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The Systems of the Jewish Year

The Baal Shem Tov’s Message

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Shortly after moving to Israel I was given the opportunity to travel with a group to Mezibuz in the Ukraine. The purpose of the trip was to spend Shabbos in the city of the great Baal Shem Tov and to pray at his graveside. This was a spiritual trip and I was particularly anxious to pray at such a holy site for the success of my family and myself in our new life in Israel. I was a bit torn, however, by the irony of leaving Israel, the holiest place on Earth, to pray for a successful dwelling in Israel!

Nevertheless the Baal Shem Tov was buried in the Ukraine and not in the Galil. Rebbe Nachman of Breslav once taught that if G-d gives you an opportunity to travel He must have something special in mind - so take the trip. I decided that I would go.

It was a spiritually exciting trip. On the way to Mezibuz we stopped in Barditchev and prayed where the holy Rebbe of Barditchev (1740 -1810) prayed. We stopped at the cemetery and sang the Barditchever’s beautiful song, “A Din Torah mit Gut”. On the way back from Mezibuz we detoured to Uman and prayed at the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman – but the jewel in the crown was Shabbos in Mezibuz. My mind and my heart was full of thoughts and prayers of how to make it in Jerusalem.

At some point over Shabbos I found myself alone in the original shul of the Baal Shem Tov. My mind wandered to what it must have been like to have davened in this small wooden room with the Baal Shem Tov and his students who founded the Chasidic movement. There was a definite energy in the room. On the table I was sitting at there was a book which was compiled by one of the students of the Baal Shem Tov which contained thoughts of the Baal Shem Tov on the weekly Torah portion. Although it was Parshas Beshalach, I randomly opened the book to wherever it would open and it opened to Behar, this weeks Torah portion. This is what it said.

The Torah speaks about the Mitzvah of the Shmittah, the Sabbatical year in Israel. During this year the Land of Israel must lay at rest and no farm work may be done.

“And what will happen if the people ask: ‘what should we eat during this seventh year if we do not sow or gather in our crops? ’ (G-d says,) ‘I will command My special blessing on the Land and you will have abundance in the sixth year for 3 years!” (Vayikra 25;21)

The Baal Shem Tov comments out that in order for one to attract success and abundance in one’s life one’s thoughts must be full of faith and positive thoughts of success. If one thinks ‘success’ G-d will grant him success. G-d will mirror you thoughts.

The most damaging thing a person can do to their life is to worry and complain. The negativity of worry can, G-d forbid, attract negativity and remove the blessing from ones life.

So the Torah asks, says the Baal Shem Tov, what will happen during the Sabbatical year? The Jewish people will begin to worry and bring negative energy into their life! They will say out loud, ‘What will we eat?!’

To this problem G-d answers, that he will perform a special miracle. In spite of our negative thoughts, ‘I will command a Blessing of abundance’. G-d will perform a special miracle and give us abundance in spite of our worrying.

This is not a uniquely Chassidic thought. The greatest disciple of the Vilna Gaon, Rav Chaim Velozhin, writes that G-d will shadow our every thought. The great master of Sefardic tradition, the Ben Ish Chai, taught precisely the same idea. When G-d created the world He set it up in such a way that G-d, so to speak, takes His cues from us! 

The message of the Baal Shem Tov clicked in my mind and I returned to Jerusalem with a new heart.

The message of the Sabbatical year is to rely on G-d. Always think positive thoughts with the knowledge that G-d is in charge and He will care for us all.

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