Test run

Reflecting on study of the Baal Shem Tov

How would you integrate the teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov into your thought, your life, and into your work as a rabbi?

One answer is that I hope to continue studying the Besht's teachings. Despite their relative textual simplicity, there's a depth to them, and they speak to me deeply. Another answer is that I hope to continue teaching the Besht's teachings, on the theory that the best way to learn something is to give it over to someone else in turn.

I've found great value in [what my teacher Reb Burt calls] the Sacred Study Process. I've found the practice of asking "what is my immediate personal response to the teaching?" and "what underlying question do I think the teaching seeks to answer?" to be incredibly helpful, and I'd like to share those with others.

Still a third answer is that I know I will have to take a step back from active text study and teaching in the coming year, as I allow myself to immerse in parenthood. So then how will I integrate the Baal Shem Tov's teachings into my life as a new mother? My hope is that the learning we've done will germinate in me, yielding new insights.

Perhaps when I find myself frustrated with changing diapers, I'll remember the Besht's injunction to create a dwelling-place for God by doing whatever work is at hand with holy consciousness and full attention.

Perhaps when I am feeling overwhelmed with love for my son -- or when I am feeling overwhelmed and unable access that overflow of emotion -- I will remember the Besht's teaching that when we love our fellow human beings we are loving the spark of God which enlivens each of us, and in that way loving my son will become a path to (or a manner of) loving God.

It may be that I won't know how the Besht's teachings will ripen and bear fruit in me until a year has gone by, or two, or ten. But I'm committed to continuing to delve into them. I see myself (and my chevre / classmates) as new buds on the tree which he planted, and I aspire to live up to his teaching as my rabbinate unfolds.