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On this week of the Parasha Toledot, we read the story of Ya’acov and Esau. This story is such a perplexing one when we read the simple bald recital of the events as they took place as described in Bereishit, the book of Genesis. So many questions arise! Ya’acov refuses to give Esau soup until he sells his birthright to him. On the surface, thi ...…
 
This Saturday night starts the fast of Tisha B’ Av. This is a day in which we mourn the destruction of the Temple. But are we really mourning an historical event? When we use our Judaism as a living spiritual path we don’t mourn a heap of stones, but we ask ourselves what are we missing? What aspect is missing from our lives that we feel the ne ...…
 
Zohar: Rabbi Shimon said: Woe to the man who says that the Torah comes to tell literal stories and stories of people like Esau and Laban and such like. For if this were so, even in these times we could make a Torah out of the words of ordinary people — even nicer stories than these. If the purpose of the Torah were to show the matters of the wo ...…
 
One evening in 1892 in a suburb of Warsaw, a seven-year-old boy was lying in bed when, suddenly, a book fell off the bookshelf, hitting him on the head. The boy picked it up and started to examine it. His father, hearing the sound, came in, and seeing the book in his son’s hand, took it from him and replaced it on the shelf. “This is a book for ...…
 
When we read books of kabbalah, as for example English translations of the Zohar , or look at diagrams of the Sephirot, we often end up more puzzled than enlightened. This is because Kabbalah actually uses a specific language. As we know, every discipline has its own language. We wouldn’t expect to understand a book on engineering unless we had ...…
 
Why is it important to understand the language of Kabbalah? Many people learn about Kabbalah using terms such as light, Sephirot, the Tree of life, without really knowing what they mean. But this is a shame, because when we learn the meaning of these words terms accurately we obtain a precious key to the wisdom of our Sages, and to our own live ...…
 
“Happy is the man who does not forget You and the son of man makes an effort in You.” In this happy and optimistic letter for the New Year that Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag wrote to his friends and students in the Beit Hamidrash for Rosh Hashanah, he teaches that the themes of Rosh Hashanah are actually advice the Sages are giving us in how to co ...…
 
Rabbi Ashlag in the Perush haSulam, his great commentary on the Zohar, teaches: During the 12 months of the year we work on the tikkun of the Malchut. That is, we work on letting go of receiving for ourselves alone, and practice giving unconditionally, doing acts that are in affinity of form with the Creator. In this way we rectify the Malchut— ...…
 
When we look back on our lives, we find many things we wish we had done differently. Yet ultimately everything that transpired did so according to the will of God. So what do we need to say sorry for? This question was asked by the great Kabbalist Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag. He considers a saying of the Sages of the Talmud, ” The evil inclinati ...…
 
The holy Zohar says, Rabbi Yehudah opened his discourse, “the Scripture says (Psalm 100:2), “Serve the Lord with happiness, come before him with song” and indeed we have learnt that we need to be happy in our service to God so as to serve Him with true desire. In this way our work will be whole. The questions is: How can this requirement of bei ...…
 
The Torah was given to the Children of Israel in the month of Sivan, in the third month of coming out of Egypt. The holy Zohar takes this to hint to us that the Torah itself comes forth in the middle line of consciousness, combining within itself both the consciousness of Chesed, lovingkindness, and of Gevurah, strength, and bringing forth a co ...…
 
Each year as we sit down at the seder table we read in the Hagaddah, “In every generation every person is obliged to see himself as if he came out of Egypt.” Each year we need to celebrate the Pesach story, to see the hand of God Himself delivering us from our bondage, not just in the past but as an on-going process in our present. As Pesach ap ...…
 
Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, in his teachings on the Parshat Shavua, Vayikra, wrote as follows: The Scripture says, “And God called Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting saying, “Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘Adam, when he offers from you a sacrifice to God; you shall offer your sacrifice from the domestic animals, ...…
 
When the children of Israel arrived at Mount Sinai, the Torah says ” ויחן העם מול ההר. And the people encamped opposite the mountain.” But what you can’t hear in the English translation is the use of the word ” encamped” in a singular form. The great commentator of the Torah, Rashi, picked up on this word, and taught its inner meaning as being ...…
 
“In every generation, a person is obliged to see himself or herself, as if he or she is coming out of Egypt.” Passover Haggadah Rabbi Ashlag considers a person as a whole world in himself .Therefore, everything that is in the world is also represented within each and every one of us. It is in this spirit that he teaches the inner meanings of th ...…
 
“Then Yehudah drew near to him, (Yoseph) and said: ‘Oh my lord, let your servant, I pray you, speak a word in my lord’s ears,'” (Genesis 44:18) It is with these words that one of the most moving and dramatic episodes of the Torah opens. “And Yehudah drew near to him”; the Zohar teaches,”in prayer”. There are many sad and broken people in the wo ...…
 
