Rabbi Ashlag teaches that in order to mourn we actually have to know what we are mourning for. The significance of the Temple when it stood in Jerusalem was the fact that it was a tangible manifestation of God’s light in the world. On its destruction , the world went dark.
But God is good and does good at all times, therefore even in the darkness , there exists a great light. and that is the fulfillment of the Biblical command:
“Make for Me a sanctuary that I will dwell within them.”. ( Exodus 22: 8)
Inside each of us is a soul. But do we experience her? The greatest woe of destruction is not even being aware that anything is destroyed. Tisha B’Av draws our attention to look at where in our lives we are not giving our soul a voice, where we are allowing that sill small vice to be drowned out the demands of the ego. Where we are acting out of habits conscious or unconscious that draw us away form the manifestation of the light of God in our own lives now. Tisha b’ Av may have started in history but it ‘s relevance is now.
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
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.
The month of Elul, the month preceding Rosh haShanah is a good moment for taking time out to contemplate the last year…. or to look at our lives as a whole. Its a moment when quietly we can be truthful with ourselves and see which of our thoughts, actions and words were in line with our own highest values, and where to be frank we let ourselves down.
Thoughts of our own slip-ups are painful and sorrowful and our most likely response is to push them away. A different, more healthy response that will bring us into a more aware consciousnesses, is the message of the shofar.
The Zohar teaches us that the sound of the shofar is the voice of compassion, the voice of loving-kindness. It awakens us to Teshuvah, because the ultimate source of our unhappiness and of our mistakes is our disconnection from our Source. But words that were said, can’t be unsaid, and actions that were taken. now exist. So what can we do to mend things?
Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his great work, Mesillat Yesharim, (The path of the righteous) writes:
“ Teshuvah, (Repentance) is given to people with absolute loving-kindness so that the rooting out of the will which prompted the deed is considered a rooting out of the deed itself.”
This loving-kindness manifests in the sound of the shofar. The voice of the shofar opens the opportunity to make good , to undo , to come back fresh…. and to a new start.
This is the miracle of Teshuvah: Teshuvah is returning home. It is returning to our Source. Before the world was created Teshuvah was created. Before Man came into being, the possibility of return was built into the whole scheme of things. The call of the shofar, is the call of compassion, of mercy and of bringing us back home.
May we all be blessed with a sweet and happy New Year.
In the Hebrew, the idea of sin, is no way as harsh as it is in the English language. The word sin, chet, really means to miss the mark. Indeed, all of us at times look back at some aspect of our lives, and wish we had acted otherwise.
The Sages tell us that the force of the evil inclination , the self-centered ego is so strong that if God does not help us with it, it would cause us fall into evil every day!
So Rabbi Baruch Ashlag , the great Kabbalist, asks this simple question. If we are really unable to deal with our selfish love ourselves, what do we need to ask forgiveness for?
In his answer he shows us that the real need for forgiveness arises because we did not ask God to help us when we needed to. Asking God to help us when we are struggling with our own selves maybe, surprisingly, quite difficult. It involves a giving up, and a wish for God to come close. Realizing what we need to ask forgiveness for actually helps us make better choices next time!
This podcast is dedicated for a Refuah Shlemah to my mother Chaya bat Sara Leah.
From Sefer Hama’amarim of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag ( article 4 תשמ”ח)
Before the Pesach holiday begins we are busy clearing out the chametz, the leaven from our houses. The Zohar informs us that this leaven represents the yezer hara, our egoism, within us. This process is not one of sadness but one of joy, as it gives us an opportunity to come to our true freedom, a freedom from being bound by our own egoism. A Freedom from being saddened by circumstances we can’t change, or from disappointments in not receiving what we thought we should, and the particular anxiety that goes with that.
But coming into redemption, is coming into our truest freedom which is of giving unconditionally. Nothing and no-one can enslave us there.
The whole process of our inner redemption is depicted in our preparations for the Pesach holiday and in the story of the Children of Israel’s redemption from Egypt as set out in the Haggadah. As we recite the story of our redemption of then we can pray to God and feel the joy of our redemption of now in an exactly parallel process.
When Rabbi Yehudah Leib Ashlag was away from his students, he wrote them very many letters instructing them on the path of spiritual growth. A recurring theme in these letters is the importance of working on the love of friends. He wrote:
I understand that you are not practicing so much the rectification of the will to receive for oneself alone, as it is expressed through the mind and through the heart. Nevertheless, do the best you can ,and the salvation of God comes in the twinkling of an eye. But the most important way, that stands before you today, is in the union of the companions. Make greater and greater efforts in this aspect, for it has within it the ability to compensate for all lacks. Igeret Parshat shemot 5685 Warsaw.
By contemplating these words very deeply we see that we are given a profound clue for ourselves today.
How do we come to unity? Why is it so important? By looking at Rabbi Ashlag’s work in the context of the revelation on Mount Sinai, we see that we have been given a key whereby we too can come to a revelation of the light of the Creator.
Crocodylus niloticus in Lake Chamo 02″ by Bernard Gagnon
Each one of us is a whole world. Therefore in every person is a complex world of characters that make up the ego, and the one, pure, aspect of the soul.
Rabbi Ashlag teaches that all the aspects of the Torah stories take place within ourselves. Of all the aspects of the ego, the hardest one to deal with is the Pharaoh within us. The Zohar, likens Pharaoh, the ultimate denier of God to a crocodile lurking in the Nile (following Ezekiel chapter 29). Pharaoh manifests within us as the ultimate hijacker of our values and aspirations of spirituality, not allowing them to come into fruition.
From the Pesach Haggadah we find out that that the key to dealing with our inner Pharaoh is to cry out to God in prayer to help us, for it is the Holy Blessed One, Himself who rescues us from Pharaoh’s clutches and brings us out of our inner slavery into freedom.
The oil the wick and the vessel provide the three essential components to light the flame of the Chanukah candle. How was this candle first kindled?
The candle was lit through the dedication and the sacrifice of the men of faith, who rejected the secular philosophy of the Greeks. The Greeks relied on external logic and rationality as the basis of their thought, whereas the way of the Jew is the way of faith in the Goodness of the Almighty. Often God’s way is hidden from us, and we cannot see or understand His goodness. But the miracle of Chanukah, when the candle stayed alight in a way which no cold logic could have predicted is an open revelation of God’s light. That was the miracle.
In this letter, Rabbi Baruch Shlaom Ashlag looks at the components of the candle from their inner perspective and teaches how this miracle may be kindled in our own lives, thought our faith and service to God.
This podcast is based on a letter of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Halevei Ashlag taken from the book Bircat Shalom, Mamarim bavodat HaShem al derech haemet.
Dedicated for a Refuah Shlemah to Chava bat Shifra Hinde
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.