God’s name on Seder Night

God’s name on Seder Night

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As we move through Seder night, we drink the four cups of wine and we relate to the elements on the Seder plate, we are not usually cognizant of the fact that both these central components of Seder night, actually represent the four-letter Name of God, YHVH

Pharaoh said, “Who is YHVH that I should listen to His voice? “

Actually, Pharaoh was cognizant of God acting through nature in the name of ELOKIM because that is how he acknowledged God to Joseph.   And even if we are talking about a different Pharaoh, one who did not know Joseph, nevertheless he would have heard of the story. But YHVH was unknown to Pharoah.

 It is when God makes himself known to the Children of Israel through the Name YHVH that the four expressions of redemption occur.

2. God spoke to Moses, and He said to him, “I am  YHVH 3. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob with [the name] El Shaddai [Almighty God],  but [with] My name YHVH, I did not become known to them. 4. And also, I established My covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings in which they sojourned. 5. And also, I heard the moans of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians are holding in bondage, and I remembered My covenant. 6. Therefore, say to the children of Israel, ‘I am YHVH, and I will take you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will save you from their labor, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7.  And I will take you to Me as a people, and I will be a God to you, and you will know that I am the Lord your God, Who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8. I will bring you to the land, concerning which I raised My hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as a heritage; I am YHVH.’ “

Exodus 6: 2-8

What is the significance of this new name? This name, YHVH, which we simply call HaShem, meaning the Name, is the name of God that is compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. Even though we, the Children of Israel had sunk down to the forty-ninth level of uncleanness, nevertheless, HaShem had mercy on us and took us out. Then, as He does now.

Just as we were exiled in the historical Egypt, we all suffer different aspects of exile wherein we are in exile from our inner selves. Connecting with the name of God, HaShem helps us put our trust in God, helps us forgive ourselves and others and helps trust that HaShem will release us from the bondage of our inner Pharoah, as indeed He does.

As we say on Seder night,

In every generation a person needs to feel as if he or she is taken out of Egypt.

Haggadah of Pesach

This podcast comes from an edited class given on the inner meanings of Seder night. It is dedicated to the ilui nishmat of Feiga bat Rivka z”l and Aharon and Sara Kotler z”l

The fruits of holiness: Tu Bshvat

The fruits of holiness: Tu Bshvat

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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.

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Outer mourning/inner mourning on Tisha B’Av

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Mourning at the Kotel on Tisha B’Av

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.

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Post in loving memory of Feiga Bat Shmuel and Rivkah z”l

Rabbi Ashlag: What he learned when he reached dvekut with God.

 

 

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. 

The language of the Kabbalah : root and branch

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

The words, letters and sentences that make up our lives

writing the letters of the Sefer Torah

For our  Sages  the precise words of the Torah and even  their spelling, had meaning, this is because the letters that make up the words are vessels for the light of God. If we take the Sefer Torah, then all its wisdom is contained in the light of the white parchment. But if it were not for the black letters, the absence of light, we would not know what it is telling us.

By learning the words and terms of the Kabbalah, the innermost portion of the Torah, we also gain understanding of our own lacks of light and how these transform into desires. We need to ask ourselves the question, are the words, and sentences which form my life truly reflect my deepest desires?

Today we study the term “zivug” which refers to the union of opposites. In the Kabbalah it refers to the entry of the light of God into the vessels, and in our lives applies  particularly to  our relationships.

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On a personal note I wish to give thanks to HaShem that after a long period of illness I am able once again to write and broadcast these short shiurim, and to  my dear family and  chevrutas who all helped me with their encouragement and prayers. 

Looking forwards: a letter by Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag for the New Year

Rosh haShanah in the Kabbalah of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag

“Happy is the man who does not forget You and the son of man makes an effort in You.”

In this happy and optimistic letter for the New Year that Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag wrote  to his friends and students in the Beit Hamidrash for Rosh Hashanah, he teaches that the themes of Rosh Hashanah are actually advice the Sages are giving us in how to come closer to our Creator.

May we all be blessed with a sweet, happy and healthy year full of goodness for each one of us , our families and the family of humankind

This podcast is dedicated for a Refuah Shlemah to Rafael ben Chaya Rosa . May all the sick have a complete healing this year.

Taken from “Mictavim Rabbi  Baruch Shalom  Ashlag” Mictav 10

Further talks on  Teshuvah and Rosh hashanah

Forty days of love: From Elul to Yom Kippur

Coming back home: The shofar’s call

The language of Rosh Hashanah is derived from the Kabbalah

The Shofar, the sound of compassion

Changing our outlook on Rosh HaShanah