Every hundred years or so, a person comes along and changes the way we look at ourselves and our world. He or she will say something that is so revolutionary, so new and unexpected — so contrary to our previous conceptions — that it will at first seem impossible to be true. Yet it is corroborated by mathematical formulae and laboratory and clinical experiments, and eventually it is accepted as fact by everyone. Until the next revolutionary comes along.

But there is something else that is rarer still. Something that happens perhaps once in five hundred years, perhaps once in a thousand. What happens is that someone comes along and says something so revolutionary that it changes the way we look at ourselves and our world. But it is neither new, nor, in the final analysis, unexpected. For it is something that we already know, and always knew. Something that resonates deep inside us and requires no "proofs" to establish its authenticity. Something that is so much a part of our inner truth that our "search" for truth has blinded us to its knowledge — until now.

Just over 300 years ago, on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Elul of the year 5458 From Creation (1698 CE), the soul of such an individual was born into our world. His name was Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, and in the course of his 62 years of earthly life he revolutionized the way we see ourselves, our world, and our place in it.

And these are the things he taught:

That everything we do is meaningful. Our every deed, every word we speak, even a single thought we think, has an effect that reverberates throughout all the worlds and through the whole of history.

That everything that happens in G‑d's world, from the toppling of an empire to a leaf's turning in the wind in a distant forest, is for a purpose, specifically guided and directed by the Almighty — a purpose that contributes towards the overall purpose of creation.

That our simple faith, our simple commitment to do good, is more precious in G‑d's eyes than all the genius of the scholar and all the spirituality of the mystic.

That G‑d is everywhere and in every thing, meaning that in essence there is only goodness; evil, suffering and despair are but veils behind which He hides to prompt us to rip them away in our quest for Him.

That life is joyous, and we can live it joyously in every situation, under all and any circumstances.

That G‑d loves us, each and every one of us, as if he or she were His only child.

That the truest way to love G‑d is to love each and every one of His children.

When we look into our own souls, we know all this to be true. But the life of the human being is often not oriented to look into its own soul. That is why we need teachers — not so much to tell us what we don't know (though that kind of teaching has its uses, too), but to show us what we already know.