“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.
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
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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A model of the Ark of the Covenant
Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag teaches us that the essence of the Torah, that is its light, is one. However, the garments that this light is clothed in, differs from generation to generation. The vessel of the Mishkan, as built in the wilderness, is the physical vessel for the light, which is the in- dwelling presence of God.
The Netivot Shalom, the modern Chassidic master, teaches that the sanctuary with its structure, its vessels and its practice, is like a map of the structure of the soul. For us, therefore to be able to build a sanctuary within us we thus need to enable the soul within us to act as a true vessel for the light of God so we too may be a sanctuary for Him. The understanding of the structure and inner meanings of the vessels of the Mishkan can provide a road map for us to build our own inner sanctuary.
This podcast is dedicated to לעלוי נשמת אבי מורי אהרון בן מנחם מנדל ז”ל; my father, Aaron Ben Menahem Mendel z”l
Often when we start along the path of trying to come into affinity of form with the Creator , we see our own ego desires. We make resolutions to try to concentrate on giving good to others, but to our dismay we find that even our good deeds seem to be contaminated with rather mixed motives. Yes we are doing good, that is undeniable; but within the good deed we can still discern a lot of self-interest tucked inside there.
This realization causes many people to feel stuck , even paralyzed. But the Sages assure us: Even the practice of Torah and mitzvot that is conducted not for its own sake will lead us to the path of Torah and mitzvot which are utterly unconditional.
However like all swords that are of any use, this one is also double -edged.
To learn more on the stage of mixed motives, called in the Kabbalah, Torah shelo lishmah, listen to the podcast here
From the Kabbalah of Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag
The Chanukah candle placed outside the house for all to enjoy and see the miracle
Rabbi Ashlag looks at the details of the laws of Chanukah as explained in the Talmud and teaches a wealth of inner work as he elucidates their inner meaning.
We are taught by the Sages of the Gemorrah that the Chanukah candle should be placed outside the house opposite the side of the mezuzah
in the doorway.
Rabbi Ashlag teaches that this detail actually teaches about the root of the spiritual light of Chanukah when God gave the people of Israel a miracle over the Greeks in those days. But what does this mean for us now? When we try to give to others or to God unconditionally we find that many obstacles lie in our path. But the most difficult to overcome is our own inner adversaries.Our own inner Greeks, who represent our rational mind that opposes faith. We find that much as we want to we are unable to overcome our own selves. Finally we realize we need God to reveal His light to us just as He did in these days to our forefathers and show us a miracle. The inner miracle of Chanukah.
From the Bircat Shalom Sefer HaMaamarim of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag
Other talks on chanukah:
Faith: Torah from the Years of Fury
Chanukah: The Triumph of the Soul over the Ego
Chanukah: What is a miracle?
Giving freely from the heart
We all know how to give something in order to get something in exchange. We do this all the time. But try giving completely freely, without looking for any benefit whatsoever, not even an emotional compensation. We might think we could do this in theory, but just try it in actual practice and we find that the whole idea seems somehow unreal, surrealistic even. In fact, when we start trying to come into affinity of form with the Creator by giving unconditionally, it feels like learning a new language. We act as if we are emotionally tongue-tied. Our whole organisms feels as if we don’t understand ourselves , and we lack the vocabulary in this new language of giving.
Although we may know that giving unconditionally is a good thing in theory, we require motivation to carry it though in practice. It is through the study of the Kabbalah that we get the tools and the inner fuel to keep going.
From the teachings of Rabbi Ashlag and the Zohar Bereishit.
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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