Kabbalah pronunciation

Kabbalah

Esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought of Judaism

For other uses, see Cabala.

Kabbalah (Hebrew: קַבָּלָה‎ Qabālā, literally "reception, tradition"[1] or "correspondence"[2]: 3 ) is an esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought in Jewish mysticism.[3] A traditional Kabbalist in Judaism is called a Mequbbāl (מְקוּבָּל‎).[3] The definition of Kabbalah varies according to the tradition and aims of those following it,[4] from its religious origin as an integral part of Judaism, to its later adaptations in Western esotericism (Christian Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah). Jewish Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between the unchanging, eternal God—the mysterious Ein Sof (אֵין סוֹף‎, "The Infinite")[5][6]—and the mortal, finite universe (God's creation).[3][5] It forms the foundation of mystical religious interpretations within Judaism.[3][7]

Jewish Kabbalists originally developed their own transmission of sacred texts within the realm of Jewish tradition[3][7] and often use classical Jewish scriptures to explain and demonstrate its mystical teachings. These teachings are held by followers in Judaism to define the inner meaning of both the Hebrew Bible and traditional rabbinic literature and their formerly concealed transmitted dimension, as well as to explain the significance of Jewish religious observances.[8] One of the fundamental kabbalistic texts, the Zohar, was first published in the 13th century, and the almost universal form adhered to in modern Judaism is Lurianic Kabbalah.

Traditional practitioners believe its earliest origins pre-date world religions, forming the primordial blueprint for Creation's philosophies, religions, sciences, arts, and political systems.[9] Historically, Kabbalah emerged from earlier forms of Jewish mysticism, in 12th- to 13th-century Spain and Southern France,[3][7] and was reinterpreted during the Jewish mystical renaissance in 16th-century Ottoman Palestine.[3]Isaac Luria is considered the father of contemporary Kabbalah; Lurianic Kabbalah was popularised in the form of Hasidic Judaism from the 18th century onwards.[3] During the 20th century, academic interest in Kabbalistic texts led primarily by the Jewish historian Gershom Scholem has inspired the development of historical research on Kabbalah in the field of Judaic studies.[10][11]

Traditions[edit]

See also: Ecstatic Kabbalah and Practical Kabbalah

According to the Zohar, a foundational text for kabbalistic thought,[12]Torah study can proceed along four levels of interpretation (exegesis).[13][14] These four levels are called pardes from their initial letters (PRDS Hebrew: פַּרדֵס‎, orchard).

  • Peshat (Hebrew: פשט‎ lit. "simple"): the direct interpretations of meaning.[15]
  • Remez (Hebrew: רֶמֶז‎ lit. "hint[s]"): the allegoric meanings (through allusion).
  • Derash (Hebrew: דְרָשׁ‎ from Heb. darash: "inquire" or "seek"): midrashic (rabbinic) meanings, often with imaginative comparisons with similar words or verses.
  • Sod (Hebrew: סוֹד‎ lit. "secret" or "mystery"): the inner, esoteric (metaphysical) meanings, expressed in kabbalah.

Kabbalah is considered by its followers as a necessary part of the study of Torah – the study of Torah (the Tanakh and rabbinic literature) being an inherent duty of observant Jews.[16]

Modern academic-historical study of Jewish mysticism reserves the term "kabbalah" to designate the particular, distinctive doctrines that textually emerged fully expressed in the Middle Ages, as distinct from the earlier Merkabah mystical concepts and methods.[17] According to this descriptive categorisation, both versions of Kabbalistic theory, the medieval-Zoharic and the early-modern Lurianic Kabbalah together comprise the Theosophical tradition in Kabbalah, while the Meditative-Ecstatic Kabbalah incorporates a parallel inter-related Medieval tradition. A third tradition, related but more shunned, involves the magical aims of Practical Kabbalah. Moshe Idel, for example, writes that these 3 basic models can be discerned operating and competing throughout the whole history of Jewish mysticism, beyond the particular Kabbalistic background of the Middle Ages.[18] They can be readily distinguished by their basic intent with respect to God:

  • The Theosophical or Theosophical-Theurgic tradition of Theoretical Kabbalah (the main focus of the Zohar and Luria) seeks to understand and describe the divine realm using the imaginative and mythic symbols of human psychological experience. As an intuitive conceptual alternative to rationalist Jewish philosophy, particularly Maimonides' Aristotelianism, this speculation became the central stream of Kabbalah, and the usual reference of the term "kabbalah". Its theosophy also implies the innate, centrally important theurgic influence of human conduct on redeeming or damaging the spiritual realms, as man is a divine microcosm, and the spiritual realms the divine macrocosm. The purpose of traditional theosophical kabbalah was to give the whole of normative Jewish religious practice this mystical metaphysical meaning
  • The Meditative tradition of Ecstatic Kabbalah (exemplified by Abraham Abulafia and Isaac of Acre) strives to achieve a mystical union with God, or nullification of the meditator in God's Active intellect. Abraham Abulafia's "Prophetic Kabbalah" was the supreme example of this, though marginal in Kabbalistic development, and his alternative to the program of theosophical Kabbalah. Abulafian meditation built upon the philosophy of Maimonides, whose following remained the rationalist threat to theosophical kabbalists
  • The Magico-Talismanic tradition of Practical Kabbalah (in often unpublished manuscripts) endeavours to alter both the Divine realms and the World using practical methods. While theosophical interpretations of worship see its redemptive role as harmonising heavenly forces, Practical Kabbalah properly involved white-magical acts, and was censored by kabbalists for only those completely pure of intent, as it relates to lower realms where purity and impurity are mixed. Consequently, it formed a separate minor tradition shunned from Kabbalah. Practical Kabbalah was prohibited by the Arizal until the Temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt and the required state of ritual purity is attainable.[2]: 31 

According to traditional belief, early kabbalistic knowledge was transmitted orally by the Patriarchs, prophets, and sages (hakhamim in Hebrew), eventually to be "interwoven" into Jewish religious writings and culture. According to this view, early kabbalah was, in around the 10th century BCE, an open knowledge practiced by over a million people in ancient Israel.[19] Foreign conquests drove the Jewish spiritual leadership of the time (the Sanhedrin) to hide the knowledge and make it secret, fearing that it might be misused if it fell into the wrong hands.[20]

It is hard to clarify with any degree of certainty the exact concepts within kabbalah. There are several different schools of thought with very different outlooks; however, all are accepted as correct.[21] Modern halakhic authorities have tried to narrow the scope and diversity within kabbalah, by restricting study to certain texts, notably Zohar and the teachings of Isaac Luria as passed down through Hayyim ben Joseph Vital.[22] However, even this qualification does little to limit the scope of understanding and expression, as included in those works are commentaries on Abulafian writings, Sefer Yetzirah, Albotonian writings, and the Berit Menuhah,[23] which is known to the kabbalistic elect and which, as described more recently by Gershom Scholem, combined ecstatic with theosophical mysticism. It is therefore important to bear in mind when discussing things such as the sephirot and their interactions that one is dealing with highly abstract concepts that at best can only be understood intuitively.[24]

