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.

Ki Sisa I. Equality 1. 'And HaShem* spoke to Moshe face to face.' (Shemos* 33.11) The verse says, 'As water reflects a face back to a face, so is the heart of a man to a man.' The Baal Shem Tov explained that when a man stands near the water his shadow is spread far out over the water. When he bends over to the water, his shadow gets smaller. The more he bends closer to the water the smaller the shadow of his face is. [This continues] until the shadow approaches the size of his own face. The same is with the heart of a man. When a person thinks he is great, then his friend will consider himself great. The more he makes himself smaller then his friend, his friend will make himself smaller before him. This will continue until he cannot make himself smaller. His friend will likewise do the same, and they will be equal. That is what was said about Moshe. 'And HaShem spoke to Moshe face to face as a person speaks to his friend.' This means that just like one person makes himself small before his friend, likewise his friend will make himself small before him. Their faces will become equal. Likewise Moshe, after he made himself small before HaShem, then HaShem as it were, made himself small and spoke to Moshe face to face. From this we see that the face of HaShem was like a shadow that was made according to the face of Moshe. This is a level that no person outside of Moshe could comprehend. (p. 383 sefer Baal Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem Tov.) * * * II. Learning Torah* 2. 'Carve [Heb. p'sal] for yourself.' (Shemos 34.1) Rashi says, 'The chips [Heb. p'solos] are yours. From them Moshe became rich.' [The stones used for the tablets were of a type that every piece of them was very valuable. The chips of the stone were so valuable that from them alone Moshe could become rich.] It is certain that the simple meaning is not that Moshe had a business in precious stones. And he certainly did not make earrings. Also the whole incident of the breaking of the tablets cannot be understood simply. Precious stones of this size cannot break so easily. And perhaps he shouldn't have broken them, but he should have hid them away someplace. These verses are a remez* for a great sod*. Moshe saw that Israel made the golden calf. He understood that because of this they were no longer on a level that they could receive the Torah as it had been given. The only way would be if he would introduce a 'breaking' into the Torah. This is the level of ['learning Torah] not for His name's sake in order to come [to learning Torah] for His name's sake.' These are the 'chips' of the tablets. 'Carve for yourself' [meaning] 'the chips are yours.' With his wisdom he introduced this idea into the Torah. This is the meaning of the verse, 'Length of days is in her right hand.' This refers to learning Torah for His name's sake, which is the right hand. The reward for this is 'length of days' just as it was on the mountain where they were made 'free from the angel of death' [as Chazal* teach us.] 'And in the left hand wealth and honor.' This refers to one who learns Torah not for the sake of His name. The reward for doing so in this world is riches and honor. Had it not been for the sin of the golden calf there would not have been the level of 'broken' in the tablets. [Hence there could not have been the possibility of learning Torah not for HaShem's sake.] Now because of our sins it is not possible to reach the level of learning for HaShem's sake without first learning on the level of 'not for HaShem's sake'. This is what [Rashi] meant when he said, 'From the chips of the tablets Moshe became rich.' This refers to the idea of 'broken' that Moshe introduced into the Torah. The idea of learning not for HaShem's sake. Through this Moshe made Israel rich because by their learning not for the sake of HaShem they will come to have riches and honor. However Moshe was a holy man and he had no need for riches or to have enjoyment of this world. (p. 160 sefer Or Yitzchok teachings of Rebbe* Yitzchok of Radvil) * * * III. To the best of your ability. 3. 'Sacred Shekel... The rich man should not add and the poor man should not give less.' (Shemos 30.15) It appears to me that this is a remez to what Chazal teach with regards to Krias Shema*, 'You should say it in any language that you understand.' Chazal teach that 'All that is within your power to do, you should do.' The reason for this is because HaShem does not come to trip up people [and cause them to sin.] Everyone should act for HaShem's sake according to his abilities. [It will then be acceptable to HaShem.] It is the same with accepting HaShem's kingship. Everyone should accept it according to his abilities. That is the meaning of what they said, 'You should say it in any language that you understand.' [However you are able to accept His kingship you should do so.] There is also a remez for this here. The word 'With a shekel' [Heb. b'shekel] has the first letters of the words 'Krias Shema in any language that you can.' The intention of this is that a Jew is required to do according to his understanding whatever he is able to do. That is the main foundation of holiness. Therefore it is called the 'sacred shekel.' And with regards to that it says, 'The rich man should not do more and the poor man less.' Then it will be acceptable to HaShem. (p.88 sefer Sefas Emes teachings of Rebbe Meshulim Feivish of Brazan) * * * IV. Whose fault? 4. 'Carve [Heb. p'sal] for yourself.' (Shemos 34.1) Rashi says, 'The chips [Heb. p'solos] are yours. And from them Moshe became very rich.' It says in the musar* seforim* that if you wish to say something denigrating about someone, you should first say it about yourself. That is the meaning of 'Carve for yourself.' You should denigrate [Heb. tifsil] yourself. Likewise anything you see to denigrate someone else is something that is in you. We can further explain this according to what it says in the sefer of my grandfather the Rebbe of Komarna ZY'A*. Once it happened that the Baal Shem Tov saw someone violate the Shabbos. He wondered to himself. Had he violated the Shabbos? [The reason he thought this way was because] when a person sins and he is not aware of it, then from heaven they remind him of the sin so that he can do tshuva*. They show him someone who does the same exact sin that he did. [Since he hadn't violated Shabbos, it caused him to wonder.] From heaven they revealed to the Baal Shem Tov that he had at one time heard someone denigrate a talmud chocham*. The Zohar* states that a talmud chocham is on the level of Shabbos. [Therefore he was shown someone who violated the Shabbos so that he should realize that he sinned when he did nothing after he heard the remarks made about the talmud chocham.] With this we can understand what Chazal say, 'Everyone who denigrates another does so with his own faults.' This is because when he sees someone doing a sin it is likely that he has also done something like that. Therefore if he sees someone else sin he should do tshuva and correct his actions. This is the meaning of 'The chips are yours.' i.e. those things that you see in another person that makes you denigrate him, they are yours. That means that you have the same faults. (p. 5 Kintros Lekach Tov a collection of teachings from the Kaliver Rebbes. This is from the Kaliver Rebbe Shlita from Israel.) --------------------------------------------------------------------- Glossary: Beis HaMedrash: Jewish house of study Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name Krias Shema: Recitation of the main Jewish prayer of the confession of faith. Contains 3 parshas. Devorim 6.5-9; 11.13-21 and Bamidbar 15.37-41 Maggid: In Europe this was a person who would give sermons on moral subjects. Many of the first Rebbes was Maggidim (pl. of Maggid). midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad. mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification musar: Hebrew for moral instruction. 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. 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 sod: A method of Biblical interpretation based on describing secret teachings in the Torah. Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe. Talmud Chocham(Talmidei Chochomim): Hebrew for Talmud sage, refers to one who is learned in Jewish legal texts. Tanya: Important chassidic work By Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi. 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 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 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