An easy introduction to Kabbalah: The mystical path of Judaism

An easy introduction to Kabbalah: The mystical path of Judaism

One of the most frequent questions of those who are interested in Judaism is Kabbalah. Some celebrities turned this sacred knowledge into a fashion trend, but we all know for sure that that they are not worthy representatives of Kabbalah. The first thing to say about it, is that, before entering into the secrets of this system, it is necessary to put into practice the Torah and all its 613 mitzvot, for at least a good number of years. Kabbalah is not a reserved knowledge for young people, but for mature men in the ways of G-d.

It should also be noted that Kabbalah is not magic. When people think of Kabbalah, they usually remember the Jewish legend of the Golem: a clay monster that comes to life when an obscure rabbi writes the three Hebrew letters that make up the word “Emet” (truth) on a roll of paper placed under the lips of the monster. No. Kabbalah is not that, as its main purpose is not to create good luck amulets or helping you to find the winning lottery numbers. Kabbalah is a mystical system that directs spirituality to a higher level of wisdom.

Let us define it then.

Kabbalah is, in essence, the set of doctrines of Jewish mysticism. Kabbalah is the noun of the Hebrew verb qabal, which means “to receive.” The Hebrew noun Qabbalah designates the mystical doctrine regarding God and the universe, received by revelation from a remote past and reserved for a chosen few.

No one knows for sure when it really started, but it was at some point of the Middle Age, in the days of a rabbi called Isaac the blind, in the old Jewish communities of Germany. Others point out that its origin, on the contrary, took place in Spain with the writing of the book of Zohar, written by a Sephardic rabbi called Shimon Ben Yojay and his son. What we know is that, after the Middle Age, it became a great influence in religious Jews, occultists, philosophers, and artists.

Now, Kabbalah has its main basis in the interpretation of three fragments of the Bible: the first accounts of creation in the book of Genesis, the vision of the prophet Ezekiel and the Song of Songs, by King Solomon. According to the Kabbalah, G-d has no limits (He is Ein Sof) and by an act of free will, He created the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in order to create the entire universe. Thus, through the contraction of His infinite light, called TzimTzum, the world of emanation was born, called Atzilut, composed of ten emanations called Sephirot, where the spiritual powers of G-d dwell forever.

Read also: Things You Need To Keep In Mind to Become Jewish, by Yosef Meystel

The secret doctrine of Kabbalah is contained in the sacred texts of the Bible, and can only be discovered by experienced Kabbalists, who look not only at the words themselves but at the alphabetical signs that compose them. This is precisely where the true meaning of biblical words is really found, and its secret teachings can be understood because each letter simultaneously represents a number, and many of these words repeatedly contain the various names of G-d.

In short, Kabbalah is a Jewish doctrine, based on the mystical interpretation of the Bible. There are four ways of interpreting the sacred text, which in Hebrew are called: Peshat, Remez, Derash, and Sod (which is the level of interpretation used in this mystic system.) These initials make up the word Pardes, which literally means “orchard of fruit trees” (which, in Kabbalistic terms, it simply means “paradise.”)

Image courtesy of U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv at Flickr.com

 

Kabbalah has the capacity to penetrate things, stripping them of their external conditions, revealing their deep meaning whose essence always seems paradoxical (if it were not so, Kabbalah would not be a mystical knowledge whatsoever.) What usually happens is that Kabbalistic explanations confuse the neophytes, especially when they don’t have a deep knowledge of the Torah, the Talmud, and the Zohar, as well as a life in Tzedakah.

Kabbalah teaches us that reality is not always easily apprehended. It contains a truth in itself: the fact that this truth is elusive, does not weaken its great power. Another of the great lessons of Kabbalah is that absolute knowledge has no object: it is just a means. For the Kabbalists, language is creative and the Torah contains all the possible texts, all the combinations that can be given to create other worlds and realities. Kabbalists understand that the name of G-d is formed by all the letters that compose the alphabet, and it has multiple forms.

Those who wish to study this fascinating doctrine must respect their teaching methods, for the truth of the Kabbalah has no limited space, and the difficulty that this means is what makes it unique to a few, even in Judaism.

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