Religion is more about man than it is about God, 
  and that is the way God wants it to be. 
With God's Grace & Blessings
Online School
for Biblical/Spiritual Studies

A Simpler,
More Natural Way



This is a selection of the latest classes recorded over the last 60 days.


April 2015 Classes


Duties of the Heart (Hovot HaLevavot)
The Three Sciences that Reveal the Will of God.
Lesson 1 – Introduction. This class introduces us to a classic of Torah literature. Yet, however Jewish this text is, we confirm how the author, Rabbeynu Bahya Ibn Pquda, was inspired by, and borrowed often from a then popular Islamic Sufi text. This respect for, and borrowing from sources outside the normal chain of Torah tradition serves us as a role model and example to always respect truth, wherever that truth is to be found.
The importance of the study of the natural sciences, math and music are to understanding the world around us, and by consequence enabling us to better understand God, through that which He has made.
Recognizing God in nature, and in all things. Maturing our understanding about God from being a personification, and into a recognition of universal Being and Mind. The purpose of meditation, as opposed to its forms.

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Israel & Humanity – the Quest for Universal Torah, by R. Elijah Benamozegh
Lesson 8 – Man, the Temple of God, Inherent Good, and the Meaning of Freedom
Part 2, Chapter 2 – This lesson opens with a discussion defining the difference between Hebraic and Greek thinking. The Hebraic mind sees no split between the spiritual and the physical, whereas the Greek mind drew strong lines of distinction between the two. It is this significant difference in global outlook that underlies the difference between the religions of Judaism and Christianity.
Continued discussion defining the fundamental differences between the two faiths, how Christianity looks at man needing to be saved, and how such a salvation is unheard of, and unnecessary in Judaism. Man is inherently good, and will face a positive future.
Human freedom, man is free from the spirit of determinism. Reference to Calvinism, and the eastern idea of Karma, and how Torah fundamentally disagrees with both. Every individual has a positive foundation, and can move forward with self improvement.
The meaning of “there is no mazal for Israel.”

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Israel & Humanity – the Quest for Universal Torah, by R. Elijah Benamozegh
Lesson 7 – The Unity of Humanity & Human Dignity
Part 2, Chapter 1. The Biblical message of the common origins of all humanity indicates a unity of all peoples. A long discussion and condemnation of racism, in all its forms, including within Judaism itself.
All souls are one in Adam. All humanity has a common origin, and will together face a common future. Mashiah comes to rectify all, not just one religion over another.The ills of the concept of national superiority, with the example of American abuse of the continental natives, the Cherokee/Israelite connection is mentioned.
Torah speaks in the language of man, therefore, one should not be surprised to discover Biblical stories found in other cultures, with the stories formatted to the norms of those cultures.
The necessary unity of body and soul, how physicality is an integral part of spirituality. The philosophical origins of the separation between the spiritual, and the physical, and how this aberration has continued to this day. This contradicts the very foundation of Judaism, and Kabbalah, which calls for the union of Heaven and Earth, of Tiferet and Malkhut.

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March 2015 Classes

Amud HaTefilah – the Column of Prayer. Teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov.
Lesson 2 – The Power of Rational Clarity
A discussion about “segulot” (spiritual formulas that claim to work miracles). Why these are not magic, and what is their real power psychologically. A discussion about faith, and how it too is not magic, but rather how faith motivates one from the unconscious to make different decisions, and choices, that can open the path to the outcome that one seeks.
Prayer is not a mythical practice of politely speaking to an imagined deity somewhere over the rainbow. Prayer consciousness must include a clarity of thought of what it is exactly that one is doing when one prays. One must also have the emotional component of conviction that what one seeks is indeed proper and correct.
Examples given of the Kabbalistic Siddur of the Rashash, what it means, and how it is realistically supposed to work.
Those with mental clarity are compared to the Tree of Life, whereas those who see only what they want to see through the influence of clouded emotions are compared to the Tree of Knowledge, Good and Evil.

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Israel & Humanity – the Quest for Universal Torah, by R. Elijah Benamozegh
Lesson 6 – Divine Providence, God Equally Rules Over All

Chapter 4. God is the director of all life, equally the Director, Lord and Judge of Israel, the rest of humanity, the whole of nature, and also to include whatever forms of extraterrestrial life we my some day encounter.
Life is a singularity, and it is sacred everywhere. YHWH upholds and supports all life, equally in balanced justice. Even the animal kingdom is provided for, and protected by God.
The light to the nations is the message of this universal law, that all life is sacred, and that all life is one, under the Guidance and direction of the Universal Singularity, YHWH.
In the messianic future, all human differences will not be erased, but rather transcended. Instead of being hostile due to differences, we will learn to respect and honor differences, and recognizes how like spokes of a wheel, all are connected to the singular center.

