Coming back home: The shofar’s call

The shofar call us home, form the Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

Blowing the shofar

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.

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This Torah podcast is dedicated l’ilui nishmat  Chana Annette bat Mazal and Moshe 

This talk is based on excerpts from Rabbi Ashlag’s Perush haSulam on Zohar Vayerah 381 and  Zohar TeZaveh 88-92

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Further talks on Elul, Teshuvah and Rosh hashanah

Forty days of love: From Elul to Yom Kippur

Enjoying the month of Elul

Shame is a precious feeling

The language of Rosh Hashanah is derived from the Kabbalah

The Shofar, the sound of compassion

Changing our outlook on Rosh HaShanah

When we need to ask.

deep in prayer. Forgiveness from the teachings of Rabbi Ashlag

What is a sin really?

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)

Sad and happy: conflicting feelings in our relationship with God

feeling sad, yet finding a cause to rejoice in our relationship with the Creator. From the Zohar and the Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

In an article written towards the end of his life, Rabbi Baruch Ashlag discusses the issue of what should we do when we have fallen away form our service to God in one way or another, and we are feeling low because of it. We want to make amends.

But the Sages teach us, ‘ Serve the Lord with happiness, come before Him with song.” How is a person meant to be able to serve God with happiness when he is feeling broken?

God is surely not asking us to do the impossible? But  on what basis can a person feel happy when he is so sad?

The answer is unexpected.  Although the person is feeling low and despairing when he considers how he is not able to do the work for God, nevertheless, he needs to know that just having the awareness that he wants to come to God to get closer to Him is already a positive step. Furthermore, having the desire to come to God is actually a gift of the Creator , because this desire cannot arise any other way.

This podcast is dedicated for  a Refuah Shlema for Alla Bat Rifkah. May this Torah learning bring her a true healing.

Article excerpted from Sefer haMaamarim of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag Vol 4 article 25 

 

 

Teshuva : reuniting with our Source

Returning to our Source: from the Kabbalah of Rav Kook and of Rabbi Ashlag

purple anemones looking upwards

Rabbi Baruch Ashlag writes:

The scripture says “Return O Israel unto the Lord your God.” (Hosea 14.) This means that the measure of Teshuvah, returning,  needs to be unto  the Lord our God. What does it mean to return unto the Lord our God?

Rabbi Ashlag goes on to tell us that we came from God. Our source is Divine. However, the soul and the body devolve down different paths. The path the soul takes is through the framework of  holiness, whereas the path the body— known as the ego— takes, is through the framework of uncleanness.

The soul is clothed by  the body, and is under its domination for the first thirteen years of our life. Then slowly through the work of Torah and mitzvot for the sake of God or for the sake of our fellow human, we gradually return step by step to our Source.

As Rav Kook writes in his great work, Orot HaTeshuvah

Through Teshuvah everything returns to godliness. The reality of the power of Teshuvah that rules over all the worlds returns and reconnects all things in the perfect divine reality.

It is to this extent that we may indeed ultimately must return.

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This podcast is dedicated to the merit of my dear friend Hana Leah bat Esther Sara for a Refuah Shlemah

Teaching from Bircat Shalom of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag  Ma’amar 2 Sefer Hama’amarim תשמ”ט and from Orot HaTeshuvah Rav Kook chapter four

Other talks on Teshuvah and the month of Elul

Forty days of love: From Elul to Yom Kippur

Enjoying the month of Elul

Shame is a precious feeling

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.”

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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

 

 

 

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.

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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”

Shame. A feeling much maligned.

Shame according to the Talmud and the Kabbalah

Shame is a helpful feeling

Teshuvah is the key work of the month of Elul. It means returning to who we are really meant to be. A key element in this work is an honest look at ourselves and noting where we have gone wrong. This is the first and most important step in putting things right.

But because of the feeling of shame this arouses many of us put it off or defer it altogether. The feeling of shame has a bad press in our Western culture.

However, the Sages of the Talmud regarded it positively. They pointed out the feeling of shame comes because we have a Divine potential and it is an awareness of this potential which causes the feeling of shame and shows us where to set things right.

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Talk inspired from Ani l’Dodi, writings for the month of Elul, by Rabbi Chaim Sabato with understandings from the Kabbalah of Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag