The Nistar Study and Practice Circle

By Reb Daniel Lev

Baal Shem Tov Shul

Reb Wolfe Kitzes was having a panic attack under his tallit as he waited for his Rebbe, the founder of the 18th-Century mystical revival movement in Poland, the BESHT (Baal Shem Tov), to begin to blow Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Wolfe was earlier tasked by the BESHT to call out the names of each Shofar call and make sure that he had each different Kavvanah (mystical intention formula) in his mind for each calling. He was so nervous the night before that he wrote all 100 calls/formulas on his shirt sleeve so he could read them. Unfortunately, his wife accidentally switched shirts on him and all he had was a pure white sleeve to gaze at. So he was panicking!

Suddenly, he heard the BESHT loudly whisper, “NU?!” and Wolfe could wait no longer. He knew the Shofar calls and began shouting out “Tekiya! Shevarim! Teruah!” But his head was empty of all the supernal Kavvanot handed down by followers of the great Mekubal, the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria. Wolfe’s anxiety now turned to tears as he cried out the empty calls, sad that Heaven would not receive the Shofar blasts…nor would the hearts of the congregants open fully to the Oneness and awesome splendor of the Holy Presence of Hashem.

His heart was broken by the end of the blowing. Then, after he pulled his tallis down he saw that everyone was in a joyfully trance-like state, and, looking onto the BESHT’s eyes Wolfe saw that their prayer had ascended and that the souls of all present were open to the Healing and Holiness of Rosh Hashana. Later, he asked the BESHT, “Master, I forgot all of the Kavvanot yet we were all lifted up in ecstasy as if I had said them – how could this be?”

The holy Baal Shem answered, saying, “Wolfele’ – As we learned from the Mekublim of old, there are Fifty Gates to Heaven. And to get through each Gate you need a key. But what do you do if you do not have the key.

Well? – then you take a hatchet and you break through each of the locks until you enter Shamayim. For us, the Kavvanot are the keys….and if they are not available, then a deeply open heart will unlock all the Gates.  That is what you did, Wolfele.”

I tell this story as an introduction to the class that I will be facilitating with a small gathering of folks on my Zoom account. I call the group the Nistar Study and Practice Circle because we will learn classical and contemporary teachings of Kabbalah (the “keys”) and have the opportunity to engage in spiritual experiences (i.e., Jewish meditation) that can open the heart. On May 18, we began meeting on Monday evenings, 7PM-8:30PM. There is a little room left so if you are interested please let me know by email and I will put you on the Nistar email list.

Upcoming Events
  1. Sof Maʻarav High Holiday Services 2020 | 5781 via Zoom [Full Schedule]

    September 18 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
  2. Erev Rosh Hashana at Sof via Zoom

    September 18 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
  3. First Day of Rosh Hashana at Sof via Zoom

    September 19 @ 9:00 am - 11:30 am
  4. Second Day of Rosh Hashanah at Sof via Zoom

    September 20 @ 9:00 am - 11:30 am
  5. Yom Kippur: Kol Nidre at Sof via Zoom

    September 27 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm