CHASSIDUS                        BS'D

                       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. Receiving good from *HaShem.

1. 'And Yaakov feared very much and he was disturbed' (*Bereishis

I heard in the name of the Holy Baal Shem Tov an explanation of the
verse, 'only goodness and mercy should follow you all the days of your
life.' He said that sometimes a person doesn't really know what is
for his own good. [Some things he thinks are not good are really

Afterall, who is wise enough to always know what is best for him. And
even should HaShem, because of his great love, cause a good thing to
pursue him. He might turn his back on it, and run from that which is
truly good for him. He does this because he doesn't know if he shall
succeed and have a profit from it.

This is what David of HaShem asked with his *Ruach HaKodesh for all
of Israel:  'Only goodness and mercy...'[you should give to Israel.]
Which is what You want for my people.  However I do not have the
understanding to accept them when You give them to me. And even more,
I run away from them. Therefore I ask that they should always pursue
me so that I can never escape from them.  And in the end I will
receive them and a blessing will rest in my house. (p. 262 sefer Baal
Shem Tov teachings from the Baal Shem Tov.)

                                * * *

II. Humility

2. '... your name... Yakov, You will no longer be called by the name
Yakov ...' (Bereishis 32.429

A person should take upon himself the *midos of humility and
lowliness. For that person who doesn't really have any greatness of
character, it is not really hard to be humble. But when a person has
with what to consider himself great, and he is also humble this is
something.  This is a real *avodah.

This is the meaning of the verse:

'Your name Yakov.' His name Yakov shows that he is lowly and humble.
[Yakov comes from the Hebrew word Eikev - the heel of the foot. The
most lowly part of a person's body.]

And so the angel blessed him, 'your name will not be called Yakov,
but Yisroel will be your name.' That means that he will be great
because this name indicates that he is one who strives with G-d and
wins. And even so he shall still have the name Yakov which shows his

This is then the answer to the problem posed in the Talmud.  [It is
taught there that, from the time that HaShem changed Avram's name to
Avraham, he can no longer be called Avram. And if one were to call
him Avram, he would be in violation of a mitzvah.  However this is
not the case with Yakov. To which the Talmud asks the question:] 'The
one who calls Yakov, 'Yakov' should also be in violation...' But the
truth is that the blessing was that he should still have his name of
Yakov [i.e. he should still be humble] even though his name has been
changed to Yisroel the one who strives with G-d. [Even though he has
personal greatness, he continues to be humble and lowly.] (p.  21
sefer Mevasar Tzedek teachings of *Rebbe Yissochar Ber of Zlotchov.)

                                * * *

III. The proper fear

3. 'And Yaakov feared very much and he was disturbed' (Bereishis

We need to understand why the language of the verse appears to be
repetitious. [Saying that he feared and that he was disturbed appears
to be repeating the same idea.] We can explain it this way.  It is
not correct for a Jew, and especially a *Tzaddik to have fear of any
thing. He should have trust in HaShem and His guidance.  If HaShem
does not command a thing to occur, it will not happen and no one
could do any evil to him.

It is however necessary for him to pray to HaShem, and to do *Tshuva
with a complete heart. If he does this, then all evil things that
could have occurred will be eliminated.

This is what the verse is saying:

'And Yakov feared very much.' In his heart Yakov felt a fear for his
brother Eisav. He realized that this was not the proper thing for him
to feel and that something was wrong.

Therefore immediately, 'he was disturbed'. It was disturbing to him
that he should have this fear of his brother.  (p. 6 sefer Divrei
Tzaddikim teachings of Rebbe Dov Berish of Ashpetzeen)

                                * * *

IV. Different types of *Yetzer HaRah

4. 'And Yakov sent messengers to his brother Eisav' (Bereishis

We can explain this verse in this manner. Eisav and Lavan are a
*remez for the two types of Yetzer HaRah that effect a person.  The
first is Eisav who is called Edom [which in Hebrew means red.] This
signifies the base desires for things of this physical world that
occur in men.  [These are things that all can see and recognize that
they are evil.] The second is the way of camouflage, [where the
Yetzer HaRah tries to hide the sin.] This is the way of Lavan [which
means white signifying that it appears as if it were pure.  The
reality is that they are not pure.]

These two types of Yetzer HaRah are symbolized by the part of the
body called the esophagus.  This is the place where food, being where
the power of the Yetzer HaRah first takes hold, enters the body.
[The overindulgence in one's desire for food is where the Yetzer
HaRah gets his first hold on a person.]  On the outside it is red
[Heb.  edom] and on the inside it is white [Heb. lavan].  Which is a
remez for what I have just said. [Red on the outside refers to the
Yetzer HaRah that is seen, and is visible to all. The white on the
inside shows that it appears to be pure but the evil in it is hidden
from the eye.]

The cure for this is learning *Torah which *Chazal call a spice for
the Yetzer HaRah. [Just like a spice takes away the bitter taste of a
food, or gives it a new taste which makes it edible and sweet, so the
Torah removes the bad 'taste' of the Yetzer HaRah.]

This is what Chazal meant when they said, 'the Torah was not
instructing us except to counter the Yetzer HaRah.' That is to say
that the Torah is what counters the Yetzer HaRah. It not only
'sweetens' it, but makes it so that it actually helps one in the
service of HaShem, until with HaShem's help even his enemy [the
Yetzer HaRah] makes peace with him.

This is the meaning of, 'Yakov sent messengers.' These were his Torah
learning and prayers.

'To Eisav his brother.' With them he was able to make the Yetzer
HaRah, Eisav, to be his brother, who helps him in the service of

Likewise *Rashi says on this verse, 'with Lavan I sojourned, and the
613 *mitzvos I kept.' This is as I said above that also Lavan, who is
another type of Yetzer HaRah, was turned into a helper for Yakov in
doing the 613 mitzvos.

It says a little further on, 'And Yakov arrived at Shalom. [The word
Shalom is Hebrew for 'peace'] This also is as I have explained above.
'Shalom' is the same *gematria as 'Eisav'.  This signifies that Yakov
overpowered Eisav [his Yetzer HaRah] and ruled over him. [He made
peace with it.] He then collected from Eisav all of the holiness that
was with him. Therefore it says after this that Yakov built a house,
and for his flocks he built Sukkos [huts that are used for the
holiday of Sukkos].  This means that all his flocks were raised up to
a level of holiness.  (p. 61 sefer Mordechai B'Shaar HaMelech
teachings of Rebbe Mordechai [II] of Zavil)


avodah: Hebrew word meaning 'service'. Refers to any type of service
   to HaShem

Bava Kama: Tractate of the Talmud
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

derech: Heb 'way' refers to a path in serving HaShem

gematria: Numerical value of the letters of the Hebrew words

HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name

Loshon HaRah: Literally 'Evil Speech.' Refers to relating information
   about another person that the person would not want told.

midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad.
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.

Parsha (Parshos): lit. 'portion' refers to the portion of the Torah
   read each week.

Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
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.
Ruach HaKodesh: Heb spirit of holiness. Refers to one who can see
  events, and understand things that are not apparent to the human

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
tzitzis: Strands that hang from the corners of a talis

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 Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.

Zohar: Hebrew/Aramaic Rabbinical Kabbalistical work that is one of
  the most important sources for Kabbalah, and was very influential
  with Chasidim

Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman  (
All rights reserved.
Issur Hasugas Givil