Updated: Sep 8
One of the most misunderstood areas of study in Judaism is Kabbalah. There’s always been a certain stigma towards people who studied it. The reasons were many: it’s dangerous; we are not ready until we are 40 years old or it’s just unnecessary. Nowadays the situation got a bit better and books about Kabbalah (including Siddurim), are more or less freely accessible.
What is it about Kabbalah that fascinates, wonders and scares people?
Kabbalah is the study of the spiritual systems behind reality. It reveals to us how the Creator infused Creation with His awesome wisdom, and appreciating it. While all other areas of the Torah deal with the what, how or when, Kabbalah teaches us the why. Not only that, but it shows to us how all other parts of the Torah are interconnected and form a synergized whole, a window through which we can have a wonderful glimpse of Hashem in a way no other subject can.
The importance of Kabbalah to the modern Jew cannot be understated. Rabbi Chaim Vital already taught us in his introduction to Etz Chaim that the main reason we haven’t been redeemed yet is because people don’t study Kabbalah!
In the Gate of Reincarnations, he also teaches that a Jewish man who doesn’t study Kabbalah is sure to require reincarnation (women are exempt, and one can fulfil this obligation through Chassidut). The Gaon of Vilna also wrote in his book, Even Shleima that "The one who has the ability to perceive the secrets of Torah, and does not make the appropriate efforts to do so is judged very severely.”
One way to better understand all these harsh ideas is by looking more deeply into how reality is formed. As explained in many other articles, Hashem built Creation with a multitude of layers called “Spiritual Worlds”. From the highest spiritual world of Emanation (Atzilut), His Infinite Light contracts many times in order to form the physical universe we know (this also gives credence to Einstein’s theory that matter is contracted light). However, Light in this is sense is Hashem’s creative and vitalizing power.
The Midrash already taught us that the whole world was created with the holy name YHVH. What it actually means is that all levels of reality (including the four spiritual worlds) can be divided into the four letters of YHVH.
The last Hei (ה) corresponds to the lowest world of Assyah (Action), and it is from there that Halacha is derived. It is also associated with the Sefirah of Kingship (Malkhut) and is likened to the leaves of a tree.
The Vav (ו) of the divine name corresponds to the second lowest world of Yetzirah (Formation). Here is the source of the emotive attributes and also of the Mishnayot. It is associated with the six Sefirot of Loving-kindness, Sternness, Beauty, Victory, Splendor and Foundation and can be compared to the small branches of the tree.
The first Hei (ה) is a reference to the second highest world of Beriyah (Creation) and is the source of the intelectual faculty of Understanding (Binah). TheGemarah is derived from this world, and level is like the big branches of the tree.
Finally, the Yod (י) is representes the world of Atzilut, and is associated with Wisdom (Chokhmah), the highest form of experience available. The knowledge of Kabbalah comes from here and due to its exalted nature, it cannot be entirely understood while in a physical body. Notice also that the Yod does not touch the ground, which signals that it’s elusive nature is difficult to be grasped.
Pure, transformative Holy Wisdom acts like a powerful protection and is in essence the Light that will be revealed in the Redemption. In fact, a person that studies Kabbalah is radiating this knowledge from the highest to the lower realms and bringing the Redemption closer. This is the meaning of Rabbi Chaim Vital’s statement. Moreover, whenever this light is present, the forces of Tumah (impurity) have much less power because they are afraid of it. A person brings peace and protection to his life, and this can also be accomplished by having someone study in your merit.
However, much to our surprise, what the Arizal revealed was not enough. If we were great geniuses, read(and understood) and memorized his whole extensive work, we’d notice many contradictions, ideas missing and problems of language! Yet, this was done onpurpose, in order to keep many people from truly understanding it. Many great Rabbis were left clueless as to how to solve all this issues.
That is, until the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Sar-ShalomDidia Sharabi (Rashash) from Yemen revealed what was really behind the Arizal’s writings. The Rashash synthethised all the writings of Rav Chaim Vital and created his own Siddur of Mystical Intentions (Kavanot). While many great Kabalists did the same before, the Rashash was different because he had access to the more authoritative Gate of Mystical Intentions (Sha’ar HaKavanot), which did not circulate to Europe. He’s considered the final authority in Kabbalah by every Sephardi and many non-Sephardi Kabbalists.
By dividing all aspects of Jewish Life into systems of spiritual development (that go from Chaos to Rectification), the Rashash brough forth the unity behind the Arizal’s writings. With a simple idea he breaks mountains of questions and is cherished by every serious Kabbalah student.
As Rav Kaduri Zt”L, the Zaken HaMekubalim (Elder Kabbalist) already stated:
“One can have memorized all of the written teachings of the Ari, and have studied them and the commentaries upon them in great depth, but if you have not learned the works of the Rashash, you have not yet entered into the study of Kabbalah.”
Studying Kabbalah is a huge source of merit that can bring all sorts of salvation to a person’s life.
If you want to sponsor someone to study in-depth Kabbalah from the Arizal or the Rashash in your merit and receive its blessings, especially forsustenance, children and health, please send me an email.
This article was written and published in the zechut of all Emuna Builder Partners. May they have complete emuna and continue spreading emuna!