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. 

Becoming Adam: to resemble the Divine

Adam: from God and like God. From the teaching of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag

 

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?

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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.

Things aren’t what they seem: Jacob acted with integrity.

Ya'acov a man of true intention. From the kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

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

 

Our inner Cain and our inner Abel: Can we identify them?

Cain and Abel: inner meanings from the Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

Cain and Abel

Rabbi Ashlag teaches us that all the elements to be found within the Biblical narratives are to be found within ourselves. Furthermore, the parts of the Torah that relate how the Creator revealed Himself to our forefathers, and their happenings, help us to shed light on our own behavior and help us to clarify for ourselves how to come closer to the Creator in affinity of form in compassion and giving.

The story of Cain and Abel is a representation of the paradox we all live with, of the conflict between the ego and the soul and how  we deal with them.

By asking the questions: Which part of me is my inner Cain? Which part of me is my inner Abel? and looking at the motives and actions of the protagonists in the story, we can see how we may prevent our inner Cain from “murdering” our inner Abel.

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From Rabbi Ashlag’s essay, Torat Hakabbalah Umahutah; the Netivot Shalom on Bereishit, the Zohar Bereishit A and Bereishit B

Picture credit: From the National Geographic Channel ( Video series)

The language of Revelation

Revelation in words of a Torah scrollHow do we look at the revelation of God’s light? Of His wisdom in the world? How do we relate to it personally? What does it feel like? How can we express it or learn about it from others?

Rabbi Ashlag’s great essay on the essence of Torah and Kabbalah teaches us that the great Sages used language as vessels for the repository of Divine language: the language of the Tanach, the Bible; the language of Halachah, Jewish Law; the language of Aggadah, the folktales; and the language of Kabbalah.

Kabbalah is a language— one of connections between this world and the higher worlds,  connecting every branch with its root. As we learn Kabbalah, we too can learn our soul’s connection with its Maker.

From the essay Torat Hakabbalah Umahutah by Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag.

Dedicated for the souls’ ascension of Yaacov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah, Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim and Ayal ben Iris Teshurah zichronom l’vrachah, who gave their lives al Kiddush HaShem, in the sanctification of God’s name.

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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

To be in accordance with the Creator is to act “out of the box”.

A butterfly changes worlds as it emerges from its chrysalis. So do we when we come to the framework of holiness

From one world to another

“And you should know that as regards the essence of the man as he is in himself without matter, we have no conception of it whatsoever. Our five senses and our imagination can only show us the actions of the essence, but cannot reveal to us anything of the essence as it is in itself.

… Our own essence itself, or what it consists of, is completely unknown to us. I feel and know that I take up a place in the world. I am solid, I am hot, and I think, which are some manifestations of the actions of my essence, but if you were to ask me, “What is my essence, my Self from which all these manifestations come?” I would not know what to answer you. Behold! The Divine Providence has withheld from us the ability of conceiving of any essence. We are able to grasp only overt manifestations or images of actions, which come forth from essences.”

Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag, Mavo Le Zohar.

The Kabbalists teach us that our essence is the same as that of God’s — like a stone is composed of the same material as the mountain. So, if we want to act in accordance with our essence, that means acting in accordance with an aspect of ourselves we cannot sense directly. This is why Rabbi Ashlag’s teaching in his work, Matan Torah, that all altruistic acts, whether done for the sake of the other, of for God, seem to us to be meaningless and empty.

Clearly we have to get out of the paradigm of thought and concepts woven around us by our basic ego nature. But how? How do we get to act ” out of the box”?

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