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.

Nasso I. Blessings 1. 'So shall you bless the children of Israel...' (Bamidbar* 5.23) The usage of the word 'so' is difficult to understand in this verse. In another verse it says, 'Take the Levites... and purify them. So shall you do to them.' In that verse it is appropriate [to use the word 'So'] since the verse has already said 'Purify them.' Then it says, 'So shall you do.' [This refers to what shall be done to fulfil the command of purifying the Levites.] However here, how can it say 'So shall you bless...' since there has not been written any command [for the Kohanim to bless the people.] [The answer is] that it is known that the actions that Aharon did brought him to the level that he would always love to make peace. He would make peace between a man and his friend. [From this] he merited to make peace between the Jewish people and their Father in Heaven, as it says in the Zohar*. This comes from his [Aharon's] love of the Creator, [hence] he loved His son [the Jewish people.] And he desired to make peace and love between a man and his fellow. This was all from the source of love [which he was attached to. Aharon] came to bless the Jewish people from this love. This is what the verse says: 'To Aharon and his sons say.' [This means that] it is proper to use the word 'so' because Aharon and his sons, who are the talmidim* of Aharon and are called 'sons', have the nature that they desire to bless[others. For them] it is proper to use the word 'So shall you bless.' [Since their nature was to bless, the verse only needed to tell them how they should bless others.] (p. 95 sefer Divrei Emes teachings of Rebbe* Yakov Yitzchok, the Chozeh of Lublin.) * * * II. Bringing down Spirituality 2. 'All the days of his abstinence [Heb. nizro] he shall be holy to HaShem*' (Bamidbar 6.8) I heard it said in the name of Rebbe Yakov Yitzchok ZTvK'L* of Lublin[, the Chozeh of Lublin, that the meaning of the words] 'All the days of his abstinence' refers to when we say [during the Shabbos musaf* prayer] 'keser' [lit. crown. The word] 'nazir' [abstinence] also means a 'crown.' 'He shall be holy to HaShem.' The meaning of this is that a person is required to see his Rebbe on Yom Tov*. [This means at the time] when they say 'keser.' [By doing this he causes] that a great light [of holiness] will rest on his Rebbe. Then he will likewise be able to attain some of that light. [Until here is the teaching of the Chozeh of Lublin.] The explanation of this teaching is: We say 'We will give a crown [Heb. keser] to you HaShem.' There are [two levels] 'days of this world' [Heb. yomei Olom] and 'ancient days' [Heb. yomei kedom] The [meaning of this is that the 'ancient days' refers to a very lofty spiritual level, while 'days of this world' refers to this physical world.] The main purpose of our service of HaShem is to bring down [spiritual blessings] from the 'ancient days' to the 'days of this world'. [And this is the meaning of] 'We will give a crown to you HaShem.' i.e. to bring down from the level of 'crown' until the level of 'HaShem'. [To bring the lofty levels of 'ancient days', i.e. 'crown'. To the 'days of this world' i.e. HaShem, the who is was and will be.] This is the meaning of 'All the days of his abstinence.' His service to HaShem should be on the level to bring down from the high spiritual levels. From [the level of] 'nizro' which is the level of 'crown' to all the days of this world. i.e. 'The days of this world' shall 'be holy to HaShem.' (p. 150 sefer Or L'Shamayim teachings of Rebbe Meir of Apt.) * * * III. Bringing the redemption 3. 'Take a census of the children of Gershon also according to their father's house.' (Bamidbar 4.22) We can explain this [verse] according to what it says in the Talmud*, 'If the Jewish people would keep Shabbos twice, they would immediately be redeemed from exile.' This is the meaning of the verse: 'Take the census.' [Heb rosh lit. raise up the head] This refers to the holy Shabbos which is called 'head.' It is 'The final act of His creation, which was the first thing in His thoughts.' [Shabbos is the last day of the week, but was first in the mind of HaShem.] We are able to 'raise up the head of the children of Gershon.' These are the children of Israel who are exiled [Heb. nigrashim] from their land. We can also explain it according to the verse, 'Even if I will place you among the nations, I will gather you' [from exile.] Through the learning of Torah* we are able to bring closer the redemption. This is the meaning of 'Raise up the head.' With the holy Torah, which is called 'head.' As the verse says, 'Your first [Heb. rosh] word is truth.' Also the letters of the word 'head' are the first letters of the words: 'Sixty Ten-thousands letters' [which