Rav Michael Laitman has a PhD in Philosophy from the Russian Academy of Science and an MSc in Bio-Cybernetics from the Polytechnic Institute of St. Petersburg. He was the disciple and personal assistant to Rabbi Baruch Ashlag (1907-1991) for twelve years. During those years, Rav Laitman acquired The Sulam Method, teachings passed on to his mentor by his father, Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag (1884-1954), known as Baal HaSulam for his Sulam commentary on The Zohar.
Rav Laitman has written thirty books on Kabbalah, which were translated into ten languages. His daily lessons are broadcast live and recorded on cable television in the US, in Israel, and on the Internet to tens of thousands of students worldwide. In recent years, Rav Laitman has become a frequent speaker at scientific conferences and conventions in Europe, East Asia and North America, expounding on the links between Kabbalah and science.
Dr. Laitman says that when he finished school, he was searching for a profession that would enable him to explore the meaning of life. He chose bio-cybernetics because this field researches life systems and the laws that dictate their existence.
"I had hoped," he explains, "that through this study, I would understand how the inanimate evolves to vegetative and then to animate. Yet the question that troubled me most was, "What are we living for?" It is a question that arises in each of us, but dissolves in the course of our routine race of life.
"When I completed my academic studies, I worked at The Leningrad Institute of Hematology in Russia. Even while conducting research as a student, I was fascinated with the wondrous way in which a living cell sustains life. I was awestruck by the harmonious incorporation of each cell in the body. The research centered around cell structures and their various functions in the body, but I could not find an answer to the question about why the entire body exists.
"I assumed that much like a cell in a body, the body, too, is part of a greater system in which it functions as a part of a whole. Yet, my attempts to research that question in the scientific framework were met with recurring rejections. I was told that science does not deal with these questions.
"Disillusioned, I had resolved to leave Russia as quickly as possible, hoping to continue in Israel the research that had so captured my heart. In 1974, after four years of being a 'refusenik' (a person who is denied an exit permit from the Soviet Union by the government), I received the longed-for exit permit and arrived in Israel. Alas, here, too, I was only offered to conduct studies and research on the limited single-cell level.
"I realized I had to search for a place where I could study the general systems of reality. I turned to philosophy, but before long realized that the answer was not to be found there. I then tried to find answers in religion, but had found nothing but a mechanical performance of The Commandments. There was no deeper understanding there.
"Only after many years of searching did I finally find my teacher, Rabbi Baruch Ashlag. I was with him for twelve years, from 1979 to 1991. To me, he was the Last of the Mohicans, the last Kabbalist in the chain of great Kabbalists that extended through the generations. I was his personal assistant and his disciple. I did not leave his side all through that period, and I wrote and published my first three books with his support in 1983.
"After my teacher passed away, I began to develop and publish the knowledge I had received from him. I considered it a direct continuation of his work. In 1991, I founded Bnei Baruch, a group of Kabbalists who study and practice the method of Baal HaSulam and his son, Rabbi Baruch Ashlag."
Since then, Bnei Baruch has become an international organization comprising many thousands of students. Its members research, study and disseminate Kabbalah.
Bnei Baruch maintains the largest Internet site on Kabbalah, offering a wealth of information in twenty-two languages, and the most extensive media and text archive of lessons, books, and films on the Internet. All the material is offered free through the site (www.kabbalah.info). Bnei Baruch recently established the Ari Films production company, producing documentaries and educational films aired on cable television networks in Israel, North America, and Europe.
Additionally, Bnei Baruch established the Ashlag Research Institute (ARI), named after Baruch Ashlag, which serves as a center for public discussions on Kabbalah. The educational and academic goals of the ARI derive from a deep commitment to bring the teachings of Baal HaSulam to the center stage of public discussion.
When Rav. Laitman saw the film, What the Bleep Do We Know?, he said: "I was overjoyed by the sensation that the scientists appearing in it were asking the same questions I once did. I thought that perhaps they would take interest in the wisdom Kabbalah offers."
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