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The Holy Epistle of the Baal Shem Tov*

On Rosh HaShana of the year 5507 I made a vow for ascent of the soul, as you know, and I saw wondrous things in a vision that I had never seen from the day I first gained consciousness. What I saw and learned upon my arriving there is impossible to relate and say over even face to face. But when I returned to the lower Gan Eden, I saw many souls of the living and the dead whom I knew and whom I did not know without measure and number, rushing upward and back again in longing to rise from world to world by way of the pillar, as known to the esotericly wise, with such tremendously great jubilance that the mouth tires of telling, and it is too weighty for the fleshy ear to hear. So many wicked people returned in repentance-- and their sins were forgiven them, since it was such a greatly auspicious time--that even in my eyes it was extremely wondrous that so many were received in repentance, even those you know.

Among them there was such a great joy that they too rose up in the aforementioned elevations, and all of them as one requested of me, and urged me to the point of shame, saying, Due to the superb exalted honor of your Torah, for G-d has graced you with extra understanding to comprehend and perceive regarding these matters from among us, you should rise up to before us as a helper and supporter. And due to the great joy that I saw among them I said I would rise up with them, so I asked of my Master and Teacher [i.e., his spiritual mentor, Achiya HaShiloni, as is known] that he should go with me, for it is a great danger to proceed and rise up to the supernal worlds, especially as from the day I came to my senses I had never ascended in such great elevations as this.

I ascended from level to level until I entered the chamber of Moshiach, where Moshiach learns Torah with all the Tanoim and Tzadikim, even with the Seven Shepherds, and there I saw an exceedingly great jubilation. I did know what the rejoicing was about, and I thought that it was, heaven forbid, because I had expired from the world. But then they informed me that I had not yet died, since it was pleasing for those above that I unite unifications below by means of their holy Torah-teachings, and the essence of that rejoicing I still do not know until today.

And I asked Moshiach, When will the Master come? And he answered me: By this you shall know: At the time when your teachings will become publicized and revealed in the world, and your wellsprings will spread to the outside, that which I taught you and you comprehended, and they too will be able to achieve supernal unions and elevations as you do, then all extraneous forces will disappear and it will be a time goodwill and salvation.

And I was astonished at this, and it was for me greatly agonizing, due to the elapse of so much time until this could possibly happen. However, from what I learned when I was there--three Segulos and three Holy Names which are easy to learn and explain--my mind was set at ease, for I thought it would be possible that with these even people of my era would be able to reach a comparable level and category as me, that is, to be able to rise up and learn and comprehend as I do. But permission has never been granted to me all the days of my life to reveal this. I requested this for you, to teach you, but I was not allowed at all, and I am firmly sworn regarding this.

Yet this I can tell you--and may HaShem be your aid, so that you set directly to HaShem your way--do not go astray at the time of your prayers and your learning. In each and every word and expression of your lips,intend to perform unifications, for in each and every letter there are worlds, souls, and aspects of G-dliness which rise up and combine together and unite with one another, and then the letters combine and unite and become a word, and they unite in a true unity with G-dliness. You should attach your soul with them in each and every level of the above, and all the worlds will be united as one and rise up and become a great joy and ecstasy that is beyond measure--as you can understand from the joy of bride and groom which is mundane and corporeal, and how much more so in a celestial elevation such as this is. Certainly HaShem will assist you, and in every way that you turn you will succeed and find wisdom, and give to the wise and he will get wiser still...

[*This is an informal translation, that adheres as close as possible to the Hebrew original. The rest of the Holy Epistle, its authenticity, textual variations and ramifications, will be discussed, G-d willing, in the future.]