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.

Tzav/Shabbos HaGadol* I. Prayer 1. 'If his offering shall be a thanksgiving offering.' (V'yikra* 7.12) It is a well known principle that prayer is more important then any other type of service of HaShem*. When one prays he should prepare himself as if he were going into a battle. As the Zohar* says [comparing prayer to going to war, he should go into it], 'with arrows, and bow, and sword.' The meaning [of what the Zohar says] is that a person from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet is filled with the holy letters. His job is to raise them up to HaShem, to the divine Will, which is their source. When he uses all his strength and his thoughts concentrating on what is above, it is as if he is throwing the prayers upwards. It can be compared to using an arrow and shooting it upward. [The Zohar] is making a remez* to this when it says, 'with arrows and bow.' This is conditional on him not mixing any improper thoughts [with his prayers.] This can cause his prayers to be invalidated because of these foreign thoughts. He is then not able to raise up [these letters with his prayer] as they were supposed to. It is well known [from the Baal Shem Tov] that even in one's thoughts there is a source of godliness. One has to raise them up to their source and correct them. If a person has foreign thoughts he gives strength to the Yetzer HaRah*, and they will not be raised up. However if he concentrates during the saying of the 248 words of the Shema*, then he will destroy any negative effects from these prayers. This is the meaning of 'and he took a spear in his hands'. According to the Zohar this is a remez for the 248 words of the Shema, which are considered as if they pierced through these negative thoughts [which caused the prayers to be invalid. The Hebrew word spear is 'romach' which if spelled defectively has the gematria* of 248.] The main thing to remember, [which will aid you in keeping in mind what you should during prayer,] is that your words during prayer have their source in the first words spoken [by HaShem] which caused the world to be created. You should [consider] your words as if they were joined to the [first] words from HaShem, and they will take 'revenge' [on these negative thoughts.] That is the meaning of the verse, 'I will raise up G-d with my throat' [i.e. my prayers. This verse is specifically applied to the Shema in the Zohar and other Kabbalistic sources. When is this?] When there is 'a two edged sword their hands.' [By saying the Shema with the proper intention he will have the effects explained above. It is as if he had a sword in his hand.] It was the intention of HaShem when he created the world that they should all join themselves to Him and be raised up to His Will. And that is the meaning of the 'thanksgiving offering', which the Zohar says is like 'arrows...' (p. 188 sefer Toras HaMaggid teachings of the Rebbe Reb* Ber, the Maggid* of Mezritch) * * * II. The Torah* 2. 'And HaShem said to Moshe saying. Command Aharon...' (V'yikra 4.2) The word 'command' indicates that he should be diligent now and for all generations. [In the Midrash* it says] Rabbi Shimon said 'One has to be more diligent in a case where there is a chance of a loss of money.' There are a few problems [with what the Midrash said.] First, every mitzvah* was said for all generations. What is special with this one? Second, what is the special 'loss of money involved' with this particular sacrifice? There are many other mitzvos where there is a larger financial cost then this one. When those mitzvos are related in the Torah it doesn't use the wording of 'command.' The main purpose of the Torah that HaShem has given us is that we should subdue our Yetzer HaRah. Because of this in the Zohar [when discussing what we should do against the Yetzer HaRah] it tells us that we should learn Torah [more then any other act.] With the Torah one is able to fight with the Yetzer HaRah and subdue it. This is because the great and holy light of the Torah is always able to cause him to return to HaShem and to the good path. Through the Torah he is able to attach himself to HaShem, who is hidden within the words of the Torah. Through the Torah he is able to attach to HaShem and subdue the Yetzer HaRah. This is the meaning of what Rabbi Shimon says, 'I have seen those with lofty souls, and they are few.' This is because with the Torah one is able to rise up higher and higher, and also to repair whatever damage he caused by his sins. That is the meaning of 'the Torah of the Olah [Hebrew for burnt offering, but literally means 'raised up'] Through the Torah one can become raised up, 'all the night until morning'. Even if it is dark for him [i.e. he has sinned], he can rise up, and make from it 'the morning light'. (p. 85 sefer M'Or Aynayim teachings of Rebbe* Nachum of Chernoble.) * * * III. Prayer 3. 'When one brings his peace-offering to Hashem, he shall bring his offering to HaShem from his peace offering. ' (V'yikra 5.29) It appears to me that we can explain this verse according to what it says in the words of the prophet, 'In all their [Israel's] suffering, He suffered.' This means that whenever a person is going through personal suffering, the main point of his prayer [at that time] should be for the honor and sake of HaShem, because 'in their suffering He suffers.' [HaShem feels the suffering also, and one needs to pray for that.] This is the meaning of the verse, 'May your mercy, HaShem, be upon us, just as we awaited you.' In this verse we are asking from HaShem that he should act mercifully to us just as we waited for him. I.e. even though we are not able to make the main point of our prayer only for the sake of HaShem [and His suffering with us], even so, He is filled with compassion. Your mercy should be upon us just as we waited for you, i.e. because of your honor. That is the meaning of 'for you' i.e. because of you. [He should have mercy because we also had in mind his suffering.] We see that it is fitting that the main purpose of our prayers should be for the sake of the honor of HaShem. The Torah is teaching us this in this verse. 'When one brings his peace-offering to Hashem', i.e. when he approaches in prayer to HaShem. 'His peace-offering' [Heb zevach - slaughter shlomov - of peace], It can be said, with regards to his Yetzer HaRah, that it has slaughtered him [i.e. held him back] from his perfection [Heb. shelamos] in service to HaShem. The Torah is telling us how we should pray. That is 'he shall bring his offering.' What he wants to offer [in prayer] and ask of HaShem. 'Bring his offering to HaShem.' i.e. because of the honor of HaShem. According to the verse, 'in all their sufferings He suffered.' The main purpose of his prayers should be for the sake of HaShem. 'From his peace offering.' [His purpose should be for the honor of HaShem] even more then because of the Yetzer HaRah having 'slaughtered him' [by keeping him back] from his perfection with HaShem. His prayer should not be because of the suffering from what has happened, but for the sake of HaShem. (p. 67 sefer Mevasar Tzedek teachings of Rebbe Yissochar Ber of Zlotchov.) * * * IV. Sacrifices 4. 'When one brings his peace-offering to Hashem, he shall bring his offering to HaShem from his peace offering. ' (V'yikra 5.29) The main purpose of the sacrifices was that we should bring our souls close to the holiness of HaShem, and to rectify them from any defect they may have. The differences between the various types of sacrifices are explained in the Torah. Each different sacrifice was to rectify one aspect of the person, depending on which type of sacrifice was being brought. The desire of HaShem was that he should bring the sacrifice and correct what was lacking in his soul. This was dependant on the particular holy sacrifice and what it was meant to teach him. [Each sacrifice would indicate a different aspect.] The concept of the 'sin sacrifice' and the 'guilt offering' was that the person should recognize his failings and return to HaShem. Then HaShem would accept his good will. [HaShem sees this will] from the persons desire to return to Him [and the sacrifice that he brought.] This causes pleasure to HaShem. Because of this [pleasure] He will bestow on him from His holiness, and fulfil his will. However the concept of the 'peace offering' is not because of any defect in the person at all. It comes from the love in his soul to come close to HaShem, and bring himself under the yoke of His Kingship with a greater holiness [then he had until that time.] Even if he was perfect in his service of Him, and HaShem had bestowed all the good things to him [that he could want.] He [still] gives over the perfection that his soul has to HaShem. Then he asks that HaShem take him under the yoke of His Kingship. From this he will bring upon himself from His holiness. This is to show that all of the perfection of his soul in the service of HaShem was just an offering to HaShem. The truth is that HaShem's will is to do good to us and to bestow all types of good things [upon us.] There is a remez to this in Chazal* where they say that, [with regards to the peace offering] 'there is a portion of it that belongs to the one offering it.' [This means that with this offering not only does HaShem gain, but the one giving it also gains.] In this manner His Kingship becomes raised, since [as is known] there cannot be a king without a people [to serve him. By bringing himself under HaShem's Kingship He becomes greater in this world.] This is then the meaning of the verse. 