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
by Moshe Shulman
I. Who is 'I'
1. 'See that I, I am
He...' (Devorim* 32.39)
I heard from the holy, godly man, Rebbe* Dov Ber [the Maggid* of
Mezritch] an explanation of the verse 'See that I, I am He...'
He said that there is not a single thing in this world which can say
'I,' [Indicating] that it is a something. This is because everything
in this world is like nothing before Him.
It says this in the Tekunei HaZohar*, 'If you would remove [your
power] from them, they would remain like bodies without a nashama*.'
And as it says there, 'You give life to all things.'
Only HaShem* can be called 'I'. This is because only He does not need
any other creatures. He brings all things into existence.
This is what the verse says: 'See' that only HaShem is worthy to be
called 'I'. But no other human or creature can be called 'I' since
they are all nothing. (p. 256 sefer Toras HaMaggid teachings of the
Rebbe Reb* Ber, Maggid of Mezritch)
* * *
II. Teaching the people
2. 'Listen O Heaven and I will speak, And the earth should hear the
words of my mouth.' (Devorim 32.1)
The holy Rebbe of Apt asked with regards to this verse. The word
'listen' is a command, while the word 'hear' implies that it will be
heard in any case.
However the truth is that Moshe when he wanted to exhort the Jewish
people, he understood that he was very far separated from their level
[of understanding of HaShem. They were separated from each other] as
far as the heaven is separated from the earth. For that reason he
wondered how he would be able to exhort them so that they would hear
the words he would be saying and that the words should penetrate into
For this reason Moshe started by first speaking to the nashamos of
the Jewish people. He reached the source of the nashamos of the
Jewish people. Each one according to their loftiness. And when he
spoke to their nashamos, their bodies would feel below and they would
hear his exhortations.
This is the meaning of the verse:
'Listen O Heaven and I will speak.' This refers to the nashamos.
'And the earth should hear.' Their physical nature [Heb. artzious]
should hear of their own. [By speaking to their nashamos their bodies
would hear his words.] (Until here are his words.)
The Tzaddik* further stated that the word 'listen' [Heb H'azenu] is
the same meaning as the word 'ears' [Heb. aznayim. As in 'ears for]
the Torah*. As it says that Shlomoh made 'ears' to [understand] the
Torah and many parables. Through them they would understand the
meanings [of the Torah.]
For this reason Moshe, the godly man who was very far from the ways
of men, when he desired to teach the Torah to the Jewish people he
needed to cloth them in many garments, and in many parables so that
the people would be able to hear his words and understand them.
This is the meaning of the verse:
'Listen O Heaven.' It is necessary for me to make for you 'ears' [in
order for you to understand] the Torah.
In order that 'And the earth should hear.' These are the people
should understand 'the words of my mouth.'
And he said [further] 'My teachings drop like the rain.' This means
that in the beginning they are hard like the falling rain. As Chazal*
teach, 'The day of rain is as difficult as the Day of Judgement.'
However in the end when they will be used to them, 'My words will
flow like dew.' This refers to words spoken in quiet. The meaning
being that in the beginning the Torah will be revealed to them
quietly, and the secrets of the Torah will be slowly revealed to
them. (p. 125 sefer Sifsei Tzaddikim teachings from various Chassidic
* * *
3. 'Listen O Heaven and I will speak.' (Devorim 32.1)
The holy Rebbe said that Moshe said these words as a prayer. 'Master
of the Universe. When I pray to you with regards to a Jewish person.
Whether with regards to a thing which depends on the heavens or with
regards to a thing which depends on the workings of the world. The
heavens should listen to my words. And the Earth should hear the
words of my mouth.' This means that what I decree should he heard and
He added [on a verse which appears later in the parsha*] 'When I call
out the name of HaShem.' This means when I call to HaShem in prayer.
Then the heavens and the earth 'ascribe greatness to HaShem.' This is
because when my prayers are accepted there comes from that a
sanctification of HaShem's name, and the name of heaven is made great
in this world. [This is because people see that there is a G-d who
[The verse says] 'a faithful G-d, and there is no iniquity in Him.'
The holy Rebbe said [with regards to] this [verse] before he died.
The main point of the Torah is to know that HaShem is a faithful G-d,
and there is no iniquity in Him. And if you will ask me why do we
need all the Torah? It would have been enough if HaShem had just
said this verse on Mount Sinai. The answer is that a person cannot
come to this understanding if he doesn't learn and keep all that is
in the Torah from the beginning to the end. (p. 36 sefer Baros
HaMayim teachings of Rebbe Tzvi Hersh of Riminov.)
* * *
IV. Faith in HaShem
4. 'HaShem alone guided them.' (Devorim 32.12)
We can explain this verse according to what I quoted in the name
of the Rambam* in the parsha of V'Yelech. [He said that] when a
person is attached to faith in HaShem he merits that he will be
guarded from above, and no evil will be able to happen to him.
This is what the verse means: 'HaShem alone guided them.' In order to
keep them from any evil thing. This is when 'there is no other god
with them.' I.e. when they are attached only to HaShem with their
faith. (p.89b sefer Divrei Emunah II teachings of Rebbe Avraham
Yitzchok, the Toldos Aharon Rebbe.)
* * *
5. In the sefer* Divrei Tzaddikim it says that the reason we eat
eggs, onions and beans on Shabbos is to remember that Moshe died on
Shabbos. Therefore we eat three things [that are foods for mourners]
because of the three Tzaddikim who died on Shabbos. Moshe, Dovid,
Zechisom Yugan Aleini v'Al Kol Yisroel
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok
Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as
Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our
sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
HY'D: Heb. HaShem Yimkom Domov: HaShem should avenge their blood.
Mishleh: One of the books of the Tenach, called in English
One of the commandments of the Torah.
nashama: Hebrew word for soul.
peshat: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding the
simple meaning in the Torah.
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Tractate in the Talmud
Shemos: Second book of the Torah. Called Exodus in English
Talmid (Talmidim): Disciples of a Rebbe.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible
b. Also refers to
the whole of Jewish law
c. also common term
for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
Tzaddik (Tzaddikim): lit. Righteous. Another name for a Chassidic
Yetzer: lit. Inclination. It is Jewish belief that every Jew has
both an evil and good inclination within him, that are at 'war' to see
which of them the person will follow.
Yetzer Tov: Heb. Good Inclination
Yetzer HaRah: Heb. Evil Inclination.
ZT'L: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechor Tzaddik LeVaracha (The
memory of a Tzaddik - Righteous person is a blessing.)
ZY'A: Hebrew initials of the words: Zechiso Yagan Aleinu (His
merit should protect us.)
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman
All rights reserved.
Issur Hasugas Givilv