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. Learning Torah* together 1. 'He saw Israel dwelling according to their tribes.' (Bamidbar* 24.2) Rashi* comments [on this verse that the meaning is] that the doors of one of them did not open opposite to the door of his fellow. The Talmud* comments that 'He saw that their doors did not open one opposed to the other means that he said that they were worthy that the Shechina* should rest on them.' The Baal Shem Tov explained these teachings as follows. When two Talmidei Chochomim* are arguing a point of Torah amongst themselves, at times they will not admit the truth of what the other person said. One will have in mind to show the error of his friends words, even though he is aware that his fellow is correct. His intention is to argue in order to show off his own knowledge. However the main purpose of Talmidei Chochomim discussing the Torah is to arrive at the truth. With this they will fulfil what Chazal* said in Pirkei Avos, 'Two people who sit together, and they share words of Torah together the Shechina rests on them.' It is known that ones 'mouth' is called a door. [This is because] one's words go out from there [in the same manner as one goes out from a door.] This is the meaning of 'the doors of one of them did not open opposite to the door of his fellow.' Their intention when discussing Torah was not to show the error of their fellow. Their intention was that the truth of the Torah should come out. For that reason the Talmud says that they were worthy that the Shechina should rest on them [as Chazal said in the passage of Pirkei Avos above.] (p. 472 sefer Baal Shem Tov teachings of the baal Shem Tov.) * * * II. Fear and service of HaShem 2. 'How good are your tents Yakov, and your tabernacle Yisroel.' (Bamidbar 24.5) The verse says, 'The Nephalim were in the land... who were from old renowned people.' [The meaning of this is] the angelic hosts of heaven have no Yetzer HaRah*. Whatever service of HaShem* they do is perfect according to the way they were made, and they do it without any ulterior motives. However the hosts of this world have a Yetzer HaRah. For this reason we see that the Tzaddikim* never feel certain of themselves. [They always considered that] it is possible that they have an ulterior motive [in their service of HaShem] which they have not recognized in themselves. This is because the Yetzer Harah is called in the Talmud 'south' [Heb Tzufon which also means hidden.] We find the same fear with Aharon. When he went to Moshe to be annointed with the anointing oil [to be the high priest] he was afraid. He said maybe I have done something wrong, as is related in the Talmud. We need to consider this matter. Didn't he believe that Moshe was doing what HaShem commanded? [In truth] he did believe that Moshe was commanded to anoint him. However he didn't believe in himself that he was worthy to be annointed to greatness. Maybe there was in him some ulterior motive, or some mixture of evil that he did not realize. For that reason he was worried. This lasted until he heard a heavenly voice [exhorting him to take on this post, as the Talmud relates.] The reason for this [that the tzaddikim need to have such a fear] is that since they have a physical nature it is possible for there to be mixed in some foreign intentions which he would not recognize in himself. However the heavenly hosts are not like that. They would recognize [any foreign influence] and immediately they would recognize this as a fault and rectify it. This is what Bilaam said, 'Who sees the Almighty, when falling and with covered eyes.' If he has some fault, he sees it immediately. This is what it says in the prayer, 'They [the angels] all are lovers [one of the other], all are purified.' Each one of them according to his particular service is perfect. However the hosts below are not able to have this type of recognition because of the Yetzer HaRah which is called 'hidden' [because it can hide in them.] They are always in fear. That they are always in fear is what brings them to perfection. [When they have this fear] then the Watcher of Israel will guard them [from sin.] However the wicked Bilaam praised himself [as being on the level of angels] as the verse above shows. Therefore his eyes are really closed [as the verse says with] 'covered eyes'. [He really does not see anything.] However it is not the same with the Jewish people who serve HaShem with fear as mentioned above with regards to Aharon. Through this, that he does not have confidence in himself and his actions that they should be according to His will, it will be later revealed to him that his service was [in fact] perfect and according to His desire. Then he will give praise that he was rescued from his Yetzer HaRah and that HaShem watched over him. [In the prayer called Nishmas] we proclaim 'If our mouths were filled with songs as the ocean [is wide] .. it would not be enough to praise' [You, HaShem.] Because of our Yetzer HaRah we are afraid and Hashem guards over us, and hence we give praise to Him. Each person according to the level of service he has attained. Sometimes it is revealed to a person that he has done wrong, and he does tshuva*. This inspiration [to do tshuva] has as yet not been put into action. However with this inspiration he gets the spiritual strength to do a mitzvah*. This inspiration [to do tshuva] is called 'Yakov'. Because he has not yet brought it into an action. [Yakov is from the word 'ekev' which means 'in the end'. He has not yet done anything, but the potential is now there.] Afterwards when he does a mitzvah with love and fear it is called 'Yisroel'. This is the meaning of the verse [above.] 'How good are your tents' [Yakov.] His inspiration has not been established [more then in thought] which is [temporary like] a tent. 'Your Tabernacle' refers to when he has brought this inspiration together with mitzvos and good deeds, which is 'Yisroel.' (p. 118 sefer Birchas Avraham teachings of Rebbe* Avraham Elchanan of Plontch a talmid* of Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev.) * * * III. Prayer 3. 