Authentic Kabbalah

KabbalahI get multiple inquiries about the translation of the letter that was composed by Sulam students in response to groups like Litman and Berg. Due to my studies schedule I have extremely limited time and therefore can’t dedicate sufficient effort to the translation. I therefore post a first DRAFT, which is RAW translation of the first part of the letter only due to multiple requests at least to have something. Later on I’ll try to complete the translation and make it more readable.

Here is the letter:

To the honorable Rabbi Gotlieb,

Greetings

Is it true that the study of wisdom of Kabbalah isn’t connected to the observance of Torah and Mitzvot?

Did Rabbi Ashlag ZT”L ever say or write that torah and mitzvot aren’t connected to the study of wisdom of Kabbalah?

My question comes due to the fact that there are groups that are dealing in Kabbalah leveraging the teachings of Rabbi Ashlag and they firmly claim that this is the case (i.e. that torah and mitzvot are not connected to the study of Kabbalah).  I am asking the honorable Rav to respond to this matter.

With Regards

Anonymous

Answer

First of all I would like to say that I don’t have neither any idea nor any connection to those groups and therefore I do not want to address them specifically at all.  Generally I have no desire to discuss and to judge groups and certain individuals as I do not have such jurisdiction, however there is definitely a place to demonstrate the original way of the school of Rabbis Ashlag, to testify on everything that our eyes have seen and our ears have heard to identify erroneous ways and ideologies.  And since questions that are similar to yours are piling up increasingly both in writing and via telephone I therefore decided to make my opinion public which I also reviewed with the top scholar of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag (may his memory shine upon us) Rabbi Yisrael Miller that merited to be the right hand of the Rebbe continuously over thirty-five years and was without any doubt the closest person to the Rebbe.  Therefore this article is a common work of mine and his and its goal is to bring to light the knowledge of the school of Ashlag as we heard it from them and as we were instructed by them-as to which path to follow and which path to avoid

I merited to be with Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag (let his blessed memory shine upon us) for the duration of fourteen years and during this time I was very close with him like a son in his house and during this whole time I have never heard from him that there is no connection between study of Kabbalah to the observance of Mitzvot Gd forbid, and I have never heard from him anything that would indicate that mitzvot are optional rather than obligatory from the Torah Gd forbid.  On the contrary, he was stringent on every minor detail and he was very meticulous in all mitzvoth and all halachot to the tiniest of details. And not this alone but he was specifically instructing us, his closest students, that it is our obligation to be precise with the performance of Halacha much more than people that study only Nigleh (revealed part of the Torah).  And he specifically emphasized that the key to our success in coming closer to the Creator depends on combining two things together-keeping the Torah and Mitzvot in a practical manner in every element as this equals to a body and the study of wisdom of Kabbalah equals to soul (neshamah) and it is clear that the soul without a body is like air that lacks substance drifting on the air without meaning in the daily reality exactly like a body without a soul sits in the dark without light.

I was personally present to see stringency of RABASH with all those things and there was once a case that it became clear to us that in his lesion there was a person Jewish baal teshuva that was not wearing Tzitzit, the Rabbi therefore asked someone to tell this person to leave the class.  In addition the Rebbe RABASH explicitly told us “whoever states that there is no need in performance of Torah and Mitzvot or whoever is lax in some portions of torah and mitzvot he is very dangerous and one must distance oneself from him.”

People of the real faith live the life of body and soul balanced with each other because this is how the Creator created the person in a manner that he is made from two opposites in order that those opposites complement each other.  And therefore it is needed to invest into simple performance of physical Mitzvot such as putting on Tefillin, praying, making Kiddush on Shabbos, Netilas Yadaim, being involved in acts of kindness and charity between a person and his family and between a person and his friends, and blessing after food, and all blessings in general, and keeping the Shabbos, and purity of the family, etc…  In addition one also should invest into the building of the internal soul that is part of the intellectual and emotional being of the person so he will come to a state that the fire is burning within him, fire of love and fear towards the Creator and the creation as one.  The performance of external mitzvot help internal and internal helps external; one complements and enhances the other.

The Rebbe wrote numerous articles on the subject and here is one of them as an example on the topic of the goal (the translation of the article itself is omitted from the translation of the letter)

And here lately I had an opportunity to talk to one of the few people that is still alive that studied in the school of the Rebbe Baal Hasulam (passed away in 1955), HaRav Ezrel Chaim Lomberger, who was a student of Baal Hasulam himself, and he was shocked to hear such things that there are people that say that there is no need in keeping the Torah and Mitzvot or that project them as an option or as cultural symbols Gd forbid, and he told me that our Rabbi Baal Hasulam was extremely careful on keeping the Torah and Mitzvot and when it came to the matters of Halacha he was exceedingly stringent, much more than other people.  Because there are things that most of the Orthodox community is doing however the Rebbe Baal Hasulam was extra stringent on them because they had halachic disputes and he always chose to follow the most stringent way of performing a Mitzvah

And therefore we should pay attention to this thing a person on a level of the Rebbe Baal Hasulam that of course came to the completion of his private correction we here have a live testimony of a person that was like a son in his house and he is still alive and he states explicitly that Baal Hasulam was extra stringent and was always taking the extra step from the standard norm of the Ultra Orthodox community.  And this is of course not unusual as he was like a “letter that is standing on earth with its top reaching heaven” because this is the intended perfection where a person holds the perfection of Godliness from one side and from the other side of the letter he is performing up to the smallest detail every physical leaf, i.e. the Torah and the Mitzvot in a practical, simple and fundamental manner.

And those things they are very straightforward even in our corporeal world.  For example would it even be possible that in an army a person who did not even act as a private would become a general?  Of course not.  Is it possible that a person will receive a master’s degree in a college if he never attended high school?  Of course not.  Therefore based on what logic do people hold that they can deal with the wisdom of Kabbalah, be successful to come to spiritual levels if they can not even perform the simplest and the lowest thing of Judaism?  It is clear to everyone that the performance of Mitzvot is a simple and non-complex thing, accessible to all.  And how can one skip it to immediately approach the level of intentions and emotions while he does not hold in his hands even the simplest level of this physical world?

To say that it is possible to come to the spiritual levels of holiness without performing physical mitzvot is an outrageous lie.  And if a person would say “but I came to feelings of spirituality without the keeping of Torah and Mitzvot.”  My answer is that those “higher” feelings do not point to Truth.  As our sages already stated the Creator shone various divine lights into the systems of Sitra Achra (the Other Side) and the Clippot (shells) and all this was done in order to give a person free will.  And therefore, of course the feelings and the pleasures that one experiences have their sources in Clippot and in the Sitra Achra, which is what provides the person these pleasant feelings.  But this lie does not have legs and therefore it cannot sustain itself for a long time, thus a person has cyclical feelings of misery followed by feelings of joy, but at this point it is be very hard to free oneself from the control of Clippot.

 

COPY/PASTE FROM TORAH DEVARIM 13

1) The entire word that I command you that shall you observe to do you shall not add to it and you shall not subtract from it. 2) If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream and he will produce to you a sign or a wonder 3) and the sign or the wonder comes about of which he spoke to you saying ‘let us follow gods of others that you do not know, and we shall worship them!” – 4) do not hearken to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of a dream for Hashem, you G-d, is testing you to know whether you love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul. 5) Hashem, your G-d, shall you follow, and him shall you fear; his commandments shall you observe and his voice shall you hearken; him shall you serve and to him shall you cleave. 6) And that prophet and that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death for he has spoken perversion against Hashem, you G-d, Who takes you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeems you from the house of slavery – to make you stray from the path on which Hashem, your G-d, has commanded you to go; and you shall destroy the evil from your midst.

And this is what Rambam, blessed be his memory, wrote in his book “Hayad Hahazakah”

A) It is clearly explained in the Torah that it is the commandment that stands for eternity, it does not change, it does not shrink, and it does not extend, as it is said: “everything that I am telling you today you shall do, do not add onto it and do not subtract from it.”  And it is said: “And it has been let know to us and our children until eternity to perform everything that is written in this Torah.”  From this we learn that all the commandments of the Torah command us to perform them until eternity.  And he also says: “this is the set of laws for all your generations.”  And it is said: “It is not in Heaven.”  Which comes to teach us that there is no prophet who is allowed to renew anything in it.  Therefore if comes a man, whether from another nation or from Israel and will perform a miracle and he will say that Gd sent him to add a commandment or to subtract a commandment or to change a commandment in a way we have never heard of, or he will say that those commandments that Israel was commanded by are not for eternity and for all the generations, but rather these are commandments bound to a past time, it is obvious that this is a false prophet that comes to deny the prophecy of Moshe.  And he will be put to death, for he spoke on behalf of Hashem who has not commanded him to do so as he commanded to Moshe that these commandments are for us and for our children until eternity.

B) Why is it also stated in Torah: “I will establish a prophet for you from the midst of your brothers”?  He will not come to establish a new religion but to enforce the Torah and to warn the people that they should not violate it as said the last of the prophets: “Remember the Torah of Moshe.”  And if he commands us within the permissible boundaries, such as “go to a certain place,” or “don’t go there,” “make a war today,” or “don’t make a war today,” “build a wall today,” or “don’t build a wall,” it is a commandment to listen to him, and one who transgresses his words is liable to death by heaven; as it is said: “there was a man who did not listen to the words of the prophet that spoke in My Name, I will demand from him.”

D) And also if he tries to change things that we already know, and claims that Hashem commanded him to do this, and he changes Halacha, this is a false prophet and is liable to death even if he can show a sign or a miracle.  Behold, this prophet comes to deny the Torah in which it is said: “It is not in Heaven.”

We therefore learn from these words that if there comes a person who wants to cancel even one the commandment from all of the commandments, this is unacceptable even though he can be a big person with power to perform signs and miracles.  In the time of the Sanhedrin this person would be put to death, but today we do not practice the death sentence since we do not have the Sanhedrin.  And for those people who are advancing on the path of Pinimiut of Torah (inner portion of Torah), of course they can neither correct nor punish, G-d forbid, their fellow Jews, but rather they focus on their own correction, as their own correction influences the whole world.  And therefore we are not engaging in physical or verbal confrontation with any person or organization.  And from the citations that were brought above we can understand how awful deviation from Judaism is in the eyes of Hashem, and how much we have to be careful to stay away from all of those, as our sages said: “move away from Kiure and from anything that is similar to it.”  And every deviation and every reform and every attempt to touch the holy of holies of Torah and commandments of Israel is obviously Kiure, which is unbearable and unforgiveable.  And therefore each of us will make his own soul-calculations, “because on whichever path a person chooses to be lead he is lead.” And he will save himself with contact with everything that may push him away from the original path of Israel.  And it is already written in the Zohar, “Do not listen to a good thing from a wicked person.” Because even though he is saying a good thing, the spirit of Tumah (impurity) intervenes in his words and the listener becomes Tammeh (impure) and falls from the original Jewish path and from the path of our Rabbis.

*********

This article will be translated later (here we have the beginning, end needs to still be translated.)

And to compliment this discussion we would like to add here an additional article from the Admore (blessed be his memory), that should clarify these things.

What is Truth and Falsehood in Spiritual Work

Fist of all we have to understand how both truth and falsehood can be in the service of the Creator, specifically, how the service of Hashem can exist in falsehood, how can such a thing be said?

And here Zohar HaKadosh (introduction to the book of Zohar) says Baal Hasulam: “it is part of the holy one to give joy to the impoverished as he is able to because in those days, in Holidays, the Holy One comes to see those broken Cailim (vessels) that belong to him.  And he comes to them and he sees that they have nothing to be happy with.  He cries about them and then He ascends to the top to extend the world.”

Baal Hasulam (blessed be his memory) explains this article as following:  “We need to understand, first of all, the midrash of our sages that when the world was created, and it was told to angels ‘we shall make a man in our image,’ behold, Kindness advised to create the world.  The Truth said ‘do not create, because all of it will be falsehood,’ Righteousness said ‘The world needs to be created, as it will create righteousness,’ and Peace said ‘the world should not be created, as it will constantly be in conflict.’  What did the Creator do?  He took Truth and threw it to

Rambam said: “therefore, when we teach young children and women and the general population, we do not teach but to serve Hashem from fear and for the sake of receiving reward until their mind expands and they become wiser.  We also reveal to them this approach very carefully.

From the words of Rambam we see that we have to start serving Hashem in the situation of lo lishma (not for the sake of Hashem) and it is even forbidden to reveal to them that there is a thing as lisham (for the sake of Hashem).  And therefore they have to know that they are performing Torah and Mitzvot to receive reward.  This is the actual perfection and there is nothing to add to it but quantity, i.e. to give more time and more effort in order to perform Torah and Mitzvot.  And they have to be happy that they are performing Torah and Mitzvot beliving that they will receive reward for it.

We therefore find that in order to serve Hashem compealtly it is forbidden for them to know that there is such a thing that is called lishma (for the sake of Hashem) for the reason that they are still not capable to enter the service of Hashem lishma.  Therefore if someone tells them that the key of service of Hashem is lishma, they will reply “but how can we perform Torah and Mitzvot shelo lishma if this is not considered a real word?” They are yet incapable to work lishma, therefore they will remain neither here nor there, which means that lo lishma will not be important to them, but they will also see that they can not attain lishma.  Therefore it is forbidden to reveal to them that there is a thing that people need to perform for the sake of giving (lehasbia).  Therefore while they do not know this concept they can think that they serve Hashem fully and that they are righteous, and from that they have energy to work, as they are happy to be the servants of Hashem and they look at other people who do not perform Torah and Mitzvot as animals, since they do not have higher intellects than animals and other living creatures.   And therefore it is written in Etz Chaim: “and behold, the creator did not give Torah but to remove barriers from silver that dresses the soul, and via the intention of the person in Torah and Mitzvot he performs spiritual work on his neshamah (soul), and via the Torah thins the Nogga of the world Yetzirah, which dresses Ruach and by performing physical Mitzvot this thins the Nogga of the world Asiya and becomes a garment of the soul.

 

Therefore one should not say that performance of Torah and Mitzvot without intention is not true (G-d forbid), but as we learn from the writings of Arizal that from all actions that a person does he removes the Nitzutzim (sparks of holiness) from the Clippot that descended to our world during the Breaking of Vessels.  We therefore have to divide between commandments without intentions and Torah without intention versus Torah and Commandments with intentions, as it is said: “performance of Mitzvot thins the Nogga of the world Asiya and becomes a garment of the soul.”

And as for the falsehood, we have to explain that since the goal of the creation is to satisfy the creations so that a man can achieve it in reality, i.e. that he will see how revealed the good and the bounty in the world that cannot be seen by the creations because they do not have the real Cailim which they can leverage to see the good and the bounty which is revealed in the world.  Therefore the creatures still see that people suffer, and thus they can deduce from it that while they perform Torah and Mitzvot without intention lehaspia (to bestow), they still cannot see the truth that exists in the goal of creation that is to bestow to the creations.  And we find that those who keep the Torah and Mitzvot and still have not merited to have the right intention, do perform corrections in keddusha by performing Torah and Mitzvot even though they do not have intention, which means that Keddusha expands based on their actions.  However since they are not capable to see the outcome of their actions in spirituality, they cannot attain the spiritual changes that resulted from their work even though this work was performed lo lishma.

 

We therefore find that when they say that lo lishma is called “falsehood,” it relates towards the creations, i.e. the creations cannot still see the truth and the outcome of their performance of Torah and Mitzvot without intention, but in reality the corrections did take place in spirituality as was written by Arizal that from each action and action in Torah and Mitzvot, spitiual corrections are made. As we can see from Halacha that if a person can act to influence his neighbor not to desecrate shaboos, for example his neighbor needs a favor from him and for this he will keep shabbos, than the person is obligated to act to ensure that his neighbor does not desecrate shabbos.  And so we can ask: here there is no intention to keep shabbos, as his neighbor will keep shabbos only as a requirement that his friend forces on him, and if so, what benefit can come out from such work?  But as we already learned that each action and action that we perform even without kavanah achieves its objective; that by it we release the Mitzutzei Hakadesha (spark of holiness), yet creations are incapable of seeing those corrections because those corrections can hurt them since they still exist under the control of the desire to receive.  Therefore since the person does not see the corrections that are being preformed by him he cannot receive them yet from the bounty that opens up as a result of his actions.  And therefore, since he does not see this bounty, he cannot hurt himself since he does not see that there is something that he can receive.  But the person must believe that each action and action of Torah and service is a very important thing, and once he merits to attain the second nature which is called “desire to bestow,” then he will be capable of seeing the truth; that the goal of the Creation is to bestow the creations.  We therefore can now understand that when it is said that lo lishma is called “falsehood,” this only relates to the vision of the person, since the person is yet incapable of seeing the actual goal of creation.

 

And from this we can also understand why lishma is called “emet” (truth), since when a person merits to the level of lishma a person comes to the level of Love of Hashem, and then the person sees the truth; that the goal of creation is only to bestow Good to creations.  And in addition the person has to merit and to see how the upper supervision treats all creations in the manner of complete and total goodness, and this is a very high level where a person sees how the Creator treats him personally in a manner of total goodness.  Yet the person still needs to see that the Creator acts in the same way towards all of the creations, i.e. in a manner of total goodness, and for this reason lishma is called “truth,” because by performing the service in the mode of lishma the person merits and sees the truth that the Creator treats all of his creations with complete goodness.

And as written in the introduction to the Talmud Esser HaSphirot: “And therefore our sages warned us about the condition that obligates in performance of Torah lishma specifically so thus he will merit by it to earn life, as Torah is the source of life.  And one should invest all his might to find the glow from the face of the King of Life, which means to attain revealed supervision, which is called the glow from the face.  Therefore the whole time that a person did not merit to come to the level of lishma he exists in Hester Panim (concealment of the face), which means that he still does not see how the creator leads the world in the manner of total goodness.  We also find that he exists in the mode of falseness, as he says, “Whoever said that the goal of creation is to bestow good for creations is a liar, as we see the opposite.”  And on the other hand, one who learns the Torah lishma merits and sees the truth because he himself merits to see all the good that he receives from the Creator, and moreover he has come to the level of perfection and to see how the Creator deals with the whole world with the goal of bestowing the creations, and therefore we find that the matter of truth and falsehood is always directly related to what the person attains.

And from the set above we can see that one who studies Torah lo lishma, which is equal to falsehood, it is only because the person is yet incapable of seeing the truth of how the Creator leads the whole world with total goodness, and as Arizal wrote from each action a person performs in holiness, corrections are made, but the person is yet incapable of seeing the results of his performance of Mitzvot that creations are doing even lo lishma even for his own sake.  It is therefore that Rambam said that we have to start the work with children and women in a manner that orients them to believe in reward as every act of Mitzvot in itself triggers spiritual changes.

