BS'D Derech HaBaal Shem Tov The way of the Baal Shem Tov Ahavas HaShem Love of G-d Ahavas Yisroel Love of fellow Jews Ahavas HaTorah 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.
*Shemos I. Simple Faith 1. 'I am the G-d of your fathers...' (Shemos 3.6) I heard from the *Tzaddik *Rebbe Noach (of Lechovitz) *ZY'A, that the Baal Shem Tov said to his *Talmidim, 'After all that I have achieved in understanding the supernal secrets of the *Torah, and the sources of the *mitzvos, and after all the enjoyment that I have attained from this, I put aside all of these levels of knowledge and I strengthen myself with simple faith in *HaShem. Ich bin a nar un ich gleib [Yiddish: I am a fool and I believe.] He ended by saying that the Baal Shem Tov saw the source of all things, and even so he put it all aside to grasp the fundamental principle of 'Simple faith in HaShem.' My teacher Rebbe Mordechai of Lechovitz said that the Baal Shem Tov further explained, 'even though it says '"The simple man believes in all things" (*Mishleh 14.15), it also says that "HaShem watches over the simple ones." [Meaning that while it may seem to be a bad thing that in matters of faith one acts with simplicity, however HaShem has promised that He watches over the one who has simple faith.] (*Tehillim 116.6) (Letter 24 in sefer Yesod HaAvodah from Rebbe Avraham of Solonim) * 2. I have heard from people who are well known for relating stories correctly that the Chasid, the holy Grandfather, my great uncle Rebbe Meshulim Zushya *ZT'L (of Anapoli), said that 'I am not expecting a reward in the world to come for the service of HaShem that I did after I understood the true greatness of HaShem. I am only waiting for the reward for the service of HaShem that I did when I served him with simple faith. [When I served Him] because it was what I had received as a tradition.' [The service of HaShem done with simple faith is much higher then service of HaSHem that is done with high levels of understanding of the nature of HaShem.] (#3 Sefer Egra D'Pirka teachings of Rebbe Tzvi Elimeilech of Dinov.) * * * II. *Tshuva 3. 'You don't give straw [Heb. tevan] to your servants, and they say to us to make bricks. [Heb. Leveinim].' (Shemos 5.16) 'Straw' is similar to the Hebrew word for 'wisdom' [Heb tevunah] and understanding. While 'bricks' can refer to tshuva according to what *Chazal say in the *Talmud tractate *Shabbos 45 'At all times your garments should be white [Heb lavanim]' [The verse is understood by our Rabbis to mean that one should always be clothed in white, symbolizing that he is constantly doing tshuva.] This is the meaning of the verse: Straw, i.e. understanding, isn't given to Your servants. [Which means that we are lacking in proper understanding of the nature of HaShem.] And bricks, i.e. tshuva, You wish for us to do? This is a big question. How can we begin to do tshuva if we are lacking in understanding? HaShem should first grant us wisdom and understanding and then we will merit to do a complete tshuva. (p. 33 sefer Alna D'Chaya a collection of teachings from various Chassidic Rebbes. This is from Rebbe Shlomoh of Karlin ZY'A *HY'D) * * * III. The work of the Yetzer HaRah 4. 'They set task masters over them to afflict them with their burdens' (Shemos 1.11) It says in the sefer Toldos Yaakov Yosef that the 'tasks' here means the anxieties that people have in their life. The *Yetzer HaRah has the power to make a person have anxiety. Most of the time the Yetzer HaRah uses these anxieties to drive a person away from the service of HaShem. From morning to night, and then from night to morning people are occupied with these anxieties. He goes to sleep with them and wakes up with them. And so his whole day goes by. Each person has anxieties according to his nature and position in life. We are not just talking of the businessman or the worker, even those who are sitting in Yeshiva learning are filled with anxieties. It comes either from money matters or other things. Because of these anxieties he can't pray, he can't understand his learning, he doesn't know what he is saying, and he doesn't even know who he is. One of the most important things the Yetzer Harah works on are these anxieties, and this is the meaning of 'to afflict them with their burdens.' [The Yetzer HaRah tries to afflict them with constant anxiety.] Another *peshat in this verse could be according to what it says in Sefer Lekutim from the *Ari Z'L. He said, 'All the mitzvos that a person does while he is still wicked, or the Torah that he learns at that time not only does it not add strength to the side of holiness but the exact opposite. It adds strength to the side of the Yetzer