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.
Love your neighbor as yourself: This is widely known to be a mitzvah that encompasses the whole of the Torah. But why should that be? There are many other mitzvot that deal with our relationship with God. Why are they also included in “Love your neighbor as yourself?”
We find that although the Scripture writes “Love your neighbor as yourself”, the Sage Hillel in the Talmud put it in another way. “Don’t do to your fellow what is hateful to you.” Why did he turn it around? Does the language of love teach us something about ourselves?
Drawn from the the article Matan Torah by Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag with the commentary of Rabbi Avraham Mordecai Gottlieb with grateful acknowledgment to my chevrutas, David Bar Dov and Ilan Bengal Podcast talk 15 minutes
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
When we act from our ego we become separated from our soul . Yet it is the basis of our nature, formed by the Creator in the Thought of Creation. The ego expresses itself through two main vehicles— the mind desiring to know why we are doing any action and wanting control over our lives; and the heart which looks for pleasure, both sensual and emotional.
As we work to transform the direction of its energies, we come to unite the different aspects of ourselves, heart, mind and soul, which then form a uniquely coherent vehicle for the light of God.
The psalmist says, “What is man that you should remember him? ” However he continues, “Yet you have made him just less than the Divine!”
Where do these two very opposite views of Man’s worth come from? How do we feel about ourselves and where do these very paradoxical feelings originate from? Listen to audio talk
Shavuot is the festival for the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This energy comes around every year. So our question needs to be : How should I receive the Torah? Here is a talk based on an by Rabbi Baruch Ashlag z’l.
Is halachah a lifestyle? Many of my non-observant friends may think so, but in fact its essence is far more than that. It may be said to be a language, a language of actions as precise as those we speak in a sentence.
The third root mitzvah that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai brings in the Zohar is that of declaring God’s unity in the six words that make up the Shema. This declaration of the unity of the Creator is the first thing we learn as little children and the last thing we say when we die. In the morning and in the evening, as the day begins and ends, we affirm with our words this fundamental unity. Why?
Life itself is not uniform. It seems chaotic. We experience all extremes from dreadful to tremendous. Yet we affirm the unity of the Creator and the underlying unity of the acts of the One. These six words transform our lives from meaningless into purposeful.
Loving God isn’t an easy thing for most of us. We tend to take the good times as our due or for granted , and in bad we just feel miserable and angry. How can we remain open to love? Is it important to do so? Interestingly enough it isn’t impossible and our Sages from the Zohar and our friends can show us the way and give us the opportunity to give to the One unconditionally. For the full talk listen on
In this talk we continue our learning of the fourteen root commandments (mitzvot ) whichwe started on before the holiday season took over. The commandment of loving God still seems to be beyond reach. In our last talk we learnt that it is the 613 commnadment that comes as a grace when we have attained all the rest. However, the Zohar opens up to a different possiblity which it hints at by looking at Noah , the father of all humanity, and Abraham our father. How did they come to love God? Can we learn from their approach?