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19 Responses to Authentic Kabbalah

  1. Yoav says:

    I was just wondering why in most “contemporary” texts they write Kabbalah instead of Torah, spiritual laws instead of mitzvot, and kippot are hidden in pictures of the Rabbis.
    It is clear they sell kabbalah without Torah and mitzvos.
    Maybe they do it not to turn people off at the very beginning as a strategy, and when people are ready they teach some halachah.
    Kol tuv,
    Yoav

  2. Felix says:

    Yoav,

    That would have been really nice, however from the last lesson at BB they were teaching how to park the car on Shabbos further from their center in order not to anger local population with too much noise. Great addition to Halacha.

  3. teodoro kriger says:

    Me gustaria recibir esto tan bien hecho y con contenido tan importante en español,,de ser posible desde ya gracias
    teodoro kriger buenos aires

  4. Felix says:

    Sorry, but I don’t speak Spanish :)

  5. Bob says:

    I was wondering where Michael Laitman got the passage that says that Bal Hasulam said that every one should keep their own traditions and religion instead of keeping the commandments.

  6. Felix says:

    I was wondering the same thing. That being said, I’m no longer surprised as our sages cautioned us to what desire for fame and control can do. I remember Laitman 10 years ago – a few years after RABASH’s death. He was orthodox Jew (long beard, black outfit, etc) and his group followed the path of the Rebbe very carefully, but then he wanted more students. New students wanted more flexibility, and bit by bit nothing was left from core Rebbe’s teachings.

  7. Eric says:

    Because those materials were written in the language of branches. It looks as though they are talking about things in this world, performing mitzvot and commandments, wars, crossing the red sea, egypt, travelling, stories,,, The Kabbalist used physical expressions in this world to describe actions in the Spiritual world, so that the student would desire to attain the essence of not the word itself, but where it descends in to this world back up into the spiritual world… In fact and don’t believe me by the way, but its not until a student gives up trying to get an answer from the books that he receives an answer. But he needs a group and a teacher to direct him to the right goal, otherwise he comes later after 10 years and realises hes just feeding his imagination as opposed to rising above it, with the help of something sages call “the upper light” to the level of MAN.

    Sure you can enjoy reading the books, the Torah etc. But you may as well put it back on the shelf if you don’t wish to learn what the Kabbalist were actually talking about.

    These books are in fact About YOU, the true you and not the you you’ve been sold since day one.

    Best wishes
    Eric

  8. Eric says:

    PS: I do not mean for anyone to understand. But to Desire alone to understand is what counts.. Keep investigating.

    Authentic Kabbalah is about life. One is only permitted to study it in his FREE TIME. Bnei Baruch only wish to make authentic Kabbalah available to all those who truly seek it, who seek their meaning of life. Who are in despair because of one simple question and basically the sum of all questions in life.

    I love you,
    Eric

  9. Authentic Kabbalah was always availabe to all those who truly seek it, because there is very simple mechanism, that protects it from those who try to get out of it anything, but correction of their part of Ratzon Lekkabel, and Authentic Kabbalah protection is the necessety to perform all the Mitzvot and Hallakot LeShma, so the one who is ready to work for his correction only, will be shown the way to Kabbalah, and the one who looks for the ways to get something from it, will be shown to Bnei Baruch and other places where they try to make HYBRIDS( Kellaim) out of the Highest Ideas and cheap promises of their fulfilment any other ways, but through personal correction, by each and every person through performing Mitzvot- the wish of Creator, instead of looking for shorter ways, which are in the long run the longest ones.If laitman, being in his kabbalah for more or less 30 years, hasn’t learned the simple thing, that you can’t convince others to respect each other in the group , and he himself adress the person ” Syemka, write it down”, when the name of this person is Shimon and Jewih Hallakha doesn’t permit to adress even to a newborn child in any way ,but his proper full name, and not a humilating one, as chosen by so called “rav” to his student in the presence of all others, this kind of behavior has nothing to do with Authentic Kabbalah, which places a person on the level of co-Creator.We may see that such hybrids are not new at all, we have them in the form of cristianity and communism, when they claim the highest principles of Humanity,and at the same time killing people by millions.So the true face of Laitman isn’t what he takls about, not all kind of “clever phrases” and citing Sages saying ,but his real face is his behavior, when his adressing to a person “Syemka, write it down” seams so natural for him that he even doesn’t pay attention, that he humilaties himself in the form of his treating his students.So if you seek Authentic Kabbalah, you may find it, but if you look for the place to be humilated then you may join BB. If you want to make a fool of your self, nobody will stand in your way, but don’t say the words “Authentic Kabbalah” when “Syemka, write it down” sounds so natural for you too.

  10. Chapter one

    Foundations
    ( copied from Rav Gottlieb’s website)

    Rabbi Yehudah Lev haLevi Ashlag was born in Warsaw to Rabbi Simchah haLevi Ashlag on the fifth day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei 5646; 14th September 1885.

    (Rabbi Simchah haLevi was the son-in-law of Rabbi Leib of Lekow, a great friend of the renowned Rabbi Yoseph Baer of Brisk. Together they studied the writings of the holy Ari and composed a book based on their studies, haIlan “The Tree”. Unfortunately, to our sorrow, this work was lost in the holocaust.)

    Right from the time of his childhood Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag was destined for greatness. His son, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag tells that once, when his father was but seven years old he was lying on his bed when suddenly a book fell off the bookshelf onto his head. When he asked his father what that book was, his father replied that it was a book intended for angels, not for human beings. The young boy answered, “Since this book has been printed, that implies it is meant for every person.” His father however insisted, saying, “but it is not for you.” The child, however, did not accept his father’s answer, but felt that if the book had been printed then it was surely intended for anyone. From that time on he began to study the book, which was a book of the Kabbalah, and its holy light illumined his heart and soul.

    His mother of blessed memory was a firm educationalist and she would never beat her children when they were naughty for she felt that at the time when the incident happened, because of her anger she was involved, to some extent, with her own ego. So she would wait some days, and then she would mention to the child his wrongdoing, at which time she would hit him in order to educate him. This was the educational framework into which Rabbi Ashlag was born and certainly it must have influenced his incredible personality.

    Mrs Batsheva Reichard, a daughter of the Baal haSulam relates: “Until the age of ten my father had been an only child. He was exceptionally gifted. His parents spoiled him to some extent; however, they took care to ensure that he was brought up nicely. They would make him go to bed on time, but he would only pretend that he was asleep, and once his parents slept he would get up, light a lamp and study until the dawn.”

    So our teacher grew in the way of holiness and purity. His soul yearned for God from the earliest age, longing for the hidden, the exalted, the concealed. He rejoiced in feelings and thoughts that it was possible for a person to come to unity with God. He yearned to know that which is truly important—the way of faith in God.

    Rabbi Ashlag, as a youth, studied in the Yeshivah (Seminary) of Gur which is in Warsaw, and from the dawn of his youth breathed only the atmosphere of Torah. His labour in Torah was really superhuman, his perseverance and labour was renowned, and he would sleep very little. He would not let his body dictate how much sleep he got, but fought with himself to subdue the demands of the body, so that he could progress on the pathway to affinity of form with the Divine. His brilliance in his Torah studies was such that by the time he was fourteen years old he was proficient both in the Talmud and in the commentaries.

    His son, Rabbi Baruch Shalom tells, “My father, the Baal haSulam, began to study the Kabbalah in his youth. Since he did not want anyone in the Yeshivah to notice, he would pull pages from the book, the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) of the Ari, and slip them between the leaves of his Talmud. When someone would come he would turn over the page and continue learning the Talmud… .”

    Once he told of himself that when he was fifteen he was so devoted to the attribute of truth that he was incapable of telling a lie. His work on his attributes was continuous—always exerting himself to behave as a person behaves who is in the presence of a great King.

    Rabbi Azriel Chayim Lemburger: “One time, our teacher, the Baal haSulam, told me, ‘At eleven years of age I began to learn books that taught ethics (musar). I did not move from one book to the next book until I had put the first book into practice and it had become second nature to me. By the age of eighteen I was already an “Adam” (Man).’ ”

    The meaning of the concept “Adam” is explained by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in the tractate Yebamot in the Talmud: “You are called ‘Adam’, whereas those who serve false gods are not called ‘Adam’. This is explained by the Baal haSulam as follows: ” ‘Adam’ is from the phrase ‘Adameh laElyon’—‘I will resemble the Most High.’ A person who seeks to emulate God in His mercy, and in His compassion, is called ‘Adam’.”

    Rabbi Azriel Lemberger’s father, Rabbi Moshe Baruch Lemberger, of blessed memory, once told that the Baal haSulam had informed him that by the age of twenty-four he no longer had any desire to receive for himself alone.

    So he continued to progress in the knowledge of Torah and in work on his virtues with a great and awesome labour, but with modesty and without any fanfare.

    When he reached the age of nineteen he was appointed to the rabbinate by the great Rabbis of Warsaw. At that period, the Polish authorities required the Rabbis to know Russian in order for them to obtain their Rabbinical certificate. This did not bother him at all; he learnt the Russian language in a short time and received the certificate. He served as a Judge (Dayan) in the Rabbinical court and served as a Rabbi for the next sixteen years in Warsaw, which at that time, was a great center for Torah learning. During this period he published his first book, Sichot Chayim “Living discourses” in which he wrote about the works and teachings of the great Sage of Morgalintzia.

    His family:

    In the year 5666 when Rabbi Yehudah Ashlag was twenty years of age he married Rivkah Raiza Abramovitz to whom he was distantly related. His wife was sixteen years old at the time of their wedding. She came from the township of Prosov. She bore him eleven children, of whom eight survived. Their firstborn became our teacher, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag; the other children being Rabbi Yaakov Ashlag, Rabbi Shlomo Binyamin Ashlag, Rabbi Moshe Menachem Aharon Ashlag, Mrs Sara Bodchek, Mrs Batsheva Reichbard, Mrs Devorah Weizman and Mrs Menuchah Verdiger.

    Mrs Batsheva Reichbard tells, “In Poland at that time, it was the custom for the young married Talmudic students to be supported by their father-in-law, if the father-in-law was a man of means. This left the young scholars free to carry on with their intensive study of Torah. Indeed, my mother’s parents, who were very wealthy, supported the young couple in Prosov. However, the behavior of their son-in-law-seemed very strange to them; he would arise every night at one in the morning to serve the Creator. This was unlike a normal householder who would arise at the dawn. My father was totally engrossed in Torah and in prayer; he did not pay attention to anything else. My grandparents began to show their displeasure openly and tried to turn my mother against her husband. My parents suffered greatly from their opposition and so they decided to leave Prosov and move to Warsaw.

    “Whilst in Warsaw my father continued his study of Torah and his practice of intense service to God. From time to time he would travel to his teacher, the Sage of Kaloshin, with whom he would stay for three months at a time, completely engrossed in his learning, before returning home. In practice, all her life, my mother was the one who financed the household. She took care of the children’s needs, and of their clothing; she even found the money for their dowries herself. Later on she helped sell my father’s books. She did everything on her own, because even though her parents were wealthy, they did not wish to help at all. My father never held money in his hand and never knew what a coin was.”

    This next story, told by Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, tells of the great poverty that reigned in the household. “At that time in Warsaw, when it came to the festival of Succot (Tabernacles) no one built their own private succah (festive booth), but they would build large succot that were used by the whole community together. Naturally, only the men sat in the communal succah and my mother would send in food for her husband via one of the children. However, the fact was that there was hardly anything to eat. Since my mother did not want their great poverty known by all the community, she used to make a tremendous effort to get a little extra money with which she would buy good food, so she could send a nice portion to my father in the succah. My father, who knew the real situation, would just taste a tiny bit and then send the whole portion back home so that the children could have something to eat.

    Mrs Batsheva Reichbard, the daughter of Rabbi Ashlag relates: “At the Sabbath table, at which my father presided, there was absolute quiet, even awe. My revered father would sit at the head of the table like a burning flame; the holiness of the Sabbath burning within him as if he was an angel of God. Are there people like this today, who sit at the Sabbath table, with absolutely no interest in food, but with mystical union with God gushing through their veins? Food for my father was only a means by which to fulfill God’s commandments. Aside from this it held no interest for him. All of the children, from the very youngest to the eldest, knew not to talk, not to say anything, so as not to disturb our father. Even children as young as a year old already understood they should be quiet. If a child was late for the Sabbath meal, his place was not kept for him.

    “The disciples would come to my father’s holy table, at which point he would discourse on the Torah, his entire being burning with the fire of holiness.”

    Sheltering in the shadow of his teachers: The Sages of Kaloshin, Prosov and Belz

    In his youth our teacher was a disciple of the Sage of Kaloshin, Rabbi Meir Shalom Rabinovitz (a grandson of the holy Jew, Yitzhak Yaakov Rabinovitz). Rabbi Ashlag would come every night, at two in the morning, to learn with the Sage. He told that the holy Sage of Kaloshin would be awake all through the night of Sabbath eve pacing up and down in his room, filled with the love of God, saying one sentence throughout the night, HaShem hu HaElohim, Ein Od Milvado! (The Lord is God, there is none other than the One!)

    Following the death of the Sage of Kaloshin, the young Rabbi Ashlag became the student of his son, Rabbi Yehoshua Asher of Prosov. Since he recognized the holy stature of Rabbi Ashlag, the Prosover Rebbe would often sit Rabbi Ashlag near him.

    On the last festival of Succot of his life, Rabbi Ashlag told that even though the son of the Sage of Kaloshin had been made a spiritual leader following the death of his holy father, nevertheless he did not immediately become his disciple. Three years later, following a dream he had, that unusually for him he felt was significant, he decided to change his way. He saw, as in a vision, the Sage of Kaloshin with his son the Rebbe of Prosov, and he, Rabbi Ashlag, was sitting between them. The Sage of Kaloshin pointed to his son and told Rabbi Ashlag to go to him.

    Rabbi Ashlag’s granddaughter, Mrs Rachel Levi tells that when her first son was born she asked her holy grandfather to name the child. He told her that he would give the child’s name on the day of the Brit (circumcision ceremony at which the male child receives his name). On the day of the Brit he told her that the name was Yehoshua Asher, naming him for his spiritual father, the holy Sage of Prosov.

    Amongst the disciples of the Sage of Prosov were, broadly speaking, two types of people: There were people for whom the propensity to search within themselves for their inner truth was not developed, and therefore it was not relevant to teach them how to serve God according to this path of giving to God, which is designated as being “the way of truth.”. These people the Sage of Prosov taught according to the generally accepted way. This is in accordance with the teaching of Maimonides (chapter ten Hilchot Teshuvah), “When teaching minors, women, and the general population, one only teaches them to serve God from Yirat HaShem (the fear of being separate from God) and with the intention of receiving a reward, until they have grown in wisdom. Then one gradually teaches them, and little by little accustoms them to working for the Torah’s own sake.”

    The Prosover Rebbe explained that this dictum of Maimonides refers to people who are only using the female aspects of their personalities and/or their aspect of the child. The feminine principle within a person is that which expresses lack. This is clear from the Hebrew term for the feminine, nekevah—from the word nakev meaning a vessel, implying lack. Thus, a person, whose life is mainly concerned with fulfilling his lacks, that is to say his desires center on how he may receive pleasure and joy, is termed “a woman” or “feminine” in the language of the Sages. The well-known saying: “his strength grew weak as a woman’s” (Rashi Bamidbar 11: 15) refers to a person who does not have the strength to gain control over his will to receive for himself alone, but his will to receive for himself alone rules him, and his concern is taken up with how to fulfill his lacks and his appetites.

    As regards the aspect of the child within the person, this aspect is emphasized in people who do not take their spirituality seriously. Just as in the physical world it happens that a child cries a lot because he wants something very much, but after he has been given it he gets tired of it quickly and is soon crying for something else, likewise, in spirituality. The term “minors” as used above indicates people who do not have a strong desire for spirituality; they are like the chaff that is blown before the wind.

    However, amongst the disciples of the Rebbe of Prosov there were also a handful of people who were real workers for God, who understood for themselves the meaning of working on oneself. The Rabbi of Prosov instructed these disciples in the true path, the way of giving unconditionally, which is designated as the path of the individual. Amongst these few was our teacher, Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag. The Sage of Prosov taught these outstanding disciples according to the way of Peshiscah-Kotzk and it was in this method that Rabbi Ashlag was educated. These were schools of chassidism which emphasized modesty, learning, strict adherence to the halachah, honest introspection with no self-deception whatsoever.

    Rabbi Ashlag’s son, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag tells that the way of the Sage of Prosov was to keep his real disciples at a distance, not spoiling them or flattering them. The closer the student really was to the Rebbe, the more he pushed him away. When the Sage of Prosov would give out food at the tisch (chassidic gathering) he would routinely skip over the Baal haSulam telling him, “I do not give to you!”

    The explanation of this behavior is that people who follow the way of the general community come to look for honor; they imagine that they are working spiritually, but in actual fact they are not prepared to invest their entire life, to the point of self-sacrifice, for the sake of the inner work. Therefore, to such people the Sage of Prosover would give the honor they were looking for. But those disciples, who were sincere in their desire for instruction on how to follow the path to achieve affinity of form with the Almighty, and were prepared to give their all for this purpose, weren’t interested in honor or flattery, on the contrary, they found honor repulsive, since they knew that it only kept them at a distance from the holy Blessed One. So the Sage of Prosov would test them, treating them with disdain to see whether they would nevertheless stay, or whether they would get insulted and leave.

    Rabbi Ashlag would travel together with the Sage of Prosov to visit the great Rabbi Yissachar Dov of Belz. On one occasion the Sage of Prosov expressed to him that the Sage of Belz had a soul whose root was in the spiritual world of Atzilut, ( the highest of the spiritual worlds). In those years Rabbi Ashlag progressed greatly in his service to God achieving extremely elevated spiritual. This was through his great self-negation with respect to the Prosover and Belzer Sages.

    Rabbi Baruch Shalom tells: “When my father was eighteen years old, the Sage of Prosov once took him to spend the Sabbath with the Sage of Belz. On the Sabbath eve, when the Sage of Belz was about to make Kiddush (welcome the Sabbath with the sanctification over the wine), it was suddenly discovered that one of the children was missing. Straightaway the members of the household searched for the child; when they found him outside they brought him to the Sabbath table. The Belzer Rebbe reprimanded the little child severely on that he had disappeared, and even as he did so he raised his cup and began to make Kiddush. After the meal the Prosover asked Rabbi Ashlag, what did he think about the Kiddush that the Sage of Belz had made? The young Rabbi Ashlag was astonished and said, “How could one make Kiddush without any preparation, and after dealing out such a severe reprimand? The Prosover answered him saying, ‘This is the greatness of the Sage of Belz, that nothing separates him from his union with God.’ This was only a tiny example, but even when much bigger and much more serious incidents happened, the Rabbi of Belz would not budge, by even a hairs’ breadth, from his union with the light of God.” Then Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag added, “and in truth so we saw with my esteemed father, the Baal haSulam, he didn’t require any preparations for study or for prayer,… . Does a person have to prepare to breathe?”

