Is astrology kosher? That very much depends on what you mean by ‘astrology’.
To me, asking “is astrology kosher” is like asking “is gravity kosher?”! Astrology is a fact of life, as evident in the writings of all the Mekubolim: Sefer Yetsiroh, the Geonim, almost all the Rishonim, the Ramaq HaQodosh, the Ari HaQodosh, etc. The Midrash gives astrology as the reason for the extreme longevity of the pre-flood era generations: they were given long lives in order to be able to note the movements and effects of the stars.
The Ibn Ezra understands astrology to be topic of these famous words of Dovid HaMelech:
“The heavens declare the Glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day to day utters speech, and night to night tells knowledge. There is no speech and there are no words; their voice is not heard. Their line goes forth throughout the Earth, their words to the end of the world ...” 
The question really is ‘is the study or consultation of astrology permitted?’.
Until fairly recently, astrology was synonymous with astronomy and the Midrash and Talmud are clearly full of clear references to both. We had one example in Rashi a few weeks ago – see Rashi, Parshas Bo, ראו כי ראה נגד פניכם. There are plenty of allusions to astrology in the Zohar; see, for example, Parshas Bo, 42a. Reading it, one would be forgiven for thinking it a quotation from Ptolemy, or a medieval treatise on astrology. It isn’t. It’s Chazal.
Rabbi Akivo himself, who interprets the negative command of not to do divination as referring to astrology, was himself the recipient of astrological advice as can be seen in the famous story about his daughter on her wedding day. And his is not the only such story in the Midrash and Gemora.
Our culture and language clearly suggest that astrology is not foreign to Judaism. We regularly wish each other, “Mazal tov” and “zol zein mit mazal!”. Mazal means constellation (as in the Arabic manzal.) Sefer Chassidim and other classical works, even the Shulchon Oruch, are liberally dotted with minhogim and dinnim based on astrology. Some Amoroim and Rishonim were clearly experts in the field. The Beis Yosef goes to great length bringing the opinions of the Rishonim who were all of the opinion (except for the Rambam and Meiri) that astrology is a tool of G-d and its study is deep and profound. (This opinion is echoed in the works of the great and revered Acharonim such as the Vilna Gaon and the Ramchal.)
Yet, in his Shulchon Oruch, he is not so enthusiastic about astrology consultations. At first glance, this appears to run contrary to his high opinion of astrology so palpable in his Beis Yosef commentary on the Tur. Moreover, his very next halochoh in Shulchon Oruch is based upon astrological belief. On closer analysis however, it is clear that whereas he (in common with other Rishonim/Acharonim) permits the study of astrology and even to avoid certain situations that appear ‘inopportune’ due to ones personal foreknowledge of the stars’ influence, he advises against conducting ones life according to its dictates, in other words, consulting with astrologers in order to plan and direct ones affairs – according to the stars.
The reason for that is quite obvious when we consider for a moment what is meant by ד' הוא האלקים בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד – “G-d is the Controller in the heavens above and on the Earth below; there is no other”. This means G-d arranges all the stars and constellations and therefore is the Author and Planner of all influences or reflections of states of being that can be found in the stars’ positions and aspects. We clearly and succinctly enunciate this in Ma'ariv when we say: G-d is מסדר את הכוכבים ברקיע כרצונו – “He arranges the planets and stars according to His Will”.
That is בשמים ממעל – in the heavens above.
However, we cannot and must not forget על הארץ מתחת – on Earth below He is also the Prime Controller, nothing happens without His Will. A person therefore, through his righteousness and resonance with the Will of G-d, can elicit a Divine ‘change’ in the general order and effect of the proposed influences.
Moreover, a Jew’s focus should be on G-d and fulfilling His Will. The stars are G-d’s tools. Why focus on the tools when we have access to G-d Himself?
