Derech HaBaal Shem Tov The way of the Baal Shem Tov
Ahavas HaShem Love of G-d
Ahavas Yisroel Love of fellow Jews
Ahavas HaTorah 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. Giving honor to others
1. 'And Yehuda approached to him and said, please my lord...'
It appears to me that this verse can be explained according to what I
heard from my teacher (the Baal Shem Tov) *ZT'L. He said, 'if you
wish to praise someone, praise *HaShem, and if you wish to denigrate
someone, denigrate yourself.'
We can understand this with the explanation that I have given
elsewhere to what the *Mishnah says, 'Who is the one who has honor, he
who gives honor to other people [Heb. brios lit. creations] as it
says, 'those who honor Me I will honor, those who denigrate me I will
curse.' [The Mishnah is here relating the honor of HaShem to the
honor of men.] We need to understand what the relationship is between
the honor due to other men and the honor of HaShem.
The explanation is that all the Jewish people are as one person,
therefore any fault that exists in another Jew is present in the
person himself. Also if a person denigrates another person, who was
created by HaShem, it is as if he denigrates HaShem as we see from a
story related in the Talmud. The story concerns what happened when
Rabbi Shimon ben Eluzer met a certain person who was ugly. [When he
saw this person, who happened to be *Eliyahu HaNavi, he remarked 'how
ugly you are'. To which Eliyahu remarked that he should go and
complain to the One who made him. Rabbi Shimon then realized his
error and asked him to forgive him, which he did after great
difficulty. See the story in the *Talmud *Taanis 20b.]
We can then understand the meaning of to 'give honor to other people'
who were created by HaShem. He does it because they are the creation
of HaShem. By doing this it will reflect on the person himself, since
he gives them honor and there is the well known idea of the oneness
of the Jewish people. [He then shares in that honor. By honoring
another person because he is G-d's creation, he will bring honor to
It is not the same with one who denigrates another, which HaShem
considers as if He was being denigrated and it is an insult to the
honor of HaShem. Not just that but it reflects on the person himself.
He is likewise cursed and disgraced because of the oneness of the
Jewish people. [Since as was said above the idea of oneness means
that any fault seen in another person is present in every Jew.]. This
is the meaning of what it says, 'and those who denigrate me I will
curse.' (Look there where I explain this more.)
With this we can understand what my teacher ZT'L meant. If you praise
any other person, you are praising HaShem who is the one who created
that person, and if you are denigrating another person then you are
denigrating not only HaShem but yourself also. [This is because of
the basic oneness of all Jews.]
With this we can understand the meaning of, 'and Yehuda approached.'
'Yehuda' has the meaning of praise and thanksgiving. 'And he
approached to him' i.e. HaShem, 'Yehuda' i.e. with praises. This is
because all the praises that a person gives to other people the
praise applies to HaShem Himself. And all the base things he sees in
others applies to the person himself. (sefer Ben Pores Yosef
teachings of *Rebbe Yakov Yosef of Polnoye a *Talmid of the Baal Shem
* * *
2. 'And Yehuda approached to him and said, please my lord... because
you are like Pharaoh' (Bereishis 44.18)
*Chazal say that "'approach' refers to prayer". It seems that we can
therefore explain this verse as a *remez. 'And Yehuda approached',
refers to a Jewish man, who is called 'a man of Yehuda' [Heb. ish
Yehudi], when he stands in prayer before HaShem. What is the proper
manner for him to act? It should be that all his intentions should be
for the benefit of the *Shechina. Chazal say, 'One should not stand
in prayer expect with humility [Heb. kovid Rosh], which means that he
should prayer for the needs [Heb kovid] of the Head [Heb. Rosh] of
all Heads, i.e. HaShem.
