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. Fear and Love of HaShem
1. 'And G-d said to Moshe, and He said to him, "I am HaShem*" '
It appears to me that we can explain this verse according to what it
says in the Talmud*. "For the wicked, in the beginning they have peace
and at the end suffering. For the Tzaddikim* in the beginning they
have suffering and at the end peace."
We can explain this teaching in this way. The Tzaddik needs to serve
HaShem in the beginning with fear and to protect himself from his
Yetzer HaRah*. He should break his desires for physical things.
That is the meaning of 'In the beginning they have suffering.' After
they have broken their physical desires, their Yetzer HaRah makes
peace with them. This is 'his end is peace.' [First he serves with
'fear' and then he comes to the level of 'love'.]
That is the meaning of the verse, "And G-d said." [Heb. V'yadaber
Elokim] "Saying' implies a strong manner of speech. And 'G-d' refers
to the level of fear. [This is because this name of G-d is usually
used when there are instances of G-d punishing people or doing other
actions showing His power.]
'And He said [Heb. v'yomer] to him, "I am HaShem."' [Then] when he
comes to the level of 'love,' which is indicated by the name
'HaShem.' [This name of G-d is used when G-d shows his love and gives
a reward.] Then it is 'speech' [Heb. amerah] which is a softer manner
This can be the meaning of what Rashi* said, '"And G-d said." He
spoke to him strongly, words of judgement, because he [Moshe]
questioned His actions and said, "Why have you done evil to this
As the Midrash* says, 'And he [Moshe] spoke improperly against
heaven.' The truth is that Moshe did not speak improperly. Only
because of his great love of the Jewish people [he complained to
HaShem about what happened.] This shows the great love of the Jewish
people that HaShem has.
The explanation is: 'And G-d said.' Even though it was worthy of
HaShem to speak strongly [to Moshe] because he spoke improperly.
However [Moshe had spoken that way] because of his great love of the
Jewish people, and his great love of HaShem. Therefore [the verse
continues] 'And He spoke to him, "I am HaShem"' A soft speech showing
This is the meaning of what King David prayed, 'Raise [up] to your
servant your speech [Heb. Amroschah] The meaning being that HaShem
should help him to attain the level of love which the word 'speech'
is a remez*. [The verse continues] 'Which is for the one who fears
You.' The meaning is that this [type of] love [is the type] from
which one can come to have fear. [Which is] the fear of His
greatness. [This is the highest level of the fear of HaShem.] (p. 33
sefer Noam Elimeilech, teachings of the Rebbe Reb* Elimeilech of
* * *
II. Mercy and goodness
2. 'And G-d said to Moshe, and He said to him,"I am HaShem" '
I will first explain the verse, 'For His anger is for a moment, life
is from His will.' The meaning is that even though there is a moment
when HaShem is angry. It is also the case that 'life is from His
will.' His will is compassionate, and [He desires] that there should
be life in all the worlds. For that reason he causes us to suffer in
this world. From [this suffering] we come to life in the world to
This is what the verse says: 'And G-d said to Moshe.' [This indicates
that HaShem comes] with strong judgement. Even though this is the
case, 'I am HaShem' full of compassion.
This is also what we pray, 'HaShem show us your mercy.' The truth is
that we believe that even the punishments [that happen to us in this
world] are good. As the Talmud says, 'All that the merciful one does
is done for good.' Even so, we ask that HaShem should show us mercy.
He should do open acts of mercy with us. That is the simple meaning
of the blessing which we say, 'Who bestows good [acts of] mercy.'
[How could there be bad acts of mercy? The meaning is that they
should be] revealed acts of mercy [and not ones that we do not see
clearly.] (p. 10 sefer Toras Shimon, teachings of Rebbe* Shimon of
* * *
3. 'And G-d said to Moshe, and He said to him,"I am HaShem" '
HaShem said to Moshe, 'According to your understanding everything
that I have done in Egypt with my people Israel was done with strict
judgement. However the truth is not that way. 'I am HaShem.' i.e.
the name [that denotes] mercy. Everything was [done with] compassion
and great mercy, but hidden.
Therefore [the verse continues] 'Say to them.' From now on I will do
for them open acts of mercy so that even they will recognize that
they are acts of mercy. (p. 59 sefer Toras Avos teachings of the
Rebbes of Lechovitz, Kobrin and Solonim.)
* * *
4. 'I shall redeem you with an outstretched hand, and great
judgments.' (Shemos 6.6)
Chazal* say in the Talmud, 'The wicked are judged by their Yetzer
HaRah. The Tzaddikim are judged by their Yetzer Tov*.'
[The meaning is this.] The 'judgement' and way of the Yetzer HaRah is
to convince the person to listen to him. [It tells him] if he will
serve HaShem he will not attain the enjoyment of this world. However
the truth is: what is the value of this world? [The true value is the
reward in the world to come.]
However the Yetzer Tov comes with great judgments. If he brings
himself to the service of HaShem, he will merit to the world to come.
[The enjoyments of that world] are infinitely greater [then this
world.] They are endless. If he accepts these 'great judgments' then
'I will redeem them' for the world to come. (p. 60 sefer Toras Avos
teachings of the Rebbes of Lechovitz, Kobrin and Solonim.)
* * *
IV. Serving HaShem
5. 'And HaShem shall distinguish between the flocks of the
Egyptians... And none died from all those belonging to the children
of Israel.' (Shemos 9.4)
It is well known the teaching of the Zohar* that the foundation of
the service of HaShem is: Whether things are going well or not he
should not [let it] disturb his service [of HaShem.] His heart should
not wax and cause him to rebel [against HaShem] from all the many
good things and the riches that HaShem bestows on him. Likewise it
should not be that poverty should cause him to violate the will of
HaShem. Either way he should strengthen himself in the service of
This is the meaning of the verse:
'And HaShem shall distinguish.' This refers to the one who has
separated himself to HaShem. The one who serves HaShem.
'Between the flocks of the Egyptians [Heb. Mitzraim] and the flocks
of Israel.' Whether ones possessions and livelihood come in a small
amount, [Heb. Metzer] or they are in a large amount. The word
'Israel' [Heb Yisroel] is a language of 'greatness.' As the verse
says [Yakov was given the name of Yisroel because] he strove with the
No matter what occurs, nothing should restrain him from the service
that is required of the children of Israel. This is the meaning of,
'And none died from all those belonging to the children of Israel.'
There is nothing that occurs [to the servant of HaShem] to restrain
him, or cause him confusion [from doing] what relates to him and is a
required service for the Jewish people. The person who does this is
called 'separated to HaShem alone' in all of his affairs. (p. 79 sefer Imrei Noam teachings of Rebbe Meir of Dzikov.)
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
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages
of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
doven(davening): Yiddish for pray.
gabbai: Hebrew for an attendant
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
Havdalah: Special prayer said at the end of Shabbos.
Maggid: In Europe this was a person who would give sermons on moral
subjects. Many of the first Rebbes was Maggidim (pl. of Maggid).
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
Midrash Pleah: A specific Midrash which contains Midrashic teachings
that are difficult to understand.
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
minyan:Group of Jewish men (at least ten) who have gathered for
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
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.
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Shlita: Hebrew Initials for the words: Sh'Yichiya L'Aruch Yomim Tovim
Amen. (He should have a good long life amen)
Shulchan Aruch: 15th/16th century book of Jewish law
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
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
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic
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'
Zohar: Hebrew/Aramaic Rabbinical Kabbalistical work that is one of
the most important sources for Kabbalah, and was very influential
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman (email@example.com)
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