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.
1. 'If his offering shall be a thanksgiving offering.' (V'yikra* 7.12)
It is a well known principle that prayer is more important then any
other type of service of HaShem*. When one prays he should prepare
himself as if he were going into a battle. As the Zohar* says
[comparing prayer to going to war, he should go into it], 'with
arrows, and bow, and sword.'
The meaning [of what the Zohar says] is that a person from the top of
his head to the bottom of his feet is filled with the holy letters.
His job is to raise them up to HaShem, to the divine Will, which is
their source. When he uses all his strength and his thoughts
concentrating on what is above, it is as if he is throwing the
prayers upwards. It can be compared to using an arrow and shooting it
upward. [The Zohar] is making a remez* to this when it says, 'with
arrows and bow.'
This is conditional on him not mixing any improper thoughts [with his
prayers.] This can cause his prayers to be invalidated because of
these foreign thoughts. He is then not able to raise up [these
letters with his prayer] as they were supposed to. It is well known
[from the Baal Shem Tov] that even in one's thoughts there is a
source of godliness. One has to raise them up to their source and
correct them. If a person has foreign thoughts he gives strength to
the Yetzer HaRah*, and they will not be raised up.
However if he concentrates during the saying of the 248 words of the
Shema*, then he will destroy any negative effects from these prayers.
This is the meaning of 'and he took a spear in his hands'. According
to the Zohar this is a remez for the 248 words of the Shema, which
are considered as if they pierced through these negative thoughts
[which caused the prayers to be invalid. The Hebrew word spear is
'romach' which if spelled defectively has the gematria* of 248.]
The main thing to remember, [which will aid you in keeping in mind
what you should during prayer,] is that your words during prayer have
their source in the first words spoken [by HaShem] which caused the
world to be created. You should [consider] your words as if they were
joined to the [first] words from HaShem, and they will take 'revenge'
[on these negative thoughts.]
That is the meaning of the verse, 'I will raise up G-d with my
throat' [i.e. my prayers. This verse is specifically applied to the
Shema in the Zohar and other Kabbalistic sources. When is this?] When
there is 'a two edged sword their hands.' [By saying the Shema with
the proper intention he will have the effects explained above. It is
as if he had a sword in his hand.] It was the intention of HaShem
when he created the world that they should all join themselves to Him
and be raised up to His Will. And that is the meaning of the
'thanksgiving offering', which the Zohar says is like 'arrows...' (p.
188 sefer Toras HaMaggid teachings of the Rebbe Reb* Ber, the Maggid*
* * *
II. The Torah*
2. 'And HaShem said to Moshe saying. Command Aharon...' (V'yikra 4.2)
The word 'command' indicates that he should be diligent now and for
all generations. [In the Midrash* it says] Rabbi Shimon said 'One has
to be more diligent in a case where there is a chance of a loss of
There are a few problems [with what the Midrash said.] First, every
mitzvah* was said for all generations. What is special with this one?
Second, what is the special 'loss of money involved' with this
particular sacrifice? There are many other mitzvos where there is a
larger financial cost then this one. When those mitzvos are related
in the Torah it doesn't use the wording of 'command.'
The main purpose of the Torah that HaShem has given us is that we
should subdue our Yetzer HaRah. Because of this in the Zohar [when
discussing what we should do against the Yetzer HaRah] it tells us
that we should learn Torah [more then any other act.] With the Torah
one is able to fight with the Yetzer HaRah and subdue it. This is
because the great and holy light of the Torah is always able to cause
him to return to HaShem and to the good path. Through the Torah he is
able to attach himself to HaShem, who is hidden within the words of
the Torah. Through the Torah he is able to attach to HaShem and
subdue the Yetzer HaRah.
This is the meaning of what Rabbi Shimon says, 'I have seen those
with lofty souls, and they are few.' This is because with the Torah
one is able to rise up higher and higher, and also to repair whatever
damage he caused by his sins. That is the meaning of 'the Torah of
the Olah [Hebrew for burnt offering, but literally means 'raised up']
Through the Torah one can become raised up, 'all the night until
morning'. Even if it is dark for him [i.e. he has sinned], he can
rise up, and make from it 'the morning light'. (p. 85 sefer M'Or
Aynayim teachings of Rebbe* Nachum of Chernoble.)
