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 honor of:
Mr and Mrs. Yisroel Abromovitz of Baltimore, Maryland
by Menachem Kalwitz
I. Getting Prayer heard
1. 'They ascended in the south and he arrived at Chevron.' (Bamidbar*
Rashi* explains that only Caleb went [to Chevron] to pray at the
graves of the Patriarchs. There is a tradition [related to this
verse] from Rebbe* Shlomoh of Karlin ZT'L that Rav* Chaim Liberzon of
Chernoble heard from his father Reb* Yeshaya.
[This tradition is] that if a person goes to the grave site of his
ancestors or to that of a great Tzaddik*. He should stand by the gate
of the Beis HaChaim* and say:
'If the soul of the Tzaddik for whom I am coming to visit is not now
by his grave, then I will light a candle at the time of prayer
because of the first soul that will relate (to my ancestors or) to
the Tzaddik, that I, Ploni ben Ploni* have come to pray by his
Then all the souls will hurry [to relate this.] Each one of them will
desire to be the first to tell the Tzaddik who is the person who has
come to his grave to pray. (p. 71 sefer Shema Shlomoh teachings of
Rebbe Shlomoh of Karlin HY'D a talmid* of Rebbe Aharon of Karlin.)
[There is a well known story where Rebbe Moshe of Ohel sent a
messenger to the grave of the Rebbe Reb* Elimeilech of Lizensk to
pray for his son who was sick. He instructed them that when they
would arrive there they should make a similar statement as is here
* * *
II. A Humble Land
2. 'The land is very very good.' (Bamidbar 14.7)
The midah* of humility has a strong relationship to the land of
Israel. The verse says: 'The land is very very good.' [This can be
understood] according to what Chazal* teach: 'You should be very
very humble.' [The words 'very very' in both places show that there
is a relationship.] The land of Israel has the quality that it brings
one to the midah of 'very very' [i.e. humility] (p. 105 sefer Toras
Avos teachings of the Rebbes of Lechovitz, Kobrin and Solonim. This
is from Rebbe Mordechai of Lechovitz a talmid of Rebbe Aharon of
* * *
III. Serving HaShem completely
3. 'In this desert [Heb. bamidbar] shall they be ended and there they
shall die.' (Bamidbar 14.35)
Whenever a person says any holy words of Torah or prayer, he needs to
enflame himself [with a desire for holiness] until he will reach the
level where his soul will desire to leave his body. [There is a
remez* to this in this verse. He should serve HaShem with a greater
and greater desire.] Until 'they shall be ended and there they shall
die' because of their mesiros nefesh* in their service of HaShem*.
(p. 105 sefer Toras Avos teachings of the Rebbes of Lechovitz, Kobrin
and Solonim. This is from Rebbe Mordechai of Lechovitz a talmid of
Rebbe Aharon of Karlin.)
* * *
IV. Freedom and the kingdom of heaven.
4. 'You shall see them and remember...' (Bamidbar 15.39)
The Talmud* says: See this mitzvah* and remember another mitzvah that
depends on it. Which mitzvah is that? The mitzvah of Krias Shema*. As
it is taught, From when is the time for the reciting of the Krias
Shema? From when one can recognize the difference between the color
of the blue wool and white wool [of the tzitzis*.] Another teaching:
See this mitzvah and remember another mitzvah which appears near to
it. Which mitzvah is that? [The mitzvah prohibiting wearing]
mixtures [of different types.] As it says, 'Do not wear mixtures of
wool and linen together. Strands you shall make [on the four corners
of your garment. The two verses appear in the Torah next to each
other. Right after the prohibition of 'mixtures' is the command to
wear tzitzis. Chazal tell us this indicates that the Tzitzis can be
made from 'mixtures.']
We can explain the simple meaning of this discussion. The main point
of the mitzvah of krias shema is to completely accept upon yourself
the yoke of the kingdom of heaven. This is not possible to do unless
you have first accepted upon yourself all the four types of death
sentences that a beis din* is able to hand down. This is the idea of
"dinah d'malchusah dinah" [The laws of the kingdom are laws.] When one
completely accepts upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven he
enters the 'world of freedom.' [By being willing to give up his life
he is no longer tied to this physical world. He is no longer a slave
to this physical world. ]
I heard from Mori*, the Holy Rebbe Shlomoh of Karlin on the verse,
'My beloved sent forth his hand from the portal.' The word 'portal'
[Heb. HaChor] is similar to 'freedom' [Heb. cherus My beloved refers
to HaShem who sends us 'freedom.'] It is also called 'blue wool'
[Heb. techeilus.] This is because the 'blue wool' is similar in
color to the ocean, and the ocean is similar in color to the heavens
and the heavens to the Throne of Glory [of HaShem. Through looking at
the blue wool, we have in mind these things which leads to the
acceptance of the kingdom of heaven.] That is the meaning of the
verse, 'To every purpose [Heb. techlah] there is an end.'
For all [of these ideas] there is a remez in the mitzvah of tzitzis.
This is because the tzitzis are supposed to have two strands of blue
wool. For this reason the time of saying krias shema is when you can
distinguish between the blue wool and the white wool of the tzitzis.
