Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier
The Besht's 48 hour debate.
Devarim. 5 Av: Arizal's Yahrtzeit
For years, the Baal Shem Tov’s conduct worried his contemporaries. Jewish leaders of the time saw that he was drawing the simple Jews close and teaching the Torah’s inner dimensions to the masses, veering drastically from the way things had always been done. Uneasy, the Council of the Four Lands—the most prominent body of Jewish authority at the time—sent three messengers to warn the Baal Shem Tov that if he continued in this manner, they would be forced to excommunicate him. For 48 hours, the Baal Shem Tov sat in discussion with the messengers, sharing his philosophy and revealing his immense knowledge in all areas of Torah. Although he won them over, he still agreed to be judged by the council. Before they left, however, he rebuked them: “The great leaders judged me without me being present, in violation of the command in Parshas Devarim, ‘sho’moa bein acheichem ushfat’tem tzedek, hear [disputes] between your brothers and judge justly.’ “The Torah has two elements,” the Baal Shem Tov continued. “The Torah of the mind, to comprehend it, and the Torah of the heart, to feel it. You and your leaders know the Torah of the mind, and I am here to teach the Torah of the heart.”
He then provided three interpretations to the passuk: 1. sho’moa - one who has a sense to “hear” (i.e. grasp) how much Hashem loves and cherishes every single Jew, will bein - understand, acheichem - the true value of his fellow Jew. 2. sho’moa - one who possesses a spiritual sense of hearing will be connected with and feel a spiritual pleasure from every single Jew. 3. sho’moa - one who wants to attain the above-mentioned sense of hearing can do so only through bein acheichem - being connected to all Jews, knowing that we, even the simplest among us, are brothers.1 Over 200 years have passed since this episode, and it’s undeniable that the teachings of Chassidus have drastically improved our appreciation for our fellow Jews. Still, there’s always room for growth. The 5th of Menachem Av is the yahrtzeit of the Arizal who opened the gates of the inner dimensions of Torah. Let us take inspiration and commit to improving our study of the Torah’s inner dimensions. And as we reflect on correcting the senseless hatred that brought about the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, let us each think of ways in which we can improve and increase our love for our fellow Jews, so that we may very soon see the third Beis Hamikdash, when we will also merit to hear Torah—of the mind and of the heart—from Moshiach himself. 1. Igros Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz vol. 4 pg. 96. Good Shabbos, Rabbi Lipskier