When we need to ask.

deep in prayer. Forgiveness from the teachings of Rabbi Ashlag

What is a sin really?

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)

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

God blesses us, we bless God; a holy dialogue

Rabbi Baruch Ashlag, receiving and giving blessing

Rabbi Baruch Ashlag, receiving and giving blessing

A holy dialogue increases the life and goodness in the world. The Zohar teaches us that God’s only desire is to give goodness to His created beings. Therefore all that He wants to give us is ready for us. However, we cannot always receive the goodness He wants to give, because we become separated from Him by receiving for ourselves alone. Blessing God for everything we enjoy is a simple and wonderful way that Judaism teaches us to change the one-way flow into a productive dialogue.

The Scripture in Deuteronomy tells us that, just as God blesses us with His goodness so we also need to bless Him. The Zohar on this verse teaches that our blessing and thanking God for all He gives us, is the key to changing a one-way flow into a dialogue that only multiplies the goodness not only for ourselves but for all hummankind.

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From the Zohar on Ekev paragragh 1 and Rabbi Baruch Ashlag’s Al HaTorah Parshat Ekev
With grateful acknowledgment to Rabbi Avraham Mordecai Gottlieb who inspired this learning.

The real destruction: the absence of God in our lives

Mourning on Tisha B’Av

Where is God? Why can’t I sense His presence? Rabbi Ashlag teaches that we can’t sense God’s presence because we have put a rival in His place, we have placed our ego at the center of our focus and God is left in a corner. Yet we are commanded to build Him a sanctuary. and then He will dwell within us. A sanctuary in our heart, making God a living presence in our lives. Then the outer sanctuary will be rebuilt.

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The Menorah: The light of God

The Menorah: the light of God

The Menorah : by the Temple Institute
( Machon HaMikdash)

The work of lighting the Menorah that Aaron was given in the Mishkan, is shown to be a metaphor for the work of the mitzvot that we do. However the western candle shone with more light than the oil allotted to it and this was seen by the Sages as miraculous, testifying that God in His mercy does not reward us strictly according to our deeds but gives us of His light, His bounty despite the paucity of our mitzvot. Through His light, he sustains the whole world.

From the teachings of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, on Parshat Shavua Al Hatorah Beha’alotecha

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Torah: the Soul’s voice

The torah: the soul's voice

Father and son reading from the Torah

There is a general principle in the Kabbalah that no light may be attained without its appropriate vessel.
So although it is true that we are surrounded by the infinite light of God at all times, we cannot sense God’s light if we do not have the appropriate vessel.
What is the appropriate vessel though which we may come to appreciate the soul, that part of God within us? How can we relate to the soul? How can we come into affinity of form with the soul, which implies dvekut or unity with it?
The Zohar states that the Torah, the soul and the Holy Blessed One are one. It also states that God is hidden in the Torah.
How does Torah differ from other knowledge? How can the Torah help me hear my soul? What qualities do I need to cultivate in order to find the Essence of God hidden in the Torah?

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Faith: Torah from the Years of Fury

Flames of faith: teachings from  Aish Kodesh, ChanukahNo one can or should remain untouched by the tragic events at Newtown Connecticut. Some people in their grief and anguish ask ” But why did God allow this to happen?” It is hard to feel the love of God in such times and to have faith in His Name that He is Good and does Good to all.

The holy Rabbi of Pieczetsna, Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, taught his community during  the last years of the Warsaw Ghetto. A witness to the daily murder of innocent men, women and children, he faced this issue of faith in God in the worst of all imaginable circumstances. He did not survive the war, but in a miraculous way some of his teachings did.  When it was clear the ghetto was doomed, he hid the teachings in a milk churn, buried beneath the rubble.  They were  discovered accidentally by a Polish worker digging  in the foundations and eventually found their way to Israel where they were published under the name “Aish Kodesh” “Holy Fire”.

Here follows a talk containing his teaching on Chanukah from the year 1941 in which he addresses this very issue of faith in the midst of suffering.

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The talk is read from  the translation of Aish Kodesh by Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira : Sacred Fire: Torah from the Years of Fury 1929-1942 published by Jason Aaronson Inc. 2002

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