DIVINE LIGHT

 

DIVINE LIGHT – 13th Elul, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Mystical Light of the Baal Shem Tov

Section 22.

After Shabbos, Reb Elimelech asked the cantor to tell him about the holiness of the Baal Shem Tov. The cantor told him about awesome things that no one had heard before. Primarily, he spoke of the Baal Shem Tov’s love and awe of G-d, and how he would perform soul ascensions to the spiritual worlds while fully conscious in this world. He would gaze into all the chambers of Torah and see the Divine Chariot. When the Baal Shem Tov would recite Hallel, he would not say a verse until he saw the angels who recited that particular verse and heard the exquisiteness of their song, and could recite the verse with them.

He related the awe-inspiring holiness of the Baal Shem Tov from the day of his birth. He described how he would speak to the souls of Tzaddikim, with Elijah the Prophet, and most often with the Arizal, who was constantly with him.

Once, the cantor related, the Baal Shem Tov asked the Arizal why he had openly taught mystical secrets of the Torah outside of the context of worship. The Arizal answered that if he had lived another two years, he would have taught the mystical secrets of the Torah in the context of prayer so that the G-dly sparks, still lost in the world would have been rectified.

The cantor spoke about how the Baal Shem Tov’s soul ascensions occurred while his body lay still, and how the Baal Shem Tov would speak to Moshiach1 and with our teacher Moses.

He talked about how the Baal Shem Tov was an expert in the “Work of Creation,”2 the “Work of the Chariot,”3 and in the entire Torah. He described how the Baal Shem Tov spoke the language of every creature and the language of the angels, and how he was filled with love and awe of G-d and all possible virtues of character, including piety, humility, and love of Israel.

Reb Elimelech commented that all the spiritual attainments attributed to the Arizal also applied to the Baal Shem Tov – perhaps even more so. He further said that that which is written about the Arizal is a drop in the ocean compared with the totality of who the Arizal really was.

The cantor also told Reb Elimelech that every Friday afternoon, during the Mincha prayer, tens of thousands of souls would gather around the Baal Shem Tov, and he would spiritually heal their soul and help them return to their source.
From the Manuscripts of Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac of Komarno

1Messiah;Direct descendant of King David;King and Ruler of the Jewish people during the Messianic Age
2Kabbalistic doctrine
3Kabbalistic doctrine

Translation and Commentary by Translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore.

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HEART OF PRAYER

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer

5.a3 Beseech G-d for righteousness’s sake, to unite the Shechinah with the Holy One.

“Hear me, pursuers of righteousness, you who seek G-d. Look at the rock from where you were hewn and the pit from where you were dug. Look at Abraham, your father, and Sarah, who bore you. He was one alone when I called him, and I blessed him and made him many.”1

The “pursuers of righteousness” are those who pursue faith. They are the seekers of G-d. If you want to know faith and to be attached to this righteousness, do not look at it directly, as do others who cause themselves to die. Rather, “look at the rock from where you were hewn.”2

It has been explained that all requests should be on behalf of the Shechinah. This is called prayer, for the Divine Presence beseeches and prays to G-d for its needs. Now, whatever a person lacks is caused by a lack in the Shechinah, and in praying for that lack to be rectified Above, a healing is automatically drawn below.

However, “the heart knows its own bitterness”3 and that not all times are equal. If a person experiences some great pain, G-d forbid, and prays for themselves without realizing that the Shechinah is also suffering, it would have been much better to pray for it instead. In the middle of prayer, a person might try to forget themselves and pray for the Shechinah alone, but without truly being able to overcome their own pain. By claiming to be praying for the Shechinah without truly negating their own needs, they may actually be pushed away entirely for G- d knows what is true. Therefore, the advice is to pray simply on whichever level possible. Simply keep your mouth and heart together, for “a speaker of lies will not be established before My eyes.”4

The lowest level of creation is called Malchus by itself. This, however, is not the case when the Shechinah is truly united with the Holy One through prayer. Then, they are attached to Zeir Anpin. This is not the case with Malchus alone. Only when Malchus is united with the Holy One does a person also become attached to the true source. Therefore, “Pursuers of justice, who search for G-d” are the righteous messengers of the Shechinah. It is as though they beseech G-d for righteousness itself to unite the Shechinah with the Holy One.
Toldos Yaakov Yosef p. 100d

1Isaiah 51:1
2Zohar 3:222b
3Proverbs 14:10
4Psalms 101:7

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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KESER SHEM TOV

 

KESER SHEM TOV

The Baal Shem Tov Times

Anthology of the Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov

KST 37.