There are several branches of astrology, natal – the study of the character, talents, etc, based upon the planets’ positions at birth, predictive and horary, which are divination tools, medical astrology and mundane astrology. Of these, natal, medical and mundane are clearly referred to by Chazal and Rishonim. The Ibn Ezra authored books on all these branches, including horary astrology, though it would appear that predictive astrology is forbidden, or at ,least run contrary to the Mitsvoh of תמים תהיה עם ד' אלקיך.
Astrology, as understood by Chazal, can help us understand a person’s character. It can also help us determine his predisposition to various ailments (this is unequivocally permitted according to the Shulchon Oruch – see Y.D. ibid. and commentaries ad loc.). All these are valid and permitted areas of study. These do not contradict our religious service – they may even enhance it. Natal astrology can show me my strengths, the talents G-d has given me in this lifetime to serve Him; medical astrology is like consulting a doctor – or better.
It is when we venture into predictive astrology that we run into danger. Though subject to dispute, most of even its strongest adherents will admit that astrology cannot accurately predict: it merely indicates likelihood or tendency; hence the Rambam’s total dismissal of the science (as a predictive tool) as it cannot be used with any accuracy. Astrology then can be seen to be the equivalent of a celestial meteorological office! Using it to predict the future understandably falls under the category of לא תעוננו (you shall not ‘divine’) which the Ibn Ezra etymologically connects with ענן – cloud, i.e. vague and unsure (though the Ibn Ezra disagrees with Rabbi Akivo’s interpretation).
Taking a critical look at Tanach, there appear to be no clear and indisputable pointers to astrology as a positive and praiseworthy study – not withstanding the opinions of the Ibn Ezra and Ralbag – but then mathematics and music are also not discussed! However, whereas the use of mathematics and music are mentioned several times in a laudable context, astrology is not. On the contrary, there are several pesukim that would appear to be criticising its use. On the other hand, as stated, it did find its way into the holy words of Chazal. In the Gemoro we find Chaldean astrology, in Zohar, Ptolemaic ideas, in Ramban, Vedic (Indian) astrology, etc.
That being the case, there should be some Scriptural source for its validation. I would point to two possible pesukim that seem to indicate the importance of astrology (even to the Nevi’im); one is in Tehillim, 147:4:
מונה מספר לכוכבים לכלם שמות יקרא
“He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name.”
and the other, a similar posuk, in Yishaiyeh, 40:26:
המוציא במספר צבאם לכולם בשם יקרא
“Who takes out their host by number; to all of them He calls by name … “
Both of these verses imply that stars have a Divine purpose and significance, not only as a collective body; each has a number, a name, a specific function connected with the Divine Plan. (In Egyptian astrology, these pesukim take on added significance; see first Rashi on Shemos.)
Bottom line: according to Chazal, astrology cannot predict. It can however be used for character analysis, in medical prognosis and as something one can be aware of in decision-making.
חכמה בגוים תאמין!
Regarding which school of astrology is ‘correct’ or more ‘kosher’, all the various schools appear to be reflections of an inner essence of truth – it makes no difference whether Western, Chaldean, Egyptian, Greek, Chinese or Vedic [though Vedic astrology does have connections with avoidoh zoro one should be wary of] – their varying modes of manifestation merely reveal facets of one enormous subject often interpreted according to prevalent culture, consequential outlook and place of emphasis.
 Psalms, 19:2-5.
 ויקרא יט:כו
 סנהדרין סה:
 Yoreh Dai’oh 179:2, Orach Chaim 271:1, Mogen Avrohom and commentaries ad loc., 551:1, to name a few examples.
 E.g. the Ralbag and Ibn Ezra. The holy Amoiroh, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, was clearly an expert too.
 Y.D. 179
 Ibid. Se’if 1.
 דברים, י"ח, יג – See Y.D 179:1 Biur HaGra and commentaries ad loc.
 See Shabbos 156b, Zohar ibid.
 See for example דברים, ד יט
 See the quoted section in Beis Yosef, Y.D. 179.
 The author of this article has studied the Chaldean, Vedic, Medieval and Western schools, as well as the writings of Rishonim and Acharonim in this field.
