When we speak to each other we use words to indicate to the other person what we are talking about. That the other person understands us depends on a mutually agreed use of language. But if this mutual agreement was not there, misunderstandings would arise. That is precisely what may happen when we read Kabbalah texts.
The Sages of Kabbalah used ordinary everyday language to express states of consciousness. They relied on the perception of physical reality as having its roots in the higher worlds. . However, these connections between physical branch and spiritual root are not obvious to ordinary people and so we needed a great Sage, Rabbi Yehudah Leib Ashlag to act as translator and teach us the difference between what we think the Zohar is saying and what it really means. Only thus is its unfathomable wisdom open to us.
Root and branch. It is comforting to know that we all have spiritual roots with which we are connected at all time.
This shiur, is dedicated in loving memory of Feiga bat Shmuel and Rvikah and for the elevation of her soul.
The material for this shiur is taken from the forthcoming book, “ The Master of the Ladder, the Life and teachings of the Baal haSulam, Rabbi Yehudah Leib Ashlag, by Rabbi Avraham Mordecai Gottlieb, translated and edited by Yedidah Cohen, Nehora Press
In the Hebrew, the idea of sin, is no way as harsh as it is in the English language. The word sin, chet, really means to miss the mark. Indeed, all of us at times look back at some aspect of our lives, and wish we had acted otherwise.
The Sages tell us that the force of the evil inclination , the self-centered ego is so strong that if God does not help us with it, it would cause us fall into evil every day!
So Rabbi Baruch Ashlag , the great Kabbalist, asks this simple question. If we are really unable to deal with our selfish love ourselves, what do we need to ask forgiveness for?
In his answer he shows us that the real need for forgiveness arises because we did not ask God to help us when we needed to. Asking God to help us when we are struggling with our own selves maybe, surprisingly, quite difficult. It involves a giving up, and a wish for God to come close. Realizing what we need to ask forgiveness for actually helps us make better choices next time!
This podcast is dedicated for a Refuah Shlemah to my mother Chaya bat Sara Leah.
From Sefer Hama’amarim of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag ( article 4 תשמ”ח)
In an article written towards the end of his life, Rabbi Baruch Ashlag discusses the issue of what should we do when we have fallen away form our service to God in one way or another, and we are feeling low because of it. We want to make amends.
But the Sages teach us, ‘ Serve the Lord with happiness, come before Him with song.” How is a person meant to be able to serve God with happiness when he is feeling broken?
God is surely not asking us to do the impossible? But on what basis can a person feel happy when he is so sad?
The answer is unexpected. Although the person is feeling low and despairing when he considers how he is not able to do the work for God, nevertheless, he needs to know that just having the awareness that he wants to come to God to get closer to Him is already a positive step. Furthermore, having the desire to come to God is actually a gift of the Creator , because this desire cannot arise any other way.
This podcast is dedicated for a Refuah Shlema for Alla Bat Rifkah. May this Torah learning bring her a true healing.
Article excerpted from Sefer haMaamarim of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag Vol 4 article 25
Before the Pesach holiday begins we are busy clearing out the chametz, the leaven from our houses. The Zohar informs us that this leaven represents the yezer hara, our egoism, within us. This process is not one of sadness but one of joy, as it gives us an opportunity to come to our true freedom, a freedom from being bound by our own egoism. A Freedom from being saddened by circumstances we can’t change, or from disappointments in not receiving what we thought we should, and the particular anxiety that goes with that.
But coming into redemption, is coming into our truest freedom which is of giving unconditionally. Nothing and no-one can enslave us there.
The whole process of our inner redemption is depicted in our preparations for the Pesach holiday and in the story of the Children of Israel’s redemption from Egypt as set out in the Haggadah. As we recite the story of our redemption of then we can pray to God and feel the joy of our redemption of now in an exactly parallel process.
How can I come to be the best person I can be? What does this imply?
The Talmud teaches us that there are two aspects to every action. The outer action, which is open and revealed to ourselves and others, but there is also our motive or intention, which may be quite hidden, even from ourselves. Yet it is our intention which gives the perspective of whether we are getting closer to the Creator or separating from the One.
A person, whether male or female, who aspires to become close to the Creator in the sense of resembling HaShem in giving unconditional love to his or her fellows or to the Creator is called by the name of Adam, from the scripture אדמה לעליון, I will resemble the Most High.
How can we become Adam? How can we attain the desire of becoming the best we can be?
This Torah learning is dedicated to the ilui neshama of Reb Moshe Ben Ese-Esther, a direct descendant of Rabbi Akiva Eiger ztz’l the grandfather of my chevruta, Shmuel Iger Kinyan, who despite the dangers of being Jewish in communist Russia first taught Shmuel that he was Jewish.
Teachings taken from the Perush HaSulam on the first volume of the Zohar Pikudah Kadma’ah and also from Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag’s Al HaTorah, Parshat Vayikra.
When Rabbi Yehudah Leib Ashlag was away from his students, he wrote them very many letters instructing them on the path of spiritual growth. A recurring theme in these letters is the importance of working on the love of friends. He wrote:
I understand that you are not practicing so much the rectification of the will to receive for oneself alone, as it is expressed through the mind and through the heart. Nevertheless, do the best you can ,and the salvation of God comes in the twinkling of an eye. But the most important way, that stands before you today, is in the union of the companions. Make greater and greater efforts in this aspect, for it has within it the ability to compensate for all lacks. Igeret Parshat shemot 5685 Warsaw.
By contemplating these words very deeply we see that we are given a profound clue for ourselves today.
How do we come to unity? Why is it so important? By looking at Rabbi Ashlag’s work in the context of the revelation on Mount Sinai, we see that we have been given a key whereby we too can come to a revelation of the light of the Creator.
The Midrash states: “When Judah met Joseph, two Kings met.”
The story of the dramatic encounter between Yehudah and Yoseph, is one that reverberates in our hearts and prayers every single day. Yehudah (Judah) taught prayer, whereas Yoseph ( Joseph) represents bounty and redemption.
Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag teaches :
We need to believe before we pray that 1) the Divine hears our voice, whoever we may be. 2) that the Creator can help us 3) that He wants to help us.
Yet the fact that we even want to pray to God is a sign that the Creator is calling out to us. Calling to us to connect with Him and His call is in itself a redemption.