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Baal Shem Tov’s 10 Teachings, reprinted with kind permission of:
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Baal Shem Tov’s 10 Teachings

By: Yaacov Dovid Shulman

From Kovetz Eliyahu, p. 14; translated by Yaacov-David Shulman

Baal ShemTov Grave

The following is a summary of the principles that the Baal Shem Tov taught his students. This precious text was found in the possession of a grandson of the Baal Shem Tov in Hamburg (copied from the holy handwriting of the Admor Moharash).

1.  The entire Torah and the entire world contain nothing but the light of the Infinite One (blessed be He) concealed within them. All the verses that speak of this, such as “there is no other than He” and “I fill the heavens and the earth,” are to be taken literally.

There is no act, word or thought in which the essence of divinity is not constricted and hiding.

And so when you look and see with your mind’s eye, you will see the inner, life-force aspect of everything, not just its outer, superficial layer. You will see nothing but the divine power inside all things that is giving them life, being and existence at every moment.

And when you listen carefully to the inner voice within any physical sound that you hear, you will hear only the voice of G-d as, at that moment, it is literally giving life and existence to the sound that you are hearing.

2.  The “exile of G-d’s Presence” refers to the life-force and divine power that gives a person life and existence even at the moment that he is transgressing G-d’s will.

3.  The evil inclination and lust are agents of G-d. They carry out G-d’s will to mislead a person in order that he will overcome them.

From them, you can learn to be as mighty as they are. Just as they never slacken in their work but are trying to destroy you day and night (because a person always desires what his eyes see and what his ears hear), just as they are happy and delighted to carry out G-d’s will, it should be as clear to you that G-d wants you to overcome them until you will conquer yourself and all your desires will be under your control – until you transform them to good.

This idea is alluded to in the verse, “We will take from it [from the flock] to serve G-d” (Ex. 10:26), meaning that we will take a lesson from the evil inclination to act just as it acts to fulfill G-d’s will. And a word to the wise is sufficient.

4.  Having no [divine] source, evil does not come down from heaven. Nevertheless, evil that exists has an inner power giving it life. And this [inner power] is total goodness. So if you look at the inner aspect of evil, you will only see the good in it.

5.  A person has to cling to the words that he speaks. Because each word contains a soul and divinity, when you cling to them, you are connected to divinity.

6.  Everything that happens in the world, no matter how insignificant, comes from G-d. And so do not concern yourself with whether or not what has occurred is in accordance with your will.

7.  Neither thinking about the day of one’s death nor the fear of punishment in hell will arouse a person’s heart to serve G-d. But yearning to cling to the source of life and goodness will do so. And neither fasting nor afflicting oneself will be of any help. But forgetting oneself out of the depth of one’s yearning will do so.

8.  Every person in his own right is [essentially] a complete spiritual Torah. If he goes in G-d’s path, that [Torah] is absorbed into his being, according to his level.

9.  When a person prays for something that he needs, he should pray for the divine life-force hiding within that thing and giving it life, which is now suffering because of whatever it is lacking. And so one should ask G-d to have pity on His life force that is hidden in that thing.

10.  G-d’s Providence extends to all created beings, even to inanimate objects and plants. There is nothing that is not viewed from above in every detail. Everything was made with a particular intent. And a word to the wise is sufficient.

(Writer, translator, and editor Yaacov Dovid Shulman can be contacted at: yacovdavid@gmail.com, Reprinted with kind permission of www.kabbalaonline.org)

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Finding the Hidden Good, reprinted with kind permission of:

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Finding Hidden Good

By: Yaacov Dovid Shulman

Excerpts from the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev

Chambers of the Palace, Part 16

A person has to judge everyone favorably. Even if someone is completely bad, one must search for even a little bit of good in him. In that little bit of goodness, that person isn’t bad.

As a result of finding this little bit of good in the person and judging him favorably, one actually raises him up, and one can cause him to repent.

This is related to the verse, “A little more and there is no wicked person; You will look upon his place, and he is not there” (Psalms 37:10).

This verse exhorts us to judge everyone favorably. Even though you see that someone is completely bad, you must find some little bit of good in him where he isn’t evil. This is what the verse means when it says, “A little more and there is no wicked person.” You must find that little more of goodness that he still has, where he isn’t bad. Even if he is bad, how is it possible that he doesn’t even have a little bit of good? How could it be that he never did a mitzvah or some good deed in his life? By finding some small area of goodness where he isn’t bad and judging him favorably, you raise him from the side of guilt to the side of merit, until he repents.

As a result of finding a little good where he isn’t wicked, then “you will look upon his place and he is not there.” When you look upon his place, his level, you will see that he is no longer there; by finding some little bit of good in him and judging him favorably, one moves him from the side of guilt to the side of merit.

Understand this.

One must also apply this technique to oneself. A person has to work hard to be constantly joyful and to keep from being depressed.

Even if, when a person begins to look at himself, he sees that he has no good in himself and that he is full of wrong-doing; even if the Evil One wants to cast him into depression—he must not allow himself to fall! Instead, he must search and find in himself some little bit of good. How could it be that he never once did a mitzvah or some good deed?

It is possible that, looking into that good deed, one will see that it was imperfect, full of flaws and ulterior motives. Nevertheless, how is it possible that it didn’t contain some little good? At the very least, there was some point of goodness in what one did.

One must find that little bit of good in oneself and use it to revivify oneself and become joyful.

Then one moves from the side of guilt to the side of merit, and one can repent.

One must judge oneself favorably; one must strengthen oneself so that one won’t fall completely. One must revivify oneself and make oneself joyful with the little bit of good one finds within oneself, with the fact that one managed to do some mitzvah or good deed.

After one has done that, one must search yet more and find some other bit of good. Even though that bit of good is also mixed with a great deal of waste, one must draw out the good point.

One must search for and gather all the good points.

In this way, one makes spiritual melodies with one’s soul, like a musician who plucks out the notes that comprise a melody. (Likutei Moharan 282)

(Writer, translator, and editor Yaacov Dovid Shulman can be contacted at: yacovdavid@gmail.com)

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The Rebbe’s works are full of specific pieces of advice concerning every topic and issue in the service of Hashem, takn from The Blog @ Breslov.org
reprinted with kind permission of:
Breslov Research Institute

There are Tzaddikim which all of their books and teachings is only inspiration, and even though this is very good, no practical advice can be obtained from them. The main thing is Tzaddikim which we can glean advice from their Torah and books.” – Likutei Halachos, Eiruvei Techumin 5:21

For what reason did the Rebbe sacrifice himself so much in order to reveal to us so many Torah lessons and the conversations which he had with us concerning the service of Hashem?

Why did R’ Noson endure so much suffering and persecution throughout his life, in order to spread and publicize the teachings of the Rebbe, and to write his own works, especially Likutei Halachos?

All of this was only in order to reveal to us ways how we can also come close to Hashem.

If so, from where do the negative feelings of despair and lack of interest come in?

There are those who suggest, that immediately when people begin to get involved in the study of the Rebbe’s works, a great passion for Hashem arouses within them. The Rebbe’s Torah, after all, has within it an enormous power to kindle the heart. However, as great is their passion is the fall afterwards. From such great desire and yearning for Hashem, they become totally confused. They don’t have any clarity what they even want from themselves. It’s self understood that from that point, it’s only a short path until total despair from service of Hashem.

The truth is that this situations stem from the fact that people study the Rebbe’s works only to search for “enlightenment” or a general inspiration. We therefore can find a person who tries to get himself going before davening, or before a Yom Tov, or even by the Rebbe’s Tziyun, etc., by opening a book, flipping through the pages, and searching for a “vort” that will excite him. In the end, he closes the book, bitter from being unable to find what he wanted.

With such an approach to the Rebbe’s teachings, it’s certainly possible to fall pretty quickly. The service of Hashem of such a person is dependant only upon intellectual stimulation and spiritual excitement.

Therefore, it’s important to remember that the works of the holy Rebbe are not only geared for the sake of inspiring the heart in a general sense. They are full of specific pieces of advice concerning every topic and issue in the service of Hashem.

When somebody wishes to strengthen himself in a specific area, e.g., Hisbodedus, it would certainly be recommended that his first step be to go through Hishtapchus HaNefesh (Outpouring of the Soul) in order to get a general feeling towards the importance of Hisbodedus. However, in addition, it’s proper to study each paragraph slowly. Let’s see what’s written here. What is Hisbodedus? What is the specific piece of advice being revealed over here? From there, to go on to the next paragraph, for every paragraph contains a unique idea.

So too, at a time when somebody wants to encourage himself, and he takes a Meshivas Nefesh (Restore my Soul). It’s necessary to know that these are not just a collection of encouraging words. In each paragraph there is a unique piece of advice. Sometimes it’s a practical piece of advice; sometimes it’s an idea, to change your outlook of the service of Hashem.