The Baal Shem Tov taught:

The purpose of light-hearted conversation before Torah study is because human consciousness vacillates between a constricted state of mind, called “katnut [immature] ha’mochin,” and an expanded state of mind, called “gadlut [mature] ha’mochin.” These different states of mind are alluded to in the verse, “The chayot/angels run to and fro.”1 In order to rise from a constricted state of “immaturity” to an expanded state of “maturity,” one can make use of light-hearted jesting, thus opening his mind to learning and coming closer to G-d.2

Hence, the Talmud3 tells of two saintly men who would jest with people in order to alleviate their suffering, after which there was coming together of hearts, and they were able to elevate them.4

This is also alluded to in the verse, “[Abraham] took his two youths with him, and his son, Isaac,” for by using jest5with holy intentions, one is able to elevate the years6 of one’s youth7 with him as well.

1Ezekiel 1:14. This means that the angels are in constant fluctuation between proximity to, and distance from G-d, and this is mirrored in the fluctuation of human consciousness, as said here. The need for this fluctuation is so that the created being be able to maintain its sense of existence as seemingly separate from G-d, for if it were to come to the absolute realization and experience that it in reality, it is non-existent outside of G-d, it would indeed lose this seemingly “independent” existence and be swallowed by the Divine Existence. This spiritual phenomenon is mirrored in the waning and waxing in the physical world, as is evident from the moon’s cycles, the waves of the ocean, and all the inherent cycles that we find at all levels in the natural world.
2Rebbe Nachman speaks profusely about how joy opens the mind and frees it of the bonds and constrictions of the normal states of consciousness, proclaiming, “It is a great mitzvah to always be happy!” (LM I 89; 222; 282; II 10; 24). Indeed, modern research has verified that a happy state of mind has very positive effects on the brain and hence on the entire body. But the point made here is to use this positive and expansive state of body/mind to come closer to G-d. On a deeper level, this very state of being is itself a proximity to G-d, as is for that matter any type of pleasure, since it is G-d’s intention to provide us with pleasure, and all pleasures are in fact a constriction of Himself, so to speak, the Source of all pleasures.
3Tractate Ta’anit 22a.
4Toldoth Yaakov Yoseph.
5As known, Isaac’s name comes from the root of laughing, and indeed, his mother Sarah gave him this name with that intention – “Whoever hears [that I gave birth at such an advanced age] will laugh” (Genesis 12:6).
6The Hebrew word for two can also mean years.
7“Youth” here refers to one’s immature consciousness.

Translation and commentary by Rabbi Yehoshua Starrett.

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DIVINE LIGHT

 

DIVINE LIGHT – 5th Elul, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Mystical Light of the Baal Shem Tov

Section 21.

Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac of Komarno (1766-1834) said that my teacher and father-in-law, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Finshtov, had told him that one of the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov asked the Rebbe, “What will be my livelihood?”

The Baal Shem Tov responded, “You will be a cantor.” The surprised disciple exclaimed, “But Rebbe, I can’t sing!”

The Baal Shem Tov replied, “I will bind you to the World of Melody.”

The man became the greatest cantor in the world. Once, this cantor came to Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizensk (A disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, 1717- 1787). An intense discussion ensued between the Rebbe and his son, the Tzaddik Reb Elazar, over whether or not to honor the cantor with leading the Kabbalas Shabbos service. Reb Elimelech was afraid that the cantor would disrupt him from the state of holiness he normally experienced during the Shabbos prayers.

Finally, they decided to honor the cantor and his two accompanists with leading the Kabbalas Shabbos service. Their decision was a result of their great awe of the Baal Shem Tov, for the cantor was known as “the Cantor of the Baal Shem Tov.” Out of respect for the Baal Shem Tov, they decided to honor him, and whatever would be, would be.

When the cantor and his two accompanists began to sing the prayers to welcome Shabbos, Reb Elimelech sent word that the second accompanist should stop singing, and only the cantor and the remaining accompanist should continue. Afterward, he ordered even the cantor and accompanist to stop, for he was afraid that he would be annihilated in the Divine light emanating from their singing.