are the number of letters] in the Torah. Through the holy Torah we are able to 'raise up the head of the children of Gershon', the children of Israel who are exiled [Heb. nigrashim] from their land. (p. 166 sefer Kol Yakov teachings of Rebbe Yakov Tzvi Yalish a talmid of the Chozeh of Lublin.) * * * IV. Not being jealous 4. THe Midrash Rabbah* on this parsha* says, '[With regards to] all the reckonings that Moshe, Aharon and the princes of Israel counted of the Levites. After they reckoned the Levites according to the family of the children of Kehos, and the family of the children of Gershon.... Then he included them all together again. This is to show you that they were all equally loved by HaShem.' I have heard with regards to this that even though the service of the children of Kehos was much more lofty then the service of the children of Gershon and Merari since they carried the Ark. And also the service of the children of Gershon was greater then that of the children of Merari. Even so, when the children of Merari did the service that belonged to them, it was considered by HaShem as important as that of the children of Kehos. From this we learn that a person should not be jealous of his friend, even with regards to his service of HaShem. He should be satisfied with the Service to HaShem that he has received to do. With this idea we should consider what is said in the prayers, 'The [angels called] Ofanim, and the Chayos HaKodesh rose up to the level of the Serafim.' The Ofan was not jealous of the Chaya, and the Chaya was not jealous of the Seraf. The Ofanim and the Chayos were raised up [to a high level] equal to the service of the Serafim. If one is a spiritual person he can understand this. With this idea we can understand what Chazal* say later in the Midrash* that 'The person with Tzaras* got this because he entered the domain of another, which was not his. This we learn from [King] Aziyah, who desired to do the service of the Kohanim. He was jealous of the service of the Kohanim, and [because of that] the Tzaras broke out on his face. This is midah kenegid midah*. He [Aziyah] wanted to rise to a level of service that was not his, therefore he was expelled from the community [as the law is with regards with a person who has Tzaras.] (#96 sefer Igra d'Pirka teachings of Rebbe Tzvi Elimeilech of Dinov.) * * * V. Blessing HaShem 5. The Midrash Rabbah says, 'The verse says, "May HaShem lift up his countenance to you." Does HaShem show favor? Doesn't it say, "Who does not show favor." How can this be? [HaShem says,] I have written in My Torah, "You shall eat, and you shall be satisfied, and you shall bless [HaShem your G-d."] A Jew sits together with his wife and family, and they don't have enough to eat to satisfy themselves. They raise their faces to Me and bless [Me.] They are careful with themselves to make the blessing even [on an amount the size] of an olive or an egg. Therefore "May HaShem lift up his countenance to you."' This Midrash is very difficult to understand. However we can explain it this way. If a person gives his friend a very small gift. This is not highly considered by the receiver. However if a King gives him a gift, even if it is a very small one it has a great value to him. Because it was the king who gave it to him, it becomes very important to him and he has great enjoyment, [The enjoyment] is even more then if it had been a greater gift from a common man. It is the same way with the blessing after eating. Even though the Torah tells us that we need to eat an amount that satisfies us, it all depends on the person. Since we know that the King, the King of Kings is the one who 'gives bread to all flesh.' He prepares for every creature his needs so that he can exist. We see from this that even if he eats only the size of an olive, [the food itself] is very important [to him.] He gets enjoyment from it very much, since it came to him from the hand of HaShem. As we see from the parable. This is the explanation of the Midrash: 'How can this be? [HaShem says,] I have written in My Torah, "You shall eat, and you shall be satisfied, and you shall bless [HaShem your G-d."] A Jew sits together with his wife and family, and they don't have enough to eat to satisfy themselves. They raise their faces to Me and bless [Me.]' This means that they look at who it was who gave the food to them. Because of the importance of the One who gives it, they have enjoyment from a small amount. From this they come to be satisfied and they bless [HaShem.] This is also the midah* of HaShem. He shows favor to them. He has a great desire for the small service they perform for Him. Since He looks at the one who does this service. Even though we are sons of men with small minds, even so we serve Him. That is the meaning of 