Purim now: reading the Megilla with the IDF tankists
We are living in turbulent times; on the one hand the light of redemption is undoubtedly getting nearer and with it an increasing consciousness of the light of God in the world. Equally, the destructive elements of the world seem to be growing in strength. This is not the first time that the Jews have faced these huge polarization of energies. They did so at the time of Purim 3000 years ago.
Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag in 1948 gave an oral discourse on the inner meanings of the festival of Purim. Through his insight into the inner meanings of Megillat Esther,we learn what choices were open to the Jews then and how we can learn from their experiences now, 3000 years later.
Not only in the scale of world events, but right in the small details of our lives, the choice of how we receive the light of God also applies in the small details of our daily lives. Let us give to God and to our fellow man according to the way of Torah, the way taught by Mordecai the Jew, and thus each of us, in our own small way may contribute to the redemption of all mankind through the light of God.
This talk was inspired by the oral discourse taught by Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag at the festival of Purim 1948, recorded by his son Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag. Printed in Shamati and in HaShem Shamati Shimecha (with a commentary by Rabbi Avraham Mordecai Gottlieb).
With grateful thanks to the women of the Tsfat Beit haMidrash and to my chevrutas, James Torrance, Ilan Ben Gal, Ofra Dekel, Jodie Lebowitz Davis, with whom I learnt this article and who inspired me with their delight and enthusiasm.
The Torah is a document of divine revelation. This revelation is timeless and ever present. Both historically true, and true for each individual, here and now.
Pharaoh of old denied God asking, “who is God that I should listen to his voice”? A similar voice inside us puts God in second place, giving priority to the strident demands of the ego.
The effects of this voice of Pharaoh inside of us is to block the divine light flowing from our thoughts to our action thus effectively preventing us from bringing through the manifestation of God in our daily lives. Yet we do not always see this inner Pharaoh as our enemy, as he does not prevent us from making positive resolutions, only prevents us fro carrying them through so he allows us the comfortable illusion of imagining that we can have our cake and eat it.
We are told in the Torah, only God Himself can bring the children of Israel out of Egypt; only God himself can help us with our inner pharaoh.
The message of Moses is a message of prayer and faith. He taught the children of Israel the tools they would need for the redemption, the same tools we need today.
When asked what the real significance of the Biblical injuction of dwelling in the Succah for seven days is about, Rabbi Eliezer in the Talmud stated it referred to the Clouds of glory that protected the Children of Israel in the wilderness; Rabbi Akiva stated it referred to the physical structure itself.
Rabbi Ashlag, in a letter writing, his students on Succot asks how was it that two such great Sages came up with such very different ideas? He explains that they are both looking at the succah as representing faith in God but one is looking at the light of faith and the other at the creation of the actual vehicle for this great light. Faith is the vehicle with whihc we may connect with God both in times of God’s light being revealed to us and in times when it is hidden from us.
The festival of succot gives us an opportunity to build our refuge of faith for the entire coming year.
Yom kippur is a day of prayer and coming back to our true selves. But this isn’t easy, as we very often aren’t very conscious of where we have gone wrong or what our truest and deepest desires really are. In a remarkable essay, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag teaches us how to begin to distinguish a real need from one that may seem real but is in fact extraneous. The Sages of the Talmud said,
“Rabbi Elazar said that when the Temple was destroyed all the gates of prayer were closed; but even though the gates of prayer were closed the gate of tears is never locked.”
Through this discussion we learn the inner meaning of the prayer” And all believe that He answers the whisper, Who open the gate to those who knock in Tehuvah,” wanting to return to their Source.
Listen to podcast now From the Sefer HaMamarim of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, with grateful thanks to Shmuel Igar Kinyan who studied it with me.
Other talks on Yom Kippur
“The Inner Essence of Yom Kippur”, “From the depths I call on You”, “Yom Kippur : A chance to reclaim our true identity”
People often approach the high holidays with some feelings of guilt or dread. Much of this is based on misinterpretations of classical texts. Rabbi Ashlag, by teaching us the spiritual roots of the language helps us correct these faulty ideas and discover how wrong we have been. This particularly apples to the festivals of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, transforming them from occasions dreaded, to festivals of happiness and joy.
The Talmud states that on Rosh Hashanah three books are opened: the book of the righteous, the book of the wicked and that of those in-between. In the language of the Kabbalah “a book” is a vehicle of consciousness, “life” is the affinity of form with the Life of all Lives, and the wicked is the will to receive for ourselves alone. Thus we see that the books that are opened are consciousnesses within us and the judgement is our own. Which choices will we make? Let us pray to the Creator that we may choose that which gives goodness to our fellow and is compassionate, writing our postive selves for life and sustenance and letting die our ego- orientated selfish desires.
The Children of Israel came to Mount Sinai, ready and willing to accept the Torah. We need to ask ourselves today, to what extent do we really want the Torah? For it is only the desire for the Torah that provides a suitable vessel for the Torah. Without the correct vessel, the light of the Torah, which is unceasing since the revelation on Mount Sinai, cannot be received by us.
In this talk, based on an oral talk the Baal HaSulam gave at the festive meal of Shavuot 1948, we learn what are the requirements for us too, to stand at the foot of Mount Sinai, here and now, and receive the word of God.
Seder night : the night of inner and outer freedom
The Haggadah of Pesach teaches us that every person needs to consider himself or herself as if he came out of Egypt. Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag teaches that the essence of the exile and the redemption are both historical events and inner events within our consciousness. Our inner exile is caused by those parts of us that oppose our connection with God and make it hard for us to express ourselves in the framework of holiness in consonance with our souls. The hardest of all aspects of the ego is the Pharaoh within.
In this class based on an oral discourse that the Baal HaSulam gave to his students, he teaches us why the exile, both outer and inner, is necessary and the role that even our inner Pharaoh has to play to bring us to the full redemption of dvekut (union) with God.
This class is a translation and explanation of a an oral discourse given by the Baal haSulam transcribed by Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag in his work, Shamati. (Arie Miskanot le Paroh) (1 hour)
My grateful thanks to the many chevrutas who learned this article with me this year.