It’s no secret that the study of Kabbalah is different from all the other parts of the revealed Torah. Kabbalah is essentially a study of how Creation works. It’s a highly esoteric and mystical branch of Jewish “philosophy” (if it can be called that), that seeks to uncover the hidden meanings and spiritual significance behind the Torah and other Jewish texts. The word "Kabbalah" itself means "receiving" or "tradition," and refers to the secret oral traditions that were passed down from teacher to student throughout the ages.
At its core, the study of Kabbalah is an attempt to understand the nature of Hashem’s involvement in the universe on a deeper level than is possible through ordinary rational thought or empirical observation. It seeks to penetrate the veil of material reality and access the spiritual realms that lie beyond, in order to gain insight into the divine nature of existence. For that, one is required to be familiar with the conceptual significance of words and find non-verbal meaning in them.
Many people think that the origins of Kabbalah can be traced back to the early centuries of the Common Era, when Kabbalists began to develop a system of esoteric teachings based on the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud.
However, it was well-known from the teachings of the Zohar and other books like the Bahir, the SeferYetzirah and others that Kabbalah has been handed down since Adam HaRishon, through the Avot and Imahot, through the Jews in the desert, the prophets and sages. While we have a wealth of Kabbalah books, unfortunately, most of the wisdom has been lost. To give you an idea: The entire Etz Chayim, which is the main, work by Arizal, which is massive and complex is based on 7 to 9 verses in the Torah that speak about the rise and fall of the ancient kings. Each king is a reference to one of the 7 primordial Sephirot that emanated from the “Eyes of Adam Kadmon”, and shattered. While Etz Chaim and other works quote other verses, these 7 to 9 are the foundation of all the knowledge we have! This leaves us with almost 5.900 verses left to write at least as much only on the Torah itself!
The dual nature of Kabbalah
Despite its mystical nature, the study of Kabbalah has always been closely tied to mainstream Jewish tradition and scholarship.
However, this deep wisdom has also been the subject of controversy and debate within the Jewish community. Some have argued that its esoteric teachings are too difficult to understand and should be reserved only for the most advanced students, while others have claimed that its emphasis on mystical experience and personal revelation is at odds with traditional Jewish law and practice.
Today, the study of Kabbalah is more or less open to a certain degree as many works have been translated. Its wisdom inspires people to do Teshuva and search for Hashem deepening one’s service and fixing his Middot (personal attributes). It is a very powerful tool for spiritual exploration and self-discovery, as well as a source of deep insight into the nature of God, the universe, and the human soul.
What the study of Kabbalah involves
The study of Kabbalah typically involves a combination of textual analysis, meditation, and spiritual practice while at the same time following Halacha to the letter. Those that think Kabbalah somehow contradicts Halacha don’t know that every single ritual in Law is merely the external manifestation of the internal, spiritual worlds.
Kabbalistic texts, such as the Zohar and the SeferYetzirah, are highly symbolic and can be difficult to understand without proper guidance and instruction. As a result, most Kabbalistic teachings are passed down through a tradition of study with a qualified teacher or mentor.
Then we have Kabbalistic meditation such as Yichudim and Kavanot, which are designed to help people access the spiritual realms and experience a deeper connection to Hashem in a most direct way. These practices often involve visualization, breathing techniques, and recitation of verses or names of Hashem. However, nowadays, since we don’t have the requisite level of purity, pronouncing the names of Hashem or angels is strictly forbidden.
Main ideas of Kabbalah
One of the central concepts in Kabbalah is the idea of the "Tree of Life," a complex symbolic representation of Hashem’s emanations and the various levels of spiritual reality. The Tree of Life is often used as a framework for understanding Hashem’s divine providence, the universe, and the human soul.
The Sephirot are ten attributes or emanations that represent different aspects of Hashem’s relationship with us. Each Sephirah has its own unique qualities and is associated with specific divine names.
The Four Spiritual Worlds, on the other hand, are a way of categorizing the different levels of spiritual reality. These worlds represent progressively higher levels of consciousness and divine revelation, with each world encompassing and transcending the previous one. The four worlds are Atzilut, Briah, Yetzirah, and Assiyah, and are often depicted as concentric circles or spheres within the Tree of Life.
Together, the Sephirot and the Four Spiritual Worlds provide a comprehensive model of the structureof Creation, and offer a roadmap for spiritual growth and enlightenment. Elevation starts from the lowest rung of the Sephirot called Malkhut (Kingship), which entails the internalization that we are servants of Hashem and accept His Laws, and ends with Keter(Crown), when we become subsumed in Hashem’s light in Olam HaBah, receiving our reward (the “crowns”, so to speak).
By studying and meditating on these concepts, we can gain awe of Hashem and deepen our connection to Him.
Requirements to Study Kabbalah
The study of Kabbalah requires a certain level of spiritual preparedness and moral purity, as well as a willingness to engage in acts of self-reflection, personal growth, and service to others.
One of the key principles of Kabbalah is the importance of purifying oneself in order to access higher levels of spiritual consciousness. This purification process involves examining one's thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors, and striving to eliminate negative qualities such as egoism, selfishness, and anger. By cultivating positive qualities such as love, kindness, and compassion, practitioners of Kabbalah seek to align themselves more closely with the divine and to access deeper levels of spiritual insight.
This is because one’s understanding of Kabbalah depends mainly on the degree of fear of Hashem that he has. Rav Chaim Vital writes that this knowledge cannot be understood on brainpower alone like the Talmud and Halachot, because it’s safeguarded by angels. The only way to merit receiving it is by being worthy.
In addition to personal purification, the study of Kabbalah also requires a willingness to go beyond the letter of the law and to act with greater spiritual intent. This means not only following the external rules and regulations of Jewish law as set in the Shulchan Aruch, but also seeking to understand the deeper spiritual principles behind these laws and applying them in one's daily life.
Overall, the study of Kabbalah is a transformative journey that requires a deep commitment to personal growth, moral purity, and service to others. The more one teaches others, the more one understands.
Nevertheless, the doors are open, as this wisdom is crucial to hastening the Geulah. Nowadays, there’s a sort of consensus among Rabbis that this can also be accomplished by studying Chassidut, which is easier to understand.
Hashem does not withhold the good from those with a sincere heart. We learn from the Zohar and writings of Kabbalists.
This article was written in the zechut of Golda Beylah Bas Elka, Elka Bas Shayndel, Liba Laybala bas Shayndel, Yeshayahu ben Chaya, Chaya Bas Shayndel, Betzalel Nuchman ben Chaya, Yitzchak Levi ben Chaya, Davida Bas Shayndel
The merit of the study of this book - the book of the Zohar - the Jewish People will leave the Exile in a merciful manner. (parashat Naso, 124b)
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 to have me study in-depth Kabbalah from the Arizal or the Rashash in your merit and receive its blessings, especially for sustenance, children and health ❤️