And so on, when someone wants to better himself in Torah study, in feeling the holiness of Shabbos, or watching his eyes, etc., he can take an Otzar HaYirah, which is arranged according to topic, and learn each paragraph under that heading. He should try to understand straightforwardly what’s written, what novel idea is being revealed here, and how to relate to that topic which he is now learning about.

Alternatively, one can study any book from beginning to end, paying attention to each portion. Somebody who’s able can study a Torah lesson in Likutei Moharan, and delve into it in search of the practical applications. Even if he doesn’t understand a specific piece, he can go on to the next.

The main thing is to learn slowly and with peace of mind, searching after the specific advice of the Rebbe. What is, after all Avodas Hashem? How should one act at a time when the heart is aflame, and how to act at times of darkness and lows?

In addition, generally it’s good to speak with other people who have already spent a lot of time studying the Rebbe’s teachings and to learn from them the proper way to approach them, exactly like in the study of Gemara where it’s important to study from a teacher.

With time, as one becomes more attached to the Rebbe’s works, one begins to feel a bit how he has a real Rebbe leading him step by step in the ways of coming close to Hashem.

However, the beginning must be with the knowledge that we are studying a book that screams “There is no despair in the world!” This is not only a book of general arousal, rather specific advice for everything in the world. With this he can approach the book with a warm heart and with a feeling of rejuvenation.

We have seen Breslover Chassidim who were full of fresh joy every time they studied the Rebbe’s teachings, since they knew that herein lays their remedy.

Adapted by Ephraim Portnoy

Originally published In Hebrew as “Bnei Haneurim” by R’ Avrohom Yitzchok Kletzky in the Breslov weekly, Aleh LeTrufah.

Please note, that Breslov Research Institute also has a weekly dvar Torah at: http://www.breslov.org/bookshelf/dvar.html

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The Holy One, blessed be He,
said to Moses,
“I have a precious gift
in My treasure house,
called the Sabbath,
and desire to give it to Israel;
go and inform them.”
(Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbath, 10b)
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The Baal Shem Tov’s Tefillin, reprinted with kind permission of:

Breslev Israel

The Baal Shem Tovs Tefillin

By: Rabbi Tzvi Meir Cohane

“Bind [these words] as a sign on your hand, and let them be an emblem in the center of your head.” Deuteronomy 6:8

Rabbi Lazer Brody

And then there was the time that the Baal Shem Tov was studying Torah in the Bais Medrash (study hall) with his close disciples. Suddenly, he became so sick that he was unable to speak.

The disciples became very alarmed. “Rebbe, Rebbe,” they asked, “What’s wrong? Can we get you something?”

The Baal Shem Tov motioned to his Tefillin bag. Quickly, the students took out his Tefiilin and wrapped one around his arm and put the other on his head. By this time, the Baal Shem Tov was so weak that he just lay down on a bench. He closed his eyes and didn’t move. The disciples sat by his side unsure of what to do.

After a long time passed, the Baal Shem Tov sat up and began speaking to the disciples. “Thank G·d, I’m feeling better.”

The disciples asked in a concerned voice, “Rebbe, what happened?”

The Baal Shem Tov explained, “In my youth, I committed a sin. An accusation was made against me before the Heavenly Court and the Court decided that I deserve to die. At first, I wasn’t aware of what was happening to me. All I knew was that I started to feel very, very weak. Just then, my teacher, Achiya HaShaloni (a spiritual Being and teacher of King David), came and told me the situation. Then he told me, ‘Reb YIsrael, quickly put on your Tefillin.'”

“After you put my Tefillin on,” continued the Baal Shem Tov to the disciples, “the Accuser (the Satan) came in the form of a Russian peasant carrying an iron shovel in his hand. He wanted to chop off my head. But because of the power of the Tefillin, the Satan could not get close to me. He started yelling, “Take off that leather (the Tefillin are made of leather)!” But I didn’t pay any attention to him and he continued yelling until, thank G·d, the accusation was nullified.”

The Baal Shem Tov continued, “During that time, my brother-in-law, Rabbi Gershon came to testify for me. However, the gates to the Heavenly court were closed and he couldn’t get through. But that didn’t stop Reb Gershon. He took a heavy wooden pole and started banging on the Gates until they were finally opened. Then, he ran in and started yelling before the Court in an angry voice, ‘Will you sentence Rabbi Yisrael to death, G·d forbid, for a trivial thing that happened in his youth?’ The court wasn’t able to overcome the defense of Reb Gershon and revoked their original sentence.”

