Selfless Service

Once the Baal Shem Tov set out to journey to the Land of Israel. Pesach (Passover) was approaching, and he had no money with which to buy the needed supplies. A wealthy merchant, hearing of his plight, came forward and donated a generous amount of money that allowed the Baal Shem Tov to observe the holy week without worry. Knowing the man to be childless, the Baal Shem Tov blessed him for his generosity and promised him that within the year his wife would bear a child.

When the merchant had gone, a Bat Koh pealed out from heaven: “Did you not know that this man’s wife was barren? Because of your promise, the Holy One has to change the very course of nature. For this you will forfeit your place in the World to Come.”

Rather than collapse in despair at having lost his heavenly reward, the Baal Shem Tov danced with joy. “Thank You,” he called to God. “Before this I always worried that my service to You was tainted by the thought of reward, but now I have the opportunity to serve You with no thought of reward, for even the World to Come is closed to me!”

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COMMENTARY

What do you want from spiritual practice? Enlightenment? Bliss? Happiness? Salvation? An end to suffering? A place in paradise? As long as you have a reward in mind, your practice is tainted. Yet, is it possible to act with no goal in mind? Can the ego act without expecting something in return?

When one acts without a goal, with no sense of reward, the act itself becomes the point, and the reward is immediate. This is what all the great mystics know: The doing is the receiving! The doing is the salvation!

NOTES:

Pesach (Passover): One of the three pilgrimage festivals mentioned in the Torah; like the other two, Sukkos and Shavuos, it has a historical, agricultural, and mystical dimension. Historically, Pesach marks the liberation of the Hebrews from Egyptian slavery; agriculturally, it celebrates the beginning of the barley harvest; kabbalistically, it is a period of deep introspection when we seek to free ourselves from the things that enslave us to the narrow places of selfishness and ego.

The kabbalists derive their understanding from a play on the Hebrew word for Egypt: mitzrayim. The Hebrew can be read as “Egypt” or as “from narrow places” (mi = from; tzar = narrow place; im = plural suffix). Egypt is, spiritually speaking, the narrow place of enslavement, and this can refer to any habit of heart, mind, or body that promotes selfishness and egotism.

Bat Kol (literally, “Daughter of a Voice,” or “Echo”): An audible heavenly revelation.

Rabbi Yisroel (Israel) ben Eliezer (רבי ישראל בן אליעזר August 27, 1698 (18 Elul) – May 22, 1760), often called Baal Shem Tov or Besht, was a Jewish mystical rabbi. He is considered to be the founder of Hasidic Judaism.

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Published in: on May 28, 2011 at 1:43 am  Leave a Comment  

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