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.

V'Eschanan I. The proper way of learning Torah 1. "And you shall teach them to your children" (Devorim* 6.7) I heard that it once happened that the Baal Shem Tov came to a Beis HaMedrash* and stood by the door and didn't want to go inside. They asked him why it was that he didn't want to enter the building. He answered that he was not able to enter because the place was so filled up with prayers and Torah learning. This caused even more wonder to the people standing there. They said to him, the opposite should be the case. In a house so holy as this that is filled with Torah and prayers it should be even more fitting to enter. He then opened their eyes and revealed to them his meaning. It is not an advantage for a house of prayer to be filled with Torah and prayers. This happens only because the prayers and the learning of Torah that the people are learning and praying is not done with fear and love of G-d. Therefore they do not rise up to heaven, and they remain here below. So every corner of this place is filled with them, and there is no room to enter. However if those who were learning and praying would do so with fear and love of HaShem*, as is proper, the prayers and Torah learning would rise up to heaven. None of them would remain below. Then this holy house would be empty and there would be room to enter. (p. 624 Sefer HaBaal Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. This came from the sefer* Bar Moshe, from Rebbe* Moshe Elyakim Beriah of Koznitz ZT'L* son of Rebbe Yisroel the Koznitzer Maggid* ZT'L) * * * II. Separation 2. "I stood between HaShem and you." (Devorim 5.5) I have heard from the holy Maggid Rabbi Yechiel Mechel of Zlotchov an explanation of the verse, 'I stood between HaShem and you.' If a person considers himself to be on a high spiritual level, that creates a barrier of separation between him and HaShem. That is the 'I' [Heb anochi] The meaning being that because of his haughtiness, and his saying 'I' am on a high spiritual level and have many good midos*. This 'stood between HaShem and you.' This is what stands between HaShem and you. It is through this that there is a barrier of separation. A person has to know that he is worthless and nothing. It is only that HaShem gives him the power to do either great or small things. He gives life to all things. Therefore it is not worthy for any creature to say 'I'. It is only worthy for HaShem to say 'I' since he is the one who gives life to all things. But a man if he uses the word 'I' is saying that he considers himself someone on a spiritual level. One who gets used to this and continues in this midah he becomes separated from HaShem. [This separation will continue] until he will fall into heresy and deny HaShem (G-d forbid). (p. 77 sefer Malchi b'Kodesh teachings of Rebbe Yechiel Mechel, the maggid of Zlotchov.) * * * III. The redemption from exile 3. 'Ascend to the top of the mount and look to the west, the north, the south and the east, and see with your own eyes that you shall not cross this Jordan.' (Devorim 3.27) [To explain this] I will first bring the explanation of the verse, 'Raise up the heads of the sons of Gershon, also them, according to their father's house, to their families. The word, 'Gershon', refers to those people who have lost their way, and strayed from the correct way due to their close attachment to HaShem. As the verse says, 'They have driven me away [Heb. Gershoni] today from attaching myself to the heritage of HaShem.' 'Head' [Heb. Rosh] is a language that refers to bitterness, as the verse says, 'a root flourishing with gall [Heb. pareh rosh] and wormwood.' This is the meaning of the verse: 'Raise up.' Even if it will be difficult for you to raise up the common people, you need to strengthen yourself for this and do it. Everyone needs to be raised up to HaShem [to perform His service] and to be attached to Him. This is the meaning of 'Raise up the heads of the sons of Gershon.' This is the bitterness of the sons of Gershon, who are those who were driven away from the heritage of HaShem. These you should also raise and bring them to attachment to HaShem. This is 'according to their father's house, to their families' which also refers to attachment to HaShem. Because of what I said above, it shouldn't bother you all the difficulties that you have [in bringing these people close,] because it is necessary to bring everything to attachment to its source Above. It is known that before Moshiach* comes it is necessary for everything to be rectified. [When Moshiach comes there will no longer be a chance to correct what was not corrected before his coming.] This is the meaning of the verse: 'Ascend to the top [Heb. rosh] of the mount.' This refers to those who go in a way that is not correct. They are in a bitter place and need to be raised from there. 'And look to the west.' [West refers to wisdom.] With your wisdom you should raise all that is in the west, north, south and east. 'And see with your own eyes.' [You shall see] the permanent redemption from the exile. This is because it is not possible to see the eternal redemption if our smaller brothers [i.e. those who are not going in the right way] are not with us. [By raising them up you will be able to see the redemption from exile.] This is the meaning of 'You shall not cross.' You shall not be able to cross over to the eternal redemption. 'This Jordan.' This refers to those people who are called 'Jordan' [Heb Yordan] who are on a level of falling [Heb yeridah]. Even if you have already corrected yourself, since they have not yet been corrected [by doing tshuva*] you will not be able to see the eternal redemption. Therefore you should raise these people up so that you will merit to see the eternal redemption. (p. 123 sefer Mevasar Tzedek teachings of Rebbe Yissachar Ber of Zlotchov.) * * * IV. Last Words 4. 'And I implored of HaShem at that time saying, HaShem G-d.' (Devorim 3.23) Rebbe Meir said, 'At that time' refers to when one needs to go into the world to come. [His prayer was that when he would leave this world] he will be able to say, 'HaShem [is] G-d.' (p. 70 sefer Divrei Meir teachings of Rebbe Meir of Premishlan.) * * * V. Divine Guidance 5. 'You will serve there gods made by the hand of man, of wood and stone... And you will seek HaShem your G-d and you will find him because you searched for him with all your heart and all your soul.' (Devorim 4.28-29) Maybe we can explain this according to the teaching of the Baal Shem Tov. He taught that even when one sins, (G-d forbid) there is also divine guidance. Only at that time it is hidden. Later when the person does tshuva then it is revealed that His guidance was hidden there. This is what the verse means: 'You will serve there gods made by the hand of man, of wood and stone... And you will seek HaShem your G-d.' The meaning is that even when they are doing a sin (G-d forbid) they are still able to seek there for 'HaShem your G-d'. However this is only when they 'Search with all your heart and all your soul.' What I have said is sufficient to those who can understand a remez*. (p. 63 sefer Panim M'orim teachings of Rebbe Meir of Premishlan and his relatives. This is from Rebbe Yechiel Mechel of Galina, the son-in-law of Rebbe Meir.) * * * VI. Serving HaShem 6. "You should watch yourself, and watch carefully your soul, perhaps you will forget those things which your eyes have seen" (Devorim 4.6) A man should always be attached to HaShem, and consider in his thoughts the greatness of G-d, may he be blessed. He should consider the many miracles that he sees constantly. The wonders and miracles of His creation [that he sees]. The beginning step to ascend to this level of service is to consider that portion of G-d that was given to him i.e. his soul. What it is, and how many miracles are done through it as the Talmud says, 'the soul is like the Holy One Blessed is He in 5 ways ...' However if you are not aware of yourself [i.e. your own holy soul] you are also missing knowledge of HaShem since even your own self you don't understand. [How can you understand HaShem when you lack self understanding?] And this is the meaning, "You should watch yourself, and watch carefully your soul" [i.e. examine your own soul and the miracles done through it]. Because if you don't do that "perhaps you will forget those things which your eyes have seen", i.e. the greatness of HaShem that a person sees all the time with his own eyes. The miracles and the wonders that He does. Therefore a person has to watch himself always. (p. 90 Noam Elimeilech teachings of the Rebbe Reb* Elimeilech of Lizensk a talmid* of the Rebbe Reb Ber, Maggid of Mizretch.) * * * VII. Searching for HaSHem 7. 'And you will seek HaShem your G-d and you will find him because you searched for him with all your heart and all your soul.' (Devorim 4.29) I have many times explained this [verse in this manner.] 'And you will seek HaShem your G-d.' Even if you are only seeking to serve HaShem [but you have not yet begun to do so.] And you are waiting [saying,] 'When shall I serve HaShem?' 'And you will find him.' This [seeking] is sufficient for you to find him. 'Because you searched for him with all your heart and all your soul.' [This is because] you have truthfully searched to serve HaShem with a complete desire. (p. 6 sefer Or Yesha teachings of Rebbe Asher Yeshaya of Ropshitz.) * * * VIII. Prayer 8. 'And I implored of HaShem...' (Devorim 3.23) Look at the commentary of the Baal HaTurim* who notes that the word 'implored' [Heb. v'eschanan] has the same gematria* as the word 'song.' [Heb shira] He explains that this teaches us that Moshe sang before HaShem in order that his prayer should be accepted. We can explain this idea by a teaching that appears in many of the holy seforim. Every simple prayer will at times have some complaint against it [that it should not be accepted. The reason it should not be accepted is] that this person was not worthy that this particular prayer should be heard (G-d forbid.) However if this prayer is made with song and praise [of HaShem] then it will be accepted and there is nothing that can be brought as a complaint against it. Therefore it is necessary that the person who is praying should sing some of the prayer, or add some type of special praise to HaShem, and he should have in mind that his help should come to him because of this song or praise. For example: In the blessing we say, 'Because You are G-d, King, the Faithful Healer, and Compassionate One. Blessed are You HaShem the healer of the sick of His people Israel.' With this prayer we are praising HaShem because he usually acts in a way that [shows him to be] a 'faithful healer and compassionate.' It is not possible for any type of complaint to nullify this prayer. Also every general prayer that is made with song and praise to HaShem, [and which relates] that He customarily acts in a certain way, [is heard] even if we are not worthy of it. This is the meaning of the verse, 'By day HaShem will command his mercy and by night my people sing their prayer...' Through their making their prayer a song (therefore 'song' is also the same gematria as 'prayer') HaShem commands his mercy and help is sent to them. With this we can also understand what Chazal* have said, 'A person should always prepare his praise for HaShem and then pray.' This is because prayer is a connection [to HaShem] as is well known. Therefore he should first prepare his praises of HaShem. [Relating] that HaShem customarily acts in such and such a manner. Then he should join this intention to his prayer, so that he has both song and praise. With this we can understand what the Midrash* says, '"Leah went out...." She took with her praises, therefore there descended from her masters of praise. [Heb hoda'a] Yehuda said... And David [who was descended from Yehuda and hence Leah] said "Praise [Heb. Hodu] HaShem because he is good." ' She was the cause that they should all be aware of the wonderful secret of prayer [and how it] will be protected from any type of complaint. (p. 120 sefer Sefas Emes teachings of Rebbe Fivel of Zabriz) Zechisom Yugan Aleini v'Al Kol Yisroel --------------------------------------------------------------------- Glossary: Baal HaTurim: Commentary on the Torah Beis HaMedrash: Jewish house of study Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud Devorim: Fifth book of the Torah. Called in English 'Deuteronomy'. gematria: Numerical value of the letters of the Hebrew words 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 Moshiach: Heb. Messiah 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. sefer(seforim): A Jewish religious book. Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe. Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance ZT'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous person is a blessing.) --------------------------------------------------------------------- Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ( All rights reserved. Issur Hasugas Givil