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Israel & Humanity – the Quest for Universal Torah, by R. Elijah Benamozegh
Lesson 5 – The “Pagan” Origins of Judaism, the Original Message of Torah.
The Biblical message is clear, a single God created all existence and all humanity. Thus, all the world, and all humanity is ultimately united in source. The Biblical message proclaims that just as all in the beginning was one, so too in the messianic future will all return to the one. In the mean time, it is our job to gather the pieces of our lost unity.
Judaism developed over many centuries, and included many influences from clear pagan sources, such as Melchizedek and Jethro. Even the Hebrew language was originally Canaanite.
An important Torah teaching based on Malakhi 1:11 is that God is known in every nation and culture. God reveals Him/Itself under different Names, and it is the job of Israel to gather the disconnected spark to reunite them as a whole, and this is how God's Name is unified.

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Amud HaTefilah – the Column of Prayer. Teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov.
Lesson 1 – The Body, Soul and Inner Divinity.
An introduction as to why I offered this class when I did. Dream inspirations.
Artistic, individualized interpretations of religious literature. The Hadisic method can be described as an impressionistic way of reinterpreting scripture and sacred writings to extract individualized ethical, and moral lessons. The difference between pshat and pesher.
Prayer and speech in general consists on spoken words (body), emotional input (soul), and a deeper source from where it all springs for (the divine within).
Understanding the nature of our own inner intensity, or lack of it, defines for us whether or not our words are “alive” and “enlivened.”
Prayers as projections into the collective consciousness, as opposed to requests made to a distant, and misunderstood God.
Example of prayers for healing. How psychic prayer works. The importance of the union of body, soul, and inner divinity within all things. Extended discussion about the obligations to follow professional medical directives.

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Book of Visions (Sefer Hiziyonot) of R. Hayim Vital
Lesson 4 – Vision of the Demon Kings in the Looking Glass
An in-depth introduction into the Islamic understanding of the Jinn, and how it compares to both the Jewish Kabbalistic and Christian views about demons.
Readings from Legends of the Fire Spirits, Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar, by Robert Lebling (pages 4, 141-148). Curios how many of the details revealed by the Jinn, and recorded herein, are similar to those recorded by R. Hayim Vital and other Kabbalistic authors.
The subtle differences between psychotic hallucination, and possible, actual contact with the other race than inhabits our world.
The Jinn (Shedim) are said to have religions, and follow the human religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. R. Hayim makes reference to a Christian shed, Lebling references both Muslim and Jewish Jinn. The Zohar also references the Shedim Yehudaim.
We conclude with a discussion of the astral body, and the after-life.

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Israel & Humanity – the Quest for Universal Torah, by R. Elijah Benamozegh
Lesson 4 – YHWH, Tribal God or Singularity, the Psychology of Idolatry
Chapter 2, with readings from Erich Fromm's “Religion and Psychology” (pages 114-119) and Edward Edinger's “The Bible and the Psyche” (pages 65,69).
There was an original concept of a Singularity long before there was a concept of diversity and division. Reference to pre-Adamic civilization, and when the concepts of dividing Divinity occurred and why.
The original concept of the significance of God as the Singularity of existence and how this is reflected in humanity being created in the Image of God in essence to state that humanity also shares this singularity and unity as a human race.
One who respects God respects his fellow man, and one who disrespects his fellow man is by definition disrespecting God.
The psychology of idolatry, what exactly is idolatry as a human state of mind, and how almost everyone, in one form or another, creates one's own “psychological” (if not actual) idol. Readings from Fromm.
The purpose of Israel's initial exclusion from the nations, and why the Sages of Israel created the hedge around the Torah. Readings from Edinger explain the psychology of this.