“The three components of the chanukah candle are the vessel itself, the wick and the oil. All three elements need to be present to receive the flame of Chanukah.” Thus Rabbi Baruch Ashlag starts an amazing letter on the elements that make up the equivalent of the Hanukkah candle within each and everyone of us. The light of Hanukkah is the revel ...…
 
On the surface of it all, it seems a dreadful story: A younger son cheating an older brother of what is rightfully his. So seems the story of Jacob and Esau, according to its literal meaning. However, when we learn the Torah only at the level of the Pshat, we get the outer shell, but we cannot attain the truth and wisdom of its consciousness in ...…
 
Rabbi Ashlag teaches, that when we come to build a house, we first have to start off with the vision of our final dwelling. We need to imagine for ourselves our bungalow, or our block of offices or our wooden hut in the woods. Only then we can start to make real plans and take the steps we need to fulfill our vision in actuality. Likewise, the ...…
 
Rosh HaShanah, the new year is a day of choice; a day when we are given the possibility of choosing again. This is an amazing thought. For so many of us, the days go by and we seem to have drifted into habits of thought, feeling and even actions, which on closer examination we may not in fact espouse. So what does this new choice consist of, an ...…
 
The streams of Teshuvah, both the individual and the general, rush along. They are like waves of flames on the surface of the sun, which, in an unceasing struggle, burst forth, go up, and give life to the multitude of worlds and to uncountable creatures. … Through Teshuvah everything returns to godliness. The reality of the power of Teshuvah th ...…
 
When we come to Tisha B’Av, now, in 2015, we truly need to ask, Why are we mourning? For Zion is repopulated and the city thronged with people. Yet when we consider what the presence of the Temple meant 2000 years ago before the destruction we begin to understand what this day of mourning is really about. “Make for Me a Sanctuary and I will dwe ...…
 
When I learn the work of Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag, the Baal HaSulam, I am struck by the joy and the love that is embedded in his work. Listening to some old recordings of him giving a lesson, we hear his voice ringing out with joy. He was clearly a man of both deep understanding and of rich feeling. Our feelings actually originate with the very ...…
 
One of the qualities of Torah is its beauty; and its wonders, the inner beauty of a life led according to Torah. Sometimes we hear a teaching and we feel, ” Wow, that is beautiful,” and this fills us with joy. This is not a superficial feeling or something we should ignore, but a real appreciation of the beauty of the Torah. The holy Zohar teac ...…
 
The Zohar that we traditionally learn on the festival of Shavuot is called, “The night of the Bride”. In beautiful imagery, it pictures the community of Israel joining together with God, as Bride and Bridegroom under the wedding canopy, at the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. The night of Shavuot is spent studying the Torah, rectifying the v ...…
 
Blessed be He who keeps His promise to Israel. (Haggadah) Following the redemption of the children of Israel at the Red Sea when they saw the enemies drowned on the shore the Scripture states, “And Israel saw the great hand which HaShem had wrought in Egypt. And the people had awe of Hashem and they believed in haShem and in Moses his servant.” ...…
 
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, the Jews have faced these huge polarization of energies. They ...…
 
We all find ourselves making good resolutions— intending to live, from now on, according to our deepest values. Yet when faced with the choice in actual practice our actions very often fall short, and yet again we find that we seem unable to follow through. There seems to be a disconnect between our ideals and our practice. We try different tac ...…
 
In a letter which Rabbi Ashlag wrote to his students whilst he was away in London, he bemoans the fact that some previous students had fallen away from the group. In looking at the question as to why this had happened, he shows how outer change actually follows a prior inner change. This we learn from the story of the exile in Egypt. It was an ...…
 
Many of us go through difficult times in our lives, times of loss and sadness. In such times our connections with God can be painful. We ask Him where He is? Is this what He really wants? That we suffer? We wonder, why is He acting like this towards us, towards me? David, the sweet singer of Israel, actually had a life polarized in its extremes ...…
 
Zohar Toledot, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai: The real truth is, Jacob never deceived anyone. He was incapable of deceiving anyone. The Scripture testifies that he was Ish Tam a man of innocence, and thus we say in Micah 7, “Give us the truth of Jacob.” The Torah gives us the bare record of the events in the early lives of Ya’acov (Jacob) and Esau,on ...…
 
The fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob make up the Merkavah, a Hebrew word meaning “chariot” . In our modern language we could translate this as a vehicle for the light and love of God, receiving it and passing it on to others. Being their children, we also have within our potential, the vessels they brought to the Merkavah. The act of the Akeda ...…
 
And God spoke to Abraham. Since the flood, silence. God had not revealed himself to mankind again. What was He waiting for? On the finish of the Creation, the words of the Torah are, vayhal Elohim, “and God finished” But the Holy Or HaChaim, Rabbi Ibn Atar, tells us that these words also have the connotation of God “yearning” for Man. What was ...…
 
Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag teaches that through the light of the Torah we can come back to the way of affinity of form with the Creator. This light is most easily accessed in the stories of the revelation of God to our forefathers; stories whose energies can be found within ourselves. The epic story of Cain and Abel appears on the surface to be a ...…
 
The Torah states “In succot (booth)s you shall dwell for seven days all citizens of Israel shall dwell in booths. In order that your generations all know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 23, 42-43). But surely it was only natural that the Children o ...…
 
We spend the day on Yom Kippur praying. But will our prayers be answered? Do we know what our real needs are? The Sages of the Talmud gave us a clue: “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.” Rabbi Baruch Shalom A ...…
 
Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag teaches that the language of the Kabbalah and much of the Talmud is dealing with relationships between spiritual roots, albeit using words familiar to us in our everyday speech. A literal interpretation thus causes distortions of understanding. A classical misunderstanding applies to the saying of the Sages of the Talmu ...…
 
“…and He will love you, and bless you, and multiply you” ( Deuteronomy 7,13). The Creator’s desire is to give all blessing and goodness to us. Actually this is all He does, as He is good and does good. However, the Scripture continues, “And you will eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless the Lord, your God, for the good land He has given you ...…
 
Jerusalem: the city of David, the epitome of beauty. In the Kabbalah, Jeruslam is a representation of the soul, also called the Shechinah, the in-dwelling presence of God within us. By looking at the concept of the city, as the source of governance, the focal point of the country, we can see how the soul also needs to be our own governing cente ...…
 
We all have moments of connection with our soul, with the Divine within us,….and we all have moments when we feel sad or depressed or spiritless. How do we keep ourselves from falling into the grip of the will to receive for ourselves alone and ending up separated from our soul, from God? Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the compiler of the Zohar, disc ...…
 
The Torah is the great repository and record of our connection with the Divine. Its very words are vessels which hold within them the Divine revelation, as it was, as it is, and as it will be. Its very essence is one with the Divine. It is both the garments for the Divine, and it is one with the Divine who is clothed within it. Of all the vast ...…
 
All over Israel people are gathering to recite psalms or offer up prayers for the safety of the three kidnapped children. The outpouring of prayers from all sectors of the community, secular as well as religious is unprecedented. In the face of worry and anxiety for the safety of the three boys, we turn naturally to prayer: Prayer as song, pray ...…
 
Rashi, the great commentator on the Torah teaches us that when the Children of Israel stood together at Mount Sinai to hear the word of God and to receive His revelation, they stood there “as one man with one heart.” How did they achieve this extraordinary state of unity? 600, 000 people; each one with his own characteristics and attributes. Wh ...…
 
The song that Moses and the Children of Israel sang after their deliverance from the Egyptians at the Red Sea is a song of the joy of redemption. It is a song of great beauty. The Sages of the Zohar, known as “the Companions”, discuss its inner meanings in detail. In this lesson, we will focus on the inner meaning of one of the phrases of this ...…
 
And God said to Avraham , “I am the Lord, who brought you forth from Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it.” Although it is clear from the text that Avraham believed God, he still had a question. On the surface he is asking for some surety that he will indeed inherit the land. But a closer look at the text shows that this was ...…
 
“It is a natural law for every created being, that whatever is to be found outside the framework of his own body, seems to him to be empty and completely unreal.” Surely not! But remember that the word “body”, as used in the Kabbalah, is synonymous with the word “ego” or our desire for self-benefit. Then this sentence by Rabbi Ashlag, taken fro ...…
 
The prophet Zechariah has a vision of the end of days, when the Lord will be One and His Name One. As part of this vision he says the verse, וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֹא יִהְיֶה אוֹר יְקָרוֹת וְקִפָּאוֹן: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that there shall not be light that is precious and frozen” (Zech. 14,6). The Sages of the Talmud (Pesa ...…
 
“Make for Me a sanctuary so I may dwell within them.” (Exodus 25,8) Rabbi Ashlag teaches us that the Torah is both a way and a destination. Its essence is beyond all human understanding, being one with the essence of God and with the soul, in the inner meaning of the phrase from the Zohar, “The Torah, The Holy Blessed One and Israel (the soul) ...…
 
A friend of mine sent me a chart this week of the ten Sephirot that she had received over the internet. Although this chart wasn’t exactly wrong, the image it invoked for me, was as if one were to reduce a statue carved by Michelangelo to a line drawing, without shading, omitting the play of light and shadow. To avoid such a representation it i ...…
 
When we start to learn the Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag and we learn that most of our desires are driven by our will to receive for ourselves alone, which separates us from the Creator it comes as a shock. But when we turn to our good deeds, we find to our dismay that they also are tainted with our own ego-driven desires. In fact the more we look, ...…
 
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