    In connection with the above story we can tell what Rabbi Azriel Chayim Lemburger heard from Rabbi David Minzberg: “One Sabbath Eve Rabbi David was present at the house of the Baal haSulam after the service of Kabbalat Shabbat (the special hymns with which we welcome the Sabbath). Only when the Baal haSulam was preparing to make Kiddush did Rabbi David leave to go home. When he got downstairs he found the father of one of the disciples of the Baal haSulam furiously angry, on his way to shout at the Rabbi, because he was drawing his dear son to the “errant” way of the learning of the Kabbalah and the study of the innermost aspect of the Torah. So Rabbi David went up again to the apartment of the Baal haSulam, because he wanted to defend the honor of his holy teacher. But he found this to be unnecessary, as he saw his holy teacher rebuking the father. Then straightway, without missing a beat, the Sage started to make Kiddush. One saw, with one’s own eyes, how all the Rabbi’s acts and his words were taking place whilst in total union with the holy Blessed One, and that nothing moved him from this union.”

    On the seventh day of the month of Shvat in the year 5667, (January 1908) a sign of the redemption occurred with the birth of Rabbi Ashlag’s first-born son, the great Sage to be, Rabbi Baruch Shalom. As he grew, his father would take him with on his journeys to the Sages of Prosov and Belz for his education.

    Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag told, “Once I travelled with my esteemed father, the Baal haSulam, to Galicia, to visit the Sage of Belz, Rabbi Yissachar Dov, of blessed memory. Whilst we were staying with him the first world war broke out. We stayed a while at the Belzer Rebbe’s because all the roads were blocked; madness and chaos reigned everywhere. No-one knew what the next day would bring. There was no organized transport at all. After some time the Belzer Rebbe told us that we could journey to our destination. There did not seem any logical way to find a safe passage back to Warsaw. But my father had total trust in the words of the holy Sage, and we set out. And it happened that we found a train of soldiers, with which we returned to Warsaw.”

    We can bring here a passage written by Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag which was found amongst his papers that touches on his relationship with the Belzer Rebbe, to whom he was devoted.

    This passage is one of importance as it describes the high stature that Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag achieved in holiness, and how he began his work for humanity under the direction of the Rabbi of Belz. It is written in an extremely cryptic style and is therefore followed by a detailed teaching by Rabbi Avraham Mordecai Gottlieb explaining it.

    It is known that this was a great principle of mine: Can a person who desires to reach his full spiritual potential live without service to God? Or can the desired service to God also be expressed by giving glory to God and by giving thanks to God?

    At that time I had no desire to go to the Sage, yet I went even though I was without desire or even connection with the Rabbi of Belz, for I went to see how the Prime Cause would be.

    At the very moment that the Sage saw my reality he knew that I was coming.

    And remember this amazing thing, that even when Rabbi Ashlag was not connected with the Rebbe of Belz, nonetheless the moment his feet moved outside he was filled with wondrous glory and great delight.

    I arrived in the middle of the prayer and when the prayer was over, the Sage looked for me amongst the crowd, which was not at all according to his custom. And mockingly he asked, “It seems you have come to receive blessings on leaving the inner wisdom?”1 (Trans. note possibly you are leaving because you are in the spiritual stage of Chayah,)1 And I didn’t understand. But actually, even whilst I was still in my house I had wondered: How is it possible to grasp the fact of the light ceasing after the Seder night, that makes it possible to start counting the Omer, so that one can prepare oneself for the Receiving of the Law? And a candle at noontime, what significance can it have? (As in the lessening of the moon compared with the sun) ) Hullin 60b) Because the state had happened to me that the Scripture describes: “I will keep My loving-kindness for him for ever, and My covenant is certain for him, and I have placed his seed for ever, and his chair as the days of heaven” (Psalm 89:29-30); “And My loving-kindness I will not break from him and I will not betray My faith” (Psalm 89:34). In all possible ways.

    And this is what the Sage hinted to me in his parting blessing above. Because really I received it as in a state of mind as on the morrow after the first day of Pesach. Later on in the morning I felt the Sage (that he was alluding to me) when he said the stages were like death and parting.

    Following the prayers he gave me the Kiddush cup of wine, wondering at me that I had not left any over from the Kiddush of the Sabbath eve. After that he said that a lion has no need to fear; a bear has need to fear, but not a lion, he has no need to fear. And I was distressed by his words. At the time of the third Sabbath meal following the afternoon prayer, I felt a little doubt concerning him, and I was ashamed.

    Following the Melavah Malkah, (a special gathering in chassidic circles following the end of the Sabbath) I felt tremendous sorrow. Chiefly I wondered, are my ways acceptable to God or not? And if they are acceptable to God, why are they not acceptable to my teacher? Can it be possible that God should give me so much praise and my teacher not, but he even denigrates me? I couldn’t sleep all that night. I pondered my ways to see if they were mistaken in any way. I wondered, am I fooling myself, and that aspect, of which there is nothing else higher in reality, really wasn’t present? But there was no other aspect present, other than that of which there is nothing else higher in reality. Therefore, I went over again in my mind, hundreds of times, these three Names that were shining so brightly for me, and I couldn’t see any possibility at all that I could incline after something that was outside holiness. This being the case, it was impossible to deny what I could taste in my mouth and feel in actual physicality.

    Yet my faith in my teacher was strong, and since this state was not pleasing to him there must be some defect. So I pondered my ways yet again and I found them to be beautiful. And so it went on, round and round all through the night. And then I made a clear agreement with myself to listen to his words carefully on the matter. If he well recognizes these paths in spirituality, according to their quality and their measure, and he nonetheless decrees not to use them, then I will straightaway obey.

    When I arrived at his doorway I felt him stand up from his chair and he began to pace this way and that, this way and that, and I was alarmed. For I knew with absolute certainty that he was doing this spiritual work for my sake. This carried on for about half an hour until I was nearly fainting from the tremor and the dread, from the sound of his sighs caused by his inner work at that extremely high level at that time. And then he straightaway opened the door, and asked me into his room and he asked me what do I want? And I couldn’t open my mouth. And then he said to me, as if he was answering his own question, that I must arouse him in what I want from him. And then I blurted out that I want to receive the light in the right way. Then he sat on the chair and expounded the Torah of “one for the sin-offering and one for the burnt-offering” (Parshat Mezora) and he said, that it seemed to him that he had expounded this Torah on that Sabbath afternoon specifically for me. After that he asked me if I felt his persecution of me during the Sabbath and he said to me that it is not correct to go either with enlightenments or with words (transitory stages of holiness). Then he told me the Torah on, “When I lay down at night” (Song of Songs, also Perush HaSulam Parshat Tazria para one). And he asked me if I understood, and I answered that I didn’t understand, and he told it to me a second time and I said that I didn’t understand at all. (And really I couldn’t understand the issue of the night because the sun was shining for me.) And then he said, “Search here well and you will find, because here is to be found this whole secret.” And whilst he said this he said to me, “Have you forgotten what I have taught you several times, that it is forbidden to use any enlightenment?” And he began to tell me that same article concerning the seed from which much good springs because of the way that wheat is sown. And then I could no longer refrain. I knew that the light I had received was an eternal light and it was like a kosher animal that is eaten. And I interrupted his holy words—which is the first time in my entire life that such a thing happened to me—and I said to him that was it not so that he had already promised me according to the Scripture that we read on Rosh HaShanah (Genesis 21:24) “I have sworn it.” At that moment he stood up from his chair and said, “I have no more strength.”

    Here is Rabbi Avraham Mordecai Gottlieb’s teaching on this article:

    It is known that this was a great principle of the Baal haSulam, who had come to a state of unity (dvekut) with the Creator, may the One be Blessed, and was in a conscious state of great light. Yet can a person who desires to reach his full spiritual potential live without service to God? For if a person is in union with the great light, then he is at a stage where there is no work, for the most important work take place when the person is in the modality of faith, which belongs to a higher paradigm than that of knowledge. In the spiritual state the Baal haSulam was in, the state of faith is not applicable. (This is because when a person has reached dvekut he no longer has to believe in God, because he can now experience the light of God as a living reality. That is he now using the modality of knowledge.) Or can the desired service to God also be expressed by giving glory to God and by giving thanks to God? The Baal haSulam raises up the possibility that when a person is in unity with the highest light then the only service to God one can do is to bless and praise the Creator, and there is no work here that belongs to the paradigm of faith above knowledge?

    At that time I had no desire to go to the Sage, that is the Rabbi of Belz. Rabbi Ashlag had no desire, because the Rabbi of Belz had already warned him not to attract the Or Elyon (the light that comes directly from the Creator and is associated with the Purpose of Creation) Yet he went and journeyed, even without desire, and even without any aware connection with the Rebbe of Belz, because he was not in the same conscious state as the Rabbi of Belz, for he went to see how the Prime Cause would be able to join together his conscious state, which was completely illuminated with the Or Elyon, with that of the Sage of Belz, who had already warned him not to attract this state of consciousness.

    At the very moment that the Sage saw my inner reality he knew that I was coming. The Rabbi of Belz saw the inner spiritual state of the Baal haSulam with his divine insight, even though the Baal haSulam had not yet arrived physically. Nevertheless the Sage of Belz had already comprehended the inner reality of Rabbi Ashlag and knew that he was journeying towards him. And remember this amazing thing, that even when Rabbi Ashlag was not connected with the Rebbe of Belz (because of the difference in their states of consciousness) nonetheless, the moment his feet moved outside he was filled with wondrous glory and great delight. That is, once he had made the move to go to his Rabbi, he was filled with great joy, because his great love for his Rabbi, especially since it was founded on faith, brought him to this joy.

    When Rabbi Ashlag arrived in Belz they were in the middle of prayer, that is to say that they were in the state of consciousness associated with lack (that arouses prayer); but our teacher, the Baal haSulam, was completely filled with light and was thus not in a state of pain or suffering (that causes a person to pray). When the prayer was over, the Sage looked for him amongst the crowd, which was not at all according to his custom. And mockingly he asked, “It seems you have come to receive blessings on leaving the inner wisdom?” The Rabbi of Belz uses the language of separation to the Baal haSulam because of the separation between them. The Rabbi of Belz was in the state of consciousness which is characterized by faith and the Or d’Chassadim the (light of loving-kindness —the light which pertains to the tikkun of the creation), whereas the Baal haSulam had attained the Or d’Chochmah, (light of wisdom, synonymous with the Or Elyon—the light that pertains to the Purpose of Creation). And I didn’t understand. Because, from his part, the Baal haSulam couldn’t see any separation, as he was not receiving the light for himself alone, God forbid, but all his receiving of the light was completely with the intention of giving pleasure to the Creator. But actually, even whilst I was still in my house, —the Baal haSulam here hints at his state of consciousness, that he had attained the Or d’Chochmah, the light of wisdom, according to the Scriptural phrase, “the house will be built through wisdom” (Prov. 24,3)—I pondered, “How is it possible to grasp the fact of the light ceasing after the Seder night?” The Ari teaches1 (shaar hakavanot) that the light of the Or d’Chochmah is manifest to the full on the first night of the Passover (Seder night). This light is the spiritual light of Chayah. But it does not remain present for the second night of the Passover, because on Seder night it comes from Above, irrespective of the spiritual state of the souls. But the Most High wants the souls to rectify themselves from their part, and therefore this high light leaves and we have the work of the counting of the Omer, which is the fifty days’ preparation, starting from the second day of the Passover, leading up to the Giving of the Law on the festival of Weeks (Shavuot). So the Baal haSulam asks, “How is it possible to grasp the fact of the light ceasing after the Seder night, that makes it possible to start counting the Omer so one can prepare oneself for the Receiving of the Law? A candle at noontime what significance can it have? In other words, the little lights of rectification that come in the vessels of the Counting of the Omer are not even worth mentioning when compared to the mighty light that the Baal haSulam had attained as a permanent state of consciousness. Because the state happened to me that the Scripture describes: “I will keep My loving-kindness for him for ever, and My covenant is certain for him, and I have place his seed forever and his chair as in the days of heaven” (Psalm 89:29-30); and “My loving-kindness I will not break from him and I will not betray My faith”( Psalm 89:34) The Baal haSulam had reached his complete tikkun (rectification of his soul) according to the inner meaning of the phrase, “the Knower of all secrets testifies for him that he will never again revert to his foolishness” (Hilchot Teshuvah 1, Rambam). He had merited to attain the light of Chayah of the world of Atzilut, and now the framework of evil had no power over him at all, since his entire being was directed solely in the modality of receiving with the intention of giving pleasure to the Creator. In all possible ways.—This implies that whatever the situation, the Baal haSulam’s state of dvekut (unity) with the Creator could never leave him. It had become eternal.

    And this is what the Sage hinted to me in his parting blessing above. The Sage hinted to the Baal haSulam when he gave him a blessing that this was a blessing of parting. It appears that as the Baal haSulam had achieved this high level of light of the Or d’Chochmah he had become separated from the state of the Rabbi of Belz, because he no longer need him as a teacher.

    The issue is that there are stages of a person’s spiritual journey: one is called “the embryonic state” and the other the state of birth. So long as the student is self-effacing with respect to his teacher he receives the vessels of his teacher and needs to obey his instructions. This is designated as being the state of the embryo. But once he is born, he discovers for himself what his own lacks are, then he is separated from the teacher as he works to correct his own lacks himself, through his own work. Because really I received it as on the morrow after the first day of Pesach. Later on in the morning I felt the Sage (that he was alluding to me). He said these spiritual stages were like death and parting.

    The Sage of Belz hinted to him that these spiritual levels could bring the one who receives them to spiritual death, similar to that which occurred at “the shattering of the vessels”. The shattering of the vessels was an event in the evolution of the spiritual worlds wherein the vessels inadvertently attracted to themselves more light than they were able to receive for the sake of giving benefit, and thus they received for themselves alone, which is the spiritual equivalent of death and separation. A similar event occurred with the sin of Adam, who had the intention of doing all the necessary rectification that would bring the creation to its final tikkun. But this was the counsel of the snake, because Adam did not have the capability to direct his intention that his receiving should only be for the sake of giving benefit on such a huge vessel of receiving and thus when he ate the apple brought separation on himself.

    Following the prayers, the Rabbi of Belz gave me the Kiddush cup of wine, wondering at me that I had not left any over from the Kiddush of the Sabbath eve. The Kiddush cup of wine hints at the light of Chayah. The Belzer Rebbe when he remarks that our teacher, the Baal haSulam, had not left anything over from the Sabbath eve he implies that he had drunk it all. This was incorrect in the view of the Sage of Belz, as his view was that one should not use the high spiritual states associated with the Purpose of Creation, (symbolized here by drinking all the wine) but our teacher was sure that he was acting correctly since his receiving of the light was entirely with the intention of giving.

    Then the Belzer Rebbe said a lion has no need to fear; a bear has need to fear, but not a lion, he has no need to fear. “Lion” refers to the Baal haSulam whose middle name “Leib ” means a lion, and the bear refers to the Sage of Belz whose name was Yissachar Dov, “Dov” means a bear. The Belzer Rebbe spoke with sarcasm, saying that it appears that the Baal haSulam is not afraid of any defect happening in his work, and the proof of this is that he receives the light of the Purpose of Creation, whereas he, the Belzer Rebbe does not draw to himself such great lights, and is satisfied with the light of the tikkun of Creation, expressed by the fear of being separated from God. And I was distressed by his words. The Baal haSulam saw that his teacher did not agree with his spiritual state and he could not understand why this was, since his work was entirely with the intention of giving benefit. At the time of the third Sabbath meal following the afternoon prayer, I felt a little doubt concerning him, I wondered if my teacher had actually apprehended these high spiritual states, and I was ashamed.

    Following the Melavah Malkah, (a special gathering in chassidic circles following the end of the Sabbath) I felt tremendous sorrow. Chiefly I wondered, Are my ways acceptable to God or not? And since they are acceptable to God, and the proof of this is that God had given to the Baal haSulam such great divine lights, why are they not acceptable to my teacher? Can it be possible that God should give me so much praise and my teacher not, but he even denigrates me? I couldn’t sleep all that night. I pondered my ways to see if they were mistaken in any way. I wondered, am I fooling myself? Maybe I am not receiving the light solely with the intention of giving benefit to the Creator, and that aspect, of which there is nothing else higher in reality, really wasn’t present? Therefore I went over again in my mind, hundreds of times, these three Names of God that were shining so brightly for me. These are the aspects of the left-hand line, the right-hand line and the middle line of the light of Chayah, and I couldn’t see any possibility at all that I could incline after something that was outside holiness, that is that this great light should go out to external forces, in other words, that I could possibly receive this light for myself alone. And this being the case, it was impossible to deny what I could taste in my mouth and feel in actual physicality.

    Yet my faith in my teacher was strong and since this state was not pleasing to him there must be some defect. So I pondered my ways yet again and I found them to be beautiful, that is all the receiving was only for the sake of giving benefit, and so it went on round and round all through the night.

    And then I made a clear agreement with myself to listen to the Rebbe of Belz’s words on the matter. If he well recognizes these paths in spirituality according to their quality and their measure that is if he knows them entirely, including all three lines, and he nonetheless decrees not to use them, then I will straightaway obey.

    When I arrived at his doorway I felt him stand up from his chair that is the Rabbi of Belz pulled towards him the great light of the Purpose of Creation and he began to pace this way and that, this way and that, which refers to the right-hand line and the left-hand line and I was alarmed. For I knew with absolute certainty that he was doing this spiritual work for my sake. This carried on for about half an hour until I was nearly fainting from the tremor and dread, and from the sound of his sighs caused by his inner work at that extremely high level at that time. All this the Rabbi of Belz did in order to show the Baal haSulam that he himself did know fully the light of Chayah that was shining for the Baal haSulam. And then he straightaway opened the door, and asked me into his room and he asked me what do I want? And I couldn’t open my mouth. And then he said to me, as if he was answering his own question, that I must arouse him in what I want from him. And then I blurted out that I want to receive a the light in the right way. The Baal haSulam is asking the Rebbe of Belz to draw to himself the light of Chayah in the correct way so that he could know if the light of Chayah that he himself had apprehended was drawn to him in the right way.

