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Readings in this area should be undertaken with extreme caution. There is entirely too much literature out there under the name "Kabbalah" that has little or nothing to do
with the true Jewish teachings on this subject.
Any book on the subject of practical Kabbalah should be disregarded immediately;
no legitimate source would ever make such teachings available to a faceless mass audience. Books written by Christians should be viewed with extreme skepticism,
because many Christian sources have reinterpreted Kabbalah
to fit into Christian dogma.
Of course, if you are serious about Kabbalah, you must get yourself a teacher that you can work with one-on-one, either online or in person.
Kabbalah (Hebrew: קַבָּלָה, literally "reception, tradition" or "correspondance" is an esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought of Judaism A traditional Kabbalist in Judaism is called a Mequbbāl. The definition of Kabbalah varies according to the tradition and aims of those following it,[ from its religious origin as an integral part of Judaism, to its later adaptations in Western esotericism (Christian Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah). Jewish Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between God, the unchanging, eternal, and mysterious Ein Sof (אֵין סוֹף, "The Infinite"), and the mortal and finite universe (God's creation). It forms the foundation of mystical religious interpretations within Judaism.
Jewish Kabbalists originally developed their own transmission of sacred texts within the realm of Jewish tradition,nd often use classical Jewish scriptures to explain and demonstrate its mystical teachings. These teachings are held by followers in Judaism to define the inner meaning of both the Hebrew Bible and traditional rabbinic literature and their formerly concealed transmitted dimension, as well as to explain the significance of Jewish religious observances. One of the fundamental kabbalistic texts, the Zohar, was first published in the 13th century, and the almost universal form adhered to in modern Judaism is Lurianic Kabbalah.
Traditional practitioners believe its earliest origins pre-date world religions, forming the primordial blueprint for Creation's philosophies, religions, sciences, arts, and political systems. Historically, Kabbalah emerged, after earlier forms of Jewish mysticism, in 12th- to 13th-century Southern France and Spain,and was reinterpreted during the Jewish mystical renaissance of 16th-century Ottoman Palestine. Isaac Luria is considered the father of contemporary Kabbalah; Lurianic Kabbalah was popularised in the form of Hasidic Judaism from the 18th-century onwards.During the 20th-century, academic interest in Kabbalistic texts led primarily by the Jewish historian Gershom has inspired the development of historical research on Kabbalah in the field of Judaic studies.
CABALA (Kabbala(h) or Qabala(h)
Wikipedia (This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the title Cabala.)
Cabala (alternately Kabbala(h) or Qabala(h)) may refer to one of several systems of mysticism:
Other traditions with some similarities to Kabbalistic doctrine or methods
Qabala, a city in Azerbaijan
Cabala may also be a variant spelling of:
This page lists the main trends and events in Jewish mysticism. Further explanation is given at Kabbalah#History of Jewish mysticism in the context of traditional vs. academic views on the antiquity of Kabbalah
Academic study of Jewish mysticism, especially since Gershom Scholem's Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1941), distinguishes between different forms of mysticism across different eras of Jewish history. Of these, Kabbalah, which emerged in 12th-century Europe, is the most well known, but not the only typologic form, or the earliest to emerge. Among previous forms were Merkabah mysticism (c. 100 BC – 1000 AD), and Ashkenazi Hasidim (early 13th century AD) around the time of Kabbalistic emergence.e Zohar, the main text of Kabbalah. Traditional Kabbalists regard it as originating in Tannaic times, redacting the Oral Torah, so do not make a sharp distinction between Kabbalah and early Rabbinic Jewish mysticism. Academic scholars regard it as a synthesis from Medieval times, but assimilating and incorporating into itself earlier forms of Jewish mystical tradition, as well as other philosophical elements.
The theosophical aspect of Kabbalah itself developed through two historical forms: "Medieval/Classic/Zoharic Kabbalah" (c.1175 – 1492 – 1570), and Lurianic Kabbalah (1569 AD – today) which assimilated Medieval Kabbalah into its wider system and became the basis for modern Jewish Kabbalah. After Luria, two new mystical forms popularised Kabbalah in Judaism: antinomian-heretical Sabbatean movements (1666 – 18th century AD), and Hasidic Judaism (1734 AD – today). In contemporary Judaism, the only main forms of Jewish mysticism followed are esoteric Lurianic Kabbalah and its later commentaries, the variety of schools in Hasidic Judaism, and Neo-Hasidism (incorporating Neo-Kabbalah) in non-Orthodox Jewish denominations.
Two non-Jewish syncretic traditions also popularised Judaic Kabbalah through its incorporation as part of general Western esoteric culture from the Renaissance onwards: theological Christian Cabala (c. 15th – 18th century) which adapted Judaic Kabbalistic doctrine to Christian belief, and its diverging occultist offshoot Hermetic Qabalah (c. 15th century – today) which became a main element in esoteric and magical societies and teachings. As separate traditions of development outside Judaism, drawing from, syncretically adapting, and different in nature and aims from Judaic mysticism, they are not listed on this page.
In an excerpt from his new book, A Brief Guide to Judaism,
Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer takes a tour through the mystical tradition.
The origins of Kabbalah are ancient.
According to Jewish tradition there are four levels of Torah knowledge. The first is called peshat, which means the plain or literal meaning of the text.
One must begin with the peshat before even beginning to contemplate moving beyond on to the next level. The second level is remez, which means hint.
This refers to interpretations of the Torah that are not stated explicitly but are rather only hinted at in the text. An example of this would be the verse in Genesis that describes Abraham sitting at the entrance of his tent when God appears to talk to him.
Oddly, Abraham is sitting while the Almighty is standing. The remez is that this hints at the future, indicating that when a Jewish court decides halachah, they are in God’s presence and yet they must be seated while the Almighty stands above them.
The third level of Torah knowledge is drash; which can be roughly translated as homiletics. An example of drash is the story of Abraham discovering God at the age of three and having his faith tested by being thrown into a fiery furnace by King Nimrod.
Nowhere is this story found in the text of the Bible, yet, as drash, it is an integral part of the Torah. Drash can be tricky.
There is an entire literature of drash called Midrash which contains many fantastical tales relating to the Bible.
The story of Abraham mentioned above is one, the story of Moses fleeing Egypt and becoming an African king years before he encountered God at the burning bush, is another. The tricky element is that the tales seem so simple and straightforward, but in truth they are not.
Only an expert trained in the study of Midrash is able to understand their deeper meaning; and there is always a deeper meaning.
Midrash is a form of allegory, and according to Maimonides only a fool would confuse the tale with the message. The forth and highest level of Torah knowledge is sod, meaning “secret”.
Sod is the esoteric dimension of Torah that deals with matters of a higher world. It is concerned with the deepest questions regarding the Creator, the universe and the soul of man. It is this section of the Torah that is also known as Kabbalah, meaning “received tradition”.
Unlike the other dimensions of Torah, Kabbalah was never taught publicly. One had to be sufficiently well versed in all other aspects of the Torah before embarking on Kabbalah.
Even then, it was a very private affair passed on from master to disciple, who would in turn receive this ancient and secret tradition. The four dimensions peshat, remez, drash and sod give rise to the acronym PaRDeS which in Hebrew means an orchard.
The orchard of the Torah is one unity, and just as both the written and oral Torah were given at Sinai, so too was the PaRDeS. There is a story in the Talmud that serves as a warning to the uninitiated against entering the deepest levels of the PaRDeS.
