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A Little Baal Shem Tov Sampler-Part 2

The Baal Shem Tov,

by Shoshannah Brombacher.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, is sampler number 2 of sayings by Israel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov or as the Besht. Our selection is excerpted from ‘Pillar of Prayer’, translated and annotated by Menachem Kallus, published by Fons Vitae in 2011, & Baal Shem Tov, ’Testament Hassidique’, translation and annotated by Laurent Cohen, published by Bibliophane, Daniel Radford in 2004-the later translated from the French into English by Via-HYGEIA.



1.1. Contemplating Chanting In Prayer And In Torah-Study: A commentary by the Besht on the verse (Gen. 6:16): “Make a Window for the ark, and finish it one cubit from the top.”

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem explained (gen. 6.16): “Make a window for the ‘ark’ (tevah)“-so that the word that one utters in Torah-study or prayer be illuminated. For each and every letters (of a word) contains, within it, aspects of the (outer) world, of the realm of the soul, and of the Divine realm.

A window“-so that the word emerges with clarity, causing pleasure to the Creator. One needs great faith to practice this, for the Sh’khinah (Divine presence) is called (Isa. 25:1 and see Zohar 3:16b)”The faith of the Craftsman” and without faith, one is-heaven forefend-like (Prov. 16:28)”A murmurer who causes dissention (in the household, between the) master and (the household).”

“And finish it one cubit (‘ammah) from the top” (Gen. 6:16)-this refers to (the incorporation of one’s practice, of the Divine attribute)’Immah-Understanding. Alternatively, this comes to teach us that as soon as the word emerges from your mouth, do not dwell on it but move on-do not look (at how the Unification enacted by your practice rises) on high, just as one ought not to gaze directly at the sun. This is the meaning of “Finish it…from the top.” The meaning of (the continuation of the verse) with lower, second, and third stories shall make it” refers to the union of worldly aspects, soul aspects, and Divinity. For (as the Zohar 3:159a states) “God resides in three realms.” One need to hear (within oneself) each word as it is being spoken, for the Sh’khinah becomes manifest as the enactment of the World of Speech (Zohar 3:23a), and the speaker is the one who conveys the divine Presence (through the World of Speech).

How will one be able to practice this? (Thus does the verse continue, Gen 6:18) “You and your entire household must enter the ark (tevah)”-enter into the word with your entire body and energy.


1.23. The intuition that Enable Spontaneous Unification In Sacred Speech

The knowledge and intuition to practice this teaching is hidden in the mouth of all the Tzaddiqim, so that they praise and thank their Master by studying Torah with pure intention, thereby unifying worlds, souls, and Divinity. The Divine Presence speaks, through their throats, for upon each of their words rides the Sh’khinah, together with angels and souls.


8. Letters- Irrespective of Meaning

I heard from my master and grandfather (the Besht), that “letters” in and of themselves, are devoid of meaning.


9. Every Word is a Microcosm-From Rabbi R. Ya’Aqov Yosef

I heard from my teacher (the Besht) that every word is a microcosm containing the entire world.


10. Every word, a Microcosm-From the Disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch

Every word contains the entire human-cosmic structure, and all of one’s efforts must be placed into the word (that one is uttering). And if one does not do so, it is as if the body is missing a limb.


11. By Praying With Great Adhesion, All the “Intentions” are Spontaneously  Included In These Words

One who prays, making use of all the (kabbalistic) intentions (Kavvanot) that he or she knows, merely contemplates what is already known to him or her. But when one prays with great adhesion (D’vequt), all of the intentions are spontaneously and effortlessly included in the words. For each letters is an entire universe, and certainly when one utters them with real D’vequt, the upper worlds (corresponding to them) are aroused, and enact great things.


12. “The Entire Soul Shall Praise God”

If one’s prayer is clear and pure, then certainly the pure breath emerging from one’s mouth will constantly bound with the Supernal breath, as our sages have taught (Midrash Ber’eshit Rabbah, chapter 14) regarding the verse (Ps:150): “The entire soul shall praise God” refers to each and every in-breath that a person takes. The breath goes out from below to above and returns to the person from above to below. With this practice, it is a simple matter to unite the Divine within the person with its source.



1.3. When a man will pray, he will think that God will wear the letters (of his prayer). Nobody can know what another person thinks, unless he expresses it (by words). Hence, it is logical to say that ‘talking is the adornment of thinking’. Then, a man in prayer will feel the exaltation of someone who has sewn a garment for a mighty king. And he will pour all his energy in his speech, which will bring him to the ‘Unio Mystica‘; He will put all his strength into every letter, because, in each of them, God dwells. This is the Union with Him.


2.5. The shout aroused by the mystical adherence will be silent.


Photo of the painted portrait of the Baal Shem Tov (1700-1760), founder of the Hassidic movement. Source: ANU Museum of the Jewish People.


More on the Ba’al Shem Tov: / More about the book and the publisher:🌿 About Shoshannah Brombacher: 🌿And :
A Little Baal Shem Tov Sampler-Part 2

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