    Then he sat on the chair and expounded the Torah of “one for the sin-offering and one for the burnt-offering” (Parshat Mezora) These are the sacrifices of which neither the priests or the owners of the animals, who had brought the sacrifices, eat any portion. This means that the Rabbi of Belz is telling him that he must give up this great light. And he said that it seemed to him that he expounded this Torah on that Sabbath afternoon specifically for me. So that the Baal haSulam would know that he should offer up this great spiritual attainment as one offers up incense on the altar and burn it entirely, as was done with these particular sacrifices in the Temple. After that he asked me if I had felt his persecution of me during the Sabbath, and he said to me that it is not correct to go with enlightenments or with “words”. That is, not to remain with spiritual stages which are temporary (in the sense that sooner or later the vessel has to let go of this particular spiritual stage in order to carry on with the spiritual work) and that it was more correct to work with the Or d’Chassadim (light of loving-kindness and faith which are permanent lights and never have to be let go of.) And after that he told me the Torah on “When I lay down at night, I sought that whom my soul loves, I sought him but I did not find him” (Song of Songs, also Perush HaSulam Parshat Tazria para one). And he asked me if I understood and I answered that I didn’t understand, and he told it to me a second time and I said that I didn’t understand at all. (And really I couldn’t understand the issue of the night because the sun was shining for me) “Lying down” implies the light of the tikkun of Creation, which is a lesser light, whereas the Baal haSulam felt the Divine light to the utmost. And then he said, “Search here well and you will find, because here is to be found this whole secret. That is to say that a person has to agree to only use the light of the tikkun of Creation, even if he has the ability of attaining the lights of the purpose of Creation for the sake of giving benefit, which are much greater lights. And whilst he said this he said to me, “Have you forgotten what I have taught you many times, that it is forbidden to use any enlightenment?” And he began to tell me that same article which talks of the inner work that is carried out in the same way that seed is sown for growing wheat and this way is a way which brings about much good. Sowing the seed implies letting go and tikkun, as all seed needs to rot for the new wheat to germinate from it. Likewise in spirituality, we need to let go and start afresh to allow the new to come forth. And then I could no longer refrain. I knew that the light I had received was an eternal light. The Baal haSulam knew that all he had received was for the sake of giving and that from its essence he knew that it was eternal and it was like a kosher animal that is eaten and not, God forbid, like a non-kosher animal from which it is forbidden to eat. And I interrupted his holy words—which is the first time in my entire life that such a thing happened to me—and I said to him was it not so that he had already promised me according to the Scripture that we read on Rosh haShanah “And Abraham said, ‘I have sworn it?’ ” (Genesis 21:24) The inner meaning of the verse implies a total commitment to dvekut that has come through complete purification and cleansing which are not liable to cease. At that moment the Rabbi of Belz stood up from his chair and said “I have no more strength.”

    The end of this amazing article is missing to our sorrow. However it is certain that our teacher, the Baal haSulam accepted the way of the Rabbi of Belz, as we see that he committed to letting go of this great light if he saw that his teacher did not approve. Furthermore, we know that when he planned to emigrate from Poland to Israel, the Sage of Prosov told him that in the land of Israel one loses all one’s spiritual lights. But the Baal haSulam answered him saying that he was not looking for spiritual lights, but for work. This is in accordance with the teaching of the Sage of Belz above.

    It is for such a man who, acting entirely with the modality of faith according to the verse, “not so my servant Moses, in all my house he is faithful” (Numbers 12,7), to the extent of foregoing the greatest possible joy, that the highest lights of all are revealed.

    End of Tikkun

    Rabbi Azriel Chaim Lemburger tells of an incident he heard from Rabbi David Minzberger, one of the Baal haSulam’s closest pupils in Jerusalem: Towards the end of the Sage of Prosover’s life, his three greatest disciples approached him, one of whom was the Baal haSulam. They told the Sage, by way of a hint, that they had finished all their own personal inner work for their self-rectification. The Sage asked them, “And what do you intend to do?” The other two students stayed silent, but our holy teacher answered, “I intend to find other work for myself.” Then the Sage of Prosov responded, “It is true that you have finished your work, but only you, (and he pointed to the Baal haSulam) may take on pupils.” When they were outside the Sage’s room, the other two students turned to our teacher saying, “After all that we have been through, laboring so hard, what, to start all over again?! We have nothing left to look for in this world, because we have finished all our work.” And it happened that within less than a fortnight these two pupils of the Prosover Rebbe passed away. But our holy teacher gathered a band of young students around him and began to give over the teachings.”

    At this time the Baal haSulam was already assiduously learning the wisdom of the Kabbalah until he was familiar with the writings of the Ari, the book of the Zohar and the writings of Rabbi Moses Cordovero. Quietly, he began teaching lessons on these writings to a band of young men who were dedicating their lives to serving God. They would learn, starting at one o’ clock in the morning. Rabbi Ashlag made the condition that they should not reveal to anyone that they were learning from these books and that he was giving over such lessons.

    The holy Sage of Prosov died on 19th Tishrei, during the festival of Succot (Tabernacles). His yarzheit (anniversary of his death) is the day on which, by tradition, Aaron the High Priest is the holy spiritual guest in the Succah. So the Baal haSulam, as did his son Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag after him, always held a large gathering with many participants on that day. Furthermore, that day is also the yarzheit of the holy Jew of Pschischa who was the grandfather of the Prosover Rebbe and the founder of the school of chassidism that the Baal haSulam adhered to.

    “Walk modestly with your God,” (Michah 6:8)

    Rabbi Baruch Shalom tells that his father had the custom of awakening every night and learning until dawn. If he would fall asleep he would “punish” his body by putting his feet in icy water. He preferred to suffer physically than to fall asleep.

    He also told of an incident thst occurred when the members of the congregation in Warsaw noticed there was this holy man in their midst, and they started to admire him. When our teacher saw this he decided to act to put a stop to such admiration, because he wanted all his deeds to be carried out according to the principle of “walking modestly”. So when he got to the Beit haMidrash (study-house) and heard the men praising him, he got up and said in a loud voice, “And do you think that I just follow my animal instincts like you do, and spend all my nights asleep? I awaken the dawn and the dawn does not awaken me! And not just this night, but every single night…!” When people heard this, they grew angry and straightaway lost their reverence for him, because they all understood that he was a man of great pride… .

    Rabbi Azriel Chayim Lemburger told: The Rabbanit, Mrs Rivkah Raiza, the wife of our holy teacher told me: “The Rabbi was hidden from the world completely. The world did not recognize him at all, because he was modest in all his ways. But I knew him, and I can tell you that at midnight, when he would get up to study, he would put sharp stones from the oven in his shoes, or he would put his feet in a water with ice so that he wouldn’t fall asleep.”

    Mrs Bathsheva Reichbard, the daughter of the Baal haSulam added: “My holy father was physically a very strong man, and therefore he actually needed a lot of sleep. However, he did not give in to his body and would do every possible tactic in the world so that he would awaken at one o’ clock in the morning. And I remember many times, when my brother, Rabbi Baruch Shalom, as a youth, would stay awake until one o’ clock in the morning, in order to awaken his father for his daily work and learning.”

    We must ask ourselves, How is it possible to achieve such a high level of dedication to spiritual work? But it all hinges on one thing: the more a person considers the Creator as important, the more he or she is ready to sacrifice in order to do the will of the One. Thus the purpose of one’s spiritual work is to be able to hold the Creator in high esteem, and it is on this that a person needs to focus his work on, whether during prayer or study or in any other situation he or she finds himself or herself in. A person needs to pray that God should help him, that the Creator should grant him or her the capacity to believe in His greatness.

    Rabbi Moshe Mordecai Shultz, the great pupil of our teacher

    Outstanding amongst the students was a Jew named Rabbi Moshe Mordecai Shultz, may his memory be for a blessing.

    Rabbi Moshe Mordecai studied with our teacher in the Yeshivah of Gur when they were still only youths. Subsequently, as a young married man he became one of the most important of the chassidim of Gur and he sat at the holy table of the Sage of Gur, Avraham Mordecai Alter, the author of the work Imrei Emet. (Gur at that time was a great center for chassidism; before the holocaust it had more than one hundred thousand adherents.) Rabbi Moshe Mordecai was the leader of a band of about forty disciples in Gur, which testifies to his great standing amongst the chassidim of Gur. In due time Rabbi Ashlag received him as a pupil and as a study partner (chevruta). He was outstanding. Rabbi Ashlag made one request of him, and that was not to divulge anything of their learning to anyone. After they had commenced learning together he recommended him to continue to go to Gur as always. Rabbi Moshe Mordecai cleaved to our teacher with all his heart and soul, but from his great love for him simply could not refrain from revealing about him to the chassidim of Gur. Because of his promise to the Baal haSulam he managed to restrain himself for a couple of months, but on the third month, while he was waiting with the other chassidim for the Sage of Gur to come to the table, he stood up, banged on the table, and cried out, “My fellow Jews, why are you asleep? We have such an important and holy Jew in the world! If you want to see him you must come with me.” Naturally, these words provoked a great storm amongst the chassidim. When the Baal haSulam heard what had happened, he straightaway packed up and went to live in another city. But from then began all the persecutions that he suffered subsequently.

    So enormous was the wave that Rabbi Moshe Mordecai’s proclamation made, that many years later, when Rabbi Avraham Mordecai Alter, the Sage of Gur was in Jerusalem, (he miraculously escaped from Poland in the middle of the second world war,1) the students of the Baal haSulam came to him to request an endorsement for their Rabbi’s holy books, his son, Rabbi Israel Alter, who was present, remarked, “I still remember the incident with Rabbi Moshe Mordecai… .”

    Rabbi Moshe Mordecai used to carry out ascetic practices in order to negate his bodily appetites. When this became known to the Baal haSulam he instructed him to desist from these practices, because practices that are connected with limiting one’s eating and drinking tend to increase a person’s pride. He told him that if he desired an ascetic practice he could give him one of a different nature. He instructed him to go into the city (Warsaw) and collect alms. Rabbi Moshe Mordecai was a very respected Jew in Warsaw, and this instruction that he got from our holy teacher was a real ascetic practice for him, to such an extent that after a few times of going out begging he had to stop, because he couldn’t stand it anymore.

    Rabbi Moshe Mordecai remained in connection with our holy teacher who he loved and revered with all his heart. After the Baal haSulam had emigrated from Poland and had gone to the holy Land they constantly communicated by letters. From the handful that have come to us we can see a beautiful web of love and unity between the Rabbi and his pupil, woven in true service to God in depth and in infinite delight.

    Here follows an excerpt taken from one of the letters which Rabbi Ashlag wrote to Rabbi Moshe Mordecai Shultz. From the advice that Rabbi Ashlag gives him we can understand that Rabbi Shultz had attained an extremely high level of spirituality indeed. Rabbi Gottlieb explains the process:

    A person must first of all arrive at a spiritual state wherein he lives a healthy and natural life, in which he has a healthy and good self-esteem and in which he feels happy with himself. This is a state of mind which is associated with the spiritual state called the right hand line, or the line of faith. (See further on in the book for explanation of the right-hand line.) In order to acquire this state a person works on his faith that God created the world as being whole, including himself, and that all his qualities are ultimately good and full of worth, and that he has positive and good virtues. Only once this right-hand side is well established then he comes to the left-hand line. The left-hand line consists of the side of self-criticism and of truth.

    Then a person needs to learn that the whole purpose of the spiritual work is to come to the love of one’s fellow man. Gradually he begins to perceive that he is far from this, until finally at the end of a very gradual process he sees just how far away he is from this in reality until he comes to the feeling that he is the worst person in the world. But of course this is a very gradual process because we are not talking about information but about an actual feeling. One cannot come to this understanding until the healthy self-esteem of the right-hand side is well established.

    Rabbi Ashlag wrote to Rabbi Moshe Mordecai in a letter dated from the year 1927 (Pri Chacham part two page 75)

    You should know that I am your most faithful and constant friend. And I counsel you that you should not in any way rectify the outer aspects of your self but only the innermost aspects of yourself which require tikkun. And the main reason why the innermost aspect of a person gets spoilt is from the sins which heap up—that is the will to receive for oneself alone, the sign of which is the ego and the pride. And this ego is not afraid of all the ascetic practices in the world! On the contrary it loves them, because the pride and the ego increase and are strengthened by these ascetic practices. However, if you want to purge away your sins you have to deal with the negation of the ego instead of carrying out ascetic practices. That is to say you need to feel for yourself that you are lowest and worst of all the inhabitants of the world. One needs to learn and have great wisdom in order to understand this. And one has each time to test oneself to check he is not deceiving or misleading himself, and it is helpful also to humble oneself in actual practice before one’s companion. (Rabbi Ashlag is referring to a study companion).

    (Translator’s note: The reader here has to understand that Rabbi Ashlag is giving advice to a student of great spiritual attainment. This is not advice for the average person. The understanding required here is that only when the person has truly attained free choice, that is to say he now has understanding and control over his will to receive, in all its manifestations, yet he still he falls, then he knows and feels himself to be the worst person in the world. Since we judge everybody else mercifully we must assume that when other people stumble and fall it is because they are unconscious or have no free will in the matter. Only for himself can the person know that he is in separation from the Creator, and thus he feels himself to be worse than his fellow human-being.)

    There is a letter which our teacher wrote whilst in Warsaw, (after he had emigrated to the holy land he journeyed once to Warsaw) in which he tells Rabbi Moshe Mordecai how he tried to organize for him a visa to get to the holy Land via Beirut. Unfortunately Rabbi Moshe Mordecai Shultz perished in the Holocaust as did most of the Gur Chassidim. (Pri Chacham letters page 53).

    Fish for the Sabbath

    Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag tells that his father was very particular about obtaining fish for the Sabbath table despite his extreme poverty. It happened one time in 1915, that he was unable to obtain fish in honour of the Sabbath. Then he heard that it was possible to obtain fish from the Vistula River where it flowed in a part of Poland that was, at that time ,under the rule of the Germans. Despite all the dangers, he went, accompanied by a translator, and when he got there they allowed him to get fish from the river.

    One needs to ask, what is this about? Of course there is a halachah which states that a person should take pains to supply the necessities for the Sabbath. There are two questions we need to ask: 1) Why did the Rabbi go to such extreme lengths to get fish for the Sabbath day, even though it is a mitzvah to supply the needs of the Sabbath, surely this implies doing what is reasonable. 2) In what way is his action different from any other Jew who wishes to supply the needs for the Sabbath in the best possible way?

    A similar question arises in the life of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag when his daughter was taken ill with cancer, he recited Psalms for her. Again we need to ask, what greatness is shown here? Surely every Jew in a similar situation would do as much!

    In order to answer this we will look at a parable that Rabbi Baruch Shalom used to relate: Levi met his old friend Reuven. Levi asked Reuven where he lived now. Reuven answered him, telling him his present address. Levi’s eyes grew round with surprise when he heard where his friend was now living. “Surely that’s where Shimon, the infamous criminal is living. He must be making your life a misery! Reuven replied, “I really don’t know what you are talking about … I have no complaints at all about my good neighbor Shimon. I don’t know why you are telling such stories about him! Levi grew astonished, “But surely Shimon’s wickedness is known by everyone. Tell me, how do you manage between you?” Reuven replied, “Whenever I go to the grocery store I ask him if he needs me to bring him something from there, also when I go to the vegetable store, actually, wherever I go anywhere I always ask if there is anything I can do for him, such that I try to fulfil his needs and even give his wants priority over mine.” Levi laughed, “Now I understand… since you serve him with all your heart, of course he doesn’t make trouble for you, but just try one time to do something contrary to his will and just see what will happen… .”

    The moral of the story is as follows: When a person keeps Torah and mitzvot in order to receive a reward, either in this world or in the next world, then his will to receive for himself alone doesn’t bother him at all, on the contrary, it encourages him to fulfil the mitzvot in the best possible way. It feels content, because it is profiting by the person’s acts. But when a person wants to fulfill Torah and mitzvot not in order to get a reward, then the will to receive starts to oppose him and begins to wage war on him. Then the wickedness of the ego becomes obvious in that it doesn’t want to give anything to the framework of holiness and even over small issues it wages war on the person. Concerning this the Sages said: The greater a person is, the greater his evil inclination is.” (Succah 52a) Therefore, our teacher, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag writes in his articles that for servants of God who walk in the way of truth, whihc is the way of giving unconditionally, there is a an inner battle over even simple acts, since the ego becomes very smart and questions, “Who is God that I should listen to His voice?” and “What does this service give you?” (These are the questions asked by Pharaoh of Egypt and by the wicked son in the Haggadah of Pesach). All this only occurs when a person wants to fulfil the Torah and mitzvot because he believes in God as the root of all and that he has faith in the Creator and not in order to fulfill his self-love. However, those who fulfill the Torah and mitzvot because they feel they will gain personally from so doing have great strength and forces available for them to call on, as the ego participates in their work, and so they are able to do many good deeds with wonderful energy… .

    And this is what is written: “I remember God and I sigh when I see every city built, standing on its hill, but the city of God is cast down to the depths.” (Poem from the prayers at the close of Yom Kippur) Explanation: “A city” (עיר ) is from the language of awakening to the service of God (ער ) and therefore one who serves God looks at himself and wonders: Why is it when I awake up to serve God on the basis of self-serving I have energy, but when I wake up to do God’s work on the basis of serving the One on the grounds that He is the root of all and lets me come to Him in faith, then it feels like ashes in my mouth?

    This is acting according to the saying of the Sages “though they are subtle in knowledge as humans, yet they place themselves like the beast.” (Rashi on Psalms 36,7) That is to say the will to receive for oneself alone, of those who wish to serve God in the true way, that is the way of giving unconditionally, is as subtle as a human, that is it becomes extremely clever, and each time asks the person searching and difficult questions in order to disturb him in his spiritual work. However, those who serve God simply carry on as if they are beasts, that is to say they carry on doing the mitzvot and their deeds unquestioningly as if they don’t possess such subtlety—like the beast. This is designated as walking the path of faith which is in the paradigm above that of knowledge. And thus these holy men were diligent in fulfilling these small acts even more than an ordinary person would be. An ordinary person would not undertake such difficult journeys only in order to obtain fish for the Sabbath.

    The revelation of the hidden

    In the year 1918 there appeared to our holy teacher a hidden Master who opened to him the gates of holiness and purity in the wisdom of the Kabbalah. He wrote of this to his cousin, Rabbi Abraham Mendel ­Bronstein:

    10th Tevet 5688

    … I shall describe to you everything that happened from beginning to end through which I merited this wisdom by virtue of the great mercy of God.

    On the twelfth day of the month of MarCheshvan, on a Friday morning, a certain man came and introduced himself to me. It became clear to me that he was wondrously wise in Kabbalah and also in many other disciplines. As soon as he started to speak, I began to sense his Divine wisdom. All his words had a wondrous quality to them, a sort of glory. I really trusted my feelings in this regard. He promised to reveal to me the true wisdom. I studied with him for three months, meeting him every night after midnight in his home. Mostly we talked about matters of holiness and purity. However, each time I would implore him to reveal to me a secret from the wisdom of Kabbalah. He began to tell me chapter headings but he never explained any concept fully. So I was left with tremendous yearnings. Then one time

  11. Then one time, after I had greatly implored him to do so, he fully explained a concept to me and my happiness knew no limits.

    However, from that time I began to acquire a little ego, and as my self-assertion increased, so my holy teacher began to distance himself from me. But I did not notice this happening. This continued for around three months, at the last days of which I could no longer find him in his home at all. I searched for him but I could not find him anywhere.

