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Sunday, 20 August 2017

139) WHY DID THE BAAL SHEM TOV REFUSE TO DISCLOSE HIS HIDING PLACE TO HIS TEACHER? (And other fascinating letters)



LETTERS FROM THE CHERSON GENIZA TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME. PART 9.

See here and here for an introduction.
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INTRODUCTION TO THIS SERIES OF LETTERS:

This series of letters, written between 1731 and 1733, show how the Baal Shem Tov was literally hiding from his teacher, R. Adam Baal Shem Tov. From the tenor and tone of the letters one can understand that the Baal Shem Tov was reluctant to come out of hiding: -R. Adam tells his student that the latter is the subject of sections of the Zohar which deal with the creation of the world and that he embodied the ‘secret light’ of creation. -R. Adam threatens his student that if he remains in hiding the world will literally be destroyed! -R. Adam informs his student that even Achiya haShiloni[1] will disown him if he doesn’t come out of hiding within a year. 

This must have placed an unimaginable spiritual burden on the shoulders of the Baal Shem Tov who, understandably, refused to divulge is location to his teacher[2]

This puts paid to the notion that the Baal Shem Tov suddenly and voluntarily decided to come out of seclusion during his thirties, and reveal himself to the world. According to these letters it seems quite clear that not only was he coaxed into confronting the world but he was actually threatened rather sharply to do so.

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DOCUMENT 41:

Letter from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov informing him that the latter is the ‘hidden light’ referred to in the Zohar:

Letter 14.

B”H

Tuesday (Parshat) Veyeitze 5491 (1731).

To the hidden one who was sent from Heaven, the rabbi Mr Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi Eliezer.

It is taught in the holy Zohar, (Parshat) Vayeitze:

‘Come and see;
When the Holy One blessed be He wanted to create the world, He took one hidden light and from that light emerged and illuminated etc. etc.’[3]

Know that you that this light is you, my son Israel, in whom I glorify.

Adam Baal Shem Tov of Ropshitz.

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DOCUMENT 272:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to his brother-in-law R. Gershon Kitover asking him to pawn the former’s coat in order to raise some money for the forthcoming festival of Peasch:

B”H

Wednesday (Parshat) Vayeitze 5491 (1731).

To my brother-in-law the famous holy rabbi and gaon etc., our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Gershon (Kitover) n’y.

You know, honourable and elevated Torah (personality) that the holy festival days are actualizing and approaching.

And I have no means to spend on the holy festival.

(So) I am sending you my coat to pledge (pawn) in Brodie and you will send me the money.

From your brother-in-law who blesses you with (greetings for a) Kosher festival (of Pesach),
Yisroelik of Akop.

(P.s.) My wife inquires after your wellbeing. 
             
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DOCUMENT 53:

Letter from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov telling him of bad times ahead but, nevertheless, he must still do what he has to do:

Letter 27.

B”H

Tuesday (Parshat) Eikev 5491 (1731).

To the righteous (one) of the world amongst the Nistarim (Hidden ones) Mr[4] Yisrael n’y.

Know that many travails are about to befall you but with G-d’s will man and his enemies will make peace.

You (must just) do what you have to do and G-d will accept your good way. Amen.

From Adam Baal Shem Tov of Ropshitz.

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DOCUMENT 55:

Letter from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov telling him he met the latter’s brother-in-law (R. Gershon Kitover) but that he refuses to divulge his (the Baal Shem Tov’s) whereabouts:


Letter 29.

B”H

Thursday[5] 5491 (1731) LePeret Katan.[6]     
    
To the hidden (one) whose paths (whereabouts) are not (even) known to the eagle, holy and awesome is your name, Yisrael, may you live.

I saw your brother-in-law, the rabbi and holy gaon (R. Gershon Kitover) n’y, and even he hid from me your (secret) holy dwelling place.

Why?

But I consoled myself with the (fact that) even Jacob our father did not know the (dwelling) place of his son Joseph.... (for...)[7] years. Enough said.

From the (one) connected to you with (bonds of) love,

Adam Baal Shem Tov.

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DOCUMENT 276:

Letter from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov informing him that even though he doesn’t know where the Baal Shem Tov is hiding, he knows all else including the fact that during the forthcoming year he will reveal himself to the world:



Letter 26.

B”H

The Ten days of Repentence 5493 (1733).

To the holy and hidden Mr Yisrael, son of the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer, may you live.

Know that all the travails that are (about) to befall you are revealed to me.

And during the forthcoming year you will be revealed (to the world). G-d willing.

G-d will certainly protect you from all travails and (may He) lay out for you (only) kindness.
Enough said.

See the holy Zohar (Parshat) Vayeishev (where it says:)

‘The Tzadik will (undergo) much evil and G-d will save him from all (that evil)’
It is not written (that evil will befall) ‘to the Tzadik’ but (simply) Tzadik.
When the holy one blessed be He befriends the (tzadik) etc., they merit to be separated.[8]’ End quote from the Zohar. Enough said.

