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18Teachings_BaalShemTov | Kabbalah | Baal Shem Tov

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18 Joyous Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov 18 Joyous Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov ‫ב”ה‬ Tzvi Freeman 2/32 Chabad.org 18 Joyous Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov ‫ב”ה‬ 18 Joyous Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov Compiled and translated by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman © copyright Chabad.org, 2011 a Chabad
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  18 JoyousTeachings of the   Baal Shem Tov  18 Joyous Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov  ה ” ב Tzvi Freeman  2/32  Chabad.org  18 JoyousTeachingsof theBaal Shem Tov Compiled and translated byRabbi Tzvi Freeman © copyright Chabad.org, 2011 a Chabad.org publication For reader comments and more, visit Chabad.org/1391822For more of the same, visit Chabad.org/Spirituality 18 Joyous Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov  ה ” ב Tzvi Freeman  3/32  Chabad.org  In Context appiness at happy times shines bright and clear, but the joy wrestled from the abyss of despair can transform the world. For it says, “I too was there. I was born from the thickof night, wrought from its bitterness and suckled by its dark earth. And from that power, Ibecame light. I am the Light of the Six Days of Creation, the boundless, infinite light thatknows no darkness.”Let me attempt to paint for you a portrait of the Jewish soul when the Baal Shem Tov 1 ar-rived on the scene: The terror of the Cossack and Tartar massacres of 1648–49 that destroyedentire communities still reverberated throughout Jewish Poland. The grand disappointmentof the false messiah, Shabtai Tzvi, had left many faithful Jews heartbroken and disillusioned.The infrastructure of Jewish life had been corrupted, as the Polish princes routinely sold ap- pointments as community rabbi to unworthy characters, making a mockery of the position. Aschism had formed between those who could afford Talmudic scholarship and those who, in their struggle to survive, had neither the time nor the head for books and study.Especially demoralizing was the standard fare of popular sermons. So obsessed were some preachers with their themes of guilt, punishment and despair, they would castigate their con-gregants over matters for which they were neither obligated, nor could reasonably be ex- pected to achieve—such as failing to take upon themselves a sufficient number of voluntaryfasts, then for failing to suppress the desire to manage one last meal before such a fast, and then for failure to devote the entirety of the ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur tofasting, mourning and weeping. The forms of divine retribution elaborated upon for suchcrimes are better left unrepeated, success being measured by the tears, dread and tremblinginstilled in the audience.If you live with something long enough, you begin to believe it’s amember of your family. Such was the case with misery: Jews hadbegun to see depression as a mark of piety and a Jewish duty. Tofight it was not just futile, but outright heresy, for any trace of joy-ousness was suspect as sin. 2 In synagogue sermons, ladles of de-spair stirred in a pot of self-pity made up the soup du jour, often without a trace of consola- tion: At all times and at all hours, the gentiles come and fall upon us… often we say, “Death is preferable to life”…Behold, G ‑ d is testing us to deter-mine whether we truly cling to Him, and He abandons us to the gen- H   Live with misery long enough and you begin to believe its a member of the family 18 Joyous Teachings of the Baal Shem Tov  ה ” ב Tzvi Freeman  4/32  Chabad.org 1 Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer of Medzibuz, b. 1698. Active in Medzibuz as founder of the chassidic movementfrom 1740 until his passing in 1760. The title Baal Shem, meaning “master of the Name,” was a common appella- tion for those who healed and performed miracles through kabbalistic means. Baal Shem Tov means “master of agood name.”2 To us this may seem absurd, but in fact this formed the basis of many of the accusations of heresy and blas- phemy against the chassidim. See J. I. Schochet’s introduction to Tzava’at Harivash, “Target of Opposition toChassidim.”
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