Jewish and non-Jewish Kabbalah[edit]

See also: Christian Cabala and Hermetic Qabalah

From the Renaissance onwards Jewish Kabbalah texts entered non-Jewish culture, where they were studied and translated by Christian Hebraists and Hermetic occultists.[25] The syncretic traditions of Christian Cabala and Hermetic Qabalah developed independently of Judaic Kabbalah, reading the Jewish texts as universalist ancient wisdom preserved from the Gnostic traditions of antiquity. Both adapted the Jewish concepts freely from their Jewish understanding, to merge with multiple other theologies, religious traditions and magical associations. With the decline of Christian Cabala in the Age of Reason, Hermetic Qabalah continued as a central underground tradition in Western esotericism. Through these non-Jewish associations with magic, alchemy and divination, Kabbalah acquired some popular occult connotations forbidden within Judaism, where Jewish theurgic Practical Kabbalah was a minor, permitted tradition restricted for a few elite. Today, many publications on Kabbalah belong to the non-Jewish New Age and occult traditions of Cabala, rather than giving an accurate picture of Judaic Kabbalah.[26] Instead, academic and traditional Jewish publications now translate and study Judaic Kabbalah for wide readership.

History of Jewish mysticism[edit]

Origins[edit]

According to the traditional understanding, Kabbalah dates from Eden.[27] It came down from a remote past as a revelation to elect tzadikim (righteous people), and, for the most part, was preserved only by a privileged few. Talmudic Judaism records its view of the proper protocol for teaching this wisdom, as well as many of its concepts, in the Talmud, Tractate Hagigah, 11b-13a, "One should not teach ... the work of Creation in pairs, nor the work of the Chariot to an individual, unless he is wise and can understand the implications himself etc."[28]

Contemporary scholarship suggests that various schools of Jewish esotericism arose at different periods of Jewish history, each reflecting not only prior forms of mysticism, but also the intellectual and cultural milieu of that historical period. Answers to questions of transmission, lineage, influence, and innovation vary greatly and cannot be easily summarised.

Terms[edit]

Originally, Kabbalistic knowledge was believed to be an integral part of the Oral Torah, given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai around the 13th century BCE according to its followers; although some believe that Kabbalah began with Adam.[27]

For a few centuries the esoteric knowledge was referred to by its aspect practice—meditation Hitbonenut (Hebrew: הִתְבּוֹנְנוּת‎),[29] Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's Hitbodedut (Hebrew: הִתְבּוֹדְדוּת‎), translated as "being alone" or "isolating oneself", or by a different term describing the actual, desired goal of the practice—prophecy ("NeVu'a" Hebrew: נְבוּאָה‎). Kabbalistic scholar Aryeh Kaplan traces the origins of medieval Kabbalistic meditative methods to their inheritance from orally transmitted remnants of the Biblical Prophetic tradition, and reconstructs their terminology and speculated techniques.[30]

From the 5th century BCE, when the works of the Tanakh were edited and canonised and the secret knowledge encrypted within the various writings and scrolls ("Megilot"), esoteric knowledge became referred to as Ma'aseh Merkavah (Hebrew: מַעֲשֶׂה מֶרְכָּבָה‎)[31] and Ma'aseh B'reshit (Hebrew: מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרֵאשִׁית‎),[32] respectively "the act of the Chariot" and "the act of Creation". Merkabah mysticism alluded to the encrypted knowledge, and meditation methods within the book of the prophet Ezekiel describing his vision of the "Divine Chariot". B'reshit mysticism referred to the first chapter of Genesis (Hebrew: בְּרֵאשִׁית‎) in the Torah that is believed to contain secrets of the creation of the universe and forces of nature. These terms received their later historical documentation and description in the second chapter of the Talmudic tractate Hagigah from the early centuries CE.

Confidence in new Prophetic revelation closed after the Biblical return from Babylon in Second Temple Judaism, shifting to canonisation and exegesis of Scripture after Ezra the Scribe. Lesser level prophecy of Ruach Hakodesh remained, with angelic revelations, esoteric heavenly secrets, and eschatological deliverance from Greek and Roman oppression of Apocalyptic literature among early Jewish proto-mystical circles, such as the Book of Daniel and the Dead Sea Scrolls community of Qumran. Early Jewish mystical literature inherited the developing concerns and remnants of Prophetic and Apocalyptic Judaisms.

Mystic elements of the Torah[edit]

When read by later generations of Kabbalists, the Torah's description of the creation in the Book of Genesis reveals mysteries about God himself, the true nature of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden (Hebrew: גַּן עֵדֶן‎), the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Hebrew: עֵץ הַדַּעַת שֶׁל טוֹב וְרַע‎), and the Tree of Life (Hebrew: עֵץ חַיִּים‎), as well as the interaction of these supernatural entities with the Serpent (Hebrew: נָחָשׁ‎), which leads to disaster when they eat the forbidden fruit (Hebrew: פְּרִי עֵץ הַדַּעַת‎), as recorded in Genesis 3.[33]

The Bible provides ample additional material for mythic and mystical speculation. The prophet Ezekiel's visions in particular attracted much mystical speculation, as did Isaiah's Temple vision—the Book of Isaiah, Ch. 6. Jacob's vision of the ladder to heaven provided another example of esoteric experience. Moses' encounters with the Burning bush and God on Mount Sinai are evidence of mystical events in the Torah that form the origin of Jewish mystical beliefs.

The 72 letter name of God which is used in Jewish mysticism for meditation purposes is derived from the Hebrew verbal utterance Moses spoke in the presence of an angel, while the Sea of Reeds parted, allowing the Hebrews to escape their approaching attackers. The miracle of the Exodus, which led to Moses receiving the Ten Commandments and the Jewish Orthodox view of the acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai, preceded the creation of the first Jewish nation approximately three hundred years before King Saul.

Talmudic era[edit]

The grave of Shimon bar Yochaiin Meronbefore 1899. A Talmudic Tanna, he is the mystical teacher in the central Kabbalistic work, the Zohar

In early Rabbinic Judaism (the early centuries of the 1st millennium CE), the terms Ma'aseh Bereshit ("Works of Creation") and Ma'aseh Merkabah ("Works of the Divine Throne/Chariot") clearly indicate the Midrashic nature of these speculations; they are really based upon Genesis 1 and Ezekiel 1:4–28, while the names Sitrei Torah (Hidden aspects of the Torah) (Talmud Hag. 13a) and Razei Torah (Torah secrets) (Ab. vi. 1) indicate their character as secret lore. An additional term also expanded Jewish esoteric knowledge, namely Chochmah Nistara (Hidden wisdom).

