The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov
by Yitzhak Buxbaum


Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov is one of the greatest Jewish teachers of all time and the inspiration for much of what is alive today in Judaism, in all the denominations. Yet amazingly, this is the first comprehensive book in English about his life!

Yitzhak Buxbaum has researched everything available from hasidic and academic sources, in Hebrew and English. He has collected tales, teachings, and parables to produce a wonderful, inspiring "life-story." The book is not just "about" the Besht but a spiritual "scripture," like something written centuries ago. Accessible to everyone, it contains material that will be new to the most knowledgeable reader.
This book is helpful in that it gives the reader and understanding into the nature of Jewish aggadah and how a historical person can have stories spun around their person and work, which would inflame a literalist and cause a Mythicist to dismiss said historical figure out of hand as a mere mythological construct. Aggadah is a perfectly legitimate literary form of communication in Judaism, which understands how to separate the wheat from the chaff without tossing the whole harvest into the fire.

This comes across loud and clear at the beginning of the book where we read the following:

Many miracle tales are told about the Baal Shem Tov, and a person may wonder; "What should I believe?" The Rebbes were not so simple-minded as to naively believe any story they heard.

Rebbe Mordechai of Neshkiz said, "I don't give much credence to the miracle stories told about the tzaddikim, because many of the stories are fabricated, and others are riddled with errors - except for the stories told about the Baal Shem Tov, may the memory of a tzaddik be a blessing for the life of the World-To-Come. For even if a story about him never actually occurred, and there was no such miracle, it was in the power of the Baal Shem Tov, may his memory be a blessing for the life of the World-To-Come, to perform everything."

Rebbe Yaakov Yitzhak, the Seer of Lublin, said, "If someone would come and tell me that he saw the Baal Shem Tov go up on a ladder into heaven while alive, bodily, with his clothes on, I would believe him. Because it's fitting to believe everything told about the Baal Shem Tov."

Rebbe Shlomo of Radomsk said, "Whoever believes all the miracle stories about the Baal Shem Tov in Shivhei HaBaal Shem Tov (i.e., the Earliest Collection of Legends About the Founder of Hasidism) is a fool, but whoever denies them is an apikoros (i.e., non-religious Jew)."

Rebbe Naftali of Ropshitz said, "All the miracles people tell about the Baal Shem Tov were certainly in his power to do, and even many more, but in actuality, most of them never happened."

Yet something profound may be learned even from a miracle story that never happened, for the tale can send a ray of holy light into our soul to elevate and enliven us. (Ibid., p. 5).
Yes, it's too bad the Gentile Church didn't understand the nature of the aggadhot about the historical Yeshua.

I know.... You're probably thinking what in the world does a book about the 18th century founder of Hasidism have to do with a 1st century Jewish Sage-Prophet like Yeshua? Well, I'm only 1/4 of the way through this book and the parallels between the life, times and teachings of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer and the historical Yeshua ben Yosef are amazing to say the least.

If you want to get a real handle on what Yeshua was trying to accomplish via his Repentance Movement and the way he went about attempting to advance the Kingdom of Heaven amongst the Am Ha-Aretz (Common Folk) and Chilonim (Secular Jews) of his day and age, then get this book by Yitzhak Buxbaum. I promise that you will not be disappointed by it!

This is truly a fascinating read even if you don't wish to see any parallels to the historical Yeshua in this book, which is going to be kind of hard to do, IMO.


http://yitzhakbuxbaum.blogspot.com/