The Baal Shem Tov continued, “It says in the Tikune Zohar (book of Kabbalah), the commandment of Matronita (the Schechina, the female aspect of G·d) places a man under her wings and protects him from the hand of the Accuser. So it is with the commandment of wearing Tefillin.”

And so it was.

(Rabbi Tzvi Meir Cohn of Cleveland, Ohio is the executive director of the Baal Shem Tov Foundation. He can be contacted at cohn@baalshemtov.com)

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Litvish Hitbodedut, reprinted with kind permission of:

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Litvish Hitbodedut

By: Yosef Peretz

When Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman – later known as the Ponivezher Rav, who raised the banner of Torah in Israel, was returning home to his parents he passed by the the town of Radin (in Poland pre-WWII). He later recounted:
“As I was passing by Radin, I asked myself how could I pass by the “holy sanctuary” of the Chafetz Chaim without stopping there? I took a shortcut and arrived in Radin late in the afternoon. The Chafetz Chaim’s house was dark.

I entered and found no one there. I sat down on a bench and wondered what the Chafetz Chaim looked like and whether I would merit to see him. As I meditated, the Rebetzin entered and asked me what I wanted. I told her that I wished to see the Chafetz Chaim. She told me to wait awhile until he arrives. While waiting for the Chafetz Chaim, I heard a piercing cry from the upper floor, a cry that bespoke terrible pain. Seeing that I had become frightened, the Rebbetzin approached me and said: “Sir don’t be frightened. That’s my husband praying for a woman in labor who is giving birth right now.” I immediately said to myself: “Yoshe, how can you leave such a place in which dwells a man who is capable of such heartrending crying on behalf of others?!” So I decided to stay in Radin and study under him.”

Compared to the previous generations, the service of prayer has almost completely disappeared. Many of the gedolim (leaders) of previous generations would regularly spend time in solitude and pour out their hearts to G-d.

The technological revolution has disconnected us with nature, and as a result, with ourselves and with G-d. The constant chatter of crowds of people, the endless noise of machines and electronic gadgets has barraged and cluttered our minds. Technology has also brought with it long work weeks at meaningless jobs, doing meaningless work resulting in millions of people with unprecedented dissatisfaction and mental illnesses.

To develop a proper awareness of G-d’s presence (yiras shamayim), a person needs to spend time alone. As long as he is with other people, or involved in activities, he can put the reality of G-d’s presence aside so to speak. But when he finds himself alone, especially in raw nature, untouched by the hands of man, “the awesome presence of the King falls on him and his heart breaks (Talmud Berachos 34b Rashi-‘dmatzli’) “. This is why the Talmud says (Berachos 5b) one should try to pray at the front of the synagogue with no separation between oneself and the wall. As long as there are other people in front of you who can see your face, you’re not mentally alone and cannot turn to G-d properly (covering one’s face with a tallis helps in this regard).

Of course, G-d is here with you always. He’s here in this room right now. And one should pause and think for a moment about this. My teacher, Rabbi Moshe Lazerus, shlita (a Rosh Yeshiva and close student of Avigdor Miller zt”l), taught us that it is crucial to spend 10 minutes a day in seclusion and privacy in order to talk to Hashem. He used to tell us (to the effect of) “I don’t know how you can daven (pray) or be religious for that matter, without having a personal relationship with Hashem. Who are you praying to? A concept? I empathize with you. Without a relationship with Him, prayer must be torture. Doing this makes Him real. G-d becomes real. The Torah becomes real, it comes alive. The Avos are suddenly real people that lived and not just stories. They’re your relatives, your great-grandparents.”

By the way, the procedure he recommended for this, is to lock yourself in a room every day for 5 or 10 minutes and talk to Him (no phones, etc., if possible put a “do not disturb” sign). As you talk to Him, imagine what you think He would say to you.

For example, thank Him for what you are grateful for, like health, food, good parents, etc. Then tell Him what you think He owes you…

Basically, to develop a personal relationship with Him in the tradition of the great baalei mussar.

