Kabala is popularly understood as being Jewish Mysticism. The word Kabala is probably derived from the Hebrew verb KBL that means to receive something.
In actuality, Kabala is a set of respected teachings and understandings that the Jewish people have received from spiritual sources, among which are the prophets. As such they are not necessarily based upon human logic, discovery or invention. However, once they are mastered, one can apply logic and inference to arrive at a deeper understanding and thereby discover interrelationships between Kabalistic concepts.
Kabala provides an awesome dimension of meaning for such disparate concepts as how G-d’s relationship to Mankind is understood, G-d’s management of human history, the Torah, the human body, the world, and the Temple. It teaches that they are all reflections of a common architecture. The more one understands and applies this architecture, the more one becomes aware of the greatness of the Creator and that both the world and history are not the products of accident.
The Kabalastic literature is written on several levels. One can say that there is heavy Kabala and there is light Kabala. Regarding heavy Kabala, there are very few alive today or in recent generations who qualify as a heavy Kabalist. I know what heavy Kabala is all about, except that it looks spooky. Heavy Kabalistic literature is written in an extremely obscure manner. You can get a copy of an English translation of Zohar but after reading a few paragraphs, I’m sure that you’ll see that it is waste of time for all but the most accomplished scholars of the Written and Oral Torahs. As far as light Kabala is concerned, this tour is based on the works of scholars such as Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, which are very readable and fascinating.
Due to the sublime nature and vocabulary of some Kabalistic literature, the opportunity exists for charlatans to move in, project competence in heavy Kabala, and exploitatively use their talents. Not so with traditional scholars who deal on the practical level of the Written and Oral Torah, and especially within learned communities where fakers are quickly obvious. One has to work hard to be accepted as a Torah scholar. To be a Kabalist, one may be able to pass with the gift of gab.
You can go to Israel today and find some weirdly dressed people about whom it’s said that they are Kabalists. Groups travel to quiet areas and study Kabala. The Lag B’Omer holiday brings them out in numbers, on the anniversary of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar. He is buried in Safed, formerly a great center of Kabala. 16th century Safed was home of the great Kabalistic master, the ARI.
It is very significant to note that the study of Kabala was greatly popularized by Sfardic Jews, especially after the Spanish Expulsion and the
Exiled and dejected, Sfardic Jewry attribute their misfortune to their infatuation with Aristotelian philosophy, which diverted precious time and resources away from Torah study. As we will soon discuss, the 16th century Reformation will repudiate the philosophic teachings of Aristotle. Sfardic Jewry will thus be left with a dead cow and Kabala will become a natural replacement for it.
The victims of the Spanish Expulsion and of later persecutions will passionately grope to find meaning in their plight and they will turn to the Kabala. It will make the pangs of the exiles more bearable because the Kabala emphasizes and reinforces the following teaching: The Jewish people and all of Mankind are headed towards perfection, although this is not obvious, and that suffering is a necessary part of this process, unless Mankind exerts itself more.
Generally, Ashkenazic Torah scholars do not teach Kabala classes and they will discourage all but their most senior students from its study. The Written and Oral Torahs have enough in them to keep them “busy”.
- Kabbalah deals with understanding God.
- Kabbalah describes the indescribable.
- Kabbalah describes God as an eternity.
- Where quantum physics stops, the wisdom of the Kabbalah starts.
The Kabbalah, or more accurately, The Wisdom of the Kabbalah, tries to explain how the universe works, both tangibly and spiritually, and how it affects our life and environment. The world we live in affects us every day and at every moment, whether we are aware of its presence or not.
According to tradition The Book of Zohar was written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who was one of Rabbi Akiba’s better students. He wrote this book in cooperation with his son Rabbi Elazar over a period of 13 years during which they stayed in a cave, hiding from the Romans. This book is considered the holiest book after the Bible. The Wisdom of the Kabbalah has become a global Kabbalah movement having more than six million disciples worldwide from every walk of life, every faith and every religion. When you understand the Kabbalah, you can improve everything in your life. The Kabbalah is the oldest wisdom known to mankind. The wisdom of the Kabbalah offers you the tools to replace chaos with joy and satisfaction.
A Little History
The Kabbalah is a Jewish occult mysticism doctrine. This doctrine has its roots deeply rooted in the history of ancient Judaism and mysticism. The Kabbalah gained its roots and early fame in Provence (Southern France) and Northern Spain in the late 12th century, early 13th century. Kabbalah had a great affect on Jewish spiritual life and great spiritual, such as the Shabtai Zvi and Hasidic movements.
