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Spreading the Wellsprings

A story is told of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement. He once ascended to Heaven and met with Moshiach. He asked him, “When are you coming, my master?”

Moshiach answered, “When your wellsprings will spread outward,” i.e. when the teachings of Chassidut will spread to the furthest reaches of the world. The nature of a spring is to flow outward. People do not have to dig or draw up water from a spring; it simply flows out, even to a distance, and anyone who wants can come and drink.

This is the approach to use in disseminating the teachings of Chassidut: not to sit and wait until people approach you, seeking knowledge. Rather we should go out in order to spread the wellsprings.

This method of teaching began with the high priest Aaron, who, as described in Ethics of Our Fathers, “loved peace, pursued peace, loved his fellows and brought them close to Torah.” He did not wait for people to come to him. He himself would approach people and bring them close to Torah. He went “outward,” to those who were most distant, in order to teach them.

Aaron did not bring the Torah to the people, but the people to the Torah. He did not compromise or water down the Torah’s message in order to make it more palatable to the masses. Rather, he uplifted his listeners to make them able to receive the truth of the Torah.

This service of Aaron is alluded to in this week’s Torah portion, Behaalotecha (Bamidbar 8:2), “When you will raise the lights.” Aaron was given the task of lighting the menorah daily in the Temple.

The light of a candle symbolizes the soul. The task of Aaron was to “raise the lights,” or to ignite the souls of all the people. Regardless of one’s background or current level of observance, every Jew has a G-dly light within, although hidden, perhaps. Aaron would ignite that candle, through revealing the soul and inspiring the person to reach his or her full potential.

On the words “When you will raise the lights,” Rashi in his commentary explains, “He is required to kindle the lamp until the flame rises by itself.” The same is true when working with others. It is not enough merely to ignite the spark within the soul. One must continue to teach and support them until they can stand on their own – until the inspiration takes root and they can go on to light their own flame, and even inspire others.

This is what it means to “spread the wellsprings.” To go out and reach all Jews and ignite the spark in their soul. Even if the light is hidden, it is embedded deep within and needs only someone who is fired up with love, like Aaron, to reveal that inner G-dly light.


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