Know that if I knew your (hiding) place you would be revealed (to the world) immediately. But it is only from Heaven that your (hiding) place is not known to me.

Nor is it known to your (other) teacher Achiya haShiloni.[9]

May there be peace now with you, and also with the (other) hidden one, the holy Mr Mordechai the Tzadik[10], may he live.

From myself, who loves you but does not know you.[11]

Adam Baal Shem Tov of Ropshitz.

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DOCUMENT 41:

Letter from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov instructing him to reveal himself to the world and warning him of dire consequences if he doesn’t listen:

Letter 17.

B”H

(Parshat) Vayeitze 5493 (1733).

To the holy hidden one, Mr Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Eliezer, n’y.
Know that the time has arrived for you to reveal yourself (to the world).

But if (you do ) not (listen), the (whole) world will be destroyed.

And the sign (than I am speaking the truth) is that tonight you saw your teacher, Achiya haShiloni[12], in a dream.

From,

Adam Baal Shem Tov of Ropshitz.

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DOCUMENT 45:

Letter from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov stating that he sees that the latter is refusing to reveal himself to the world and as a consequence,  the world will go into a spiritual deficit if he does not listen:


Letter 18.

B”H

Wednesday (Parshat) Vayeishev 5493 (1733).

To the hidden one[13], the righteous (who is the) foundation of the world, my teacher and rabbi[14], Yisrael, n’y, of Akop.

It is evident that you are refusing in the matter (of revealing yourself to the world).

But on the life of your head, I swear that if you do not reveal (yourself) you will be empowering the opposite side (i.e. the side of evil). Enough said.

As a consequence you are causing the entire world to (go into spiritual) deficit. Heaven forefend.

Adam Baal Shem Tov from Ropshitz.

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DOCUMENT 42:  
      
Letter from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov quoting the Zohar and suggesting the latter is the subject of its teaching:



Letter 15.

B”H

(Parshat) Vayikra 5493 (1733).

To the holy Mr Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Eliezer, n’y.

The One who loves justice and doesn’t neglect His pious (ones).

It is taught in the holy Zohar:

‘It is written pious (in the singular[15]).’

Know that you (are the one who is the subject of this verse) and G-d is with you and G-d will not forsake you. 

For you are the pious one (through which) G-d will work wonders. And (may you) listen when He calls for you.

Enough said.

Adam Baal Shem Tov of Ropshitz.

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DOCUMENT 46:

Letter from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov informing him that even the latter’s (other) teacher, Achiya haShiloni, is annoyed at him for not revealing himself:


Letter 20.

B”H

5493 (1733)

To the hidden one, the holy Mr Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Eliezer, n’y.

Your teacher[16] was with me this night.

And he said in the following holy words: If you refuse to reveal yourself at least over the next year, may it descend upon us for good, then you shall (no longer) be (considered) within his court.

From,

Adam Baal Shem Tov of Ropshitz.

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[1] The other (mystical) teacher of the Baal Shem Tov, who according to Chassidic tradition was the biblical prophet from the time of King Solomon.
[2] We also see that the Baal Shem Tov was not hiding alone as there is a reference to R. Mordechai the Tzadik, who appears to have been with him. We also see that somehow he also managed to hide from his mystical teacher Achiya haShiloni. (Doc 276).
[3] The actual text reads: “Now when G-d was about to create the world, He produced a secret spark from which there issued and radiated all the lights which are disclosed. First there spread from it those lights which constitute the upper world. Then it continued its radiation, and the Artificer made it into a light without brightness, and thus He made the lower world. And by reason of it being a light, but without illumination, it feels itself attracted towards [156b] the upper world.”
[4] In the text the nun seems to be a mistake.
[5] The name of the weekly Torah portion is missing.
[6] A calendar designation.
[7]Text missing.
[8] I couldn’t find the reference in the Zohar to this.
[9] A prophet from the days of King Solomon.
[10] It seems that R. Mordechai was hiding together with the Baal Shem Tov.
[11] Or: ‘but does not know where you are.’
[12] A prophet from the days of King Solomon.
[13] This expression is used in the previous letter as well and may allude to the fact that at this time the Baal Shem Tov was physically hiding from him.
[14] This is a very significant term because it represents the transition of R. Adam Baal Shem Tov reverting from teacher to student.
[15]Chassido (His pious one) as opposed to Chassidav (His pious ones).
[16] Achiya haShiloni, a prophet from the time of Solomon.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

138) BAAL SHEM TOV EXPLAINS HIS INITIAL LACK OF TORAH EDUCATION (And other fascinating letters):




LETTERS FROM THE CHERSON GENIZA TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME. PART 8.

See here and here for an introduction.

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DOCUMENT 15:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to his brother-in-law R. Avraham Gershon Kitover explaining why he was uneducated and how he was trying to begin to study the basics of Torah:


B”H

Thursday (Parshat) Vayeishev 5489 (1729)[1]. Akop.

To my dear brother-in-law, the rabbi and gaon etc. Mr Avraham Gershon n’ y.

I hear that you are angry at me because I cannot learn (Torah).

