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.
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This podcast is dedicated with love to my dear friend Netanyah bat Sara on the occasion of her birthday and to the grandchildren of Mary Ann Ward, her nephew and nieces.
This podcast is based on letters written by Rabbi Yehudah Leib Ashlag (Igarot HaSulam) and on Rabbi Moshe Sheinberger’s commentary on Tomer Devorah, with grateful thanks to my chevrutah Shalom Siegel.
Crocodylus niloticus in Lake Chamo 02″ by Bernard Gagnon
Each one of us is a whole world. Therefore in every person is a complex world of characters that make up the ego, and the one, pure, aspect of the soul.
Rabbi Ashlag teaches that all the aspects of the Torah stories take place within ourselves. Of all the aspects of the ego, the hardest one to deal with is the Pharaoh within us. The Zohar, likens Pharaoh, the ultimate denier of God to a crocodile lurking in the Nile (following Ezekiel chapter 29). Pharaoh manifests within us as the ultimate hijacker of our values and aspirations of spirituality, not allowing them to come into fruition.
From the Pesach Haggadah we find out that that the key to dealing with our inner Pharaoh is to cry out to God in prayer to help us, for it is the Holy Blessed One, Himself who rescues us from Pharaoh’s clutches and brings us out of our inner slavery into freedom.
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The merit of this Torah teaching in this podcast is dedicated to Michael Andrew, the son of Jennifer. May he be blessed with a Refuah Shlemah, a perfect healing.
Picture credit: “Crocodylus niloticus in Lake Chamo 02” by Bernard Gagnon
Called to Prayer
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.
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Podcast inspired from the Zohar and the work Bircat Shalom, articles by Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag
With grateful thanks to Mordecai (Yoel) Shoot whose questions sparked this study.
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
Other talks on the inner meanings of Chanukah
The triumph of the soul over the ego
What is a miracle?
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.
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This teaching is drawn from the Perush HaSulam of Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag on the Zohar Toledot.
The merit of this Torah learning is dedicated for the ilui nishmata of Musha Leah Bat Paltiel z”l
Holding the vision of the fulfillment of Creation, when all humankind will come to full experience of the reality of the Divine, is a gift given to us every week on the Sabbath day. We welcome in the Sabbath day saying, “In remembrance of the act of creation.”
The Sages of the Zohar teach that the first verse of the Torah,” In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth,” also has the meaning of the fulfillment of the creation.
What does this mean for us? How would we embody the fulfillment of the vision of creation in our lives now? Can we really come to “Taste and see that God is good?”
Inspired by Rabbi Ashlag’s teaching on the Zohar, and the first paragraph of Pirkei Avot chapter 6
This podcast is dedicated in love for a Refuah Shlemah to the innocent victims wounded in the recent terror attacks in Israel.