Once again, the time of Judgement is swiftly approaching. A time we will be reunited with G-d, our Father. A time of sweetness, of joy and of trepidation. How do I appear before my Father in heaven? I know I don't reach the target He expects of me but all I need is a sincere heart, a pure longing to crown Him, the Creator of the worlds, over me, for me to speak to Him, as a son to his father.
The Shofar provides me with that opportunity.
The Shofar is the most important Mitsvoh on the day of Rosh HaShonnoh. Through it, we enter the Kodesh Kodoshim, of ourselves, of all Israel and of the holy Shechinoh.
What are we to think of when we hear the pure sounds of the Shofar?
Here are a few kavannoth:
Somebody asked me what should they think about while lighting the candles?
(Boruch HaShem, this is a question we hear alot. It shows people really want to know and feel the inner neshomoh of the mitsvoh.)
Looking at Mo'oz Tsur, the song traditionally sang after lighting the Menorah, will give us a clue as to what it's all about.
What is Mo'oz Tsur?
At face value, it appears to be a poem about all the various victories G-d wrought for us - the exodus from Egypt, from the Babylonian exile of seventy years, the miracle of Purim and the miracle shown at Chanukoh. Most versions end with a stanza asking G-d to redeem us from our present golus.
That seems about it, right?
Look again at the opening stanza.
Roughly translated, it reads as follows:
[My] Strength and Rock of my salvation,
To You praise is fitting,
[I beseech You:] Set up the House of my prayer [the Third Temple - Beis HaMikdosh],
And there we will offer a thanksgiving sacrifice,
At the time that there will be prepared a slaughtering
Of the enemy that barks [i.e. the evil inclination - as we know the yetser horo will be annulled in the future]
Then will I finish, With song and mizmor,
The rededication of the altar.
Mo'oz Tsur is primarily a song begging G-d for the final redemption. The poet goes through the main victories and redemptions the Jewish People have had, till the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdosh, we talk about G-d's Might, His revealing His Hashgochoh - Providence, but all because of the main prayer of the poem - the final redemption.
The hidden message of Mo'oz Tsur is that G-d does not sleep. We are asking Him to once again show His Might and Love to us. And we sing this on Chanukoh, after lighting the Menorah, because this is the message of Chanukoh and of lighting the Menorah.
The kabbalists say that on Chanukoh the attribute of Hod - grandeur - is corrected. The deeper esoteric meanings of this are beyond us. But at a basic level, this means that through the miracles of Chanukoh, G-d revealed His Presence within the darkness.
It is this Presence we are revealing again by lighting the lights and the message is, G-d is still the same Mighty G-d; He did do miracles for our forefathers - "in those days" - and He will, once again "in this time". Speedily in our days!
Internalising through the Chagim [Jewish festivals] that the Creator of everything is the Alpha and the Omega - He is the L-rd and Provider and Supreme Power, from the highest heavens down to the lowest form of creation.
וידעת היום והשבות אל לבבך כי ד' הוא האלקים בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד[1
It is no coincidence that Rosh HaShonnoh, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, HoSha’ano Rabo, Sh’mini Atseres and Simchas Torah are placed in juxtaposition. There is a supernal process going on that starts with Rosh HaShonnoh and ends with Simchas Torah. Each day is another stage in that process. It is a cosmic development, which is reflected within each and every one of us and is hinted at in the above verse– “and you shall know today and internalise that G-d is L-rd in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is no other”.
The Zohar says that היום is often includes a hidden reference to ראש השנה. וידעת היום - “and you shall know today” alludes to Rosh HaShonnoh. Rosh HaShonnoh is the beginning. We start with a ידיעה –‘knowledge’: G-d is King. With that knowledge, we, as it were, crown G-d. It is the שמע ישראל of the year. A proclamation of G-d’s kingship.
