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.

Listen here for full podcast

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.

Listen now (fifteen  minutes)

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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