The Service of the Ba'al Shem Tov

Trembling in the Divine Presence

Once, the Maggid of Mezeritch, the main disciple and the successor to the Baal Shem Tov, related how once the Baal Shem Tov was leading the prayers on the first day of Pesach. The Baal Shem Tov was praying with great desire and fervor and his voice was booming like thunder.

Just before the Mussaf service which include the sublime prayer for dew, the Maggid stepped out to seclude himself in meditation for a few moments in a side room. Without notice Baal Shem Tov came in to the room to put on his Kittel (special white robe prayer robe) for the Mussaf sevice.

The Maggid observed that the Divine Presence of Hashem had descended upon his master, and he did not seem to be at all in this world. The Baal Shem Tov put his Kittel on, and the Maggid saw that it was wrinkled on the shoulder. He put out his hand to smooth the wrinkle and the moment it touched the shoulder of the Baal Shem Tov, his whole body began to tremble. (The Baal Shem Tov was already trembling due to the Divine prescence resting on him). Even after the Baal Shem Tov had left his presence, the Maggid continued to tremble uncontrollably until he beseeched Hashem in prayer to stop it since was clearly not yet prepared to have such an experience of the Divine Presence.

Torah from Another World

R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the Baal HaTanya related that he heard from his master, the Great Maggid of Mezeritch, that once the Baal ShemTov was teaching a group of his close disciples. He began to reveal to them secrets and hidden mysteries of the Torah that had never before been heard by human ears. One must keep in mind as well, said the Baal HaTanya, that the Maggid, even before he met the Baal ShemTov was a tremendous sage in his own right. He was a master of Halacha and Talmud and there was not a tome of Jewish mysticism that he had not learned at least 101 times!

Yet, the Maggid was incredulous, how could a man born of woman could actually be privy to such esoteric wisdom. He was sure that the soul of the Baal ShemTov had broken loose from its moorings in his body and it alone was now expounding to them the secrets of the Torah.

Finally, with great trepidation and wonderment, two of the disciples approached the Baal ShemTov and began to pat him on the arms and shoulder in utter disbelief to find that a flesh and blood man was standing before them.