If you’re the deeply spiritual type, I would also suggest, return to nature once a month for a few hours. Send the crowds away, go to the forests or to the mountains, and seek Him in receptive silence. Many of the great baalei mussar did this on a daily basis (the really great ones hid away for years). Observe the trees and flowers and animals and birds, the sea and clouds and sky and stars. It’s a tremendous way to reconnect with Him. Hopefully, the barriers will drop, and you will see, you will make contact. You will feel the King’s awesome presence and the infinite wisdom in His creation. That is the cure for loneliness. Generally, we seek to cure our loneliness through emotional dependence on people, through gregariousness and noise. That is no cure. Get back to things, get back to reality. Then you will know that your heart has brought you to the vast desert of solitude, there is no one there at your side, absolutely no one.

The truth is eventually you will lose every single person in your life, never to see them again. You will lose your parents, your wife, your siblings, your children, your friends – everybody. And you will be utterly alone.

Alone that is, except for the Almighty. Now’s the time to build the relationship with Him. (Just don’t get me wrong. I don’t advocate being a loner. A person should be “mixed” with others and try to help them, whether emotionally or physically. Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l said that you should make efforts to do things so that people will like you. The main point, though is not to lose the most important relationship.)

The Chafetz Chaim once saw a very happy student in his yeshiva come to bid him farewell before returning to his parents for the festivals. The Chafetz Chaim turned to his disciples around him and said “See how happy this talmid is to be going back to his father’s house. Is this not the way a Jew should feel when he is about to die and return to his Father in Heaven?”. – Sparks of Mussar pg.218

Rav Miller zt”l also gave a practical method for developing a relationship with Hashem: (tape shaar habitachon – chovos halevavos).

1.  Constantly ask G-d for help.

Before you proceed on anything, ask Him for help.

Example: Salesman in waiting room. “Ribono Shel Olam, give me success with this customer.”

Or if you want to learn a sugya in shas, say “Hashem, give me success in learning this subject in the gemora.”

Or if you’re going for a walk, ask Hashem to give you success in crossing all the streets safely.

2.  Thank Hashem no matter the outcome.

If it happens that you are successful, thank Hashem profusely, at length afterwards and always consider what he did for you.

Even if you were not successful, you should still thank Hashem because whatever happens is certainly for your benefit.

Rav Miller advised that in using this method, a person will learn to attribute everything that happens to him to Hashem and build the precious fundamental, trait of bitachon (trust in G-d). People generally have an incorrect and simplistic understanding of Bitachon. They believe, if you ask hard enough Hashem will do what you want. This is really the opposite of `bitachon’. The Chazon Ish explains bitachon as – trusting that whatever Hashem does is for the best and that He KNOWS what He is doing! (heard from Rabbi Lazerus)

I’ll end off with this incredible statement by Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm (one of the great mussar giants of pre-WWII Europe) zt”l wrote:

“A great principle in joy of the heart and health of the body, and more for the service of G-d is to search for closeness (kirva) to G-d and not closeness to human beings. Besides being a big headache in many ways, there’s no greater burden on a person than seeking closeness from other human beings. And what is a man that you want to search for closeness to him? He seems like a friend when it is to his benefit, or when he wants to, but they don’t stand by a person in his difficult time (pirkei avos 2:3) But closeness to G-d, although He’s not visible, there is no time that He doesn’t want. Know my precious son, that the main wealth of a person is that which is in a person’s hand and noone else can touch. All the more so, it should not depend on other people’s whims. And one who seeks closeness to human beings, he is in need of gifts from flesh and blood. There’s no difference between seeking physical gifts from others and seeking closeness (emotional gifts) from them. It’s all the same. And therefore, there is no greater poor man than one who seeks closeness and love from others, and there is no greater wealth than he who has removed from himself the desire to be loved by other human beings.” – (Sefer Zikaron Beis Kelm pg.265)

In summation, the best way to get the best perspective is to begin by taking those 10 minutes a day to develop a relationship with or reconnect to Hashem.

Reprinted with kind permission of
Daf Yomi Review

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Conditions for Learning Kabbalah, reprinted with kind permission of:

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Conditions for Learning Kabbalah

Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri ob”m

Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri, of saintly and blessed memory

Rav Kaduri was considered the last of the great Sefardi Kabalists. There were thousands of eyewitness accounts which showed he possessed clairvoyant powers. For example, a wealthy man once came to him and asked him to bless his silver kiddush goblet. Years later, at his daughter’s wedding in America, the wealthy man wanted to use the goblet but at the last moment, he couldn’t find it. He panicked and eventually called Rav Kaduri in Israel and asked him what he should do. Rav Kaduri paused for a moment, then gave him the name of the man at the wedding party who had stolen the goblet. (from the book “HaRav Kaduri”)

Some quotes from the book:”HaRav Kaduri” compiled by his students.