“On subsequent Shabbosim, Reb Elimelech showed honor to the cantor, but because of his fear, he would not allow him to pray before the congregation.”
From the Manuscripts of Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac of Komarno

Translation and Commentary by Translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore.

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HEART OF PRAYER

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer

5.a2 Praying for the Shechinah’s suffering to subside.

A wise person knows that all of their own suffering also causes pain to the Divine Presence, as it says in the Talmud, “When a person is in pain, what does the Shechinah say? ‘My head hurts me! My arm hurts me!'”1 Thus, if the wise person prays for the Shechinah’s suffering to subside, their own suffering will abate as well.
Toldos Yaakov Yosef, Beshalach

1Talmud Sanhedrin 46a

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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Sefer Baal Shem Tov

 

Sefer Baal Shem Tov

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on the Torah

“You must then appoint the King whom G-d your L-d shall choose; from among your brothers you shall set King over yourself.” (Devarim 17:15)

The King of Israel is the heart of Israel. This explains the verse: “How can I go, for Saul will hear and kill me?” (I Samuel 16:2).1 Why was he scared to go? He could have gone in secret. What he should have said was: “How can I return, after I have anointed someone else as King? Saul will kill me.”

The reason is because the King is the heart of Israel, and the heart hears,2 that is, it understands.3 This is what Samuel meant: “How can I go, for Saul will hear?” Since he was still the King of Israel before David’s anointment, “he will hear.” That is, he will understand the purpose of my going, “and he will kill me.” However, he was not afraid to return, because by then David had been appointed King, and Saul would not understand or hear,4 for certainly Samuel acted in secret.
Degel Machane Ephraim, Va’eschanan

1When G-d told the Prophet Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint David as King instead of Saul, Samuel expressed fear that Saul would hear of his trip and try to kill him.
2Based upon I Kings 3:9, where King Solomon prays: “And now, O’ L-rd my G-d, You have made Your servant King instead of David my father; and I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in..Give, then, Your servant a listening heart, to judge your people..”
3In a related teaching, the Teshuos Chen writes in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: “The king is the aspect of the head of the world, and is able to know the thoughts of people.”
4The Teshuos Chen writes: “Since he anointed David, so that he would be the head, Saul immediately lost the power to know people’s thoughts.”

Translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore.

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Sefer Baal Shem Tov 30th Av, 5769

 

Sefer Baal Shem Tov

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on the Torah

“Behold, I have taught you rules and laws, as the L-rd G-d has commanded me, that you should keep them, in the land to which you are coming to possess. You shall observe them and do them.” (Devarim 4:60)

“Observe them” – this is Mishnah.1 “And do them” as it implies. Rashi

You should be pure-hearted in your service of G-d. The main thing is not to forget [the essential] things, to study a certain amount of mussar every day2, and to see that you are always attached to good character traits and proper behavior. Do not let a day go by without doing a mitzvah, whether it is easy or difficult to perform. This is alluded to in [the Mishnah]: Be as careful (zahir) in the performance of a minor mitzvah as of a major one.”3 “Zahir” as in the words:”And the wise shall shine (yaZhiRu) as the brightness of the firmament.”(Daniel 12:3) That is, the soul should shine and radiate [in the performance] of a minor mitzvah just as it does with a major one. For G-d desires the heart.4
Tzivos HaRivash, p. 2a

1I.e. the study of the Oral Torah, so as not to forget it.
2A general term for inspirational and ethical literature, such as Sha¡arei Teshuva or Reishis Chochmah. (The Baal Shem Tov predated the mussar movement of R. Yisroel Salant by about a hundred years.)
3Pirkei Avos 2:1.
4Sanhedrin 105b.

Translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore.

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Sefer Baal Shem Tov

 

Sefer Baal Shem Tov

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on the Torah

“All the commandments which I command you this day shall you observe to do.” (Devarim 8:1)

There is one great principle – that a person must attach himself to the inner dimension of the Torah and the commandments. One must bind one’s thoughts and soul to the root of the Torah and the mitzvos that one fulfills. If not, one cuts and separates the “shoots.”1

I received this from my Master, and I also found it in the book Chesed l’Avraham, nahar 14.
Ben Poras Yosef, p. 21a

1A Talmudic term implying that one posits a division between G-d and creation. In this case, the Baal Shem Tov applies it to a separation between the soul of the Torah and its outer manifestation. The Talmud states that the Elisha ben Abuya “uprooted the shoots” when he became an apostate.

Translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore.

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Sefer Baal Shem Tov

 

Sefer Baal Shem Tov

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on the Torah

“And you will say, I will eat flesh.” (Re’eh 12:20)

The Talmud says: “Love compresses the flesh.”1 Meaning to say, love of G-d compresses and purifies the flesh, which is the body. It can also be said that love compresses and sweetens the flesh, which is Harsh Judgment; for the flesh comes from the side of Judgment, as is known.
Likutey Yikarim, p. 5c

1Bava Metziah 84a. The context of this statement is a discussion in the Talmud between a Roman matron and Rabbi Yishmael bar Rabbi Yossi and Rabbi Elazar bar Rabbi Shimon, both of whom the Talmud describes as being extremely fat. The matron said to them, “Your children are not your own.” They answered, “Our wive’s stomachs are bigger than ours!” “All the more so!” she replied. “Love compresses the flesh,” they answered her.

Translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore.

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KESER SHEM TOV

 

KESER SHEM TOV

The Baal Shem Tov Times

Anthology of the Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov

Section 259

The Baal Shem Tov taught:

One should pray as if he were awakening the dawn, and not the dawn awakening him.

This means that one should toil diligently and gradually in the preliminary prayers until reaching Baruch Sheamar. This first section is parallel to the world of Assiyah, which is the lowest, the home of the kelipoth. Then, one should intensify one’s concentration from Baruch She’Amar until Yishtabach, and this section is parallel to the world of Yetzirah, in which the kelipos are few. Then, from Yishtabach until the Silent Shemoneh Esreh Prayer, one should concentrate yet further. Finally, in the Shemoneh Esreh, which represents a state of embrace and union, one should be completely detached from all physical sensation.1

If one follows this path, then one has first created mayin nukvin,2 and only afterwards are the mayin dikhrin aroused, which gives “birth” to a “male.”

However, if a person is aroused spontaneously his prayer might be rejected. The way to rectify when such spontaneous arousal comes over a person, is to arouse deep regret and fear, and to then pray from the depths of one’s heart.

This is meaning of the verse, “One who finds a woman”[the mayin nukvin] – first – “has found good,” and then, “will obtain favor from G-d.”3
Toldoth Akharei 6, tazriyah 1

1Orach Chaim #98
2Toldos tazriyah 1
3Proverbs 18:22

Translation and commentary by Rabbi Yehoshua Starrett.

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KESER SHEM TOV 26th Av, 5769

 

KESER SHEM TOV

The Baal Shem Tov Times

Anthology of the Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov

KST 35.

“Once, the king of beasts, the lion, became enraged with his subjects. They gathered together to decide how to appease him, and the fox said that he would lead them to the lion, since he knew three hundred parables with which to persuade him. They all followed, and little by little, the fox said that he had forgotten a portion of his parables, and by the time they reached the lion, he said that he had forgotten everything. Therefore, he said, each one should approach the king and appease him to the best of his abilities.”

The fox’s intention from the beginning, though, was only that they all follow him and surrender to the king, which is why he initially claimed what he did.

Similarly, the Baal Shem Tov urged people not to rely on the prayers of the prayer leaders on the Days of Awe, but that each individual should pray for himself.1

1Ezekiel 1:14.

Translation and commentary by Rabbi Yehoshua Starrett.

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HEART OF PRAYER

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER – 24th Av, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer

5.a1 Praying for the needs of the Shechinah.

Tzaddikim are the messengers of the Matron.1 Through their own suffering and deprivation, they know the privations of the Shechinah and pray for its needs to be fulfilled, uniting it with the Holy One. This is the greatness of prayer.2

This answers the age-old question as to why we need to pray, since G?d surely knows our needs. It is written, “He tests the loins and the heart.”3 Prayer is for a higher purpose. When we realize that our own lacking derives from the privations Above and pray for the Shechinah’s needs to be fulfilled, our own needs will also be assuaged. However, you should never think about your own needs, only the needs of the Shechinah.
Tzafnah Paneach p. 50c

1A reference to the Shechinah.
22ee also Degel Machane Ephraim, B’Chukosai: What is it in a person that feels pleasure or pain? It is his soul and life-force, for when these depart, he feels nothing. Now, this life-force is united with the source of all life and creation, which is G?d. When you remember this and think about your source, which is the Shechinah, and pray for it, you create a complete unification. This is the meaning of, “Tzaddikim are the messengers of the Matron.” Through their own deprivation and suffering, they know and pray for any lacking in the Shechinah.
3Jeremiah 11:20

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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KESER SHEM TOV

 

KESER SHEM TOV

The Baal Shem Tov Times

Anthology of the Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov

KST 32.