Even if he is praying for his own needs he should pray for those
things that are lacking above. [As it has been taught by the Baal
Shem Tov that whatever is lacking in this world reflects a need for
us to pray for a lacking above. HaShem has created the world in order
to show his goodness to that world. If there is something lacking,
then it is because HaShem is unable to share this goodness at that
time. Therefore he should pray that HaShem should be able to share of
his goodness because that is what He wants.] He can do this because
the *nashama of a Jew is a part of the godliness of above. It is
like a limb of the Shechina. And the main purpose of prayer is that
we should desire that there should be benefit above. It is certain
that a prayer given in this manner will be accepted and the Satan
will not be able to criticize it. However it is not the same with
those who act only for themselves, and cry out 'Give me Give me' as
it says in the *Tekunei Zohar.
This is the meaning of the verse. 'And he approached' in prayer. And
Yehuda said that HaShem should do what he asks for His sake, because
he is a part of the godliness of above. This is the meaning of
'please my lord'. [Heb. bi adoni which can also mean 'in me is my
lord'. This means that he has a portion of the godliness above in
him.] Then it is certain that 'you should not be angry with your
servant.' And there shall be no anger against him since all his
intentions are to benefit the One above, that portion of godliness
that is in him, which is the meaning of 'please my lord'. [Since he
is not praying for himself the prayer will be accepted.]
'Because you are like Pharaoh'. The word 'Pharaoh' can also mean to
be revealed. [The word pari'ah means to reveal.] He is like Him, in
that which is hidden. [i.e. his nashama which is hidden is a part of
the godliness above.] (sefer Lekutim Yikorim teachings of the *Rebbe
Reb Ber, the *Maggid of Mezritch)
* * *
3. 'And Yehuda approached to him ' (Bereishis 44.18)
The *Torah is here trying to teach the way in which we can approach
HaShem in prayer. A person should not feel dejected because this
would cause him to say 'How is it possible for me to pray before
HaShem? I am not worthy that I should do this because of my
actions.' This is especially true when he remembers the sins that he
committed before HaShem.
The Torah is here giving us three suggestions that with any of these
three he will be able to have the strength to approach HaShem in
The first is that he should consider that it is true that he is as
nothing, and the deeds he has done were filled with foolishness and
emptiness. He is, however, still able to approach HaShem. Not on his
own merit, but in that of his holy ancestors, Avraham, Yitzchok and
Yakov. This is because he has of their holiness in him. It is like
a rope that when one grasps one end below it moves above, even though
it is very long. Even if he is very far from the other end of the
rope, if he takes it and gives it a shake, it will go all the way to
the other end. So, even though it is true that he is on the lowest of
levels, still since he is a member of the Jewish people, descended
from the patriarchs, he has the power to effect above with his
prayers, and HaShem will accept them and have enjoyment from them.
The second way is that he should consider that within him there is
his holy soul, which is a part of the godliness above. This is
because HaShem has placed in him this holy soul and when praying this
holy portion can attach itself to it's source above. Since he has
this it is fitting that he pray before HaShem. This portion is what
will pray for him, and it is this which causes all the letters and
the words to join themselves into one prayer.
The third way is by considering what Chazal say. 'How do we know that
HaShem prays?...' This can be understood according to what they have
said elsewhere that 'the Shechina spoke through the mouth of Moshe.'
This means that HaShem will place his words in a person's mouth and
pray. He should say that even though he is not worthy of praying to
HaShem, however in his great mercy He will see his situation. That he
is unable to pray by himself and he will place His words in his mouth
and pray with him.
Yehuda symbolizes prayer, as it says when he was given his name, 'now
I will be able to praise [Heb. odeh] HaShem, so she called his name
Yehuda.' So we see that this name hints at praise. Also the name
Yehuda has within it the four letter name of HaShem with an extra
letter 'dalit' to signify praising HaShem. And also that a person
should know that he has nothing [Ar. delais], by himself at all. This
is the level of the 'dalit'. He only has what HaShem has given to him
through His great mercy as a free gift. HaShem is the one who makes
all that exists and a person should praise Him constantly for this.
As Chazal say, 'for each and every breath he should praise HaShem.'
And everything that HaShem should bestow on him he should consider a
very great thing and he should laud HaShem for that. This is the
symbolism of the 'dalit' in the name of Yehuda.