[All these things come about when one can distinguish the 'blue
Another teaching: See this mitzvah and remember another mitzvah which
appears near to it. Which mitzvah is that? [The mitzvah prohibiting
wearing] mixtures [of different types.] The reason for this teaching
is that all things are prohibited to be made of mixtures, except the
garments of the priests and tzitzis, which are allowed to be made of
mixtures. This is represented by the second view in the Talmud. 'When
you can distinguish between blue wool and green wool.' [Heb. karti.
This word] 'karti' has the letters of the word 'crown.' [Heb. keser]
For this reason it is allowed to have mixtures in the garments of the
priests and the tzitzis.
There is a remez to all of these ideas in the mitzvah of tzitzis.
This is because when a person completely accepts upon himself the
kingdom of heaven, as we have explained, then he can recognize the
difference between blue wool and green wool. (p. 28 sefer Beis Aharon
teachings of Rebbe Asher of Stolin and his son Rebbe Aharon (II) of
Karlin. This was from Rebbe Asher of Stolin the son of Rebbe Aharon
* * *
V. Difficult beginnings
5. 'Make for yourself Tzitzis' (Bamidbar 15.38)
The Midrash* says, '[The verse says] "His left hand is under my head."
This refers to [the mitzvah of] Tzitzis. "And his right hand embraces
me." This refers to [the mitzvah] of tephillin. Another view: "His
left hand is under my head." This refers to [the mitzvah of] Krias
Shema. "And his right hand embraces me." This refers to [the
mitzvah] of tephilah.
We need to understand how it is that 'his right hand' is associated
with tephilin. [The Midrash should have associated tephilin with the
left hand because] the tephilin are placed on the left hand. The
explanation is that it is the right hand which binds the tephilin to
the left hand. [This teaches us that] in all things we should
include the left side [the side of stern judgement] together with the
right side [the side of chesed*.] Through this we turn the left side
into the right side.
The Talmud tractate Brachos*, explains [the reason why when teaching
about the mitzvah of Krias Shema the Talmud first teaches about the
time for the evening and then the time for morning.] One Tanna*
explains that it is because the verse says 'When you lie down, and
when you rise up.' Another explanation is that it is compared to the
creation of the world. There is says, 'And it was evening and it was
morning, one day.'
Every generation starts with evening and ends with the morning.
[Evening is associated with the left side, the midah of judgement,
and morning with the right side, the midah of chesed.] As the verse
says, 'I will call to G-d [Heb. elokim] and HaShem will help me.'
[The name 'G-d' usually refers to the midah of judgement and 'HaShem'
to the midah of chesed.] It is also written right after this,
'Evening , morning and afternoon I pray...' [The verse] has evening
first and then morning.
The explanation [for the idea of evening coming before morning] is
that the word 'evening' [Heb. erev] has three meanings. The first is
'mixture.' [Heb. taruvos] The second is that it is a language meaning
'sweeten.' And there is also a third meaning to 'evening.'
It is the same with everything [in this world.] First comes
'evening'; a thing which is not good. The beginning of everything is
fear. [As the verse says, 'The beginning of wisdom is the fear of
HaShem.] It is the same with regards to the life of a person. When
he is born there comes to him his Yetzer HaRah*. Later the 'morning'
comes, when he is 13 [and he gets his Yetzer Tov*.]
This is what the Midrash means: '"His left hand is under my head."
This refers to Tzitzis.' The reason is that Tzitzis have blue wool,
which is a thing that is not as good as white wool which has no color
at all and is pure and completely good. Likewise with tephilin we
first bind them to the left hand, then we come to the tephilin that
are placed on the head, which is the level of 'right.' One needs to
start [ones service of HaShem] with the level of fear. Then [progress
to] the level of love, which joins the two together.
Even though in things of this world it is not possible to have two
things together as one. The one who has fear [of something] cannot
love it at the same time. The one loves something cannot have fear of
it [at the same time.] However when it comes to things that are
related to the Will of HaShem it is possible to have both at one
time. (p. 233 sefer Beis Aharon teachings of Rebbe Asher of Stolin
and his son Rebbe Aharon (II) of Karlin. This was from Rebbe Aharon
(II) of Karlin the son of Rebbe Asher of Stolin.)
Baal Medraigah: refers to a person on a high level of service to
Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
beis din: A Jewish court of law
Beis HaChaim: A Jewish cemetery
Brachos: Tractate of the talmud
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages
of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
Chesed L'Avraham: A sefer of Kabbalistic and moral teachings
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
Krias Shema: Recitation of the main Jewish prayer of the confession
of faith. Contains 3 parshas. Devorim 6.5-9; 11.13-21 and Bamidbar
kugel: a type of food eaten of Shabbos. It is made of either noodles
or potatoes baked into a kind of thick pudding
mesiros nefesh: Hebrew for self sacrifice
midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad.
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
Minchah: Name of the afternoon prayer
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
Mori: Hebrew for my teacher.
Ploni ben Ploni: Hebrew for 'So and so the son of so and so'
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rav: 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.
Reb: A title added to a persons name as a sign of respect.
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.
Reishis Chochmah: A sefer of Kabbalistic and moral teachings
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints
in the Torah for various concepts.
sefer(seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Shelah: Jewish scholarly commentary on the Torah, and Jewish holidays
by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tanna(Tannaim): Rabbis of the Talmud
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 HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman (email@example.com)
All rights reserved.
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