The Alef Kaballah study group explores Kabbalistic-Chassidic discourses by the Lubavitcher Rebbe focusing on transforming self and society, helping us discover our purpose as men and women in today's world.
The study group meetings takes place weekly on Tuesday evenings in Oakwood Road, NW11 and are led by Dr Tali Loewenthal
To join the group, please get in touch or call 020 8455 0272 or 07913264911
Alef Kaballah Archives
The Alef Kaballah archive is divided into two parts. The 2005-2014 archive, at the top of the list. Beyond that is the library curated since 2014. Each entry normally includes an audio recording of the discussion as well as the class material for you to follow along in depth.
This archive covers eight years of classes. We are working on raising funds to integrate our old archives onto our modern website. Thank you in advance for your support!
Archive: 2014 - Present
The Lamps of the Soul and of the Torah
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Behaalotecha 1969. Relating to the Golden Menorah in the Sedra, the discourse discusses the concept of a 'Lamp'. Each Jew has a personal Lamp, their Soul, and G-d has a lamp, the Torah.
The Discourse discusses the relationship between the Soul and the Torah. By the fact that the individual studies Torah, his or her soul is awoken to reach towards its source in the Infinite Divine.
14 June 2022
General and Particular
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Naso of 1968. Its theme is the General and the Particular, in many different aspects of life and of Judaism.
7 June 2022
Three Aspects of 'Saying'
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shavuot in 1969. It discusses the word 'saying' in the verse at the beginning of the Ten Commandments: 'And G-d spoke all these Commandments saying'. Usually, in the Torah, 'saying' means to tell someone else. But at the Giving of the Torah, all the Jews were present, and also all the souls of the Jews who would ever live in the future, including all proselytes.
So what does 'saying' mean? The discourse presents three interesting explanations in terms of the intimate bond of the individual with the Divine, and his or her task in the world around us.
31 May 2022
Ends And Means
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Bechukotai 1984. It focuses on the first verse of the Sedra and explains that this Sedra is about the purpose of Creation, which is the indwelling of G-d in the world through the coming of Moshiach, and also about how to get to that point, through the dedicated service of the Jewish people.
24 May 2022
Revealing the Radiance
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Behar-Bechukotai in 1987.
It concerns the spiritual dimension of counting the Omer. The Rebbe presents three different ways of understanding this, and then adds that they are relevant not only during the time of the counting of the Omer (between Pesach and Shavuot) but also throughout the year.
17 May 2022
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Parshat Emor in 1965, and was edited by the Rebbe for publication in 1990. Commenting on a discussion by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of a verse in the Sedra, the discourse identifies three levels of holiness: the holiness within the individual which yearns for the Divine, and the holiness which flows from G-d to the individual in the form of Torah, the inner spiritual level, and Mitzvot, the outer material level.
Yet there is a further way of understanding the holiness within the individual: it could be consciously expressed, as in the righteous person, or an involuntary implant of G-dliness in the person who as yet is not observant. When this latter person becomes a Baal Teshuvah, a repentant, the implanted holiness bursts into effect, reaching an exalted level. Hence the Talmud states that 'the place where the repentants stand, cannot be reached by those who never sinned'.
10 May 2022
Sacred and Mundane
The Rebbe taught this discourse for Shabbat Kedoshim in 1965. It expresses the central Chassidic idea: that not only the holy, also the mundane can express the Divine. In this discourse this idea is expounded in terms of the fifth year of a fruit tree planted in Israel. For the first three years the fruit is forbidden; the fourth year it is holy and must be consumed in Jerusalem. The fruit of the fifth year has no restrictions. The discourse explains that the fruit of the fifth year is actually the most significant, because it expresses the way the Jew can reveal the Essence of the Divine in the ordinary aspects of life.