    Then I truly became aware of how he had become distanced from me. I was extremely sorry and began to mend my ways. Then in the morning of the ninth day of the month of Nisan, I found him and apologized profusely for my behavior. He forgave me and related to me as before. He revealed to me a great and deep teaching on the subject of a ritual bath that is measured and found to be too small. I once more experienced tremendous joy.

    However, I saw that my teacher had become weak. I stayed at his house and the next morning, the tenth day of Nisan, in the year 5679 (1919), he passed away, may his memory shield us and all Israel. There are no words to describe the greatness of my sorrow, for my heart had been full of hope to merit this great wisdom of Kabbalah, and now I was left naked and with nothing. I even forgot at that time all that he had taught me on account of my extreme sorrow.

    From then on, I prayed with all my heart and soul with untold longing, I did not rest a single moment of the day until I found favor in the eyes of my Creator, may the One be blessed. Then, the merit of my holy teacher and his Torah stood by me and my heart was opened to the higher wisdom ever increasingly, like a flowing spring. Through the mercy of the One, I also remembered all the deep teachings that I had received from my late teacher, may his memory be for a blessing. Blessed be the One who has kept me alive and sustained me! How can I, poor in deeds as I am, have any way to thank the One? From the beginning God knows my poverty that I have neither intelligence or wisdom to thank and praise Him for His mighty goodness. However, who can say to Him what He should do, or how He should act?

    My holy teacher was a very successful businessman and known throughout town as an honest trader, but no one at all knew that he was a Master Kabbalist. He did not give me permission to reveal his name. 1

    Rabbi Azriel Chayim Lemburger heard how the letter came to light from Rabbi David Minzburg of blessed memory (one of the earlier students of the Baal haSulam): “This letter was discovered by the help of God by Rabbi David Minzberg whilst travelling in Poland. He arrived in Warsaw in the middle of the night when the city was completely dark and he searched for a place to stay the night. Suddenly he saw a light shining from one of the houses. He knocked on the door and entered. There sat an elderly Jew learning the Talmud. It transpired that he was the cousin to whom our teacher, the Baal haSulam had written this letter. When the cousin heard that Rabbi Minzburg was a disciple of our holy teacher he straightaway took out the letter and showed it to him. Thus the letter was found by Divine Providence. But if you think that this letter made any impression on Rabbi Minzburg then you are wrong.”

    Explanation: The disciples of the Baal haSulam did not look for miracles or wondrous signs to help them serve God. The opposite is correct. They looked for ways of giving to the Creator unconditionally. Their self-negation with respect to their teacher is based on faith which is of the paradigm above that of knowledge, above intellect, and therefore they did not search for signs or proofs such as these in order to verify the greatness of their teacher.

    We will make a pause in the unfolding story of the life of our teacher and bring in the shortest possible manner the main principles of the way to serve God as he taught them.
    Our reason is simple: if the reader does not understand something of the way to serve God, as Rabbi Ashlag taught, he or she will not be able to understand in a true sense the events his life, that of his son Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, or of their pupils. The lives of all these holy men were founded on their strong desire to connect with the Creator.

    The Baal haSulam received this system of service to God from his teachers, the holy Sages of Kaloshin, Prosov and Belz. It is a system that he acquired through immense labour and superhuman effort during the years of his youth, through which he rectified himself completely, until the secrets of the Torah and its intimate details were revealed to him. It is certain that our teacher did not invent this system, but he received it from his teachers, which they themselves received, in an unbroken tradition stretching all the way back to the forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Moses; the Prophets; the Sages of the Talmud; the Ari; the Baal Shem Tov; the Gaon of Vilna; and Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzatto. Our holy Rabbi, the Baal haSulam merited to find favour in the eyes of God and obtained permission from Above to reveal these holy matters that concern the service of God with tremendous clarity and in a form which is suitable for our generation—the generation that precedes the Messiah.

    First Principle

    The first principle is that God is Good and does good. As it is written: He is Good and does good to both the evildoers and the good. 1 (Hazarat hashatz Musaf yom Kippur). He does not need to receive pleasure at all, since He is whole and perfect in every possible way. From whom could the One receive anything? Thus we see that God has no need to receive joy or pleasure because such a desire would imply that he has a lack or is imperfect, whihc is not the case.

    Second Principle

    The second principle is that God wants to give benefit to the Created beings. The essence of this benefit is to reveal Himself to the created beings because there is no greater joy for the created being that is greater or more wonderful than the conscious knowledge of the Creator, even in a limited measure.

    Third Principle

    Since He desired to give benefit to the created beings He created in the souls a will to receive good and joy because only then can they receive the good He wants to give them, as without will or desire it is impossible to receive the good. Also in the physical world we see that the more a person longs for something, so is the greatness of his joy when he receives it.

    Fourth Principle

    Since it is the will of the Creator to benefit the created beings in order to give them only benefit, and He has no will to receive, and since the desire of the created beings is to receive pleasure and joy we find that there exists an opposition of form between the Creator and the created beings. This causes the created beings to distance from the Creator.

    As we see in the physical world: If two people have opposite attributes and ideas then they cannot join together with each other. Likewise in spirituality, there is no possibility for the created being to join with the Creator and to merit the revelation of His Divinity, unless he is able to change his attributes to those of the Creator. These are the words of the Sages on the phrase, “to walk in all His ways and to cleave to Him” (Deuteronomy 11:22), “How may a person cleave to Him? Behold he is a consuming fire! But cleave to His attributes. Just as He is merciful so you be merciful. As He is compassionate so you be compassionate.” (Rashi on that verse) Likewise the Sages of the Talmud said: “As it is written, ‘And you should walk after God’ (Deuteronomy 13:5). Can a person walk after the Divine presence? We have already learnt in the Scripture: ‘For the Lord God is a consuming fire,’ (Deuteronomy 4:24) but one may walk in the attributes of the holy Blessed One. Just as He clothes the naked so you should clothe the naked. Just as He visits the sick so should you visit the sick” (Sotah 14a).

    Fifth Principle

    The essence of all the good that is in the world is the will to give benefit. And the essence of all the evil in the world is the will to receive pleasure and joy for one’s own self.

    Therefore the general principle of serving God does not in fact contain many different subjects, as the world thinks, but only these two principle ideas: Subduing the will to receive for oneself and acquiring the will to give benefit. All the other matters and natural virtues are only branches which stem from these two main issues, the will to receive for oneself alone and the will to give.

    Since we have mentioned the idea of the shells I would like to explain what these are. In the book Or HaBahir the Baal haSulam defines them as such: “The powers that rule over people such that they don’t search out deeply any matter until its end but are satisfied with only a superficial understanding. That is they are satisfied with a very superficial understanding of the outermost peel of the wisdom but they leave the real essence. Therefore their human intelligence is doesn’t serve them to understand the service of God because their iniquities govern them with the power of the sitra achra and they do not take sufficient interest in the Torah and the holy wisdom. Therefore they rebel against the holy Blessed One.”

    We can conclude from our teacher’s words that every person certainly has a will to receive joy and pleasure, for that is the will of God. However it is within a person’s ability to work to transform this if he were to put his attention to the necessity of so doing. But the will to receive for oneself alone chases after the lights provided by the shells, and prevents the person from putting his attention into the most fundamental aspects of Judaism and in understanding the issues which touch on the transformation of the human being. So there is a tendency amongst the religious to practice Judaism as rote instead of searching out the way to connect to the Creator through each and every mitzvah and through every opportunity of learning Torah. People tend to forget their distance from the Creator and their lack of faith, their lack of Yirat HaShem (fear of being separate from God) and their lack of Love for God. If a person were to make a true accounting, he or she would see for themselves that he doesn’t conduct himself in the way one should in the presence of the King. This follows from lack of faith or that his or her faith is defective and weak. So a person doesn’t fear God adequately or love the One. Because who could delude himself or herself and say that he walks around in his or her daily life with constant awareness and awe of God?

    And so the Gemorrah teaches in the Masechet Nazir page 23a

    Rabba the son of Bar Chana said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan What is the meaning of the Scripture “For the ways of God are straight and the righteous shall walk in them but the transgressors shall stumble in them. (Hosea 14:10)? It is like two people who roasted their paschal sacrifice. One eats for the sake of the mitzvah and one eats for the sake of enjoying the food. The one who eats for the sake of the mitzvah is referred to in the Scripture as “and the righteous shall walk in them” and the one who eats for the sake of the food and the transgressor shall stumble in them.”

    The commentator, the Meiri1 says on this ” the righteous do their actions for the sake of Heaven until through their actions they apprehend the glory of their Creator. But the wicked carry out the mitzvot by rote without intention and so they only gain bodily pleasure through their actions.” The Meiri is not talking about people who desecrate the Sabbath or eat food which is unfit (treifa) but he is designating as wicked those who are not interested to consider the essence the practice of the Torah and the mitzvot and what is required in keeping them.

    Principle Six

    The will to receive is the basic constitution of a person and expresses itself in the person in two ways:

    1) Via the mind: A person wants to know and understand the purpose for, and the logical consequence of, every act of his. For it is through the intelligent understanding of matters that the will to receive gets pleasure. This is not the case when a person performs an act whose purpose or use he does not understand. This causes him suffering.

    2) Via the heart: This concerns the sensual will to receive, which is part of every person’s make-up, which desires to sense and feel pleasure and delight in the different situations in this world, through the animal appetites of eating, drinking, sleep, desire for money, honor, power, and intelligence.

    These two aspects of the will to receive are two halves of the same nature, and they work in an integrated way within a person. …

    Over and against these two aspects of the will to receive there are two modes of rectification (tikkunim):

    1) for the mind—the work of faith,

    2) for the heart—the work of serving God and one’s fellow, not in order to receive a reward.

    The Sage Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag spoke on this (in the year 5751).

    We need to work both from the aspect of the mind and from the aspect of the heart. Because if a person were only to work on his intellectual side alone, that is to say that he only takes on himself the yoke of faith, it is possible that he is doing so in order to receive a reward. Therefore a person also needs to work on his will to give benefit in an altruistic manner. However, if the person were to work solely on the aspect of giving benefit and love of one’s fellow without working on his faith that also is insufficient because he remains disconnected from God. This is what happened in communism which held up as its banner love of one’s fellow man but persecuted men of faith and thus from its very outset was doomed to failure.

    1) For the rectification of ones intellect there is the work of faith as we spoke above, that is to say that a person should not rely on his intellect but have faith in all the ways of the Torah.

    This is on several points:

    A person has to have faith that the way to draw near to God is only through giving benefit and love of one’s fellow man. This is so even though the body, that is the will to receive for oneself alone denies this. This faith needs to obligate a person in actual practice to establish his life on giving benefit to his fellow without which closeness to God is impossible.

    2) Faith in the reality of God as the root of all faith in His Divine Providence at all times and in every detail. That is to say this faith is designated as accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven in faith which is of a higher paradigm than that of knowledge. The issue here is that a man should educate himself to behave in a way that is fitting for someone who is in the presence of the King the King of Kings. Such a person needs to visualize for himself how he would behave if he were in the presence of a very great man and so he needs to conduct himself in such a way at the very least in all his ways.

    Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag writes in the Book Shamati (article 209)as follows:

    A person who sits in his house is not like someone who is in the presence of a king. A person’s faith has to be of the quality that he should be feeling the entire day as if he is in the presence of the King. Then he would certainly have Yirat HaShem (the fear of being separate from God) and Love of God in a complete manner. As long as he or she did not reach this level of emunah (faith) he should not rest. As we say in the daily prayers, “With everlasting love you have loved your people the House of Israel, You have taught us Torah and mitzvot, statutes and laws. Therefore, O Lord our God, when we lie down and when we rise up we will meditate in Your statutes and we will rejoice in the world of your Torah and your mitzvot for ever and ever. For they are our life and the length of our days and in them we will meditate day and night, and never remove Your love from us for ever. Blessed are You who loves His people Israel.” (evening prayer) And if he were to so act then for sure he would never wish to receive for himself alone. The longing for faith should be woven into his limbs until it becomes second nature, according to the phrase, “when I remember Him He doesn’t let me sleep (Introduction to the Zohar paragraph 31).

    Rabbi Baruch Ashlag further writes: (in Shamati article 211)

    Whoever believes in the reality of the holy Blessed One that all the world is filled with His glory, then he is filled with Yirat haShem, fear of being separated from God and with love of God. Such a person does not require any preparation of meditation since he places God first naturally. This is just like we see in the physical world. When a person loves his companion with a true love then he thinks of and longs only for his friend’s benefit and stops himself from any action from which benefit would not come to his friend. And this is done naturally without thinking about it. One doesn’t need any great intellect for this because this is natural, just like the way a mother loves her child that all she desires is for the best for her child and she doesn’t require any conscious preparation to love her son. because something that is natural does not need intellect to compel the matter but everything comes forth from instincts. One’s natural instincts themselves work to such a degree that it is in our nature that for the love of something we are ready to sacrifice ourselves until we achieve our purpose and until we fulfill our purpose our lives are not worth living. Therefore whoever feels for himself as if he is standing before the King certainly will have perfection that is to say he has faith in the Creator. Until he feels that he is standing before the King then he doesn’t have complete faith (God forbid).

    Here we need to distinguish two modalities: 1) If a person acts in order to receive a reward in this world, whether it be money or honour or even just a good feeling) or a reward in the next world then his will to receive for himself alone doesn’t oppose him so much. (The Hebrew term for the will to receive for himself alone in the Kabbalah is that of the body. But this could refer to the physical body the mental or emotional body as well. Any component of the will tor receive for oneself alone is in operation here and provided it feels it is getting something for the action it won’t oppose the action. Translator’s note). This is because the focus of the work is not concentrated on the holy Blessed One, who is the Giver, but the person is only looking at the gift itself that is to say what he will receive.

    2) However if the person is acting only for the sake of God that is to say in order to come into affinity of form with God, as is appropriate according to the measure he feels the greatness of His love and His Divine providence, then the will to receive for oneself alone opposes this action with all its power. Because the will to receive for oneself alone does not want to work without getting a reward for that work. Then the person’s will to receive that is to say the body, (according to the definition above) comes to him with two questions: 1) Who is God that I should listen to His voice?—a question that opposes faith, 2) What does this service mean to you?— a question that opposes service. (Both these questions come from the Passover haggadah. The first one is the question that belongs to Pharaoh, the other question is the one that belongs to the wicked son out of the four sons.)

    And now we can understand perfectly that it is impossible to tread on the pathway of the service of God in this true way, that is, the way of giving not for the sake of getting a reward, without experiencing ups and downs. Because going against the body, that is the will to receive for oneself alone, is paved with ups and downs. As it says in the Gemorrah (Gittin 43a) nobody can fulfill the words of the Torah unless he stumbles in them. However, this is not the case for those who don’t oppose their will to receive pleasure for themselves. don’t suffer so many ups and downs, but they are to be found in a state that is more or less stationary.

    In connection with this we can mention here an occurrence with the Seer of Lublin: One time a man came to him and told him that prior to every prayer he experienced a descent. The Seer answered him: “Before every prayer I experience 400 descents!” Our teacher Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag explained, “A person who experiences a descent, that is to say a “down” has to have had an ascent first. So if the Seer of Lublin had 400 descents he must have had an equivalent 400 ascents…. But this occurs only with someone who is truly searching for unity (dvekut) with the Holly Blessed One and is self-critical and searches even within his good deeds to see if his will to receive for oneself alone got involved.”

    Our teacher Rabbi Baruch Ashlag further said,

    “The process of accepting Malchut Shamayim (that is to say the Divine providence) is through ups and downs, like we see in the moon, that waxes and wanes, and whose spiritual root is the sephirah Malchut. Our intellect thinks that a person can progress from stage to stage just by going up, without any intervening falls. But in fact this is not so. As it is written “as the light is seen more clearly when it comes from within the dark” (Eccl. 2: 13), that it is impossible to see the light except from within the dark. Just as we see in the physical world: If a person is very thirsty and is suffering on account of his thirst, then when he gets water he feels pleasure and gives thanks to God for the water.”

    The most distinct factor in actualizing one’s faith in God, that He is the Source of all, and that all is conducted by Him, is if a person is prepared to work without getting a reward. Just the fact of serving God is his reward and joy.

    As we see in the physical word, a person is prepared to minister to the great Sage of the generation without receiving payment. Not only that, but it often happens that people are prepared to pay for the privilege of so doing. How much more so is the case in spirituality with regard to serving God! This is the language of the Tanna (A sage at the time of the Mishnah) quoted in Ethics of the Fathers (Chapter 1 Mishnah 3): “Antigonus, of Socho, received the oral Law from Simon the Righteous. He used to say, “Don’t be like slaves who serve the Master for the sake of getting a reward, but be like slaves who serve the Master not for the sake of getting a reward, and may the awe of Heaven be upon you.”

    Rabbi Chayim of Volozhyin may his holy memory be for a blessing writes in his book Ruach Chayim, “Concerning the king’s servants: It is a well-known fact that whosoever is closest to the king takes a greater salary than a servant who is not numbered amongst his favorites and who does not come into his presence. This operates when he was previously an important and honoured minister and because of his skill or wisdom or his work he increased in status until he became one of the familiars of the court. But someone who was born a peasant and suddenly found favour in the sight of the king who raised him up and placed him above all the other minsters to be seated first with him it wouldn’t enter his head to request a further reward from the King for his work. That would be wicked. Since the king was already so gracious to him and made him one of his chief servants, who stands in his presence with none higher than him. Likewise, we human beings, who are so lowly and from our material aspect in which we are like the primitive inhabitants of Canaan of whom it is written, “my mother’s sons were incensed against me,” (Song of Sol. 1,6) and yet He elevated us to the degree that we can serve Him and stand before Him which is such a great merit and sufficient reward how could we possibly be so brazen as to request a further reward for serving the holy Blessed One? And this is what it says: Do not be like the servants who serve, who stand before the Master and serve in His temple and request yet more salary, but be like the lowly servants who serve the Master in His temple not for any gain. Understand this deeply.” (Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag said more than once that the pupils of the Gaon of Vilna, of whom Rabbi Chaim Volozhiyn was one, were all Sages of great spiritual stature who knew the matters of serving God in depth.)

  12. yehudith says:

    Introduction for Sefer HaSulam
    Translated from the Hebrew by Yedidah Cohen

    When I saw that the students of the holy Sage of Israel, Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag known as the Baal haSulam, “the Master of the Ladder,” may his memory protect us, were departing this world, as their generation was leaving us, I became anxious lest Torah may be lost from Israel, because the deeds of the righteous are actual Torah. So I said: “It is time to act for the Lord’s sake,” and I set to the task of compiling this book.
    Actually, even prior to this, whenever I heard my holy teacher, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, tell a story, or say something of moment, I would write it down immediately. Likewise, when the holy band, the students of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, would meet and tell a story, or discuss a saying attributed to the Baal haSulam or his students, I noted it down immediately. However, once I had made the decision to write this book, I, and some of my pupils, went specifically to meet with the descendants of the students of the Baal haSulam and we listened to their words over many hours. Through all these notes became woven a web of life, wondrous with fortitude and holiness. We found a texture of life that was made up of sacrifice and dedication emanating from the power of the desire to fulfill the will of the King, the holy Blessed One.