This can be seen too using gematrioh. וידעת היום is gematrioh שמע ישראל ד' אלקינו ד' אחד, which is gematrioh נזר ראש השנה [the coronet of Rosh HaShonnoh] which is gematrioh כתר מלכות [the Crown of Kingship].
This כתר מלוכה is the beginning. It is the בת היתה לאברהם ובכל שמה (“Avrohom had a daughter; her name was: ‘in-everything’”) which the commentaries explain to mean that Avrohom crowned G-d over the whole world; he proclaimed His Name wherever he went, thus causing the revelation of the Divine Presence and inviting, as it were, G-d, once again to dwell on earth with man. (Since he gave his life over to G-d, the Divine Presence ‘dwelt’ with him. This is what is meant by ‘a daughter’.)
Thus the רא"ש השנה – the ‘head’ of, or letters before, השנ"ה – are gematrioh אברהם.
The next Yom Tov is Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is the heart. It is the ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד of the year – the bringing home of שמע ישראל ד' אלקינו ד' אחד - the proclamation of ראש השנה. It is the והשבות אל לבבך – the internalisation of - וידעת היום – the intellectual idea of G-d’s continuous Providence. Thus, it is the one time in the year we are allowed, nay, instructed, to say ברוך שם כבוד out aloud. The heart is open. Or, more correctly, we are in the heart.
In gematrioh we can see this too. וידעת היום והשבות אל לבבך is gematrioh ofברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד. יום הכפורים (using the system of מנצפ"ך), or alternatively, five times כפור [corresponding to the 5 prayers said on Yom Kippur], is also gematrioh ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם ועד plus twiceאלקים (- the twice אלקים corresponds to two levels of the Shechinoh which the Zohar explains as the reason for the double expression of כפור in the Torah’s appellation of יום הכפורים).
This latter number is also the gematrioh of יצחק when spelt out full [במלוי]. This is because יום הכפורים is the root and strength of the attribute of Yitschok [אילו של יצחק]. Yitschok represents complete purity and holiness. He is the light [יצחק is gematrioh אור – light] revealed within darkness, bitterness made sweet. This is the power of Teshuvoh and of Yom Kippur.
So now, through Rosh HaShonnoh and Yom Kippur, we have internalised that G-d is our king. The next step is to fully integrate within our psyche that He is “L-rd in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is no other”. This is done through Sukkos till Simchas Torah.
סוכה is gematriah האלקים. Sukkos is a festival that revisits the sublime atmosphere and aura of the השגחה and Shechinoh that was with the Jews in the wilderness. The name of that השגחה and Shechinoh is האלקים. האלקים/סוכה is also gematriah the two names of G-d, the Ineffable Name and the Name that describes His mastery over each person – Adon-y, which means My Master. These two Names, when combined, describe the transcendence of G-d, beyond nature and time, that is to be found in this world and with every person. This is the mindset that the Sukkah drives home, through the Mitsvos of the Four Species. Thus וידעת היום והשבת אל לבבך כי ד' הוא האלקים is gematrioh סוכה – לולב, אתרוג, 2.ערבה, 3.הדס.
This is the Yom Tov of Yaakov. Thus יעקב is gematrioh twice סוכה for he connected two ‘Sukkos’, the Divine Presence that is in heaven to the Divine Presence that is on Earth.
Finally, on Hoshana Rabboh, we pray not only for the world’s peoples, livestock, produce etc, but most importantly, for the final redemption. This is carried through in our ecstatic dancing on Sh’mini Atseres and Simchas Torah where we get a taste of the dance of the future, where the righteous will dance as it were in a circle round the Holy One, blessed be He, that is to say, His Divine Presence will be clear for all to see.
Then we will all see clearly, as at the time of the exodus from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah, that “G-d is L-rd in the heavens above and on the earth below, there is no other”. Thus, הושענא רבא שמחת תורה is gematriah בשמים ממעל ועל הארץ מתחת אין עוד.
A Simchas Yom Tov and a good Kvittel.
