|The Baal Shem Tov on Pirkey Avos - Chapter Six|
|Written by Bentzion of Medziboz|
1) THE SAGES TAUGHT THIS IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE MISHNA; BLESSED IS HE WHO CHOSE THEM AND THEIR TEACHING. RABBI MEIR SAID: WHOEVER OCCUPIES HIMSELF WITH THE STUDY OF TORAH FOR ITS OWN SAKE MERITS MANY THINGS; AND NOT ONLY THAT, BUT THE ENTIRE WORLD IS WORTHWHILE BECAUSE OF HIM. HE IS CALLED FRIEND, BELOVED, ONE TO LOVES THE OMNIPRESENT G-D, ONE WHO LOVES MANKIND. HE BRINGS JOY TO THE OMNIPRESENT G-D AND JOY TO MANKIND. IT (THE TORAH) CLOTHES HIM WITH HUMILITY AND REVERENCE, AND PREPARES HIM TO BE RIGHTEOUS, PIOUS, UPRIGHT AND FAITHFUL; AND IT REMOVES HIM FAR FROM SIN AND BRINGS HIM CLOSE TO VIRTUE.
1) WHOEVER OCCUPIES HIMSELF WITH THE STUDY OF TORAH FOR ITS OWN SAKE. In the name of the Baal Shem Tov (of blessed memory) this illustration was given: Once some traveling merchants wandered off the road and became lost. They rested to take a nap, waiting till someone would chance to come long, to show them the way. One man happened along and he led them to a region with bands of wild animals and outlaws. In another instance like this how what however, a man came who showed them the proper way.
The moral of the story is that the Hebrew letters of the Torah, with which the Alm-ghty created the world, have come into the world in the guise of traveling merchants (as it were). Now they have wandered off the road, and being lost, have gone to sleep. When someone comes and learns for its own sake, he thus leads them to the right path, to unite them with their root- source. On the other hand, when someone does not study it for its own sake but for some ulterior motive, he leads them to bandits and robbers (Kesser Shem Tov).
WHOEVER OCCUPIES HIMSELF WITH TORAH STUDY FOR ITS OWN SAKE MERITS MANY THINGS. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (may his spirit be treasured in the highest heavens) asked on this: what are the “many things” and what does “and not only that” signify?
Well, he replied: we know that by studying Torah and meditating on it, the person is consistently united and bound to the Holy One. This occurs through the love of that hearing to Him constantly; as it is written, But you that cling to the
But there is, as well, another effect that results from studying and discussing the Torah’s words: it elevates (to the heavenly realm) the holy sparks that fell into inanimate matter, plant life, living creatures and human beings at the time of the world’s creation. These arise and unite with the word and the expressed thought of Torah, and so they ascend to adhere to their root-source-in keeping with the verse, Then I (the Torah) was with him as an instructor (Proverbs 8:30), which indicates that by the Torah, the Holy One created the world (Zohar I 5a). Hence the 22 letters (of the Hebrew alphabet) in the Torah are the life-spirit and Devine energy of all the worlds, as well as inanimate matter, plant life, living creatures and human beings. And through them all can be rectified and can ascend (to their root-source-in the heavenly realm).
There is yet a third effect that results, too, from Torah study: It renders pure and innocent all the words that have been issued from the person’s mouth till now in sin and deliberate evil. This, then, is the meaning behind a teaching that he “merits many things” etc. (Kol Aryeh).
WHOEVER OCCUPIES HIMSELF WITH TORAH STUDY… MERITS MANY THINGS. The Baal Shem Tov (may his merit shield us) revealed that it lies in the power of every member of Jewry, through devout clinging to the letters of the Torah and prayers, to convert tzarah (trouble, affliction) to tzohar, radiant light.(Likkutey Dibburim, I 14 p.266)
IT REMOVES HIM FAR FROM SIN. The Hebrew word CHEIT is spelled ches tes alef ; but the alef is left silent and not sounded-because when he commits a sinful act, a wicked man forgets the alef the Divine Chief Commander of the world. (Degel Machne Ephraim).