3 May 2022
Moshiach: Teacher and King
The Rebbe said this discourse on the last day of Pesach in 1965. The Haftorah for this day focuses on Moshiach, and the Chabad custom is to have a final meal in the late afternoon with Matza and four glasses of wine, a kind of repeat of the Seder, but relating not to the Exodus from Egypt in the past, but to the coming of Moshiach in the (immediate) future. The discourse is a fascinating discussion of the role of Moshiach as Teacher and as King. As King, he can communicate a deeper dimension of connection to the Divine.
19 April 2022
On that Night
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Purim in 1965. It focuses on the verse (Esther 6:1) 'On that night the sleep of the King was disturbed'. This is the point in the story when Ahasuerus cannot sleep and has the chronicles of his kingdom read to him, and he discovers that Mordechai had saved him fro m being assassinated, but had never been rewarded. At that moment Haman walked into the King's chamber seeking permission to have Mordechai hanged. The King asked 'what should be done to the man whom the King wishes to honour?'.
Haman, thinking he was the one whom the King intended to honour, gave an extravagant answer, and then was horrified to hear it was Mordechai who had to be honoured in that way, with Haman himself acting as a herald announcing 'This is the man whom the King wishes to honour'. At this point in the story the plot changes from dark to light, from sorrow to joy. The discourse explains that the King whose 'sleep' is disturbed is the Holy One, who is responding to the fact that the Jews identified as Jews despite the pressure to conform and worship Haman as an idol. 'Night' (contrasting with 'day') represents concealment. In the depths of concealment, the depths of Exile, the Divine was revealed, bringing a joyful turnabout for the Jews.
15 March 2022
Revealed Torah, Inner Torah
This discourse was said by the Rebbe on Shabbat Vayikra 1965. It presents a fascinating perspective on the relation between the revealed Torah (the Talmud and Laws) and the inner aspect of Torah (Chassidic teachings).
Through Chassidic teachings, one sees a higher level of meaning in the revealed Torah, bringing one into more direct awareness and awe of the Divine. The Purim festival also helps one transcend the appearances of life and reach the higher dimension where all is good.
8 March 2022
The Sanctuary, the Shema and Shabbat
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Pekudey, 1965. In the first verse of the Sedra there are hints to different stages in service of the Divine. These parallel the relationship between Shabbat and the days of the week. The discourse emphasises the way Shabbat provides inspiration and empowerment for the week that follows.
1 March 2022
The Mirrors Of The Sanctuary
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Vayakhel in 1959. Moses gathers the people to tell them about the Sanctuary, because the Sanctuary relates to every Jew. Within the Sanctuary is the Laver (washbasin) for the Priests to wash their hands and feet. The laver was made of copper mirrors, donated by the women of Israel. This becomes an image of the Divine service of every Jew. We connect to G-d through the clear prism of Torah and Mitzvot, and through the less clear prism, the mirror, of our struggle with the Animal Soul. The mirror provides only a reflected image, but in certain ways this reaches even higher than the direct vision of the clear prism.
22 February 2022
Owning The Torah
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Shushan Purim Katan in 1967, that's 15 Adar I. It focuses on a discourse with the same 'name', ie opening verse, which was heroically taught by Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn in 1927, in Moscow, to a crowded Synagogue, despite the Communist persecution of Jewish Rabbis and teachers. Its theme is self-sacrifice for Torah study, through which one comes to 'own' the Torah teachings which one learns.
15 February 2022
The Olive And The Oil
This discourse was said by the Rebbe on Shabbat Tetzaveh in 1965. Does the oil have to be extracted from the negativity of the bitter olive, or does it naturally descend from the exalted olive of supernal Wisdom?
This seemingly abstract discussion leads to a presentation of two dimensions in life: the higher level, at which Moses (and his successors, leaders of the Jewish people) draw the oil of selflessness and supernal repentance, the oil of Torah, and transmit it below to Aaron and the Jewish people, who struggle to remove the pure oil from the concealing olive and use its radiance to light up the world.
