Cover image of Nehora School presents the Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag
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Nehora School presents the Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

Updated 5 days ago

Religion & Spirituality
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Judaism
Philosophy
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The Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

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The Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

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Cover image of Nehora School presents the Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

Nehora School presents the Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

Updated 5 days ago

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The Kabbalah of Rabbi Ashlag

Rank #1: Root and Branch: The Language of Kabbalah

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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 already mastered the terms used. So why do we get so surprised when we don’t fully understand what we’re reading in the Kabbalah?

The answer is based on the way the Kabbalah sees reality. Every element in this world comes from the spiritual worlds above. It is a branch, the root of which is to be found in the higher spiritual worlds. Therefore, the sages found that by using ordinary, everyday language that pertains to elements in this world, they could in fact reference their roots in the higher spiritual worlds. Of course, the sages would have a clear perception of the relationships between the elements of this world — the branches— and their equivalent roots in the higher spiritual worlds.

So we find that the sages of the Kabbalah used our  everyday language, but in a way that we, ordinary mortals, who don’t have direct perception of the higher spiritual worlds, can easily be misled by.

That’s why we were so fortunate in our generation to have had   a great Sage like Rabbi Yehudah Leib Ashlag who acted  as translator. He translated  from the language in which the Zohar and other Kabbalah texts are written in and and brought their meanings into our ordinary spoken language. In our generation, we have been so blessed to have had this great Sage in our midst, to open for us wisdom that through its code had been locked for centuries.

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. 

Nov 23 2017

14mins

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Rank #2: What do we ask forgiveness for?

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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 inclination would prevail over a person every day and if God does not help him he does not manage to overcome it. “

This would seem to suggest that we are not to blame for our sins. In which case what is the real sin?

In this article, Rabbi Ashlag looks at the source of our mistakes, and shows us that the real sin lies in our not asking for help from the Creator to deal with them.  We need to believe that not only God wants to  help us , but that He really can!

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)

Aug 25 2016

15mins

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Rank #3: Rabbi Ashlag: What he learned when he reached dvekut with God.

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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 angels, not for you,” said the father. But the boy argued, “If it has been printed, it must be meant for everyone.” “No,” insisted his father, “it is not for you.” But the boy’s curiosity had been aroused, and he started to study it. It was a book of the Kabbalah and its light illumined his heart.

The child was Yehudah Leib Ashlag who, one day, was going to change the way we see spiritual consciousness.

Rabbi Ashlag had , even for those days, an unusual dedication to his studies. He had a tremendous quality of truth. Truth for him meant inner truth, being totally true to himself, and thus when he studied a book of musar, he never left it until he felt he had completely put into practice all tha the book demanded of him.

With this intense labor on himself, in his regular Torah study, his study of the Kabbalah and the work on his own virtues, he came to the incredible spiritual level of dvekut with God, unity , and enlightenment at an extremely early age.

In the normal way we would not have access or any record of such a great Rabbi’s personal life or spiritual achievements.  Our great tzaddikim hid their spiritual achievements preferring modesty. . True to this tradition of modesty, in the last year of his life Rabbi Ashlag requested his devoted assistant, Rabbi Moshe Baruch Lemburger, to make a pile of his personal papers and burn them. However, others, who were present, contrived to save the papers from the fire.

Among these papers is a piece of writing in which Rabbi Ashlag describes his thoughts and his feelings when he had the merit to receive the great light of God, the Or d’Chochmah. This is the great light that God wants to give us according to His purpose in creation. A person receives this great light only when he has finished his personal tikkun (rectification of his soul).  At the time of the redemption, all humanity will receive this great light.

In this document we have a record, unique in Jewish spiritual literature, of the development of the tzaddik on his receiving an experience of enlightenment while in affinity of form with the Creator. It was an experience that was to change the direction of Rabbi Ashlag’s life.

Rabbi Ashlag starts by asking a question: He is in this experience in which his whole being is totally illuminated in the light of God. So he wants to know what does his service to God  consist of, now that he no longer has to give faith or belief in God, because he is in a state of knowing God?  So he sets out to visit his teacher, the Rabbi of Belz. But when he arrives at the Beit haMidrash, he finds that the Sage’s response to him in his state of enlightenment is not encouraging, to put it mildly, but treats him with sarcasm and shows his displeasure. Rabbi Ashlag finds himself in a quandary: on the one hand he believes in his experience, on the other hand, he has faith in his Rabbi. Perplexed, Rabbi Ashlag has to resolve this seeming contradiction for himself.

