KESER SHEM TOV
Anthology of the Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov
“Sometimes, violation of Torah is its observance. We learn this from G-d’s telling Moses after his breaking the Tablets, ‘That you broke,’1 which implies approval for his having broken them.”2
The Baal Shem Tov taught:
How can violating the Torah possibly enhance its observance? This can understood with the fact that all things yearn to return to their source. Therefore, when one eats, drinks, or is otherwise involved in mundane affairs, he is “violating” the Torah by his not studying it or explicitly serving G-d at that time. His soul then has a chance to rest from its enthusiasm, and it gathers new strength to return to an even higher level of closeness to G-d. This spiritual phenomenon is alluded to in the verse, “The chayoth/angels run to and fro,”3 and this is why “violating” the Torah sometimes is its observance.4
2Tractate Menachoth 99b.
4Toldot Yaakov Yoseph, Tazria 2; Devarim 2. There are two reasons why this must be so. Firstly, if one were not to periodically “cool down” from intense spiritual experiences, one might reach a stage whereat one’s soul would become so united with G-d that it would completely lose its separateness, at which point it would not be able to return to the physical body. Another reason is because perpetual pleasure loses its glamour, and becomes boredom. Thus, if one were constantly experiencing peak spiritual pleasures, they would no longer be pleasurable experiences. And regarding why one then rises to even more intense experiences, this is because the anguish of separation intensifies the pleasure of return.
Translation and commentary by Rabbi Yehoshua Starrett.
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