The Heavenly Voice
The Mishnah in Avos (6:2) tells us of a heavenly voice called a “bas kol,” which calls out to us on a daily basis to repent and return to Hashem. The Toldos Yaakov Yosef writes that his master and teacher, the Ba’al Shem Tov, asked, “What point is there in a daily heavenly voice that no one hears?!”
He answered that on High, where the heavenly voice originates, there are no words and there is no speech; there is only the spiritual realm known as “Olam HaMachshavah” — the universe of pure thought. Therefore, any thoughts a person has of repentance, any urges to return to Hashem and His path, those thoughts and feelings are not his own. Rather, that is the sound of the heavenly voice. Through our thoughts of repentance, we do truly hear the bas kol.
Kesser Shem Tov
Against Excessive Fasting
Quoting from a letter that the Ba’al Shem Tov had written to him, Rav Yaakov Yosef wrote, “Do not overly engage in fasts and self-mortification. Such practices lead to depression or anger. But the reason you should especially refrain from these practices is because, rather than improving your avodah, they prevent you from studying Torah and serving Hashem properly.”
Ben Poras Yosef