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The Baal Shem Tov's Previous Life

The Baal Shem Tov's Previous Life

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"Many years ago," Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov told his disciples, "in the holy city of Safed, there lived a simple but G‑d-fearing Jew. Though not blessed with a great mind or with any exceptional talents, he served G‑d with a whole heart and a humble spirit.

"Late one night, there was a knock on his door. On his threshold stood an old man with a long white beard and a countenance as radiant as the heavens. 'I am Elijah the Prophet,' said the visitor. 'I have come to open your mind and heart and teach you the deepest secrets of creation.'

"'On the day of your Bar Mitzvah,' continued Elijah, 'you did a great and wondrous deed, a deed which reverberated through all the universes. The angels and souls that dwell on high all wondered: what has this man done that has flooded the heavens with this magnificent light, such as has not been seen for many generations? But your deed was too radiant for us to behold.

"'Tell me what it was that you did,' said Elijah, 'and I will reveal to you things that only the greatest souls are privy to.'"

"'What I did,' replied the Safedian, 'I did for G‑d alone. It is not for the knowledge of any creature, man or angel.'

"Elijah pleaded and cajoled, promising even greater spiritual gifts. But the man was steadfast in his refusal, and the prophet-angel departed empty-handed.

"In my previous life," concluded the Baal Shem Tov, "I was that man."

As told by Yanki Tauber.
Illustration by Yudit Blesofsky
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lenny baton rouge, LA March 30, 2011

for joe, in case the previous message didn't get through. Thanks for being Joe! stay healthy, my friend, Reply

Daniel Germany May 20, 2004

How marvelous are the teachings of the holy Baal Shem Tov! Reply

nat May 19, 2004

This was revealed to the bash"t in a letter... It is known that Bash"t did not want to become a known leader as he truly appreciated being a hidden tzaddik. Although, Reb Adam bash"m instructed him (and pleaded) that his time to lead has come, he refused. In a letter from Reb Adam, he relates this aforementioned story, and also sais that the heavenly court decreed that since someone held a true mitzvah so dear that he turned down all this knowledge (from Elijah, no less!), in order to keep the mitzvah pure, only for Hashem, that this soul should return to earth and teach/reveal new light to the world.
And, concludes Reb Adam in the letter, "this soul is YOU, reb Yisroel".
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This letter is part of the genuzeh and was reprinted in "Toldos Bash't" by chabad Israel in the 70's, which I think quoted it from Hatumim or from one of the writings of the previous rebbe zt"l. 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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