 (דברים ד, לט)
 שער הכוונות, דרושי סוכות
 Deut. 4:39.
 For those interested in gematrias, here is the calculation: For וידעת היום we use the system of מנצפ"ך whereby the final ם equals 600. Thus וידעת היום equals 1111 [itself an interesting number, expressing G-d’s one-ness in all the integers, i.e. the four worlds], with the 9 letters = 1120, minus the כולל for each number = 1118 - the gematrioh of שמע ישראל ד' אלקינו ד' אחד. This is gematrioh נזר ראש השנה which is gematrioh כתר מלכותwith 2 כוללים.
 Midrash, Chayei Soroh, on the verse: (בראשית כד, א) וד' ברך את אברהם בכל – “And G-d blessed Avrohom with everything” (Gen. 24:1)
 Ramban, ibid., Rashbo, Rabbeinu Bachye, among others.
 i.e. יו"ד צדי"ק ח"ת קו"ף
 This is the secret hinted at in the honey Shimshon HaGibor extracted from the lion [see Shoftim 14:14].
The Tikunei Zohar says:
“The Menorah is the vessel to receive the wick, the oil and the light.
The wick is the Shechinoh,
its oil is the [attribute of] Tsaddik,
its light is the Middle Pillar [the Tetragramatton].
Similarly, the soul (Nefesh) that is the partner of the body is the wick,
the Ruach [lit. spirit or wind] is the oil,
the light is the Neshomoh.
The vessel is the body.”
On Rosh HaShonnoh, we say (in the Musaf prayer) ten verses of Malchiyos [verses denoting G-d’s Kingship], ten of Zichronos [verses stating that G-d remembers His covenant with us] and ten of Shofros [verses that mention the Shofar].
Malchiyos, Zichronos and Shofros correspond to the three elements of the oil-lamp mentioned in the Zohar: the wick, the oil and the light, and thus, to the Shechinoh, the attribute of Tsaddik and the Tetragramatton.
Malchiyos speaks of G-d as King. This is the Shechinoh, the Presence of G-d that is bound with His people, Yisroel [the vessel or body], the wick in the Menorah-lamp.
The Zichronos verses speak of G-d’s covenant with us. This is the level of Tsaddik. This indicates that G-d’s Kingship and ruling the world centres on His covenant, and also on our keeping our part of the covenant, the Torah. This is the Bris [covenant] between G-d and us, the oil that ‘feeds’ the light and keeps the light attached to the wick.
Shofros is the Light, the Source of all blessing. It is the eternity beyond this world, brought into this world through Torah and Mitsvos.
On Rosh HaShonnoh we crown G-d. We recognise the Creator as our King and King of all the worlds. This is the groundwork, the foundation for the year. And it is our part of the covenant. And with the Mitsvoh of Shofar we bring in the transcendence of the Ineffable Name, infusing the strict attribute of Din of G-d’s Kingship with the love and mercy of the Infinite.
In essence, Rosh HaShonnoh is Malchiyos, instilled with Bris [Zichronos] and Shofar [Rachamim – loving-mercy]. I’d like to suggest that the Asseres Yemei Teshuvoh are strengthening the bond of Zichronos. After having accepted the Creator as King, we build on that, with good deeds and learning Torah, increasing the ‘oil’ for the flame. This is the time to concentrate on good deeds, strengthening our personal bond with G-d.
On Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the year, we ‘go into’ the Shofar, the World of the Neshomoh. We elevate the Malchiyos to Shofros: we bind this world and the Shechinoh with the light of the Ineffable Name. It is Din in Rachamim, a day of pure light.
People say they do not have time to contemplate. During these days, especially during the long services of the High Holy Days, we should remember what our sages say, “It is better to say less, but with proper devotion, than a lot with little devotion!” There is so much time we spend in Shul. Take a short Tefilloh, a prayer that speaks to you, and say it slowly over and over till you have internalised its message.
