Learn how to pray like the Ba’al Shem Tov with these powerful techniques.

The Ba’al Shem Tov is widely revered as the founder of Chassidism, renowned for his devoutness, spiritual purity, and the extraordinary power of prayer to effect great salvation.

Despite the division between Chassidim and Mitnagdim, he was widely respected, and his followers have only grown in number since his passing. Today, he continues to inspire millions of people from all backgrounds, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.

While the Ba’al Shem Tov left few writings of his own, his disciples recorded many of his teachings and meditative techniques in books such as the Keter Shem Tov and Tzava’at HaRivash. In this article, we will explore some of these fascinating teachings, which are essential for all generations to know.

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The power of Dvekut

One of the Baal Shem Tov‘s central teachings is the concept of Dvekut or bonding with Hashem. This involves being consciously aware of the Creator at all times, regardless of what you are doing or where you are. In the second teaching of Tzava’at HaRivash, the Ba’al Shem Tov emphasizes the importance of envisioning the letters YHVH in our minds and hearts at all times, as a reminder of our constant connection to Hashem and the need to fear Him always.

Learning how practicing these techniques can bring about incredible purification and deepen your connection to Hashem. By implementing these teachings, one can experience a significant reduction in the likelihood of sinning.

However, the Ba’al Shem Tov’s teachings go even further, revealing the profound spiritual significance of the word “Shiviti,” which can be understood as a state of equanimity or stoicism. In this sense, one should view all aspects of life as equally directed by Hashem, without concern for the fanciness of one’s clothes or food, as long as they are respectable and kosher. Detachment from material possessions is a key component of spiritual ascension, and this state can be achieved even by those with simple means.

Alacrity as a means of breaking barriers

The importance of being diligent and avoiding wasted time is highlighted in the Ba’al Shem Tov’s ninth teaching, where he emphasizes the need for Zerizut (alacrity) and keeping our thoughts focused on the higher worlds. The Ba’al Shem Tov’s aspirations for his students were truly remarkable.

In addition, the Ba’al Shem Tov stressed the importance of investing all of one’s energy and focus in every word of prayer, to the point where one feels as though they may faint. He believed that it was a great act of lovingkindness from Hashem to provide the strength to complete the service of prayer, and for this reason, some people are kept alive after praying.

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All intentions need to be elevated

In teaching 23, the Ba’al Shem Tov emphasizes the importance of having the sole intention of giving “Nachat Ruach” (pleasing spirit or pleasure) to Hashem. This serves as a stern warning to those who aspire to reach great levels, such as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

While a person should strive to do their best, they should not expect to reach lofty heights, as that is ultimately up to Hashem and can lead to haughtiness. If it comes, it comes but should not be our primary intent.

Fallen sparks when studying and praying

One particularly intriguing point made by the Ba’al Shem Tov is that any thoughts that come to a person while praying, especially during the Amidah, are fallen sparks that need to be rectified. When foreign thoughts disturb a person’s prayers, he should “elevate” those thoughts to their source above.

As Kabbalah teaches us, there are seven primary sources for fallen emotions, corresponding to the seven holy Sephirot of the upper worlds: Chessed (lovingkindness), Gevurah (might), Tiferet (beauty), Netzach (victory), Hod (splendor), Yesod (foundation), and Malkhut (kingship).

In the midst of prayer, it is common for a person to experience unwanted thoughts or emotions. According to the Ba’al Shem Tov, these are “fallen sparks” that require rectification. For example, feelings of stinginess during prayer suggest that the person has fallen sparks from the sephirah of Chessed, which is associated with lovingkindness.

Similarly, lustful thoughts may come from the sephiroth of Tiferet or Yesod. To properly elevate these thoughts, one must first recognize their source. If unsure, the person can ask Hashem for guidance.

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The important thing however is to recognize that these thoughts are extraneous to our souls, they are not really ourselves.

Concluding remarks

The Ba’al Shem Tov also reminds us that we should not despair if we cannot reach the lofty spiritual levels described in his teachings. Life moves in cycles, and sometimes we can only serve Hashem with a limited perspective. However, we can break free from this constricted mentality by contemplating the upper worlds and focusing our thoughts on the Divine.

With dedication and perseverance, we can all strive to achieve greater spiritual heights.

I made a little free course on Tzava’at HaRivash (the will of the Ba’al Shem Tov), which you can find it here.

May we all be blessed to reach these awe-inspiring levels!

 

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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