# 431(s5766-21/ 24 Shevat 5766)

The Baal Shem Tov's Past Life in Safed

Rabbi Adam Baal Shem revealed to the Baal Shem Tov that his holy soul had previously lived in Tsfat (Safed).

The Baal Shem Tov's Past Life in Safed


The underground movement which came to be known as "chasidut" began nearly a century before the Baal Shem Tov was born. While he was still a teenager, the leader of the movement at the time, Rabbi Adam Baal Shem, revealed to the young Yisrael the previous incarnation of his holy soul.

In the year 5333 (1573), there lived a humble, unlearned Jew in the holy city of Tsfat (Safed) in the north of Israel. This guileless man did not know how to study Torah, he could read only well enough to manage the prayer.

One night, after he had just completed reciting Tikun Chatzot -- the midnight prayer of the pious lamenting the destroyed Holy Temple -- he heard a knock on the door. He asked who was there, and the reply he heard was none other than, "It is Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah, the prophet)." He quickly opened the door and as Eliyahu entered, the room suddenly shone with light and joy.

Eliyahu gazed at him for a moment and said, "I have come to divulge to you the wondrous secret of when Mashiach will come. But only on the condition that you first reveal to me what was the special meritorious act you did on the day of your Bar Mitzvah, for that is what moved the Heavenly Court to rule that you are worthy of hearing the revelation of this most hidden mystery."

The man answered simply, "What I did, I did only in honor of G-d. Therefore, it is not proper that I reveal it to others. If this means that you too will not divulge to me the secret of redemption, then I forgo that privilege. I shall remain true to my belief that a man's deeds should be solely for the glory of G-d."

As soon as the Tsfat man completed what he had to say, Eliyahu disappeared. In Heaven there was a great commotion, caused by the simple yet profound and sincere response of the Jew, indicating his devotion to G-d, even at the cost of losing the chance to learn one of the most important secrets of Heaven.

The Heavenly Court finally ruled that Eliyahu should anyway again appear to the man and teach him Torah and its secrets. After some time, this simple man became unique in his generation, but as he modestly wished, no one knew of his greatness. His deeds and achievements were solely for the glory of G-d.

When the time came for him to pass away, his pure soul came before the Heavenly Court. They pondered his case. In the end they decided that his reward would be to descend again to the physical world and be reborn. This time he would be forced to reveal his greatness, and his holy soul would contain the potential to initiate a new path in the service of G-d, infusing the world with holiness and purity. Thus would he glorify the Holy Name, fill the earth with wisdom and thereby hasten the ultimate redemption.

It was this soul of the simple sincere Jew of Tsfat that was reborn in Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov.

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Tales of the Baal Shem Tov" by Yisroel Yaakov Klapholtz (Feldheim), vol. 1 and www.sichosinenglish.org - both renditions translated from Hatamim, a turn-of-the-century Chabad publication.

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer (18 Elul 1698 - 6 Sivan 1760), the Baal Shem Tov ["master of the good Name"], a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed the Chassidic movement and his own identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 1734. He wrote no books, although many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava'at Harivash, published by Kehos


Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.

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