THE BAAL SHEM TOV: FEARLESS LOVE
A few years ago I travelled to Medzhybizh, a small Ukrainian town to pray at the resting place of the Baal Shem Tov. The town, in which he lived in the early 18th century, did not change much. They have located the exact place where he prayed, where a replica of the original synagogue has been constructed.
As I walked through the dark streets of this very old, town, I was overwhelmed by a deep sense of awe and wonder with respect to this great man. How could one human being have had such an incredible and profound impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Jews in his day and on millions more until this very day. What qualit possess to transcend both time and place in such an incredible way?
While driving home through the night to Kiev, I came across a story about the Baal Shem Tov that I had read when I was a young boy.
The story in Yiddish is one of the most vivid that I can recall. In the story, we find the little boy Yisrael standing near his father's bedside, who was about to pass away.
His father told him the following: 'Always remember, never forget. Do not fear man, only fear G-d and love every Jew with all your heart and soul”.
The Baal Shem Tov would later say that he all his life he worked on himself to internalize these parting words he had heard from his father on that fateful day.
I began to think. What if a person could conquer all their fears? What if he or she had no fear of any human being or anything? What if he or she were only answerable to their own conscience, the soul within us that is a part of G-d. What if we were not intimidated by anything in the world? Because ultimately only G-d is in control and nothing could happen to us without his will.
Can you imagine what we could achieve if we were completely fearless? By being ourselves. By being honest. By being totally focused on the job at hand without any distractions from within or without.
All this would enable the pure and powerful being in each of us to shine and penetrate our whole being. By ridding ourselves of all pretension and phobias, we would be able to reconnect with who we are.
All this is only part one. Part two is a result of this initial stage. “Love every Jew with all your heart and soul”.
The belief is that every Jew is valuable. That deep within us all is a gold mine waiting to be discovered. The Baal Shem Tov set out to accomplish this exact goal in his lifetime and beyond.
He dedicated his entire life to helping people. All kinds of people, including the ones who everyone had abandoned. His love for them was unconditional. His connection with people was profound. In turn, he helped them reconnect with themselves. He introduced people to their incredible potential, something they hadn't experienced before. He made them aware of their inner voice.
It's no surprise that the impact he had on each individual changed their lives forever. He was able to do this because he was able to see through to the core of anyone he encountered. The facade was not visible to him. He focused solely on the essence of every human being, in its pure and uncomplicated form.
It was this parting message that he heard from his father, a message that he totally absorbed and internalized, that created the legend of Baal Shem Tov. A legend that continues to guide and inspire millions of people through his teachings and the stories, until this very day.
“Do not fear man, only fear G-d and love every Jew with all your heart and soul”. Pure and simple!