Baal Shem Tov

Baal Shem Tov

Israel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov or Besht, was a Jewish mystical rabbi considered the founder of Hasidic Judaism. The little biographical information about Besht comes from oral traditions handed down by his students and the legendary tales about his life and behavior collected in Shiv?ei ha-Besht. Hasidim approach these legends with a blend of suspicion and belief. The Rebbe Shlomo Rabinowicz of Rodomsk declared, “Whoever believes all the miracle stories about the Baal Shem Tov in Shivhei HaBaal Shem Tov is a fool, but whoever denies that he could have done them is an apikoros [a heretic].” From the numerous legends connected with his birth it appears that his parents were poor, upright, and pious. When he was orphaned, his community cared for him, while at school, he distinguished himself only by his frequent disappearances. Many of his disciples believed that he came from the Davidic line tracing its lineage to the royal house of David, and by extension with the institution of the Jewish Messiah.

“Your fellow man is your mirror. If your own face is clean, the image you perceive will also be flawless. But should you look upon your fellow man and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering – you are being shown what it is that you must correct within yourself.”

“From every human being there rises a light.”

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Why? Because every human being has a root in the Unity, and to reject the minutest particle of the Unity is to reject it all.”

“The ideal of man is to be a revelation himself.”

“When a father complains that his son has taken to evil ways, what should he do? Love him more than ever.” 

“Our Sages have said that “Slander kills all three” – the subject of the slander, the one who relates it, and the listener. This is all in spiritual terms, which is more severe than physical murder.”


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