Rabbi Dov Ber of Mzrytch said in regard to his master teacher, the ball Shem Tov: “ I wish people could test the Torah scroll when it is taken from the holy Ark) with that love with which my master teacher used to kiss the little children (in his youth) when he was in charge of taking them to school. (Otzar Mishlei Chassidim)
10) THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED IS HE, MADE FIVE POSSESSIONS ESPECIALLY HIS OWN IN HIS WORLD. THESE ARE: THE TORAH, ONE POSSESSION; HEAVEN AND EARTH, ONE POSSESSION; AVROHOM, ONE POSSESSION; THE PEOPLE ISRAEL, ONE POSSESSION, AND THE SANCTUARY, ONE POSSESSION. HOW DO WE KNOW THIS ABOUT THE TORAH? – BECAUSE IT IS WRITTEN, THE L-RD MADE ME HIS OWN AS THE BEGINNING ON HIS WAY, YET BEFORE HIS ACTIVITIES OF OLD(PROVERBS 8:22);
THE TORAH, ONE POSSESSION… BECAUSE IT IS WRITTEN, THE L-RD MADE ME A TORAH OF THE BEGINNING OF HIS WAY. We’re read in scripture, So Moshe the servant of the lord died (Deuteronomy 34: 5); and Rashi asks: is it possible that Moshe died and he wrote, “So Moshe… Died”? The truth is that until this point Moshe wrote the Torah; from here on Joshua wrote it. R. Meir said it is possible that the Torah scroll which Moshe wrote was left with some part missing?… The truth is that the holy one dictated and Moshe wrote it with tears in his eyes; (Talmud, Bava Basra 15 A).
Now on the surface these holy words would seem to make no sense. For Rashi asks a clear, simple question: Could Moshe possibly have died and also written these words? It is impossible to say that Moshe was alive while he wrote, “So Moshe died” ; for it cannot bpossibly be held that he was alive when he wrote that he died. T hen like it or not, we are forced to accept that he had expired. Hence Rashi as for soundly: is it possible that Moshe died and he wrote this? But then it is difficult to understand what Rashi answers, that Moshe wrote it in tears. Because he wrote it in tears, did that make it right? Surely the question remains just as strong: how would you write that “Moshe died” while he was yet alive?
Yet truth to tell, on the surface there something that must amaze everyone: We know that the Torah came into existence 2000 years before the world was created (Bereishis Rabbah 8,2). Then it is hard to see how all the sacred narratives could have been written in the Torah at that time-about the creation, Adam and Eve, the Holy Patriarchs, and all the other incidents within the pages of the Five Books of Moshe. Clearly they had not yet happened then!
There is something even harder to understand: Death certainly became a reality in the world on account of the sin about Adam, the first human being. Then had Adam not sinned, there would be no death in the world. It is known, remember, that a man has free will hence he was free to choose not to sin. Hence how could all the accounts of death and references to it had been written in the Torah so long before? - for instance, that so was so died, orThis is the law: when a man dies in a tent (Bamidbar 19:14). Adam, the first name being, had not sinned yet! Even if everything is foreseen in the heavenly realm, the right to free choice of a course of action is still given, as Rambam makes clear…
The truth, however, is that when the Sacred Torah came into being, it was created solely as a great confusion of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In other words, all the letters to be found in the five books of Moshe, from beginning to end, were not combined then in the arrangement we see today to form the words which it now contains. Instead, the truth is that all the words of our Holy Torah were thoroughly jumbled. And every time and period that something occurred in the world, then the letters became arranged and combined to form an account of the matter. For example, when the creation to place, and Adam and Eve live their lives, some of the letters drew together and the words formed which relate it all. Similarly, when someone died, there was a formation of words to relate, “And so and so died”; and so with other events: At the time something happened, in the Torah, there was an immediate combination of words from the masses of letters, in accord with the event. Had a different event occurred, different combination of letters would’ve been formed, in another way. For the Holy Torah is the wisdom of the blessed L-rd, and it has no bounds or limitations. Ponder to understand.
Consequently it was so when the time came for the death of Moshe. By then the Torah was already formed entirely into its combination of words as we have it, from the start of creation (In the beginning.etc), up to the account of Moshes death - since by then all those events already taken place. However from the verse, “So Moshe… died “ till the very end, the letters had not yet formed into words, since Moshe was still living. Yet it was essential that Moshe should write this final part of the Torah too because … It needed to be complete, finished; moreover, it was to be called by his name-as it is written. Remember the Torah of Moshe my servant (Malachi 3:22).
Therefore, what did the blessed L-rd do? He told Moshe the letters that remained to form the words from “So Moshe died” till the end - in their jumbled state, not arranged yrt into the words. And thus Moshe wrote them. Afterward, when Moshe expired, the letters became combined and arranged at once, and the words appear to form the last verses. Consequently, Moshe wrote the entire Torah… and it could well be called by his name, since truth he wrote it in entirety, from beginning to end.
Hence Rashi wrote that the Alm-ghty dictated to Moshe these last verses, from “So Moshe died” to the end, and Moshe wrote them down. But then, in order that you should not ask the question given above - how could he write that he died while he was still alive? - He goes on to explain that Moshe wrote it b’dema. While the word is generally understood to mean “in tears”, with tears in his eyes, here it denotes confusion, jumbling, like the verb ha-m’dame’a in the Talmud. It thus means that the Alm-ghty conveyed it to Moshe letter by letter, as it was jumbled up, and so he wrote it, letter by letter, in its distorted state. And after his death, the words took form from “So Moshe died” till the end… Ponder to understand. (Pithgamin Kaddishin, citing Ge’ulath Yisrael)
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