|The Baal Shem Tov on Pirkey Avos - Chapter Two|
|Written by Bentzion of Medziboz|
1) RABBI [JUDAH HANASSI] SAID: – THAT WHICH IS DISTINGUISHED FOR THE ONE WHO ADOPTS IT, AND BRINGS HIM DISTINCTION, HONOR FROM PEOPLE. , SINCE YOU DO NOW KNOW THE REWARDS GIVEN FOR MITZVOTH. RECKON THE LOSS THAT A MITZVAH ENTAILS, AGAINST ITS REWARD; AND BENEFIT FROM A SIN, AGAINST THE LOSS IT BRINGS. CONTEMPLATE THREE THINGS AND YOU WILL NOT COME INTO THE CLUTCHES OF SIN: KNOW WHAT IS ABOVE YOU – AN EYE SEES, AND EAR HEARS, AND ALL YOUR DEEDS ARE RECORDED IN A BOOK.
WHICH IS THE RIGHT COURSE THAT A MAN SHOULD CHOOSE FOR HIMSELF? Reconditely (the hidden, Sod of) this means: Which is a right course, or way of behavior, that a man should avoid and keep away from? (For the Hebrew verb, she-yavor, can also have the sense of buruth emptiness, the lack of any worth or value.) The answer to this it, “that which is distinguished for the one who adopts it,” meaning that he will do a mitzvah (openly) to earn a distinguished reputation among people that they should say of him, “He is reverently fearful of Heaven.”
From all that man should keep away. And if you will do so you will then “be as careful with a light, minor mitzvah as with an important serious one, since” then “you do now know the rewards given forMitzvoth. (You pay no attention to any reward or gratification that a Mitzvah can bring) but you rather act so that the blessed Creator will have spiritual satisfaction, without your receiving any recompense in the way of distinction or honor. For if you wish to gain proud distinction and esteem, you will pay careful attention to the Mitzvah to evaluate if one of them is minor or major and serious. If it is of serious importance, you will expect distinction; and if it is of minor significance, you will not.
BE AS CAREFUL WITH A LIGHT, MINOR MITZVAH AS WITH AN IMPORTANT, SERIOUS ONE. Therefore observed and do them (Deut.4:6) Rashi explains that “observe” refers to the Mishshna (Oral Torah) while “and do them” means what it says (to do the Mitzvahs). R. Israel Baal Shem Tov (may he abide in peace) write that we should be wholehearted, sincere in serving Him, in pure, simple worship. The main thing is not to forget the words (of the Torah), and so it is a main principle to learn every day a lesson or measure of moral and ethical teaching, be it much or little; to see to it to bind ourselves constantly to good character traits and upright, decent ways of behavior; and not to let a day go by without doing some mitzvah, be it minor or major. (Tzava’at HaRivash)
4) HE USED TO SAY: DO HIS WILL AS YOU WOULD YOUR OWN, SO THAT HE MAY DO YOUR WILL AS THOUGH IT WERE HIS. NULLIFY YOUR WILL BEFORE HIS, SO THAT HE MAY NEGATE THE WILL OF OTHERS BEFORE YOUR WILL.
12) R. YOSE SAID: LET ALL YOUR FELLOW-MAN’S PROPERTY BE AS PRECIOUS TO YOU AS YOUR OWN. PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE STUDY OF TORAH, BECAUSE IT IS NOT GIVEN YOU AS IN INHERITANCE, AND LET ALL YOUR DEEDS BE FOR THE SAKE OF HEAVEN.
LET ALL YOUR DEEDS BE FOR THE SAKE OF HEAVEN. If a person wishes to accept completely the yoke of the kingship of Heaven, let him turn his mind away from any (bad or worldly) thoughts, fantasies or meditations. Even when he has his meal, let him set his mind of the thought that it is in order that he may be strong for the service of the blessed L-rd. It is necessary to make his spiritual pleasure greater than his physical pleasure; and as a result he will gain greater strength from the spiritual content of the food. This is the recondite meaning of the verse, How fair and how pleasant you are, O love amid delights (Song of Songs 7:7) – that you should have a love (of the Holy One) amid your delights and pleasures. (Taof’nath Pa’ane-ab)
LET ALL YOUR DEEDS BE FOR THE SAKE OF HEAVEN. I heard in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: Why is the Shechinah in exile? - because by the word of the L-rd the heavens were made(Tehellim 33:6), and a man must therefore utter all his words for the sake of Heaven, so as to draw the flow of benevolent Divine influence from this (creative Divine) word of the heavenly realm to all the worlds. Nowadays, however, for our sins, all our talk is for the sake of physical desires and cravings. Even our words of prayer and Torah study are involved with alien thoughts and ulterior motives. Thus the (Divine) utterance is in exile. (Kithvey Kodesh 22b)
16) HE USED TO SAY: IT IS NOT FOR YOU TO FINISH THE WORK, BUT NEITHER ARE YOU FREE TO BE IDLE FROM IT. IF YOU HAVE STUDIED MUCH TORAH, YOU WILL BE GIVEN MUCH REWARD; AND YOUR EMPLOYER CAN BE TRUSTED TO PAY YOU FOR YOUR WORK. BUT KNOW THAT THE GRANT OF REWARD TO THE RIGHTEOUS IS IN THE WORLD TO COME.
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