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. What type of offering to make.
1. 'They should take to Me an offering.' (Shemos* 25.2)
The Midrash* Tanchuma* says on this verse: "'They should take to me
an offering.' The Holy One Blessed is He said to Israel, 'The Torah*
is mine. The judgments are mine. You should take them. You should
take ME with them. As the verse says, "They should take to me an
offering."' It doesn't say, 'You should take an offering.' But it
says, 'You should take to me an offering.'" [The word 'to me'
indicates that HaShem is also to be taken.] This whole teaching is
very difficult to understand.
I have heard with regards to the teaching of Chazal* in the Talmud*:
'This world is like a wedding hall.' The meaning of this teaching is
that with a wedding there are various types of jobs that need to be
done in order for the wedding to be made. Some are easy and some are
difficult. However the whole purpose of all of this work is the word
'to me' that the chason* says to the Kallah* when he betroths her.
[When giving her the ring he says,] 'You are betrothed to me...' If
the chason does not say the words 'to me' he has done absolutely
The same is with all of the affairs of a person in this world, from
the beginning of his life to the end. [The purpose is] that he should
be attached to HaShem*. That is the meaning of the words 'to me.'
[The meaning of the teaching of Chazal is that the world is like a
wedding hall where the purpose is the saying of the word 'to me.'
Which refers to one being attached to HaShem.]
With this we can understand the Midrash. They should take the Torah,
which is an offering [Heb. terumah] to raise them up [Heb. hisromam]
and to become great. Likewise they should do the commands to become
great. In order to have a livelihood, to be a judge or a Rav*.
However the main purpose is 'They should take to me' with the
offering. [Not only should they learn the Torah and have the rewards
of learning, but they should also be attached to HaShem.] (p. 312
sefer Tzifonis Peneach teachings of Rebbe* Yakov Yosef of Polnoye)
* * *
II. Attaching to HaShem
2. 'They should take to Me an offering.' (Shemos 25.2)
After this verse it says, 'They shall take my offering.' It seems we
can say that the word 'offering' [Heb. terumah] has two meanings.
[First] the Targum* translates it as 'separate.' There is another
explanation [that it is from] the word 'to raise up.' [Heb. harma]
[There is no contradiction here as] the truth is that it is not
possible for anyone to be raised up and to attach himself to HaShem
until he first separates himself from all the physical things of this
That is the meaning of 'They should take to Me an offering.'
If a person wishes to take himself. As the verse says, 'Make for me a
mikdash* and I will dwell in them.' If a person will make of himself
a mikdash then HaShem will dwell in him the light of HaShem.
'They shall take to Me.' If they desire to take Me so that I can
dwell within them.
'An offering.' They must first separate themselves from all their
desires for things of this world. After that they will be able to be
raised up higher and higher. They will become a dwelling place for
HaShem. And HaShem will dwell within them.
How can they do this? 'From each man according to what his heart
desires, they shall take my offering.' The word 'From' [Heb m'es] is
the same letters as the word 'truth.' [Heb. emes] He needs to unify
and join himself to the truth. The word 'each' refers to the various
levels [one can use to serve HaShem. The words] truth and 'Each man'
[refer to when] he will unify himself to all these good midos*. Then
he will be able to accept 'My offering.' [He will be raised up and
attached to HaShem.] (p.125 sefer Beis Aharon teachings of Rebbe
Aharon of Karlin.)
* * *
III. Having a desire for the mitzvos*
3. 'They should take to Me an offering. ' (Shemos 25.2)
The Midrash teaches, 'When Israel said, "We will do and we will hear"
immediately HaShem said, "They should take to Me an offering."' It
seems the word 'immediately' needs some explanation.
I saw in the sefer 'Ner Yisroel' in the name of Rebbe Meir of
Premishlan. The verse says, 'And they stood under the mountain.' [The
Talmud teaches] 'From this we see that HaShem held the mountain over
them like a roof [and said if they will accept the Torah fine, if not
this will be their grave.] Tosephos* asks the question, since they
already said willing 'We will do and we will hear' why was there a
need to hold the mountain over their heads? He answers that it was
because of the noise from the lightening and thunder.
We can understand the simple meaning of this teaching as follows. We
see many times when the congregation is inspired to do a good thing.