The Baal Shem Tov taught:

Today I arrived at the well.”1

The Divine Name connected with translocation is found in the acronym of these words.2

“If she was speaking with someone in the market. . . “3

This teaching can be understood with another one: “The one who reviews his lessons one hundred times is not comparable to the one who reviews his lessons one hundred and one times,”4 that is, one hundred times with One – with G-d. Hence, a person must be able to remain with One – with G-d – even when one is speaking mundane conversation in the market: he must be able to see G-d in that conversation.5

1Genesis 24:42
2The Hebrew letters, are connected because these same letters form the acronym of the words, referring to G-d’s creating the heavens and the earth. This alludes to the singular Force that connects the earth with the heavens, meaning that the Supernal Light is evident even in the darkness on earth. From G-d’s perspective, this is of course always true, but in order for it to be true from our perspective, this truth must be a vivid reality in one’s life. When this is so, one is close to G-d, and as such, is not limited by the normal constrictions of time and space (Sod Yesharim II 72b).
3Tractate Ketubos 13:1.
4Tractate Chagigah 9b.
5This teaching was probably placed together with the previous one because the verse, “Today I arrived at the well,” which contains an allusion to the Divine Name and to what was said in n. #2, was said in mundane conversation, thus meaning that it was expressed while maintaining G-d- consciousness.

Translation and commentary by Rabbi Yehoshua Starrett.

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KESER SHEM TOV

 

KESER SHEM TOV

The Baal Shem Tov Times

Anthology of the Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov

KST 33.

The Baal Shem Tov taught:

“A person should always be accustomed to say, ‘Everything that G-d does is for the best’,”1 as did Rabbi Akiba, whereas Nachum Ish Gamzu would always say, “This too is for the good.”2

The Baal Shem Tov taught: Nachum said, “This too is for the good,” because he was able to actually transform the strict judgments at their source by finding some purposeful kindness in those specific judgments, and then everything was immediately transformed to an act of Divine kindness. The average person, though, who is unable to find the Divine kindness hidden in the source of judgment, should nevertheless always be accustomed to say in general, “Everything that G-d does is for the best,” even though he does not understand how this is true.

1Tractate Berakhoth 60b.
2Tractate Taanith 21a.

Translation and commentary by Rabbi Yehoshua Starrett.

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KESER SHEM TOV

 

KESER SHEM TOV

The Baal Shem Tov Times

Anthology of the Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov

KST 34.

“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

1Exodus 34:1.
2Tractate Menachoth 99b.
3Ezekiel 1:14.
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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Sefer Baal Shem Tov 20th Av, 5769

 

Sefer Baal Shem Tov

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on the Torah

“All the commandments which I command you this day shall you observe to do.” (Devarim 8:1)

There is one great principle – that a person must attach himself to the inner dimension of the Torah and the commandments. One must bind one’s thoughts and soul to the root of the Torah and the mitzvos that one fulfills. If not, one cuts and separates the “shoots.”1

I received this from my Master, and I also found it in the book Chesed l’Avraham, nahar 14.
Ben Poras Yosef, p. 21a

1A Talmudic term implying that one posits a division between G-d and creation. In this case, the Baal Shem Tov applies it to a separation between the soul of the Torah and its outer manifestation. The Talmud states that the Elisha ben Abuya “uprooted the shoots” when he became an apostate.

Translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore.

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DIVINE LIGHT 19th Av 5769

 

DIVINE LIGHT – 19th Av, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Mystical Light of the Baal Shem Tov

Section 19.

When the Baal Shem Tov first took up residence in Mezibush, several of the local rabbis opposed his teachings and his way of practicing Judaism. These same rabbis visited him during the holiday of Succos and told him that his succah was not built in accordance to Torah law. The Baal Shem Tov argued that his succah was kosher. Then, he rested his head in his hands for a few moments. When he lifted his head and opened his hands, he held a piece of parchment. On the parchment was written, “The succah of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov is kosher. Thus says Matat, the Prince of the Countenance.”

