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.

V'Yaitze I. The soul's journey in this world 1. 'And Yakov departed from Beer Sheva and he went to Charon... and he rested in that place.' (Bereishis* 28.10) I heard in the name of my father that the Torah* is eternal and it teaches a person how [he can] go in the paths of tshuva*. This is the meaning of the verses: 'And Yakov departed from Beer Sheva.' This means that the soul [Yakov] departs from it's source above [Beer Sheva. The source of all souls being under the throne of Glory.] 'And he went to Charon.' [The word Charon] is a word indicating anger. [Heb. Charon af] In this world a person needs a 'good' anger [to be used] against his Yetzer HaRah* [that seeks to make him sin. This indicates that the soul comes to this world where it needs to inspire anger against the Yetzer HaRah.] 'And he encountered the place.' [Heb. makom] [This refers to the soul's coming into] this world, as there is no 'place' above. [Where the soul came from is not a physical world, and hence there is no 'place' there.] 'And he spent the night [Heb v'yalon] there.' [The word 'yalon'] indicates 'complaints.' [Heb. talunah] The soul has complaints as to why it was sent into this world from that great and holy place [above. The soul would rather remain in its abode above.] 'Because the sun had set.' [This refers to] this world, since the light [of HaShem's* holiness] does not shine here as it does above. 'And he took of the stones of the place.' This means that the cure for this [pain the soul feels at leaving the world above] is to take from the stones of the place. The stones refer to the letters of the Torah. [The Sefer Yitzerah* says that the letters are called stones. According to Chazal 'place' refers to HaShem who is called 'the place of the world.' The stones of the place are the Words of the Torah of HaShem.] 'And he placed them around his head.' He should learn Torah for HaShem's sake in order to bring the letters to 'their head' [i.e. their source] as they were before. [By learning Torah he brings the words and letters of the Torah back to their place above.] 'And he rested in the place.' This means that 'if he does this.' He will see that the 22 letters [of the Hebrew alphabet] will be as they were before [his soul descended to this world. The remez* to this is that] 'and he rested' [Heb v'yishkav] spells out 'and there are 22 [Heb v'yesh chof beis] letters. Then he will have all good things. (p. 16 sefer Razin D'oraysa teachings of Rebbe* Velvele of Zabriz.) * * * II. Remembering HaShem 2. 'And Yakov awoke from his sleep.' (Bereishis 28.16) When a person in on a low level in the service of HaShem he is said to be on the level of 'Yakov.' When he has corrected himself and his actions, he rises to the level of 'Yisroel.' As is known [from the Zohar*.] When a person occupies himself with the affairs of this world he is said to be on the level of 'sleep'. This is the meaning of the verse, 'And Yakov awoke from his sleep.' When the person inspires himself to awake from his sleep. [He awakes himself from the affairs of this world.] And [then he] desires to do tshuva. [Immediately after he awakens himself he has the desire to do tshuva.] And he says, 'Surely HaShem is in this place and I didn't know it.' The purpose of tshuva is not [to repent] because of a fear of punishment in Gehennim* or because of the reward he will gain in the world to come. The purpose is illustrated in the following parable: A person who stood near to the king said all kinds of denigrating things about the king. He didn't consider at all that he was standing next to the king [and that the king heard everything he said.] Later when he regretted what he had done he said to the king, 'My lord, king. I greatly regret what I have done. I don't regret it because of a fear of the punishment you could give me, or because of the loss of a reward that my actions caused. I regret that I didn't keep in mind that I am standing next to the king. And that it was proper for me to feel that I was before the king. The fear of the king should have been on me. That is the main reason why I regret what I did.' The parable is easily understood. The truth is that the whole world is filled with His Presence. And it is certain that the person who fulfills the verse, 'I have placed HaShem before me always' will always have the fear of Heaven. And he will imagine in his mind that he stands before the King, the King of the World. [Then] he certainly will not come to sin. However the person who does not have this in mind. He will forget that His presence fills the world. He will then come to sin (G-d Forbid.) Therefore his tshuva should be as above [in the parable.] It should be because he has forgotten [HaShem] and removed the fear of the King from himself. That is the meaning of the verse, 'Surely HaShem is in this place and I didn't know it.' I sinned and I didn't know it. That is the regret that I have. This idea is well known. It is the purpose of the service of HaShem. (p. 24 sefer Doduim b'sudah teachings of Rebbe Reuvain of Djarnovitz) * * * III. Order of prayer 3. 