The Talmud recounts how four scholars, Rabbi Akiva, Ben Zoma, Ben Azzai and Elisha ben Avuya entered the PaRDeS, meaning that together they delved into the most hidden secrets of the Torah. As a result, Ben Azzai lost his life, Ben Zoma lost his mind and Elisha ben Avuya lost his faith. Of the four scholars, only Rabbi Akiva emerged unscathed.
This cautionary tale is the backdrop against which the Talmud warns the masters of sod to exercise extreme caution before initiating prospective pupils.
The Zohar (the Book of Splendor) is the seminal text of Kabbalah. It is traditionally ascribed to the second-century Talmudic master Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, although modern scholars date it to Moses de Leon of thirteenth-century Spain.
While Kabbalah was taught and studied especially in the thirteenth century, it had a particular resurgence in the sixteenth century, at the time of Yosef Caro.
During this period, in the aftermath of the Spanish expulsion of the Jews, many leading Kabbalists were attracted to the city of Safed in northern Israel, gradually turning it into the leading centre for the study of Kabbalah.
KABBALAH AND JEWISH MYSTICISM
Judaism has ancient mystical teachings
Mysticism was taught only to those who had already learned Torah and Talmud
Jewish mysticism is known as kabbalah, and part of it was written in the Zohar
Kabbalah and its teachings have been distorted by mystics and occultists
One well-known teaching is the Ein Sof and the Ten Sefirot
When non-Jews ask about Judaism, they commonly ask questions like: Do you believe in heaven and hell? In angels or the devil? What happens to the soul after death? What is the nature of G-d and the universe? The answers to questions like these define most religions; in fact, I have heard some people say that the purpose of religion is to answer these kinds of questions. Yet in Judaism, most of these cosmological issues are wide open to personal opinion. The areas of Jewish thought that most extensively discuss these issues, Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism, were traditionally not even taught to people until the age of 40, when they had completed their education in Torah and Talmud.
MYSTICISM IN JUDAISM
Mysticism and mystical experiences have been a part of Judaism since the earliest days. The Torah contains many stories of mystical experiences, from visitations by angels to prophetic dreams and visions. The Talmud considers the existence of the soul and when it becomes attached to the body. Jewish tradition tells that the souls of all Jews were in existence at the time of the Giving of the Torah and were present at the time and agreed to the Covenant. There are many stories of places similar to Christian heaven and purgatory, of wandering souls and reincarnation. The Talmud contains vague hints of a mystical school of thought that was taught only to the most advanced students and was not committed to writing. There are several references in ancient sources to ma'aseh bereishit (the work of creation) and ma'aseh merkavah (the work of the chariot [of Ezekiel's vision]), the two primary subjects of mystical thought at the time.
In the middle ages, many of these mystical teachings were committed to writing in books like the Zohar. Many of these writings were asserted to be secret ancient writings or compilations of secret ancient writings.
Like most subjects of Jewish belief, the area of mysticism is wide open to personal interpretation. Some traditional Jews take mysticism very seriously. Mysticism is an integral part of Chasidic Judaism, for example, and passages from kabbalistic sources are routinely included in traditional prayer books. Other traditional Jews take mysticism with a grain of salt. One prominent Orthodox Jew, when introducing a speaker on the subject of Jewish mysticism, said basically, "it's nonsense, but it's Jewish nonsense, and the study of anything Jewish, even nonsense, is worthwhile."
The mystical school of thought came to be known as Kabbalah, from the Hebrew root Qof-Beit-Lamed, meaning "to receive, to accept." The word is usually translated as "tradition." In Hebrew, the word does not have any of the dark, sinister, evil connotations that it has developed in English. For example, the English word "cabal" (a secret group of conspirators) is derived from the Hebrew word Kabbalah, but neither the Hebrew word nor the mystical doctrines have any evil implications to Jews.
KABBALAH: THE MISUNDERSTOOD DOCTRINE
Kabbalah is one of the most grossly misunderstood parts of Judaism. I have received several messages from non-Jews describing Kabbalah as "the dark side of Judaism," describing it as evil or black magic. On the other end of the spectrum, I receive many messages wanting to learn more about the trendy doctrine popularized by various Jewish and non-Jewish celebrities.
These misunderstandings stem largely from the fact that the teachings of Kabbalah have been so badly distorted by mystics and occultists. Kabbalah was popular among Christian intellectuals during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, who reinterpreted its doctrines to fit into their Christian dogma. In more recent times, many have wrenched kabbalistic symbolism out of context for use in tarot card readings and other forms of divination and magic that were never a part of the original Jewish teachings. Today, many well-known celebrities have popularized a new age pop-psychology distortion of kabbalah (I have heard it derisively referred to as "crap-balah"). It borrows the language of kabbalah and the forms of Jewish folk superstitions, but at its heart it has more in common with the writings of Deepak Chopra than with any authentic Jewish source.
I do not mean to suggest that magic is not a part of Kabbalah. There are certainly many traditional Jewish stories that involve the use of hidden knowledge to affect the world in ways that could be described as magic. The Talmud and other sources ascribe supernatural activities to many great rabbis. Some rabbis pronounced a name of G-d and ascended into heaven to consult with the G-d and the angels on issues of great public concern. One scholar is said to have created an artificial man by reciting various names of G-d. Much later stories tell of a rabbi who created a man out of clay (a golem) and brought it to life by putting in its mouth a piece of paper with a name of G-d on it. However, this area of Kabbalah (if indeed it is more than mere legend) is not something that is practiced by the average Jew, or even the average rabbi. There are a number of stories that discourage the pursuit of such knowledge and power as dangerous and irresponsible. If you see any books on the subject of "practical kabbalah," you can safely dismiss them as not authentic Jewish tradition because, as these stories demonstrate, this kind of knowledge was traditionally thought to be far too dangerous to be distributed blindly to the masses.
It is important to note that all of these magical effects were achieved through the power of G-d, generally by calling upon the name of G-d. These practices are no more "evil" than the miracles of the prophets, or the miracles that Christians ascribe to Jesus. In fact, according to some of my mystically-inclined friends, Jesus performed his miracles using kabbalistic techniques learned from the Essenes, a Jewish sect of that time that was involved in mysticism.
EIN SOF AND THE TEN SEFIROT
To give you an idea of the nature of Kabbalah, I will briefly discuss one of the better known, fundamental concepts of kabbalistic thought: the concept of G-d as Ein Sof, the Ten Sefirot, and the kabbalistic tree of life. This explanation is, at best, a gross oversimplification. I do not pretend to fully understand these ideas.
According to Kabbalah, the true essence of G-d is so transcendent that it cannot be described, except with reference to what it is not. This true essence of G-d is known as Ein Sof, which literally means "without end," which encompasses the idea of His lack of boundaries in both time and space. In this truest form, the Ein Sof is so transcendent that It cannot have any direct interaction with the universe. The Ein Sof interacts with the universe through ten emanations from this essence, known as the Ten Sefirot.
