Dear Friend,

With the 18th of Elul afoot, I think about my sweet parents. One of the great blessings of having parents is that it gives us the single best metaphor for our relationship with G‑d.

Heaven protect us, heaven protect everyone, from being orphaned at a young age! Is there any suffering that puts the soul in greater peril of despairing of the presence of G‑d?

It is only the greatest of souls that can reconfigure such a personal apocalypse into an opportunity to experience the metaphor in its purity and as a flesh-and-blood reality. “A father to the fatherless . . . is G‑d” (Psalms 68:6).

Such an extraordinary soul belonged to Yisrael the son of Eliezer and Sarah of Okopy, who came to be known as the Baal Shem Tov.

Only the Holy One, blessed be He, knows whether the Baal Shem Tov “needed” this terrible ordeal to come to his wisdom. All that we know is that he did not keep the wisdom to himself (read an exquisite story about that here). As we celebrate the birth of this extraordinary soul on 18 Elul, may we experience profound gratitude for the life of a man who, through his orphanhood at the age of three, was able to experience the sweet word Tatteh, “Daddy,” as a divine name—and who taught all of us how to get to know G‑d on such intimate terms.

Michael Chighel,
on behalf of the Editorial Team.