Talmudic doctrine forbade the public teaching of esoteric doctrines and warned of their dangers. In the Mishnah (Hagigah 2:1), rabbis were warned to teach the mystical creation doctrines only to one student at a time.[34][35] To highlight the danger, in one Jewish aggadic ("legendary") anecdote, four prominent rabbis of the Mishnaic period (1st century CE) are said to have visited the Orchard (that is, Paradise, pardes, Hebrew: פרדס lit., orchard):[36]

Four men entered pardes—Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher (Elisha ben Abuyah), and Akiba. Ben Azzai looked and died; Ben Zoma looked and went mad; Acher destroyed the plants; Akiba entered in peace and departed in peace.

In notable readings of this legend, only Rabbi Akiba was fit to handle the study of mystical doctrines. The Tosafot, medieval commentaries on the Talmud, say that the four sages "did not go up literally, but it appeared to them as if they went up".[37] On the other hand, Louis Ginzberg, writes in the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901–1906) that the journey to paradise "is to be taken literally and not allegorically".[38]

In contrast to the Kabbalists, Maimonides interprets pardes as philosophy and not mysticism.[39][need quotation to verify]

Pre-Kabbalistic schools[edit]

Early mystical literature[edit]

The mystical methods and doctrines of Hekhalot (Heavenly "Chambers") and Merkabah (Divine "Chariot") texts, named by modern scholars from these repeated motifs, lasted from the 1st century BCE through to the 10th century CE, before giving way to the documented manuscript emergence of Kabbalah. Initiates were said to "descend the chariot", possibly a reference to internal introspection on the Heavenly journey through the spiritual realms. The ultimate aim was to arrive before the transcendent awe, rather than nearness, of the Divine. The mystical protagonists of the texts are famous Talmudic Sages of Rabbinic Judaism, either pseudepigraphic or documenting remnants of a developed tradition. From the 8th to 11th centuries, the Hekhalot texts, and the proto-Kabbalistic early cosmogonicSefer Yetzirah ("Book of Creation") made their way into European Jewish circles. A controversial esoteric work from associated literature describing a cosmic Anthropos, Shi'ur Qomah, was interpreted allegorically by subsequent Kabbalists in their meditation on the Sephirot Divine Persona.

[edit]

Another, separate influential mystical, theosophical, and pious movement, shortly before the arrival there of Kabbalistic theory, was the "Hasidei Ashkenaz" (חסידי אשכנז) or Medieval German Pietists from 1150 to 1250. This ethical-ascetic movement with elite theoretical and Practical Kabbalah speculations arose mostly among a single scholarly family, the Kalonymus family of the French and German Rhineland. Its Jewish ethics of saintly self-sacrifice influenced Ashkenazi Jewry, Musar literature and later emphases of piety in Judaism.

Medieval emergence of the Kabbalah[edit]

The 13th-century eminence of Nachmanides, a classic rabbinic figure, gave Kabbalah mainstream acceptance through his Torah commentary

Modern scholars have identified several mystical brotherhoods that functioned in Europe starting in the 12th century. Some, such as the "Iyyun Circle" and the "Unique Cherub Circle", were truly esoteric, remaining largely anonymous. The first documented historical emergence of Theosophical Kabbalistic doctrine occurred among Jewish Sages of Provence and Languedoc in southern France in the latter 1100s, with the appearance or consolidation of the mysterious work the Bahir (Book of "Brightness"), a midrash describing God's sephirot attributes as a dynamic interacting hypostatic drama in the Divine realm, and the school of Isaac the Blind (1160–1235) among critics of the rationalist influence of Maimonides. From there Kabbalah spread to Catalonia in north-east Spain around the central Rabbinic figure of Nahmanides (the Ramban) (1194–1270) in the early 1200s, with a Neoplatonic orientation focused on the upper sephirot. Subsequently, Kabbalistic doctrine reached its fullest classic expression among Castilian Kabbalists from the latter 1200s, with the Zohar (Book of "Splendor") literature, concerned with cosmic healing of gnostic dualities between the lower, revealed male and female attributes of God.

Rishonim ("Elder Sages") of exoteric Judaism who were deeply involved in Kabbalistic activity, gave the Kabbalah wide scholarly acceptance, including Nahmanides and Bahya ben Asher (Rabbeinu Behaye) (died 1340), whose classic commentaries on the Torah reference Kabbalistic esotericism.

Many Orthodox Jews reject the idea that Kabbalah underwent significant historical development or change such as has been proposed above. After the composition known as the Zohar was presented to the public in the 13th century, the term "Kabbalah" began to refer more specifically to teachings derived from, or related to, the Zohar. At an even later time, the term began to generally be applied to Zoharic teachings as elaborated upon by Isaac Luria (the Arizal). Historians generally date the start of Kabbalah as a major influence in Jewish thought and practice with the publication of the Zohar and climaxing with the spread of the Lurianic teachings. The majority of Haredi Jews accept the Zohar as the representative of the Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh B'reshit that are referred to in Talmudic texts.[40]

Ecstatic Kabbalah[edit]

Contemporary with the Zoharic efflorescence of Spanish Theosophical-Theurgic Kabbalah, Spanish exilarch Abraham Abulafia developed his own alternative, Maimonidean system of Ecstatic-Prophetic Kabbalah meditation, each consolidating aspects of a claimed inherited mystical tradition from Biblical times.[41] This was the classic time when various different interpretations of an esoteric meaning to Torah were articulated among Jewish thinkers.[42] Abulafia interpreted Theosophical Kabbalah's Sephirot Divine attributes, not as supernal hypostases which he opposed, but in psychological terms. Instead of influencing harmony in the divine real by theurgy, his meditative scheme aimed for mystical union with God, drawing down prophetic influx on the individual. He saw this meditation using Divine Names as a superior form of Kabbalistic ancient tradition. His version of Kabbalah, followed in the medieval eastern Mediterranean, remained a marginal stream to mainstream Theosophical Kabbalah development. Abulafian elements were later incorporated into the 16th century theosophical Kabbalistic systemisations of Moses Cordovero and Hayim Vital. Through them, later Hasidic Judaism incorporated elements of unio mystica and psychological focus from Abulafia.

Early modern era[edit]

Lurianic Kabbalah[edit]

The leading scholars of Safedin 16th-century invigorated mainstream Judaism through new legal, liturgical, exegetical and Lurianic-mythological developments.

