Friday, August 31, 2007

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Chai Elul - The Baal Shem Tov, The Baal HaTanya

by Akiva at Mystical Paths

This Shabbos is Chai Elul, the 18th day of the hebrew month of Elul, which is the birthday of the holy Baal Shem Tov, and the birthday of the first Rebbe of Chabad chassidus, the Alter Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya, Rebbe Shneur Zalman of Liadi.

Many miraculous stories are told about these two great tzaddikim, two generations apart (the Alter Rebbe was taught by a student and successor of the Baal Shem Tov). Yet the truly amazing story is that the path created by the Baal Shem Tov, and codified and explained by the Alter Rebbe, not only are still around but are the driving forces behind much of living Judaism today.

G-d willing, I'll add some stories of them before Shabbat. But regardless, this Shabbos we make a l'chaim and a farbrengen in honor of these two great and holy souls that reinvigorated Judaism of their time and right into ours.

The sefer HaYom Yom notes...

Chai Elul is the date of:

- The Birth of the Baal Shem Tov in 5458 (1698).

- The day his holy teacher and master appeared to him in 5484 (1724).

- The day the Baal Shem Tov became revealed in 5494 (1734).

- The Birth of the Alter Rebbe 5505 (1745).

Outline of the Baal Shem Tov's discourse [3] on Shabbat Tavo, Chai (18th) Elul 5652 (1892), after Kabalat Shabbat:

"It will be when you come into the land (Eretz) that the Eternal your G-d gives you for an inheritance, and you will inherit it and dwell in it.

The Midrash notes that Eretz is an idiom of Merutza (running) and of Ratzon (will, desire).

When you attain the level of Ratzon, "desire," that is a gift from Above and an inheritance for every one of Israel, then your Avoda is " will dwell in it" - to internalize all you have attained, "bringing it down" in a settled manner.

"You shall take...and place it in a basket," - draw down the (spiritual) lights into (appropriate) vessels.

"You shall go to the place the Eternal your G-d will choose" - a Jew must know that when he goes from one place to another, he is not going on his own, but is being directed from Above. And the intention and purpose in this is...

" cause His Name to dwell there" - that is, to make G-d known in his (that Jew's) locale."

After Maariv the Baal Shem Tov repeated this discourse and added:

"It will be when you come..." For you to attain the level of "desire" etc. it is necessary that... "you shall go to the place, etc... to cause His Name to dwell there." You are to utterly dedicate yourself to making G-d known there. How does one "make G-d known"? With a B'racha and a verse of Tehillim."

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