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.
I. Good jealousy
1. 'His brothers were jealous of him.' (Bereishis* 37.11)
It is known that HaShem* desires to be merciful [to the Jewish
people.] His will is to always do good [for them.] If a person finds
that at times he is lacking in something this is really [happening]
for his own good. It is being done in order to inspire him to do
However, [it is different] when there are Tzaddikim who act in a way
that does not cause a desecration of the name of HaShem. They cause
the name of HaShem to be loved in the world. As is taught in the
Talmud*. '"And He said to me, you are my servant, Yisroel who
beautifies Me." [This refers to] when a person reads and learns
[Torah*] and he does his business honestly. He speaks softly with
everyone. People say, "The one who learns Torah, praised is his
father, and his teacher..."' [When people see the Tzaddik they
receive inspiration.] They will do tshuva, and will not need to
receive a punishment to inspire them to do tshuva.
This is the meaning of the verse,
'His brothers were jealous of him.' They were jealous of him because
he was a Tzaddik. This is a good type of jealousy. This causes one to
have fear of HaShem all day long.
'And his father.' This refers to HaShem [who is the father of us
'Watched over the matter' [and kept it in mind for the future.] This
language indicates [that HaShem] will not bring judgments on the
Jewish people at all. This is because when there are Tzaddikim [that
one can see and be inspired from their actions to do tshuva] there is
no need for HaShem to come in judgement [with his people.] (p. 38
sefer Divrei Emes teachings of the Chozeh of Lublin.)
* * *
II. The Holiness of HaShem
2. 'And he said, Your brothers are pasturing in Shechem, are they
not?' (Bereishis 37.1-2)
The Midrash* teaches [with regards to this verse], 'From generation
to generation we shall relate Your greatness. And for all of eternity
we shall tell of Your holiness. And Your praise, Our G-d, shall not
leave our mouths for all eternity.' This is baffling. What is the
meaning of this Midrash? [How does this verse relate to Yosef and his
brothers?] I will explain it, incline your heart and prepare your
The Talmud says, 'What is the reason that Yeshaya wrote that the
angels had six wings, and Yechezkel wrote that they had four [wings]
each?' The Talmud says that [with Yeshaya when there were six wings]
was when the Beis HaMikdash* was still standing. There [with
Yechezkel where it says four wings] was when the Beis HaMikdash was
no longer standing. From this we see that today when the Beis
HaMikdash has been destroyed they are missing two wings [and there
are now only four wings to the angels.]
It says in the writings of the Arizal*, that these [six] words
'Blessed is the name of His glorious Kingdom for all eternity' are
for the six wings of the angels. Therefore since now the angels lack
two wings, there are two words from these six words that are lacking.
My Rebbe* the Holy Rav*, the Rebbe Reb* Elimeilech [of Lizensk] said
that the two words that are missing are: 'His glorious kingdom.' And
for this reason we are asking and praying to HaShem in the Musaf*
prayer of Yom Tov*, 'Reveal the glory of Your kingdom upon us.'
I say that the two words that are missing from the time of the
destruction of the temple are 'for all eternity.' The reason is that
the Talmud tells us that in the future the Tzaddikim will be called
'holy.' Now, only HaShem is called holy. But in the future all the
Tzaddikim will be called 'holy.' The Talmud then asks what HaShem
will be called in the future [since the Tzaddikim would appear to be
on the same level as Him.] It answers that HaShem will be called
'holy for all eternity.'
With this idea we can explain the Midrash. This Midrash is a remez*
to all of what I said above.
'Your brothers are pasturing in Shechem, are they not?' This is a
remez to the time when the Jewish people are in exile. 'Your
brothers' refers to the Jewish people. 'Pasturing' refers to the time
of exile, when the temple is destroyed and there are two wings
missing [from the angels.] There are two words missing from the six
words, i.e. 'for all eternity.' Four words are left over. [They are:]
'Blessed is the name of his glorious kingdom.' The first letters of
these four words [Baruch Shem Kavod Malchuso] spells our Shechem.
[Shechem refers to the time of exile when there are only those four
This is the meaning of the Midrash.
'From generation to generation we shall relate Your greatness.' This
refers to now, in our time.
However, 'And for all of eternity.' Refers to the future.
'We shall tell of Your holiness.' He is called Holy now. In the
future we shall all be called, in the same manner as He is called
now. The Midrash then has the same question of the Talmud. What shall
HaShem be called in the future, if at that time we shall be called
The Midrash ends, 'And Your praise, Our G-d, shall not leave our
mouths for all eternity.' This means that HaShem will be called,
'Holy for all eternity.' This is because at this time, due to the
destruction of the Beis HaMikdash we are lacking those two words,
'for all eternity.' However in the future those two words will be
filled into their place. Therefore HaShem will be called 'Holy for
all eternity.' This is the explanation of the Talmud. May it be His
Will that we should merit to see this speedily in our days through
our righteous Moshaich*. He should come speedily and in our days,
Amen. (p. 57 sefer Ohav Yisroel teachings of Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua
Heschel of Apt.)