*   His daily learning schedule consisted of much learning of gemora and shulchan aruch (talmud and Jewish law), and he would permit the study of kabala ONLY to those who demonstrated bekius (broad knowledge) in the revealed portion of torah (talmud and shulchan aruch). He would often say ‘It is forbidden to study kabala before learning halacha and gemora (talmud)’. His helpers would testify that most of his learning was in Talmud Bavli, tractate after tractate in order.

*   His student, Rav Beniyahu Shmueli would say, “it is important to emphasize very clearly that he did not just study kabala. He would also learn much Shas U’Poskim (talmud and halacha). Every time we would visit him, we would see him sitting and learning gemora b’iyun (talmud in depth) in the way he received from his teacher, the Sages of Yeshivas Porat Yosef…. Twenty six students were in his inner circle of talmidim of which he was the head. And only a person who was married could sit with them (pg.16)….

*   (Rav Kaduri:)”Whoever did not fill his stomach with shas and poskim, gemora and shulchan aruch (talmud and Jewish law), is not fit to learn kabala.” (pg104)

*   In the early Yeshiva (~50 years ago) there were 60 kabalists, who studied kabala according to the way of the holy Arizal. And in that time, only those who were lamdanim (sharp scholars) who had aleady filled their stomachs with shas and poskim. The title “Mekubal” (kabalist) was given only to one who studied kabala for at least 15 years and prayed with the kavanos of the Rashash (special kabalistic permutations and combinations of divine names and attributes of G-d).

*   A higher level than “Mekubal” was “Mekaven” (more advanced kavanos). Each level had its conditions. Rav Kaduri was a “Mekaven”.
Some quotes from the book Etz Chaim by Rabbi Chaim Vital zt’l
(from Etz Chaim Introduction)

1.   Reishit HaKol Yirat H’ (beginning of everything is the fear of G-d), to reach Yirat HaOnesh (fear of punishment, in order not to come to any sin). Yirat Haromemut (fear from awe) comes only from great wisdom.

2.   Ikar (main) desire to destroy kotzim from kerem (thorns from the vineyard). And certainly the klipos (impure forces) will come to fight him to make him sin. Therefore do not come to any sin, even shogeg (unintentional) so that they will not have any shaychus (connection) with you.

3.   Lifrosh from basar and yayin (to not eat meat nor drink wine) during week (except Shabbat). Seek Peace and don’t be makpid (irritated) on anything small or big, and all the more so to not to get angry.

4.   to guard all details of mitzvos, even rabbinic decrees.

5.   to guard from anger even when rebuking sons. no anger whatsoever.

6.   guard from gayva (arrogance).

7.   Every tzar (suffering) that comes yefashpesh bmasav and teshuva (examine your ways and repent).

8.   immerse in a mikve when needed.

9.   not to have a night go by without cheshbon hanefesh and vidui (examining your ways and repenting on any sins, i.e. to not go to sleep without a clean record).

10.   Minimize business. if no money, prepare day 3 and 4 from noon and above with kavana that it is for service of Creator.

11.   every word which is not mitzva or necessary – guard from it. and even for mitzva guard during tefila.

12.   before entering synagogue – put to heart “love your fellow as yourself”

13.   to put G-d’s (Y-H-V-H) name before oneself always and tremble from Him – (see first halacha in Shulchan Aruch- Rama and “Shaarei Kedusha” part 4 gate 3)

14.   Toil in torah pardes (all four levels). No secrets are given to those empty of wisdom.

15.   Keep quiet (i.e. don’t speak unnecessary words) as much as possible and for everything you don’t understand – cry on it (i.e. in prayer to G-d) as much as possible…

* * *

“At first one must learn halachos (talmud) and fulfill them because they are like bread which satiate and only afterwards to toil in the secrets which are compared to wine and oil. Whoever switches around the order, will not succeed and he will lose everything.” (Vilna Gaon on Mishlei/Proverbs 21:17)

Editor’s comment:

Proficiency in the Kabala without proficiency in the talmud first is like a child reading an advanced physics books. Talmud study (among other things) teaches one to think clearly and discern the absolute truth in a matter which is the foundation of a man. The kabala is written in hidden, allegoric form. Only one who has developed his intellect through years of in-depth talmud study is capable of even beginning to decipher the meaning from the allegory. One who has not reached this level will take the allegories too literally and will get at best, nowhere.

Reprinted with kind permission of
Daf Yomi Review

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