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Sunday, 3 September 2017

142) 'IF YOU DON'T COME OUT OF HIDING THEN BURN THESE TEACHINGS' (And other fascinating letters):

A sample of the writing of the Rav of Rashkov, the scribe who copied the Sefer haTzoref for the Baal Shem Tov (see Document 32).

LETTERS FROM THE CHERSON GENIZA TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH FOR THE FIRST TIME.

(PART 11.)

If you have never read these letters before, see here and here for an important introduction and general contextualization.

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OVERVIEW TO THIS SERIES OF LETTERS (1734-1735):

  • ·        In this series of letters we see how R. Adam Baal Shem Tov binds his student, R. Israel Baal Shem Tov with an oath that if he does not come out of hiding, then all the unnamed secret ‘teachings’ from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov would have to be burned. (Doc. 56)



  • ·        We see how the Baal Shem Tov offers forgiveness to his brother-in-law, R. Gershon Kitover, who did not treat him well because he suspected the Baal Shem Tov to have been an ignorant and unschooled individual. (Doc. 64)



  • ·        There is a very kabbalistic letter the Baal Shem sends to his brother-in-law, only after he was able to attain permission to reveal such teachings from his teacher – explaining why they had the custom to pray slowly. (Doc. 106)



  • ·       There is a fascinating letter from R. Adam to R Israel where he seems to almost (‘keveyachol’) equating his student with G-d Himself; and where he additionally offers his student the incentive to come out of hiding and be rewarded with a revelation from Elijah the Prophet. (Doc. 40)



  • ·        And we see another letter from the Baal Shem Tov’s wife, asking him again to come home – this time because another rabbi was waiting to meet him. (Do. 236)



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DOCUMENT 56:

Ultimatum sent by R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov binding him by oath to reveal himself or to burn the ‘teachings’ he sent him:

Letter 30.

B”H

Erev Rosh haShana 5494 (1734).

To the holy hidden one, Mr Yisrael, n’y.

I am binding you with an oath, that if you do not reveal yourself within the forthcoming year, may it descend upon us for good – (that) you will burn all the writings[1] which came into your holy hands from me.

And may G-d give a ‘written and signed for good’ (for the New Year) in the books of the righteous amongst all the house of Israel[2].

Adam Baal Shem Tov of Ropshitz.

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DOCUMENT 64:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov to his brother-in-law R. Gershon Kitover granting forgiveness for his antagonistic behaviour towards him, by thinking he was unschooled and unlearned[3] during the time he was still hiding his real identity:

B”H

Erev Yom haKippurim 5495. Brody.

To my honourable, holy and dear brother-in-law, the holy rabbi and gaon, a man of G-d, etc. etc. holy is your name, our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi A(vraham) Gershon, n’y.

After enquiring after your health, since this day (of Yom Kippur) is a day of forgiveness for us, I hereby write to you in my own hand (to) forgive and pardon you, honourable and holy one, for all you[4] did (against me) during the time of my wandering (and concealment).

And you did not know who I (really) was.

The reason that brought me to this (and made me decide to write to you) is that your sister, my wife, has told me that you, honourable and holy one, have complaints (and grievances) against me. Enough said.

May G-d conclude for us for good with a seal (in the Book of Life) for good.
From your brother-in-law, who (also) asks for forgiveness and pardon from you, honourable and holy one, M....(text missing),

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer of Telusk.

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DOCUMENT 106: 

Intricate Kabbalistic letter from the Baal Shem Tov to his brother-in-law, R. Gershon Kitover, explaining why the Chassidic way was to pray at great length:


B”H

Sunday (Parshat) Lech Lecha. From the village. 5495 (1735).

To my dear brother-in-law who is the holy gaon, expert at revealed and hidden (Torah), (for whom) the paths of heaven are illuminated, etc. etc. Ksh’t[5], our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi A(vraham) Gershon (Kitover), n’y.

In this (letter) I have come to hand over (to you), honourable and holy one, the secret (teaching) which you requested from me last year on the day when I revealed myself.

But (the reason why I have delayed so long) is because I did not (yet) have permission without the approval of my holy teacher.

And now I have received permission to reveal (the secret teaching) only to you, honourable and holy one:

(What follows is an attempt at translating a very difficult section of the letter. Any inaccuracies are my own.)

