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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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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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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