This is the meaning of the verse. 'And Yehuda approached', when a
person will approach HaShem in prayer and he will feel in his heart
that he is not able to do this. That he is an empty vessel and has no
learning. And specifically because of his many sins how can he
approach to HaShem, that HaShem would accept his prayers? He has
distanced himself from HaShem so much that he wonders how he can be
close to Him at this time? The verse then is giving a remez to the
three ways that I explained above.
First the last three letters of the Hebrew words, 'And Yehuda
approached,' 'shin' 'vov' 'heh' are letters that in the *Tenach have
either been added to or exchanged in the names of Avraham, Yitzchok
and Yakov. Avraham had a 'heh' added to his name [which had been
Avram.] Yitzchok is also called, 'Yischok' with a sin. [The sin and
the shin being the same letter.] And Yakov has a 'vov' added to his
name. This is a remez to what I said that he should remember that he
is a descendant of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yakov, the holy patriarchs.
And with this he can approach HaShem in prayer.
There is a remez to the second method in the words that follow,
'please my lord', [which in Hebrew can also mean that 'in me is my
lord']. That is to say that in him rests a holy soul that is attached
above to HaShem. The words here meaning that HaShem is as it were in
him due to this holy soul which is connected to the godliness above.
The third method is from the words, 'my lord asked his servant.' This
means that HaShem, as it were, prays together with His servant. As
we mentioned above the statement of Chazal about 'how do we know that
HaShem prays?' [He is not praying on his own but it is HaShem who is
doing it for him.] (p.40b sefer Zerah Kodesh teachings of Rebbe
Naftuli Tzi of Ropshitz.)
* * *
III. Serving HaShem
4. 'You should not be angry with your servant because you are like
Pharaoh' (Bereishis 44.18)
My grandfather the Holy Rebbe of Tzanz ZT'L said that this verse can
be explained as a remez for an important principle in serving HaShem.
A person should not try to justify himself for the inferior quality
of the service that he does for HaShem by saying that his soul is an
inferior one, and if he had a better one he would be able to serve
HaShem on a higher level. This is foolishness and an opinion that
lacks common sense.
This could be compared to a servant of a king who said that if his
master the king would place him in a higher office he would be able
to serve him properly. Everyone with a little understanding can see
the foolishness of this. It is apparent that this servant is only
rebelling against his master. It is only that this servant thinks he
knows better how to run the kingdom then the king himself. The same
is with the King of Kings. If HaShem has created him with the soul
that he has, it must be that it is the one that he needs in order to
serve Him, and it is not possible any other way.
This is the meaning of the verse, 'you should not be angry with your
servant.' It is saying that with regards to one's service of HaShem,
he should not complain and say that he has a soul that is inferior
and for that reason he cannot serve HaShem in the way that is proper
for him to do.
'You are like Pharaoh' means that he should act openly according to
the source of his soul. The word 'Pharaoh' can be said to mean
revealed. [According to the level of his soul he should strive to
serve HaShem.] If his soul is this way at it's source then it is
certain that it is the way it should be and no other way would be
good for him. Therefore he must serve HaShem the best that he is
able to, according to the soul that he has, and he should not desire
for levels of service that are above the power of his soul. (p. 191
sefer Kedushas Tzion teachings of Rebbe Ben Zion of Bobov)
Bereishis: First book of the Torah. Called Genesis in English
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages
of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Eliyahu HaNavi: Hebrew for the prophet Elijah
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).
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
nashama: Hebrew word for soul.
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.
Shechina: Hebrew word denoting the divine presence.
Taanis: One of the tractates of the Talmud.
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tekunei Zohar: The most esoteric section of the Zohar
Tenach: First letters from the three Hebrew words: Torah, Neviium
Kesuvim, which are the divisions of the jewish Bible. Torah is the
first five books, Neviium are the prophetic works and Kesuvim are
the other books.
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
Zohar: Hebrew/Aramaic Rabbinical Kabbalistical work that is one of
the most important sources for Kabbalah, and was very influential
ZT'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The
memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous person is a blessing.)
Copyright (c) by Moshe Shulman
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