8 February 2022
Accepting The Divine
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Terumah in 1965. Discussing a verse at the beginning of the Sedra, it explains that inspiration from the Divine is always available. One form of that inspiration is in the Torah.
The question is whether or not we accept it. Once we do, the onus is then on us to step forward and actively serve G-d in practical and spiritual ways.
1 February 2022
The Smoke on the Mountain
This discourse was said by the Rebbe on Shabbat Mishpatim in 1965. It discusses the 'cloud' or 'smoke' on Mount Sinai. The smoke represents the negativity and coarseness of the world; but G-d makes a pathway for us. This means we are able to deal with negative things, and realise that the coarse smoke is in fact ä cloud, a spiritual manifestation.
25 18 January 2022
Entering the Thickness of the Cloud
This discourse, taught by the Rebbe in 1965 for Sedra Yitro, discusses Moses' climbing Mount Sinai after the revelation of the Ten Commandments. He was going to be forty days and nights on the mountain. At the beginning of his ascent the Torah describes him entering 'the thickness of the cloud'. What does this represent? The hiddenness of G-d in this world? The exalted essence of G-d which is described as 'dwelling in darkness'? Or both..? The discourse also presents the way Moses draws close to G-d in order to draw with him every other Jew.
18 January 2022
The Bati Legani Discourse 1962
This is a foundational discourse for the Rebbe, because it was the last discourse prepared by the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzhak Schneersohn, which he wanted studied by his followers on 10 Shevat (20 January), the Yahrzeit of his paternal great-grandmother Rivkah, in 1950. On that day he himself passed away. Every year his successor, his son-in-law Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, would teach a discourse with the same theme, focusing on one chapter of the original. The 1962 discourse focused on chapter12.
4 January 2022
Moses and the Patriarchs Before Him
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe early in 1965, on Shabbat of Sedra Vaera. This Sedra tells how G-d appeared to the Patriarchs with His Name Sha-dai, and yet He will be revealed in a higher way to Moses, with the Tetragrammaton.
Before beginning the discourse there is a short talk on the nature of the Chassidic discourses taught by Rabbi Shneur Zalman (d.1812) and his successors, the leaders of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement through the generations.
28 December 2021
Saying 'Echad' in the Shema - Darkness and Light
The Rebbe said this discourse on Shabbat Balak in 1970, just after the 12 Tammuz Lubavitch festival, celebrating the release of the Sixth Rebbe from imprisonment and exile in Soviet Russia, in 1927. He had been arrested because of his attempts to keep Judaism alive in the USSR. The discourse explores the them of 'darkness' and 'light', and the fact that the light after darkness, or liberation after imprisonment, is felt more deeply than if it were light all the time. This links with a discussion of the word 'Echad' (One) in the Shema: this word expresses the idea that G-d (light) is being revealed in the world, which might be a world of darkness.
22 June 2021
From the Hidden Beyond, to Getting out of Practical Limitations
This discourse was taught by the Lubavitcher Rebbe during the week of Sedra Yitro in 1970. It speaks of the meaning of the first words of the Ten Commandments:
I am the L-rd your G-d..'. Who is this I? The most remote and hidden aspect of the Divine? Or the Divine as He gives Himself to us through writing His Essence into the Torah? In fact, both.
2 February, 2021
Journey to Jerusalem
In Temple times one would travel to Jerusalem three times a year for the Pilgrim Festivals (or 'Foot Festivals') Pesach, Shavuot and Succot.
In this discourse, taught by the Rebbe on Parshat Mishpatim, which then (like this year) was Rosh Chodesh, the New Moon, the initial focus is on the end of Haftorah from the end of Isaiah, which speaks of travelling to the Temple every month on Rosh Chodesh, or even every week for Shabbat. The discussion then turns to Hebrew slave in the Sedra, which is explained as the individual Jew who comes from an exalted spiritual source but descends into a low physical world, in order to elevate it. To fulfil this task, he or she must be connected with their spiritual source.
