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. 'And Moshe gathered.' (Shemos* 35.1)
Moshe gathered together the Jewish people and then he told them about
the mitzvah* of Shabbos*. Rebbe* Pinchas of Koretz explained in depth
the importance of the unity of the Jewish people. [All Jews should
feel as if they were part of a single people and not be divided in
their hearts one from the other.] This is the meaning of 'and he
gathered'. Moshe [when he called them together] made them to feel as
if they were one.
Then Moshe told them the mitzvah of Shabbos. The reason is that
Shabbos shows our unity. It is like a private domain [i.e. a place
where a single person dwells.] Also the Torah* was given on Shabbos,
because [as Chazal* teach us] Shabbos is equal to all of the other
mitzvos of the Torah. [The Talmud* teaches that someone who violates
Shabbos is considered as one who violates all of the Torah.] The
reason [that the Torah was given on Shabbos] is that the Torah could
not have been given without the unity of the Jewish people as Chazal
explain with regards to the verse, '"and Israel rested there" [as if
they were one person'. From this verse we see that] Moshe was able
to bring all of the Jewish people to the level of unity as Rashi
explains that they came together at the call of Moshe. [Just as the
Torah required this unity, so the Shabbos reminds us of this unity.]
(p. 15 # 91 sefer Imrei Pinchas teachings of Rebbe Pinchas of
* * *
2. 'These are the things that HaShem* commanded you to do.' (Shemos
We can explain this according to the Midrash* from Parshas* Ekev.
"You considered that it was to do something evil to you that I gave
you the Shabbos, however I only gave it to you for your own good.
How is that the case? Rebbi Chiya the son of Rebbi Aba said, 'You
make holy the Shabbos with food, drink, clean sheets, and those
things that bring enjoyment to your soul, and I will give you a
reward for that.'" We need to understand how it is possible that they
could think that He gave them the Shabbos for an evil reason?
Shabbos is called in the Talmud a 'good present that was hidden in
His treasure house.'
I explained that Midrash according to what Chazal have taught,
'Everyone who observes Shabbos according to the halacha, even if he
worshipped idols like the generation of Enosh, will be forgiven of
his sins. As it says, "[He who] observes Shabbos and does not
desecrate it" [Heb. M'chalallilo]. Don't read "does not desecrate
it" but "he is forgiven"' [Heb mochol lo].
It is possible that because of this teaching a person could say, I
will do whatever my heart desires, and then I will observe Shabbos
and He will forgive me. After all the main purpose that He gave this
gift [of Shabbos] is to remove the evil in us and not for any other
reason. [As this teaching of the Talmud seems to indicate.]
Because of this [line of reasoning] the Midrash comes and tells us
that the main purpose of the observance of Shabbos is to do good.
[And it is not in order that he should be forgiven from sins.] This
means that during the six days of the week he should be careful to
keep himself from any sin, and to rectify any sin he may have done.
Then when the holy Shabbos comes he should sanctify the Shabbos by
doing good, i.e. to enjoy himself with food and drink. From this he
will receive a new reward because of this enjoyment of the Shabbos.
That is the meaning of what the Midrash says, 'for evil I gave you
the Shabbos.' This means that perhaps you would think that the only
purpose of the giving of Shabbos was in order to gain forgiveness for
your sins that you did during the six days of the week. However 'I
didn't give it to you except for your own good.' [i.e. in order that
you should do good 'all the six days of the week and then receive a
greater reward for sanctifying the Shabbos.] That is the main gift of
the Shabbos, to eat and drink etc, and to remove all evil from
yourself during the six days of the week. Then you will receive a new
reward because of your enjoyment of the Shabbos.
This is the meaning of the verse [in the song sung on Shabbos] 'all
the descendants of Yaakov should honor it [Shabbos] according to the
words of the King and His laws. To rest in it, and to be joyful with
the pleasure of food and drink.' [i.e. the main purpose of Shabbos
is to prepare all week doing the will of HaShem so that on Shabbos he
can reach a higher level of enjoyment and reward.]
