An address to the children of Camp Gan Israel New York
Camp ‘Gan Israel’ is named after Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement — for through studying and living by his teachings, the Baal Shem Tov lives on.
A teaching of the Baal Shem Tov: “How can the Mishna say, ‘Who is wise? He who learns from every person,’ if not everyone you meet is a proper role model? The answer: When you meet a righteous person, learn from him how to act properly. And when you observe someone who is not righteous, learn from him how not to act.”
One time, a wagon got stuck in the mud, and the non-Jewish driver poked his head into the Baal Shem Tov’s synagogue, asking his disciples for help to pull the wagon out. The disciples replied: “We’re sorry, but we aren’t strong enough to lift it.” The man replied: “You can, but you don’t want to.” The Baal Shem Tov later explained the man’s words as a fundamental lesson: Don’t convince yourself that you aren’t strong enough. G-d grants the strength to achieve all good things — and if you truly want it, you will succeed.
15 Tammuz, 5720 · July 10, 1960
From Living Torah Disc 90 Program 359