Thursday, 27 April 2017

A Man Prays at the Kotel - Why I Took This Photo


The Kotel (the Western Wall in Jerusalem - also known as the Wailing Wall) is that one special place in the world that it seems the entire world cannot run away from. They are forever streaming towards its holiness - from everywhere!

Here is the place where there had once stood the two holy Temples - the first built by King Solomon himself! It was the place in which the Divine Presence would manifest Itself. Of course, the Divine Presence is everywhere - but were It to expose Itself to everyone at every one period of time - we would all expire into ecstatic union with It. Much like a person cannot look into the sun directly without turning blind - unless he would wear strong sunglasses, so too would it be impossible for the soul in a body to perceive the light of Divinity without some sort of protection. Therefore God created a world where His Presence would be hidden from everyone - with just enough light allowed so as to allow for existence to feel itself as having its own nature - as if it is itself only - detracting from the point, that everything is included in the One. When the moment comes however - this will change, and all of creation will perceive the Light - with souls included in their bodies... 

Nevertheless it was still His will to allow His existence to be perceived in at least one location in a world made of time-space. This place would be built physically by Man (though it is certain that miracles must surely have occurred to allow for the building of this splendid Palace.) No metal instruments were used in its building - because how can one allow that which is used to destroy (to kill) in building something made to build, to create and to bless - something that is for life? For this purpose, the Creator had made a creature in the world known as the Shamir. It was a very small worm, but it had a miraculous ability to cut through the hardest of stone without barely even touching the stone. It was an amazing creature - created for just this purpose. Its whereabouts today are either not known - or perhaps it has disappeared from all existence... 

Here, in this Palace that He allowed us to build - He would allow his Presence to be perceived. Depending on the location within it, His Presence would be perceived even more... until ultimately culminating in the Holy of Holies - a place where only the High Priest would be permitted to enter - just once a year - in the utmost of purity - in every respect. This would be on the holiest day of the year - Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement. Here, the High Priest would perceive the highest levels of Divinity. Perhaps we can safely say that only the Kohein Gadol (the High Priest) could actually ever know what that experience must have been like - since after all - nobody else would enter... 

The Babylonians destroyed the First Temple made by King Solomon. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70CE. One wall - however - remained. It is this wall that people from all over the world come to pray - because they know that it is here that the Divine Presence rests. It has never really left this place. It is a place of prayer - it always will be. Everyone comes to pray... men, women, children. Those who are Jewish - and those who are not. In fact, one should not be surprised to find out that many non-believers have stood at this very "Wall" lacking any belief in a soul of any kind - only to walk away feeling rejuvenated, believing in a Creator and having a desire to come closer to understanding more about themselves, their souls, and the meaning of life... 

Here, a man has come to pray. I don't know if he is Jewish or not but his stance tells me he is need of answers. His body language is enough to tell me he feels frustrated. He is need of salvation! He has realised that some places are holier than others - and if he is to pray in the strongest way possible - then he has come to the right place! He may well pray in his own bedroom at any time he wants - or his own private temple - wherever that might be... but he has chosen to pray in a place which maintains its holiness always. He knows that here - he may pour out his heart. Here - his prayers will be heard. The answer may not always be yes - but his prayers will be heard. He knows the value of this place. Surely so - or else, he would not be here. 

It is not the stones to which he prays. In fact, it is not even to the outside section of this wall that he prays. Rather, his mind cleaves to the Presence of Divinity that rests here. The holy section really rests on the other side of this wall - but it has been destroyed! Perhaps - he may even be considering how he too would like to see the building built up again as it was once before in all its glory - where all prayer was answered in the best possible way - in ways of revelation, visibility and manifestation... 

This is the Kotel - the Western Wall - located in the holy city of Jerusalem in the Land of Israel. It is a place for everyone to come to and to pour their hearts out in prayer. There is no discrimination against anyone - for every soul needs its needs taken care of. Every soul wishes to cleave to Divinity. Every soul desires Life - Ecstasy - Expiration! Here at the Kotel - one can feel it! One must be sensitive to it, prepared for it, and willing to give in, to nullify oneself. 

This man has done so. He is willing to acknowledge his need in a Higher Being than himself. 

To see this picture in my album and for others which can be purchased directly, see my photos available for sale online! Please support me by purchasing a photo - or booking a time to learn with me online!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

A Torah Scroll - Why I Took This Photograph


This picture was taken by me years ago at a Barmitzvah (when a Jewish boy turns 13) at the Kotel (the Western Wall in Jerusalem.)

To me, the Torah represents the ultimate guide-book for a Jew. But more than that - it represents the guide-book for all humanity, because inside it one will find not just the history of the world - starting from what some would call the Big-Bang (managed and orchestrated by the Creator of all existence and which might otherwise be called the "Tzimtzum"), but also the most moral of values for all humanity to follow. The Jewish people have been given 613 main commandments to follow. When the Torah was given to the Jewish people - publicly with some 3 million people present - in addition to these commandments, 7 commandments were given to all of mankind. In fact, hidden inside those "small" 7 commandments - one will find the essence of all moral values in life. If the world would follow just these 7 commandments, all of society would be become moral in the widest sense of the word.

So here we are - the Barmitzvah boy is standing in front of that Torah scroll - written in Hebrew - the letters used in the creation of the world. The image is taken sideways with the boy - not in the picture - on the left side of the image.

He is about to make a blessing expressing his thanks at being able to read from this scroll - over 3300 years old (and counting). It is hand-written, and the scribe must know thousands of laws in order to write it just perfectly - because if one letter is written incorrectly, or there is one letter too much - or one that is missing - the entire Torah is flawed and may not be used!

The Barmitzvah boy stands ready to embark on his beginnings into "manhood" when he will now be obligated to fulfill all the commandments of the Torah - because this is his purpose in life. His essential purpose - combined with everything he will go through and everything he will become throughout his life...

Here, in front of him - just a small area of the Torah is open. The rest of it placed on the two scrolls on either side. He will need to learn it all throughout his life - but for today - he will read just a snippet of it - something which pertains to the current period of time that he is currently in - and that is read that week.

Hidden between those two "Atzei Chaim" - "Trees of Life" (the name given to the two rods and handles which hold the scroll and allow it to move from one side to the other) one will find every single secret of creation. Of Creation (sic.)

To the one who does not read Hebrew - it looks like blotches of pictures. To the one who can read, but does not understand - it just a collection of garbled sounds. To the one who understands the words - it is a story of sorts...

But to the one who looks deeper, he/she will see that herein lies the secrets of Creation - the secrets of the Soul. The revealed world and the hidden worlds. Herein lies our connection with all of Creation and the Creator Himself... Everyone of us...

This is the Torah. This is what I see in this photo.

Purchase this picture for yourself - print it to fill your wall. Contemplate what it may mean to you...

