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The Ba’al Shem Tov: From One End of the World to the Other

In the book “Or Hameir” by Rabbi Ze’ev of Zhitomir, the disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch, it is written that once, the disciples of the Ba’al Shem Tov needed to know about something in a place distant from Mezhibuz, where they were located.

The Ba’al Shem Tov opened the Zohar that was on the table, studied it, and told his disciples what would transpire in that distant place. The disciples asked how, by looking in the Zohar, the Ba’al Shem Tov saw something in a distant place.

“With the light that God created on the first day of creation, Adam was able to see from one end of the world to the other,” the Ba’al Shem Tov explained. “This means from the end of the Concealed World from above to below until the end of the Revealed World from below to above. God saw that the world was not worthy to use this light and stored it away. Where did he store it? In the Torah. If a person studies Torah for its own sake, it illuminates the world for him from one end to the other.”

On a number of different occasions, the Ba’al Shem Tov explained how by looking in the Zohar he was able to see distant things.

Unification of Concealed and Revealed

The ocean, which alludes to the World to Come, is called the “Concealed World,” because it is hidden underwater. The dry land alludes to this world – the Revealed World. The border between the ocean and dry land is the end of the Concealed World from above to below and also the end of the Revealed World from below to above. This is one explanation in Chasidut for “from one end of the world to the other.” The Ba’al Shem Tov reveals that the light of Creation unites the concealed and the revealed, the World to Come with this world.

Moses saw from one end of the world to the next and his face was illuminated by that concealed light. Hence, he covered his face with a מסוה (veil). Accordingly, the first letters of the word מסוה are an acronym for "מסוף העולם ועד סופו" (from one end of the world to the other). In gematria, מסוה equals  אל"ף (1000) which is a permutation of the פלא (wonder) that preceded the creation of the world. If a person learns Torah לשמה (for its own sake), the world is illuminated for him from one end to the other, like משה (Moses – a permutation of לשמה).

The Torah is light, as is written, “And Torah is light.”[1] The sages explain that the concealed light of the Torah is not the same light, but rather, an additional, double light – in addition to the light of the Torah itself.

Rabbi Meir, whose name also means “light,” said: “All those who engage in the Torah for its own sake, merit many things.”[2] One of those things is “they reveal to him the secrets of the Torah.”  In this story, we learn that one merits not only the secrets of the Torah, but also the ability to see from one end of the world to the other.

Image by Eike Wilkens from Pixabay

[1] Proverbs 6:23.

[2] Pirkei Avot 6:1.

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