HaRah. About this person [who learns while being a sinner] it says, "To the wicked man G-d says, why do you discuss my Torah?" This means that he takes something that is holy and puts it in an unclean and unholy place. With this he adds to his sins and makes them too great to carry. However when he does tshuva he takes back all these mitzvos, etc. and brings them into the side of holiness. That is the meaning of tshuva [lit. return], i.e. he returns these holy things [i.e. the mitzvos] to the side of holiness. He then gets a double reward in that he weakens the Yetzer HaRah and removes the holiness that it has taken. He also add strength to the side of holiness through his tshuva. This is what the Rabbis meant when they said, 'his willing sins become merits for him.' [By doing tshuva he makes all those sins into big mitzvos. Until here is from the Ari Z'L.] Similarly it was taught in the sefer Chesed L'Avraham that when a person does mitzvos a portion of the 'light' [i.e. holiness] from this remains as a garment for his *nashama. Likewise when one does a sin there comes on him an 'unclean' garment for his nashama. With this garment he is 'clothed' when his nashama leaves this world. From this idea we can understand why the verse says, 'To the wicked man G-d says why do you discuss my Torah?' Since his nashama is in the hands of the Yetzer Harah all his mitzvos add more strength to the Yetzer HaRah. It comes to him and says, 'his prayer belongs to me', and he takes it as his own. However by the strength of tshuva he can repair this so it will be as it was in the first place. He can break the Yetzer HaRah and return the mitzvos to where they belong. These will then become acceptable to HaShem and his sins will be considered as merits. [Until here is from Chesed L'Avraham.] With these ideas the sefer Yaros Dvash explains the simple meaning of what we say in the Piyyut "Adir Ayom v'Norah" [that is sung at the meal after the Shabbos has ended]. '[Rescue] the sheep from the hands of the shearers.' When people want their sheep to grow a lot of wool they first feed them special foods which the sheep like to eat and which make the wool to grow faster. The sheep enjoy this because as the wool grows they get warmer and warmer. They don't know that the whole purpose of this is in order that the wool should be cut off of them. The faster it grows the sooner they will be shorn of the wool. The same is with the Yetzer HaRah. Sometimes it sees that [due to the sins of the person] he has no more mitzvos or good deeds, and so the Yetzer HaRah has nothing to take from him. Therefore he lets him have a rest. Then the person does tshuva and starts to get some mitzvos and good deeds. All this was in order that he should have something to take later. So we pray that HaShem should rescue the sheep from the shearers. We should not be like sheep waiting to be shorn. We should not do mitzvos only so that the Yetzer HaRah should have what to take from us. We should merit to do mitzvos for the sake of HaShem, with holiness. This could be the meaning of the words of the verse, 'and they placed over them task masters [Heb sarei masim]. *Rashi says that it means 'officers that take tax [Heb mas]'. This refers to the Yetzer HaRah who takes a 'tax', which are the mitzvos and the Torah that people learn. (p. 63b sefer Divrei Emunah teachings of the Rebbe of Toldos Aharon ZT'L) --------------------------------------------------------------------- Glossary: Ari Z'L: 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 HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name HY'D: Heb. HaShem Yimkom Domov: HaShem should avenge their blood. Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English Proverbs. mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah. nashama: Hebrew word for soul. peshat: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding the simple meaning in the Torah. Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach. Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher Shabbos: Tractate in the Talmud Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe. Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law. 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 Tov: Heb. Good Inclination Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination. ZT'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous person is a blessing.) ZY'A: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechiso Yagan Aleinu (His merit should protect us.) ************************************************************ Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman (email@example.com) All rights reserved. Issur Hasugas Givil