For Rabbi Ashlag’s description of how he resolved this dilemma,  listen to the rest of the podcast!

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. 

Dec 25 2017

24mins

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Rank #4: Returning to our Source: Teshuvah

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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 that rules over all the worlds returns and reconnects all things in the perfect divine reality. Orot HaTeshuvah Rabbi Avraham Yizhak Hacohen Kook.

Teshuvah, the mere possibility of Teshuvah, is thus a gift of the Creator to the created beings.

Teshuvah means that we do not have to be separated from our Creator, or remain distanced, but that we all have the possibility of fulfilling the purpose for which we are created and becoming one with the Divine. Through our work in Torah and mitzvot, what seems to be an unattainable aim becomes a real possibility.

This month of Elul is designated by the Sages as the month of Teshuvah, the month of reconciliation and love.

In this podcast we learn an article of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag who teaches that our origin is in God and directs us how to return.

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

Sep 01 2015

17mins

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Rank #5: Feeling sad , feeling happy, in our service to God

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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 being happy apply when we are talking about a situation  in which a person has sinned against God by transgressing  one of commandments of the Torah, and now he is repenting before God ? In this case the person comes to God with a broken and a sad spirit. How can he feel joy? (Perush HasulamVayikra 109-115)

Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag looks at this question in terms of the question: “What am I looking for? ”

It transpires that this question is the heart of the dilemma. For by analyzing deeply our connection with God we can come to see that our sorrow over our distance form him is actually a gain in awareness.  The fact that it is God Himself who has enabled us to experience wanting to come closer to Him  as a  true desire, is in itself a cause to rejoice.

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 

Aug 02 2016

17mins

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Rank #6: Why did God go?

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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 dwell within” ( Exodus 25,8) says the Scripture. The sanctuary in Jerusalem was a living experience of God’s presence within the city and the nation.

Since every human being is  considered as  a whole world, each one of us needs to embody a sanctuary for God’s living vital presence within ourselves. Yet mostly we don’t experience God’s light as such a reality. Why not? Why did God go? Why is our inner sanctuary not functioning?

These are the questions we need to ask this Tisha B’Av and through our mourning create a desire, a vessel  for God’s inner light to shine out form within each and everyone of us. Thus fulfilling the dictum of the Sages, ” All who mourn for Jerusalem will merit to witness her joy.”

This podcast is based on the teachings of Rabbi Baruch Ashlag Sefer Hama’amarim and is dedicated to  my mother Chaya bat Sara for a Refuah Shlemah

Jul 24 2015

13mins

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Rank #7: Jacob’s intentions: A man of truth.

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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 that way.

The great Gaon of Vilna, in his Siddur, teaches that in order to gain attainment in the Torah, that is in order to attain its emotional wisdom and have a direct perception of its spiritual meaning, we need to turn to the inner garments of the Torah, with which the Pshat is clothed.

By learning the Kabbalah, the Sod, which deals with intentions, the intentions of God in His actions and those of our holy fathers and mothers become clearer to us. We can see their actions in a true light and use this light as a guide and a beacon within our own lives.

This teaching is drawn from the Perush HaSulam of Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag on the Zohar Toledot. 

The merit of this Torah learning is dedicated for the ilui nishmata of Musha Leah Bat Paltiel z”l

Nov 17 2015

17mins

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Rank #8: Rosh Hashanah ; the festival of choice

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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, and how do we choose?
As the Sages teach us, we are made up of body and soul. The body aspect of ourselves is actually the framework of the ego, called by Rabbi Ashlag, “the will to receive for oneself alone.” He calls it that, because this title actually describes its basic nature. The ego expresses itself through desires to benefit itself. These desires then beget needs, and needs beget thoughts and actions how to fulfill these needs. This framework of the ego can be so compelling that we even say of a person that  ” he or she is governed by his or her ego.”