Tree of Life (Large)These Sefirot correspond to qualities of G-d. They consist of, in descending order, Keter (the crown), Chokhmah (wisdom), Binah (intuition, understanding), Chesed (mercy) or Gedulah (greatness), Gevurah (strength), Tiferet (glory), Netzach (victory), Hod (majesty), Yesod (foundation) and Malkut (sovereignty). The middle five qualities are mentioned explicitly and in order at I Chronicles 29:11: Yours, O L-rd, is the greatness (gedulah), the strength (gevurah), the glory (tiferet), the power (netzach), and the splendor (hod). I have seen this passage translated in widely varying ways, but the Hebrew corresponds to the names of the Sefirot in order.
The Ten Sefirot include both masculine and feminine qualities. Kabbalah pays a great deal of attention to the feminine aspects of G-d.
The Sefirot are commonly represented as in the diagram at left. This diagram is commonly known as the Tree of the Sefirot or the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. There is great significance to the position of these various attributes and their interconnectedness.
The Sefirot are not separate deities, as some might think by taking this too literally. They are intimately a part of G-d, and yet they are in contact with the universe in a way that the Ein Sof is not. The Sefirot connect with everything in the universe, including humanity. The good and evil that we do resonates through the Sefirot and affects the entire universe, up to and including G-d Himself.
Readings in this area should be undertaken with extreme caution. There is entirely too much literature out there under the name "Kabbalah" that has little or nothing to do with the true Jewish teachings on this subject. Any book on the subject of practical Kabbalah should be disregarded immediately; no legitimate source would ever make such teachings available to a faceless mass audience. Books written by Christians should be viewed with extreme skepticism, because many Christian sources have reinterpreted Kabbalah to fit into Christian dogma.
There is a nice online introductory Kabbalah course available from Aish.com at Kabbalah 101.
For an academic and scholarly information about Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, check out the works of Professor Gershom Scholem. He was a prolific writer on the subject, and his writings are widely available and well-respected by both Jews and non-Jews.
For a more personal and experiential approach to Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, see the works of Aryeh Kaplan. I am informed that his books are reliably authoritative and uncompromisingly Orthodox. I have found his materials on meditation and prayer, especially Jewish Meditation, to be particularly useful in my own devotional practices.
Of course, if you are serious about Kabbalah, you must get yourself a teacher that you can work with one-on-one, either online or in person. cdvsdffsfsdfdgfgfdgdfgdgd
WHAT IS KABBALAH?
Kabbalah is the Hebrew word for "receiving," and
is the mystical branch of Jewish wisdom.
Kabbalah consists of teachings which are meant to help finite mortals to understand their relationship to their Creator, whose nature
is believed to be infinite, eternal, and unfathomable.
Kabbalists believe that understanding existence and the relationships between things which exist is the path to spiritual attainment.
Kabbalah attempts to address this paradox between the finite and infinite natures of man and God by furthering the individual's understanding of the nature of the world and of human beings, as well as the meaning of our existence and our own nature. Scholars of Kabbalah are in essence, concerned with ontology: the study of existence and things which exist. The discipline also offers methods by which one can gain understanding of such concepts.
Classic Kabbalah is rooted in Jewish thought and references classic Jewish sources to explain, prove, and illustrate concepts. Traditional Jewish kabbalists believe that the mystic teachings, in turn, help to define the deeper meaning of biblical texts, rabbinic writings, and the meaning of the various Jewish religious observances.
The Zohar is considered to be the main kabbalistic work and this book is studied on four different levels. The levels are labeled with the Hebrew acronym "PaRDeS" which means: "orchard." The four levels include:
*Pshat (plain meaning or lit. "simple")-the literal meaning of the text
*Remez (lit. the "hint")-This is the allegorical meaning to which the text alludes
*Drash (derivative of the Hebrew word "darash"—to seek or inquire)-Comparative meaning as found through rabbinic teachings (midrashic literature, the midrash)
*Sod (lit. "secret")-this is the hidden or inner meaning of the words and is the foundation of kabbalistic study
Observant Jews faithful to the strictest form of Judaism believe the Kabbalah to be part and parcel of the study of the Torah, or divine Jewish doctrine. However, classic Torah study deems Kabbalah as the final discipline learned upon the mastery of all the other Torah works. It is rare to achieve this level of mastery, and most traditional Jews never reach this point in their studies. To be overeager to reach this level is considered outré by many Jews. The exception to this rule is the Chassidim, who believe that in the current world, mysticism is meant to be studied early in order to imbue scholars with a sense of the Torah's deeper meanings and to give joy to everyday life, which serves to aid in the preservation of faith in a harsh and difficult modern environment.
ORIGINS OF JEWISH MYSTICISM
There are two different versions relating to the origins of the term: "Kabbalah." Some authorities believe the term originated with Solomon ibn Gabirol (1021-1058), while others subscribe to the theory that it was the 13th century CE Spanish kabbalist, Bahya ben Asher, who coined the moniker. Until the term came into common usage, many other terms were employed to describe this field of Jewish mysticism.
Kabbalistic literature is divided between early works produced in the 1st or 2nd century CE and later works which date back to the 13th century CE. The major kabbalistic work hails from the latter era and is known as the Zohar (lit. Illumination). This work is the basis for the type of Kabbalah known as Kabbalah Iyunit, or Contemplative Kabbalah.
Tradition has it that Kabbalah knowledge was handed down to the Jewish patriarchs, prophets, and sages by word of mouth with the intention that this knowledge become an integral part of the school of divine Jewish thought and literature. Today, most traditional kabbalistic study focuses on the study of the Zohar and the works of the renowned kabbalist, Isaac Luria, known by his Hebrew acronym, the Arizal, as transmitted through the work of the scribe, editor and rabbi, Chaim Vital. The Arizal's work includes commentaries on earlier kabbalistic works.
The codification of the Arizal's work by Chaim Vital involved many revisions, resulting in several versions of the same works. When Vital took ill in Safed in 1587 CE, his brother, Moshe, permitted Chaim's dear friend, the biblical namesake Joshua Ben Nun to borrow some 600 pages of manuscript on short-term loan. Ben Nun was an enterprising fellow who hired 100 scribes to copy the manuscripts, and the goal was accomplished within 3 days time. The text resulting from Ben Nun's venture was filled with errors, but was accorded the honor of being circulated among the leading kabbalists of the time. The original text, along with the rest of his work, was buried with Chaim Vital upon his death.
DREAM AND EXHUMATION
After the death of Chaim Vital in 1620, his son Shmuel Vital, dreamed that he was meant to remove certain writings from the grave of his father, while leaving other works buried. The dream and subsequent exhumation of his father's grave occurred in the year 1650. Shmuel Vital recovered the same work that had been transcribed by Ben Nun's scribes and set to work on his own redaction. His version of his father's work was divided into eight sections and is known as the Shmoneh She'arim (lit. Eight Gates). The work was first circulated in manuscript form in the year 1660 CE. Between the years 1863-1898, the book was published in Jerusalem in the form of seven volumes. This version, known as the mehadura kamma, is considered to be the one that is true to Chaim Vital's visionary codification of the Arizal's commentary on the Zohar.
Ancient History Encyclopedia, Benjamin Kerstein, 27 September 2018
The term Kabbalah refers specifically to the form of Jewish mysticism that became widespread in the Middle Ages. However, in recent decades it has essentially become a generic term for the entirety of Jewish mystical thought. Literally meaning "that which is received," the Kabbalah comprises a series of esoteric traditions dating back to biblical times and is still very much alive today. It deals with subjects such as the creation of the world, the nature of God, the ecstatic mystical experience, the coming messianic era, and the nature of the afterlife. Ultimately, the Kabbalah represents the Jewish form of what all mystical traditions strive for; a direct and intimate knowledge of the divine on a level beyond that of the intellect.