Sunday, 9 April 2017

13 Nissan - Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yosef Karo - Author of the Shulchan Aruch


The 13th Nissan (today) is the Yahrtzeit of one of the key pillars of the entire Jewish nation - Rabbi Yosef Karo (1488-1575). Born in Spain - fleeing with his family at the age of 4 due to the Spanish Expulsion - Rabbi Yosef Karo would go on to become one of the outstanding giants in Torah, producing a complete commentary on the Rambam's Halachic work - the Yad Hachazakah - which he called the Kesef Mishnah, thereafter doing a complete commentary on the four sections of Halachah (Jewish law) of the Tur (Rabbi Yaakov ben HaRosh - Rabbi Asher) entitled the Beis Yosef, and thereafter compiling all his encyclopaedic knowledge of every single area of Halachah - into his main work called the Shulchan Aruch (the Laid Table) - because indeed, he lays out the laws much like a table is laid out with everything in its place!
A point that many do not know is that Rabbi Karo was also a kabbalist of the highest order - living at the same time as the great Arizal (who was 46 years his junior!) in Safed. The Golden Age of Safed!
Rabbi Karo had a Maggid (an angel) teach him Torah as he drifted off into Innerspace while reciting various Mishnayot. It was in fact the Mishnah itself that would speak to him - teaching him the secrets of Torah. However, be that as it may - he was not on the level of the Arizal in terms of his knowledge of Kabbalah and had in fact asked the Ari to teach him.
The Ari (being privy to the secrets of souls and other mysterious things of life and Creation, knew well that the soul of Rabbi Yosef Karo was not suitable for those deepest of secrets. He told him so, but Rabbi Yosef refused to listen - imploring the Ari to teach him anyway!
The Ari told him that he should sit under a particular tree at a particular point in time... If he should see the Ari walking by him then, it was a sign he could learn the secrets, and the Ari would be prepared to teach him. The day arrived, and Rabbi Yosef did as the Ari instructed, but moments before the Ari walked by, he fell into a deep sleep - waking up only a few minutes later after the Ari had already passed!
In fact, Rabbi Yosef became an in-law to the Ari with their children marrying each other. (For those wondering about their difference in age, Rabbi Yosef Karo married three times in his life and fathered a child when much older - who married the Ari's son/daughter (I forget whose son married whose daughter!)
Many of the Ari's descendants are known today, but I am not sure who the descendants are of Rabbi Yosef Karo.
You can find out more about this great man and his works by seeing the Wikipedia
Rabbi Yosef Karo's contribution was so invaluable to the Jewish people that it is practically impossible to speak about Jewish law today without mentioning the Shulchan Aruch! It is studied every single day by almost all observant Jews (or those who value the importance of Jewish law - any way!)
In order to obtain Rabbinical Ordination, one must be knowledgeable in a variety of areas in the Shulchan Aruch - as well as one knows the back of one's palms! This excludes the need to know the major commentaries that accompany the essential text of the Shulchan Aruch (and of course all the material that actually precedes the coding of the law as detailed in the SA.) In particular, the rabbinical student must learn the laws of Kashrut - the laws of forbidden mixtures, salting meat in order to Kasher it as well as the laws of the forbidden mixture of meat and milk.
Those furthering their studies will also learn the important areas of the SA including the laws of Shabbat, Mikvaot, Niddah, Shaatnez, immersing vessels in a Mikvah, the laws of interest (charging interest to a Jew is forbidden by another Jew,) laws of daily life, Eiruvin, mourning, laws of Pesach and dozens of other topics afterwards.
One who is a master of the entire Shulchan Aruch can truly call himself a Rabbi in every sense of the word - but sadly, there are not many who reach this goal in its entirety due to the enormous amount of material to learn... and hence why many spend their entire days devoted to learning Torah - day and night - night and day.
This - of course, excludes the time invested in learning the Arizal's works, the Zohar and all the material associated with the hidden Torah.
The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimonies of Hashem (G-d) are faithful, making the simple wise. (Psalms 19:7)

Below you can purchase the book - "Maggid Mesharim" (English translation) which includes the teachings that the angel taught Rabbi Yosef Karo:

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Miriam's Yahrtzeit and The Mysterious Well


The 10th of Nissan is the day upon which Miriam - the sister of Moshe Rabbeinu, died. Miriam's greatness lies not only in the fact that she was a prophetess and that she led the women in song after the Jews crossed the Red Sea as they fled Egypt, but also due to an event that occurred in her youth. 

When just a child, her father Amram, and mother Yocheved had separated from each other due to the harsh decree of Pharaoh to kill all first born sons - to have them thrown into the River Nile. She explained to her parents that while Pharaoh had made his decree only upon the sons who would be born, he had made no such decree against daughters! Surely their decree was even harsher than Pharaoh's! Her words found favour in their eyes, and they united again. Through the union that took place - her brother Moshe would be born - the man responsible for being the leader of the Jewish people some 80 years later, receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, and thereafter taking them out of Egypt to lead them into the Promised Land (which Joshua would ultimately do.)

Indeed, after Moshe was born, and Pharaoh's guards kept a watch out for any "transgressors", Miriam watched her brother as he was placed in a basket that was placed on the river - in order to save his life. She wanted to continue to care for her brother and to find out what would happen to him. She watched as Pharaoh's own daughter (Batya) drew Moshe out the water, taking him in to the palace in order to be taken care of!

Miriam was 126 years old when she died, making her approximately 5 years old at the time she had encouraged her parents to unite, and just about 6 years old when her brother Moshe was born!

When the Israelites journeyed through the desert, three miraculous things accompanied them. There was the Manna (the food which rained from heaven) that came down to them in the merit of Moshe. There were the Clouds of Glory that protected the Israelites through their 40 year journey. These were granted to them in the merit of Aharon. Then there was the Well. The Well was given to them in the merit of Miriam through her righteous acts and her piety. The Well brought the Israelites water while they journeyed.

A mysterious story is told about that Well which teaches us a fascinating teaching about the study of Torah. The Well would end up in the Lake Kinneret - where it is to this day...

Many years ago - the great kabbalist known as the Arizal lived (1534-1572). He was told through mysterious Divine inspiration that he was to journey from his home in Egypt to Sefad where he would find a great man by the name of Rabbi Chaim Vital (1542-1620) - who he would have to teach his Torah to. The Ari revealed that it was in fact for this purpose that his soul descended to the world - in order to teach the secret teachings of the kabbalistic tradition to Rabbi Chaim Vital. We must remember the level of both these giants in Torah - both who were very young when they met - Rabbi Yitzchak Luria being only 36 years and Rabbi Chaim Vital, just 28! When Rabbi Chaim Vital met the Ari for the first time, he felt he was more qualified to study and teach Kabbalah than the Ari - though his thoughts would change swiftly! 

In just two years, the holy Ari taught Rabbi Chaim Vital everything we have today of the teachings of the Ari - including the 8 Gates (the Shemonah Shearim), the Eitz Chaim (the Tree of Life), the Otzrot Chaim and other various manuscripts. It is incredible to believe that not only was this material taught, but that it would be transcribed in such detail - through just two years of teaching! Even the seasoned student of Torah today knows just how difficult the material is, how abstract the concepts are and how ultimately they include the secrets of Creation, the secrets of how the world is directed by G-d (in a theoretical context) and the "magic" that exists in life.

When Rabbi Chaim Vital met the Ari and the Ari began to teach him, Rabbi Chaim Vital would sit, listen, and then simply reply that he understood nothing of what the Ari was talking about. True humility from a scholar who had once thought himself greater than his teacher! The Ari told him to take a journey with him one day. They went in a boat in Lake Kinneret and began sailing. At a certain point, the Ari stopped the boat, scooped out some water and gave it to Rabbi Chaim Vital to drink from. He told Rabbi Chaim Vital that right there - where they were - was the Well of Miriam - and that the water he was drinking, was from this mystical well which accompanied the Israelites throughout their 40 year journey in the desert!

From that day onwards - says Rabbi Chaim Vital - he was able to understand everything that the Ari told him!

Torah is not always easy to understand. Sometimes we cannot remember things. Other times we cannot understand the abstract points being mentioned. Other times, nothing seems to make sense at all! Sometimes there are just too many opinions on the same matter, making us retreat wondering what the correct approach should be to take!

Rabbi Chaim Vital merited to understand the Ari's teachings, only because he drank from the Well of Miriam - and again - these teachings that he could not understand before, are the very teachings the serious student of the mystical tradition of Torah will learn today! Our Rabbis teach us that when Moshe went on to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, he was only able to understand it when G-d eventually gave it to him as a gift!

We too should realise that the gift of Torah is ultimately something that G-d gives to each of us when we thirst for it enough. We must never give up. We must never think it is in *our* hands to succeed in either. Rather, we must realise, that ultimately the blessing of understanding Torah comes from G-d. In the merit of our efforts and in the merit of the greater souls who we connect with throughout the generations - we are able to merit the beauty of Torah, whether the simplest parts with the most basic of meanings, to the most mysterious secrets of life and creation. Ultimately, our lives, and everything we have are a gift from G-d. Let us be grateful for all of this. With this - let us become stronger in our learning and know that our success, our health, our wealth, our intelligence and actually - everything - is not ours by the strength of our hands, but rather, it is a gift from G-d.

