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.
The oil the wick and the vessel provide the three essential components to light the flame of the Chanukah candle. How was this candle first kindled?
The candle was lit through the dedication and the sacrifice of the men of faith, who rejected the secular philosophy of the Greeks. The Greeks relied on external logic and rationality as the basis of their thought, whereas the way of the Jew is the way of faith in the Goodness of the Almighty. Often God’s way is hidden from us, and we cannot see or understand His goodness. But the miracle of Chanukah, when the candle stayed alight in a way which no cold logic could have predicted is an open revelation of God’s light. That was the miracle.
In this letter, Rabbi Baruch Shlaom Ashlag looks at the components of the candle from their inner perspective and teaches how this miracle may be kindled in our own lives, thought our faith and service to God.
This podcast is based on a letter of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Halevei Ashlag taken from the book Bircat Shalom, Mamarim bavodat HaShem al derech haemet.
Dedicated for a Refuah Shlemah to Chava bat Shifra Hinde
It doesn’t really seem credible: we all know the story. Rebeccah and Jacob don’t want Esau to get the blessings from Isaac. Rebeccah connives with Jacob in deceiving her blind and aged husband so he will get the blessings.
When we read this story in its plain and literal language, it seems shocking. Even if we try to make excuses: we can’t use either Rebeccah or Jacob as a role model for ourselves. Yet that is precisely what they are meant to be: The Sages of the Midrash taught, “The deeds of the fathers are a guide for the children.” How can we reconcile this?
The answer lies in knowing the nature and the intentions of all the protagonists of the story: Ya’acov (Jacob), Rivkah (Rebeccah), and Esau. These we get when we learn the Zohar.
The Zohar, the central book of the Kabbalah deals with intentions: our intentions, God’s intentions and those of our holy fathers and mothers. Indeed the great Rabbi Elijah of Vilna taught that one cannot attain the Torah, with full consciousness unless we apply the innermost levels of the Torah, namely the Kabbalah, to its literal meaning, the Pshat.
By learning the Kabbalah on this story of Rebeccah and Jacob we discover our fathers and mothers of integrity and truth who truly are role models for us and for all humanity.