The other aspect of ourselves is the soul. This is characterized by the desire to give compassionately, and unconditionally. The soul is of the same essence as that of God,  the Creator, whose desire is only that of giving. This soul is also given to us, as we say every morning, “Oh my God, the soul that you gave me is pure, you created it, you formed it, and you breathed it into me.” The acknowledgement of the soul is the acknowledgement of the godliness within us . The more we acknowledge the godliness within us  the more power we  give to the potential of the soul to govern our  thoughts, actions and speech rather than giving away this power unthinkingly to the ego.
So the choice each one of us is given to chose again on the day of Rosh Hashanah   is which governance do I chose? The governance of the ego or the governance of the soul?

It is this question that finds expression in the concept of God as King on Rosh haShanah. Can we make Him the governor of our own selves?

Shanah Tovah to you all, for a sweet New Year, Yedidah

Podcast inspired  by  article 6 taken from the Sefer Hama’amarim of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, תשמ”ט

Other talks for Rosh Hashanah can be found here

The language of Rosh Hashanah is derived from the Kabbalah

The Shofar, the sound of compassion

Changing our outlook on Rosh HaShanah

Sep 13 2015

16mins

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Rank #9: Dealing with Pharaoh

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“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 the stories of the Torah.

Over these last few weeks we’ve been reading in the Torah the story of the exile and redemption of the Children of Israel in Egypt. So our question is, how do we see this redemption of the children of Israel from the suffering and slavery at the hands of the Egyptians, as processes that also take place within ourselves?

How does the element of Pharaoh manifest within us?  The prophet Ezekiel ( Chap.29) calls  Pharaoh, “The crocodile that lurks in the Nile.”  Like the crocodile the cruel enslaver of the Children of Israel is a hard core of our selfish love that  wants to swallow and devour, not only the  material light that God gives to us, but also any spiritual light that comes our way. He is the ultimate inner hijacker.

How did the Children of Israel fall into his trap then, and how do we get out of his trap now?

The merit of this Torah teaching  in this  podcast is dedicated to Michael Andrew, the son of Jennifer.  May he be blessed with a  Refuah Shlemah, a perfect healing.

Picture credit: “Crocodylus niloticus in Lake Chamo 02” by Bernard Gagnon

Jan 20 2016

19mins

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Rank #10: The Chanukah candle within.

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“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 revelation of God’s goodness in a direct and unequivocal way, such that the weak overcame the strong, and the few the many.

Yet the story that symbolizes the whole miracle is the story of the candle. Naturally this candle should have  given out its light for one day only, but it gave out its light for  eight days. An event beyond the natural world, an event beyond logic or philosophy. A direct revelation of God’s light.

Similarly in our own lives, we yearn for the direct revelation of God’s light. Rabbi Baruch  Shalom Ashlag teaches the inner components of our own inner candle for the flame of Chanukah  to be ignited within us.

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

Other talks on the inner meanings of Chanukah

The triumph of the soul over the ego

What is a miracle?

Dec 07 2015

15mins

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Rank #11: It is through our feelings that we may attain the Names of God

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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 Thought of Creation, whereby the Creator desires to give pleasure to all the created beings. Thus we all long for pleasure, and that is a given. But what is not a given, is how we receive this pleasure?

In a letter that Rabbi Ashlag wrote to his brother, he teaches that the soul incarnates into this world, because only when it is clothed in the physical  can it experience feeling; whereas in the higher realms it has knowledge of God but not feeling. It is through our difficult feelings that we long for the revelation of  God’s light in our lives, creating the desire, the vessel for his light. When such a desire is at long last fulfilled we rejoice in the  manifestation of God’s goodness, His light. In this way, the soul, while in this world, grows in spiritual stature in a way it cannot do in the higher realms. it learns, through this interplay of negative and positive feelings, the revelation of God’s Names in the world.

Dedicated to David and Linor on the occasion of their marriage.

Here is a link to a recording of a lesson given by the Baal HaSulam even when we don’t understand his words we can hear the beautiful clarity and radiance of his voice.

Link to download

Jul 02 2015

19mins

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Rank #12: The story of the Children of Israel in Egypt is our story

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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 approaches, we get busy cleaning our houses of chametz, all possible forms of leaven.

Why?