    One needs to remember, however, that this is not a book about people who lived in some remote age, but about living people, some of whom I had the privilege of knowing personally, and it is from such near acquaintance that I was able to attest to their great spiritual stature. What was common to them all was that they walked in the way of our holy teacher, the Baal haSulam.

    The reason I wrote this book was so that all those who seek God should see the way of truth that the Baal haSulam taught, and how important this way is for the spiritual progress of this generation. I wrote this book in order to show the superhuman dedication of the Baal haSulam and that of his pupils, and to let people understand that this is not beyond our reach, but that we may each of us make meaningful efforts in our lives to come to unity with the holy Blessed One. My purpose then, in compiling this book was not to write a memoir or an historical document, but through this book to awaken all of our hearts to serve God.

    In a world which is so involved with externals, with the rottenness of animal appetites and of self-interest, in a world where even those who do practice Torah and mitzvot do not know their right hand from their left hand when it comes to the innermost part of Torah, in a world full of people who are sick with the disease of seeking honor and power over others, in a world which is complicated with politics and stinking intrigues, in a world filled with the miscarriage of justice and corruption, in such a world the Godly light of our teacher, Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag shines forth. His bright and clear light radiates out, from the higher worlds to our world, in order to disperse the fogs of confusion and dismay, and in order to prepare us for our redemption.

    I found the following excerpt in the book Meir Einai haGolah (Enlightening the Eyes of the Exile), which tells of the life and works of the Rabbi of Gur: 1 (paragraph 647)

    The holy chassid Rabbi Bunam of Lublin told, “Once our holy Rabbi of Gur was walking in the courtyard of the study house, and I was walking with him. It was then the month of Elul. My teacher asked if they had sounded the Shofar that day in the study house. After that he added in this language: ‘When a person becomes the leader of the generation then all the trappings required for leadership come into place. The need arises for a study house, with rooms and tables and benches; one person gets appointed to be the treasurer, another the organizer, and so forth. But then the ego comes and snatches the innermost spark, leaving the rest revolving around as previously. One needs to fear this: that the time may come when everything will run exactly as it does now, but the innermost spark will be missing.’ Then he cried out in a loud voice, “May God help us!”

    The concern of the Rabbi of Gur has come true before our very eyes. We see a generation impoverished and orphaned; a generation that has everything—except for the true spark of a real connection with our Creator.

    However, we have a remedy, and that is the teaching of Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag, the Baal haSulam, which, with the help of God, may shine a light directly upon our way and show us the path which ascends to the house of God.

    A solution to the problems of our generation through the innermost aspect of the Torah

    There are a number of problems that we need to note that are occurring in the reality of our present time.

    1) There is a tendency amongst the religious to immerse themselves in the practical aspects of the mitzvot alone, practising them without any intention. Neither are they given guidance how to carry out the mitzvot with intention and with feeling. This leads to a reality in which those who practice the mitzvot go to extremes, even “tithing the salt”, for they have no awareness of their lack in turning their heart towards the Creator, and therefore, when they want to increase their level of holiness they add yet another aspect to the practical side of the mitzvot alone. So they continue to add more and more strictures. But the holy Baal Shem Tov already warned, “Do not be over punctilious” 1 צוואת הריבש because over involvement with too many strictures causes the most important thing, the innermost spark of Torah and mitzvot—the Creator— to be forgotten.

    Torah, without its innermost aspect, leads both young and old to feel a great dryness in their practice. The practice of Torah and mitzvot becomes more and more external, carried out without enthusiasm or attraction towards the Torah. The practice becomes ritual, practised without happiness or pleasure, but out of social obligations only, or from the habits engendered by education. This is what the Sages have termed “commandments of men carried out by rote”. This phrase is taken from the scriptural text, “And the Lord said, ‘For this people draw near to Me with their mouth and their lips in order to honour Me, but they have removed their heart far from Me; their fear of Me is that of a commandment of men, learned by rote. Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish and the understanding of their men of sense shall be hid” (Isaiah 29:13-14).

    2) When a person learns the scriptural portions of the Torah he cannot see any connection between them and himself. It is hard for him to understand the connection between the lives of our fathers and his own daily life. For example, it is hard for him to see the connection between the servitude of our forefathers in Egypt and his life here and now. This lack of connection leads to lack of interest and apathy.

    Through the learning of the innermost part of the Torah, the dryness caused by the performance of the commandments by rote, that we noted above, simply disappears. The study of the innermost aspect of the Torah, as the Baal haSulam taught, stabilizes a person’s life. Education in the innermost aspect of the Torah leads a person to be absolutely meticulous in his ethical behavior and thus gives principles by which the whole society may run with integrity and honesty.

    When a Jew occupies himself or herself with the innermost aspect of the Torah he amplifies the soul aspect that is within him of loving his fellow-man above his egoistic side of himself. By this means he causes an increase of all of the positive forces in the world. He increases the forces of love of one’s fellow and of loving-kindness. Furthermore, he neutralizes all the forces of violence and egoism. He brings about a lessening of the anti-Semitism in the world, and a lessening of the attacks against the religious within the context of Israeli society. For the inner state of the individual Jew broadcasts a telepathic message to the whole world, and according to his inner state so does he give light to the entire world.

    If God forbid, a Jew does not occupy himself with the innermost part of the Torah, but sticks only to the outermost part of the Torah, not making efforts to acquire vessels with which to amplify his altruism, but he remains with his egoism, such that all his actions are carried out for his own utility, he causes an increase of egoism in the world at large. This is the source of the various attacks on religion and on the religious, and all the forces of anti-Semitism in the world raise their heads and batter the Jewish people, working to destroy us. Thus we see that the practice of the innermost aspect of the Torah is critical for the general state of both religious people and of the Jews in the world.

    The innermost aspect of the Torah uncovers the deep beauty and precision of the Torah, so that even people who are not religious can clearly see the truth of the Torah. The innermost aspect of the Torah reveals the reason within the Torah and the mitzvot so that the Divine web of system and logic becomes manifest. We see that everything comes about in order to move a person from an egoistic state to an altruistic state. The Torah and mitzvot are set forth with complete exactitude to pluck on the strings of the soul of the man to transform him. It is no wonder that when people who were not given a religious education get exposed to this wonderful knowledge they draw closer and closer to the religion as the true godliness of every mitzvah and its necessity becomes apparent. The pursuit after the spirituality of other peoples, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and others becomes completely superfluous.

    Likewise, non-Jews become aware that the laws of the wisdom of the Kabbalah bring sanity to the world. These laws cause human society to be arranged in a more just and whole manner. They bring about consciousness, such that the phenomena of violence will be utterly uprooted, and they remove the despoiling of life and corruption from our daily fare. They even give a possibility for the world to function without ecological disasters and without devastation from natural causes. The laws of the Kabbalah reveal that the principles of the sciences stem from the spiritual worlds; the rules governing mathematics, physics, music and biology did not come into our world through chance, but cascaded down into our world from the rules governing the higher spiritual worlds. As we become cognizant of these facts we come to internalize the exalteness of the Torah and its absolute necessity for humankind. Then the phenomenon of the world’s hatred for the Jewish religion and for the Jewish people will vanish as their value for all humankind is recognized.

    The Messenger of God

    In this book we have brought two pieces of writing which particularly fill me with awe. In one the Baal haSulam writes that he merited the soul of the holy Rabbi Yitshak Luria, (the Ari). In the other he tells of a prophetic revelation, in which the Divine revealed His light to the Rabbi, telling him, “I have chosen you to be the Tzaddik and Sage for all this generation in order that the crisis of humanity may be healed with a lasting salvation.”

    These words are clear evidence of the great role that the holy Blessed One designated to Rabbi Ashlag. Such a role only becomes apparent gradually and over a period of time. As we have seen with other famous sages such as Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides), the Baal Shem Tov, and Rabbi Moses Chayim Luzzato, (the Ramchal) it was the case that in their own generation they faced enormous opposition, but later, through the years their greatness became recognized and their light shone forth, bringing the hearts of thousands of Jews to turn to their Creator.

    In the book, Meir Einai haGolah, I have found words which the holy Sage of Gur said, through which it is possible to understand the Divine Providence concerning the souls who are sent to lead the generation.

    The chassid Rabbi Hirsh Leib from Warsaw heard the Rabbi of Gur himself say, at the time when the Sage, Rabbi Mendel of Kotsk lay dying, “As the generations unfold, we are given, from Heaven, a greater leader. Because as the generations grow sicker they require a greater man to lift them up.” This is similar to the situation of the sicker the patient, the greater is the need for a specialist doctor. 1 (paragraph 479)

    Thus we do not need to wonder why the Master of the Universe saw fit to send us such a holy soul, which, at first sight seems to be unsuited to the lowly level of our generation. However, we can now understand that it is because of the great lowliness of this generation that we need such a great light to deliver us from the pit of our exile. This light encourages us to strive and labor in the true way so that we may come into affinity of form with the Creator of the world.

    However, I certainly knew that there would be sceptics who would say, “Who says that these matters are true?” However, such people were also around in the generation of Moses our Teacher, and would ask the same question, if Moses were to go and say to them “Ehyeh sent me”! As Moses said, (to God at the burning bush), “But they will not believe me, neither will they listen to my voice, but they will say that God did not appear to you” (Exodus 4:1). Therefore, God needed to give Moses signs and miracles in order to quell such doubters so they would not place obstacles in the way of God’s work.

    Such sceptics were also present in the times of the Ari, the Baal Shem Tov, and Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, who tried to cast doubt and aspersions on their holy work. Because who could prove that these great souls were sent to us from Heaven and who could prove that all their words were true? Nowadays anyone who would question these sages would hardly be considered as sane. But at the time these Tzaddikim lived, such sceptics troubled them. The opposition to them in some cases being so great that they or their followers were threatened with excommunication.

    However, the true test lies according to the words of the Zohar, “A false god is sterile and does not bear fruit,”1 (parshat Mishpatim mamar HaSaba para 166 in the Perush haSulam) This means that those who walk in the ways of uncleanness do not bear fruit, but those who cling to the ways of holiness bear fruit.

    What is this fruit? The meaning of fruit is not social standing, or money, but success in the ways of clinging to God. Certainly this matter is hard to put to the test, especially since most of these sceptics do not understand anything at all about how to cleave to God. For if they would understand that, they would not be asking theoretical questions. As the verse says, “Taste and see that God is good” (Psalms 34:9). They could try to follow the instructions of our teacher and then they would see how they would be lifted up above materialism to the happiness and eternity of oneness with God. This, in fact, is what in the end defeated the opposition to the Baal Shem Tov, the Ari, the Ramchal and the Rambam, once their light was clearly manifest in the world, that their way raised up the person and brought him to connect with the One.

    The Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag, the Baal haSulam, brought the light of the holy Zohar out, from the hidden to the revealed, in writing his work the Perush HaSulam, a twenty-one volume commentary on the Zohar. Likewise he clarified the works of the holy Ari in the six volumes of the Talmud Eser haSephirot and in the three volumes of his work the Panim Meirot uMasbirot. Anyone who learns these works deeply comes to the conclusion that these commentaries are not products of the thought of Rabbi Ashlag but they are actual Divine light that God wanted to be revealed in this generation.

    Sufficient is the evidence that Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, Rabbi Ashlag’s first-born son, brings when he tells that his father never needed to use drafts when writing, but he wrote the Perush haSulam directly onto the paper in front of him and that paper was taken straight to the printers. This testifies that the Baal haSulam had an enormous spiritual perception of the higher worlds and his works are descriptions of what he grasped and saw in the higher worlds. He had no need to edit or arrange his thoughts.

    To conclude, we bring the words of the Baal haSulam (Pri Chacham first part of article “Commandment one)

    The main success of the prophetic utterance is to draw the highest light right down to those who dwell on earth. The one who is most able bring it down to the lowest level is the most successful.

    The issue of above and below is seen both in spirit and in practical good. For the practical good that is achieved by the prophecy is the point which gives a grasp for the human being. And it is known that the hardest part of serving God is in getting hold of the first part.

    It is clear that these words are testimony to the light of our teacher himself. The wondrous light that shines from his books makes real for all people, religious and secular, Jews and non-Jews that there is no possibility for the human race to survive unless we all take upon ourselves the commandment of “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). Not, however, in the way that was tried by Marx and Engels, the founders of communism, who placed their ideas on a secular basis, but through the Divine light of Torah, which has, as its goal, the unity with God for all humankind.

    Sheltering within the shade of our teacher

    It was before I was fifteen years of age that I first came into the presence of the Sage, the holy teacher Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag of blessed memory. I remember the first time I saw him. It was on the Sabbath at three o’ clock in the morning. I went into the room where the lessons were given, and already the young men were poring over the book, the Talmud Eser haSephirot. The atmosphere in the room was saturated with holiness and purity; one could really feel it in the air. My teacher, the Rabbi, entered and sat on his chair. Even before he began to teach I had the feeling that I could seek wisdom and knowledge of spiritual matters from him. The spiritual stature of this holy man of God was very pronounced, even without any word being spoken by him. When he entered the room a spirit of great strength entered with him. His face expressed tremendous fortitude. His whole being spoke of determination and decisiveness, of great strength of will, of resolve to establish all the actions of his life according to the will of God, may the One be blessed.

    Since then I have cleaved with all my life and my spirit to my holy teacher, never removing myself from him. He raised me as a loving father and supervised my path with great watchfulness, as a father supervises his son in all ways. He taught me all I have learned in Torah and gave me my understanding, so that nothing that I have originates from me. All my knowledge and understanding, both in the learning of the Kabbalah, and in the practical way of serving God, I learned from him, according to his instruction and his guidance.

    Day by day I saw him; his face filled with majesty. His ability to serve God in such an exalted way was really incomprehensible to normal human intelligence. If you were not privileged to witness this it is impossible to comprehend. His way was that of faith that transcends knowledge, the way of giving benefit to the other person—a way that demands great fortitude. When we, his students, gazed at his face, we would immediately get the desire to dedicate our life for God from love.

    With the mercy of God I merited to serve him and become one of the students who were closest to him. I spent many hours in his presence, and from this closeness I learnt a lot—sometimes more than what was possible to learn in the study sessions themselves. Being in his presence gave me understanding, in the most concrete way possible, of what it means to be a person who truly believes in God. He considered all his ways, his words and his thoughts according to the one criterion, am I in accord with the will of God or not? This was the one single rule to which he adhered throughout his life.

    In his last year he related to me, more than once, the events of his life. He told me of his childhood, and of the period after his marriage, when he became a student in the Beit haMidrash (study hall) of his great father. He told me of his very deep connection with his father and of his affinity with him. He spoke of the texture of the relationships which the students had enjoyed with his holy father and between each other. He also told me of the many trials of his life—most of which I do not want to retell here—and how they strengthened his longing for affinity of form with the Creator, may the One be blessed.

    It is now clear to me that it is the years in which I merited to spend in his presence that have given me the chief inspiration for the writing of this book. All the explanations that I have written in this book spring forth from the life teaching of my teacher, the Sage Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag

    I would like to apologize to the reader, in that sometimes the topics in this book are not polished in a literary sense. For really I am not a writer, but I didn’t want to put this holy work into the hands of a professional writer, because, however good he may be, he is still an outsider and will see the matters only from an outsider’s perspective, and I did not want this. Therefore, I preferred to do this work myself, with the purpose of giving the reader, as much as possible, an inner view on our holy Rabbis.

    Naturally I haven’t been able to convey that much of the inner spirit which permeated the reality of our holy teachers because these matters aren’t easy to pass on. It is a case of “Taste and see that God is good.” I couldn’t pass on the day-to-day difficulties of the students in rising before dawn, in loving the friend, in self-negation before the Rabbi. This is a whole way of life which is possible to understand in real terms only when one walks that path in practice. But I have tried as much as I can to pass on the wonderful spirit that ruled in the Beit haMidrash of our holy Rabbi, the Baal haSulam and in that of his son Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag. I have also endeavoured to make clear their true principles and how they were put into practice in every step of their lives.

    I hope that this book will bring about a change in the thought of those who seek to come close to God. This is my real purpose in putting these matters onto paper, to show the way of serving God in its true form.

    In our generation, to my very great sorrow, the issues of how to serve God have become very blurred, people who are not qualified to do so purporting to teach others the way of serving God. But the truth is in fact lacking and the confusion and the darkness is very great indeed.

    I wish to point out that whilst undertaking this research on the lives of our holy Sages I occasionally came across instances when they rebuked their students. I tried to understand the reason for these rebukes and in what way the students erred, in order to find guidelines for our own lives and in order to understand the true principles of serving God without compromise. However, on the other hand, one must remember that the students themselves were men of great spiritual stature; men who served God with incredible devotion and self-sacrifice. They were of an entirely different dimension to that of ourselves, and, even though we do not in any way measure up to their standards, yet we may learn from them.

    Acknowledgements

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank my honoured father Rabbi Sharaga Gottlieb and my dear mother Mrs Rachel Gottlieb who were faithful messengers of God and raised me in the ways of the holy Torah. They did not spare any labour or toil throughout their lives in fulfilling the will of God. May God grant them health and much joy from their children and may they merit so see success in the service of God.

    May we all merit soon to the complete redemption and to the revelation of God’s divinity in the sight of all.

    Abraham Mordecai Gottlieb,

    Disciple of Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag.

  13. yehudith says:

    From a Gift of the Torah
    A Time for Doing

    Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag z’l
    translated from “Matan Torah” (The Gift of the Torah) by Mark Cohen z′l

    It has been a long time now that qualms of consciousness have been pursuing me every day, forcing me to move outside my usual boundaries and to write a fundamental essay concerning the soul of Judaism and of that of religion in general and to say something about the sources of the wisdom of the Kabbalah. To publicize generally in order to enable people to recognize and understand this material which stands at the summit of the world, as is fitting to its true character and quality.

    Formerly amongst the Jewish people, before the printing press was invented, there were no spurious books that touched on matters close to the soul of Judaism, because then there were practically no authors who wrote irresponsibly. The reason for this is quite simple: An irresponsible person is generally not deemed to be an important figure. Therefore even if such a person dared to author such a book, it would not be worth any scribe’s time to copy it as no one would pay him for copying such a book— which at that period was an expensive undertaking —and so the manuscript would automatically become lost.

    In that period people who really knew Kabbalah would not trouble with people of this sort because in any case the knowledge of the Kabbalah in that period was not necessary for most of the people. On the contrary, they were interested to conceal their teachings, for the reason of: “It is for the honor of God that matters are concealed” (Prov. 25:2). We are commanded to conceal the soul of the Torah and inner spiritual work from those who either don’t need it or for those whom it is not appropriate for them to be involved in this work. We may not demean this material by exhibiting it in windows to be seen by idle passers-by or vain people. The honor of God obligates us not to cheapen the soul of the Torah in this way.