Following the upheavals and dislocations in the Jewish world as a result of anti-Judaism during the Middle Ages, and the national trauma of the expulsion from Spain in 1492, closing the Spanish Jewish flowering, Jews began to search for signs of when the long-awaited Jewish Messiah would come to comfort them in their painful exiles. In the 16th century, the community of Safed in the Galilee became the centre of Jewish mystical, exegetical, legal and liturgical developments. The Safed mystics responded to the Spanish expulsion by turning Kabbalistic doctrine and practice towards a messianic focus. Moses Cordovero (The RAMAK 1522–1570) and his school popularized the teachings of the Zohar which had until then been only a restricted work. Cordovero's comprehensive works achieved the first (quasi-rationalistic) of Theosophical Kabbalah's two systemisations, harmonising preceding interpretations of the Zohar on its own apparent terms. The author of the Shulkhan Arukh (the normative Jewish "Code of Law"), Yosef Karo (1488–1575), was also a scholar of Kabbalah who kept a personal mystical diary. Moshe Alshich wrote a mystical commentary on the Torah, and Shlomo Alkabetz wrote Kabbalistic commentaries and poems.

The messianism of the Safed mystics culminated in Kabbalah receiving its biggest transformation in the Jewish world with the explication of its new interpretation from Isaac Luria (The ARI 1534–1572), by his disciples Hayim Vital and Israel Sarug. Both transcribed Luria's teachings (in variant forms) gaining them widespread popularity, Sarug taking Lurianic Kabbalah to Europe, Vital authoring the latterly canonical version. Luria's teachings came to rival the influence of the Zohar and Luria stands, alongside Moses de Leon, as the most influential mystic in Jewish history.[43] Lurianic Kabbalah gave Theosophical Kabbalah its second, complete (supra-rational) of two systemisations, reading the Zohar in light of its most esoteric sections (the Idrot), replacing the broken Sephirot attributes of God with rectified Partzufim (Divine Personas), embracing reincarnation, repair, and the urgency of cosmic Jewish messianism dependent on each person's soul tasks.

Influence on non-Jewish society[edit]

From the European Renaissance on, Judaic Kabbalah became a significant influence in non-Jewish culture, fully divorced from the separately evolving Judaic tradition. Kabbalah received the interest of Christian Hebraist scholars and occultists, who freely syncretised and adapted it to diverse non-Jewish spiritual traditions and belief systems of Western esotericism.[44]Christian Cabalists from the 15th-18th centuries adapted what they saw as ancient Biblical wisdom to Christian theology, while Hermeticism lead to Kabbalah's incorporation into Western magic through Hermetic Qabalah.[45] Presentations of Kabbalah in occult and New Age books on Kabbalah bear little resemblance to Judaic Kabbalah.[46]

Ban on studying Kabbalah[edit]

The Rabbinic ban on studying Kabbalah in Jewish society was lifted by the efforts of the 16th-century kabbalist Avraham Azulai (1570–1643).

I have found it written that all that has been decreed Above forbidding open involvement in the Wisdom of Truth [Kabbalah] was [only meant for] the limited time period until the year 5,250 (1490 C.E.). From then on after is called the "Last Generation", and what was forbidden is [now] allowed. And permission is granted to occupy ourselves in the [study of] Zohar. And from the year 5,300 (1540 C.E.) it is most desirable that the masses both those great and small [in Torah], should occupy themselves [in the study of Kabbalah], as it says in the Raya M'hemna [a section of the Zohar]. And because in this merit King Mashiach will come in the future—and not in any other merit—it is not proper to be discouraged [from the study of Kabbalah].[47]

The question, however, is whether the ban ever existed in the first place.[according to whom?] Concerning the above quote by Avraham Azulai, it has found many versions in English, another is this

From the year 1540 and onward, the basic levels of Kabbalah must be taught publicly to everyone, young and old. Only through Kabbalah will we forever eliminate war, destruction, and man's inhumanity to his fellow man.[48]

The lines concerning the year 1490 are also missing from the Hebrew edition of Hesed L'Avraham, the source work that both of these quote from. Furthermore, by Azulai's view the ban was lifted thirty years before his birth, a time that would have corresponded with Haim Vital's publication of the teaching of Isaac Luria. Moshe Isserles understood there to be only a minor restriction, in his words, "One's belly must be full of meat and wine, discerning between the prohibited and the permitted."[49] He is supported by the Bier Hetiv, the Pithei Teshuva as well as the Vilna Gaon. The Vilna Gaon says, "There was never any ban or enactment restricting the study of the wisdom of Kabbalah. Any who says there is has never studied Kabbalah, has never seen PaRDeS, and speaks as an ignoramus."[50]

Sefardi and Mizrahi[edit]

The Kabbalah of the Sefardi (Iberian Peninsula) and Mizrahi (Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus) Torah scholars has a long history. Kabbalah in various forms was widely studied, commented upon, and expanded by North African, Turkish, Yemenite, and Asian scholars from the 16th century onward. It flourished among Sefardic Jews in Tzfat (Safed), Israel even before the arrival of Isaac Luria. Yosef Karo, author of the Shulchan Arukh was part of the Tzfat school of Kabbalah. Shlomo Alkabetz, author of the hymn Lekhah Dodi, taught there.

His disciple Moses ben Jacob Cordovero (or Cordoeiro) authored Pardes Rimonim, an organised, exhaustive compilation of kabbalistic teachings on a variety of subjects up to that point. Cordovero headed the academy of Tzfat until his death, when Isaac Luria rose to prominence. Rabbi Moshe's disciple Eliyahu De Vidas authored the classic work, Reishit Chochma, combining kabbalistic and mussar (moral) teachings. Chaim Vital also studied under Cordovero, but with the arrival of Luria became his main disciple. Vital claimed to be the only one authorised to transmit the Ari's teachings, though other disciples also published books presenting Luria's teachings.

The Oriental Kabbalist tradition continues until today among Sephardi and Mizrachi Hakham sages and study circles. Among leading figures were the Yemenite Shalom Sharabi (1720–1777) of the Beit El Synagogue, the Jerusalemite Hida (1724–1806), the Baghdad leader Ben Ish Chai (1832–1909), and the Abuhatzeira dynasty.

Maharal[edit]

The 16th-century Maharalof Prague articulated a mystical exegesis in philosophical language

One of the most innovative theologians in early-modern Judaism was Judah Loew ben Bezalel (1525–1609) known as the "Maharal of Prague". Many of his written works survive and are studied for their unusual combination of the mystical and philosophical approaches in Judaism. While conversant in Kabbalistic learning, he expresses Jewish mystical thought in his own individual approach without reference to Kabbalistic terms.[51] The Maharal is most well known in popular culture for the legend of the golem of Prague, associated with him in folklore. However, his thought influenced Hasidism, for example being studied in the introspective Przysucha school. During the 20th century, Isaac Hutner (1906–1980) continued to spread the Maharal's works indirectly through his own teachings and publications within the non-Hasidic yeshiva world.

