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On the Holy Sparks and their Redemption

by the Baal Shem Tov (Israel ben Eliezer)

(With Intepretive Comments by Yakov Leib Hakohain)

 
1. The holy sparks that fell when God built and destroyed the worlds, man shall raise and purify upward from stone to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to speaking being, purify the holy sparks that are imprisoned in the world of shells.
 


[COMMENT: According to the Jewish Oral Scriptures (Midrash Rabba, Genesis 1:5 and 1:31) God created and cast away many worlds before He created this one. But only the 16th century Kabbalah of Isaac Luria gives this pre-creation a greater meaning than that of a gradual perfecting. According to Luria - and all Kabbalists who came after him, and also the "Big Bang" theorists of modern astro-physics - there was a "Shattering of the Vessels" at the moment of creation from which "holy sparks" have fallen into the "shells" -- the separating, hindering, demonic "enclosures" that alone are "evil." But these sparks fell in order to be raised: for the sake of man's working in partnership with God on the redemption of the universe, they were created and fell.]


 
2. All that man has, his servant, his animals, his tools, all conceal sparks that belong to the roots of his soul and wish to be raised by him to their Source.
 
[COMMENT: This "raising of the sparks" is called "Tikkun," or "repair."]  See the following pages
 
Tikkun (definition) Tikkunim of the Baal Shem Tov Tikkunim for the 21st Century How to make Tikkun the easy way The Tikkun of Trivial Things
 
3. All things of this world that belong to a person desire with all their might to draw near him in order that the Holy Sparks that are in them should be raised by him back to their Source. 
 
[COMMENT: It was for this reason that St. Francis of Assisi is said to have preached to the animals, and the Baal Shem Tov "knew the language of birds."
 
4. Man eats them, man drinks them, man uses them; these are the Sparks that dwell in the things. Therefore, one should have mercy on his tools and all his possessions for the sake of the Sparks that are in them; one should have mercy on the Holy Sparks. 
The Baal Shem Tov
 
 [COMMENT: The notion of the Holy Sparks and their Tikkun invests all of life -- from the most profound to the most trivial -- with sacramental significance.]
 
5. Take care that all you do for God's sake be itself service of God.  Thus eating: do not say that the intention of eating shall be that you gain strength. This is a good intention, of course; but the true perfection only exists where the deed itself happens to heaven, for that is where the holy sparks are raised.
 
 [COMMENT: Do everything you do with the primary intention of liberating the holy sparks contained in whatever it is you touch and do. For example: when you eat, don't eat only to nourish or please yourself, but rather to release and raise up the holy sparks contained in your food. Again, see my post, "How to Make Tikkun the Easy Way."]
 
 6. In all that is in the world dwell holy sparks, no thing is empty of them. In the actions of men also, indeed even in the sins that a man does, dwell holy sparks of the glory of God. And what is it that the sparks await that dwell in the sins? It is the Turning. In the hour where you turn from a sin you have embraced you raise the holy spark entrapped by it to the Higher World of Heaven. 
 
 [COMMENT: The "Great Maggid," the disciple personally chosen by the Baal Shem Tov to succeed him said, "The Holy Spark lies hidden in sin as oil in the olive." Thus, the antinomianism of Sabbatian Kabbalah is brought into nominal Judaism by the Hassidus of the BeSHT.]
 
 
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page uploaded 7 November 1998
revised 24 November