I (have to) ask you then, who is guilty (and responsible for) the fact that I was left an orphan, Heaven forefend, at a tender age.

But I am informing you that (now) I want to be an assistant (to a children’s Torah teacher) and want to learn a little Torah.

Thanks to G-d, blessed is He, that I have learned to write a little.

(From) your brother-in-law:

Yisroelik of Akop.

(P.s.) My wife, your sister, may she live, is, thank G-d, alive and well and sends regards.


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DOCUMENT 265:

Receipt by the Baal Shem Tov declaring he has money on loan from R. Gavriel:



B”H
                              
(Written) here in the holy community of Telusk 5490 (1730). Erev Shabbat (Parshat) Veyechi.

I, Israel of Telusk, have received fifty Ruble Teller, in cash, from the Torah personality, Rabbi Gavriel n’y, as a loan.

I am obligated to repay (the loan) at whatsoever time he (R. Gavriel) claims (it back).

I am the undersigned,

Yisroelik the assistant from Telusk, son of R. Eliezer.[2]


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DOCUMENT 33:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to his wife telling her he will bring the alcohol himself as he cannot find a reliable courier:


B”H

Wednesday (Parshat)  Veyeira 5491 (1731)

To my wife, Mrs Leah Rachel, may you live.

I do not know what to do with the alcohol.[3]

I have no trustworthy courier (with whom to send it home).

Therefore, when I come home for the holy Shabbat, I shall bring it myself.

From your husband,

Yisroelik.


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DOCUMENT 29:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to his wife informing her he has found a courier to transport the alcohol which is for ‘good luck’ (success):


B”H

Wednesday (Parshat) Vayeira 5491 (1731)[4]. On the mountain close to Brod.

To my wife, the righteous woman, Mrs Leah Rachel, may you live.

I am sending by means of the bearer of this letter two measures of alcohol, which is good for luck (success).

(Please) send me my large coat.

G-d willing, after the holy Shabbat of Parshat Vayishlach, may it descend upon us for good, I shall return home.

From your husband,

Yisroelik.

(P.s.) Greet my brother-in-law the holy rabbi and gaon, our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Gershon from Kitov, n’y, your brother.


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DOCUMENT 308:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to R. Chaim of Lvov informing him that he has received the ‘writings from the well-known teacher’ but doesn’t understand them:


B”H

Wednesday (Parshat) Vayeira 5491 (1731)[5] (in the) holy community of Zlotchov.

To the beloved of my soul, the rabbi the Nistar[6], our teacher the rabbi Rabbi Chaim of Lvov, n’y.

I have received all the writings.

To tell the truth, it is hard for me to understand them.

(Please) come to me so that we can understand them.

This (request) that you come to me is based on the permission of the well known (unnamed) teacher and rabbi.

From your friend,

Yisroelik of Akop.


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DOCUMENT 47:

Letter from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov informing and warning him that the time had come for him (the Baal Shem Tov) to reveal himself and come out of hiding - failing which, dire consequences were predicted:


B”H

Letter 13.

To the honourable hidden one who was sent from Heaven, the holy and pure, Mr Yisrael, son of the rabbi Rabbi Eliezer. I do not know where you are (presently).[7]

(It is written in) the holy Zohar, (Parshat) Chayey (Sara):

“Come and see;

Jacob was under (a particular) holy jurisdiction (as long as he was in the Land of Israel). But when he left the land that jurisdiction departed and was replaced with another jurisdiction etc.

The Holy One, blessed be He, appeared to him in a dream and he saw what he saw etc.”

I (R. Adam Baal Shem Tov) am revealing to you (the Baal Shem Tov) that ‘Jacob’ is the aspect of ‘Isreal’ [8].

And you will illuminate the candle (neri) which stands for Nefesh, Ruach and Yisrael.
You will illuminate the world and those that dwell in it.

However, if you do not reveal (yourself), heaven forefend, wrath and fear shall descend. But with the power of your arm, they shall be quietened. Enough said.

From the one who loves you who was sent in place of your (unnamed) rabbi,

Adam Baal Shem Tov from Ropshitz.

The writer signed (this letter)[9] on Sunday (Parshat) Toledot) 5491 (1731).

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[1] This letter, written in 1729, would have been written when the Baal Shem Tov was about thirty years old. According to some accounts, he was born in 1698 and according to other accounts, it was 1700.
[2] In later letters the honorific is expanded to: ‘son of our master the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer’.
[3] The assumption is that perhaps this alcohol was stock for resale.
[4] This letter is dated the same day as the previous letter, implying that a reliable courier was found later in the day.
[5] The last three letters are all dated on the same day.
[6] The followers of R. Adam Baal Shem Tov were known as Nistarim.
[7] The assumption is that the Baal Shem Tov may have been travelling or roaming the mountains at this time.
[8] An allusion to Israel Baal Shem Tov. Just as Jacob moved from one phase to another and was protected, so too must his namesake Israel move from the phase of a hidden Tzadik to that of a revealed one.
[9] Hko”ch is an abbreviation for haKotev Chatum, which means the writer signs (below).