* * *
3. 'When one brings his peace-offering to Hashem, he shall bring his
offering to HaShem from his peace offering. ' (V'yikra 5.29)
It appears to me that we can explain this verse according to what it
says in the words of the prophet, 'In all their [Israel's] suffering,
He suffered.' This means that whenever a person is going through
personal suffering, the main point of his prayer [at that time]
should be for the honor and sake of HaShem, because 'in their
suffering He suffers.' [HaShem feels the suffering also, and one
needs to pray for that.]
This is the meaning of the verse, 'May your mercy, HaShem, be upon
us, just as we awaited you.' In this verse we are asking from HaShem
that he should act mercifully to us just as we waited for him. I.e.
even though we are not able to make the main point of our prayer only
for the sake of HaShem [and His suffering with us], even so, He is
filled with compassion. Your mercy should be upon us just as we
waited for you, i.e. because of your honor. That is the meaning of
'for you' i.e. because of you. [He should have mercy because we
also had in mind his suffering.]
We see that it is fitting that the main purpose of our prayers should
be for the sake of the honor of HaShem. The Torah is teaching us this
in this verse.
'When one brings his peace-offering to Hashem', i.e. when he
approaches in prayer to HaShem.
'His peace-offering' [Heb zevach - slaughter shlomov - of peace], It
can be said, with regards to his Yetzer HaRah, that it has
slaughtered him [i.e. held him back] from his perfection [Heb.
shelamos] in service to HaShem.
The Torah is telling us how we should pray. That is 'he shall bring
his offering.' What he wants to offer [in prayer] and ask of HaShem.
'Bring his offering to HaShem.' i.e. because of the honor of HaShem.
According to the verse, 'in all their sufferings He suffered.' The
main purpose of his prayers should be for the sake of HaShem.
'From his peace offering.' [His purpose should be for the honor of
HaShem] even more then because of the Yetzer HaRah having
'slaughtered him' [by keeping him back] from his perfection with
HaShem. His prayer should not be because of the suffering from what
has happened, but for the sake of HaShem. (p. 67 sefer Mevasar
Tzedek teachings of Rebbe Yissochar Ber of Zlotchov.)
* * *
4. 'When one brings his peace-offering to Hashem, he shall bring his
offering to HaShem from his peace offering. ' (V'yikra 5.29)
The main purpose of the sacrifices was that we should bring our
souls close to the holiness of HaShem, and to rectify them from any
defect they may have.
The differences between the various types of sacrifices are explained
in the Torah. Each different sacrifice was to rectify one aspect of
the person, depending on which type of sacrifice was being brought.
The desire of HaShem was that he should bring the sacrifice and
correct what was lacking in his soul. This was dependant on the
particular holy sacrifice and what it was meant to teach him. [Each
sacrifice would indicate a different aspect.]
The concept of the 'sin sacrifice' and the 'guilt offering' was that
the person should recognize his failings and return to HaShem. Then
HaShem would accept his good will. [HaShem sees this will] from the
persons desire to return to Him [and the sacrifice that he brought.]
This causes pleasure to HaShem. Because of this [pleasure] He will
bestow on him from His holiness, and fulfil his will.
However the concept of the 'peace offering' is not because of any
defect in the person at all. It comes from the love in his soul to
come close to HaShem, and bring himself under the yoke of His
Kingship with a greater holiness [then he had until that time.] Even
if he was perfect in his service of Him, and HaShem had bestowed all
the good things to him [that he could want.] He [still] gives over
the perfection that his soul has to HaShem. Then he asks that HaShem
take him under the yoke of His Kingship. From this he will bring upon
himself from His holiness. This is to show that all of the
perfection of his soul in the service of HaShem was just an offering
The truth is that HaShem's will is to do good to us and to bestow all
types of good things [upon us.] There is a remez to this in Chazal*
where they say that, [with regards to the peace offering] 'there is a
portion of it that belongs to the one offering it.' [This means that
with this offering not only does HaShem gain, but the one giving it
also gains.] In this manner His Kingship becomes raised, since [as is
known] there cannot be a king without a people [to serve him. By
bringing himself under HaShem's Kingship He becomes greater in this
This is then the meaning of the verse. 'When one brings his
peace-offering to Hashem'. The reason why we offer our souls with all
its perfections and all our possessions is in order to go under the
yoke of His Kingship. Through this 'he shall bring his offering to
HaShem from his peace offering.' This means that HaShem will bestow
upon us all types of good things because of our perfections in
service and all the good things that we do, as an offering to HaShem.