Sabbatian antinomian movements[edit]

The spiritual and mystical yearnings of many Jews remained frustrated after the death of Isaac Luria and his disciples and colleagues. No hope was in sight for many following the devastation and mass killings of the pogroms that followed in the wake of the Chmielnicki Uprising (1648–1654), the largest single massacre of Jews until the Holocaust, and it was at this time that a controversial scholar by the name of Sabbatai Zevi (1626–1676) captured the hearts and minds of the Jewish masses of that time with the promise of a newly minted messianic Millennialism in the form of his own personage.

His charisma, mystical teachings that included repeated pronunciations of the holy Tetragrammaton in public, tied to an unstable personality, and with the help of his greatest enthusiast, Nathan of Gaza, convinced the Jewish masses that the Jewish Messiah had finally come. It seemed that the esoteric teachings of Kabbalah had found their "champion" and had triumphed, but this era of Jewish history unravelled when Zevi became an apostate to Judaism by converting to Islam after he was arrested by the Ottoman Sultan and threatened with execution for attempting a plan to conquer the world and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Unwilling to give up their messianic expectations, a minority of Zevi's Jewish followers converted to Islam along with him.

Many of his followers, known as Sabbatians, continued to worship him in secret, explaining his conversion not as an effort to save his life but to recover the sparks of the holy in each religion, and most leading rabbis were always on guard to root them out. The Dönmeh movement in modern Turkey is a surviving remnant of the Sabbatian schism. Theologies developed by leaders of Sabbatian movements dealt with antinomian redemption of the realm of impurity through sin, based on Lurianic theory. Moderate views reserved this dangerous task for the divine messiah Sabbatai Zevi alone, while his followers remained observant Jews. Radical forms spoke of the messianic transcendence of Torah, and required Sabbatean followers to emulate him, either in private or publicly.

Due to the chaos caused in the Jewish world, the rabbinic prohibition against studying Kabbalah established itself firmly within the Jewish religion. One of the conditions allowing a man to study and engage himself in the Kabbalah was to be at least forty years old. This age requirement came about during this period and is not Talmudic in origin but rabbinic. Many Jews are familiar with this ruling, but are not aware of its origins.[52] Moreover, the prohibition is not halakhic in nature. According to Moses Cordovero, halakhically, one must be of age twenty to engage in the Kabbalah. Many famous kabbalists, including the ARI, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Yehuda Ashlag, were younger than twenty when they began.

The Sabbatian movement was followed by that of the Frankists, disciples of Jacob Frank (1726–1791), who eventually became an apostate to Judaism by apparently converting to Catholicism. Frank took the Sabbatean impulse to its nihilistic end, declaring himself part of a messianic trinity along with his daughter, and that breaking all of Torah was its fulfilment. This era of disappointment did not stem the Jewish masses' yearnings for "mystical" leadership.

Modern era[edit]

Traditional Kabbalah[edit]

The Vilna Gaon, 18th-century leader of rabbinic opposition to Hasidism—a Kabbalist who opposed Hasidic doctrinal and practical innovations

Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707–1746), based in Italy, was a precocious Talmudic scholar who deduced a need for the public teaching and study of Kabbalah. He established a yeshiva for Kabbalah study and actively recruited students. He wrote copious manuscripts in an appealing clear Hebrew style, all of which gained the attention of both admirers and rabbinical critics, who feared another "Shabbetai Zevi" (false messiah) in the making. His rabbinical opponents forced him to close his school, hand over and destroy many of his most precious unpublished kabbalistic writings, and go into exile in the Netherlands. He eventually moved to the Land of Israel. Some of his most important works, such as Derekh Hashem, survive and serve as a gateway to the world of Jewish mysticism.[53]

Elijah of Vilna (Vilna Gaon) (1720–1797), based in Lithuania, had his teachings encoded and publicised by his disciples, such as Chaim Volozhin's posthumously published the mystical-ethical work Nefesh HaChaim.[54] He staunchly opposed the new Hasidic movement and warned against their public displays of religious fervour inspired by the mystical teachings of their rabbis. Although the Vilna Gaon did not look with favor on the Hasidic movement, he did not prohibit the study and engagement in the Kabbalah. This is evident from his writings in the Even Shlema. "He that is able to understand secrets of the Torah and does not try to understand them will be judged harshly, may God have mercy". (The Vilna Gaon, Even Shlema, 8:24). "The Redemption will only come about through learning Torah, and the essence of the Redemption depends upon learning Kabbalah" (The Vilna Gaon, Even Shlema, 11:3).

In the Oriental tradition of Kabbalah, Shalom Sharabi (1720–1777) from Yemen was a major esoteric clarifier of the works of the Ari. The Beit El Synagogue, "yeshivah of the kabbalists", which he came to head, was one of the few communities to bring Lurianic meditation into communal prayer.[55][56]

In the 20th century, Yehuda Ashlag (1885—1954) in Mandate Palestine became a leading esoteric kabbalist in the traditional mode, who translated the Zohar into Hebrew with a new approach in Lurianic Kabbalah.

Hasidic Judaism[edit]

Main article: Hasidic Judaism

Yisrael ben Eliezer Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760), founder of Hasidism in the area of the Ukraine, spread teachings based on Lurianic Kabbalah, but adapted to a different aim of immediate psychological perception of Divine Omnipresence amidst the mundane. The emotional, ecstatic fervour of early Hasidism developed from previous Nistarim circles of mystical activity, but instead sought communal revival of the common folk by reframing Judaism around the central principle of devekut (mystical cleaving to God) for all. This new approach turned formerly esoteric elite kabbalistic theory into a popular social mysticism movement for the first time, with its own doctrines, classic texts, teachings and customs. From the Baal Shem Tov sprang the wide ongoing schools of Hasidic Judaism, each with different approaches and thought. Hasidism instituted a new concept of Tzadik leadership in Jewish mysticism, where the elite scholars of mystical texts now took on a social role as embodiments and intercessors of Divinity for the masses. With the 19th-century consolidation of the movement, leadership became dynastic.

Among later Hasidic schools Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772–1810), the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov, revitalised and further expanded the latter's teachings, amassing a following of thousands in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Poland. In a unique amalgam of Hasidic and Mitnaged approaches, Rebbe Nachman emphasised study of both Kabbalah and serious Torah scholarship to his disciples. His teachings also differed from the way other Hasidic groups were developing, as he rejected the idea of hereditary Hasidic dynasties and taught that each Hasid must "search for the tzaddik ('saintly/righteous person')" for himself and within himself.[57]

The Habad-Lubavitch intellectual school of Hasidism broke away from General-Hasidism's emotional faith orientation, by making the mind central as the route to the internal heart. Its texts combine what they view as rational investigation with explanation of Kabbalah through articulating unity in a common Divine essence. In recent times, the messianic element latent in Hasidism has come to the fore in Habad.