This is then the meaning of the verse, 'These are the things that
HaShem commanded you to do.' Specifically to do [i.e. with food and
drink after preparing oneself the whole week.] The main intention of
HaShem in giving the Shabbos was that you should 'do'. i.e. enjoy
yourself with doing good, and not with the removal of evil alone.
This can also be the meaning of the next verse, 'six days you should
do your work.' This refers to work for the Shabbos, and His service,
so that you will rectify your sins by your service of Him. 'And the
seventh day shall be holy to you.' This is the extra holiness, the
extra fear and love of HaShem that comes. And we receive an extra
reward for enjoying the Shabbos. (p. 118 sefer Ahavas Shalom
teachings of Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kosov.)
* * *
II. Holy thoughts
3. 'Every wise hearted man among you shall come and make...' (Shemos
The words in this verse 'among you' appear to be extra. However it
seems to be a remez* to an idea that we have learned before. When it
comes to the performance of the mitzvos the important thing is what
you have in your heart and the holy thoughts that you have when doing
each specific mitzvah. Even though this is the case, it is still not
possible to do the mitzvah with your thought alone [without any
action] as thoughts are continually moving from one idea to another.
This one comes and quickly another one takes it's place.
Therefore the thought alone is not good without the actual action of
the mitzvah, and by this action you will fulfil your requirement of
intention. Not only that but the action will cause you to have the
thoughts that apply to this action. When you have finished this
action then there remains with you an impression of that good
thought, and so a part of the action will remain forever.
This is the meaning of what we say before performing any of the
mitzvos 'you have made us holy with your mitzvos.' Through your
command to do the action of the mitzvah you cause us to become holy.
This action causes holy thoughts [that apply to this mitzvah] and
they establish themselves with a greater strength and power. All this
is because this world is the world of action. [Action is the main
purpose of this world, as Chazal say, 'the learning is not the
important thing, the action is.']
This is what it says in the Megilah*, 'These days should be
remembered and kept.' The command applies to both the action [i.e.
kept] and the remembrance, because it is not sufficient that it
should be remembered alone, i.e. in thought. Without any action
[since thoughts disappear quickly.]
That is the meaning of the verse, 'Every wise hearted man.' 'Wise'
'Heart' refers to wisdom and understanding. This means everyone who
HaShem has bestowed from above with good thoughts of wisdom and
understanding in his mind. 'He should bring', he should do the
mitzvos in action and not just thought. He will go out from there to
the light and HaShem's word will be established forever. (p. 145
sefer Tepheres Shlomoh teachings of Rebbe Shlomoh of Radomsk.)
* * *
III. Learning Torah
4. 'And Moshe gathered all the congregation of Israel and he said to
them, these are the things that HaShem commanded you to do.' (Shemos*
The sefer M'or V'Shamash asked on this verse: what does it mean by
'these are the things that HaShem commanded you to do?' There are no
positive commandments with regards to Shabbos except to remember the
Shabbos and to make Kiddish. And from the Torah the remembrance alone
is sufficient. The Rabbis later added that one has to make Kiddish on
wine [as a remembrance.] All the mitzvos of Shabbos are negative
ones, [that tell us things we should not do. How can the verse say
that Moshe was teaching them the things to 'do' as if there were some
action that was required when there are none?]
He answers that Moshe Rabbeinu gathered them together every Shabbos
and taught them the Torah, and gave them moral instruction on how
they should act. This is [being said] to show for later generations
how they should act in every generation. That they should gather
themselves around the Tzaddik that is in their generation to hear
from him words of Torah. This is the meaning 'to do', i.e. in every
generation they should gather together with the Tzaddik to hear his
It is well known that the Hebrew word 'and he gathered' [Heb.
