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.
1. 'Yissachar is a strong donkey... ' (*Bereishis 49.14)
It was taught in the name of Rabbi Yisroel Baal Shem Tov on the
verse, 'Yissachar is a strong donkey.' [Heb. chamor gorem]: There is
a reward [Heb. yesh sechar] that comes about [Heb. gorem] based on
ones deeds [Heb. chamor] in this physical world.
[He further taught:] In all physical things there is a portion of
*HaShem's holiness that has a relationship to the particular person's
soul who possesses it. This is the reason why some people love
certain things, while another hates the same thing but loves another
When a person uses a vessel or eats an object, even if it is for his
own physical needs he absorbs the holiness that was in it. This
happens because afterwards he uses the strength gained from the food
or uses the physical object to serve HaShem. This causes the
holiness that was in the object to be absorbed [by his soul].
For that reason we see that at times a person loses an object or it
is taken from him. This is because he has absorbed that portion of
holiness in the object that belongs to his soul. Then HaShem takes
the object and gives it to another person who likewise has a portion
in that object. (Tzvuos H'Rivash teachings of *Rebbe Yisroel Baal
* * *
II. Serving HaShem
2. 'Ephraim and Menashah are like Reuvain and Shimon to me'
There are two ways in the service of HaShem. One is the service of
HaShem through *Torah learning and prayer which is done in order to
strengthen the person in serving HaShem. The second is the one who
serves, even without any great knowledge, but he has a greater desire
to serve then the one following the first way.
For this way of service there is a parable. We can compare it to a
person who would often travel from a specific inn to the town. He
would do this even though the people at that inn would try to
convince him not to go into the town. He would say, 'Why shouldn't I
go since I have done it many times. Why should I stop in the middle
of the way?' [The meaning is that the person on this level says: why
should he allow himself to be talked out of serving HaShem. This is
not based on any knowledge of the importance of serving HaShem. He
just accepts the responsibility of serving HaShem.]
A *Tzaddik is called 'all things' [Heb Kol], because all things that
occur in this world derive from his actions. He is also called
'Ephraim' because he is fruitful [Heb. parah] and multiplies due to
his many *mitzvos. [He learns Torah and does mitzvos and hence
prospers in a spiritual manner from that.]
There is a second level called 'Menashah' which is a language of
forgetting. As it says, 'I have forgotten my father's house.' This
means the person has forgotten about HaShem. He understands in his
heart that he has not served HaShem with fear and love. He is
inspired from this to the fear of HaShem.
However this is not the full measure of fear which he should have.
That level is the fear that comes from purification through his
understanding. [Through his recognition of the greatness of HaShem.]
However he doesn't have this, and even if he thinks that he is
serving HaShem, his love of Him is really nonexistant. This is
because the gate to the service of HaShem with love is the fear of
HaShem. [And this comes only through knowledge of HaShem.]
The one who considers himself a servant of HaShem but who does not
serve at all, or is not on the level that the fear of HaShem will
grasp him, is not a servant of HaShem at all. His mitzvos are done as
if by rote [without any life to them.] Even so he thinks of himself
as one who loves HaShem, but that is just frivolous joy. He should
return to HaShem, and serve him with a strong desire. This is the
level of Menashah. i.e. because he has forgotten HaShem he serves
HaShem with more strength then he would otherwise have done. (p. 40
Remzei Torah teachings of the *Rebbe Reb Ber the *Maggid of Mezritch)
* * *
3. 'Yissachar is a strong donkey... He saw that rest was good... He
bent his shoulder to bear (the burden)' (Bereishis 49.14-15)
It is difficult to understand what the verse is saying. Because 'He
saw that rest was good' therefore 'he bent his shoulder to bear (the
burden)'? This would seem to be the exact opposite of 'rest'.
However the true 'rest' is that which comes through the holy service
of HaShem. The one who has merited that from HaShem he feels the
sweetness of this 'rest', which is good, he will bring himself to
serve HaShem with his complete will.
This is the idea of 'tasting' the holiness of the Shabbos, which is
called 'rest' and 'good'. As the verse says, 'remember the Shabbos to
make it holy', which means to feel the sweetness of Shabbos which
comes from above. (As is known from the *sod of the word 'remember
[Heb. zachor].) After that it says that 'for six days you should
work.' This refers to the work [i.e. service of HaShem] that comes
following the Shabbos from the strength one has received from the
'sweetness' of the holiness of Shabbos.
