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Advice for Life from Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

Advice for Life from Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

as recorded by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn

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Love

G‑d sends a soul down to live on this world for seventy-eighty years, just to do a material favor for another—and certainly a spiritual one.

Providence I

Not only is every movement of every creation ordained from Above, but the every movement of every individual creation is part of the grand plan for the entirety of creation. Let's use, for example, a blade of grass in a deep forest, in a place where no person has ever traversed. Its every movement – forward and backward, to the right and to the left – for as long as it exists, is all directed by divine providence; for G‑d has determined that this blade of grass should live for this amount of months, days and hours, and during this time it should sway this amount of times. And furthermore, the movements of this blade of grass have an implication on the all-encompassing master plan which governs creation. I.e., only through the cumulative movements and actions of the myriad creations – human, animal, plant life and the inanimate – can the master plan of creation be fulfilled.

Providence II

G‑d causes many events and occurrences in order to effect His divine providence on the smallest of creations. So a tremendous wind will sweep in on a bright summer day so that a leaf that has fallen off its tree a year beforehand, or a straw that was dislodged from a thatched roof, should be moved from one place to another—the place it now has to be by divine ordinance.

Providence III

When two people meet, it is by reason of divine providence—and the purpose of the encounter lies in its being utilized for good matters. G‑d orchestrated the meeting as a "hint" to both people. Each one needs to a) learn a lesson from the other, and b) positively impact the other in the area of charity and kindness, and also with regards to Torah study and mitzvah observance.

Providence VI

Everything that a person sees and hears contains a lesson for the person to utilize in his service of G‑d. It is required, however, to properly understand that which we see and hear, and not to misinterpret the experiences. Proper understanding is a quality that emanates from the soul, as it illuminates the mind. How does one achieve such soul illumination? a) Through saying Psalms with warmth and passion; b) through doing a favor for another—not just a monetary favor, but one that requires personal effort and inconvenience; c) loving one's fellow, to the point of self sacrifice.

The Other I

When someone issues a "verdict" on another, he is actually pronouncing his own verdict. For example, if one asserts that because of a certain misdeed another committed he is deserving of such-and-such punishment, he is actually issuing that verdict on himself. And conversely, if one says that because of a good deed or word that another has done he is deserving that G‑d should help him in the areas where he is needing, that blessing, too, is fulfilled on him himself.

The Other II

The blessing of a good friend is considered in heaven with great significance, and is more powerful than the advocacy and prayers of Angel Michael.

The Other III

Just like when a person looks into a mirror and sees dirt on his face, it is only because his face is dirty, so too when someone sees a fault in another, it is a sign that the fault exist within himself.

The Other IV

Upon hearing a negative report about another Jew, one should be greatly pained. For something bad has certainly occurred: If the report is true, then that individual is in an unhealthy situation; and if the report is untrue, then it is the one who is slandering is in a poor place.

The Simpleton

The greatest of the great needs to learn from the simplest of the simple—for in the simple one sees the essence of simple sincerity.

The Ladder

A cardinal point of chassidism: The rungs of life's ladder are refining one's character traits and cherishing and valuing the simpleton. In order to climb these rungs, in an orderly fashion, one needs the assistance of an elder.

Faults

The chassidic way to correct one's character traits is transforming the faults into strengths.

The Will

The place where one's will is—there he is.

Bringing Closer

If you wish to steer a coarse and boorish individual to the correct path, do so by showing him love—until he recognizes his own faults.

G‑d's Children

The simpleton and the greatest scholar share the same lofty essence: they both are G‑d's children. Just like a child's countenance is similar to his father's, so too G‑d's children are merciful, bashful and kind—a reflection of their merciful, giving and forgiving Father.

Adapted from the Hebrew by Dovid Zaklikowski.
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Eli Mallon New City, NY November 7, 2014

I like these, but would have liked citations, too. Reply

Anonymous Easingwold, United Kingdom May 30, 2010

thank you for these most moving comments. In particular Providence 3! Reply

Learn about the life and teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the 18th century mystic who permanently changed the Jewish landscape.
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