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.
This shiur has been dedicated in memory of:
by his son, Andrew Gawronsky
1. "You shall say to them this is the fire offering that they should
bring for HaShem*, perfect lambs in their first year, two a day, for
a continual offering. One of the lambs you should make in the morning
and the second lamb you should make in the evening." Bamidbar*
I heard in the name of the Chasid and man of G-d Rabbi Yitzchok, who
is called by everyone Reb Itzikel Doravitcher ZTvK'L* (the father of
Rabbi Mechel the Maggid* of Zlotchov ZT'L*), that everyone holds onto
the anger he has with his friend until the day before Yom Kippur*.
Then[, on the day before Yom Kippur,] we see everyone going around
forgiving one another.
But that is not the proper way for people to act. One should forgive
his friend for anything that he had done to him in the same day
before going to sleep. In the morning he should forgive him for
anything that had been done to him the night before. He should not
leave his anger for a full year [until Yom Kippur].
This is what the verse means:
'This is the fire offering' [i.e. how should you deal with your anger
which is compared to fire.]
'That you shall offer to HaShem', in order that it should be pleasing
to Him [and should be considered as an offering.]
'Lambs [Heb. kavusim] in their first year'. This means to say that
those things that are usually hidden [Heb. kavish] in your heart for
a full year until the day before Yom Kipper, you should not leave
hidden. [You should grant forgiveness for your fellow.]
'Two a day'. [You shall do it] two times a day.
'One lamb [kavis] you should make in the morning.' That which is
hidden in your heart [i.e. your anger at your friend] you should
rectify [in the morning].
'And the second lamb you should make.' You should rectify the hidden
things at night before going to sleep. (Sefer Mayim Rabim p.99
teachings of Rebbe* Mechel the Maggid of Zlotchov ZT'L, a Talmid* of
the Baal Shem Tov)
* * *
2. "To Zerach the families of Zerach" Bamidbar 26.13
The Torah is teaching us the ways of repentance. The main trait that
brings one to repentance is humility. A person should always appear
in his eyes as if he had never done a single Mitzvah*.
That is what 'to Zerach' [Heb. to shine] means. Something in the
future. The person is always waiting 'to shine' [i.e. to Zerach],
meaning that he is waiting to do a Mitzvah. Those Mitzvos that he has
already done he should consider as nothing [i.e. as if he had never
If he does this then he will find that he will receive much help in
doing the Mitzvos. 'The families of Zerach.' There will be many
'families' to help him shine. [Many paths will be opened for him by
HaShem to perform mitzvos.] (Sefer Razin D'Oraysa p. 66 teachings
of Rebbe Velvel of Zabriz ZT'L, son of Rabbi Mechel the Maggid of
* * *
3. "The continual offering that was commanded (lit. made) on Mount
Sinai" Bamidbar 28.6
It is well known (from the Talmud Sota* 5a and Megilla* 29a) that
'Mount Sinai' refers to the idea of humility. It was for this reason
The Holy One, Blessed is He revealed himself on Mount Sinai and gave
the Torah to Israel.
Therefore this is what the verse is saying: 'That was made on Mount
Sinai.' The person who is humble, which is the level of Mount Sinai,
is able to achieve a very high level in his service of HaShem. And
[he can] rise higher and higher. That is the meaning of a 'continual
offering.' The one who is able to offer himself continually to
HaShem. This is the one who has made himself humble like Mount
Sinai. He [the humble person] will bring a 'fire offering that is
pleasing for HaShem.' (Toras Shimon p. 34 teachings from Rabbi Shimon
of Yarislov ZT'L, a Talmud of the Chozeh of Lublin and a number of
other Rebbes of that time.)
* * *
4. 'My pleasant aroma you shall be careful to offer Me in it's
appointed time.' (Bamidbar 28.2)
In the Midrash* [on this verse] it says, "The verse says, 'The
Tzaddik* eats to satisfy his soul and the stomach of the wicked is
always lacking.' 'The Tzaddik eats to satisfy his soul' this is
Eliezer [the servant of Avraham] who said, 'Let me sip please.' 'And
the stomach of the wicked is always lacking,' this is Esav who said,
'Pour into me, please.'"
We can explain this according to what the Talmud* says, 'A person
should always pray [to HaShem for help] before the troubles come, in
order that they should not come.' We may say the reason is as
follows. The truth is that everything comes from HaShem. Even the
prayers, themself, that a person will pray comes from HaShem. The
reason is that if HaShem were not to help him [and give him the
strength] he would not be able to do anything.
Therefore a person needs to pray that HaShem should send to him the
[proper] words of prayer, so that he should be fluent in his prayers.
Then when he needs them he will know what to pray and HaShem will
then answer him when he has troubles. And He will fulfil all of his
needs for his own well being.
This is 'My pleasant aroma.' That which is done which is pleasing
before Him, which refers to prayer.
'You shall be careful' [Heb. tishmoru] This is the same language of
'And his father kept [Heb. Shomer] the thing. [i.e. His father waited
to see that it would be fulfilled.] This means that you should pray
before you have a need for something.
In order 'to offer to Me in it's appointed time.' In order that when
you need something, whether that something has to do with your
livelihood or some other physical need, you should be fluent in your
prayers for this need. Then HaShem will hear you.
