Remembering each and every person who was lost, may their memory be a blessing.
Dedicated by Mina and Suzanne Goodman

Day 43

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760)

Dedicated to a remarkable woman who triumphed over the Holocaust with spirit and dignity. Esther Bat Reb Dovid Petachya, an 8th generation descendant of the Baal Shem Tov.

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidism, lived in Miedzyborz in the Ukraine in the 18th century. Baal Shem means “Master of the Name,” referring to the Divine Name, since a Baal Shem would use kabbalistic amulets, which included names of the Divine, to heal the sick. But the Baal Shem Tov did much more than this. He changed the way people think about Judaism. The Baal Shem Tov came from a poor family and was orphaned as a child. There are stories of him, as a young boy, going alone into the forest, meditating on the closeness of God. In his youth, he worked for a time as an assistant teacher, inspiring the children in his care, and his unique spiritual qualities were recognised by the learned scholar Rabbi Ephraim of Brody, who betrothed his daughter Chana to him. Her brother Rabbi Gershon of Kuty was a well-known kabbalist, who initially was disrespectful to Rabbi Israel, but later became his ardent follower. When the Baal Shem Tov was still a young man, he led a circle of spiritual scholars in a study house in Miedzyborz. Unlike many great scholars of the time, he was determined to be accessible to ordinary people. He used his mystical knowledge to help the many people who would come to him for advice and blessing, both in material terms and spiritually. In addition, his help often had a practical basis: people would give him money when helped by him, which he used for the benefit of others, such as paying the ransom for Jews who had been imprisoned by the lawless Polish noblemen of the time.


Dr Naftali Loewenthal

Dr Naftali Loewenthal lectures in Jewish Spirituality at University
College London (UCL). He authored Communicating the Infinite: the Emergence of the Habad School and directs the Chabad
Research Unit.

Fact of the Day

September 29-30, 1941

The most notorious massacre of Jews in the Soviet Union was at a ravine called Babi Yar outside Kiev, where 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation on 29–30 September 1941. The decision to kill all the Jews in Kiev was made by the military governor Major-GeneralFriedrich Eberhardt, the Police Commander for Army Group South SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, and the Einsatzgruppe C Commander Otto Rasch. A mixture of SS, SD and Security Police, assisted by Ukrainian police, carried out the killings. Although they did not participate in the killings, men of the 6th Army played a key role in rounding up the Jews of Kiev and transporting them to be shot at Babi Yar.

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Today's Video

What are the roots of the Chassidic movement? What was the personage of its founder, Rabbi Yisroel Ba’al Shem Tov? Presented is a dialogue with noted scholars and historians as they trace the birth of Chassidism.

70 Days for 70 Years is a project of The United Synagogue