Haskalah opposition to mysticism[edit]

The Jewish Haskalah enlightenment movement from the late 1700s renewed an ideology of rationalism in Judaism, giving birth to critical Judaic scholarship. It presented Judaism in apologetic terms, stripped of mysticism and myth, in line with Jewish emancipation. Many foundational historians of Judaism such as Heinrich Graetz, criticised Kabbalah as a foreign import that compromised historical Judaism. In the 20th century Gershom Scholem overturned Jewish historiography, presenting the centrality of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah to historical Judaism, and their subterranean life as the true creative renewing spirit of Jewish thought and culture. His influence contributed to the flourishing of Jewish mysticism academia today, its impact on wider intellectual currents, and the contribution of mystical spirituality in modernist Jewish denominations today. Traditionalist Kabbalah and Hasidism, meanwhile, continued outside the academic interest in it.

20th-century influence[edit]

See also: Kabbalistic approaches to the sciences and humanities

Jewish mysticism has influenced the thought of some major Jewish theologians, philosophers, writers and thinkers in the 20th century, outside of Kabbalistic or Hasidic traditions. The first Chief Rabbi of Mandate Palestine, Abraham Isaac Kook was a mystical thinker who drew heavily on Kabbalistic notions through his own poetic terminology. His writings are concerned with fusing the false divisions between sacred and secular, rational and mystical, legal and imaginative. Students of Joseph B. Soloveitchik, figurehead of American Modern Orthodox Judaism have read the influence of Kabbalistic symbols in his philosophical works.[58]Neo-Hasidism, rather than Kabbalah, shaped Martin Buber's philosophy of dialogue and Abraham Joshua Heschel's Conservative Judaism. Lurianic symbols of Tzimtzum and Shevirah have informed Holocaust theologians.[59]Gershom Scholem's central academic influence on reshaping Jewish historiography in favour of myth and imagination, made historical arcane Kabbalah of relevance to wide intellectual discourse in the 20th century. Moshe Idel traces the influences of Kabbalistic and Hasidic concepts on diverse thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Jacques Derrida, Franz Kafka, Franz Rosenzweig, Arnaldo Momigliano, Paul Celan and George Steiner.[60]Harold Bloom has seen Kabbalistic hermeneutics as the paradigm for western literary criticism.[61] Sanford Drob discusses the direct and indirect influence of Kabbalah on the depth psychologies of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, as well as modern and postmodern philosophers, in his project to develop new intellectual relevance and open dialogue for kabbalah.[62] The interaction of Kabbalah with modern physics, as with other mystical traditions, has generated its own literature. Traditional Kabbalist Yitzchak Ginsburgh brings esoteric dimensions of advanced kabbalistic symmetry into relationship with mathematics and the sciences, including renaming the elementary particles of Quantum theory with Kabbalistic Hebrew names, and developing kabbalistic approaches to debates in Evolutionary theory.[63]

Concepts[edit]

Concealed and revealed God[edit]

Metaphorical scheme of emanated spiritual worlds within the Ein Sof

See also: Atzmus and Anthropomorphism in Kabbalah

The nature of the divine prompted kabbalists to envision two aspects to God: (a) God in essence, absolutely transcendent, unknowable, limitless divine simplicity beyond revelation, and (b) God in manifestation, the revealed persona of God through which he creates and sustains and relates to mankind. Kabbalists speak of the first as Ein/Ayn Sof (אין סוף "the infinite/endless", literally "there is no end"). Of the impersonal Ein Sof nothing can be grasped. However, the second aspect of divine emanations, are accessible to human perception, dynamically interacting throughout spiritual and physical existence, reveal the divine immanently, and are bound up in the life of man. Kabbalists believe that these two aspects are not contradictory but complement one another, emanations mystically revealing the concealed mystery from within the Godhead.

As a term describing the Infinite Godhead beyond Creation, Kabbalists viewed the Ein Sof itself as too sublime to be referred to directly in the Torah. It is not a Holy Name in Judaism, as no name could contain a revelation of the Ein Sof. Even terming it "No End" is an inadequate representation of its true nature, the description only bearing its designation in relation to Creation. However, the Torah does narrate God speaking in the first person, most memorably the first word of the Ten Commandments, a reference without any description or name to the simple Divine essence (termed also Atzmus Ein Sof – Essence of the Infinite) beyond even the duality of Infinitude/Finitude. In contrast, the term Ein Sof describes the Godhead as Infinite lifeforce first cause, continuously keeping all Creation in existence. The Zohar reads the first words of Genesis, BeReishit Bara Elohim – In the beginning God created, as "With (the level of) Reishit (Beginning) (the Ein Sof) created Elohim (God's manifestation in creation)":

At the very beginning the King made engravings in the supernal purity. A spark of blackness emerged in the sealed within the sealed, from the mystery of the Ayn Sof, a mist within matter, implanted in a ring, no white, no black, no red, no yellow, no colour at all. When He measured with the standard of measure, He made colours to provide light. Within the spark, in the innermost part, emerged a source, from which the colours are painted below; it is sealed among the sealed things of the mystery of Ayn Sof. It penetrated, yet did not penetrate its air. It was not known at all until, from the pressure of its penetration, a single point shone, sealed, supernal. Beyond this point nothing is known, so it is called reishit (beginning): the first word of all ...[64] "

The structure of emanations has been described in various ways: Sephirot (divine attributes) and Partzufim (divine "faces"), Ohr (spiritual light and flow), Names of God and the supernal Torah, Olamot (Spiritual Worlds), a Divine Tree and Archetypal Man, Angelic Chariot and Palaces, male and female, enclothed layers of reality, inwardly holy vitality and external Kelipot shells, 613 channels ("limbs" of the King) and the divine Souls of Man. These symbols are used to describe various levels and aspects of Divine manifestation, from the Pnimi (inner) dimensions to the Hitzoni (outer).[citation needed] It is solely in relation to the emanations, certainly not the Ein Sof Ground of all Being, that Kabbalah uses anthropomorphic symbolism to relate psychologically to divinity. Kabbalists debated the validity of anthropomorphic symbolism, between its disclosure as mystical allusion, versus its instrumental use as allegorical metaphor; in the language of the Zohar, symbolism "touches yet does not touch" its point.[65]

Sephirot[edit]

Main article: Sefirot

Scheme of descending Sephirotin three columns, as a tree with roots above and branches below

