וַיְחַזֵּק יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֶת לֵב פַּרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ מִצְרַיִם וַיִּרְדֹּף אַחֲרֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל יֹצְאִים בְּיָד רָמָה
And G!d hardened the heart of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and he chased after the children of Israel, and the Children of Israel marched out triumphantly. (Ex. 14:8)
Targum Onkelos (1) translates, they “marched out with bare heads.” The Baal Shem Tov relates in a letter how in a vision he asked Moshiach (2) when he would come, and he answered, “When your Torah is revealed and overflows from your wellsprings.” This is hinted at in this verse, for just as the Children of Israel went out from Egypt, which is the archetypal exile, so will they go out from their current exile “with bare heads.” These words yield the roshei tevot of “Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem, revealed” (3).
1) The authoritative Aramaic translation of the Chumash; since its composition (2nd c. according to the Talmud, 4th-5th c. according to scholars) it has been recognized as the primary way to understand the Torah, and all Torah commentators take its interpretations into account. Since it was written in post-exilic times in an exilic language, the Hasidim saw it as having special, even divinely inspired, insight into a post-exilic understanding of Torah.
2) Literally “the Annointed One,” the descendant of King David who would usher in the new age of universal knowledge and service of G!d; the source of the word Messiah.
3) RYSh, the word for “head,” is read as an acronym of Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem, and the word for “bare” literally means “revealed,” and shares its root with the “revealed” of the Baal Shem Tov’s saying.
Even if I have a different understanding of what Moshiach is than the Degel Mahane Efraim, I still believe the Besht’s prophecy: that spreading his Torah will help bring about the universal knowledge of G!d and love of everyone in G!d’s family. That’s what this blog is really about.