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. 'I will hide my face from them and they will become prey...'
I heard a parable that explains the idea of this verse in the name of
the Baal Shem Tov. A king once commanded that his son should be
beaten and made to suffer because he acted wrong. All the time this
was being done the king observed his son. The servant was afraid to
hit and cause suffering to the son of the king while the king was
watching. [This was true] even though the king had commanded him.
What did the king do? He covered his face so as not to see what was
happening. Then the servant was able to beat the son of the king,
until the son did tshuva* and called to his father.
The meaning is simple. As long as HaShem* is watching and guiding the
Jewish people it is not possible for any evil to happen to them, or
any enemy to oppress them. This is because [in the Torah*] we are
called 'sons' of HaShem. Therefore the Torah says that 'I will hide
my face and they will become prey.' [When they will sin HaShem needs
to hide his face from the Jewish people in order that they could be
punished.] (p. 596 sefer Baal Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem
* * *
2. 'Moshe went and spoke...' (Devorim 31.1)
The Or HaChaim* asked about this verse, 'Where did he go?' We also
need to understand why it mentions at all that he went. What do we
learn from that?
The idea is as follows. Each year has it's own midah* [to serve
HaShem with] which is renewed on Rosh HaShanah*. The same is the true
with each generation that they have a special midah to serve HaShem
with. This service is bestowed upon the generation by the Tzaddikim*
who are the head of that generation.
The generation of Moshe was a 'generation of understanding.' This
means that they served HaShem with 'understanding', on the level of
'thought' which is higher then actions. For that reason HaShem
bestowed upon them from levels that are above the natural order of
things in all areas. Besides all the miracles, we see that their
clothes and shoes did not wear out and they ate bread from heaven.
That they did not bring this understanding into action is the reason
why they sinned.
The generation of Yehoshua was not on that high of a level, that of
understanding. They were on the level of action. Therefore they were
able to maintain that level and did not sin. As the verse says, 'They
served HaShem all the days of Yehoshua.'
Moshe before he died wanted to start them on the level of service of
the generation of Yehoshua, the level of action. This was so that he
should also have a portion in the service of those in the generations
to come. Therefore he did an action, i.e. 'And Moshe went.'
[The verse says later,] 'He was not able to go out or come in.' That
means with his level, that of thought. He was not able to use that
level any more.
'And HaShem said to me... Yehoshua should go before you.' That is
because he [Yehoshua] is on the level of 'action' and with this they
will be able to go into the land [of Israel.] (p. 131 sefer Toras
Avos teachings of the Rebbes of Lechovitz, Kobrin and Solonim. This
is a teaching from Rebbe* Avraham of Solonim.)
* * *
III. Unity and love
3. 'At the end of seven years, at the time of the Shamitta, in the
holiday of Sukkos... And you shall read this Torah before all
Israel, in their ears. Gather together the people, men women and
children... in order that they should hear.' (Devorim 31.10-12)
I have previously explained why this was done specifically during the
year of Shamitta and on the holiday of Sukkos. Now I would like to
add to this and explain why it was that the verse says first that
they read the Torah and then gather the people. Don't they need to
first gather them and then read in their ears?
It seems to me that this is a remez*. The main principle of the
principles of the service of HaShem is that the Jewish people should
love one another. From the smallest to the greatest. Even those
people who have strayed from the good way, you should love those good
things that are found in them. You should desire that good things
happen to them. And pray that anything they are lacking should be
given to them.
You should teach them that they should love one another. When you
will find that all the children of Israel are loving one another like
brothers, and friends, then there will be no chance of evil happening
to them. Then they will develop the fear of HaShem. This is because
[due to their love of one another] they will inspire each other to
incline towards the correct path.
This is what the verse says, 'And you shall read this Torah before
all Israel, in their ears. Gather together the people.' The meaning
is that this thing and this Torah you shall read to them, in their
ears.' [That is] that they should gather together as one man to love
one another, from the smallest to the greatest. That is the meaning
of 'men women and children.' They should love one another. From this
'they should hear.' And they shall learn to fear HaShem. (p. 246b
sefer M'Or V'Shamash teachings of Rebbe Kolonymus Kalmen of Krakow)
Devorim: Fifth book of the Torah. Called in English 'Deuteronomy'.
doven(davening): Yiddish for pray.
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.
Moshiach: Heb. Messiah
Or HaChaim: Jewish Torah commentary
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.
Rosh HaShanah: 1. Heb. New Year Holiday at the beginning of the year.
2. A tractate of the Talmud
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
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
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman (email@example.com)
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