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)
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.
Prayer of the girls of Neveh Dekalim, before the expulsion from their homes in Gush Katif
There are times in our lives, when God’s light is hidden form us. Where is He? King David, the sweet singer of Israel understood and experienced this, as is evident in the psalms. Nevertheless, David still praised God.
How? On what basis was he able to find it within himself to praise God in the midst of his suffering? The Zohar asks these questions, and by looking closely into the inner meanings of one of David’s psalms, Psalm 63, shows us the way when we too are in sorrow.
1.A song of David when he was in the Judaean desert.
2. O God, My God, You, I seek You. My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You, in an arid and thirsty land without water.
3. Yes I saw You in holiness, seeing Your strength and Your glory.
4. For Your kindness is better than life; my lips will praise You.
Listen now From Rabbi Ashlag’s commentary on the Zohar, Terumah, Perush HaSulam paragraphs 253-259
With grateful thanks to my chevruta Meirah Rachel , who inspired and joined me in this learning.
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”
The soul is, by and large, not well known to us. We all have moments when we feel connected, and plenty when we don’t. But there is a solution. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught it in the Zohar, 2000 years ago, but its message is still good for us today.
The link between the Torah, the soul and faith is one that is unbreakable, and it is a link which gives us a way to say in contact, even when we can’t.
In this podcast we learn along with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the Zohar with the aid of Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag’s commentary, the Perush haSulam
The Sages have taught that when the month of Adar comes in we increase our joy. But we must have a basis for this. A person cannot feel happy without a reason. Senseless happiness feels foolish and silly. The Sages are referring to the happiness of holiness, the happiness of being in unity with the Creator.
However to feel the presence of the Creator in our lives we need to first feel how empty our lives are when we don’t feel in connection with Him, otherwise we do not appreciate what we are given. Feeling happy and feeling empty are two opposite states of being.
Prayer and thanks or praise are our responses to God to these states. Rabbi Ashlag teaches us that for both prayer and praise to be real they have to come from the depth of the heart. How can we achieve this depth of feeling, and what does this have to do with the month of Adar?
From an article by Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag z”l (Sefer HaMa’amarim) Listen to podcast (15 minutes)
Teshuvah means coming back. But it also applies to attaining a new spiritual state we have not reached before. So how can that also be Teshuvah? The answer lies in the origin of the soul and the nature of our true Self. To listen to podcast ( ten minutes)
Blessings, compassion and connection with God are the true associations with Rosh HaShanah. It isn’t generally appreciated the extent to which the language of the Kabbalah has penetrated our prayers and traditions. As we learn the true meanings of the symbols of the New Year, we understand more clearly the meaning of the festival. Click for talk
When we say the first six words of the Shema, Shema Yisrael HaShem Eloheinu HaShem Ehad, Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God the Lord is One, tradition has it that we respond with a whisper, “Blessed be His glorious Name for ever and ever.The Zohar teaches us that this whisper has profound significance, changing a potential for unconditional love into actuality, converting a desert land into a place of human habitation.
The third root mitzvah that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai brings in the Zohar is that of declaring God’s unity in the six words that make up the Shema. This declaration of the unity of the Creator is the first thing we learn as little children and the last thing we say when we die. In the morning and in the evening, as the day begins and ends, we affirm with our words this fundamental unity. Why?
Life itself is not uniform. It seems chaotic. We experience all extremes from dreadful to tremendous. Yet we affirm the unity of the Creator and the underlying unity of the acts of the One. These six words transform our lives from meaningless into purposeful.