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What authentic kabbalah is and who it is intended for is often misunderstood. It is commonly defined as Jewish mysticism, which it is, however it has a very specific nature and reason for its existence. Authentic Kabbalah is entirely sacred and hence not suitable for those who are not spiritually prepared. Only spiritually mature, Jewish, Torah observant people should seek to become mekubbalim (students/practitioners of Kabbalah). For those who are unprepared it can have unintended negative consequences.The Kabbalah deals with sensitive topics and the knowledge it offers has been warped, even within the Jewish community. This resulted in severe disruption of the Eastern European Jewish community (for example, the false messiah Shabbtai Tzvi and the Frankists). As a result, the non-Chassidic sages placed a ban on the study of three basic texts until the age of 30, until the age of 40 for general study, and in all cases until one has studied the more basic Jewish sources (Tanakh, Talmud, Halacha) in depth. However, in Sephardic and Chassidic communities, some basic texts are studied even by young folks (Source).
The main Kabbalistic texts are (other than Tanakh and the Mishna):
- Zohar: The Book of Splendor
- Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Formation/Creation"; also known as Hilkhot Yetzira or "Laws of Formation"
- Heichalot: Heavenly Palaces; treatsies on attaining the heavenly palaces.
- Midrash of Rabbi Nehunya ben Ha-Kana: also known as BahirM
- Sefer Raziel HaMalakh:
- Etz Hayim and the Eight Gates
- Pardes Rimonim
According to this knowledge there is nothing but Ain Soph: the Eternal: the No-Thing (No definable thing, not this-not-that), the ONE. As the Shema informs us:
שמע ישראל ה 'הוא האלוהים שלנו הוא אחד
Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohaynu Adonai Echad
"Hear Israel, HaShem is our God, HaShem is One"
This Oneness is absolute. It is not simply that HaShem is not a trinity nor part of a pantheon. The Eternal is echad: absolutely One and there is no second (nor third), nor any to compare with Him (Isaiah46:5). Some confuse the ten sephirot, believing them to be gods or manifestations like the ba'als or demigods. This is an example of how easily one can be led astray into error. One must properly understand Torah and Talmud. One must understand the oneness declared in the Shema. Without a solid foundation one will be led astray as many have been and now are.
With the creation, "in the beginning," Ain Soph "manifests" as Elohim (i.e. the conceivable God). From Elohim comes "Other" (i.e. existence other than Ain Soph, i.e. the creation). It emerges from the Oneness of Ain Soph without in any way infringing on the echad - singular - nature of the Eternal. This "calling forth" produces Adam Kadmon: the Tree of Existence or Life/Primordial Man. Don't be confused, this is not Adam from the Garden of Eden but a sort of prototype of existence within which resides all potentiality within Ten Sepherot (or emanations of the One). Through this coming into existence the ten emanations of the One manifest. With the coming of these ten sephirot or emanations of Adam Kadmon (including Da'at), "Other" takes form and is enthused with independent life. In truth however there is nothing except Ain Soph (i.e. the transcendent eternal One). This is another area where confusion easily develops. This oneness of the creation with the Creator is not the same thing as the Eastern concept of nirguna brahman, wherein the diverse parts collectively form the totality of the whole, because Ain Soph exists completely apart from and independent of the creation. Destroy the created and Elohim would remain untouched. Destroy the Creator and nothing would remain. This study is a critical part of Kabbalah.
The Ten Sefirot are:Adam Kadmon is "called forth" by the Word (Torah) and Will of Elohim. This Word (elohim amar hayah) is uttered in original Hebrew. From this it is understood that the Sacred Language "draws" forth the emanations as one draws water from a well. Each Hebrew letter therefore possesses intrinsic existence. Because the Creator is One and these emanations arise from HaShem (from His Mind which is Torah). The Hebrew alphabet contains and manifests His Torah. Therefore Hebrew is the most exalted of the languages and will, in the Olam Haba (the future age), be the language of all creation. Likewise each letter has numeric equivalences and so Gematria (the assigning of numerical values to words or phrases) is included in this discipline as well. Because light and color are definable through numeric sequences they also manifest sacred attributions that reveal secrets.
- Keter ? crown,
- Chochmah - wisdom,
- Binah - understanding,
- Chessed - kindness,
- Gevura - strength,
- Tiferet - beauty,
- Netzach - victory,
- Hod - awe,
- Yesod - foundation,
- Malchut - monarchy.Sometimes the Sefirot are listed without Keter, and then Da'at -wisdom, is included between Bina and Chesed.
This is just a taste of course. Consider the power that is present within Kabbalah and the Hebrew alphabet! The power of creation (and destruction), of life and death and of existence itself. Such power is not lightly handled and so our sages discourage those who are not firmly grounded in Torah observance from this study.
The Conditions Of Learning Kaballah - Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi
As the Jewish Virtual Library tells us (emphasis mine):The rabbis of the Talmud regarded the mystical study of God as important yet dangerous. A famous talmudic story tells of four rabbis, Azzai, Ben Zoma, Elisha ben Abuyah, and Akiva who would meet together and engage in mystical studies. Azzai, the Talmud records, "looked and went mad [and] Ben Zoma died." Elisha ben Abuyah became a heretic and left Judaism. Rabbi Akiva alone "entered in peace and left in peace." It was this episode, the later experiences of individuals who became mentally unbalanced while engaging in mystical activities, and the disaster of the false Messiah Shabbetai Zevi that caused seventeenth-century rabbis to legislate that kabbalah should be studied only by married men over forty who were also scholars of Torah and Talmud. The medieval rabbis wanted the study of kabbalah limited to people of mature years and character.Being a mekubbalim is a rewarding and potentially dangerous part of Derech HaShem (the Way of God). One should not "dabble" in Kabbalah. One should not accept instructions in it from unqualified persons (including non-Torah observant Jews). ESPECIALLY avoid the teachings of so-called Christian and New Age Kabbalah and similar replacement theologies. Such teachings are designed to draw one away from the Torah, which is the sure foundation of all Truth. Those wishing to delve into mysteries do well to find an authentic Jewish teacher in person, gain his acceptence, and prayerfully follow his instructions. There are a couple of good online sources that are with mentioning here:
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