The Baal Shem Tov, an Inspiration

There s something about the Baal Shem Tov (1698- 1760), a Jewish mystic and rabbi who founded the Hasidic movement, that has been an inspiration, model and even a guide for me. Here was a man steeped in Torah and Bible, deeply knowledgeable and wise. Thousands flocked to hear him teach and to receive instruction from him. He was like no other in wisdom. I suppose that it could be said that he was profoundly deep.

On the other hand, he was a worshipper of God and a mystic. He had visions and dreams, give prophecies, do miracles, and even weep and dance and sing ecstatically in praise before God and his people. I suppose it could be said he was charismatic in his spiritual life.

These two elements mixed into one has always appealed to me, and that is something I strive for: depth and height. Why can t we have the two blended into one community, just as they were blended in this one man? A valley needs a mountain to be a valley. In my experience, if you are deep theologically, then you are usually very serious, sober, even somber, and impatient with charismatic expressions. On the other hand, if you are ecstatic in worship, then it is usually assumed that you are shallow and superficial, theologically deficient, and have no patience with truth. Ain t necessarily so! I long for this in my own life theological depth and spiritual ecstasy and mysticism. At my church, Rothesay Vineyard, I try to encourage this. So what if we are accused of being too deep , or on the other hand, too silly ? I welcome the valleys. I welcome the summits. Give me the full landscape! Iwant the total geography!

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