V'yakel] is the same gematria* as mikvah*. This is because the words
of Torah that are heard from a Tzaddik purify the soul of the person
who hears them [the same as if he had immersed himself in a mikvah.]
He is able to immerse himself in these words of Torah and they are
like the water of a mikva which purify him.
The Yeitiv Lev says on the verse, 'The priest's lip should keep
knowledge and they should seek Torah from his mouth [for he is a
messenger [Heb. malach] of HaShem of hosts.]' Chazal say, if your
Rav* is like an angel [Heb. malach] of Hashem you should seek Torah
from his mouth, and if not you should not seek Torah from his mouth.
The question is why it uses the word 'seek'? [It should have said
'listen to', or 'learn from'.]
The Yeitiv Lev explains that in the Talmud it says that 'the common
speech of a Talmud Chocham must be studied' because within their
common speech is to be found words of Torah. And that is the meaning
of 'if your Rav is like an angel of HaShem' then you need to seek
Torah from him, i.e. that Torah that is hidden within his common
However if someone else says over words of Torah, even if he is not
like an angel of HaShem one should not care. He should accept what he
says as it says in Pirkei Avos, 'Who is wise? He who learns from
every person.' But to seek for words of Torah in his common speech,
that you should not do unless he is a Rav who is like an angel of
This is the virtue of words of Torah that they are able to purify
those who hear them no matter who is the one saying them. This is
because the Torah is eternal and relates to each and every
generation. One should not search out to see if the one saying the
words of Torah is like an angel or not. One needs to accept from
every person and from that he will be able to purify himself. (Mori*
HaRav Shmuel Kraus Z'L*)
* * *
IV. Shabbos Shekalim
5. We read the parsha about the giving of the Shekalim to the Beis
HaMikdash* on the Shabbos before the beginning of the month of Adar
because we do not have a holy Temple today. This is according to what
Chazal have taught in the Talmud.
However today, when we don't have a Temple or alter, we shouldn't
consider that the saying of these verses is in the place of giving
the shekalim, as it is with the verses dealing with the sacrifices
[that we say nowadays in place of the sacrifices.] Since the main
purpose of the shekalim was to purchase sacrifices, of what use are
they when there is no alter? [If we intended our recital to be in the
place of giving the shekalim, we still would not have done anything.]
However the idea is this. It says [with regards to the giving of the
shekalim], 'to give the offering of HaShem to atone for your souls.'
On a simple level we need to understand what atonement was achieved
via the shekalim? The average Jew had nothing to do with the daily
sacrifices. He would give his shekalim to the temple. Then the
officers of the temple would purchase the daily offerings and the
additional offerings for Shabbos and then the priests would sacrifice
them. [But he would do none of these actions.]
Since the Jew had already separated his shekel, he has finished his
action, and his atonement is completed. Therefore it is called the
'atonement money' because when the shekalim are given the atonement
is finished for the Jew who has given the shekalim.
This is what the special piyyut for this Shabbos says, 'Let the words
of our lips be like the offering of bullocks because the silver
shekalim of atonement are no longer here.' By the reading of the
parsha of shekalim it is as if they were measuring the shekalim and
their atonement is complete just as it would have been in the time of
the temple when after they had measured out their shekalim they had
their atonement. (p. 124 vol 2 sefer P'ri Tzaddik teachings of Rebbe
Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin.)
Beis HaMikdash: Heb. The Holy Temple
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages
of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
gematria: Numerical value of the letters of the Hebrew words
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
melamed: Hebrew for a teacher of young children
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
mikvah:Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
Mori: Hebrew for my teacher.
Parsha (Parshos): A portion of the Torah read each week.
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.
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.
Shabbos: 1. Tractate in the Talmud 2. Seventh day of the week
Shabbos Shekalim: Shabbos before the 1st of Adar
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Talmud Chocham(Talmidei Chochomim): Hebrew for Talmud sage, refers to
one who is learned in Jewish legal texts.
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
Z'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechorono LeVaracha (His memory is
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