* * *
III. True Peace
3. 'Please go and look into the welfare [Heb. Shalom] of your
brothers and the welfare of the flock and bring me back word.'
The true peace [Heb. Shalom] between a person and his fellow is not
just that there should not be any hatred, one for the other. He
should be desirous and be waiting to hear and to see good things
happen to his fellow. He should always seek his welfare. This is the
source of the midah* called Yasod. [This means] that two things are
brought together and made one complete whole.
For this reason Yakov sent Yosef, who is a remez for the midah of
Yasod. To 'look into the welfare' of his brothers, and 'to bring me
back word.' This means that he should complete this midah [of yasod
by seeking their welfare and bringing them together.]
It appears to us that the opposite occurred. The verse says that
'they hated him.' And through this mission he was sold and became a
slave. However this was specifically the way that the true peace was
to come about. 'Because there is no light except that which comes
from darkness.' They thought that their hatred of him was based on
the Torah. The brothers were certainly holy and they did not intend
to spill the blood of an innocent person because of hatred. They
judged him according to their knowledge of the laws of the Torah, as
is explained in the holy seforim*.
All this was the method through which there would come to completion
the midah of Yasod; the level of peace and completeness. Then, when
this was completed, after 22 years, he truthfully brought his father
back word. [He returned to Yakov and brought completeness to him.] As
the verse says, 'Their father Yakov's spirit was revived.' Through
this Yakov achieved a complete renewal. (p. 43 sefer Toras Emes
teachings of Rebbe Leibele Eigger of Lublin.)
* * *
IV. Being afraid to sin
4. 'And Yakov sojourned in the land.' (Bereishis 37.1)
The first thing a person needs to have [in order to serve HaShem] is
fear. When he contemplates the great evil of his Yetzer*. Which is
always ready to kill him, and to cause him to lose [his portion in
the world to come.] How can he not be filed with fear that he should
not fall into his hands? It is well known that it is evil and bitter
for the person who is tried by it. To go after the desires of his
heart for the pleasures of this physical world. This is evil and
bitter for the nashama* more then any other thing in this world.
If he contemplates this he will be able to achieve fear. However this
is not called 'fear of HaShem.' This is 'fear for himself.' [He is
afraid of what will happen to him.] However in the beginning he
should try to acquire this fear.
Then, afterwards, he should strive to come to the main fear, the
level of 'fear of HaShem.' [The fear of HaShem] because he is the
master and ruler, and the source of all life.
This is the meaning of 'And Yakov sojourned in the land.' 'Sojourned'
is fear, according to the above explanation [of fear.] 'Yakov' is
[the letter] 'yud' [and] 'ekav' [lit. in the end.] The Yud refers to
fear as is known [from the Kabbalah seforim.] The meaning is that his
sojourning, should be first with fear. 'Yud ekav' refers to the lower
type of fear. In the beginning he should have this lower type of
[The reason is] because of 'the land.' The Yetzer HaRah* tries to
make him fall into desires for the pleasures of this physical world.
Then 'In the land of his father's sojourning.' [Heb. m'gerai] The
word 'sojourn' is a language of 'fear' as it says, 'And Moav was
afraid.' [Heb. V'Yigar] The meaning is that afterwards he should have
the fear of his father who is in heaven. Because he is his father and
the source of all. [This is the higher level of fear.] (p. 89 sefer
Divrei Elimeilech teachings of Rebbe Elimeilech of Grodzisk)
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok
Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as
Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Baal Medraigah: refers to a person on a high level of service to
Baal Tephilah: The person who leads the communal prayers
Beis HaMikdash: Heb. The Holy Temple
Bereishis: First book of the Torah. Called Genesis in English
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
Kavanah(Kavanos): Hebrew word for 'intention'.
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
Megillas Esther: Hebrew for the book of Esther
midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad.
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
Mincha: Name of the afternoon prayer
Moshiach: Heb. Messiah
Musaf: Name of additional prayer on Shabbos and Yom Tov
nashama(nashamos): Hebrew word for soul.
Parsha (Parshos): lit. 'portion' refers to the 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.
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.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints
in the Torah for various concepts.
sefer(seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Shaarei Tzion: A sefer with various prayers which is popular among
Shemonah Esra: Lit. 18. refers to the 18 blessings of the main prayer
said three times a day.
Shulchan Aruch: 15th/16th century book of Jewish law
siddur: Jewish prayer book.
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tephilos Hashiv: Special prayer said for tshuva
Tikkun Chatzos: A special prayer said at midnight to mourn for the
destruction of the temple.
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
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
Yom Tov(Yomim Tovim): Hebrew name for 'holiday'
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