Though essentially an esoteric tradition, Kabbalah was popular and widely practiced until the dawn of the modern era, though there were restrictions placed on the age and relative piety of initiates. It comprised ancient Talmudic explorations of biblical subjects, tales of ecstatic descents to the throne of God, vast myths of the creation of the world, intense messianic fervor, and forms of pietistic ritual and practice that gave birth to movements that still influence Judaism today.
In the wake of the haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment, the Kabbalah came to be regarded by many Jews as at best an embarrassing relic of a more credulous time, and it fell into great disrepute among the newly secular Jews of Europe. Recently, however, the Kabbalah has experienced an enormous revival, with widespread secular and religious interest in it, and some schools reaching out to non-Jews in an unprecedented way.
THE KABBALAH REPRESENTS THE JEWISH FORM OF WHAT ALL MYSTICAL TRADITIONS STRIVE FOR; A DIRECT & INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE DIVINE ON A LEVEL BEYOND THAT OF THE INTELLECT.
There is no systematic form of mysticism mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, though forms of magic and divination abound. For example, Moses performs magical feats such as turning a staff into a snake, figures such as Jacob have visions of the divine, and King David dances in an ecstatic trance as he enters Jerusalem. Indeed, the entire tradition of prophecy, which entails the channeling of divine speech, could be viewed as a mystical exercise.
he most important mystical subject in the Bible is Ezekiel's vision of God's throne-chariot. Its surreal, cryptic, and in some ways dangerously anthropomorphic imagery led to passionate exposition and exegesis that eventually gave birth to one of the two main subjects of the early Jewish mystical tradition; the maaseh ha'merkabah or "work of the Chariot." The other primary subject of early mystical speculation is also contained in the Bible: the creation of the world itself, the mysteries of which came to be called maaseh bereshit or "work of the beginning."
TALMUDIC & MERKABAH MYSTICISM
The first form of recognizably systematic Jewish mysticism likely emerged in the Second Temple period and appears to have taken on its complete form by the Talmudic era. It is based on Ezekiel's vision, which had already become the subject of intense mystical speculation. The Talmud itself speaks of certain rabbis expounding the 'secrets' of God's chariot, though the secrets themselves are not revealed. These passages also hint at strong prohibitions on revealing such secrets in public or writing them down. It appears that they could only be transmitted orally to small numbers of students already knowledgeable in Jewish law and theology.
These restrictions are obliquely explained in the famous story of the four who entered the garden, a tale of four rabbis who behold a divine vision: one died, one went mad, one became a heretic, and one emerged 'in peace'. This was interpreted as a parable of the dangers of mystical visions of the angels and God's divine court.
While it is not clear if these tales reference a specific mystical tradition, it seems likely that they do as what has been called "merkabah mysticism" by modern scholars emerged around this time. This form of mysticism involves the descent through ecstatic meditation into the seven halls of the divine palace, ending in visions of God's court and his throne-chariot. Prominent rabbis were referred to as practicing this form of mysticism, and a prodigious literature regarding these journeys was collected.
The first work of literature that can be accurately described as proto-Kabbalistic in the formal sense is the Sefer Yetzirah or "Book of Creation." The time of its writing remains controversial, though it is likely post-Talmudic and unquestionably existed by the 10th century CE. Unlike its predecessors, the Sefer Yetzirah does not deal with the divine chariot, but rather the creation of the world. The extremely short and often highly cryptic text describes the creation as taking place through God's incantation of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet with the collaboration of ten sefirot (sephiroth) or "numbers," which are given vaguely anthropomorphic form.
As such, the Sefer Yetzirah marks the beginning of the Kabbalah as it is known today. Though it was eventually superseded by medieval works of much greater sophistication and length, the Sefer Yetzirah led to extensive mystical and philosophical speculation and appears to mark the first widespread and generally accepted form of systematic mysticism in the Jewish world.
The Sefer Yetzirah was succeeded by the lesser-known but still essential Sefer HaBahir or "Book of Brightness." Also short and even more cryptic than its predecessor, the Bahir nonetheless expanded the concept of the sefirot by conceiving of them as vessels for divine energy that reflected specific aspects of the Godhead as manifested in the "lower" worlds. The combination of the two books would lead to the creation of the canonical Kabbalistic text the Sefer HaZohar.
The monumental Sefer HaZohar or "Book of Radiance" is the single most important text of the Kabbalah. The origins of the Zohar were initially unclear and aroused considerable controversy at the time. It emerged in the 1200s CE and was attributed to the ancient rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai, though modern scholars largely agree that it was primarily written by Moshe de Leon, a Spanish mystic, and/or a group of similar-minded mystics whose speculations were eventually collected and published by de Leon.
A massive work of well over 1,000 pages in printed editions, the Zohar is written in a pseudo-Aramaic dialect and proposes a far-reaching, epic cosmology that set the standard for Jewish mysticism in the ensuing centuries. Among its key concepts is that of the Tree of Life: the configuration of ten sefirot, which are conceived of as spheres or entities composing the various attributes of God. These sefirot are separate from the infinite unknowable essence of God, called the ain sof or literally "without end." They are identified with specific divine characteristics such as bina ("wisdom" or "understanding"), hesed ("mercy"), and gevurah ("strength"). At the same time, they represent parts of the divine body, such as hands and feet.
Most strikingly, the Zohar's cosmology contains an explicitly erotic element, with the sefirot of yesod ("foundation") and malchut ("kingship") representing the penis and vagina respectively, making God an intersex being who engages in a form of creative auto-eroticism, a concept that remains essential to later forms of Kabbalah. Equally important for later forms of Jewish mysticism was the idea that what transpires in the material world directly influences the divine world and vice versa: "The impulse from below calls forth that from above" (Zohar I, 164a). This gives humanity a highly active role in the work of the divine, influencing the world of the sefirot through study, religious ritual, prayer, and mystical practices.
Although not as emphasized as it would be in later Kabbalah, the Zohar also contains nascent messianic elements, with the idea that there exists a flaw in the divine architecture as a result of human sin and the ongoing exile of the shekhina and the people of Israel, which can be repaired through the messianic tikkun ("repair"). This tikkun can be aided by fulfilling the Jewish commandments, engaging in good works, and studying the Torah. Such messianic concepts would be seized upon by de Leon's successors to the point that they became central to Jewish mysticism over the next several centuries.
The Zohar quickly spread throughout the Jewish world and revolutionized the thought and practice of Kabbalah. Several attempts were made to form a coherent, systematized mystical tradition from its often obscure teachings, but by far the most successful was that of the 16th-century CE rabbi Isaac Luria, also referred to as the Ari ("the lion").
Luria, of mixed Ashkenazi and Sephardi heritage, thus uniting the two most important schools of Judaism and their mystical traditions, made his mark in a circle of Kabbalists based in the town of Safed in the eastern Galilee. Luria based his mystical system on the Zohar but included original teachings he claimed to have received directly through spiritual discourse with the souls of long-dead mystics buried in the area. He left almost no writings of his own, but his teachings were written down by several of his students, most notably Haim Vital, who published the most influential version of them.