Our main avoidah these days is to realise that the Creator is our G-d, always with us and available for us and looking at everything we do. Whatever we do really matters, both on the large scale and affecting our personal bond with G-d. Let us make the most of these days to build that special bond between us and G-d.
A GEMAR CHASIMOH TOIVOH!
 Introduction to Tikunei Zohar
 Ramban, Parshas Emor.
What is kiddush hachodesh? Why are we mekadesh the chodesh? What does it involve and why do we announce the molad? Do need to know the molad at the time of the prayer?
Chodesh literally means new moon. Each month starts with the rebirth of the moon, waxing till the middle of the month, then waning for the next fifteen days, till it disappears and the cycle repeats itself with the next ‘new moon’. The molad is the time of the birth of the New Moon.
Astrologically, the moon is ‘dead’ at the time of its rebirth; it cannot reflect or direct influences, either of itself or of the other planets and stars. Specifically at this time, when it is סמוי מן העין – hidden, at the moment of its rebirth, we can ask G-d to bless the new moon, that all astrological influences for the coming month be good ones, blessed by G-d’s favour. That is the reason behind announcing the molad: we need to know the molad in order to bless that moment of the ‘rebirth’ of the new moon.
[Like all Mitsvos, the meaning behind Kiddush hachodesh is profound and multi-faceted but the above significance is relevant on all levels. On a higher level, for example, there is a renewing, as it were, of the particular influx from the Shechinoh, peculiar to that month: this is part of the deeper implication of Kiddush HaChodesh.]
The subject of astrological influence vis-à-vis the Jewish people is largely misunderstood. Besides the fact that most Rabbis of the Mishnah, Talmud and later commentaries are of the opinion that the Jewish people are not [both individually and, according to the Ibn Ezra and Bnei Yissosschor, collectively] beyond astrological influence, even the oft-quoted saying of R’ Yochanon (Shabbos 156a) that אין מזל לישראל – there is no such thing as astrological influence [mazal = influence of a constellation] for Yiden – in other words, that Jews are apparently above astrological influence, is explained by Rabbi Chaim Vital and others to mean that though there is undoubtedly astrological influences on each person [he goes as far as to write that every happening during a person’s life can be [fore]seen in the stars], each spiritual world has its mazal, so since the Jewish soul is rooted higher than the stars and their influence, the higher worlds’ mazal, the influence of the world of souls, etc, can override any astrological influence. But this overriding does not mean it ignores the astrological process; it is a higher influence that is then channelled through the mazolos of the constellations. (On a practical level, this means that a person is still likely to express him or herself according to the arrangement of the mazolos at the time of birth and the subsequent planetary aspects.)
Coming back to Kiddush HaChodesh. ‘Sanctifying’ the New Moon means asking G-d to ‘bless’ the new moon; through our tefillos, all astrological influences are now subjugated to the higher holy worlds – of the holy angels, the soul and higher still. On a certain level, this appears to be at play too when we are mekadesh the levonnoh, and that is why according to the Gemoro, Rambam and Arizal, it is important to be mekadesh the levonoh as early as possible – striking the iron while it’s still hot. Astrologically, the moon is responsible for directing and expressing the influences of the other planets to the individual. By being mekadesh the chodesh and levonnoh, we realise all influences to be directed by HaShem and thus repel any untoward outcome.
 This is why we say in Hallel, ‘זה היום עשה ד', נגילה ונשמחה בו’: the time of the New Moon is Kabbalistically a time ripe to receive heavenly blessing as all influence is סמוי מן העין [hidden] ואין הברכה שורה אלא בדבר הסמוי מן העין (ב"מ מו:) – blessing can only come when it is hidden.
 The Rambam’s opinion appears to be the exception though even he appears to acquiesce that there is astrological influence; he merely says that to try to interpret the stars or ‘foresee’ events is futile.
 Shaarei Hakedushoh
 As can be seen quite clearly from the proof that Rav brings – see Shabbos ibid.
