Kabbalah – a study or a mystical belief
The sacred Judaic teaching of Kabbalah has become very popular nowadays. Modern pseudo-followers have given a lot of names to the trend which they spread into the masses: a study, a mystical belief, even a way to master some kind of mysterious “sixth sense”.
It will be difficult for a person who is not well-informed about the niceties of Judaism to perceive the essence in such a variety of interpretations. Even a faithful Jew may get entangled in the topic because of the roots of misinterpretations given by simply ignorant or intentionally misleading false experts being grown through so deeply. Let’s examine what is actually meant under this term and the wisdom standing behind it.
What is Kabbalah?
Being a trend and an inherent part of Judaism, its knowledge, traditions and teachings, the Kabbalistic teaching appears to be a religion. The “study of Kabbalah” concept which has got into regular rotation so firmly can’t be true, except in the sense of marking the wisdom of the Jewish tradition. The claims saying that this teaching has nothing in common with religiosity radically contradict with the surviving historical descriptions and works of the great sages.
Kabbalah is the source of knowledge and secrets which allow to behold the Creator, get closer to Him, perceive the great matters of the world’s creation. They include those ones which can’t be explained by modern science and even philosophy. The Kabbalistic study allows to understand:
- the role and goals of the Creator;
- the nature of a human;
- the sense of life;
- what the soul is;
- the whole picture of our world and the world-to-come.
And so on. Only the one who has learned the tradition thoroughly can answer the question about which mysteries it holds within itself.
The conception of secret teaching is inseparable from the Torah. The Handwritten Scroll or Pentateuch of Moses, being a summary of commandments, or mitzvos, is obligatory. The Oral Law explains the prescriptions.
Kabbalah is the hidden part of Torah, which is out of reach for ordinary, unprepared people.
Every Jew must fulfil mivtsoyim. But only true Kabbalists are able to understand the secret sense of the commandments, realize Torah totally and complexly, perceive its very essence.
The name doesn’t have a translation of single meaning. It means:
- a tradition;
Hence it appears that there are different interpretations. Some people think that the meaning of the notion consisted in passing the wisdom around by word of mouth. According to the others’ opinion, the great knowledge is called so because it was received from the Creator. And, of course, there is also an explanation that the mystery is meant only for those who are ready to accept it.
What does one need to study Kabbalah?
All generations of true Kabbalists have been protecting (and continue to do that) the secrets of study extremely fervently. The tradition is transferred to and is received only by those who deserve it. This transfer is carried out directly from teacher to student, with no other way possible.
Why is there so much secrecy – that is a question asked by a lot of people; this point especially interests those unprepared ones who are trying to study the theory by themselves or with help of “teachers” who are as much far from understanding the matter as their students. There are several reasons for that. First of all, the sages were afraid that great knowledge could become the possessions of people whose intentions are wicked. The secrets will turn into a weapon in their hands.
The consequences of uncontrollable acquisition of knowledge may also be destructive. This can be compared only to an explosion of a nuclear bomb activated with a careless move.
So how could one become deserving to know the study? Four levels of Torah understanding bearing the name “PaRDeS” will help to get the answer. The decipher of this abbreviation is the essence of the concept:
- Pshat – direct understanding;
- Remez – deep perception of the sense and allegorical subtexts;
- Drash – interpretation;
- Sod – mystery.
Without maintenance of the given order, the understanding of the principal Judaic law is impossible.
Without Torah you can’t perceive Kabbalah. Moreover, the last level of its understanding is the Kabbalistic study itself. The mystery held within the Holy Scripture is the highest level of perceiving the commandments and the whole universe.
It is obvious for those who are studying Torah that even the first level, Pshat, is difficult. To perceive it, one needs a lot of efforts. Mush more work is needed to learn how to follow the commandments. The laws of Jewish life should turn into an essential element of a person’s entity, his or her morals and inviolable law. Just in this case one may proceed to the allusions, the hidden meanings of prescriptions. Grasping the ineffable is the greatest challenge. But only after that the student gets to the next step of interpreting and transferring of every word to all the areas of his or her life.
Even after completing all these stages Torah doesn’t become an open book; on the contrary, its general picture still remains unclear. The last level of perception of the Holy Scripture is what helps to uncover the mystery. That’s why Kabbalah is often called a key to Torah, which opens a way to its treasures, mysteries and unraveling of them.
What the study of Kabbalah is based on?
The study is based on an orally transferred tradition which was written down during different times, of course, in a form that is hidden from those who are not ready for the great wisdom. This is what Kabbalistic symbols, with which only sages who have realized their true essence may operate, are explained by. The most famous written works include:
- “Zohar” (the main book of Kabbalah);
- “Bahir” (the primary source);
- “Sefer Yetzirah” (the fundamental text).
Every scripture is obscure and mysterious for an average man in its own way. Only a Kabbalist can understand their essence. The texts operate not only with important terms of Torah, Talmud, Ketuvim and Nevi’im, so knowledge and understanding of them is obligatory. Every sign in them may be interpreted in several different ways. That’s where the difficulty of perception arises from. With this you can explain how easily the pseudo-followers of the theory manage to distort the sense of the tradition.
But the power of these books is so great that an opinion exists amongst the Kabbalists about the usefulness of even their unconscious reading. And the “Zohar” is even recommended to be kept at every Jewish home.