That is the meaning of 'The Tzaddik eats to satisfy his soul.' His
prayers are fluent in his mouth and he is able to accomplish what he
wishes with his prayers. He can bring down sustenance and compassion
on himself and on all of the Jewish people who need compassion [from
This is what their holy words mean: 'This is Eliezer who said "Let me
sip please."' The word 'please' [Heb. na] is a language that implies
prayer. Therefore the meaning is that this is the reason that he is
called a Tzaddik according to this Midrash. 'The Tzaddik eats to
satisfy his soul,' means that he prays to HaShem that he should 'Let
me sip please.' His prayers should be fluent in his mouth. [The verse
there continues,] 'A little water from your bucket.' 'Water' refers
to the mercy of HaShem. [The meaning being that] his eating should be
in order to bring down HaShem's mercy to this world to bring His good
mercy to all the Jewish people.
"'And the stomach of the wicked is lacking.' This is Esav who said,
'Pour into me please.'" He does not pray to HaShem that his prayers
should be fluent in his mouth before he needs them. He only asks to
fill his desires, and his stomach. [However] his prayers are not
heard, therefore 'and the stomach of the wicked are lacking.' HaShem
holds back his light from the wicked. (p. 91 sefer Zerah Yakov
teachings of Rebbe Yakov of Melitz son of Rebbe Naftuli Tzvi of
* * *
IV. The reward of a Mitzvah
5. "Pinchas the son of Eluzer the son of Aaron the Kohen (priest)
turned back my anger from the Children of Israel when he was jealous
for my sake among them, therefore I did not destroy them in my anger.
Because of this behold I will give to him my covenant of peace. And
it shall be a covenant for him and his seed after him; a covenant of
an everlasting priesthood, because he was jealous for his G-d, and
made atonement for the children of Israel." Bamidbar 25.11-13
Let me explain the problems with these verses. First it says, 'when
he was jealous for my sake among them.' Then it says, 'he was jealous
for his G-d'. [First it says that his jealousy was among the people
of Israel, and then it says it was for G-d alone.] Again, first it
says, 'I will give to him My covenant of peace' then it says, 'it
shall be a covenant for him and his seed after him' [First it says
the reward is for him alone, then it says it is for him and his
We can explain the problems this way: There are two aspects in the
performance of the Mitzvos. First the physical action of the Mitzvah
itself. This is apparent to everyone, since everyone can see him do
it. However this has a limit. [The person has done a specific
action. The action has a time and length etc.] The second aspect is
the intentions and the joy one feels when doing the Mitzvah. This is
something that is hidden from other people. It is revealed only to
G-d what his intentions were and what the good thoughts that he had
were. To this there is no limit or end. [Since there is no limit to
the possible intentions one could have] Therefore the reward for
these intentions is also without limit or end.
This is what is meant by the verse that says, 'The Mitzvos are a lamp
and the Torah is light' (Mishleh* 6.23) The Rabbis say that from this
verse we see that a Mitzvah protects only when you are doing it, but
the Torah protects when you are learning it and when you are not
learning it. What they mean is that when one does a Mitzvah in the
manner revealed to all, as I mentioned above. This is like a lamp,
and only protects the person when he is doing it since it has a limit
to it, like I mentioned above.
However if you do a Mitzvah with inner intentions and joy, this is
without any limit to it (which is the hidden meaning of what the
rabbis say 'A commandment brings another commandment' Pirkei Avos*
4.2.) [Since by doing a Mitzvah with joy and inner intentions you
will bring another Mitzvah and another Mitzvah, without any limit]
Therefore this manner of the performance of the Mitzvah will protect
you always without any time limitation. This is called 'Torah', and
as is explained by the Rabbis: 'Anyone who keeps one Mitzvah in the
proper manner it is as if he kept the whole Torah'. For this reason
when you spell out the word lamp [Hebrew ner: spelled out nun vav
nun; resh yud shin. 106 + 510 = 616] you get the numerical value of
'The Torah'. [Hebrew HaTorah: heh tof vav resh heh = 616] This is a
remez* that because of the 'lamp', i.e. a Mitzvah performed in the
proper manner, it is as if you have kept all of the Torah, and your
reward is one that does not have a limit.
This therefore is the point of these verses: 'Pinchas the son of
Eluzer ...turned back my anger from the Children of Israel when he
was jealous for my sake among them.' [This means when he was] 'among
them'. This refers to the performance his Mitzvah in from of all the
people where they could see it. This was an action with a limit
therefore his reward was 'I will give to him my covenant of peace'. A
reward with a limit. [i.e. to him ALONE]
But 'it shall be a covenant for him and his seed after him', a reward
without any limit 'because he was jealous for his G-d'. Because of
the inner intentions he had when doing the Mitzvah that no one but
G-d knew of, which is a thing without limits. (Tzemach Tzaddik p.
243 teachings from Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Viznitz ZT'L the son of
Rebbe Chaim of Kosov ZT'L, the father of the Viznitzer dynasty)
Zechisom Yugan Aleini v'Al Kol Yisroel
Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
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).
Megilla: 1. Tractate of the Talmud
2. Another name for the Biblical book of Esther
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs.
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
Pirkei Avos: A Tractate of the Mishnah
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.
Sotah: A tractate of the Talmud
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic
Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement, the most holy day of the Jewish
ZT'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The
memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZTvK'L: Hebrew initials of the words:Zechor Tzaddik veKadosh
LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous man and a Kodosh -
a holy man is a blessing)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman (email@example.com)
All rights reserved.
Issur Hasugas Givil