The building blocks of the Kabbalah terminology are the ten spheres. These are ten sources or “lights” through which God communicates with his world. They are also 10 different ways of reavealing god, one per level.
In the Kabbalah terminology numbers are more than just mere mathematical symbols. They have qualitative characteristcs and meaning. The special meaning of the number 10 results from the fact that it constitutes our mathematical basis.
Common belief has it that the use of the basis 10 results from the fact that we have 10 fingers. God wanted the humane system to be decimal. The spheres are unique and some contradict others. The basic division of spheres is called right, left and middle, or in accordance with their leadership, mercy, judgment and grace. The sphere system maintains tensions between opposite forces and the cabalist seeks mediation between, namely bringing them to the middle ground, thus establishing harmony. .This will yield positive effects and vitality for the world.
Kabbalah – The Ten “Sefiroth” (Enumerations) or Spheres
Crown – the principal sphere, the one closest to the infinite divinity itself, which therefore,is not considered “nil” or “root”. It must not be mentioned in conversation nor comprehended.
Wisdom – is descends from the “nil” or “crown” sphere. The divinity’s dispersion and influence begins with wisdom.
Reason – is the receptacle of wisdom. It is the “mother of sons”, which gives birth to the seven spheres that follow.
Grace or Mercy – brings divine virtue and eternal profusion to the world unlimitedly and unconditionally; virtue that is restricted neither in quality or quantity
Victory or Might – is the sphere that reduces grace to the ones who deserve it. While “grace” is a sphere of virtue, “victory” also contains judgment and justice.
Adornment – is the sphere that mediates between “grace” and “victory” and constitutes a compromise between profusion and judgment limitation. It is the harmony it brings which transforms it into “adornement”
Eternity – a sister sphere to “glory”.
Glory – alongside “eternity” is considered the “feet” or the force holding and supporting the other upper spheres.
Foundation – is comparable to manhood. It receives profusion from the previous spheres and transfers it to the “kingdom” sphere. It is the power bringing divine ideas and reality together.
Kingdom – is also called divine spirit, and is comparable to femininity.It absorbs what has descended from “foundation” and transfers it to the tangible world.
Theosophical and Ecstatic Kabbalah
Kabbalah is divided into two main schools of thought: The theosophical-theurgist Kabbalah mainly deals with learning the essence of divinity and the ten spheres; “human action may affect divinity”. The ecstatic Kabbalah deals with the experiential aspect of the Kabbalah. This school seeks to reach spiritual ecstasy whose climax is in the devotion to God and spiritual enlightenment.
The “Christian” Kabbalah first appeared during late 15th century, early renaissance period. The Kabbalah theory gained the attention of Christian scholars. The Kabbalah theory got a hold among many Christians until it became a cabalist movement. Christians detected similarities between the basics of the Kabbalah and the basics of Christian belief and started seeking supporting evidences for the basics of Christianity in the Kabbalah.
The newly appeared movement started printing kabalist literature in many languages and some claim that this Christian movement preceded the first Jewish kabalist writings ever printed.
Later further Kabbalah writings were also printed, such as the Book of Zohar. The movement felt that this book presents similarities between the Kabbalah and Christian basics.
Dominant figures in Christian Kabbalah include Johannes Reuchlin (Germany) and Pico della Mirandola (Italy).
Kabbalah in the Postmodern Age
Yihhyah Qafahh, an early-20th-century Yemenite Jewish leader and grandfather of Yosef Qafih, also wrote a book entitled Milhamoth ha-Shem (Wars of the Name) against what he perceived as the false teachings of the Zohar and the false Kabbalah of Isaac Luria. He is credited with spearheading the Dor Daim who continue in Yihhyah Qafahh’s view of Kabbalah into modern times.
Yeshayahu Leibowitz 1903–1994, brother of Nechama Leibowitz, though Modern Orthodox in his world view, publicly shared the views expressed in R. Yihhyah Qafahh’s book Milhhamoth HaShem and elaborated upon these views in his many writings.
Nowadays for many Kabbalah is perceived as a modern new age movement and not as the original Kabbalah as we know it. The doctrine gains new popularity worldwide even among celebrities from the entertainment industry such as Madonna, Britney Spears, Debby Moore and many others engraved Hebrew letters from the world of Kabbalah on their skin; some even complemented their name with a Jewish name, such as Madonna who added the name Esther to her birth name. Nowadays there are many institutes in the world teaching Kabbalah.