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The Master Key

The Master Key


One year, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov said to Rabbi Ze’ev Kitzes, one of his senior disciples: “You will blow the shofar for us this Rosh Hashanah. I want you to study all the kavanot (Kabbalistic meditations) that pertain to the shofar, so that you should meditate upon them when you do the blowing.”

Rabbi Ze’ev applied himself to the task with joy and trepidation: joy over the great privilege that had been accorded him, and trepidation over the immensity of the responsibility. He studied the Kabbalistic writings that discuss the multifaceted significance of the shofar and what its sounds achieve on the various levels of reality and in the various chambers of the soul. He also prepared a sheet of paper on which he noted the main points of each kavanah, so that he could refer to them when he blew the shofar.

Finally, the great moment arrived. It was the morning of Rosh Hashanah, and Rabbi Ze’ev stood on the reading platform in the center of the Baal Shem Tov’s synagogue amidst the Torah scrolls, surrounded by a sea of tallit-draped bodies. At his table in the southeast corner of the room stood his master, the Baal Shem Tov, his face aflame. An awed silence filled the room in anticipation of the climax of the day—the piercing blasts and sobs of the shofar.

Rabbi Ze’ev reached into his pocket, and his heart froze: the paper had disappeared! He distinctly remembered placing it there that morning, but now it was gone. Furiously, he searched his memory for what he had learned, but his distress over the lost notes seemed to have incapacitated his brain: his mind was a total blank. Tears of frustration filled his eyes. He had disappointed his master, who had entrusted him with this most sacred task. Now he must blow the shofar like a simple horn, without any kavanot. With a despairing heart, Rabbi Ze’ev blew the litany of sounds required by law and, avoiding his master’s eye, resumed his place.

At the conclusion of the day’s prayers, the Baal Shem Tov made his way to the corner where Rabbi Ze’ev sat sobbing under his tallit. “Gut Yom Tov, Reb Ze’ev!” he called. “That was a most extraordinary shofar-blowing we heard today!”

“But Rebbe . . . I . . .”

“In the king’s palace,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “there are many gates and doors, leading to many halls and chambers. The palace-keepers have great rings holding many keys, each of which opens a different door. But there is one key that fits all the locks, a master key that opens all the doors.

“The kavanot are keys, each unlocking another door in our souls, each accessing another chamber in the supernal worlds. But there is one key that unlocks all doors, that opens up for us the innermost chambers of the divine palace. That master key is a broken heart.”

From Rabbi S. Y. Zevin’s Sippurei Chassidim; translation/adaptation by Yanki Tauber.
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bs melbourne, australia September 3, 2016

we can all do it very inspiring. we don't need to have lofty kavonos- just feel broken hearted- but really feel it- let your heart open up, and feel intense sincerity to do the right thing, as well as remorse over what you have done, and you can accomplish so much bez"H. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma September 8, 2013

the broken heart I like it that the word Amen is within Amend. I believe the amend meant in life, to mend a broken heart, is to realize we are needed by Hashem, as much as we need Hashem. And maybe that's an unOrthodox view. I heard a rabbi on Rosh Hashonah say, G_d doesn't need us, we need G_d. But I have learned that is not quite true. Why do you think, G_d created the world?

There was something very interesting that happened for me. I saw the word Rosh Hashanah as written this way, in the synagogue program, and I was thinking how, Hanah runs backwards and forwards in the name itself. And what happened? There was a deep discussion of Hannah and the meaning of her plea, to be no longer barren, about Samuel, and the gift she bore. I know, this was NOT random. And I often wonder, in writing so much about love down the lines, if there is anybody on the receiving end, and why it is, I would get a story, so brilliant and not be allowed to share it as in receipt. Reply

Jorge Munuzuri Qro/Mexico September 7, 2013

G-d is always ready to assist us when we perform His deeds. Indeed it's a beautiful story: the master key -according to Baal Shem Tov- is a broken heart. What I've learnt is that G-d is able to put us up to rise to the occasion. Surely G-d listen to Rabbi Ze’ev's heart and moves his lips to blow the whole letany of the shofar with blasts that showed his passion and commitment to Him. Reply

arnie gerstein Sturgis September 3, 2013

Truth is true, Helly, I am one with your insight and your experience. beneath the thick skins and hides of the ego lies the heart pure and undefiled and the pain we feel is because we have covered it up with what we are not, with all our pretenses and lies, and faulty thinking, or errors of perception. The pain of a broken heart is the pain of having lived what was not Real. What an opportunity, indeed to be more fully alive, to realize the divine essence of our Soul beneath and through the senses that so easily imprison us with their temporality. Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma September 2, 2013

Re reading a beautiful story I came to this again. This story is painful in its exquisite beauty. I think it is a gem. Interesting how each year the light burns in a new way on returning to a story of such depth. Reply

Stan Canada December 24, 2012

A broken heart Awesome !!!

“In the king’s palace,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “there are many gates and doors, leading to many halls and chambers. The palace-keepers have great rings holding many keys, each of which opens a different door. But there is one key that fits all the locks, a master key that opens all the doors. Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma September 20, 2012

A Broken Heart It's about what happens to us in life. Loss, the pain of losing someone, someone betrays your trust, loneliness... The litany of things that do involve love and how love is affected in deep ways. It could be cruelty too. And the accidents that befall people that are really upsetting to a degree that causes us such pain. I think it's fairly clear hearts are broken in this way all the time. Reply

arnie gerstein Sturgis, Michigan September 19, 2012

Purpose of a so-called broken heart A heart can never breaks only our concept or image of what a heart is, of what love is. When we let go of trying to control others, to get value and validation, all because we still believe we are unworthy, not good enough, do we realize the heart was always pure and free and good.

