Recognizing our own selves: first steps to Teshuvah

looking inside is a forward step on the path to Teshuvah


“Levi met his old friend Reuben. Levi asked Reuben where he was living. Reuben answered him, telling him his present address. Levi’s eyes grew round with surprise when he heard the answer. ‘Surely that’s where Simon the infamous criminal is living’ he cried, ‘he must be making your life a misery.’………”

This is the beginning of a story that Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag tells about ourselves. It is a story we can use to discover who we are and what we need to work with.

It is hard for us to see the truth about ourselves, according to the  scriptural saying “Love covers all iniquities,” and because we all naturally love ourselves, we actually don’t know that much about ourselves.

Yet, if we don’t know what we need to rectify how can we come to our true purpose?

“The light of the Torah brings a person back to the good way,” teach the Sages. How does this light work? Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag, on being asked that question, answered, “The light of the Torah shows a person that his will to receive for himself alone is actually damaging him. Without this light he cannot throw it away.”

Listen to full podcast

This podcast (15 minutes) is dedicated to my mother, Chaya bat Sara Leah for a Refuah Shlemah, a perfect healing, by Elizabeth and Jonathan Topper




Purim right now

The inner meanings of Purim as given by Rabbi Ashlag are as relevant now for us as they were 3000 years ago

Purim now: reading the Megilla with the IDF tankists

We are living in turbulent times; on the one hand the light of redemption is undoubtedly getting nearer and with it an increasing consciousness of the light of God in the world. Equally, the destructive elements of the world seem to be growing in strength. This is not the first time that the Jews have faced these huge polarization of energies. They did so at the time of Purim 3000 years ago.

Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag in 1948 gave an oral discourse on the inner meanings of the festival of Purim. Through his insight into the inner meanings of Megillat Esther,we learn what choices were open to the Jews then and how we can learn from their experiences now, 3000 years later.

Not only in the scale of world events, but right in the small details of our lives, the choice of how we receive the light of God also applies in the small details of our daily lives. Let us give to God and to our fellow man according to the way of Torah, the way taught by Mordecai the Jew, and thus each of us, in our own small way may contribute to the redemption of all mankind through the light of God.

Listen to Purim in our days 

This talk was inspired by the oral discourse taught by Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag at the festival of Purim 1948, recorded by his son Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag. Printed in Shamati and in HaShem Shamati Shimecha (with a commentary by Rabbi Avraham Mordecai Gottlieb).

With grateful thanks to the women of the Tsfat Beit haMidrash and to my chevrutas, James Torrance, Ilan Ben Gal, Ofra Dekel, Jodie Lebowitz Davis, with whom I learnt this article and who inspired me with their delight and enthusiasm.