any regard for the actions of those below. That is the
meaning of the verse, 'And HaShem saved Israel in that day from the
hands of the Egyptians.' [The name 'HaShem' refers to his
compassion.] As we say, 'From His place compassion spreads out.'
The livelihood of a person is also like this as Chazal teach,
children, life and a livelihood do not depend on merits. HaShem
alone, from His own desire, will give to each person a livelihood and
food, and it is not based on his own merits. This is the meaning of
'[acquiring a] livelihood is as difficult as the splitting of the Yom
Suf.' They both come the same way without regard for the actions of
the people involved. (p. 88 Haggadah Akedas Yitzchok Haggadah with
teachings of Rebbe Yitzchok Menachem of Alexander.)
Alsheich: Jewish Biblical commentator Rabbi Moshe Al Sheich
Avraham Aveinu: Hebrew name of Abraham
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages
of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chol HaMoed: Intermediate days of a holiday
Haggadah: Sefer that relates the story of the Exodus from Egypt and
other things related to the night of Pesach.
Kiddish: Ceremony performed on Friday night over a cup of wine.
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
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.
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.
Shema: Main Jewish prayer of the confession of faith. Contains 3
parshas. Devorim 6.5-9; 11.13-21 and Bamidbar 15.37-41
Shevi'i Shel Pesach: Seventh day of the holiday of Pesach
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic
Yom Suf: Hebrew 'sea of reeds'.
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 (email@example.com)
All rights reserved.
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