'May HaShem lift up his countenance to you.' (p. 114 sefer Kol Simchah teachings of the Rebbe Reb* Bunim of Peshischa.) [NOTE: This week I am adding two new features. First will be excerpts from the sefer Midrash Rivash Tov, which is a collection of letters and excerpts from various seforim* about Rebbe Yisroel Baal Shem Tov. The second is the beginning of a translation of the sefer Alpha Beta by Rebbe Tzvi Hirsch of Nedvorna. It is a small sefer but great in it's depth.] * * * VI. Midrash Rivash Tov 6. The main thing with regards to the learning of Torah is that it should be done for the sake of HaShem's name. He should learn in order to observe, and do. It all goes according to the intentions of his heart. This is what causes the completeness of the performance of a mitzvah*. Before learning you should prepare your thoughts, and have in mind that you are learning for HaShem's sake without any other foreign intentions. AS I HAVE BEEN WARNED WITH REGARDS TO THIS BY MY GREAT TEACHERS IN TORAH AND CHASSIDUS. AMONG THEM MY FRIEND, HARAV* THE CHASID, THE WONDER OF OUR GENERATION, REBBE YISROEL BAAL SHEM TOV ZT'L*. The intention in learning Torah for HaShem's sake that is the most acceptable is to attach himself to the letters with holiness and purity, with action speech and thought. He should attach the five levels of his soul in holiness. The mitzvos are a candle and the Torah is light. The letters make one wise and bestows a holy light and strength. When you merit to understand and attach yourself to the letters with holiness YOU WILL EVEN BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND FROM THE LETTERS FUTURE EVENTS. Therefore it says that the Torah enlightens the eyes. It bring sight to the eyes and causes the light to be attached to them with holiness and purity, just like the letters on the breastplate of the Kohen Gadol. From the time I attached myself with love to MY TEACHER HARAV YISROEL I UNDERSTOOD CLEARLY THAT HE ACTED IN THESE WAYS, WITH HOLINESS AND PURITY WITH HIGH LEVELS OF CHASSIDUS AND SEPARATION. HIS WISDOM WAS RIGHTEOUS, AND IN HIS FAITH HE LIVED. THE HIDDEN THINGS WERE REVEALED TO HIM, THE GLORY OF HASHEM HAS HIDDEN THIS THING. (p. 19 in the name of the sefer Sod Yachin e'Voaz by Rebbe Meir Margulios.) * * * VII. Alpha-Beta by Rebbe Tzvi Hirsch of Nedvorna [Emes] Truth: To speak truth. To not allow any false words to leave your mouth. For this one must have Mesiros Nefesh* in order to attach himself to the body of the king, as is known. [Emunah] Trust/Faith: To be faithful to his words to fulfil everything that he says. Even if someone would give you all the money in the world you should not change your word. Included in this is to not consider even in your thoughts any falsehoods, or foolishness in order to fulfil the verse, 'And words of truth in your heart.' And that which arises in your heart to do, whether a specific midah, or a good custom, and even more to do a mitzvah, you should fulfil it. Even if you have not stated it aloud, [you should do it] in order to fulfil 'And the words of truth in your heart.' Those things which help one to do this are: To speak very little with other people. To not have many thoughts at once. Just have in mind a single thought of the service of HaShem. Even when it comes to the service of HaShem you should consider only those things that you are able to do now. The reason is that the multiplicity of thoughts causes confusion and keeps a person from serving HaShem. Zechisom Yugan Aleini v'Al Kol Yisroel --------------------------------------------------------------------- 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 HaRav: The Rov (see Rov). HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name mesiros nefesh: Hebrew for self sacrifice midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad. midah kenegid midah: Heb. measure for measure Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations Midrash Rabbah: Major Midrashic work on the Torah mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah. musar: Hebrew for moral instruction. Parsha (Parshos): lit. 'portion' refers to the portion of the Torah read each week. 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. sefer(seforim): A Jewish religious book. 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 Tzaras: A skin growth described in the Torah, that is sent to sinners. 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 with Chasidim ZT'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous person is a blessing.) ZTvK'L: Hebrew initials of the words:Zechor Tzaddik veKadosh LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous man and a Kodosh - a holy man is a blessing) --------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ( All rights reserved. Issur Hasugas Givil