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Book of Visions (Sefer Hiziyonot) of R. Hayim Vital
Lesson 3 – The Vision of Hannah Vital, R. Hayim's Wife.
Emphasis on the subjective nature of this mystical material. We are not dealing here with objective spiritual facts, but rather subjective, psychological projections. When understood in this manner, the material is properly and best appreciated.
We discuss R. Hayim's belief that the Ari'zal was born only to teach him, R. Hayim, his unique version of Kabbalah. R. Hayim refuses to teach Kabbalah to R. Moshe Alshekh, his teacher in classical Judaism. We discuss in detail why this was so.
We conclude with the vision dream of Hannah Vital, R. Hayim's wife. Considering the description given in the text, the vision described therein sounds more like an hallucination, as opposed to a literal spiritual vision. The differences between these experiences is discussed in detail.
We conclude with a reinforcement of our understanding about the humanity of R. Hayim, the human being, and his unique world outlook.

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A complimentary free lesson
KosherTorah Open Forum for March 2, 2015

The meaning of “kosher” Torah and the importance of a rounded education. How the study of other schools of religion and philosophy should help strengthen one's own personal faith. How the Talmudic Sages were widely versed in all areas of knowledge, scientific and otherwise. We should follow in their footsteps. Why women's education is so important, and how it should never be belittled or abused.
The situation in the Middle East. The history of the present Sunni/Shiite conflict and how this comes into play with the conflicts with ISIS and Iran. The dangers posed by the introduction of nuclear weapons into the hands of those who, for religious purposes, are willing to us them.
A reading from Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Kook (Orot Me-Ofel 8) warning of the destruction of Europe because of the unstable foundations of its society.
This class places focus on the need to build bridges between communities, seek an end to strife and divisions, and to emphasize education and tolerance as the tools for saving humanity from having to face another world war.

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February 2015 Classes

The Transformation and Empowerment of the Mind
Avraham ben Rambam's Guide to Serving God, Chapter 13, Spiritual Retreat, Lesson 5, final in series

Spiritual retreat is for the purpose of mental isolation. Mental isolation, when performed properly lead to transformations in human consciousness. These in turn are said to unleash the powers of the inner mind, releasing what are termed psychic powers of mind over matter. Reference to R. Shimon Bar Yohai and the episode of the cave. The experience of Eliyahu is psychological/psychic, and not necessarily an actual physical close encounter. Readings from modern Sufi texts and the powers that they claim can be unleashed through the version of chant meditation called dhikr.

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Book of Visions (Sefer Hiziyonot) of R. Hayim Vital
Lesson 2 – Hayim Vital, Mashiah and Husband

R. Hayim begins with a teaching how he is supposed to be Mashiah ben Yosef, and how in time to come thousands and thousands of students were to gather to him in Safed. Needless to say this never literally happened. This bring us into a study of the psychology of the numinosum (the inner revelation of a visualized higher being). Each religion and cultures experiences visions within their individual contexts. R. Hayim interpreted all things in his life through the veil of his kabbalistic beliefs. His relationship with his wife, and the birth and death of a daughter are all interpreted within the contexts of reincarnation. It is not important whether or not this is true, because it was true to R. Hayim in his mind and reality. Spiritual experiences are always subjective realities. Discussion about various schools of Kabbalah, and the underlying psychology that causes them to differ. Are Kabbalisitc visions (or apocalypses) real visions, or are they psychological projections. All this is discussed.

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Israel & Humanity – the Quest for Universal Torah, by R. Elijah Benamozegh
Lesson 3 – Ancient Mystery Teachings, Torah, Freemasonry & the Ultimate Singularity.
End chapter 1- beginning chapter 2. There is a definite connection between many of the teachings of ancient mystery religions and the teachings of ancient Torah, and even original Rabbinic Judaism. How and why did these connections come about. We discuss the underlying universal teachings that the ancient schools taught, and how they are continued to modern day in Freemasonry. How freemasonry has a close relationship to the Noahide code, and how it has adopted much from mystical Judaism. Reference to “The History of Freemasonry” by Albert Mackey. R. Benamozegh states that the answer to the problems faced in modern religions can be found in the Kabbalistic experience of the Ultimate Singularity, which is the Being of the universe. This is YHWH, God, the Creator. Emphasis is on experience, not theory, theology or philosophy.

