Coming back home: The shofar’s call

The shofar call us home, form the Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

Blowing the shofar

The month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh haShanah is a good moment for taking time out to contemplate the last year….  or  to look at our lives as a whole. Its a moment when quietly we can be truthful with ourselves and see which of our  thoughts, actions and words were in line with our own highest values, and where to be frank we let ourselves down.

Thoughts  of our own slip-ups  are painful and sorrowful and our most likely response is to push them away.   A different, more healthy response that  will bring us into a more aware consciousnesses,  is the message of the shofar.

The Zohar teaches us that the sound of the shofar is the voice of compassion, the voice of loving-kindness.  It awakens us to Teshuvah, because the ultimate source of our unhappiness and of our mistakes is our disconnection from our Source. But words that were said, can’t be unsaid, and actions that were taken. now exist. So what can we do to mend things?

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his great work, Mesillat Yesharim, (The path of the righteous) writes:

“ Teshuvah, (Repentance) is given to people with absolute loving-kindness so that the rooting out of the will which prompted the deed is considered a rooting out of the deed itself.”

This loving-kindness manifests in the sound of the shofar. The voice of the shofar opens the opportunity to make good , to undo , to come back fresh…. and to a new start.

This is the miracle of Teshuvah: Teshuvah is returning home. It is returning to our Source. Before the world was created Teshuvah was created. Before Man came into being, the possibility of return was built into the whole scheme of things. The call of the shofar, is the call of compassion, of mercy and of bringing us back home.

May we all be blessed with a sweet and happy New Year.

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This Torah podcast is dedicated l’ilui nishmat  Chana Annette bat Mazal and Moshe 

This talk is based on excerpts from Rabbi Ashlag’s Perush haSulam on Zohar Vayerah 381 and  Zohar TeZaveh 88-92

photo credit

Further talks on Elul, Teshuvah and Rosh hashanah

Forty days of love: From Elul to Yom Kippur

Enjoying the month of Elul

Shame is a precious feeling

The language of Rosh Hashanah is derived from the Kabbalah

The Shofar, the sound of compassion

Changing our outlook on Rosh HaShanah

Teshuva : reuniting with our Source

Returning to our Source: from the Kabbalah of Rav Kook and of Rabbi Ashlag

purple anemones looking upwards

Rabbi Baruch Ashlag writes:

The scripture says “Return O Israel unto the Lord your God.” (Hosea 14.) This means that the measure of Teshuvah, returning,  needs to be unto  the Lord our God. What does it mean to return unto the Lord our God?

Rabbi Ashlag goes on to tell us that we came from God. Our source is Divine. However, the soul and the body devolve down different paths. The path the soul takes is through the framework of  holiness, whereas the path the body— known as the ego— takes, is through the framework of uncleanness.

The soul is clothed by  the body, and is under its domination for the first thirteen years of our life. Then slowly through the work of Torah and mitzvot for the sake of God or for the sake of our fellow human, we gradually return step by step to our Source.

As Rav Kook writes in his great work, Orot HaTeshuvah

Through Teshuvah everything returns to godliness. The reality of the power of Teshuvah that rules over all the worlds returns and reconnects all things in the perfect divine reality.

It is to this extent that we may indeed ultimately must return.

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This podcast is dedicated to the merit of my dear friend Hana Leah bat Esther Sara for a Refuah Shlemah

Teaching from Bircat Shalom of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag  Ma’amar 2 Sefer Hama’amarim תשמ”ט and from Orot HaTeshuvah Rav Kook chapter four

Other talks on Teshuvah and the month of Elul

Forty days of love: From Elul to Yom Kippur

Enjoying the month of Elul

Shame is a precious feeling

The Torah is beautiful

The beauty of Torah: From the teachings of Rabbi Ashlag on the Zohar and the AriThe Creator is perfect and whole, the Zohar teaches us that the entire creation, the higher worlds and the lower worlds, and all that is in them, add nothing to His essence.

So what then is the purpose of the Creation? The holy Ari answers this question in the Etz Chayim:

 It arose, in his simple will, to create the worlds, and to bring forth the created beings, to bring to light the perfection of His works, His Names and His attributes, which was the reason for the creation of the worlds.

The inner meaning of the word “arose” as explained by the great Kabbalist Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag, is :

The vessel (Malchut) ascended in purity and dvekut in that it lessened the  will to receive that was inherent in it, in order to equate its form with that of the Highest light ( in other words, to become a giver just like the light is giving). And this was, even though the will to receive that is in the Ein Sof which is called the Malchut of the Ein Sof had no lack in its dvekut, in its unity with the Highest light because of a change of form, nevertheless it decorated itself to equate its form with that of the Highest Light.Or Pnimi

The idea of a decoration is of something that adds beauty. It adds an additional, wonderful dimension to our lives. The Torah itself is described as beautiful:

“For they are a garland of grace for your head, and necklaces about your neck” ( Proverbs 1:9).