It is written: “Ask for a sign from Hashem your G-d.”

And it is written: “Only for (et) Hashem your G-d.”

What this means is: Knowing (da) is an expression of joining together. I.e.: Know (et) the reason (behind) all the letters from Alef to Tav (et).

Infuse into (the letters) an aspect of knowledge (da’at), which is (actually a synonym for) the Holy One blessed be He, who knows all things.

Through this one will come to an aspect of Heichal (h’y ch’l). I.e.: One joins the five (hei) articulations of the mouth to the aspect of ch’l (forming Heichal, or Temple) which is (synonymous with) G-d.

Then; “Ask for a sign”. This means request from the Creator, blessed be He, to give you a ‘sign’ (ot) in the five articulations of the mouth, from Hashem your G-d. I.e.: With da’at (knowledge) which means through joining them (the letters, to) the aspect of da’at.

Thus far I learned from my holy teacher.

Now it won’t be difficult for you, honourable and holy one (to understand) why our custom is to draw out the prayers.

Because every word and letter have to be joined together with the aspect of da’at (knowledge), which is, so to speak (G-d) Himself.

Through this, we arrive at (a state of) inspiration.

This is called ‘the revival of the dead’, literally.

It is the aspect of ‘living in them’. I.e.: (Living in) the letters (themselves) which induce life (through applying the mind to them).

For without (such) concentration, Heaven forefend, (prayer) is like a body without a soul.
But if one infuses life into (the letters of the prayers), which is the aspect of da’at (knowledge), then ‘one lives in them (the prayers)’.

Amen. So may it be His will.

From your brother-in-law who loves you in truth with a whole heart,

Yisrael, son of our teacher the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer of Telusk.

(P.s.:) My family inquire after your well being.

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DOCUMENT 40:

Letter from R. Adam Baal Shem Tov to the Baal Shem Tov encouraging him to come out of hiding and offering the incentive of seeing Elijah the Prophet:


Letter 12.

B”H

Sunday (Parshat) Toledot 5495 (1735).

To the holy one who was sent by Heaven, the righteous of the world, Mr Yisrael, son of the rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer, n’y.

Know that the entire world was only created for His will, which (also) means for your will, so to speak.

And, so to speak, from my flesh I envision G-d, whose will is hidden and concealed.

And you (too) are hidden. So it comes out that you are (G-d’s) will.

So see to it that you go out of potential and into actuality in order to reveal yourself and, through you, to sanctify G-d’s holy name in the world. Enough said.

For from Heaven it has been revealed to me that you will kindle my light, and the sign (that this is the case) is that you have not yet (merited) to see a revelation of Elijah (the Prophet). But (if you reveal yourself, then) in this year (Elijah) will be revealed to you.

And even your teacher and rabbi, Achiya haShiloni[6] agrees with this (deal) that you should have a revelation of Elijah, may he be remembered for good, during this year.

And this will strengthen you and your Torah will be stronger.
Amen. Netzach, sela va'ed.

From your colleague who does not know your (hiding) place,

Adam Baal Shem Tov of Ropshitz.

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DOCUMENT 236:

Letter from the Baal Shem Tov’s wife to her husband telling him he has important guests waiting at home for him:


B”H

Erev Shabbat Kodesh (Parshat) Shemot. 5495 (1735).

To my important husband, Mr Yisroelik n’y,

I have received the twenty-five Ruble Teller.

I ask you to come home as a certain rabbi has arrived, (namely) our teacher the rabbi, Yaakov of Anipoli n’y.

From your wife Leah Rachel.

(P.s.:) My brother Mr Gershon is also here.

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[1] See KOTZK BLOG 129. for a possible explanation as to the elusive nature of these writings.
[2] It appears as if bbb’y may be a printing mistake and should read null, bechol beit Yisrael.
[3] See Document 15 in KOTZK BLOG 138. What still remains unclear, though, are the letters where the Baal Shem admits he does not understand the writings sent by R. Adam (Doc. 308); and where he calls for ‘a great eagle’ (either the Maggid or R. Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye) to help debate with the opponents ‘according to the Talmud’.
[4] We know from Document 15 that R. Gershon was angry at the Baal Shem because he thought he was illiterate.
[5]I do not know what this abbreviation stands for.
[6] A prophet from the time of Solomon.

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