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Beshtbet shin tet (Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer)
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The Besht not only rejected self-mortification, but he mandated the use of material pleasures as a means of spiritual elevation.
"whoever prepares himself to study for its own sake, without any alien intention, as I was warned by my great teachers in matters of Torah and Hasidism, included [among them] being my friend, the Hasid and the Rabbi, who is the paragon of the generation, our teachers and Rabbi Israel the Besht, blessed be his memory, let his desirable intention concerning study for its own sake be to attach himself in holiness and purity to the letters, in potentia and in actu, in speech and in thought, [so that he will] link part of [his] [lower] soul, spirit, [higher] soul, Hayah and Yehidah to the holiness of the candle of the commandment and Torah, [to] the enlightening letters, which cause the emanation of the influx of lights and vitality, that are true and eternal." (12)
"That's impossible, Uncle Davy" he said, " The Besht died in 1760."
This exceptionally rare example of a Kabbalistic siddur, one of only three or four surviving objects known to have been used by the Besht during his lifetime, has something for everyone: meticulous calligraphy (by Moses, son of Joseph of Luboml, a professional scribe who included refined illustrations to elucidate the Kabbalistic concepts found in the text); beautiful illustrations (including unicorns!); the authentic nusach ha-Ari liturgical text; and even a stained page of the High Holiday viduy prayer that is believed to hold the remnants of the great rabbi's penitential tears.
Among the pilgrims there were people whom later Hasidic tradition came to recognize as the founding fathers of Hasidism: Nahman of Horodenka, Eleazar ben Samuel Rokeach, Gershon of Kuty, and last but not least, the Besht. The messianic inspiration of these pilgrimages is not to be doubted.
Give a prize to the first person who gets told 'You're my besht mate.' 7) Persuade the Tories' Spock lookalike John Redwood to wear a Star Trek outfit at all times on the podium.
If the 1782 Edict of Toleration of Josef II was a major event for a Berlin Jew like Wessely, however pious he might have been, it was either ignored or feared by the followers of the Besht (Baal Shem Toy) who were numerous by the end of the eigh teenth century.
"We would exchange the grave of the Besht [Baal Shem Tov] for a good Jewish Leonardo da Vinci," he wrote, jokingly but sincerely.
The Besht: Magician, Mystic and Leader, by Immanuel Etkes.
Wiesel's conception of himself as Rebbe, a charismatic Hasidic leader sometimes also known as a Zaddik (a saintly or righteous person), is further reinforced by this collection, which parallels the Shivhei Ha-Besht, stories about the miraculous works of the "Besht," first published in 1815.
In the 18th century, the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, wrote that he had actually spoken with the Messiah face to face, during one his mystical ascents, and asked, "When will you come?" The answer, as the Besht recorded it, was that redemption would arrive "when your teachings are publicized and revealed to the world and your wellsprings will be spread to the outside." But it was not until Lubavitch was transplanted to America, during the Second World War, that this metaphorical injunction became the basis for an extremely practical kind of Jewish missionizing.
It is easy to understand the attraction of the Besht's teachings, based on lovingkindness (hesed) and his openness to people on all spiritual levels.