The Zohar, which deals with the reasons for the mitzvot, informs us that the leaven, the chometz is the yetzer hara, the will to receive for ourselves alone, our selfish egoistical love, whereas the matzah is the yetzer ha tov, the will to give unconditionally, the bread of freedom. When we look deeply into this concept , we can see how our egoism really is a bondage. We feel we must have this material good or that emotional set of circumstances to feel good, such that if these circumstances are not met we feel upset or emotionally disturbed in one way of another. This is definitely a bondage, an inner bondage. Equally if we  give but don’t get the appreciation or other reward we feel we are owed, again we are enslaved to our expectations.

Whereas the ability to give unconditionally, without looking to see what, if anything we get for it, is definitely a freedom. This is what the matzah symbolizes; this willingness to extend ourselves without receiving anything back for it at all. But the moment we wish to start doing something like this, even though we can see intellectually that that is the right way, we find our innate will to receive for ourselves alone stepping in and causing havoc. It simply won’t let us do the work of giving unconditionally that will bring us into affinity of form with the Creator. It stops us coming into our freedom. It is the Pharaoh within us, our own inner enslaver, who is holding us in bondage and won’t let us go free.

Like the Children of Israel of old, the only way out is through prayer to the Almighty. Only He can deliver us.

On Seder night, just as we celebrate the freedom of the Children fo Israel from their bondage then so may we celebrate the freedom from our own inner bondage with joy now.

This podcast is dedicated for a perfect healing for Michael Andrew the son of Jennifer.

Taken from the Haggadah Zot LeYedudah with the Be’er Shalom of Rabbi Ashlag

Other podcasts for Pesach

The inner meaning of Seder night, the night of redemption

Who knows One?  From Exile to Redemption

The Four Cups of Wine: Their Inner Meaning

God keeps his promises: A talk for the last days of Pesach

Apr 17 2016

19mins

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Rank #13: The Fruit of Holiness

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Tu Bshvat is the New Year for trees. But why should trees have a new year? There seems to be a comparison made between the tree and the human being by our sages: “For a man is as the tree of a field.” It transpires that this comparison goes much deeper. Like the tree we also have fruit to give, the fruit of our lives and of our labor. What type of fruit will we be giving out? Who will reap the benefit?

Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, takes the comparison between the tree and the human being to a much more detailed level. He also looks at the work a human being needs to work on himself in his service of God and in giving unconditionally to his fellow, by considering all the different work a farmer needs to do for his tree, to enhance the harvest of fruit: composting, hoeing, pruning, removing stones, smoking out insects and worms. By looking at the meaning of these different activities we can see that they have their equivalent in our own spiritual work.

It transpires that Tu B’Shvat is not just a New Year for trees, it is a New Year of all of us as well.

The material for this podcast is taken from a letter Rabbi Baruch Shalom Halevi Ashlag wrote to his pupils on Tu B’shvat, 1957 Manchester.

The podcast is dedicated in loving memory and lilui nishmat Sara bat Yisrael Tzvi Halevi Kotler.

Jan 21 2019

28mins

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Rank #14: Give us the truth of Ya’acov: true intentions disguised by actions.

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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, this looks like a callous act, to put it mildly. Yet how can this be?  Ya’acov,  is described as a dweller of tents, meaning that he dwelt in the tent of Torah. How could he behave in this way? To get an answer to this, we need to go deeply into the reasons and intentions that lie behind the outer acts.

These we find in the  Kabbalah, which teaches us that although on the surface, it appears that Esau was  hard done by, in fact, he hid his true nature. Esau  came in from the field, exhausted, close to death because he had just murdered Nimrod, and taken his garments. These were garments that had come to Nimrod from Adam, but , unlike Adam, he used them in an evil and wrong way. Esau coveted them.

This day, Ya’acov was making lentils, because it was  a dish given to mourners, and this was the day that Avraham died.  Esau, rejected the legacy of Avraham, which was not a legacy of riches and material possessions, but a legacy of faith in God.  He despised his birthright and wanted none of the obligations and responsibilities that it invoked.

Ya’acov, by taking on the birthright, for himself and his descendants took on the faith in God, with all the responsibility that it involves, rescuing the vessels that belonged to Esau  bringing  them with him into the framework of holiness. Similarly his  action with the blessings was a work of great tikkun.