'And he encountered the place.' (Bereishis 28.11) Rashi explains that the word 'encountered' refers to prayer. We can explain this teaching of Rashi according to what we have learnt in a Mishnah*. [With regards to sacrifices] Rabbi Yehudah taught, 'If your thoughts with regards to the place [you are making the sacrifice] come before your thoughts with regards to the time [you have to make the sacrifice] then you are not liable to excision. And if your thoughts with regards to the time come before your thoughts with regards to the place it is invalid and you are liable...' We can see a remez in these words. When a person has to pray and he stands before HaShem. He should know that all of his needs in this world, and his personal matters are not the main purpose of his prayers. Even though he has needs for his livelihood and his health, they are not the main purpose. The main purpose is that His great Name should be magnified and sanctified. After that, when he has had [HaShem's name] in mind he is able to pray for his needs in this world. [He can pray for those things] that he needs for the service of HaShem, like health and livelihood. [Since he has already prayed for His name's sake] these needs are not considered unworthy. Chazal* say, the first hour He sits and learns. The second hour He sits and judges. Then He provides sustenance. So it should be that a person should first spend his time concentrating on the Honor of HaShem. Likewise Chazal have ordered [the prayers of Rosh Hashanah* in this manner.] First comes the order of [HaShem's] Kingship and then the order of [HaShem's] remembering of Israel. The Honor of HaShem is first and then he asks for his own needs. According to this teaching we can explain the teaching of Rabbi Yehudah. 'If your thoughts with regards to the place come before your thoughts with regards to the time.' This means your thoughts of HaShem who is called 'the place.' [If these thoughts] are in your prayers before thoughts for your physical needs in this world, then you are not liable. 'And if your thoughts with regards to the time come before your thoughts with regards to the place it is invalid and you are liable...' [If one has in mind first thoughts of this world and his needs then he is liable.] This is the remez of our verse. 'And he encountered the place.' Yakov first prayed for the Honor of HaShem and for the building of the Beis HaMikdash* (as the Midrash teaches.) Then he prayed, 'If G-d will be with me... and give me bread to eat... and I will return in peace.' (p. 54 sefer Tepheres Shlomoh. Teachings of Rebbe Shlomoh of radomsk.) * * * IV. Doing for others 4. 'And He will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear.' (Bereishis 28.20) It is well known the question on this verse. Why does the verse add the words 'to eat' and 'to wear'? [Is there a purpose for bread other then to eat it? Do we need clothes for any other purpose then to wear them?] We can answer this question with a mesorah* [where we see that it says in the Torah twice the word 'lilvosh.' Once here] 'clothes to wear' [Heb. lilvosh] and [a second time] 'to dress up [Heb. lilvosh] in the clothes.' (V'yikra* 21.10) [To understand this mesorah] we need to understand why it is that the Torah commands the Kohen Gadol* to adorn himself with the 8 types of clothes [on Yom Kippur.] Is it not the case that the main thing is that ones heart should be pure and clean? However, it is known that through the actions involved in performing the sacrifices all manner of good things were bestowed on Israel. The bread placed on the golden table would bring bread; the sacrifices, meat. And likewise the dressing in the 8 types of clothes was in order to bring clothes to the Jewish people. The same is the case with the Tzaddikim* [and their actions.] They bring down into this world all kinds of good things when they do various actions in this world. While Yakov was in the house of his father he was on this level [of being able to bestow goodness to this world by his actions.] When he ate he would bestow blessings on the world. However when he had to flee to Charon he was afraid that he would fall from this level and he would end up eating for his own desires. Therefore he prayed, 'Give me bread to eat.' In order that others should have to eat. And 'clothes to wear.' So that others would have what to wear. This is the idea of the mesorah. [A persons's] 'And clothes to wear' should be on the same level as 'to dress up in the clothes' that is said with regards to the Kohen Gadol. (p. 15 vol 2 sefer Or P'nei Yehoshua teachings of Rebbe Yehoshua of Galanta.) --------------------------------------------------------------------- Glossary: aleph dalit: Two letters of one of the names of G-d, spelled Aleph Dalit Nun Yod. It is customary not to say these names. amos: A measurement of length. Approx. 2 feet. Beis HaMikdash: Heb. The Holy Temple 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 cholent: A special food eaten on Shabbos. It is similar to a stew. gehennim: Place where one is punished for one's sins after death. The Talmud says that except for especially wicked souls, the normal stay is up to one year. HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name Kohen Gadol: Hebrew for 'High Priest.' mesorah: Hebrew for tradition. Sometimes refers to the traditional text of the Tenach, and how many times a particular word appears in the traditional text. midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad. Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws. 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 Sefer Yitzerah: Hebrew Kabbalistic work. shul: Yiddish word for synagogue 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 Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic Rebbe. V'yikra: Hebrew for the book of Leviticus 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 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