Tu Bshvat is the new year for trees. But why should trees have a New Year? There seems to be a comparison made between the tree and the human being by our sages: For a man is as the tree of a field. It transpires that this comparison goes much deeper. Like the tree we also have fruit to give, the fruit of our lives and of our labor. What type of fruit will we be giving out? Who will reap the benefit?
Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, takes the comparison between the tree and the root to a much more detailed level. He also looks at the work a human being needs to work on himself by considering all the different work a farmer needs to do for his tree in order to enhance the harvest of fruit: composting, hoeing, pruning, removing stones, smoking out insects and worms. By looking at the meaning of these differrent actibvities we can see that they have their equivalent in our own spiritual work.
It transpires that Tu B’Shvat is not just a New Year for trees, it is a New Year of all of us as well.
The material for this podcast is taken from a letter Rabbi Baruch Shalom Halevi Ashlag wrote to his pupils on Tu B’shvat, 1957 Manchester.
The podcast is dedicated in loving memory and lilui nishmat Sara bat Yisrael Tzvi Halevi Kotler.
Rabbi Ashlag teaches that in order to mourn we actually have to know what we are mourning for. The significance of the Temple when it stood in Jerusalem was the fact that it was a tangible manifestation of God’s light in the world. On its destruction , the world went dark.
But God is good and does good at all times, therefore even in the darkness , there exists a great light. and that is the fulfillment of the Biblical command:
“Make for Me a sanctuary that I will dwell within them.”. ( Exodus 22: 8)
Inside each of us is a soul. But do we experience her? The greatest woe of destruction is not even being aware that anything is destroyed. Tisha B’Av draws our attention to look at where in our lives we are not giving our soul a voice, where we are allowing that sill small vice to be drowned out the demands of the ego. Where we are acting out of habits conscious or unconscious that draw us away form the manifestation of the light of God in our own lives now. Tisha b’ Av may have started in history but it ‘s relevance is now.
Post in loving memory of Feiga Bat Shmuel and Rivkah z”l
One evening in 1892 in a suburb of Warsaw, a seven-year-old boy was lying in bed when, suddenly, a book fell off the bookshelf, hitting him on the head. The boy picked it up and started to examine it. His father, hearing the sound, came in, and seeing the book in his son’s hand, took it from him and replaced it on the shelf. “This is a book for angels, not for you,” said the father. But the boy argued, “If it has been printed, it must be meant for everyone.” “No,” insisted his father, “it is not for you.” But the boy’s curiosity had been aroused, and he started to study it. It was a book of the Kabbalah and its light illumined his heart.
The child was Yehudah Leib Ashlag who, one day, was going to change the way we see spiritual consciousness.
Rabbi Ashlag had , even for those days, an unusual dedication to his studies. He had a tremendous quality of truth. Truth for him meant inner truth, being totally true to himself, and thus when he studied a book of musar, he never left it until he felt he had completely put into practice all tha the book demanded of him.
With this intense labor on himself, in his regular Torah study, his study of the Kabbalah and the work on his own virtues, he came to the incredible spiritual level of dvekut with God, unity , and enlightenment at an extremely early age.
In the normal way we would not have access or any record of such a great Rabbi’s personal life or spiritual achievements. Our great tzaddikim hid their spiritual achievements preferring modesty. . True to this tradition of modesty, in the last year of his life Rabbi Ashlag requested his devoted assistant, Rabbi Moshe Baruch Lemburger, to make a pile of his personal papers and burn them. However, others, who were present, contrived to save the papers from the fire.
Among these papers is a piece of writing in which Rabbi Ashlag describes his thoughts and his feelings when he had the merit to receive the great light of God, the Or d’Chochmah. This is the great light that God wants to give us according to His purpose in creation. A person receives this great light only when he has finished his personal tikkun (rectification of his soul). At the time of the redemption, all humanity will receive this great light.
In this document we have a record, unique in Jewish spiritual literature, of the development of the tzaddik on his receiving an experience of enlightenment while in affinity of form with the Creator. It was an experience that was to change the direction of Rabbi Ashlag’s life.
Rabbi Ashlag starts by asking a question: He is in this experience in which his whole being is totally illuminated in the light of God. So he wants to know what does his service to God consist of, now that he no longer has to give faith or belief in God, because he is in a state of knowing God? So he sets out to visit his teacher, the Rabbi of Belz. But when he arrives at the Beit haMidrash, he finds that the Sage’s response to him in his state of enlightenment is not encouraging, to put it mildly, but treats him with sarcasm and shows his displeasure. Rabbi Ashlag finds himself in a quandary: on the one hand he believes in his experience, on the other hand, he has faith in his Rabbi. Perplexed, Rabbi Ashlag has to resolve this seeming contradiction for himself.
For Rabbi Ashlag’s description of how he resolved this dilemma, listen to the rest of the podcast!
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.
What is a sin really?
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.
This podcast is dedicated for a perfect healing for Michael Andrew the son of Jennifer.
Taken from the Haggadah Zot LeYedudah with the Be’er Shalom of Rabbi Ashlag
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