1. ‘And the souls they had acquired in Charon’ (Bereishis* 12.5) From my teacher the Baal Shem Tov I heard a parable about two people who were traveling in a forest which was inhabited by robbers. The forest presented dangers for all the people who passed through it. One of those who went in the forest was drunk, and the other was sober and of clear mind. They both ran into robbers who beat them and stole all their money. They were barely able to escape with their lives. When they had passed through the forest they ran into some people who asked them about their passage through the forest. They first asked the man who was drunk. He said that there was no problem at all with the way. There was absolutely no danger at all. So they asked him what were all those bruises, bumps, and blood all over his body? He couldn’t answer them at all. [He was totally unaware of what had happened.] They then asked the other person. He told them of the robbers and the danger involved with going into the forest. He warned them not to go into the forest unless they were well armed. This is the way it is with the Tzaddik* who serves HaShem*. He is aware of the danger that exists from the Yetzer HaRah*. The Yetzer HaRah is like the robbers who are to be found on the way of those who serve HaShem. He is always preparing himself to avoid his nets, and he knows how to warn others of the dangers of the robbers [i.e. the Yetzer HaRah.] This is not the case with the wicked man who celebrates with the Yetzer HaRah. He tells himself that all is well with him, and there is no danger in this world. (p. 204 Sefer Baal Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. This is taken from Toldos Yaakov Yosef, from Rebbe Yaakov Yosef HaKohen of Polnoye a talmid from the Baal Shem Tov) * * * II. Rising in Levels of Service to HaShem 2. ‘Go out from your land ‘ (Bereishis 12.1) The Midrash* teaches that this verse is related to the verse that says, ‘We have a small sister.’ We need to understand what this verse has to do with the other verse. The answer is that it is well known that a person must first serve HaShem from an inspiration that comes from himself. With regards to those who do this Chazal* say ‘the one who desires to purify himself will be helped’. He will receive an inspiration from Above, and progress from level to level in the service of HaShem. It was the same way with Avraham Aveinu*. He first inspired himself to serve HaShem. Chazal say ‘Avraham by himself went in the way of righteousness.’ Because of this HaShem told him to ‘go out’ i.e. to rise from level to level in the service of HaShem. (‘Going’ means rising from one level to another in the service of HaShem as it is stated in the Or HaChaim* on the verse, ‘If you will go in my statutes…’) When a person attains a higher level of service the previous one is called ‘small’ in relationship to his present level. This is the meaning of the Midrash which relates the verse ‘we have a small sister’ to the verse ‘Go out’. [The Midrash means to say that by ‘going out’, i.e. rising from one level to another, he will have a ‘small sister’ which means refers to previous level of service of HaShem he had been on. This was the level of service of Avraham.] (p. 13 Sefer Ahavas Shalom teachings of Rebbe* Menachem Mendel of Kosov) * * * III. Shabbos 3. ‘Go out from your land ‘ (Bereishis 12.1) This verse is a remez* about Shabbos. The Midrash says, ‘Did I give the Shabbos to you in order to do evil to you? No, I gave it to you for your own good.’ This is the meaning of ‘go out.’ Your mind should become settled on the Holy Shabbos and you should rest from your worries. I heard from my Holy Rebbe [The Ropshitzer Rov*] concerning what we say in Kiddish*, ‘The beginning of the holy celebrations’. The Holy Shabbos is the beginning for one wishes to be called ‘holy’. The prayer continues, ‘A remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt’. You should remember that when the Jews left Egypt they were on a very low level, but that in a single minute they went out of the uncleanliness of the land of Egypt into the holiness of HaShem. It should be even more the case on Shabbos that he should in a single minute be able to leave any uncleanliness and enter the side of holiness. Even though we celebrate the Holy Shabbos by eating and drinking [which one would think would not be conducive to holiness.] It is really through this eating and drinking that we go out of all of our bad midos *on Shabbos. That is the meaning of ‘Go out.’ Rashi* adds that this means ‘for your own enjoyment and for your own good.’ This refers to the Holy Shabbos where we eat for our own enjoyment and it is also good for our souls. (p. 4b Sefer Ravid HaZahav teachings of Rebbe Yisroel Dov of Yashnitzah a Talmid* of Rebbe Naftuli of Ropshitz.) * * * IV. How to serve HaShem 4. ‘And Avram went, according to what HaShem told him ‘ (Bereishis 12.4) I will first explain the verse, ‘You should be careful with what you say, and you should do according to what you have sworn.’ This verse is warning us that we should have the same desire when we are fulfilling our vows as we had when we first made the vow. That is what it means when it says, ‘You should be careful with what you say’. I.e. that it should be done on the level of desire, ‘according to what you have sworn.’ With the same strong desire you had when you made the oath. And if you do not do it with the same desire, it is better that you had never made the oath. With this idea we can understand the verse, ‘You should observe the Shabbos according to all that HaShem has commanded to you.’ ‘You should honor your father and your mother as HaShem has commanded to you.’ The verse is warning us that we should perform these mitzvos* on the same level and with the same desire as at the time they were commanded by HaShem on mount Sinai. This is also what is meant when the verse says, ‘And Avraham circumcised his son Yitzchok according to what G-d had commanded him.’ He did it with the same strong desire he had when he was first commanded by HaShem. This was the case even though it was quite a long time between the command and the actual action. When Avraham Aveinu circumcised himself for the first time he did it immediately with a great desire. Likewise, with Yitzchok, even though it was a long time after that, he was still on the same level of desire as the first time when he circumcised himself. The same is with the Akeida* where it says, ‘And he went to the place that G-d told him to.’ Which means to that level he was on when he was first commanded. Therefore it says ‘and he saw the place from far away.’ He saw that he was far from that level because those people who were with him were disturbing his thoughts and causing him to fall from that level. Therefore he told them, ‘Stay here with the donkey…’ Then when they (Avraham and Yitzchok) were alone and they went to the place that G-d commanded, they were on the same level of desire as they had been when first commanded. This is also the meaning of ‘And Avram went, according to what HaShem told him’. He stayed with the same desire the whole time he was traveling as he had when he first heard the command from HaShem. (p.
23 Sefer Tepheres Shlomo teachings of Rebbe Shlomo of Radomsk).
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Baal Tshuva (Baalei Tshuva): Hebrew for someone who is a repentant sinner.
Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
Drash: A method of Biblical interpretation ascribing moral or ethical meaning to verses in the Torah.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of referring to Moses.
Or HaChaim: Jewish Torah commentary
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Rebbe Reb: A title added to a few special Rebbes as a sign of their higher spiritual stature.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts.
Rov: An official rabbi who renders legal decisions. Many of the Rebbes were both a Rebbe of Chasidim, and the Rov of the city in which they lived.
Sanhedrin: 1. Tractate in the Talmud 2. Name of the highest level of the Jewish court system.
sefer (seforim): A Jewish religious book.
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
Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman ([email protected]) All rights reserved.
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