The Sephirot (also spelled "sefirot"; singular sefirah) are the ten emanations and attributes of God with which he continually sustains the existence of the universe. The Zohar and other Kabbalistic texts elaborate on the emergence of the sephirot from a state of concealed potential in the Ein Sof until their manifestation in the mundane world. In particular, Moses ben Jacob Cordovero (known as "the Ramak"), describes how God emanated the myriad details of finite reality out of the absolute unity of Divine light via the ten sephirot, or vessels.[2]: 6 

Comparison of the Ramak's counting with Luria's, describes dual rational and unconscious aspects of Kabbalah. Two metaphors are used to describe the sephirot, their theocentric manifestation as the Trees of Life and Knowledge, and their anthropocentric correspondence in man, exemplified as Adam Kadmon. This dual-directional perspective embodies the cyclical, inclusive nature of the divine flow, where alternative divine and human perspectives have validity. The central metaphor of man allows human understanding of the sephirot, as they correspond to the psychological faculties of the soul, and incorporate masculine and feminine aspects after Genesis 1:27 ("God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them"). Corresponding to the last sefirah in Creation is the indwelling shekhinah (Feminine Divine Presence). Downward flow of divine Light in Creation forms the supernal Four Worlds; Atziluth, Beri'ah, Yetzirah and Assiah manifesting the dominance of successive sephirot towards action in this world. The acts of man unite or divide the Heavenly masculine and feminine aspects of the sephirot, their anthropomorphic harmony completing Creation. As the spiritual foundation of Creation, the sephirot correspond to the names of God in Judaism and the particular nature of any entity.

Ten Sephirot as process of Creation[edit]

According to Lurianic cosmology, the sephirot correspond to various levels of creation (ten sephirot in each of the Four Worlds, and four worlds within each of the larger four worlds, each containing ten sephirot, which themselves contain ten sephirot, to an infinite number of possibilities),[66] and are emanated from the Creator for the purpose of creating the universe. The sephirot are considered revelations of the Creator's will (ratzon),[67] and they should not be understood as ten different "gods" but as ten different ways the one God reveals his will through the Emanations. It is not God who changes but the ability to perceive God that changes.

Ten Sephirot as process of ethics[edit]

In the 16–17th centuries Kabbalah was popularised through a new genre of ethical literature, related to Kabbalistic meditation

Divine creation by means of the Ten Sephirot is an ethical process. They represent the different aspects of Morality. Loving-Kindness is a possible moral justification found in Chessed, and Gevurah is the Moral Justification of Justice and both are mediated by Mercy which is Rachamim. However, these pillars of morality become immoral once they become extremes. When Loving-Kindness becomes extreme it can lead to sexual depravity and lack of Justice to the wicked. When Justice becomes extreme, it can lead to torture and the Murder of innocents and unfair punishment.

"Righteous" humans (tzadikim) ascend these ethical qualities of the ten sephirot by doing righteous actions. If there were no righteous humans, the blessings of God would become completely hidden, and creation would cease to exist. While real human actions are the "Foundation" (Yesod) of this universe (Malchut), these actions must accompany the conscious intention of compassion. Compassionate actions are often impossible without faith (Emunah), meaning to trust that God always supports compassionate actions even when God seems hidden. Ultimately, it is necessary to show compassion toward oneself too in order to share compassion toward others. This "selfish" enjoyment of God's blessings but only in order to empower oneself to assist others is an important aspect of "Restriction", and is considered a kind of golden mean in kabbalah, corresponding to the sefirah of Adornment (Tiferet) being part of the "Middle Column".

Moses ben Jacob Cordovero, wrote Tomer Devorah (Palm Tree of Deborah), in which he presents an ethical teaching of Judaism in the kabbalistic context of the ten sephirot. Tomer Devorah has become also a foundational Musar text.[68]

Divine Feminine[edit]

Main article: Shekhinah

Both Rationalist Jewish philosophy and Kabbalah developed among the elite thinkers of medieval Spanish Jewry, but the austere intellectual sublimation of Judaism by the philosophers remained, by their own admission, accessible and appealing to restricted intellectually questioning circles. In contrast, while intuitive kabbalistic creativity was confined to esoteric circles, kabbalah deliberately appealed to wide reaches of the Jewish people in their popular piety, as its profoundly psychological depth theory incorporated the mythic, imaginative, sexual, and demonic in human experience.

Kabbalah describes Man as the inner dimension of all Spiritual and Physical Realms (with angels the outer aspect), from the verses "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness... And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them... Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7). Kabbalists equated the final SephirahMalkuth (Kingdom) with the indwelling Feminine Divine immanent Presence of God throughout Creation, adapting for it the previous Rabbinic term Shekhinah (Divine Presence), but lending the concept new hypostatic and sexual interpretation (Earlier Biblical Wisdom literature describes Wisdom as a feminine manifestation of God). The fallen, exiled state of Creation by man exiles the Shekhinah into captivity among the Kelipot forces of impurity, awaiting redemption Above by man Below. Nachman of Breslov saw this archetype in fairy tales of the world, but in disordered narrative. His Kabbalistic tales rearrange the symbols to free the Divine Queen for reunion with The Holy One Blessed Be He.

Partzufim[edit]

Main article: Partzufim

The most esoteric Idrot sections of the classic Zohar make reference to hypostatic male and female Partzufim (Divine Personas) displacing the Sephirot, manifestations of God in particular Anthropomorphic symbolic personalities based on Biblical esoteric exegesis and midrashic narratives. Lurianic Kabbalah places these at the centre of our existence, rather than earlier Kabbalah's Sephirot, which Luria saw as broken in Divine crisis. Contemporary cognitive understanding of the Partzuf symbols relates them to Jungian archetypes of the collective unconscious, reflecting a psychologised progression from youth to sage in therapeutic healing back to the infinite Ein Sof/Unconscious, as Kabbalah is simultaneously both theology and psychology.[69]

Descending spiritual worlds[edit]

Main articles: Four Worlds and Seder hishtalshelus

Medieval Kabbalists believed that all things are linked to God through these emanations, making all levels in creation part of one great, gradually descending chain of being. Through this any lower creation reflects its particular roots in supernal divinity. Kabbalists agreed with the divine transcendence described by Jewish philosophy, but as only referring to the Ein Sof unknowable Godhead. They reinterpreted the theistic philosophical concept of creation from nothing, replacing God's creative act with panentheistic continual self-emanation by the mystical Ayin Nothingness/No-thing sustaining all spiritual and physical realms as successively more corporeal garments, veils and condensations of divine immanence. The innumerable levels of descent divide into Four comprehensive spiritual worlds, Atziluth ("Closeness" – Divine Wisdom), Beriah ("Creation" – Divine Understanding), Yetzirah ("Formation" – Divine Emotions), Assiah ("Action" – Divine Activity), with a preceding Fifth World Adam Kadmon ("Primordial Man" – Divine Will) sometimes excluded due to its sublimity. Together the whole spiritual heavens form the Divine Persona/Anthropos.