That parchment was inherited by the Baal Shem Tov’s grandson, the holy Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudilkov. Whenever someone became ill, he would tell the family to place the parchment under the sick person’s head. The person would immediately recover.

This practice continued for two years. The parchment was put under the pillow of every sick person and he or she would immediately get better. During the entire two-year period, not one person in the city of Sudilkov passed away.

One day, they put the parchment under the head of a sick person, and it disappeared. Reb Moshe Chaim explained that it had been revealed to him that Heaven was not pleased with what he was doing, for all those born must eventually die. Therefore, he had prayed that the parchment be taken back.

I heard from honest people who heard directly from the Tzaddik Rabbi Yoskie, the grandson of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim, that he personally saw the parchment in his grandfather’s possession.
From a Letter of the Rabbi of Mezibush

Translation and Commentary by Translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore.

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The HEART OF PRAYER 17th Av 5769

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER – 17th Av, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer

4.b4 Prayer can change a judgment from bad to good.

Nachmanides1 asks about the nature of prayer: How can it improve a Divine decree?2 Can G-d’s Will be changed?3 If a person were was praying for himself, we could understand how His Will can be changed. For just as he changed his own behavior from bad to good, so G-d’s decree can be changed from bad to good. But this principle should not apply to prayers offered on someone else’s behalf.

The Baal Shem Tov explained, in the name of his Heavenly teacher,3 that prayer sweetens the judgment of Malchut, which is called Din,4 in its root in Binah. When you pray in this way for a friend, you bind them to their Supernal root, and they become a different person.

To explain this further, it is known that the Divine decree is a drop of seed in the womb of Malchut, and that it is composed of letters. As the Talmud says: “Betzalel knew how to combine the letters that went into the creation of heaven and earth.”5 Now, the King of Kings surely does not carry out His decrees Himself. He appoints an emissary, who makes use of the word-combinations that convey the decree. However, the emissary can rearrange the first letters of the words so that they imply something else.6

Now, the Tzaddik is the emissary of the Shechinah,7 who knows how to sweeten the judgments and bind the drop that is in Malchut to Binah, thus transforming it into something else.
Katones Passim, p. 47b

1Ramban, Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (1194ce.- 1270ce)
2See also the commentary “HaKosev” on Ein Yaakov, Berachos, chapter 5.
3Seeing that G-d’s Will is part of His Essence, since He is unchangeable, so His Will is unchangeable.
4The prophet, Achiya HaShiloni.
5Judgement.
6 Berachos 55a.
7The Baal Shem Tov here specifies recombining the first letters of words to change the meaning of the decree. However, in other lessons, he speaks about different types of letter combinations that can alter the decree that descends from above. The Divine Presence; the Sefirah of Malchut of Knesset Israel, the collectivity collective of the Jewish souls. Literally, the “Matron,” a phrase from the Zohar for the Shechinah.

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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The HEART OF PRAYER 16th Av 5769

 

THE HEART OF PRAYER – 16th Av, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Baal Shem Tov’s Teachings on Prayer

Section 2.14

The Baal Shem Tov taught:

The exile of the Divine Presence means that extraneous thoughts “ride” on your words.
Darchei Tzedek, part 1, 20

Translation and Commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore

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DIVINE LIGHT 15th Av 5769

 

DIVINE LIGHT – 15th Av, 5769

The Baal Shem Tov Times

The Mystical Light of the Baal Shem Tov

Section 43.

Praying for G-d’s Sake

The Baal Shem Tov taught:

Prayers for physical needs, such as: “Heal us and we shall be healed,” “Bless us with a good year,” etc., are like [turning to] a father who longs to fulfill his son’s desires, and to make sure that he lacks nothing, even foolish things. For it is the nature of one who is good to do good.

G-d’s only thought is how to bestow material goodness to the Congregation of Israel, who are called His children. Prayer draws down sustenance and shefa into all the worlds, even material shefa, to satisfy G-d’s longing. Thus, prayers [on behalf of G-d] are accepted immediately. For heaven scrutinizes the prayers you pray for yourself, to see if they are worthy of being received. But when you pray for G-d’s sake, there is nothing to stop them.
Kedushas Levi, Likutim Shonim, p. 509

Translation and Commentary by Translation and commentary by Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore.

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