A life of Torah is indeed a wonderful and beautiful life as the Sages teach:

Rabbi Meir says, “Whoever occupies himself with Torah for its own sake will merit many things. Not only that, but the whole world becomes worthwhile to him. He is called ‘friend,’ ‘beloved,’ ‘lover of the One,’ ‘a lover of all people,’ ‘one who gives joy to God,’ ‘one who gives joy to people’; he is clothed in humility and in the fear of being separated from the Creator. He is fitted to be a Tzaddik, a pious one, upright and faithful, keeping his fellow far from sin and bringing his fellow closer to the One. Others rejoice in his counsel and in his wisdom, in his understanding and his fortitude, as it is said, ‘I have counsel and wisdom, I am understanding, I have fortitude’ (Prov. 8:14). Sovereignty is given to him, governance, and resource in judgment. Secrets of the Torah are revealed to him and he becomes like an overflowing spring, like a river that does not cease. He is modest and long-suffering, forgiving those who insult him, and he is great and exalted over all God’s created beings.” (Ethics of the Fathers)

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Mankind hears God’s voice

God spoke to Avraham, from the Zohar“And God spoke to Avraham”
It is with these three words that the Torah opens a brand new chapter in the history of mankind.
These three words, “And God spoke to Abraham” startled me, coming out of ? nowhere?

Why did God speak to Abraham, and even more poignantly how did Abraham recognize God speaking to him?
If God were to speak to me, would I know who it was? Maybe God speaks to all of us everyday, but we do not hear?
So we need to ask ourselves, what had Avraham done? How had he worked on himself, in the seventy five years that he lived, before he heard the voice of God?

These questions are not new, but were asked in the Midrash, in the Zohar, and in modern times by Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag, the Baal HaSulam. The answers are as relevant now as they were to Avraham thousands of years ago.

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My thanks to my Chevruta Leah Weinstein for pointing out the Perush of the Or HaChayim and to my Chevruta Jodie Lebowitz who patiently learned the sources with me.

Zohar from Perush haSulam Lech Lecha, paragraph 1

From the Zohar: God is my strength and my song

“God is my strength and my song”

The climax of the redemption celebrated on Pesach is the redemption of the Children of Israel from the Egyptians at the Red Sea. Moses and the Children of Israel gave thanks with a song, a song of great power and beauty, that the Sages teach us was for both that time and the redemption yet to come.

The Sages of the Zohar contemplate the verses of the song, exploring its inner meanings. In this lesson we will “listen-in” to a discussion in the Zohar on the verse, “God is my strength and my song, and He will be for me a salvation” עזי וזמרת י”ה ויהי לי לישועה”.

The discussion ranges from the creation of Man, his nature and his purpose, to each person’s relationship with God in time of trouble.

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Translated from the Zohar Beshalach Perush haSulam paragraphs 230-250 by Yedidah Cohen

With grateful thanks to my chevrutas with whom I had the privilege of studying this article with me on Pesach: Binah, Susan, Dahlia, Leah, Timnah, Aliza and David

Abraham : a new name and a clear destiny.

Abraham and creation from the  Zohar

What’s in a name?

When God gave Abraham his new name, changing it from Abram to Abraham, He was telling him about his role as a father of nations. It’s a role  intimately connected with the purpose of the human being in the tikkun of creation.

This role is  hinted at in the very beginning of  Genesis. Crucially, the word describing the creation of heaven and earth has, in Hebrew, the same letters as Abraham”s full name.

What does this imply for us in our lives today? Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, addresses this issue in a remarkable essay based on  the Zohar Lech lecha .

This talk is based on an article in  the Sefer Hamamarim of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag

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Male and female He created him

The creation of Man : Rabbi Ashlag on the Zohar

The creation of Man

In Bereishit, Genesis chapter one: The Torah says: And God said, “Let us make Man in our image, like us.” This extraordinary sentence is the beginning of our history.

The creation of the human being differs from that of all other creatures. All other created beings have a singular nature; in their creation God said “Let there be… ” and that was followed by “and there was.” But for man both potential and actualization are reflected in his creation. “Let us make man.”

However this is not the only way in which Man’s creation differs form that of the other created beings “Let us make Man”, suggests the complexity of our nature. We are composed of both good and bad, light and dark. Unique in all creation, we have a unique role.

In this podcast we see how the Zohar and the Midrash learn the role of man and his nature from his creation.

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From the teachings of Rabbi Ashlag.
Taken from A Tapestry for the Soul (Nehora Press)