Pay it Forward: Become a Supporter of the Work. Learn More
Very often when we look at ourselves spiritually, we look at where we have to grow and what we have to do, and we want to become a better version of ourselves. But the truth is that we do not need to become a better version of ourselves; we need to become a completely different person altogether. And this – becoming a completely different person altogether - is a gift of Shavuot, and therefore, a gift that continues into this Shabbat Naso.
There is a section in the Idra Raba on this great revelation, and as we read it we are reawakening for ourselves not only the Light of the Idra Raba that was revealed on this Shabbat, but more specifically, the Light of the great secrets that we are given on this Shabbat.
Rav Shimon says to the friends, “When it is the time to reveal Light, when it is time to change, you have to push aside everything that came before.” This is the first step into really receiving the Light and gifts of this Shabbat; that in order to become this new being, we have to remove completely whatever was there before that we were trying to make a little bit better. Rav Shimon goes on to ask, “How long will we accept remaining in this low level of connection?”
And all of us, if we really want to receive the gift of Shavuot and this Shabbat, have to say in our minds that we are no longer satisfied just to become a better person or a better version of ourselves. We have to want to become a completely different person and no longer accept who we are today. Because the potential that we really have within us, the secret that is within us, is somebody we cannot comprehend today.
I’d like to share a story from the Baal Shem Tov that relates to this revelation. There were different stages in his life, and the first part of his life, where this story is from, was hidden. During this time, he traveled the world, but did not let anybody know his true essence or greatness.
So the story goes that when he began teaching and disseminating this wisdom, he received a message that there was one person who was meant to be his student and take everything that he revealed further. The student’s name was Dov Ber from the city of Mezritch, also known as the Maggid of Mezritch. But the Baal Shem Tov didn’t know what to do, because this man who’s meant to become his student was a very wise man, had been learning his entire life, but had a, we’ll call it, healthy ego. There was no logical way that this person, Dov Ber of Mezritch, would come to study from the Baal Shem Tov.
Dov Ber of Mezritch had a persistent problem with his leg. The doctors couldn’t help, and his wife told him, “I heard there’s a miracle worker named the Baal Shem Tov. Maybe if you go to him, he’ll be able to heal your leg.” But Dov Ber of Mezritch told her that he’s been learning, studying, and praying his entire life and he doubts if this man is going to be able to help him.
This goes on for months. His leg keeps getting worse, and his wife keeps telling him to give it a chance. He agrees after a few months of nagging, and travels to where the Baal Shem Tov lives. He arrives in the morning, and goes to see the Baal Shem Tov, who tells him that a few weeks ago he was traveling with his horses and was worried that they had been traveling so long that they weren’t going to find food for his carriage driver, Alexi. But thank God, towards the end of the day they stopped in a village and found food for him.
Then the Baal Shem Tov says goodbye to the Dov Ber of Mezritch, who, as he walks out of the room, is upset. He realizes that not only is this guy not going to help him, but also thinks he’s an idiot. It gets to be the afternoon, and the Dov Ber of Mezritch’s driver tells him the conditions are too dangerous to leave then and that they should leave in the morning.
At six o’clock the attendant of the Baal Shem Tov knocks on the door where Dov Ber was staying, and tells him the Baal Shem Tov wants to see him. And the Dov Ber of Mezritch realizes at this point that he’s stuck here for the day, so decides, “Ok, let me have some fun.” So he goes to the Baal Shem Tov again, and the Baal Shem Tov says, “I forgot to tell you that on the same trip I was talking about, we also forgot to pack hay and I was concerned that we weren’t going to have food for the horses to eat either. But thank God, in that same village where we found food for Alexi there was also hay for the horses to eat. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t forget to tell you that.” And Dov Ber walks back to his room, wondering how anybody could possibly look up to this man and see him as a teacher or miracle worker.
At around midnight there’s a knock on his door, and again it’s the Baal Shem Tov’s attendant who says that the Baal Shem Tov wants to see him. The Dov Ber of Mezritch is thinking, “What, did he not tell me all the details of that trip?” But since he was stuck there already, he decides to go, and this time the Baal Shem Tov asks him if he ever studies from the writings of the Ari, Rav Isaac Luria, the great kabbalist. The Dov Ber of Mezritch says, “Of course. I’ve been studying it my entire life.”
The Baal Shem Tov takes down one of the books, the 'Etz Chayim', from the 'Writings of the Ari' and asks him to read and explain a certain section. Dov Ber starts reading it, a section that he had been studying his entire life. He’s reading it very slowly for the Baal Shem Tov to be able to understand, and gives him a long, slow explanation.
In the middle of his explanation, the Baal Shem Tov grabs the book away from the Dov Ber of Mezritch and tells him that everything he said is completely wrong. The Baal Shem Tov then starts reading from the 'Etz Chayim', and as he’s saying the words, Light comes into the room. As he says the names of the angels that are mentioned by the Ari, angels begin entering the room. And as this begins to happen, Dov Ber faints.
The Baal Shem Tov closes the 'Etz Chayim', the book from the 'Writings of the Ari', and puts it back on the shelf. He says to the Dov Ber of Mezritch, “You’ve been studying your entire life. You have all the information. But all of your work and all of your knowledge is without soul. And all the work that you do and all the information that you gather means nothing if you’re not able to inject the Light into it.”
And this is the way that the Maggid of Mezritch became the Baal Shem Tov’s first and main student.
From this story we receive the understanding of what has to change about our spiritual life. We have to ask that our work not be like the work of the Maggid of Mezritch before he came to the Baal Shem Tov. We have to ask ourselves -how much Light do we taste in our work, in our connections? If we are okay with our spiritual lives, and it would just be a nice addition to taste a little bit more, to see a little bit more of the Light, then we’re not going to receive it. It has to be a necessity; we have to be at the point where we say, “I am not satisfied and will not be satisfied unless I truly taste the Light.”
Remember, this gift was given to us on Shavuot. But to manifest it, to truly bring it into our lives, we can’t accept what was before. We do not want that this Shabbat simply gives us an addition to who we were. We want to be a completely new person that senses, feels, tastes, and sees the Light in everything.