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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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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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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