9 February 2021
How Moses Helps Conquer Amalek
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on the Shabbat before Purim in 1970, when we read the command to 'remember Amalek'. In the battle against Amalek described in Sedra Bashalach (Exodus 17:8-16), when Moses lifted his hands the Jews prevailed against Amalek. The discourse explains how this has meaning in our lives today.
16 February, 2021
The Song of the Sea
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Beshalach 1970. It begins with the opening words of the song which was thankfully sung by the Jewish people together with Moses after the miracle of the Splitting of the Sea which finally saved them from the Egyptians. The discourse explains how the Splitting of the Sea was a supernal revelation of the Essence of the Divine. Elements of that can also be experienced in prayer, after initial preparation through Torah study.
26 January 2021
Bati Legani - I have come into My Garden
The Bati Legani discourse was the last discourse of Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneersohn (d.1950). It was seen as his last will and testament. Each year his son-in-law and successor Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, would expound it. The first year, 1951, the Rebbe gave special attention to chapter one. In 1952, to chapter two, and so on. This year 2021 would be chapter eleven in the fourth cycle. The focus is the determination needed to create a dwelling for the Divine in this world. This determination is in the individual and is derived from that quality in the Divine. The discourse we studied together is from 1981, chapter eleven in the second cycle.
19 January, 2021
Moses and Aharon
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Shabbat Va’era in 1970. There are two verses (Ex.6:26-7) which speak of Aaron and Moses taking the Jews out of Egypt, and Moses and Aaron speaking to Pharaoh. The discourse discusses the change in word order, and provides a personal interpretation of Moses and Aaron within each individual.
12 January, 2021
Minor to Major
This discourse, taught by the Rebbe on the Shabbat of Sedra Shemot in January 1970, focuses on the first verse of the Haftorah (Isaiah 27:6) and the first verse of the Torah reading (Exodus 1:1). The Haftorah speaks of Jacob ‘planting’ the Jewish people, who then flourish mightily. The Sedra speaks of the children of Jacob coming to Egypt, where as we know, they will be enslaved, but also will become a great people. The theme of the discourse is the way that which is minor becomes major. The seed is often itself inedible, but it causes great growth. ‘Jacob’ is the more lowly term for the Jewish people, compared with ‘Israel’. Egypt is a place of enslavement. But it is from such lowly beginnings that one moves to the highest level of grandeur. This also applies to service of the Divine. Service without understanding, with simple ‘acceptance of the yoke of Heaven’, reaches the greatest heights.
5 January, 2021
The Significance of Judah
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Vayechi in December 1969. It focuses on the blessing to Judah, the ancestor of the Davidic Kings: Judah, you, your brothers will submit to you, and your hand will be on the neck of your enemy (Gen.49:8). The discourse reveals the meaning in each word (such as the unexpected ‘you’ after Judah’s name) as a powerful message to each individual about how their personal self-restraint can affect the inner spiritual dimension of the universe.
29 December, 2020
Judah and Joseph
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Shabbat Vayigash in late December 1987. It focuses on the moment at the beginning of the Sedra when Judah draws near to Joseph, a theme which is repeated in the Haftorah from Ezekiel 37:16ff. which speaks of drawing together the two sections of the divided Jewish Kingdom - the Northern Kingdom called Ephraim (the son of Joseph) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. In Chassidic teachings, Judah represents Action of the Mitzvot, while Joseph expresses Torah study. The discourse discusses how these two aspects of Jewish life connect. Further, Joseph and Judah express two aspects of prayer which are joined. Hence the meeting of Judah and Joseph in the Sedra expresses many practical and spiritual levels of meeting and joining.
22 December, 2020
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe in the week of Chanukah in 1969. It develops the theme that in a time of Exile opposites can join, and the darkness and light signified by the terms ‘sing’ and ‘rejoice’ (as explained by the Zohar) can coexist at the same time and place. Turning to the Sedra Miketz it also explains how Joseph spiritually prepared the way for the Children of Israel to enter Egypt and survive there as Jews. As a Tzaddik, his being in Egypt and even more, his leadership role there, empowered the Jewish people.