LURIA BASED HIS MYSTICAL SYSTEM ON THE ZOHAR BUT INCLUDED ORIGINAL TEACHINGS HE CLAIMED TO HAVE RECEIVED DIRECTLY THROUGH SPIRITUAL DISCOURSE WITH THE SOULS OF LONG-DEAD MYSTICS.
Vastly simplified, Luria's Kabbalah proposed that at the moment of creation, the infinite God of the ain sof contracted himself in order to create the space in which the world would be created. This was referred to as tzimtzum ("contraction" or "reduction"). Flowing into this space were the vessels of the sefirot and a beam of divine light. Unable to contain this divine energy, the vessels shattered, creating the klippot or "shards" that make up our corrupted material world. Remaining in this material realm, however, were "sparks" of the original divine light. This dark vision of the world's creation was then linked to the concept of galut ("exile"). Luria posited that not only was the Jewish people living in exile, but also God's indwelling in the shekhina and, to an extent, God himself and all his creation.
It is at this point that Luria's Kabbalah takes on a profoundly messianic quality. Using the Zohar's concepts of tikkun and the raising of the divine "sparks" through mystical and religious study and ritual, Luria proposed the emergence of a messianic era in which the messiah's soul would reach the fulfillment of its travels through the many cycles of reincarnated existence, called the gilgul ("cycle"). The incarnated messiah would then raise up the final sparks, thus completing the repair of the shattered material world, which will be dissolved into the spiritual world, repairing not only creation but also God himself. Luria's Kabbalah proved even more successful than that of the Zohar, capturing the deep longing for redemption across the Jewish world. Its intense messianism, however, profoundly disturbed traditional Judaism, which had long sought to tamp down rather than encourage messianic emotions.
The messianic fervor aroused by the popularity of the Zohar and Lurianic Kabbalah eventually coalesced around the figure of a Turkish mystic named Sabbatai Zevi (Shabtai Tzvi). Wildly charismatic and possibly mentally ill, Zevi became the most successful false messiah since ancient times. Born in 1626 CE in Izmir, Zevi became well-known in local Jewish circles for his charisma and Kabbalistic knowledge, but also for unbalanced and sometimes openly offensive behavior. It appears that Zevi was often seized by heights of ecstatic emotion, at certain points declaring himself the messiah. After these attacks, he would collapse into dark and introspective moods in which he would profoundly regret his previous public actions. He was eventually expelled from the local Jewish community for his behavior.
In 1663 CE Zevi traveled to the land of Israel, where a young and gifted thinker named Nathan of Gaza proclaimed him the promised messiah. Already prepared for such a figure by Lurianic mysticism, much of the Jewish world enthusiastically embraced the new object of their hopes and pledged their fealty to the new messiah. Eventually, Zevi was arrested and imprisoned by the Ottoman authorities, and the Turkish Sultan presented him with an ultimatum: death or conversion to Islam. Zevi chose the latter, shattering his followers' faith in him. Though most of the Jewish world reacted with shock and crushing disappointment to the supposed messiah's apostasy, small groups of adherents continued to follow him.
Nathan of Gaza remained loyal and developed a theology in which the messianic soul - i.e. Sabbatai Zevi - had to descend to the lowest level of the Lurianic klippot in order to raise the final divine sparks and bring about the tikkun, thus explaining Zevi's apostasy. This doctrine has come to be called ha'mitzvah sh'baah b'averah (lit. "the commandment that comes in its transgression") or what leading scholar of the Kabbalah Gershom Scholem called "redemption through sin." Some Sabbateans followed Zevi by converting to Islam while practicing his doctrines in secret. One such sect, the Donmeh, still exists today.
In the wake of Sabbatai Zevi's apostasy, the messianic idea was once again suppressed, though Lurianic Kabbalah itself remained popular. Its final incarnation as a mass movement and one that proved far more successful than its predecessors, Hasidism or Hasidic Judaism was ostensibly founded by an 18th-century CE itinerant mystic and faith-healer who came to be called the Baal Shem Tov ("owner of the good name"). Somewhat in the fashion of a Zen monk, he traveled the large Jewish communities of Eastern Europe preaching a pietistic and populist doctrine that emphasized an immediate emotional experience of God as opposed to what he saw as the dry legalism of the traditionalist establishment. He emphasized the ecstatic joy of celebration and the ideal of devekut ("cleaving to"), i.e. the conscious emotional channeling of prayer and ritual into a direct mystical connection with God. Rather than solemnity, Hasidism emphasized joy and emotion as well as the ability of every Jew to achieve the highest level of spiritual enlightenment and ecstasy, rejecting the idea of a rabbinical or mystical elite.
HASIDISM EMPHASIZED JOY & EMOTION & THE ABILITY OF EVERY JEW TO ACHIEVE SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT & ECSTASY, REJECTING THE IDEA OF A RABBINICAL OR MYSTICAL ELITE.
The Baal Shem Tov began to gain large numbers of followers, who organized themselves into schools or rabbinical courts based in specific Jewish communities. The most prominent of them came to be referred to as tzaddikim ("righteous ones"). While the tzaddik was similar to the traditional role of the rabbi in the sense that he was a teacher and leader of the community, he also took on a new aspect as the direct conduit of the divine to his followers. Though none of the tzaddikim claimed to be messiahs themselves, the messianic aspects of the Zohar and Lurianic Kabbalah remained strong. In particular, Hasidism adopted the ideas of the klippot, the tikkun, and the divine "sparks" as essential to its theology. Through the ecstatic experience, adherence to the law, and the devekut of individual prayer, the Hasidim believed that the repair of the broken vessels and redemption of Israel and the world could be achieved.
Hasidism proved to be an enormously popular movement, though it aroused profound hostility among the more traditionally-minded, who came to be called mitnagdim ("opponents"). While its numbers were decimated in the Holocaust, Hasidism proved to have remarkable regenerative powers, and its centers in the United States and Israel have shown enormous growth in recent decades.
In the modern age, the Kabbalah has gone through successive cycles of popularity and widespread rejection. When the haskalah or Jewish Enlightenment emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries CE, the Kabbalah was derided as absurd and slightly embarrassing by the emerging secular and rationalist movements in the Jewish community. By the 20th century CE, however, the Kabbalah had come to be seen as an important religious, theological, and sociological phenomenon in Jewish history, and the academic study of it came into its own with the works of Gershom Scholem, Moshe Idel, and many others.
On a popular level, aspects of the Kabbalah remain widely practiced today by traditionally-minded Jews. This sometimes involves the use of magical amulets and the singing of Kabbalistic liturgy, most famously the mystical hymn "Lecha Dodi." Many Jews observe such practices while remaining largely ignorant of the mystical ideas behind them. While the messianic idea remains alive, it is far less widespread in the Jewish community.
Perhaps most remarkably, a movement has also emerged that for the first time teaches a form of Kabbalah to non-Jews. The Kabbalah Center has become famous due to members such as Madonna and preaches a syncretic combination of traditional Kabbalah and New Age thought that has proved surprisingly popular among those who have no other connection to Judaism whatsoever. Given today's fascination with various forms of mystical thought and the Kabbalah's remarkable historical malleability, it seems likely that it will continue to play an enormous if sometimes overlooked role in Jewish thought, practice, and spirituality for the foreseeable future.
This Article has been reviewed for accuracy, reliability and adherence to academic standards prior to publication.
