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
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
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
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
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Lag B'Omer 1969. The theme is a story in the Zohar that once, when there was a drought, Rabbi Shimon delivered a Torah teaching and the rain came. The discourse explores the fact that usually in the Talmud the rabbis pray or fast in order for the rain to fall, a spiritual movement from below to above. But Rabbi Shimon taught Torah, a movement from above to below. This leads to a discussion of these two kinds of movement in Jewish life.
12 May 2020
Dimensions of Holiness
This discourse was taught be the Rebbe in 1965 on Shabbat Parshat Emor. It was edited by the Rebbe and published in 1990 for the Yahrzeit of the Rebbe's brother R. Yisrael Aryeh Leib, a mathematician at Liverpool University. The discourse concerns dimensions of holiness: the supernal Divine holiness for which one might yearn, and the holiness which G-d grants each individual through Torah and Mitzvot. The power of Repentance, Teshuvah, reaches the supernal holiness of the Divine in a way which might be considered astonishing. It can do this because the Divine Essence is beyond limitations.
5 May 2020
The Forbidden Years of the Fruit Tree
The Rebbe taught this discourse in 1968 for Sedra Kedoshim. It gives a fascinating interpretation of the law of 'Orlah', in which the fruit of a tree is forbidden for the first three years, then in the fourth year it can only be eaten if it is redeemed (or taken to Jerusalem, in Temple times), and in the fifth year it is permitted and also brings great reward for the person. These stages apply in various aspects of daily life.
28 April 2020
The Locked Garden
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Shabbat Tazria in 1987. The Jewish people are compared to 'a locked garden', symbolizing a bride who is 'locked' to all but her husband. In the same way, says the Zohar and other sources, the power of delight of a Jewish individual should be reserved for the Divine.
21 April 2020
Receiving and Ascending
This discourse of Sedra Terumah 1965 speaks of two man aspects of Divine service: receiving the inspiration from above and then, in response, ascending towards the Divine. This can be understood in terms of Torah (from G-d to us) and Prayer (from us towards the Divine).
25 February 2020
Reaching Above and Bringing Down Below
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe on Shabbat Mishpatim, Parshat Shekalim, in 1969. The extra reading speaks of giving half a shekel, which paid for two separate items: the silver sockets of the Sanctuary, and the public offerings. The sockets are the lowest part of the Sanctuary, on the ground; the offerings soar up to the Divine. The discourse explains that both these movements are needed in service of the Divine.
18 February 2020
Bati LeGani - The Sanctuary in the Heart
This discourse was said by the Lubavitcher Rebbe on 10 Shevat, 1980. This date is the Yahrzeit of the Sixth Rebbe who passed away in 1950, and this marks the beginning of the leadership of the Seventh Rebbe. The discourse begins 'I have come into My garden' (Song of Songs 5:1) which the Midrash explains as meaning that G-d's Presence returns to the world, as in the time of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Divine Presence was now in the Sanctuary built by Moses and the Israelites in the desert of Sinai. The discourse explains that within each person there is a Sanctuary and the Divine Presence. Realising this and exploring this idea helps us reveal the Divine Presence in our own lives and in the world around us.
4 February 2020
Yud Shevat, 10 Shevat, Tenth Shevat
Wisdom and Action
This discourse was taught in 1968 on Shabbat Sedra Vayishlach. It explores the goal of Wisdom: Repentance and Good Deeds. Wisdom by itself cannot grasp the highest levels, for 'Thought cannot grasp the Divine'. But through the action of the Mitzvot each person can be bonded to G-d.
10 December 2019
'One' or 'Unique'
This discourse was taught by the Rebbe in 1968 for Shabbat Vayetze, on 9 Kislev, the birthday and Yahrzeit of the second Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Ber. The discourse discusses a discourse of the same name said by the Previous Rebbe in 1941 (which itself relates to a discourse by Rabbi Dov Ber). The focus is on ‘One’ or ‘Unique’, as terms applied both to G-d and to the Jewish People. This leads to a deeper understanding of the purpose of Creation and the role of the Jew.
3 December 2019
This World or the Next?
The Rebbe taught this discourse in 1968. The discourse discusses the question of the relative importance of a Mitzva in this world, or its effect for the soul in the Garden of Eden. This relates to the question of the power of Repentance. The discourse discusses different kinds of Repentance: Repentance from above and from below. This is seen in the death of Sara and the way she was buried, a double cave.
19 November 2019
The Cry to G-d
The Rebbe taught this on Sedra Vayera 1964. It explains the Haftora as it applies in our own lives. This begins (II Kings 4:1) with a widow crying to Elisha. The discourse explains, this is the soul crying out to G-d. She says 'my husband', ishi, in Hebrew a word similar to fire, 'is dead': her fire of spiritual passion has 'died'. The soul of each one of us can cry out to G-d with this complaint...
12 November 2019
Journey to Oneself
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Shabbat Lech Lecha in 1964. G-d tells Abraham to 'go to yourself' - go to the root of your soul. The discourse explains that one way to do this is by entering a more holy realm, going to the Land of Israel. The other way is to bring holiness into the non-holy realms. Abraham sharing his inspiration with those who do not yet believe in one G-d.
5 November 2019
Overcoming the Flood Waters
This Discourse of 1964 speaks of the need to overcome the 'flood waters' of daily life - business worries, and everything similar - and to allow one's inner love of G-d to be expressed in deeply felt prayer.
29 October 2019
When You Come to the Land - in Spiritual Terms
The Rebbe said this discourse on Shabbat Ki Tavo in 1965. It discusses the relationship of the individual with G-d, linked also with the sacred quality of the Land of Israel and the ultimate purpose of Creation.
17 September 2019
The Battle of Prayer
This discourse, said on Shabbat Ki Tezte in 1965, discusses the battle described at the beginning of the Sedra and explains it in terms of the inner struggle of prayer, seeking to transform the Animal Soul so that its passion focuses on the Divine.
10 September 2019
Connecting With the Essence
The Rebbe taught this discourse on Shabbat Sedra Chukat, 1965. The discourse discusses transcending intellect and reaching the Essence of the Divine.
9 July 2019
Why Were the Spies Afraid?
The Rebbe taught this discourse for Sedra Shelach (about sending the spies) in 1965. Two very spiritual reasons are given for their reluctance to enter the Holy Land. The discussion helps us understand our task in life.
25 June 2019