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Synagogue or Temple, Shielding the Light
Avraham ben Rambam's Guide to Serving God, Chapter 13, Spiritual Retreat, Lesson 4

R. Avraham's continued commentary on Psalm 84. He makes a very strong statement against hypocritical behavior performed in Synagogues, deploring the lack of focus and intent on prayer, and a general lack of respect for both Torah and God. He places emphasis how prayer and meditation is too focus on the development of one's inner Temple, and how from this inner place of psychological balance and harmony one can come to have an experience of the Divine Light. Experiencing Divine Light follows the path of nature itself. The sun does not rise all at once, but rises as a process beginning with dawn and going through to sunrise. So too does the experience of the Divine encounter not happen all at once, but develops in stages based upon one's personal development of inner balance, emotional maturity, and mental clarity. Also discussed is an important issue in Jewish law, when should one pray alone, and not at the Synagogue. One should also read this.

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Book of Visions (Sefer Hiziyonot) of R. Hayim Vital
Lesson 1 – Who was this man?

Hayim Vital was the son of a Sicilian Jewish family. He was educated in classical Judaism, but he always had an inkling towards the mystical, and even the magical. His diary reveals to us interesting details about his life, and attitudes. But most interesting is that this, his diary, reveals to us the personality of the man, his ego. R. Hayim, the man saw himself in a grandiose light, and considered himself larger than the life he led. Why this was so is discussed within the context of Jungian psychology. This lesson is important in that it teaches us how to look at religious figures honesty, without the veils of legend and myth. Religious figures are human beings, who, just like us, suffer from all of life's travails. This course will give us insights into R. Hayim's life, his personality, his ego, his world and how he related to it. This is a great series (and class) to grasp the reality of Kabbalah and the humanity of one of its greatest teachers.

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Avraham ben Rambam – Guide to Serving God, Chapter 13, Spiritual Retreat
Lesson 3 – Building in the Inner Temple of God.

R. Avraham's commentary on Psalm 84, and how it must be interpreted as a cry of the soul. Readings from Quadrant, the Jungian journal for Analytical Psychology. The psychology of meditation, the reorientation of psychic energy from a state of widespread diffusion (and weakness), to a state of focus and strength. The Temple is ruins and exile are symbolic metaphors for a psychological state wherein which one is disconnected from one's inner self. Rebuilding the Temple is the psychological process of reconnecting with our inner selves and with God. The coming of Mashiah is also a psychological state, as is stated by the Ba'al Shem Tov. Before Mashiah can come to the world, Mashiah consciousness must first be realized in the individual soul. The desire for the Temple, the House of God, is the desire within the heart to experience the spiritual encounter. This is the purpose of spiritual retreat.

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Israel & Humanity – the Quest for Universal Torah, by R. Elijah Benamozegh
Lesson 2 – The Origins of Monotheism.

Chapter 1 – The unity of God. Monotheism did not start with Moses. There is a strong overlap and influence of Egyptian culture and religious beliefs on fledgling Judaism. Discussion of the Hyksos, the early Egyptian monotheists. Cross cultural influences can be seen from the ancient Greek Pythagorean school to the ancient Indian Vedic (Hindu) schools. Torah is in the middle uniting them all. This is the role of Universal Torah. Defense of the Kabbalah, how this universal application of Torah elevates Judaism out of its limited national role, and enables it to rightly be a light to the nations.

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Avraham ben Rambam – Guide to Serving God, Chapter 13, Spiritual Retreat, 2
Lesson 2 – inward and outward retreat. How rural living leads to a transformation of perception. Seeing God in all things, everywhere. Reading from Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed (3:51) about the high level of God consciousness (hasagah), and the life benefits that this brings. Examples of rural living from the Bible. Outward retreat is a means to the end of inward retreat, where the mind detaches from the delusions of dichotomy, and recognizes how all is God, as it says, Ayn Ohd Me'Livado (there is no reality other then “Him”).

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Israel & Humanity - The Quest for Universal Torah, by R. Elijah Benamozegh
Lesson 1 – Introduction. Addressing the modern “great religious crises.”
The concept of universal Torah, what it is, and why it is so desperately needed today. Understanding the pursuit of truth, and our necessary willingness to embrace it wherever found. Dialog with students addressing their own prejudices against certain other cultures and religions. References to Hinduism and Indian culture. Why prejudice and racism in religion cannot be tolerated. The importance of the natural harmony found in Talmudic/Rabbinic Judaism. A basic introduction into general philosophy of the author, R. Elijah Benamozegh, and its relationship to later authors, like Rav A. Y. Kook. The messianic concept of Tikkun, the spirit of the prophet Elijah, how we can integrate this ourselves.

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The Written Works of Ariel Bar Tzadok
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