By learning the Zohar on this story our difficulties with the literal interpretation of the story melt away and we come into a deeper appreciation of the need to see the Torah, in all its aspects, the Pshat, Remez, Drash and Sod as a whole.

Here are  re-issues of two  previous podcasts, looking at different aspects of this story of the birthright and the blessings

http://traffic.libsyn.com/nehoraschool/Yaacovs_truth.mp3

Here is another podcast  I gave regarding the difference between outer actions and inner intentions, with respect to  Ya’acov, focusing on the   blessings of Yitzchak. We look at why God hid from Yitzchak who Esau was and why it was correct that Yaacov got the blessings disguised as Esau.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/nehoraschool/The_truth_of_jacobs_intention.mp3

Last year at this time  I  had the privilege to  give some live classes in the Beit Midrash in Tsfat going into the story of Ya’acov and Esau from the Zohar in much more detail, which you can see on Youtube. Here are six lessons on a playlist Ya’acov truth or deceit? 

I hope that  these teachings  help us all value our holy fathers, and thus value ourselves.

Shabbat shalom Yedidah

Nov 09 2018

24mins

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Rank #15: Mourning for our inner Temple on Tisha B’Av

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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 need to sit on the floor and conduct all the forms of mourning.

“Make for me a sanctuary that I will dwell within them” (Exodus: 25:8) was  not a  time-dependent command for one generation, but was an eternal command, now and then.

The Temple in Jerusalem was a tangible manifestation of the reality of God in  the lives of the people then. But when the Temple was destroyed, that light was no longer visible , and we have a new work. A work of building our own inner Temple and finding the light of God within ourselves.

Our soul within each of us is called, in the language of the Kabbalah, “Jerusalem.” In contemplating the destruction, we  mourn the ways we destroy our own inner Temple. We mourn the fact we aren’t even aware that the voice of our soul, our own inner Temple is  missing from our lives. We mourn the lost opportunities where we can rebuild.

But our mourning is not just a wallow in misery. It is a pointed examination of matters as they stand. It is an awakening. And like limbs that have gone numb, such awakening may, at first, be painful, but it is useful. The very act of mourning the lack of place we give to our soul, awakens us to the desire to give our soul a new voice and a new place and to rebuild our inner Jerusalem.

All who mourn for Jerusalem merit to see her joy! (Taanit 30b) Amen may we so merit this year.

This shiur, is dedicated in loving memory of Feiga bat Shmuel and Rvikah and for the elevation of her soul.

Jul 20 2018

16mins

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Rank #16: The words, letters, and sentences that make up our lives.

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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 lives.

The light of God, the Creator, is one, One indivisible goodness. But we cannot grasp any aspect of it unless we want it.

Rabbi Ashlag the great Kabbalist gives this example:

Take a sefer Torah:  The light is the white of the parchment. It contains all the wisdom of the Torah,  But if it were not for the black letters, I would not know what this wisdom is saying to me.

Black is the absence of light. So the letters of the Torah, black ink on white parchment  are actually absences of the light… yet the letters catch the light within their spaces. In our own lives when we lack something we yearn for it. It is our desires that make up the letters, words and sentences of our lives.

Our question today is, are the sentences we are writing today, truly reflecting our deepest desires?

By learning the words of the Torah and of the Kabbalah , accurately  we can see our own desires, more clearly.

Today we look at the term zivug, which is the Kabbalistic term for the entry of light into the vessel and is also the term used for the relationship between a man and wife.

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. 

Jun 19 2017

15mins

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Rank #17: Not taking Torah literally!

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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 world, even the rulers of the world have more excellent matters than those in the Torah. Then we could go after them and make from them a Torah, in the same way.

But all the words of the Torah are high matters and are of the highest inner meanings!

Rabbi Ashlag, when he came to the Land of Israel, originally thought to join with the Kabbalists of the Holy Land. But he was bitterly disappointed to find that they were occupying themselves only with the external forms of the writings of the Zohar and of the Ari, without trying to understand them at al. Indeed, they were laboring under the apprehension that it wasn’t necessary to try to understand these writings at all. They even thought that such understanding wasn’t meant for humans.