This is the meaning of the verse, 'and he saw rest that it was good'.
He merited to taste of the sweetness of the rest that comes from the
holiness of serving HaShem. Therefore [after that he could] bend his
shoulder to bear the burden, i.e. to work further in the holy service
of HaShem. (p. 44 sefer Toras Emes teachings of Rebbe Leibele Eiger
* * *
III. Turning evil to good.
4. 'You considered that you were doing evil to me, but HaShem saw
that it was for good.' (Bereishis 50.20)
It says in *Pirkei Avos (1.6) that we should judge everyone
favorably. It is even more true that we should judge HaShem favorably
in all the sufferings that He might cause to befall a person. This is
a remedy which will cause that the truth will be that way, and that
the suffering should then come out for the good, and the evil will
This was taught by the Baal Shem Tov. [In sefer Toldos Yakov Yosef
in the parsha of Noach, The Baal Shem Tov taught that we should look
for a source of mercy and good in any appearance of evil. And this
will turn the evil into good.] *Chazal also teach us this idea with
regards to Nachum Ish Gam Zi. [In the *Talmud in *Taanis 21a it is
related that no matter what would happen to him he would say 'gam zi
l'tovah' i.e. this is also for the good. Because of that miraculous
things would happen for him turning seemingly bad events into good
The same is expressed here by Yosef when he says, 'You considered
that you were doing evil to me, but HaShem saw that it was for good.'
[What might have been thought to be an evil event in his life, he
realized that there was a source of good in it. Hence it really
turned out for the good.]
However this was not the case with Yakov as *Rashi states (37.1) that
the anguish of the affair with Yosef found him (Yakov). Meaning that
for Yakov he found only anguish in the affair of Yosef, and no
compassion, therefore he had great suffering from it. (Rebbe Dovid
Aharon of Zarik grandson of the Trisker Maggid. This comes from a
collection of teachings of the descendants of the house of Chernoble
called Meori Or page 28)
* * *
IV. Ancestry vs. merit
5. 'I know he (Menashah) shall also be a great people' (Bereishis
We need to explain what the argument between Yosef and his father
Yakov was here. Yosef thought that all the holiness that he had was
only from what he had inherited from his father. This was reinforced
when he saw the vision of the face of his father, which protected him
from sin [as is stated in the Talmud *Sotah 36b]. All this was
because to Yakov he was the firstborn. [This was because Yosef's
mother was really the one that Yakov wished to marry, and hence her
first child was Yakov's intended firstborn.]
Yosef thought that everything had depended on this. We see similarly
this idea in the blessings of Yakov to his children where he starts
to bless Reuvain and says, 'you are my firstborn, my first strength.'
Besides the fact that the firstborn is the child who is the first
strength of his father, he felt that being the firstborn in and of
itself was a great thing. Therefore Yosef had wanted Yakov to place
his right hand on the head of Menashah, who was his firstborn, since
he felt that everything depended on this status.
However Yakov held that with regards to the holiness of Yosef, even
though he had the strength that comes from his holy ancestors, the
main strength came through his own service to HaShem. Therefore he
said, 'I know my son... He will also be great.' Meaning to say that
he understands that the merit of receiving holiness based on being
the firstborn which is based on his holy ancestors is great. However
the younger one, who spent more time with Yakov learning (as Rashi
comments on verse 1), will merit more holiness based on his exertion
in mitzvos then from the ancestral merit [of his brother.] He
(Ephraim) will be greater then him (Menashah). (p. 231 vol 1 sefer
Yirbeh Torah teachings of Rebbe Yissachar Ber of Voideslav)
Bereishis: First book of the Torah. Called Genesis in English
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
Maggid: In Europe this was a person who would give sermons on moral
subjects. Many of the first Rebbes was Maggidim (pl. of
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
mitzvah(mitzvos): One of the commandments of the Torah.
Pirkei Avos: A Tractate of the Mishnah
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
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.
sod: A method of Biblical interpretation based on describing secret
teachings in the Torah.
Sotah: A tractate of the Talmud
Taanis: One of the tractates of the Talmud.
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
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic
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