15 December, 2020
Joy in the Light and Also in the Dark
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Vayeshev in 1969, which was Shabbat Chanukah. The Haftorah from Zacharia begins (2:14) ‘Sing and rejoice daughter of Zion’. The Rebbe expounds this following a passage in the Zohar, explaining that ‘singing’ is in the evening, and ‘rejoicing’ is in the morning. Evening and morning mean the darkness of Exile or the daylight of redemption. Further, the Jewish people are termed ‘daughter of Zion’ rather than ‘Zion’, because of their state of Exile. Yet this too can bring them to great heights of service of the Divine.
8 December, 2020
Revealing the Divine in the World
This discourse was taught on Shabbat Vayishlach, 19 Kislev, 1969. It starts with Jacob’s words to G-d, that he is unworthy of all the good which G-d has worked for him. Humility as a response to kindness typifies the World of Tikkun (Repair). Jacob represents the World of Tikkun and he sought to transform positively Esau, representing the World of Tohu (Chaos). This leads to discussion of the nature of the Divine indwelling in the world which is, according to Chassidic teachings, the goal of creation.
1 December, 2020
Revelation and Reality
This intriguing discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat of Vayetze in 1987. It presents a mystical interpretation of the Biblical figure Laban, Jacob’s uncle. Although the straightforward reading of the Torah presents him as a devious and difficult person, in a kabbalistic interpretation his name Laban (white) denotes spiritual intensity. This intensity is potentially revealed to each individual in the morning prayer, but then in order for one to continue one’s daily activities, the intensity must be hidden. Thus one is balancing revelation on the one hand and reality on the other.
24 November, 2020
Light and Love
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Shabbat Toledot which was the eve of Rosh Chodesh (New Moon of) Kislev in 1953. On the eve of the New Moon, the moon is hidden. Then a thin sliver of moon is visible on the next day, actual Rosh Chodesh. The discourse discusses the idea of the ‘essence’ which is dark, compared with the ‘gleam’ which emanates from the essence, which gives light. The discussion of ‘light’ then leads to a discussion of love, love or light from above to below and from below to above. These two kinds of light (Or, numerical value 207) are included in the word Ve-ahavta ‘and you shall love’ (numerical value 414). This leads to a discussion about the relationship between Groom and Bride, and the blessings said under the Chupa, and one remembers that in the month of Kislev is the wedding anniversary of the Rebbe and his wife Chaya Mushka. Now one thinks of the Groom giving joy to his wife, but in the future, both the Groom and the Bride will embody an ultimate joy, and the Bride will be a crown to her husband, higher than him. Ultimately, the Essence will shine.
17 November, 2020
This brief discourse of Shabbat Vayera 1987 discusses the travelers' inn which was run by Abraham and Sara in order to draw people closer to Monotheism.
3 November, 2020
Two Directions of Travel
This discourse was said by the Rebbe in 1977, a few weeks after he suffered a heart attack on Shmini Atzeret. It was said after Shabbat Sedra Lech Lecha, from his room, and his followers in 770 (and by phone hook-up, round the world) were able to hear from loudspeakers. The discourse describes two ways of understanding Abraham's journey: from an exalted spiritual realm, into the mundane world; or from an idolatrous society, across the river, into the sacred Land of Israel. The soul has a similar double journey in this world.
27 October 2020
The Effect of a Mitzvah
This subtle discourse was said by the Rebbe on Shabbat Chayei Sara, 1969, and was published by the Rebbe in Kuntres Kaf Cheshvan, 1991. It explains the intricate spiritual cosmology of existence and how it is affected when one carries out a Mitzvah.