MY INVISIBLE EMOTIONS
What Is Kabbalah?
The Yeshiva.net Rabbi YY Jacobson, Dedicated by David Eda Schottenstein
IN THE BEGINNING
A man comes to the psychiatrist, shouting that he is in dire need of help. The psychiatrist attempts to calm him down, but to no avail. The man is in a state of panic, screaming that it is an emergency and he must be helped immediately.
The psychiatrist informs him that if he continues hollering this way, he won't be able to help him. "Please sit down and tell me the whole story from the beginning." The patient finally gives in. He sits down, and starts talking silently: "In the beginning," he says, "I created heaven and earth."
THE BIRTH OF JEWISH MYSTICISM
This Thursday, May 10, known in Hebrew as Lag B'Omer, the thirty-third day of the omer, is the anniversary of the passing of one of the greatest sages and spiritual giants in Jewish history, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Rabbi Shimon, who lived in Israel under Roman occupation around 165 CE (approximately one hundred years after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E.), was an extraordinary scholar and author of the Zohar, the most basic Kabbalistic work. He was responsible for revealing to the world the wisdom of the Kabbalah, initiating a new era in the development and exposure of Jewish mysticism. The most significant revelation came about on the day of Rabbi Shimon's passing, on which he expounded for many hours on the most intimate secrets of the divine wisdom. That day was Lag BaOmer.
Centuries were to pass before the great Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) would proclaim, "In these times, we are allowed and duty-bound to reveal this wisdom," and Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760) and his disciples were to make them accessible to all via the teachings of Chassidism. But Lag BaOmer remains the day on which "Jewish mysticism" made its first emergence from the womb of secrecy and exclusivity.
Before his passing, Rabbi Shimon instructed his disciples to observe his yahrzeit (the day of his death) as a time of joy and festivity, since the day of a person's death marks the culminating point of all that he achieved in the course of his life on earth. Since then, Jews the world over, especially at his resting place in Meron, Israel, celebrate this day with singing, dancing, Torah study and an increase in acts of love and unity.
PLAYING WITH THE BOW
One particular custom practiced on the day of Lag B'Omer is unique: Children go to parks and fields to play with bows and arrows. What is the reason for this peculiar custom? One well-known explanation has to do with the fact that during Rabbi Shimon's lifetime, no rainbow ever appeared in the sky. This is profoundly significant, because Genesis relates that the rainbow represented G-d's covenant never to destroy the world again even if the human race would degenerate to its status prior to the Flood. But as long as Rabbi Shimon was alive, his merit and piety alone were enough to ensure that G-d would not regret His creation, with no need for the rainbow. On the day of Rabbi Shimon's passing, however, the world was in need of the rainbow. Thus, each year on that day we recall this man's greatness by playing with the bow.
This explanation, however, poses two problems. First, it seems far fetched to associate the archer's bow with the celestial rainbow, just because they both include the word 'bow' in English and share the same term in Hebrew (keshes). Second, according to this interpretation, playing with bows and arrows on the day of Lag B'Omer constitutes a negative symbol. It reflects the tragic ability of the human race to destroy G-d's world. But why would we institute a custom that might hamper the intense joy of the day as requested by Rabbi Shimon himself? Why the need to focus on such a special day on the power of mankind to sink to the lowest depths? On the day of Lag B'Omer we ought to focus on the life of Rabbi Shimon, not on his death! Especially that he himself requested it be a day of joy, not melancholy. It is therefore logical to assume that the bow and arrow game professes a profoundly positive symbol as well, one that fits in to the joyous nature of the day, celebrating the life and vision of Rabbi Shimon. Indeed, Rabbi Shimon's book, the Zohar, states: "Do not anticipate the coming of Moshiach (Messiah) until you see the shining colors of the rainbow." From the Zohar's perspective, the bow represents a deeply positive symbol.
TWO TYPES OF WEAPONS
To understand this, we must analyze the significance of a bow and arrow both from a literal and spiritual point of view. The first weapons devised by man were designed for hand-to-hand combat: the sword, the spear, the ax, and the like. But a person's enemy or prey is not always an arm's-length, or even within sight; soon the warrior and hunter were inventing an array of weapons capable of reaching targets that are a great distance away, or that lie invisible and protected behind barriers of every sort. Chief among these new weapons was the bow and arrow, invented early on in human history. The Bible, too, speaks of the bow as a weapon. Isaac and Jacob both discuss it with their sons. For many countries and cultures, the bow and arrow has served as the main projectile weapon for a very long time. In his work "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State", Frederick Engels comprehensively covered the subject of the bow, the conditions under which it was invented and the value of its invention. Engels wrote: "The bow was already a very complex weapon representing a long period of accumulated experience, refinement of mental power and the coordinated understanding of the relationship between a range of other inventions. Even at its simplest, the bow is rather complex in its overall constitution, combining as it does the bow itself, the string and the arrow shaft, which must interact mechanically in a complex fashion... The bow and arrow became the decisive weapon in an epoch of savagery. Their appearance heralded a high level of development, and through them, hunting for game became one of the normal branches of labor."
In the writings of Chassidism one dimension of the bow is emphasized. The man who invented this device had to grasp the paradox that the deadly arrow must first be pulled back toward one's own heart in order to strike the heart of the enemy; and that the more it is drawn toward oneself, the more distant a foe it can reach.
TWO TYPES OF ENEMIES
One of the fundamental ideas of Jewish mysticism is that every physical invention and phenomenon originates in the realm of the metaphysical. Consequently, the two types of weapons, the sword and the bow, designed for two different types of foes, exist also on a psychological and spiritual plane.
Every human being professes two types of foes both within his psyche and within his environment: exposed enemies and hidden ones. Exposed foes are the conscious patterns and behaviors in our lives that openly and overtly threaten our well-being: negative and promiscuous temptations, addictions, acts or words of immorality. When you realize that you are addicted, for example, to alcohol, weed or promiscuous intimacy, it is hard to deny that you are deteriorating. Your enemies, your demons, in this instance are open and naked. But a human being also possesses an entirely different array of skeletons. 150 years before Sigmund Freud, the founder of the Chabad school of Kabbalah spoke at length of the destructive forces within our lives that are often invisible and indiscernible (11). These are subconscious, primal emotions and instincts that may live under cover for decades, infecting our lives but never exposing their face. Self-deception, buried feelings of vengeance, hate, selfishness, anger, jealousy, arrogance, fear, shame, insecurity, self-hate, loneliness, and many other subliminal streaks, are often buried beneath myriads of strata of identity, but which nonetheless execute profound influence over our daily lives and relationships. At times, our inner destructive forces come disguised in masks of piety and holiness. Religion is but one example. People often employ religion as a tool to cover up for inner dysfunction or even evil. People often confuse themselves to be G-d. (“He is a self-made man and he worships his creator.”) People are sometimes pious externally, but deeply arrogant and unrefined internally.
A NEW WEAPON
The hidden forces of destruction are often more lethal than the exposed ones, because their invisibility allows for profound denial. To deal with them, one cannot use the regular old-fashioned weapons, which can only be effective on close and open enemies. To confront the invisible enemy, one must employ an entirely new and different style weapon: the bow and arrow.
The "secret" of the bow and arrow, as mentioned above, consists of the paradoxical truth that the more one draws the arrow toward oneself, the more distant and invisible a foe it can reach.