This is pleasant to Him, and is what His Will is.
This is the meaning of the verse, 'everywhere I cause my name to be
mentioned' i.e. the holiness of His kingship. 'I will come and bless
them.' HaShem will bestow all types of goodness and blessings because
of this service.
The gematria of the words 'to HaShem from his peace offering' [Heb.
L'HaShem m'zevach shlomov 56 + 57 + 386 = 499] (with three more for
the three words)  is 'His kingship' [Heb. malchuso. This shows
that through this sacrifice we come under the yoke of his Kingship.]
(p. 4 sefer Toras Emes teachings of Rebbe Leibele of Lublin)
* * *
V. Shabbos HaGadol
5. On Shabbos HaGadol the Rebbe of Sadagura said Torah. Before saying
the Torah he related that there once was a Rabbi who on Shabbos
Tshuva* would give a talk about how to make kosher ones vessels
[which is what one usually discusses on Shabbos HaGadol.] On Shabbos
HaGadol he would give a talk about doing tshuva*. The Rebbe said that
he was doing properly, and that he was correct.
The reason for this is that Chazal say, 'Great is tshuva that it
makes willing sins into unwilling sins.' Another time it says, 'Great
is tshuva that it makes willing sins into merits.' It would appear
that these two statements contradict each other. However they do not.
The difference is that when the tshuva is done from love the sins
become merits, when it is done from fear they become unwilling sins.
The Yomim Noroim* are days of judgement and 'gevurah*'. A person does
tshuva from fear, because fear comes from the midah* of gevorah.
Therefore his tshuva is not good enough to wipe out the sins
completely. They are only turned into unwilling sins. Therefore we go
to the water to do tashlich* [to cast away our sins.] This shows that
the unwilling sins still need atonement. For this reason [this Rabbi]
would discuss making vessels kosher. This was to inspire the people
to, in the least, do tshuva from fear. 'Fear' is a little like making
kosher vessels. This is because one makes vessels kosher with boiling
water. The level of 'fear' is a remez for this since in general one
who is afraid he sweats, which is like boiling water.
However when the month of Nisan comes, it is a level of chesed* and
love. For that reason one should talk about tshuva. This is so that
they should do tshuva for the tshuva they did then [during the Yomim
Noroim.] He should do tshuva from love in order to turn his sins into
The Rebbe ended by saying, this is the reason that we go to the river
to draw water for the matzohs [which is called mayim shelanu.] We are
taking back the sins that we threw in the water during Tishrei so
that we can make them merits. (p. 26 sefer Ner Yisroel teachings of
Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin and his descendants. This was from Rebbe
Avraham Yakov of Sadagura.)
Zechisom Yugan Aleini v'Al Kol Yisroel
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
gematria: The numerical value of the Hebrew letters.
gevurah: Heb. strength. Refers to something done with power. The
opposite of chesed.
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.
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
Parshas Porah: Special Parsha of the Torah read the Shabbos after
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.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints
in the Torah for various concepts.
Shema: Main Jewish prayer of the confession of faith. Contains 3
parshas. Devorim 6.5-9; 11.13-21 and Bamidbar 15.37-41
Shabbos HaGadol: The Shabbos before the first day of Passover
Shabbos Tshuva: Shabbos between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur
tashlich: A custom on Rosh HaShanah to go to a river or body of water
and say special prayers.
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
V'yikra: Hebrew for the book of Leviticus
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
Yomim Noroim: Hebrew from 'Days of Awe.' The days around the holidays
of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, so called because they are days
Zohar: Hebrew/Aramaic Rabbinical Kabbalistical work that is one of
the most important sources for Kabbalah, and was very influential
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman (email@example.com)
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