A Chassidic Maaseh (#27)
Jun03

A Chassidic Maaseh (#27)

A Chassidic Story (#27) Reb Mendel of Bahr once related the following: When I was young, there was a period when I was davening (praying) with particular passion and fervor. One day, while I was davening, the thought struck me: How do I dare daven to God, when I am so filled with sin?! This thought broke my heart. For the longest time I couldn’t rid myself of it. I thought it was a good thought, right thinking. Then, a while later I...

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A Humble Week
May03

A Humble Week

Let’s start with a Chassidic story. The holy Baal Shem Tov was once a guest at someone’s home. He got up to go from a large room to a smaller room, but took a wrong turn and ended up in the cellar. “Check the mezuzahs,” he said. Someone there asked him, “Just because a person made a mistake, he has to find a reason? Maybe it was just an accident.” The Baal Shem Tov responded, “By me, there are no accidents.” From here, every person...

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The Ba’al Shem Tov On Loving Your Fellow Jew
Jan18

The Ba’al Shem Tov On Loving Your Fellow Jew

In response to recent news from Eretz Yisrael, we are posting a few excerpts from the opening section of “The Path of the Baal Shem Tov,” with a minor modifications. Sources include both early and later Chassidic traditions, including several from Chabad. Ahavas Yisrael is the first gate which leads to the courtyard of the Creator (Likutey Dibburim II, p. 412). The Baal Shem Tov once reproached an itinerant preacher who had delivered...

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A Chassidic Story (#25)
Jan06

A Chassidic Story (#25)

A Chassidic Story (#25) This week’s Torah reading, parshas Vayechi, deals with the passing of Yaakov Avinu, our Patriarch, who was the real-live, everyday father of his twelve sons (and Dinah, his daughter). It includes his final words to them, what he felt they had to know to properly fulfill their mission. Similarly, the haftorah tells of King David’s final words and instruction to his son that would succeed him, Shlomo HaMelekh...

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A Chassidic Story (#24)
Dec31

A Chassidic Story (#24)

A Chassidic Story (#24) Reb Shneur, the grandson of Reb Nachman Kosovar, told the following story about his grandfather and Reb Yudel of Tchidnov who was the rabbi of Ludmir. Reb Nachman built a shul (synagogue) in Ludmir, right near a stream. The mikveh (ritual bath) was adjacent to the shul. One Shabbos morning, before beginning the prayers, Reb Nachman and Reb Yudel went to the mikveh. Reb Nachman did everything very quickly. Reb...

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A Chassidic Story (#23)
Dec10

A Chassidic Story (#23)

A Chassidic Story (#23) Listen, if you’re paying any sort of attention to what’s going on in all the parshas (weekly portions) concerning the Avot and Imahot (Patriarchs and Matriarchs), you’re certainly aware that every detail of their lives made—and continues to make—a big difference. Every detail of life is an example of Divine providence. Here’s another example. The holy Baal Shem Tov was once a guest at someone’s home in Nemirov....

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A Chassidic Story (#15)
Oct08

A Chassidic Story (#15)

A Chassidic Story (#15) This story is one of my personal favorites. It’s human in many ways: the innkeeper’s desire to help both at the story’s beginning and end; in the protagonist’s tenderheartedness and his desire to celebrate Shabbat as best way possible. There’s a deep current of mystery running throughout and—it’s a fish story. The compiler of Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov heard this story from both the Toldot Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye...

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A Chassidic Story (#5)
Jul24

A Chassidic Story (#5)

Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov #65 {This story was also told by Reb Zelig to the compiler of Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov. Even though it is not about the Baal Shem Tov, it is included because it teaches some important lessons. The one whose dream-vision it is, is assumed by many to be Reb Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, the author of Toldos Yaakov Yosef, the first printed collection of the Baal Shem Tov’s teachings. Although this is not 100% certain,...

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A Chassidic Story
Jul16

A Chassidic Story

Shivchei Baal Shem Tov #63 I heard this from Rebbe Aharon of Mezbuz, who told this to the rabbi of our community [Rebbe Gedaliah of Linitz]. The Baal Shem Tov was once traveling to Brod. The night before his arrival he stayed in a near-by village. That night the Baal Shem Tov became so frightened that his knees were knocking. In fact, they were knocking so loudly that the noise woke up the Baal Shem Tov’s secretary, Reb Tzvi Sofer!...

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A Chassidic Story
Jul10

A Chassidic Story

Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov #62 Reb Meir of Anipoli told the following story. In a certain village there lived a sock-maker. Summer, winter, spring and fall, the sock-maker would daven (pray) in the local shul (synagogue). Even if there wasn’t a minyan, he would daven there by himself. The Baal Shem Tov was once visiting that village. In the morning, as he smoked his pre-prayer pipe, the Baal Shem Tov looked out the window and saw the...

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A Chassidishe Maaseh #2
Jul03

A Chassidishe Maaseh #2

Shivchei HaBaal Shem Tov #60 Reb Yosef the Melamed (cheder* teacher) once visited Linitz and told the following story. Reb Yosef was a trustworthy individual and held money in escrow for many people. During a certain period, he had many people’s money in his care. One of those people was the rebbetzin** of his town, Mezritch. The government canceled the local currency. This led to a dispute between the rebbetzin and Reb Yosef. Reb...

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You Don’t Say
Mar09

You Don’t Say

A friend was upset recently and e-mailed me. He had seen—on a website that attempts to spread the teachings of Rebbe Nachman z”l (Hebrew for zikhrono livrakhah, may his memory be for a blessing)—that the Holocaust was good. And, that in order to hasten the arrival of Mashiach, we would need to thank God for that good. The Holocaust was a specific example, but the rule being espoused was: The only way to reach...

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Q&A (0002)

Question: I keep getting opinions from some Orthodox Jews that weight training for a Jew is considered goyish, and that it is stupid for Jews to train in this way. I know that ancient Greeks trained this way at times and their ways were certainly not ours. However in the context of today, is it improper for a Jew to go to a gym and train with weights? Answer: Shalom! Bodybuilding is certainly not your typical Jewish activity. The...

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A Father's Love

As I read the other night and these words left my mouth, I was struck by the love, wisdom and prescience of Reb Eliezer, close to 100 years old and on his deathbed, as he spoke to his young son, Yisrael, the Yisrael that grew to be the holy Baal Shem Tov that we love and revere, whose light nourishes us every day. Reb Eliezer said: My darling, remember this well, every day of your life: God is with you, so don’t be afraid of...

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You Should Go

I returned from Uman shortly before dawn last Monday (18 Sivan/31 May). Arkia Airlines has recently started flights between Tel Aviv and Kiev. Occasionally, as happened last week, they offer low-priced tickets. I paid $270. A number of other Breslover chassidim that I met on the plane paid only $250. One passenger paid a measly $210! The plane was comfortable and clean; the service was very good; the food was good (but they served a...

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For Shavuot night

Please remember that the following teaching uses ordinary words in a Kabbalistic sense. Construing these words in their ordinary meaning is [a] a mistake; [b] dangerous to your health. The holy Baal Shem Tov teaches that at night, with our Torah study we bedeck the Shekhinah in her finery. By day, with our tefilot (prayers), we escort her to her “Husband” (as it were). But this all happens only if we are careful to not speak any...

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