 ספר התכונה
 Kabbalistically, kiddush halevonoh has much deeper significance, effects and meanings, beyond the scope of this short article. On the kabbalistic level, the moon corresponds to the Shechinoh, the Divine Presence, which is responsible for the blessings that accompany the Jewish People.
 From Shaar HaKavonos it is apparent that the Arizal adopted the opinion of the Rambam, contrary to the opinion of earlier kabbalists and the prevalent minhag.
Niggun – tune – has been used since time immemorial to arouse the soul and induce alternative or altered states of consciousness. ויהי כמנגן המנגן ותהי עליו רוח ד' [And it was, when the tune-player played a tune, and the spirit of G-d came on him (the prophet Elijah)].
What is it in a niggun that arouses? How does a tune manage to pluck the strings of the heart, elate the soul, transport one to other-world consciousness?
I believe it is because tune is the inner language, the primal tongue of the inner consciousness. When a child first detects the various sounds that surround him, it is first and foremost the rhythm, the taamim, the tone of expression that it picks up; it is this that will then form the basis of all his subsequent learning processes.
Rhythm is in the beat of the heart, the contractions of the lungs, the pulsating energy that dictates light and colour; the entire universe is governed by rhythm.
The holy Arizal writes that there are four main stages in revelation: the highest is ‘taamim’, the lowest is ‘oisyos’ – letters. Tune, or ‘taamim’ [notes] are the highest level of expression, even higher than thought. Lehavdil, the novelist, Viginia Woolf, recognized that ‘rhythm goes far deeper than words’ and actually dictates what words are used and in which order. Rhythm and beat, notes and tunes, are the deeper expressions of human consciousness.
On Shovuos, we read the Asseres HaDibros with the Taam Elyon, which changes the normal setting of the verses into ten recognisable ‘dibros’ – sayings. When we say the tikkun leil shovuos, the Arizal recommends that it is said with the correct cantellation.
At Maamad Har Sinai, one of the main things that are reiterated throughout the event of Revelation, was the Qol HaShofor. The Sound of the Shofar is the fiftieth gate, the stage beyond the counting seven times seven [seven has to do with the various different notes]. This sound started before Bnei Yisroel had assembled at the foot of the mountain, it sounded throughout Matan Torah and continued for some time afterwards [במשוך היובל המה יעלו בהר]. This is the culmination of the Sefiroh, the תספרו חמשים יום. It is the inner Voice that transcends numbers or spatial reality, it is the level of בשנת היובל הזאת תשובו איש אל אחוזתו.
After counting seven times seven, we stand at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Now, we are at that point of realising that G-d is all: He is One and there is nothing else. But reaching that point, we cannot count. We cannot speak. But we can hear the Qol Shofar, the transcendent inner vibration that pulls us close and purifies.
A good Yom Tov.
 Kings II 3.15
_ Chanukoh means rededication, or renewal.
Re dedication is something distinctly human. But renewal is the Eternal quality of the Infinitely Merciful G-d. He constantly renews - the world, you, me, everything … from nothing. The most it would seem we can do is to merely rededicate, and thus touch on the essence of renewal.
However, in truth, renewal is a quality of the soul. The closer we draw near to G-d, the more we can become part of a G-dly process of renewal, the more we become part of The Essence that is constant rebirth, of self and soul.
I used to go the Sholosh Seudos of a certain Tsaddik of Blessed Memory and I always felt afterwards as if I’d been cleansed and renewed – like having been through a ‘spiritual wash-machine’. The Kabbalists termed this level ‘loiven ho’elyon’.
Each one of us can access this level through learning Torah, or, through annulling oneself to a true Tsaddik, or through performing a Mitsvoh with a full heart.
The lighting of the Menorah is a particularly effective time to access this renewal, this cleansing of self, this rebirth. When we thank G-d and acknowledge His constant Providence and interaction with us, we become filled with love for Him, our consciousness expands and the soul reveals itself. When it does so, we experience an element of rebirth, like the legendary phoenix rising from the ashes.