This is true on the psychological and spiritual plane as well. For a human being to conquer his inner disguised demons, his subliminal fears, his buried evil, he must have the courage to pull back and retreat to the core of his soul. Some problems in life can be solved by acquiring skills to deal with this or that impediment. Some trials, however, require not an outer change but an inner transformation; not a change of pace, but a change of heart. They necessitate the courage of going to places where you may have never gone, of trailblazing pathways that have never been charted. They demand of you to discover what you actually look like on the inside.
THE ESSENCE OF KABBALAH
Now we will understand the deeper meaning behind the playing with the bow on Lag B'Omer, the day that marks the birth of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism. The Torah, the body of Jewish wisdom developed over 3300 years, is generally comprised of two parts, reflecting the two streams of Judaic thought -- the rational and the mystical, the exoteric and the esoteric, Jewish law and Jewish mysticism, the "revealed" part of Torah and the "hidden" dimension of Torah. Though together these two layers make up the colorful and multi dimensional mosaic of Torah thought, each has its own unique function and role. The former can be compared to the "sword," the latter to the "bow."
The first stream of Torah, which discusses Jewish law and ethics, is like the close-range weapon that helps man in meeting the open challenges of life and the conscious demons in his heart. It teaches us to distinguish between good and evil, between the holy and the profane, between light and darkness, between the desirable and the disgraceful.
It focuses primarily on behavior, on our expressed life. The external body of Torah is our tool for meeting the obvious challenges of life. Do not kill or steal, it instructs us; feed the hungry, hallow your relationships with the sanctity of marriage, rest on Shabbat, eat only kosher foods—for thus you will fulfill your duty as a Jew to G-d and preserve the order that G-d instituted in His world.
But not everything is as up front as the explicit do's and don'ts of the Torah. Beyond them lie the ambiguities of intent and motive, the subtleties of love and awe, the interplay of ego and commitment. Who am I in my very essence? Beyond my daily schedule and duties—who am I in my deepest and truest place?
How about the subconscious ills of the spirit? What about the underlying and primal attitudes and perceptions that never allow me to transcend my bubble and touch the Divine? How about my carefully guarded ego? How about the evil that often lies buried beneath religious zealousness? And what about the deeper chaos at the core of the human consciousness? How about the profound void and sense of disintegration in the sub cellar of the human psyche? How about the existential loneliness and the deeply embedded demons beyond the conscious reach? This is where the "hidden" part of Torah plays its primary role. The teachings of Kabbalah and Chassidism have come to the world to tell the dramatic story of the interplay among the soul of man, the "soul" of G-d and the soul of history, entangled with one other in a courageous attempt to bring the world face to face with its Creator. This part of Torah focuses primarily on the nature of the soul of man and the soul of all existence. Just like the bow, the Kabbalah and the Chassidic teachings inspire the person to delve into the quintessence of his or her consciousness, to uncover the "fragment of G-d" that constitutes the core of human existence and allows him to encounter the true depth of life and stand up to the multitude of undisclosed demons that attempt to extinguish the light of G-d in his soul and his world. It teaches how the complex notes of the human psyche and the world can be transformed into a symphony of G-d.
That is why you need to learn both: People who only learn mysticism, are disconnected from the concrete, pragmatic and authentic expression of Torah. Conversely, the exclusive study of Jewish law may leave you with the lingering question, who are you for real? Are you serving G-d or serving yourself? Do you have a real relationship with G-d?
A COMPLICATED WORLD
There was a time in history when the revealed part of Torah sufficed. The Kabbalah remained concealed from most of the people and only a select few passed it on from generation to generation. But as the world became a much more complicated place and humans became much more complex, Divine providence sent the great mystical masters, chief among them Rabbi Shimon, to teach us how to open windows to the super-conscious forces of our soul; how to discover that deep place in the human soul where man and G-d are both strangers and brothers. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochei, the man most responsible for the dissemination of Kabbalah, taught the Jewish people and the world how to use the bow and arrow. (This essay is based on a talk delivered by the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Lag B'Omer, 5711, May 24, 1951).
KABBALAH AND MYSTICISM
Jewish mysticism has taken many forms.
My Jewish Learning
The Jewish mystical tradition is rich and diverse, and Jewish mysticism has taken many forms. Scholar Moshe Idel groups the different expressions of Jewish mysticism into two fundamental types: moderate and intensive.
The first forms of Jewish mysticism emerged in the early centuries of the first millennium. Merkavah mysticism was the most common early form. Merkavah mystics aimed at understanding and experiencing the vision of the divine throne discussed in the first chapter of the biblical book of Ezekiel. Another form of early mysticism focused on exploring the mysterious methods that God used to create the world. Sefer Yetzirah, the most important work of creation mysticism, describes the creation of the world through the arrangements of letters and numbers.
KABBALAH AND HASIDISM
Kabbalah is the most famous form of Jewish mysticism. It flowered in 13th century Spain with the writing of the Zohar, which was originally attributed to the 2nd century sage Shimon bar Yohai. The Zohar is a commentary on the Torah, concerned primarily with understanding the divine world and its relation to our world. According to kabbalah , God as God–also known as Ein Sof or “the Infinite”–cannot be comprehended by humans. However, God can be understood and described as revealed in ten mystical attributes, or sefirot.
Much of all future Kabbalah, including the important 16th-century Kabbalah of Isaac Luria–whose intricate theology of creation describes how God contracted to make room for the world–concerns itself with the sefirot. Abraham Abulafia was the most important of the medieval intensive mystics. He tried to achieve a state of prophecy through methods of experiential Kabbalah. Hasidism, a religious movement that emerged in the 18th century, spread mystical thinking and living to the masses of European Jewry by teaching that all people could have an experiential connection with God.
THE NEW AGE
Traditional mystical concepts permeate mainstream Jewish thought to this day (for example, the notions of tikkun ha-olam, or repair of the world, and of tzimtzum, God’s self-limiting), and texts of mystical origin have penetrated Jewish liturgy (including Lecha Dodi, the Friday night hymn welcoming the Sabbath, and other liturgical poetry). In addition, the academic study of Jewish mysticism has flourished in recent decades, due primarily to the work of a single scholar, Gershom Scholem. Scholem discovered and interpreted a wide range of mystical manuscripts and shed light on the origins and development of Jewish mysticism. With the emergence of New Age spirituality, Jewish mysticism has also experienced a popular renaissance. Jewish groups like the Renewal movement teach mysticism to spiritually inclined, nontraditional Jews, while controversial institutions such as the Kabbalah Centre offer a more universal and magical mysticism to Jews and non-Jews alike.
The Kabbalah Centre International is a non-profit organization located in Los Angeles, California that provides courses on the Zohar and Kabbalistic teachings online as well as through its regional and city-based centers and study groups worldwide. The presentation of Kabbalah was developed by its director, Philip Berg, along with his wife, Karen Berg. The Kabbalah Centre International has a multi-ethnic, international staff of teachers that offers kabbalistic study and guidance to its worldwide student community.
Traditionally, rabbis believed that the mysteries of Kabbalah were so complex and so easily misunderstood that it could only be taught to devout students (mostly males) only after age 40. Therefore, some traditionalists had seen the Kabbalah Centre as a perversion of Judaism's ancient and secretive mystic tradition.