Rabbi Ashlag felt the injustice being done to the Torah. His disappointment renewed his desire to bring wisdom and understanding into this crucial, but so neglected part of the Torah.

In this podcast we hear his impassioned outburst, his determination and his yearning. It is a fire we can kindle within ourselves too.

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. 

The picture is the Returning Light Meditation by Avraham Loewenthal of Tsfat, with grateful acknowledgement.

Jan 26 2018

18mins

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Rank #18: Becoming Adam

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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, from the cattle, or from the sheep.” (Leviticus 1:2)

Rabbi Ashlag places his attention on the word “Adam” and on the words ” from you”as follows: The name “Adam”, refers to one who bears the name of God, one who is like God. This is  from the inner meaning of the Scripture  אדמה לעליון,  “I will resemble the Most High.” So  the name Adam implies one who wants to be like God, that is to say, in affinity of form with the Creator. He wants to come it love and give unconditionally just as God gives to us unconditionally. Such a person, Adam, should bring the sacrifice to God,  from you, that is to say, from yourselves.

The Sages of the Talmud commented:

“You are called ‘Adam’, and one who worships idols is not called ‘Adam’.” (Masechet Yevamot 61 a)

We see that the Sages of the Talmud bring in two opposing elements: 1)The aspect of Adam who wants to be like the Creator  and 2)  the aspect of the idol worshipper, being one who gives governance to his or her selfish egoism. These  elements  are actually two opposite aspects within ourselves.

Both the aspect of Adam, who is in affinity of form with the Creator, and the aspect of the idol worshipper, which is the self-serving part of ourselves, are within us.  It is our soul that is in affinity of form with the Creator, from whom it comes through the framework of holiness, whereas our ego, which expresses itself through the will to receive for ourselves alone, is the representative of the idol worshipper within us. Which one will I adopt? To whom will I liken myself?

This Torah learning is dedicated to the ilui neshama of  Reb Moshe Ben Ese-Esther,  a direct descendant of Rabbi Akiva Eiger ztz’l  the grandfather of  my chevruta, Shmuel Iger Kinyan, who despite the dangers of being Jewish in communist Russia first taught Shmuel that he was Jewish.

Teachings taken from the Perush HaSulam on the first volume of the Zohar Pikudah Kadma’ah and also from Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag’s Al HaTorah, Parshat Vayikra.

Mar 27 2016

16mins

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Rank #19: A letter for Rosh Hashanah by Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag: Looking forward

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“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 come closer to our Creator.

May we all be blessed with a sweet, happy and healthy year full of goodness for each one of us , our families and the family of Mankind, Yedidah Cohen

This podcast is dedicated for a Refuah Shlemah to Rafael ben Chaya Rosa . May all the sick have a complete healing this year.

Taken from “Mictavim Rabbi  Baruch Shalom  Ashlag” Mictav 10

Further talks on  Teshuvah and Rosh hashanah

Forty days of love: From Elul to Yom Kippur

Coming back home: The shofar’s call

The language of Rosh Hashanah is derived from the Kabbalah

The Shofar, the sound of compassion

Changing our outlook on Rosh HaShanah

Oct 02 2016

11mins

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Rank #20: Sounding our own Shofar

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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—the Shechinah, our collective soul—from the beginning of the year till the end of the year. However, since this tikkun is not yet complete, each year at Rosh haShanah we start the cycle again to rectify the Malchut, until the complete redemption.

This is the reason that each year on Rosh haShanah the world returns to its original state when the great light of Creation, the Or d’Chochmah, came into the world. But if we  were to receive this great light now directly it would cause us harm. Thus the Holy Blessed One gave us the mitzvah of blowing the shofar on Rosh haShanah. The shofar is the voice of Binah, the Sephirah of compassion and loving-kindness.

The presence of this great light allows us to see our thoughts, words, and actions of the previous year more clearly. Often we feel sorry and wish some action or word undone or unsaid. But how can we change reality?

Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his great work, Mesillat Yesharim, (The path of the righteous) writes:

“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.

May we all be blessed to hear the sound of the shofar this year, and merit to sound our own inner shofar both at Rosh haShanah and throughout the whole year.

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

photo credit

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

Sep 21 2016

19mins

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