Here is a meditation on the lights of the Menorah to help enter that state.
The Zohar says that a person is symbolised by an oil-wick flame
Look at the lights of your Menorah.
Notice the wick, the oil and the light surrounding the wick,
These represent facets of your spiritual self,
The seforim advise us to see ourselves as a neshomo [soul] of light amongst other neshomos,
So realise yourself now, as you gaze at the lights, to be completely soul, amongst other souls,
The black wick at the centre represents your essence
It draws sustenance from the oil - the good deeds you do, the Torah you learn, the awareness you have of G-d.
The flame is the light of G-d
It surrounds you, is opposite you, with you. Realise G-d to with us constantly.
The wick is constantly giving of itself to the fire, becoming one with the light.
When we do the Mitsvos, we reach out to G-d, we rededicate ourselves to G-d, we touch that sublime nothingness of self as we touch the Eternal.
The lights you look at are lights of holiness, pure Mitsvoh. Through them, you can be transported to a purely G-dly Place. Allow yourself to connect with the Shechinoh that is part and parcel of the Mitsvoh.
In lighting the Menorah, our custom is to light a new light each night, and then go backwards, till we light the first light we lit on the very first night. This is how to build in our spiritual service of G-d: always adding but always going back strengthening the old foundations, making sure the foundations are firm and then building further.
A freilichen Chanukoh.
 The third meal of Shabbos, after the Shabbos Minchoh prayer.
 I heard from the great Lelover Rebbe of Blessed Memory [Rabbi Avrohom Shlomo Beiderman of Jerusalem] in the name of his holy father [Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Beiderman zt”l] that as the wick draws sustenance from the oil, so does the soul in Gan Eden draw delight from a light that is lit for it in this world.
 The colour black is the lowest vibration. This represents the receiving end of the spiritual ladder. But it is also the door to the higher levels (see Eye to The Infinite, Part II).
The Sefer Yetsirah says that there are 3 ways of expression: time, soul, and place. The Mitsvos express all the soul’s facets and dimension in precisely these three ways. The festivals are our inner expression onto the year, the soul’s kaleidoscope of it’s inner colours projected on the plane of time.
Sukos Meditation [based on the teachings of the Ari HaKodosh and the Alter Rebbe]
On Rosh HaShonoh, the sounds from the Shofar are a window to G-d; through hearing the sounds of the Shofar, the sound of Teshuvah, our consciousness basks in G-d’s Presence. As breath is blown into the Shofar, so new Divine breath breathes into creation; that new breath is the sound of the Shofar, the sound of renewal.
On Yom Kippur, we become those sounds of the Shofar, we become part of that Divine breath. As it were, we stand within the Shofar, the place called Teshuvoh, the place of renewal, that rarefied place called ‘לפני ד' – ‘before G-d’. Each Tefilloh on Yom Kippur corresponds to one of the five sounds of the Shofar: tekioh = Maariv, shevorim = Shacharis, teruoh = Musaf, shevorim-teruoh = Minchoh, tekioh gedoloh = Neiloh. We become renewed. We thus renew our contract, our relationship, with G-d.
As we enter the Succah on Sukos, we are surrounded by those sounds. Those sounds of the Shofar, our Tefillohs, are the ‘schach’ and walls of the Sukah. [- The gematrioh of סכך is one hundred, corresponding to the hundred sounds of the Shofar we hear on Rosh HaShonoh.]
As you sit in the Sukoh, imagine yourself surrounded by the ruchnios of all those Tefillos. Those קולות– the sounds of the Shofar and our Tefillos, combine to cascade all around you, in a kaleidoscope of indescribable beauty. You are sitting in Gan Eden, the world of souls, embraced by G-d.
Take a sefer, whatever it is, Mishnayis, Tehillim; learn and daven together with G-d. Speak directly into G-d’s Ear. Walk with G-d in this Gan Eden. Look into the ‘schach’ and look beyond, into the light of the Shechinoh.
A freilichen Yom Tov.