Tuesday, October 16, 2018


A Teaching of the Baal Shem Tov
From Dovid Sears, “The Path of the Baal Shem Tov,” pp. 124-125

Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem, peace be upon him, taught: " ‘[And God said to Noach...] 'You shall make a light (tzohar) for the ark (teivah)’(Genesis 6:16). That is, the word (teivah) which you utter should be luminous.”

For every letter contains worlds and souls and Godliness. And they ascend and combine and unite with one another—with Godliness. Afterward, the letters unite and gather themselves together to form a word, and they effect true unifications in Godliness. One must incorporate his soul within each and every aspect [of these unifications]; then he must unify all the worlds as one. Thus, they will all ascend, bringing about great joy and delight without measure.

The verse continues, "You shall construct it with lower, second, and third [levels]" (ibid.) This alludes to worlds and souls and Godliness, as the Zohar Zohar (III, 159a) states, "There are three worlds…”

A person must listen to each word he says, for the Shekhinah, which corresponds to the World of Speech, actually speaks (Zohar III, 230a, 281b). And when the word possesses light, it comes forth shining and brings gratification to its Maker. This requires great faith (emunah), for the Shekhinah is called emunas uman, "the Work of a Craftsman” (Zohar I, 32a). But without faith, one's utterance is that of "a complainer who separates a leader” (Proverbs 16:28). [According to Rashi, the leader to whom this proverb refers is God. Thus, by not trying to pray with kavanah (concentration), one actually estranges himself from the Shekhinah.]

And to a cubit (amah) you shall finish it upward.. ." [The Hebrew word amah] suggests fear or awe (eimah). [That is, one must utter each word of prayer in a state of awe, so that it will ascend Above.] Or alternatively, one could interpret this to mean that once the word leaves his mouth, he need not remember it anymore. We cannot see the lofty place to which it ascends, just as we are unable to gaze at the sun. Thus, the verse concludes, “You shall finish it upward.” [Once it is expressed, it immediately goes upward.] How may this be accomplished? By putting yourself and your whole body into each word (Tzava’as ha-RIVaSH 75).

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