    However, printing has now spread everywhere, scribes are no longer necessary and the price of books has come down dramatically, the way is open for irresponsible authors to produce whatever books they fancy for whatever dubious motives, such as making money and for self-glorification. They do not take into consideration their qualifications or even stop to consider the quality of their work.

    From the beginning of the invention of the printing press, such books began to multiply, written by people who never learnt properly and certainly did not learn privately and intimately from a qualified master Kabbalist. They even have no idea of the early works of Kabbalah that have been published and are relevant to the issue. They make up all kinds of suppositions and string together bits and pieces that they have heard here and there and they claim that this is the soul of the nation and its priceless treasure. The general public does not know to be careful of such texts and they have no way of differentiating between a true text and a false one, and so mistaken and confused ideas proliferate. In exchange for the satisfaction of the pathetic lusts of these books’ authors, the masses of people are led astray for generations.

    Lately the stench of such people has been growing, as they have been clawing away at the wisdom of Kabbalah, without their being aware that this material is locked and bolted with a thousand seals which are still in place. Anyone who comes in touch with this material who does not possess the key to its understanding will be unable to understand even one word correctly and of course will be completely incapable of understanding the connection between one word and the next! All the true books of Kabbalah that have been written, up to this very day, consist only of oblique hints that are barely adequate for a totally qualified pupil, learning directly from a master. In our days, such people have multiplied, who publish books (and also other media) of this sort, and who make a complete hotchpotch out of the material and which are absolutely disgusting for anyone who reads them.

    Some of these people even go further and put themselves up on a pedestal and act as if they were the true leaders of the generation. They purport to tell people with authority which of the books of the earlier Kabbalists, may their memory be for a blessing, are worth reading and which (God forbid) are not worth reading as they contain misleading elements. Such clarification was limited only to one head out of ten generations, and now ignoramuses are abusing this role.

    For this reason the view of the general public of the heart of our tradition has become thoroughly confused. Not only this, but an atmosphere of disrespect and lack of value for the material has been created. Everyone thinks that it is enough to flick through this material whenever they have a spare moment, when the material is actually of great worth, and they pass fleetingly over the whole world of the high wisdom, which is the source of the soul of the Judaism itself, arriving at whatever conclusions they see fit, according to their own feeling.

    These are the reasons that I have gone beyond my normal boundaries and I have decided, on the grounds of (Ps. 119:126) “A time to do for God” and to save what it is still possible to save. So I have taken it upon myself to reveal a measured amount of truly authentic material from the sources and to publish it to the world.

  14. yehudith says:

    Faith and Service:
    rectification of mind and heart

    Excerpt from the Main Principles of Service
    Chapter 2 The Sulam: the Biography of Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag
    by Rabbi Avraham Mordecai Gottlieb,
    Translated from the Hebrew by Yedidah Cohen

    The will to receive is the basic constitution of a person and expresses itself in the person in two ways:

    1) Via the mind: A person wants to know and understand the purpose for, and the logical consequence of every act of his. For it is through the intelligent understanding of matters that the will to receive gets pleasure. This is not the case when a person performs an act whose purpose or use he does not understand. This causes him suffering.

    2) Via the heart: This concerns the sensual will to receive, which is part of every person’s make-up, which desires to sense and feel pleasure and delight in the different situations in this world, through the animal appetites of eating, drinking, sleep, desire for money, honor, power, and intelligence.

    These two aspects of the will to receive are two halves of the same nature, and they work in an integrated way within a person.

    Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag used to define it thus:

    It is as if there is a vessel which goes directly from the heart to the brain and says, There is none quite as wise and clever as you…!”

    Over and against these two aspects of the will to receive there are two modes of rectification (tikkunim):

    1) for the mind—the work of faith,
    2) for the heart—the work of service

    The Sage, Rabbi Baruch Shalom spoke on this (in the year 5751).

    We need to work on the aspect of both the mind and the heart. Because if a person were solely to work on his intellectual side, only taking on himself the yoke of faith, it is possible that he is doing so in order to receive a reward. Therefore a person also needs to work on his will to give benefit in an altruistic manner. However, if the person were to work solely on the aspect of giving benefit and love of one’s fellow, without working on his faith, that would also be insufficient, because he would remain disconnected from God. This is what happened in communism, which held up as its banner love of one’s fellow man, but persecuted men of faith, and thus, from its very outset, was doomed to failure.

    For the rectification of the intellect there is the work of faith as we spoke above, that is to say that a person should not rely on his intellect but have faith in all the ways of the Torah.

    This may be broken down into several points:

    a) Faith that the way to draw near to God is only through giving benefit and love to one’s fellow human.

    This is so, even though the body, that is the will to receive for oneself alone, denies this. This faith needs to obligate a person in actual practice to establish his life on giving benefit to his fellow, without which closeness to God is impossible.

    b) Faith in the reality of God as the root of all; faith that only He can give us faith in Him; faith that His Divine Providence is present at all times and in every detail.

    This faith is designated as accepting the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven in the paradigm of faith, which is higher than the paradigm of knowledge. A person should educate himself to behave in a way that is fitting for one who is in the presence of the King, the King of Kings. He needs to visualize for himself how he would behave, speak, and think, if he were in the presence of a very great man. Similarly, he needs to conduct himself in no lesser way in the presence of the King of Kings.

    Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag writes in the Book Shamati (article 209) as follows:

    A person who sits in his house is not like someone who is in the presence of a king. A person’s faith has to be of the quality that he should be feeling the entire day as if he is in the presence of the King. Then he would certainly have both Yirat haShem (the fear of being separate from God) and Ahavat haShem, Love of God in a complete manner. So long as he or she did not reach this level of emunah (faith) he should not rest. As we say in the daily prayers, “With everlasting Love you have loved your people the House of Israel, You have taught us Torah and mitzvot, statutes and laws. Therefore, O Lord our God, when we lie down and when we rise up we will meditate in Your statutes and we will rejoice in the world of Your Torah and Your mitzvot for ever and ever. For they are our life and the length of our days and in them we will meditate day and night, and never remove Your love from us for ever. Blessed are You who loves His people Israel.” (evening prayer) And if the person were to so act, then for sure he would never wish to receive for himself alone. The longing for faith needs to be woven into his limbs until it becomes second nature, according to the phrase, “when I remember Him He doesn’t let me sleep!”

    Rabbi Baruch Ashlag further writes: (in Shamati article 211)

    Whoever believes in the reality of the holy Blessed One that all the world is filled with His glory, then he is filled both with Yirat haShem, fear of being separated from God, and with the love for God. Such a person does not require any preparation of meditation since he places God first naturally. Just like we see in the physical world: When a person truly loves his companion, then he thinks on and longs for his friend’s benefit. He stops himself from doing any action which would not benefit his friend. This is done naturally, without thinking about it. One doesn’t need any great intellect for this because this is natural, just like the way a mother loves her child, that all she desires is the best for her child and she doesn’t require any conscious preparation to love her son. Because something that is natural does not need intellect to compel the matter, but one’s actions come forth from our instincts. Our natural instincts themselves work to such a degree that it is in our nature that we are ready to sacrifice ourselves for the love of something until we achieve our purpose, and until we fulfill our purpose our lives are not worth living. Therefore, whoever feels for himself as if he is standing before the King certainly will achieve perfection, that is to say perfect faith in the Creator. Until he feels that he is standing before the King then he doesn’t have complete faith (God forbid).

    Here we need to distinguish two modalities:

    1) If a person acts in order to gain a reward in this world, whether it be money or honor or even just a good feeling, or, if he acts in order to gain a reward in the next world, then his will to receive for himself alone doesn’t oppose him so much. This is because his focus is not actually on the holy Blessed One, who is the Giver, but he is only looking at what he will receive.

    2) However, if the person is acting only for the sake of God, that is to say, he acts in order to come into affinity of form with God, according to the measure he feels the greatness of His love and His Divine providence, then the will to receive for oneself alone opposes this action with all its power. Because the will to receive for oneself alone does not want to work without getting a reward for that work. Then the person’s will to receive for oneself alone comes to him with two questions: “Who is God that I should listen to His voice?”—a question that opposes faith, “What does this service mean to you?”— a question that opposes service. (Both these questions come from the Passover Haggadah. The first one is Pharaoh’s question, the other question is that of the wicked son, of the four sons.)

    So now we can understand perfectly, that it is impossible to tread the pathway of the service of God in the true way, which is the way of giving, not for the sake of getting a reward, without experiencing ups and downs. Because going against the will to receive for oneself alone is paved with ups and downs. As it says in the Talmud (Gittin 43a) nobody can fulfill the words of the Torah unless he stumbles in them. However, this is not the case for those who don’t oppose their will to receive pleasure for themselves. They don’t suffer so many ups and downs, but they are to be found in a state that is more or less stationary.

    In connection with this we can mention here an occurrence with the Seer of Lublin: One time a man came to him and told him that prior to every prayer he experienced a descent. The Seer answered him: “Before every prayer I experience four hundred descents!” Our teacher Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag explained: “A person who experiences a descent, that is to say a “down” has to have had an ascent first. So if the Seer of Lublin had four hundred descents he must have had an equivalent four hundred ascents… . But this occurs only with someone who is truly searching for unity (dvekut) with the Holy Blessed One and is self-critical and searches even within his good deeds to see if his will to receive for oneself alone got involved.”

    Our teacher Rabbi Baruch Ashlag further said:

    The process of accepting Malchut Shamayim (that is to say, the Divine providence) is through ups and downs, like we see in the moon, that waxes and wanes, and whose spiritual root is the Sephirah Malchut. Our intellect thinks that a person can progress from stage to stage just by going up, without any intervening falls. But in fact this is not so. As it is written “as the light is seen more clearly when it comes from within the dark” (Eccl. 2: 13), that it is impossible to see the light except from within the dark. Just as we see in the physical world: If a person is very thirsty and is suffering on account of his thirst, then when he gets water he feels pleasure and gives thanks to God for the water.

    The most distinct factor in actualizing one’s faith in God, that He is the Source of all, and that all is conducted by Him, is if a person is prepared to work without getting a reward. Just the fact of serving God is his reward and joy. As we see in the physical word, a person is prepared to minister to the great Sage of the generation without receiving payment. Not only that, but it often happens that people are prepared to pay for the privilege of so doing. How much more so is the case in spirituality with regard to serving God! This is the language of the Tanna (A Sage at the time of the Mishnah) quoted in Ethics of the Fathers (Chapter 1 Mishnah 3):

    Antigonus, of Socho, received the oral Law from Simon the Righteous. He used to say, “Don’t be like slaves who serve the Master for the sake of getting a reward, but be like slaves who serve the Master, not for the sake of getting a reward, and may the awe of Heaven be upon you.”

    Rabbi Chayim of Volozhyin may his holy memory be for a blessing writes in his book Ruach Chayim:

    Concerning a king’s servants: It is a well-known fact that whoever is closest to the king takes a greater salary than a servant who is not numbered amongst his favorites and who does not come into his presence. This operates because he was previously an important and honoured minister, and because of his skill, or his wisdom, or his work he increased in status until he became one of the familiars of the court. But for someone who was born a peasant, and who suddenly found favor in the sight of the king, who raised him up, seating him first with him and placing him above all the other minsters, it wouldn’t enter his head to request a further reward from the king for his work. That would be wicked, since the king has already been so gracious to him and made him one of his chief servants, now standing in his presence, with none higher than him. Likewise, we human beings, who are so lowly from our material aspect, in which we are like the primitive inhabitants of Canaan, of whom it is written, “my mother’s sons were incensed against me,” (Song of Sol. 1,6) yet He elevated us to the degree that we can serve Him and stand before Him, which is such a great merit and sufficient reward, how could we possibly be so brazen as to request a further reward for serving the holy Blessed One?! And this is what it says: “Do not be like the servants who serve, who stand before the Master and serve in His temple and request yet more salary, but be like the lowly servants who serve the Master in His temple, not for any gain.” Understand this deeply.

    (Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag said more than once that the pupils of the Gaon of Vilna, of whom Rabbi Chaim Volozhiyn was one, were all Sages of great spiritual stature, who knew the matters of serving God in depth.)

    In connection with this, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag taught that the saying, “the reward of doing a mitzvah is another mitzvah” (Ethics of the Fathers 4 ,2), should be read, “the reward of the mitzvah is the great merit of having been asked to do it!”

    The reward of those who serve God is to merit more and more faith in the Creator as being the Root of all, until they no longer ask anything for themselves, but the service itself is their reward.

    c) Faith that there is nothing other than God, according to the Scripture, “You have shown us to know that the Lord is God, there is none other than Him” (Deuteronomy 4,35).

    That is to say, that there is no other reality in the world except God. A person needs to look at the world from the perspective that all the people and the created beings are bidden to act by God Himself and all their actions are ordained by Him. It follows that a person’s behavior has to be consonant with this perspective. For example, if someone hurts him, he has to consider that it is not the person who hurt him, but it was God Himself. Therefore, if he responds in a way that is insulting or belittling, it is as if he is belittling God Himself. Likewise, if a person tells a lie to someone, in fact he is telling the lie to God, and so on. If someone were to act against him, then since the person has to consider the action as coming from God, he needs to receive the action with love and not get annoyed, because all the actions of the Creator stem from His desire to give only benefit to His created beings.

    d) Faith that the Creator conducts the world according to His attribute that He is Good and does Good. Even when a person sees that the opposite is taking place, in his private life, in the life of the community, or in the life of the nation as a whole, he has to believe that what he sees is false. So long as he is given over to the governance of selfish love he cannot see the truth that the Creator conducts the world according to His attribute that He is Good and does Good. A person’s faith in the goodness of God needs to be expressed in practice through actions of joy and satisfaction in the way that God runs the world. The person should not act in an a way that conveys the opposite. In accordance with this Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag explained, “Why was it that at the Baal haSulam’s table it was customary to drink wine with the blessing, “He is Good and does Good? This was to remind ourselves that this blessing is the greatest thing of all that a person can believe, that the Creator is Good and does good.

    e) Faith that God “hears the prayer of every mouth” (from the morning prayer). The Baal haSulam said, this saying includes even the most lowly mouth of all; that God hears prayer and God has within His power to rescue even the lowliest person from his situation. Let not a person say that God can only help someone who is not so down, but He has the power to help even the lowest of the low. This faith has to be expressed in practice, that a person should never despair of the help of God.

    f) Faith that all the spiritual descents are sent to us from Above. There is purpose to spiritual descent. This may occur in order that a person should gradually come to the recognition of the evil that is within him. The evil within a person is only revealed to him from Above when he has progressed sufficiently in his spiritual work to be able to cope with it. The revelation of the evil within the person is in accordance with his work. Only after the evil within the person has become completely clear to him in its true measure can he give a prayer from the depth of his heart that God should take him out of the pit of his exile and from the rule of the seventy nations which lie within the heart. A spiritual descent may also occur in order to give the person the opportunity to serve God even when he cannot feel any taste for the work. This means serving God unconditionally, as the Scripture says, “Walk after me in a land that is not sown” (Jeremiah 2, 2). Faith gives the person the power of commitment, so that he does not despair, but continues all his work in exactly the same way as he does when in a period of spiritual ascent.

    Thus the Sage Rabbi Baruch Ashlag spoke on the anniversary of Rabbi Yitzhak Agassi’s death:

    A person needs to fulfil the mitzvah of “Love the Lord your God” in two ways: When he feels good and experiences a good feeling in Torah and prayer, and, even when God takes his soul. Because this is the way the Sages taught: (Berachot chapter 9 mishnah 5) “and with all your soul” means “even if He takes your life.” But one needs to ask the question: if He takes the life of a person, then the person can no longer serve Him. But one must understand this teaching according to the service of God, that God takes from the person the soul of Life, that is his life-force in Torah and prayer. He takes away from him the taste of Torah and prayer. Then a person has to work to reveal and to make manifest all his love for the Creator and to be happy even in his state of spiritual descent.

    Further the Sage Rabbi Baruch Shalom said in the name of his father:
    “It is written, ‘All that the Master of the House tells you to do, do, except if He tells you to leave” (Pesachim 86:). That is to say a person needs to cleave to the Creator in such a way that everything the Creator tells him to do he does, except if He tells him to go out of the framework of holiness, then he mustn’t listen to Him. And this matter is very deep and not everyone can tolerate this thought.”

    He further said, “
    When a person is in a state of down, he has two options: Either to concentrate on the descent itself, or to focus on the One who gave the descent to him. The distance between these two possibilities is as the distance between east and west. For the place where a person puts his mental focus is the place where he is in actuality. Therefore, if a person is connecting with his thought to the down itself, then he is connecting to a negative state of consciousness, and it is not possible from the negative to connect with what is blessed. Therefore, if a person is connecting to the One who gave the descent, then he is one with the Creator, May He be blessed, and remains totally connected, and thus, in practice. is already saved from the down.

    g) Faith in the greatness of the eternal God; complete faith in His perfect attributes, with the intention to rejoice in even the smallest contact that a person merits to in spirituality. For there is a general principle that in order for a person to receive satisfaction from something of low quality he requires a large quantity; but for a person to receive satisfaction from something of a high quality, even a small quantity will suffice. The higher the quality, the smaller the quantity that suffices to give happiness. For example, a person wishes to bring a wedding gift. If he decides to bring gravel he would need tons for it to be a gift… . If he brings iron he needs a smaller amount. If he were to bring gold, two hundred grams would be enough. And if it were diamonds, fifty grams would suffice. In an analogous way we see that the more a person develops faith in the greatness and importance of the Creator within himself, the more he can be happy and the more he can value even the smallest aspect that appertains to holiness—even the smallest word or deed—even if he does not yet have the requisite intention. Our holy teacher, the Baal haSulam, spoke frequently on this subject, and many times mentioned that we need to be happy and joyful, even when we are practicing Torah “not for its own sake”. We cannot estimate how important this work is, even regarding Torah that is practiced “not for its own sake”. We are simply unable to estimate how important any act of spirituality is. Rabbi Baruch Ashlag emphasized this point on many occasions, teaching that it is a key for happiness, and one that shows the measure of faith a person has in God. He often said, if a person were to come to the Beit haMidrash (study hall) or to the synagogue, but he didn’t manage to learn any Torah, nevertheless he should still be very happy, since God gave him the merit of having a good thought. Just imagine how many millions of people there are in the world who were not privileged even all their lives to have such a good thought as this!

    h) Faith in the way of unifying the contradiction between “If I am not for myself who is for me?” and “if I am for myself what am I?” (From the dictum of Hillel the Sage: “If I am not for myself who will be for me? And if I am for myself what am I? and if not now, when? (Ethics of the Fathers chapter 1, mishnah 14). A person has to say about the past, “If I am for myself, what am I?” That is to say, “I didn’t do anything, but everything comes from the Creator.” However, regarding the present, he needs to say, “If I am not for myself who is for me?” That is to say, if I don’t do anything, no one will do it for me.” In such a way he is saved from all manner of disruptions that tend to occur in daily life. It is easier to take an extreme position than to walk in the middle way. There are some who say “If I am for myself, what am I?” therefore they don’t want to do anything. If they are sick, they don’t want to go to the doctor, because they say that everything comes from God, so what use is a doctor here? If God wants them to get better then He will heal them even without a doctor. There are others who say, “If I don’t go to the doctor then for sure I will certainly never get better.” But the correct way is to go to the doctor like everybody else. After one has gone to the doctor then one must say “It was God who healed me, and not the doctor, and if I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor, then I still would have got better, because that was the will of God.” But the next time he gets sick he should again go to the doctor saying “if I am not for myself then who is for me?” Afterwards, when he gets better he needs to say again that it was not the doctor who healed him but it was God. This way is beyond the understanding of the will to receive.

