In many ways, the Rabash was the last of a “golden lineage,” the final link in the chain of the greatest Kabbalists. This line started with Abraham the Patriarch and ended with Rabash’s father, Yehuda Ashlag, followed by Rabash himself. His role in this line is perhaps the most significant for us, as he connects us to all those great Kabbalists. With his works, he adapted the method of Kabbalah to our generation.
Although he was at the apex of the spiritual ladder, the Rabash was very well connected to ordinary folk who simply wanted to know if there was something higher than this world could offer. Because of his high spiritual degree, the Rabash understood why those of us living at the close of the 20th century needed to discover life’s secret. He was able to adapt the wisdom of Kabbalah in a comfortable, straightforward, appropriate language for our generation. In doing so, he introduced us to a wondrous, eternal world, and paved the surest way for us to get there.
When Baruch Ashlag was 13 years old, his father decided it was time to leave Poland and move to Israel. Baal HaSulam hoped to find more Kabbalists in Israel who would join him in disseminating Kabbalah. Therefore, in 1921, the Ashlag family left Warsaw and settled in Jerusalem.
In Israel (Palestine at the time), the Rabash was ordained as a rabbi by Rabbi Avraham Isaac HaCohen Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, and Rabbi Chaim Sonnenfeld, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and the spiritual and political leader of Israel’s orthodox community. Rabash was only seventeen years old when he was ordained.
Rabash felt the desire to discover life’s secret early in his life and pursued it determinedly. His only wish was to become a student of his father—the greatest Kabbalist of the generation. He wanted to continue in his father’s footsteps and delve in the study of Kabbalah. He knew that nothing but Kabbalah would satisfy the desire that burned in his heart.
Indeed, once Rabash proved his intentions were sincere, Baal HaSulam accepted him in his group of students. To attend his father’s lessons, Rabash had to march several kilometers nightly, from the old city of Jerusalem to his father’s home in the neighborhood of Givat Shaul. On his way, he had to sneak past road agents and through barriers of the British military forces, which were part of the British Mandate (1922-1948) to govern the land of Israel.
Despite the harsh conditions in Jerusalem of the early 1930s, Baruch Ashlag had a strong desire to cling to his father’s way, and never missed a lesson or an event that his father attended. He stayed glued to his father’s side, accompanying him on all his trips, doing his errands and serving him in every possible way.
In time, Baruch became Baal HaSulam’s closest student and began to study separately with him. His father taught him The Study of the Ten Sefirot and The Book of Zohar. Rabbi Ashlag also answered his son’s questions and prepared him for the role that Rabash was about to undertake—disseminating the wisdom of Kabbalah to the masses in the clearest and most suitable language for our time.
Rabash, the dedicated student, wrote down everything he’d heard from his father in a notebook he titled, Shamati (I Heard). He gathered thousands of notes documenting Baal HaSulam’s explanations of a person’s spiritual work. At his deathbed, the Rabash bequeathed the notebook to his personal assistant and student, Rav Michael Laitman, who later published it as a book, carrying the same title.
The Rabash was his father’s student and personal assistant for more than thirty years. During that entire period, he absorbed his father’s teachings and his spirit of love for the nation and the world at large. He imbibed the recognition that we will be awarded complete redemption only by spreading the wisdom of Kabbalah throughout the nation and the world over. Years later, Rabash’s students asserted that this spirit had been his “hallmark” through his entire life, the essential message he had bequeathed to his students.
Like his father before him, the Rabash did not want to be celebrated or extolled as a Kabbalist. He refused to accept official duties that were offered to him. Instead of being revered and a leader of many, Rabash dedicated his entire time and efforts to internal work and to preparing Kabbalah students. They would disseminate the wisdom of Kabbalah and continue on Baal HaSulam’s path with sincerity.
Internally, the Rabash was connected to the entire world. Externally, however, he was a secluded man. His widow, Feiga Ashlag, testifies that “Even our neighbors didn’t know that he was teaching the wisdom of the hidden.”
But despite his modesty, those who really searched found their way to the Rabash. His student and assistant, Rav Michael Laitman, says that among those who approached him were renowned rabbis who would discreetly come to Rabash’s house to study the wisdom of the hidden.
In his work with new students, Rabash developed his unique contemporary method. He wrote weekly articles in which he described in simple words each phase of a person’s internal work along the path to spirituality. Thus, he entrusted us with a true treasure, a complete, tested method that can bring every person to perceive the spiritual world.
These weekly articles were collected and compiled into a series of books called Shlavey HaSulam (Rungs of the Ladder). The Rabash left behind him many study groups in Israel and elsewhere in the world. These groups continue to study his books and those of Baal HaSulam. The Rabash succeeded where others did not by presenting us with the best way to discover the deepest aspect of reality: the Higher World.
After the demise of the Rabash in 1991, his student and personal assistant, Rav Michael Laitman established a group of Kabbalists that he named after his teacher—“Bnei Baruch,” or “Sons of Baruch.” The group’s goal is to continue on the Rabash’s way and disseminate his method in the masses.
Bnei Baruch has now become an international movement with hundreds of thousands of students in Israel and the world over. These students study Kabbalah from authentic sources and spread the wisdom to all who wish to learn, free of charge.
Baruch Shalom HaLevi Ashlag was unique. He was a hidden Kabbalist whose vocation was to educate a new generation of Kabbalists by nurturing a new spiritual method that was appropriate for contemporary students. He was convinced that if he could adapt the method of Kabbalah to our time, it would be his greatest contribution to humanity.
Ashlag wanted to promote a brighter future for everyone in the world, and he succeeded. All we need to do is to use this failsafe method he developed. When we do, we will be rewarded with the revelation of the complete, true, and eternal reality, discovered by every Kabbalist throughout the generations.