10 November 2020
The Rainbow in the Cloud
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Sedra Noah in 1982. After the Flood, G-d tells Noah that He is making a Covenant with humanity that there will not be another total Flood. The rainbow is the sign of this Covenant. Commentators such as Nachmanides ask: does that mean that there were no rainbows before then? Surely, the rainbow is a natural effect of sunlight in the water-droplets in the cloud? The Rebbe provides a spiritual way of understanding a ‘cloud’ and then gives an interesting answer to the question of the commentators.
20 October 2020
Being There by Not Being There
The Rebbe said this discourse on Shabbat Bereishit, 1969. Shabbat was the day before Rosh Chodesh (the New Moon), so a special Haftorah is said, beginning 'Jonathan said to David, tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh. You will be noticed because you will be missing..' (I Samuel 20:28). In the Biblical narrative, David would be absent from a meal with King Saul, and Saul would notice this and therefore comment about him. The discourse discusses this idea in spiritual terms. By not being there, i.e. by being in a state of self-abnegation, one is present in a greater way.
13 October 2020
The Divine and the World
This discourse was said in 1969 and it discusses an intriguing passage in a Kabbalistic work which presents and image of the immense spiritual 'distance' between the Divine and the physical world, and then shows how through Torah study and observance of Mitzvot, the Divine is brought into the world.
29 September 2020
Dimensions of Repentance
This discourse, said in 1969, explains several different aspects in the process of repentance, including the function of the verbal 'Confession of Sins' (Viduy).
22 September 2020
Rosh Hashanah and the Patriarchs
This discourse was said on the second day of Rosh Hashana in 1969. It discusses the text of the Offerings in the Musaf Prayer, explaining how on Rosh Hashana there is a special relationship with our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the source of the Jewish People.
15 September 2020
The Spiritual Dimension of Marriage
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Ki Tavo in 1982, and it links the month of Elul to the individual bonding with the Divine.
1 September 2020
Restoring the Two Temples
This discourse was taught on Shabbat VaEthanan in 1969. The Rebbe discusses the spiritual way to restore both Temples, and the fact that in certain ways the Second Temple is more significant than the First.
28 July 2020
The Inner Workings of Exile and Redemption
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Shabbat Parsha Devarim 1969, the Shabbat before the Ninth of Av. The discourse explains Exile and Redemption in terms of the fragmentation or wholeness of the supernal Divine Name, which reveals why the practical actions of the Mitzvot are so important.
21 July 2020
Seeking the Spiritual
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Shabbat Mattot-Mas'ey in 1969. The Sedra tells us that the sons of Gad and Reuben wanted to stay on the East bank of the Jordan. They sought the spiritual, rather than to plunge into the activity of entering the Land of Israel. Moses only accepted this when they agreed to risk their lives to help the rest of the Jewish people conquer the Land. Today each of us needs both aspects - the quest for the spiritual and also the readiness for self-sacrifice in making the practical world a dwelling for the Divine.
14 July 2020
Two Aspects of Holiness
The Rebbe taught this discourse for Shabbat Parsha Pinchas in 1958. Each member of the Jewish people is holy - both because of the Divine Soul and also because of the Animal Soul, which will ultimately be refined.
7 July 2020
Every Law is a Statute
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Shabbat Chukat-Balak in 1969. The opening words of the Sedra about the Statute of the Red Heifer using the phrase 'the Stautute of the Torah' are explained to mean that all the laws of the Torah have the quality of a Statute. Rashi connects the law of the Red heifer to Moses, because it is the Moses within us who helps us keep the Statutes, which are beyond our understanding.
30 June 2020
Division to Unity
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe for Shabbat Sedra Korach in 1967. Korach wanted to cause a division in the Jewish people. The discourse explores the she source of all such 'divisions' and conflicts, going back to the beginning of Creation when the firmament was created on the second day, dividing between the lower waters and the upper waters. Division is an integral part of our world, but the goal is unity.
23 June 2020