But we would rather hold onto a broken-hearted the past and suffer regret than reclaim the purity of our hearts. So in this light we can take a new look at Tshuvah in our lives, if we want to.. Reply

Anonymous September 16, 2012

The Master Key How do you get a broken heart? Reply

Sharon Lockwood-Habram Tucson, AZ September 11, 2012

OPENING OF THE DOOR So true. I have come to realize that where the heart is broken, that is where the light shines through. Reply

arnie gerstein Sturgis, Michigan September 11, 2012

a heart opening our emotions are the key to our freedom, each emotion is a key to the thought that is imprisoned, unexpressed in the emotion that is hiding that thought. Once seen, there is a breaking open of the regret, or the guilt, or the resentment hiding the deep desire to forgive oneself and to free oneself to glorify G-d in a deeper expression of G-d within us, for He never left. It is impossible. Pain opens the door to loving thoughts that have been hidden in lies we tell ourselves about being unworthy. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, MA September 11, 2012

epiphany I had to hunt to find this poem of mine this morning, but I did, and so I hope you see fit to print this on this site. A Happy New Year to all at Chabad! Shana Tova! ruth


winter's cold clarity
untangles me
I am all jangle and tingle
awake to that slap of
icy wind redolent with pine
I am white bright
high stepping through snow banks
an angel child with crystal wings
I pull my sled up the hill
race it down
aware of falling
through veil after veil
of shimmering flakes
when the snow catches fire
in the sun
I know

there is a master key
that opens all doors
I am getting closer every day
I will find my way home Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma September 11, 2012

Holly's comment is so beautiful. There is an article on line, a recent one on Chabad, (Mrs. S. Crispe) that is very much about the topic of a broken heart, and it is a beautiful article, worth finding and maybe adding this comment as what you wrote, Holly, is quite wonderful. Reply

Helly London September 11, 2012

I feel that when a heart is broken in reality it is actually opened. Inside it is so much more sensitive and all our thoughts, actions and emotions feel deeper,stronger and clearer. This is why a broken or open heart gives us the opportunity to see and live a more intense, meaningful and real life.
Then the heart realizes it has only one purpose: to distribute love. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma September 10, 2012

Opening doors never stops and there is nothing to prevent anyone from enjoying life. I don't think the one prevents, the other. We are all of us opening books, reading for enjoyment, and also learning, and we are educating ourselves all the time. This is part of the enjoyment in my view, in any case. To learn more about a flower, doesn't take away from the enjoyment of that flower, at least not, for me. A master key opens a lot, perhaps all doors, but that's an enlargement or enhancement of perception. Maybe something being more vivid, more beautiful. When I visit San Francisco the flowers really jump out at me because they seem to have such depth of color. Reply

Laasrusa Yehuda Sovea Ben-Zion Suva, Fiji Islands September 10, 2012

Genuinity Rabbi Ze'ev may have been carried away as we might say; but he was noticed by the Baal Shem Tov to have performed his best from his heart and not by memorising the sequence. Reply

Anonymous San Diego, CA, USA via September 10, 2012

The Master Key What do you do when, once given a master key, it seems that all you are doing is opening doors and are no longer given the time to enjoy any rooms at all? Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma September 8, 2010

to M. H. Brooklyn I will look for this article.

I think I have joined with so many others, so many other voices, in expressing thoughts about the subject Love, in all these articles, and about the metaphoric connects that do run up and down all of our lives, as explicated beautifully in these article, about marriage, a merger with God too, , in sickness and in health, and beyond,

I am saying we're all in this together, because every one of these connects involves every one of YOU.

Maybe we are ewes, yous --- lambs -- and just maybe there is one soul, one sacred soul, and we are all aspect of that Divinity, and so engaging ourselves, in dialogue with each other, also with the divine in every single one of us. Maybe like a rainbow, we come in different hues. Maybe the master key, is diversity, the one in many.

Maybe God who wrote this story, is still manifesting through the fire, that fire Moses perceived, because that's what we're generating here. Reply

M H Brooklyn September 8, 2010

For anonymous and Ruth One of the most poignant notes in the sound of the shofar is the pure, wholehearted cry of a child for his father. See the article on this website "Our Father, Our King" Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma September 3, 2010

the point No, I think you are totally, on point. Maybe God wants us to connect and this is one way to make that connection, meaning through the passion, the e motion of those moments of loss, of pain, which we all do experience. A paradox?

A friend of mine told me she was so angry with God about not having a baby, being told she and her husband were infertile, that she raged and raged. She said there are times she does not believe in God, but then, to have felt that emotion, that rage and to have expressed it, well that WAS a connection.

PS. She had a baby girl and lost this child at birth, and then went on to have a son who is now a young man. Was she heard? Did she connect?

I must believe somehow this story comes out all right in the end, and I do. I trust, the greater story is about LOVE and this is about LOVE itself.

SHANA TOVA, CHABAD all all readers!

May this be a year of honey and apples! Reply

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