KABBALAH CENTRE IN NEW YORK CITY IN 2008
The Kabbalah Centre was founded in the United States in 1965 as The National Research Institute of Kabbalah by Philip Berg (born Feivel Gruberger) and Yehuda Tzvi Brandwein. Brandwein in turn was the dean of Yeshivah Kol Yehuda in Israel (a precursor of the US Kabbalah Centres) which was founded in 1922. After Brandwein's death, and after several years in Israel, Philip Berg and his wife Karen Berg, re-established the U.S. Kabbalah Centre in New York City.
The Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles was opened in 1984. After the death of Berg, Karen and Michael Berg act as directors and spiritual teachers of the organization. The organization is a registered non-profit with over fifty branches worldwide, including major ones in Los Angeles, New York City, London and Toronto.
The Kabbalah Centre does not have a membership requirement, everyone is welcome.
The Kabbalah Centre's approach to teaching is to start students with teachings of Kabbalah that do not make previous knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish texts a prerequisite for understanding.
Relation to religion
According to its views, all widely held spiritual or religious belief systems are merely specific branches of a universal wisdom. The effect of this is a resemblance of religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism, as well as new-age teachings, to Kabbalah. In accordance with this belief, the Kabbalah Centre does not present itself as an alternative to any religion in particular, but rather, as a supplement to it.
Some biblical passages, such as the Passage of the Red Sea, are understood to be codes to life and unseen universal laws which the Zohar and writings of the Kabbalists throughout history unravel. According to Berg "The Zohar reveals the dynamic interplay and interconnectedness of our universe and man's relationship to it." The Kabbalah Centre has produced a series of the Books of the Bible with Kabbalistic commentaries to each of the Weekly portion of the Torah.
One should primarily be concerned with their relationship with the essence of God, rather than God himself, as he is beyond comprehension. The essence of God is referred to in its teachings as Light.
The five senses provide access to a mere 1% of reality, which is the byproduct of a 99% reality that cannot be accessed by the senses.
Kabbalah Centre teaches the Kabbalistic concept of Klippot. The idea is that everyone has a direct and clear connection to the upper metaphysical-spiritual world of the Light (Ein Sof, unbounded God), but that this channel is blocked by Klippot, restricting the spiritual energy from entering the physical body. It is through study and practice of Kabbalah teachings and Jewish law (which the Kabbalah Centre says is early rabbinistic construction to aid in practicing Kabbalah without revealing its secrets) that one removes Klippot, and it is by violence and negative behavior that one adds Klippot.
The Kabbalah Centre has a strong belief in astrology and asserts that astrology has always been part of Judaism. Astrology was studied by Jewish scholars throughout the Middle Ages, though it was opposed by more philosophically inclined thinkers such as Maimonides.
There is a strong belief in the Kabbalah tradition that cosmic forces affect everything, and knowing how to understand them can prove to be valuable to the aspiring Kabbalist. Berg, the founder of the Kabbalah Centre, wrote numerous books on astrology during his career.
In a book written by Yehuda Berg, a former teacher at the center, he recommended that men not masturbate as semen generated without loving, shared intention does not serve its purpose. He also wrote that a man should not orgasm before the woman, as it injects selfishness into the act of love making. Other thoughts on sex include that a man should not orgasm with the woman positioned above him, as she is then drawing energies into herself from below, instead of above. The most Light is derived from sex that occurs just after midnight on Saturday morning.
See also: Madonna (entertainer) § Kabbalah Centre
Madonna studies regularly with a personal Kabbalah Centre rabbi, no longer gives concerts on Friday night (which is the onset of Shabbat), wears the red string around her left wrist for protection and to ward off the "evil eye" (Ayin Hara), has introduced Jewish ritual objects such as tefillin ("phylacteries") into her videos and tithes regularly to the Kabbalah Centre. In July 2006, it was reported that Madonna was leaving the Kabbalah Centre and one media columnist speculated that one reason was alleged financial irregularities of donations to the centre. Despite uncorroborated allegations of financial irregularities, the rumour turned out to be false, and Madonna continued to attend Kabbalah Centre events. In August 2006, Madonna collaborated with the Kabbalah Centre on a project called Raising Malawi, which provided relief aid to the African nation of Malawi. In March 2016, Madonna and her son Rocco attended a Kabbalah Centre prayer session as she attempted to fix her relationship with him.
Other celebrities that have been associated with the Centre include Britney Spears, Roseanne Barr, Sandra Bernhard, Anthony Kiedis, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, Lucy Liu, Alex Rodriguez, Rosie O'Donnell, Naomi Campbell, Donna Karan, Elizabeth Taylor, Mischa Barton, Paris Hilton, Ariana Grande Nicole Richie, James Van Der Beek, Kyle Richards, Heather McComb and Lindsay Lohan.
According to media sources, some of these celebrities have since stopped studying with the Kabbalah Centre.
CONTROVERSY AND CRITICISM
From almost every corner of traditional Judaism, the Kabbalah Centre was rejected as a spiritual fraud. Beginning in 2011 the Centre was put under investigation by the IRS and FBI for financial malfeasance, following the abandonment of the Raising Malawi school project with millions of donors' dollars unaccounted for. In 2012, a Kabbalah Centre charity, Spirituality for Kids, accepted a $600,000 donation from an 87-year-old woman who some claim had dementia. In November 2013, two lawsuits were filed by former donors alleging that their gifts were misused.
Other media criticisms have alleged that The Kabbalah Centre is an "opportunistic offshoot of the faith, with charismatic leaders who try to attract the rich and the vulnerable with the promise of health, wealth, and happiness." Some Jewish organizations distinguish it as non-Jewish and consider its patronage by Jews problematic. The Centre's sale of Kabbalah-themed merchandise has been criticized as a perversion of Judaism's ancient and secretive mystic tradition.
According to a BBC news article, Eliyahu Yardeni, a senior figure in the London Kabbalah Centre, made controversial comments regarding the Holocaust. The Kabbalah Centre also made claims that spring water sold by the group had among its effects a curative effect on cancer.
In November 2015, the centre was ordered to pay $42,500 damages to one of its former students after it was found to have been negligent in the supervision of one of its co-directors, Yehuda Berg, who had caused emotional distress to the student.
The Kabbalah Centre donates to non-profit organizations and engages in volunteer work through its Charitable Causes initiative. Charitable Causes has worked with or donated to Habitat for Humanity, Partners in Health, American Red Cross, and Sunrise Day Camp.
The Polonsky Foundation Catalogue of Digitised Hebrew Manuscripts Kabbalah and Mysticism British Library Kabbalah – the inner wisdom, the essence of God – is at the heart of Jewish mysticism. Explore the magical essence of words and the infinite creation of the physical and metaphysical universe.
List of Jewish Kabbalists Wikipedia
History of Kabbalah Chabad
What is Kabbalah Chabad
Timeline of Kabbalah Chabad
What is Kabbalah? Reform Judaism
The great Kabbalah con exposed - Telegraph
Kabbalah Center Visitor Comments Cult Education Institute
The Origins of Kabbalah
Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism
Kabbalah and Mysticism
THE TREE OF LIFE
The tree of life is a diagram used in various mystical traditions. It usually consists of 10 nodes symbolizing different archetypes and 22 lines connecting the nodes. The nodes are often arranged into three columns to represent that they belong to a common category.
For detail go to
Tree of Life (Kabbalah)