'When one brings his peace-offering to Hashem'. The reason why we offer our souls with all its perfections and all our possessions is in order to go under the yoke of His Kingship. Through this 'he shall bring his offering to HaShem from his peace offering.' This means that HaShem will bestow upon us all types of good things because of our perfections in service and all the good things that we do, as an offering to HaShem. This is pleasant to Him, and is what His Will is. This is the meaning of the verse, 'everywhere I cause my name to be mentioned' i.e. the holiness of His kingship. 'I will come and bless them.' HaShem will bestow all types of goodness and blessings because of this service. The gematria of the words 'to HaShem from his peace offering' [Heb. L'HaShem m'zevach shlomov 56 + 57 + 386 = 499] (with three more for the three words) [502] is 'His kingship' [Heb. malchuso. This shows that through this sacrifice we come under the yoke of his Kingship.] (p. 4 sefer Toras Emes teachings of Rebbe Leibele of Lublin) * * * V. Shabbos HaGadol 5. On Shabbos HaGadol the Rebbe of Sadagura said Torah. Before saying the Torah he related that there once was a Rabbi who on Shabbos Tshuva* would give a talk about how to make kosher ones vessels [which is what one usually discusses on Shabbos HaGadol.] On Shabbos HaGadol he would give a talk about doing tshuva*. The Rebbe said that he was doing properly, and that he was correct. The reason for this is that Chazal say, 'Great is tshuva that it makes willing sins into unwilling sins.' Another time it says, 'Great is tshuva that it makes willing sins into merits.' It would appear that these two statements contradict each other. However they do not. The difference is that when the tshuva is done from love the sins become merits, when it is done from fear they become unwilling sins. The Yomim Noroim* are days of judgement and 'gevurah*'. A person does tshuva from fear, because fear comes from the midah* of gevorah. Therefore his tshuva is not good enough to wipe out the sins completely. They are only turned into unwilling sins. Therefore we go to the water to do tashlich* [to cast away our sins.] This shows that the unwilling sins still need atonement. For this reason [this Rabbi] would discuss making vessels kosher. This was to inspire the people to, in the least, do tshuva from fear. 'Fear' is a little like making kosher vessels. This is because one makes vessels kosher with boiling water. The level of 'fear' is a remez for this since in general one who is afraid he sweats, which is like boiling water. However when the month of Nisan comes, it is a level of chesed* and love. For that reason one should talk about tshuva. This is so that they should do tshuva for the tshuva they did then [during the Yomim Noroim.] He should do tshuva from love in order to turn his sins into merits. The Rebbe ended by saying, this is the reason that we go to the river to draw water for the matzohs [which is called mayim shelanu.] We are taking back the sins that we threw in the water during Tishrei so that we can make them merits. (p. 26 sefer Ner Yisroel teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin and his descendants. This was from Rebbe Avraham Yakov of Sadagura.) Zechisom Yugan Aleini v'Al Kol Yisroel --------------------------------------------------------------------- Glossary: 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 gematria: The numerical value of the Hebrew letters. gevurah: Heb. strength. Refers to something done with power. The opposite of chesed. HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name 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. Midrash: Rabbinical work with homiletic interpretations mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah. Parshas Porah: Special Parsha of the Torah read the Shabbos after Purim. 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. Shema: Main Jewish prayer of the confession of faith. Contains 3 parshas. Devorim 6.5-9; 11.13-21 and Bamidbar 15.37-41 Shabbos HaGadol: The Shabbos before the first day of Passover Shabbos Tshuva: Shabbos between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur tashlich: A custom on Rosh HaShanah to go to a river or body of water and say special prayers. 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 V'yikra: Hebrew for the book of Leviticus 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 Yomim Noroim: Hebrew from 'Days of Awe.' The days around the holidays of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, so called because they are days of judgement. Zohar: Hebrew/Aramaic Rabbinical Kabbalistical work that is one of the most important sources for Kabbalah, and was very influential with Chasidim --------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ( All rights reserved. Issur Hasugas Givil