'Who can count the dust of Yakov, and the count of the quarter of Yisroel.' (Bamidbar 23.10) It is known that the main preparation for prayer is to humble oneself and to recognize the greatness of HaShem and to consider himself as if he was no more then dirt. [Then] after beginning to pray one should throw these thoughts away and pray with a great joy. Even though before he [felt] that he was as dirt, now he should feel lifted up to heaven. This is the meaning of the teaching of Chazal, 'When they descend they descend to the earth, when they rise they rise to the heavens.' [First they descend to the earth, i.e. they feel as if they are the same as the dust of the earth. Then, because of that, they will rise up to the highest heavens.] This is also what Avraham said, 'Behold, I have begun to speak [to You] I am like dust and ashes.' The meaning being, when he started praying he [felt as though he] was dust and ashes. [He felt that he was humble and of no worth.] This is what Hillel said, 'My greatness is my humility.' Humility makes one great. Likewise Moshe is praised for his humility. He was the greatest of all men. [However] he was not able to rise up to this greatness until he had previously lowered himself beforehand with a 'lowering in order to [later] rise up.' This is the meaning of the verse, 'And Moshe went down from the mountain to the people.' He did this in order that he should be able to [afterwards] rise up to an even higher level. We can now explan the verse. 'Who can count the dust of Yakov.' We can understand this according to what I explained on another verse. 'Balak saw all that Yisroel did to the Amori.' The meaning of this is that Balak saw their preparations for prayer. [Amori is similar to the Hebrew word 'to say' amor. This speech refers to their prayers.] They were on the level of humility before their prayers. This is the meaning of 'Who can count the dust of Yakov.' He [Bilaam] admitted to the great virtues of the Jewish people that they make themselves as if they were dust before prayer. 'And the count.' [Heb. mispar This word can be divided into two. 'Mis' which has the gematria* of 100 and 'par' which has the gematria of 280.] This refers to their bringing down into this world the 100 blessings, which is the gematria of 'mis'. And they nullify the 280 [levels of] judgments [from HaShem which is the gematria of 'par'.] 'The quarter.' This is what it says later, 'He [HaShem] saw no sin in Yakov, and He saw no iniquity in Yisroel.' This refers to what I said above, that during their prayers they held fast to their joy [in their service of HaShem.] They threw from themselves any worries of sins or iniquities that they might have had. As the verse says, 'You shall not follow after your heart.' [His heart should not be troubled during prayer over his sins.] One should not pass over doing any of the mitzvos. We understand this to mean that when he does the mitzvos he should not consider any sins he might have done, so that he should not become depressed. 'The trumpet blast [Heb. Teruos] of the king is among them.' This is a language denoting something joined together, and of friendship [Heb. raos], with the Shechina. 'Strength and joy is in their place.' 'Like a lion cub they rise up, and they are raised like a lion.' Which means when they rise up in the morning they consider themselves as if they were dust. Then they go on with strength and like a lion they are raised up during their prayers. (p. 198 sefer Tepheres Shlomoh teachings of Rebbe Shlomoh of Radomsk.) * * * IV. Entering holiness 4. 'G-d took them out of Egypt.' (Bamidbar 23.22) We can explan this according to the words of the holy Rebbe of Ropshitz ZY'A*. [He said] if a person would consider, 'How is it possible that I should enter into holiness? Since I am a person who is so filled with sins.' He should remember [what we say in Kiddush*] 'the beginning of the holy convocations, a remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt.' [When the Jewish people were in Egypt] they were in a place filled with uncleanliness[, and they had sunk down very far, and they were far from being holy.] And even so, they rose up to the highest levels of holiness. This remembrance will bring you to strengthen yourself and bring you close to holiness. (Until here are his words.) It is the way of the Yetzer HaRah to try and make the person give up (G-d forbid.) [Even though] many times he has already strengthened himself in the service of HaShem, he was not successful. However through his belief in HaShem, who takes the souls of the Jewish people out of the lowest depths, [it will happen that] just as He took them out from Egypt [he will take him out now.] There he took them out of the lowest levels of uncleanliness. He will do the same for us, in all times and places. With these thoughts he will be able to strengthen himself to rise higher and higher into the holiness. And he will merit that HaShem will take his soul out of the lowest depths. This is the meaning of 'G-d took them out of Egypt.' When he will remember the Exodus from Egypt, as was mentioned above. Then he will merit that HaShem will come to his aid. He will be raised up and brought close to holiness. (p. 77 sefer Divrei Emunah (II) teachings of Rebbe Avraham Yitzchok, the Rebbe of Toldos Aharon ZT'L.) * * * --------------------------------------------------------------------- Glossary: Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud gematria: Numerical value of the letters of the Hebrew words HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name Kavanah(Kavanos): Hebrew word for 'intention'. Kiddish: Ceremony performed on Friday night over a cup of wine. Maggid: In Europe this was a person who would give sermons on moral subjects. Many of the first Rebbes was Maggidim (pl. of Maggid). mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah. Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach. 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. 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. Shechina: Hebrew word denoting the divine presence. shul: Yiddish word for synagogue Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe. Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law. Talmud Chocham(Talmidei Chochomim): Hebrew for Talmud sage, refers to one who is learned in Jewish legal texts. Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms. 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. 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 ZY'A: Hebrew initials for Zechiso Yugan Aleini, His merit should protect us ************************************************************** Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman All rights reserved. Issur Hasugas Givil