    This applies likewise for earning one’s living. Some people say, “If God wants to send me a living, then I will have a living even if I don’t work.” And so they don’t work. But there are others who say the opposite, “If I don’t work, then I certainly won’t have the means to live.” The way of holiness is to work, and afterwards to say, “Even if I hadn’t worked, but I had sat at home all day, then God would have given me a living because that is His will.” We learn that the way in holiness is always in opposition to the opinion of the will to receive and this is meaning of the phrase “the way of Torah is opposite to the opinion of the householder.”

    Rabbi Baruch Shalom wrote:
    When a person is in the path of serving God then he has to believe that he receives a reward from the Creator, and that reward is cleaving to the Creator. And this is the greatest reward of all, to become close to God. Punishment means separation from Him. And this is within the person’s province, for this is the focus of the choice. However, once a person has made his choice, and opted for the good, and left the evil, and God has drawn him close to serve Him, then he has to believe that everything comes from God, and that if God had not helped him he would not have been able to prevail. So before the action, a person needs to know that the choice is his and the principle of “If I am not for myself who will be for me” applies, but after the action he has to believe that everything comes from God. This is hard, because before the action the evil inclination comes to the person and tells him, “don’t do it, everything comes from God,” and after the action the evil inclination tells the person, “you did it all yourself!” according to the dictum, “If I am not for myself who will be for me?” as if to say, that if the person himself had not acted nothing would have been gained. A person needs to fight against this thought.

    i) Faith in the greatness of the Sage.

    Since the work of a person with respect to his Sage of necessity involves nullifying one’s own will, it is of utmost importance that the teacher with whom we work in this way is a teacher of integrity. The Sage must embody humility and truth. He wishes only to serve others and has no desire for students or others to serve him. He keeps Torah and mitzvot completely and has knowledge of the innermost aspects of the Torah. In his presence we feel an earnest desire to reach dvekut with the Holy Blessed One. Through our work with him we come to nullify and transform our will to receive for oneself alone. Only such a person is worthy to be considered a Sage.

    The following refers to the way of working with the great Sages, the Baal haSulam and his son, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag. The more that a person believes in the greatness of the Sage then the greater the motivation he has to give unconditionally to the Sage, without considering his will to receive at all.

    As the Sages stated (Berachot 7b)

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    The service of Torah is greater than its learning, as we learn from the book of Kings (II 3,11) ‘and Jehoshaphat questioned the servants of the King of Israel saying, “Is there no prophet of God that we may inquire of the Lord by him?” and one of the servants of the King of Israel answered, and said, “Here is Elisha, the son of Shefat, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” ’ the Scripture does not write that he learned from Elijah but that he served him.From this we learn that serving Torah is greater than learning Torah.”.

    This work is very practical, because a person can measure every day the degree to which he is prepared to sacrifice himself in order to give to his teacher. And one can add to this daily. Now this work is a preparatory work to that between a person and the Creator, because it has precisely the same nature as the work one needs to do towards God, may the One be blessed. However, regarding the Creator, there is an extreme difficulty, in that He is completely concealed; likewise society does not have a tangible opinion as regarding His greatness, unlike the students and the disciples regarding their teacher. Nonetheless, when a student has eventually acquired the attribute of unconditionally giving to his teacher, then he can transfer this attitude towards God, relatively easily.

    j) Faith in the greatness of the other students.

    As Rabbi Ashlag writes in his book, Matan Torah,

    “Every student needs to regard himself as the least amongst the students, and then he will be able to acquire an feeling of the greatness of the Sage from all of them. This is because a person who feels himself to be greater cannot receive from one who he considers to be lesser than him, especially with regard to being moved by his words. Only one who feels himself to be lesser, is influenced by one who he esteems as being greater. Thus every student needs to value and love his fellow student to the utmost, and regard him with the same esteem as one who is the greatest teacher of the generation. (Matan Torah essay on the conclusion of the Zohar.).

    Further, the more a person has faith in the worth of his fellow, the more he will have motivation to work for the sake of love of his fellow, according to the Scripture, “Love your fellow as yourself”.

    Rabbi Baruch Shalom writes:

    The human being is created with a vessel that is designated as being selfish love, so that if he cannot see that from a certain action he will gain something for his own benefit, then he has no motivation to put in any effort to make even the smallest move. Therefore, without the negation of this selfish love it is impossible to come to dvekut with God, which is called ‘affinity of form’. Since this is against our nature, we need a community that can form a great force against this selfish love in that we all work together to nullify our will to receive for ourselves alone. This will to receive for oneself alone is designated as being evil, because it prevents us from arriving at dvekut, which is the purpose for which the human being was created. Therefore the community needs to be made up of individuals all of whom are of the same opinion that we need to arrive at dvekut with God. Then all the individuals together can make one strong force that the individual can use against his own selfish love, because all are included in each other. We see that every person can then base himself on this great will that all share, in order to arrive at the purpose for which we are all created. However, in order that we should be able to include each other in the creation of this force, everyone needs to negate himself with respect to his fellow. That is, everyone will be able to see the worth of his friend and not his lack. But whoever thinks he is of a higher level than his companions will not be able to join with them. (Sefer HaMaamarim part one essay one)

    (It is important to understand that here Rabbi Ashlag is relating only to other students who are working in the same way, of wanting to nullify their will to receive for oneself alone, in order to come closer to God. Although love of one’s fellow-man in general is an important principle in Judaism, he is not advocating that one should see everyone one comes into contact with as greater than oneself, because that would cause confusion and a low self-esteem, leading the person off the way rather than helping him on it. However, negating his own will to that of others, who are similarly working on themselves, enables the student to learn ways of giving benefit that may not be obvious to him and adds great powers of motivation and strength.)

    That is to say, that a person goes, at every stage of his life, against his logic, against his knowledge, against his feeling.

    2) For the rectification of the heart: the service of giving benefit to one’s fellow. A person should take whatever he himself desires and give it to his fellow man. This is in order to arrive at love of one’s fellow, and from here to love of one’s teacher, and to love of God. This is according to the commandment of “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19.18). So a person, in a systematic and orderly way would begin to consider the needs and lacks of his companions, he would be concerned about what bothers his friend and he should try to help him, to the same extent that he would help himself. Similarly he should participate in the joys of his friend and participate in his celebrations as if they were his own. This is daily work against the natural desire of the body. As regards the work of giving benefit in general we can discern several modalities:

    Firstly that a person should endeavor to do actions of giving benefit regarding his fellow and actions of giving benefit regarding the Creator, not for the sake of receiving anything, just for love. After a person has completed this work to its very end, that is to say he has completely nullified his will to receive for himself alone, and his only purpose in life is to give benefit to the Creator or to his fellow man then he arrives at the second stage, wherein a person can receive joy and pleasure, but not for the sake of receiving for himself, but only because he knows that it is the will of the Creator to give to him. By allowing the Creator to give to Him he is in effect giving to the Creator. Similarly with regard to his fellow man. We see that in our daily life there are many people who do give benefit to others but they are doing this in order to receive some reward. However, here we are talking about a person who is endeavoring to give benefit, not because he hopes for any reward— because this would be considered as receiving and not as giving at all. He is acting to give benefit because he values the other person, and therefore considers it an honor to be allowed to give to him, even if he were not to receive any reward at all. There are many people who occupy themselves with giving and doing acts of loving kindness. However, not all who do so are acting in order to arrive at dvekut with God, or because of their faith in God, but because their humanitarian conscience obligates them to so act. They have mercy on their fellow man and they understand that a rectified human community should be of that nature, or they don’t feel at ease with their conscience if they do not help their fellow man. But though one must not negate such help towards one fellow man, because through such help there is an improvement in human civilization, such an approach has two main deficits:
    1) This approach does not require faith in God or any connection with the Creator, and so the person does not need to have any intention to come to dvekut with the Creator. As the Creator is far from His created beings so is such giving far from true giving. And our teacher Rabbi Ashlag wrote on this: (Panim Meirot paragraph 6) “

    The purpose of the donkey is not to serve all the other donkeys in the world of his own age. Likewise, it is not the purpose of the human being to serve all the other human bodies who are the same age as his human body. But the donkey’s purpose is to serve the human, who is higher than him. Similarly, the purpose of the human is to serve the Creator, and to perfect His intention in the purpose of Creation, as Rabbi Shimon Ben Elazar said, ‘these were only created in order to serve me, and my purpose is to serve the Creator.’ ” (Kiddushin chapter 4 mishnah 14).

    2)The purpose of helping one’s fellow man is to come to love of one’s fellow man. It is clear that a person is not able to come to love of one’s fellow man if he doesn’t create a connection on the basis of equality. Therefore, although actions of loving-kindness are beautiful and important in themselves, they cannot bring a person to love of one’s fellow man. For example, when a person gives charity to the poor, or he looks after an elderly or sick person, but then goes home and has no connection with the needy person, even if he fulfilled his duty from the perspective of loving-kindness, nevertheless, from the perspective of love, he did not accomplish that which is necessary. When a person does acts of giving from the desire to nullify his selfish love completely, then the will to receive bothers him at every step of the way. It sees a threat to its existence, so it opposes him with all its power. Therefore, the will to receive tries to subvert the basis of the person’s faith and asks, “Who is God that I should listen to His voice? It also asks “What is this service to you?” (These are the questions of Pharoah and of the wicked son, from the Passover Haggadah). But for people who are not interested in nullifying their selfish love, not only does their will to receive for themselves alone not ask such questions and doesn’t bother them, but it even helps such people to do their acts of giving benefit, because these acts build up their ego.

  15. Maharal
    by Rav Shaya Karlinsky
    Chapter 1: Mishna 3: Part 1

    Antignos Ish Socho received (the Torah transmission) from Shimon HaTzadik. He would say: Don’t be like slaves (servants) who serve the master in order to receive reward. Rather be like slaves without any intention to receive reward. And the fear of Heaven should be upon you.

    How can Antignos teach us that we should not serve G-d in order to receive reward, when the Torah is full of verses teaching us to do Mitzvoth “in order that it should be good for you and in order that your days will be extended…”. We also learn (Bava Bathra 10b) that one who pledges “This money is for charity in order that my (sick) son should live” is considered a completely righteous person (“tzadik gamur”). So why are we taught here to serve G-d without intention to receive reward?

    Furthermore, where do we EVER find a slave working without any intention to receive reward? The second half of the Mishna presents a non-existent example as the desired behaviour! It would have sufficed to simply teach that one should not serve in order to get reward.

    Finally, why does it conclude with the language of “the fear of HEAVEN” rather than (the more obvious) “fear of G-d”?

    (I would add another question, which our coming explanation will deal with: This conclusion , exhorting us to have the fear of Heaven upon us, could have been tacked on to almost ANY Mishnah! It is something that can and should be taught anywhere. What is it doing as the conclusion of THIS Mishnah specifically?)

    The foundation of serving G-d is to serve from love (“ahavah”). One who serves for the purpose of acquiring his own reward is not performing service in its fundamental way. He is certainly considered a completely righteous person, since G-d’s will is that good should accrue to the Jewish people. And one who does a Mitzvah in order to acquire the World to Come, or some other reward, is accomplishing something that G-d wants to happen, and as such is fulfilling His will. But he has not attained the superior level of serving G-d purely from love.

    (The language of the Maharal is that while he is a “tzadik gamur” with no inadequacy, he also has no superiority of “chasiduth.” As we have noted before, we once again we find the distinction between a “tzadik” from the word “tzedek,” which implies full compliance with what is required, and “chasid” from the word “chesed,” implying more than simply what is required.)

    The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 19a) quotes the verse “He is desirous of His Mitzvoth” to which Rebbi Eliezer extracts the implication that it is the Mitzvoth themselves which he desires and not the REWARD of the Mitzvoth, as we are taught…(quoting our Mishna). We see that the ideal motivation is the performance of the Mitzvah itself, rather than to receive the reward. (This would be akin to a musician’s pefomrnace being motivated by the music itself, rather than the applause he will receive from the audience.) And it is about such a person that David Hamelech teaches us “Ashrei ha’ish,” he is a strong and validated person.

    (The word “ashrei” is a very misunderstood word, probably emanating from an incorrect use of the word “meushar” in modern Hebrew. I will use the opportunity of its appearance in this section to clarify it usage. The root of the word is “l’asher” which means to validate or give strength. Interestingly, this is its correct usage in the modern Hebrew word “ishur” which mean an authorization, certification, or validation. So “meushar” actually means strengthened or validated, and “ashrei” means one who is strong, with a stable existence. See Rav Shamshon Rafael Hirsch’s elaboration on this in his explanation of Tehillim.)

    There is a further explanation for the verses in the Torah that seem to imply that we should do Mitzvoth “in order that it should be good…”. The word used is “L’MA’AN yitav lach…”. But the word “l’ma’an” doesn’t always mean “in order.” Sometimes it simply implies a consequential relationship. An example of this usage can be found in the Ramban’s explanation on the Torah (Devarim 29:18). So the Torah is not telling us to serve G-d IN ORDER that we should receive reward, but is rather informing us that reward is a natural consequence of our serving Him. The foundation of our service is “ahavah,” which means the motivation to give and serve. Independent of this we are being informed about reality – that reward will follow.

  16. Ricard G. says:

    Hello and thank you for all of your efforts to put this teaching in it’s true light.
    I am perplexed about a passage in the above article:
    “Right from the time of his childhood Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag was destined for greatness. His son, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag tells that once, when his father was but seven years old he was lying on his bed when suddenly a book fell off the bookshelf onto his head. When he asked his father what that book was, his father replied that it was a book intended for angels, not for human beings. The young boy answered, “Since this book has been printed, that implies it is meant for every person.” His father however insisted, saying, “but it is not for you.” The child, however, did not accept his father’s answer, but felt that if the book had been printed then it was surely intended for anyone. From that time on he began to study the book, which was a book of the Kabbalah, and its holy light illumined his heart and soul.”

    My question is: The young boy knew in his heart that the book was to available to everyone. His father insisted he NOT read it. The boy did. This is against the command to obey one’s father and mother. The very fact that he DID read it reveals that the SPIRIT of all that followed, the great opening and wisdom from his studies, was founded upon going AGAINST the tradition of his father. If he had obeyed the tradition of his father and NOT read the book, we would not be having this conversation today. You and i would NOT know anything of this amazing teaching.

    For others to go against the tradition of keeping it confined to a very small group of Hebrew speaking Orthodox Jews seems very much the same as the father insisting the boy not read the book.

    I do not know how to reconcile this huge problem.

    Thank you!
    Richard

  17. Ricard G. says:

    I would also like to add that the above writings you’ve translated are full of LIGHT and wisdom. Thank you for all of this work in translating.
    There is nothing in these writings that is different from what KC teaches. It is identical.
    It is also identical with the Gospels of Christianity.
    “Fifth Principle
    The essence of all the good that is in the world is the will to give benefit. And the essence of all the evil in the world is the will to receive pleasure and joy for one’s own self.
    Therefore the general principle of serving God does not in fact contain many different subjects, as the world thinks, but only these two principle ideas: Subduing the will to receive for oneself and acquiring the will to give benefit. All the other matters and natural virtues are only branches which stem from these two main issues, the will to receive for oneself alone and the will to give.”

    If the writings of the ZOHAR and TORAH have been translated into English and one follows the teachings, why does it need to be kept exclusively in Hebrew?

    Thank you again!
    Ricard

  18. Ricard G. says:

    Hello,

    Are you intimidated and cannot answer my question? Are you afraid of losing face?
    Please. Put your ego aside and answer because a lot of souls are sincerely searching.
    Thank you,
    Ricard.

  19. Hello, Ricard G.,

    thank you for your good words about our blog and the posts we have here.
    As for the people and organizations which promote “good ideas” in this world they are numerous and make their efforts to help humanity to find the way to realization of the purpose of the Creation, still there are a lot to be done to make THE correction and 1st and most important to differ between the authentic way of Jewish Kabbalah and any other New and not so new Age promoters of good ideas, which they borrow from the authentic sources and present and interpret in their own way.

    Good ideas without practical way of their implementation are just good ideas which doesn’t help anybody or do any progress in correction of the creation and so may not be seen as something worth discussion on this site.

    This site is completely dedicated to showing the authentic way of creation correction called Kabbalah, which is an integral part of Judaism, and which has its roots in “God’s Word” to humanity=Torah, which was given to Jewish people on the Mount Sinai and the language of Torah is Hebrew, as you may know.

    As for the authentic source of the Hebrew language, you are welcomed to study the meaning of Hebrew Letters and their numerical combination in words, and the ways the Sages extract the meaning of Torah Text and their presentation of Torah Wisdom to the People of Israel for IMPLEMENTATION !!!

    Without practical implementation of the Wisdom of Kabbalah, its study is prohibited, because it can only take a person away from his/her purpose of presence in this world and to make them astray.

    If you are really interested in the meaning of the Hebrew Letters and their Gematria, you are welcome to spend some of your time reading the material of contemporary kabbalists as well as their presentation of the works of the Forefathers of Kabbalah:

    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/alephbet.html
    http://www.inner.org/hebleter/default
    http://www.kabbalaonline.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/378769/jewish/Holy-Ari.htm

    just an example to start with:

    http://www.kabbalaonline.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/379573/jewish/Kabbala-and-the-10-Plagues.htm

    If you still think you can discover the original meaning of Torah Holly Words in English, I wish you good luck.

    As for asking others to “put their ego aside and answer because a lot of souls are sincerely searching” there is an internet for those souls which seem to be too egoistic to demand the information from others instead of doing their own investigation, these so called “souls” even don’t care to study the material and links presented on this blog, which is composed from the best sources we have today open for the world and shared most willingly by contemporary Jewish Sages and Ravs in English, not to say making efforts to study Hebrew to read the authentic works of Jewish Kabbalists including Baal haSulam and Rabash.

    Hope you will find the answers to your questions through studying from the best Jewish Sages, and your soul will learn to differ between authentic ideas and “good ideas”

    With great respect
    Yehudith Shraga

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