Generally they will pray and all of them will take upon themselves to
help out in this good thing. One of them with his physical strength
and another with his money. And when they have this inspiration, most
if not all of them intend to fulfil what they have promised. However
with the passing of time, until this thing can be put into action,
they forget their responsibility and they become cold to the whole
affair. And even if they will do what they promised, they will not
do it with the same enthusiasm they had when they accepted upon
themselves to do this good thing. They will do it as one who is
Therefore the Midrash says, 'immediately.' This teaches us the idea I
stated above. Immediately when they had the inspiration, and they
proclaimed 'We will do and we will hear.' HaShem came and commanded
them to build the mishkan*. This was done so that they shouldn't wait
longer then needed [and they would have the same strong inspiration
when they made the mishkan as they had when they accepted the
mitzvos of the Torah.] (p. 37 sefer Panim M'eirim teachings of Rebbe
Meir of Premishlan.)
* * *
IV. Fear and Love
4. 'They should take to Me an offering.' (Shemos 25.2)
We need to understand what is the meaning of the word 'They should
take.' We can explain it this way. It is known from the teachings of
Chazal that 'If you have learned much Torah you should not think well
of yourself because of that.' Likewise 'You should not make a crown
of it [the Torah] to consider yourself great from it.' You should
learn Torah for HaShem's sake in order that from the Torah you should
come to the love and the fear of HaShem. As the verse says, 'And now
what does HaShem your G-d ask of you except that you should fear
Him...' Everything that HaShem asks of you [i.e. learning Torah and
doing mitzvos] is only in order that you should fear HaShem your G-d.
This is because, as the verse says, 'The end result when all is
considered: fear G-d.' The Tekunei Zohar* likewise teaches, 'Torah
without fear and love [for HaShem] does not rise up.'
Therefore the verse tells us, 'They should take.' [Heb. v'Yikchi]
This means when they learn Torah, which is called a good portion.
[Heb. leikach] All of their intentions should be 'to me an offering.'
[In order that] they should reach the level of 'loftiness.' They
should understand the loftiness of HaShem. And from that they will
After this it says, 'From each man according to the desire of his
heart.' This means, if he can not rise to this level by
himself, the verse is giving him an idea how to reach it.
'From each man' refers to the Tzaddikim* of the generation.
'According to the desire of his heart.' The desire of his heart is
From this 'They should take my offering.' From this they are able to
take and to learn this level [of service.] (p. 57 sefer Beis Yitzchok
teachings of Rebbe Yitzchok of Vorki and his descendants. This is a
teaching of Rebbe Yakov Dovid of Amshinov.)
* * *
V. Turning from evil and doing good.
5. 'They should take to Me an offering. From each man...' (Shemos
The word 'an offering' [Heb. terumah] can be explained in two ways.
1. separation 2. something that is raised up. These two ideas are a
remez* for the service of HaShem of 'turn from evil' which is
separation. And 'do good.' When one does what is good he will be
raised up and purify his mind and heart in all his deeds.
The 'separation' which refers to 'turn from evil' refers to the
negative mitzvos [those things one is forbidden to do.] He should
separate himself from bad actions and be careful [to refrain] from
violating any of the negative mitzvos. The 'raising up' that comes to
a person by 'doing good' refers to [his following] the positive
For this reason it is good that the verse uses a language of
'terumah' [lit an offering] which indicates a 'raising up' and the
positive mitzvos. And the Targum writes 'separate' which is a remez
for the negative mitzvos.
We find that the written Torah informs us to 'rise up and act.' While
the Oral torah (of which the Targum is a part) tells us to 'sit and
not act.' The Torah tells us, 'You shall love your fellow as
yourself.' While the Oral Torah says, 'That which you dislike do not
do to your fellow' which is the level of the negative Mitzvos. (p. 96
sefer Ner Yisroel teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin and his
descendants. This is a teching of Rebbe Avraham Yakov of Sadagur)
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok
Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as
Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
chason: Hebrew/Yiddish for a man who is engaged to be married
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages
of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
halacha: Hebrew word meaning 'law'
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
kallah: Hebrew/Yiddish for bride
midah(midos): A character trait, either good or bad.
Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations
mikdash: Hebrew of temple, lit. place of holiness
mishkan: Hebrew for tabernacle
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
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
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints
in the Torah for various concepts.
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tanchuma: One of the Rabbinical Midrashic works
Targum: Aramaic translation of the Torah
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Tekunei Zohar: The most esoteric section of the Zohar
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
Tosephos: commentary on the talmud by the talmidim of Rashi
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic
ZY'A: Hebrew initials for Zechiso Yugan Aleini, His merit should
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