Yehudah, the teacher of prayer

Called to prayer from the teachings of Rabbi Baruch Ashlag

Called to Prayer

The Midrash states: “When Judah met Joseph, two Kings met.”

The story of the dramatic encounter between Yehudah and Yoseph, is one that reverberates in our hearts and prayers every single day. Yehudah (Judah) taught prayer, whereas Yoseph ( Joseph) represents bounty and redemption.

Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag teaches :

We need to believe before we pray that 1) the Divine hears our voice, whoever we may be. 2) that the Creator can help us 3) that He wants to help us.

Yet the fact that we even want to pray to God is a sign that the Creator is calling out to us. Calling to us to connect with Him and His call is in itself a redemption.

Listen to full podcast

Podcast inspired from the Zohar and the work Bircat Shalom, articles  by Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag

With grateful thanks to Mordecai (Yoel) Shoot whose questions sparked this study.


When God is hidden

Prayer of the girls of Neveh Dekalim, before the expulsion from their homes in Gush Katif

Prayer of the girls of Neveh Dekalim, before the expulsion from their homes in Gush Katif

There are times in our lives, when God’s light is hidden form us. Where is He? King David, the sweet singer of Israel understood and experienced this, as is evident in the psalms. Nevertheless, David still praised God.
How? On what basis was he able to find it within himself to praise God in the midst of his suffering? The Zohar asks these questions, and by looking closely into the inner meanings of one of David’s psalms, Psalm 63, shows us the way when we too are in sorrow.

1.A song of David when he was in the Judaean desert.

2. O God, My God, You, I seek You. My soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You, in an arid and thirsty land without water.
3. Yes I saw You in holiness, seeing Your strength and Your glory.

4. For Your kindness is better than life; my lips will praise You.

Psalm 63

Listen now
From Rabbi Ashlag’s commentary on the Zohar, Terumah, Perush HaSulam paragraphs 253-259

With grateful thanks to my chevruta Meirah Rachel , who inspired and joined me in this learning.

Photo credit: Efrat Weiss

The gate of tears is never locked

the gate of tears is never locked, from the Kabbalah of Rabbi AshlagYom kippur is a day of prayer and coming back to our true selves. But this isn’t easy, as we very often aren’t very conscious of where we have gone wrong or what our truest and deepest desires really are. In a remarkable essay, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag teaches us how to begin to distinguish a real need from one that may seem real but is in fact extraneous. The Sages of the Talmud said,

“Rabbi Elazar said that when the Temple was destroyed all the gates of prayer were closed; but even though the gates of prayer were closed the gate of tears is never locked.”

Through this discussion we learn the inner meaning of the prayer” And all believe that He answers the whisper, Who open the gate to those who knock in Tehuvah,” wanting to return to their Source.

Listen to podcast now
From the Sefer HaMamarim of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, with grateful thanks to Shmuel Igar Kinyan who studied it with me.

Other talks on Yom Kippur
“The Inner Essence of Yom Kippur”, “From the depths I call on You”, “Yom Kippur : A chance to reclaim our true identity”

Keeping in contact with the soul, through thick and thin

faith at all times

faith at all times

The soul is, by and large, not well known to us. We all have moments when we feel connected, and plenty when we don’t. But there is a solution. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught it in the Zohar, 2000 years ago, but its message is still good for us today.
The link between the Torah, the soul and faith is one that is unbreakable, and it is a link which gives us a way to say in contact, even when we can’t.

In this podcast we learn along with Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the Zohar with the aid of Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag’s commentary, the Perush haSulam

Listen now

From the article Mamar Oraita veTzaluta, from the Hakdamah leSefer HaZohar

Raising up our voice in prayer

prayer is from the heart

prayer is from the heart

When we heard the news of the three boys kidnapped last week, all our hearts in Israel seemed to stop for a moment.  Spontaneously people throughout the country, secular as well as religious began to gather, in holy sites and in town squares, to pray together for the safety and will being of Ayal Yiftach, Naftali Frankel and GilAd Scheur

When we are in trouble we all turn instinctively to pray. But why do we pray? How does prayer work? When we say the words ascend what does that mean?

In this podcast we learn how prayer affects the higher worlds and provides a vessel for the light  of God to come into this world.

May our learning  be counted in the merit of Ayal ben Iris Teshurah, Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah and Gil-Ad Michael ben BatGalim for their safety, their well being, and their speedy release.

Listen now

Blessing God’s Name: Changing the challenge into an opportunity

When we say the first six words of the Shema, Shema Yisrael HaShem Eloheinu HaShem Ehad, Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God the Lord is One, tradition has it that we respond with a whisper, “Blessed be His glorious Name for ever and ever.The Zohar teaches us that this whisper has profound significance, changing a potential for unconditional love into actuality, converting a desert land into a place of human habitation.