For those interested in learning more about some of the teachings of Rabbi Chaim Vital, I have provided a link for a book on Amazon.com. For more information about English translations of his books, see Rabbi Chaim Vital's Books Translated into English.

For the serious student of Torah wanting to learn some of the wonderful books of Rabbi Chaim Vital such as the Shaarei Kedushah (Gates of Holiness), the Shaar HaGilgulim (Book of Reincarnations) or others - in the original Hebrew, make a time to learn with Reb Eliyahu Online today with Skype and Webcam!


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Innerspace - an Introduction to Kabbalah: Book Review and Recommendation


"Innerspace" edited by Rabbi Avraham Sutton and sharing the teachings of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan is by far one of my most enjoyable books that I have read! It's essential themes include Kabbalah, Meditation and Prophecy!

For those looking for (what I would consider) the best written work introducing the initiate into the Sod level (mysteries) of Torah - this is a must! Rabbi Sutton takes us through the basics of what Kabbalah really is, the main works of the Arizal, the Olamot (the worlds,) the Sefirot, the Partzufim and just about every basic point needed to begin one's journey into the hidden world of Torah! The second section of the work takes us through the Maaseh Merkavah - the mysteries of the Divine Chariot as related in the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel. Here he teaches us what the prophet actually goes through when he experiences his Divine Prophecy.

For those making a start in Torah learning - studying the Chumash (the Bible), Mishnah and at least some parts of Talmud is really basics - not to mention having a strong understanding of the most essential Halachot (Jewish laws,) but for those wanting to begin tasting the wonderful flavours included in the mystical tradition - from the Zohar to the works of the Arizal or perhaps even further on investigating the other masters of Kabbalah - Innerspace is the best launch-pad to get started.

I highly recommend it, and further, for those looking to learn with a teacher, I also offer my services of working through the book together with you - online using Skype and webcam, assisting to elucidate any problematic areas, as well as giving further insights and a path to take in furthering one's knowledge of the kabbalistic system.

Please join me - or purchase a copy of this wonderful book today - and read it yourself!

Monday, 3 April 2017

Book Review and Recommendation: Duties of the Heart "Chovot HaLevavot" by Rabbi Bachya ibn Pakuda



The "Chovot HaLevavot" - "Duties of the Heart" was written by Rabbi Bachya ibn Pekuda, known simply as Rabbeinu Bachya (our Rabbi Bachya) - a giant in Torah who lived in the 11th century.

His work can probably be considered the first serious text dealing with Jewish ethics. The work speaks well to anybody interested in understanding the beautiful benefits involved in refining one's character. He knew only too well that observance of the commandments by habit is not at all what true Torah is about. Lip service is not an acceptable way of serving G-d. Neither does it do anybody much good!

What counts - in addition to the actual observance - are the feelings behind the actions being done. This is not far from the approach taken by the kabbalists (mystics) throughout the years who stress the "Kavanah" - the intention - when performing a Mitzvah (commandment). Indeed, of what use is a body (the external) if not for the soul (the internal) - the heart? Duties of the Heart. Bodies get buried... but souls live on forever...

Rabbeinu Bachya takes us through such "Gates" as serving G-d, trusting in G-d (probably the most authoritative work ever compiled detailing the most essential parts of the theme of trust,) repentance, spiritual accounting and love of G-d - to name just a few.

It most likely fits in to the category of Mussar (Jewish ethics) though the themes included could well fit into other aspects of spirituality, meditation, and even perhaps a hint of Chassidic thought. Indeed Rabbeinu Bachya was very much of the mystic school of thinking - even though his book shares his concepts in a rational way.

If you've wanted to learn this book in further depth, together with an opportunity to discuss the topics and subjects covered, book a time to learn with me online using Skype and webcam.

For more about learning opportunities with me see my main pages about learning together:


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By learning with me - supporting me - you take an active part in allowing me to continue this path - as much as you take an active part in supporting the study of Torah.

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