To listen

The joy of expecting Purim

We are now in the beginning of the month of Adar, the month in which Purim takes place. This is the month in which we increase our joy. But people don’t feel happy or feel sad without a reason. Happiness is not a feeling one can fake or force. We tend to feel happy or sad depending on events. We can’t feel feelings just because we are told to! So it’s clear that the Sages of the Talmud intended the increase in our simchah, in our joy, to relate to an inner joy, something more connected with our inner being. . .

To listen to full talk(9 mins) click on link

Yom Kippur, regaining our Identity

I was reading the other day in the commentary on the Zohar written by the Baal haSulam, Rabbi  Yehudah Lev Ashlag, about the children of Israel at the time of the first temple. and they would offer up sacrifices to atone for their nefesh, soul , well there it was and I began to think well what does that mean? and as I looked at these words in the Perush HaSulam on the Zohar I began to understand this atonement is about.

 The words in the Perush HaSulam  on the Zohar actually read like this:

 In the former days when the river (the goodness) was flowing with its waters from above to below then Israel was in the state of perfection. because they were offering sacrifices to atone for their nefesh.(Volume one paragraph 96)

 Now to understand what the Children of Israel were actually doing, we have to know a little bit about the different parts of ourselves. Starting from the outside in we’ve got a physical body, skin, bone, flesh, and all that, and then we have an aspect which is called the nefesh behamit, the animal soul, and that animates the body. That gives it its life force. We don’t have to tell the heart to go tick-tock, tick tock, it does it automatically. And the nefesh behamit gives it its life force, it also gives it its basic desires; for food, for health, for power, for security, for comfort, and so forth. All the basic desires that we share in common with the animals.

And then the next part of our selves is the holy soul which resides within ourselves, within the nefesh behamit. We all have this soul this neshamah which starts off in everybody as a point source. Then as we work on identifying with the desires of our holy soul that starts to develop. And it develops to different extents in different people because it develops to the extent that we put effort into it. So the question I really wanted to ask myself was, “Which is the real me?

 I’ve got these bits, I’ve got the body, I’ve got the animal soul and I’ve got the point source in my heart. Which bit is me?

 If we go back to that piece of Zohar we can see that there is a clue there. When Israel was in a state of perfection they would offer up sacrifices to atone for their nefesh. Now the part they were at atoning for is their animal soul. Now why did they need to atone for it? To atone is like rescuing something, its like paying a ransom. le kaper is the same as kopher giving a ransom. Now the reason we need to atone for it is because we get muddled up. It’s a case of mistaken identity. I think that’s the real me! I got all confused! I’m pretty sure my body isn’t the real me, because it changes and I can see that it changes. After all I started off as a baby and I certainly don’t look like one now and I get thinner or fatter. Most of us are clear that we are not the body. What we are not clear about is that we are not the animal soul either. Because the animal soul contains all those desiresand  it also contains the personality and the ego. Everybody gets confused on this one. You can’t live in the world and not get confused! In fact it’s a case of mistaken identity. We think it really is us. And that’s why it’s the cause of sin, because what is a sin? its when we think that that’s what we really want. When we go after what the animal soul is telling us.

 And how would they atone for it, well they would take an animal. An animal sacrifice is not by chance an animal, it was an animal which represented that aspect of the animal soul and they would bring it to the temple and they would put their hands on it and they would actually confess the sin on the animal before thy offered it up as a sacrifice. And that was the vidui, the confession  So as we begin to look ,we can see these elements in the Yom Kippurservice and in the way we fast on Yom Kippur.

Everybody has to keep Yom Kippur. It doesn’t say in the Bible you only have to keep Yom Kippur if you sinned, Yom Kippur is for everybody. It says in the Bible “On the tenth day of the seventh monthyou shall afflict your souls and the word used is nefesh. And the soul we afflict is the animal soul. We don’t eat or drink or have any other bodily comforts. It’s as if we’re paying a ransom. We all mistook who we were. During the year we identify ourselves with the animal soul. It’s inevitable . We all do it. And on Yom Kippur everybody from the high priest downwards gives this ransom. We redeem our identity.

We are not the animal soul, we are actually the essence of God who resides within us. In that source within the heart. We are bringing that back into the light again. That’s what we are redeeming. and the same elements that were done in the temple we do now in a different form. We make confessions and we pray, which is instead of the sacrifices in the Temple.

 When we have done that and we have come to teshuvah, we have come back to our source, we have raised up the Shechinah again, which is what Teshuvah is really about. It’s not really repentance, it’s teshuv hay, bringing back the God . So Teshuvah is about re-identifying with our holy soul. And the more we identify with our holy soul the more it will begin to grow.

 Our work on Yom Kippur enables us to clean of the confusion of the previous year and start the New Year afresh, identifying with our real selves.

Ktivha vChatimah TovahMay you be inscribed for a good year! Yedidah