Hasidic thought extends the divine immanence of Kabbalah by holding that God is all that really exists, all else being completely undifferentiated from God's perspective. This view can be defined as acosmicmonistic panentheism. According to this philosophy, God's existence is higher than anything that this world can express, yet he includes all things of this world within his divine reality in perfect unity, so that the creation effected no change in him at all. This paradox as seen from dual human and divine perspectives is dealt with at length in Chabad texts.[70]

Origin of evil[edit]

Amuletfrom the 15th century. Theosophical kabbalists, especially Luria, censored contemporary Practical Kabbalah, but allowed amulets by Sages[71]

Among problems considered in the Hebrew Kabbalah is the theological issue of the nature and origin of evil. In the views of some Kabbalists this conceives "evil" as a "quality of God", asserting that negativity enters into the essence of the Absolute. In this view it is conceived that the Absolute needs evil to "be what it is", i.e., to exist.[72] Foundational texts of Medieval Kabbalism conceived evil as a demonic parallel to the holy, called the Sitra Achra (the "Other Side"), and the Kelipot/Qliphoth (the "Shells/Husks") that cover and conceal the holy, are nurtured from it, and yet also protect it by limiting its revelation. Scholem termed this element of the Spanish Kabbalah a "Jewish gnostic" motif, in the sense of dual powers in the divine realm of manifestation. In a radical notion, the root of evil is found within the 10 holy Sephirot, through an imbalance of Gevurah, the power of "Strength/Judgement/Severity".[citation needed]

Gevurah is necessary for Creation to exist as it counterposes Chesed ("loving-kindness"), restricting the unlimited divine bounty within suitable vessels, so forming the Worlds. However, if man sins (actualising impure judgement within his soul), the supernal Judgement is reciprocally empowered over the Kindness, introducing disharmony among the Sephirot in the divine realm and exile from God throughout Creation. The demonic realm, though illusory in its holy origin, becomes the real apparent realm of impurity in lower Creation. In the Zohar, the sin of Adam and Eve (who embodied Adam Kadmon below) took place in the spiritual realms. Their sin was that they separated the Tree of knowledge (10 sefirot within Malkuth, representing Divine immanence), from the Tree of life within it (10 sefirot within Tiferet, representing Divine transcendence). This introduced the false perception of duality into lower creation, an external Tree of Death nurtured from holiness, and an Adam Belial of impurity.[73] In Lurianic Kabbalah, evil originates from a primordial shattering of the sephirot of God's Persona before creation of the stable spiritual worlds, mystically represented by the 8 Kings of Edom (the derivative of Gevurah) "who died" before any king reigned in Israel from Genesis 36. In the divine view from above within Kabbalah, emphasised in HasidicPanentheism, the appearance of duality and pluralism below dissolves into the absolute Monism of God, psychologising evil.[74] Though impure below, what appears as evil derives from a divine blessing too high to be contained openly.[75] The mystical task of the righteous in the Zohar is to reveal this concealed Divine Oneness and absolute good, to "convert bitterness into sweetness, darkness into light".

Role of Man[edit]

Joseph Karo's role as both legalist and mystic underscores Kabbalah's spiritualisation of normative Jewish observance

Kabbalistic doctrine gives man the central role in Creation, as his soul and body correspond to the supernal divine manifestations. In the Christian Kabbalah this scheme was universalised to describe harmonia mundi, the harmony of Creation within man.[76] In Judaism, it gave a profound spiritualisation of Jewish practice. While the kabbalistic scheme gave a radically innovative, though conceptually continuous, development of mainstream Midrashic and Talmudic rabbinic notions, kabbalistic thought underscored and invigorated conservative Jewish observance. The esoteric teachings of kabbalah gave the traditional mitzvot observances the central role in spiritual creation, whether the practitioner was learned in this knowledge or not. Accompanying normative Jewish observance and worship with elite mystical kavanot intentions gave them theurgic power, but sincere observance by common folk, especially in the Hasidic popularisation of kabbalah, could replace esoteric abilities. Many kabbalists were also leading legal figures in Judaism, such as Nachmanides and Joseph Karo.

Medieval kabbalah elaborates particular reasons for each Biblical mitzvah, and their role in harmonising the supernal divine flow, uniting masculine and feminine forces on High. With this, the feminine Divine presence in this world is drawn from exile to the Holy One Above. The 613 mitzvot are embodied in the organs and soul of man. Lurianic Kabbalah incorporates this in the more inclusive scheme of Jewish messianic rectification of exiled divinity. Jewish mysticism, in contrast to Divine transcendence rationalist human-centred reasons for Jewish observance, gave Divine-immanent providential cosmic significance to the daily events in the worldly life of man in general, and the spiritual role of Jewish observance in particular.

Levels of the soul[edit]

Building on Kabbalah's conception of the soul, Abraham Abulafia's meditations included the "inner illumination of" the human form[77]

The Kabbalah posits that the human soul has three elements, the nefesh, ru'ach, and neshamah. The nefesh is found in all humans, and enters the physical body at birth. It is the source of one's physical and psychological nature. The next two parts of the soul are not implanted at birth, but can be developed over time; their development depends on the actions and beliefs of the individual. They are said to only fully exist in people awakened spiritually. A common way of explaining the three parts of the soul is as follows:[citation needed]

  • Nefesh (נפש): the lower part, or "animal part", of the soul. It is linked to instincts and bodily cravings. This part of the soul is provided at birth.
  • Ruach (רוח): the middle soul, the "spirit". It contains the moral virtues and the ability to distinguish between good and evil.
  • Neshamah (נשמה): the higher soul, or "super-soul". This separates man from all other life-forms. It is related to the intellect and allows man to enjoy and benefit from the afterlife. It allows one to have some awareness of the existence and presence of God.

The Raaya Meheimna, a section of related teachings spread throughout the Zohar, discusses fourth and fifth parts of the human soul, the chayyah and yehidah (first mentioned in the Midrash Rabbah). Gershom Scholem writes that these "were considered to represent the sublimest levels of intuitive cognition, and to be within the grasp of only a few chosen individuals". The Chayyah and the Yechidah do not enter into the body like the other three—thus they received less attention in other sections of the Zohar.

  • Chayyah (חיה): The part of the soul that allows one to have an awareness of the divine life force itself.
  • Yehidah (יחידה): The highest plane of the soul, in which one can achieve as full a union with God as is possible.

Both rabbinic and kabbalistic works posit that there are a few additional, non-permanent states of the soul that people can develop on certain occasions. These extra souls, or extra states of the soul, play no part in any afterlife scheme, but are mentioned for completeness:

  • Ruach HaKodesh (רוח הקודש) ("spirit of holiness"): a state of the soul that makes prophecy possible. Since the age of classical prophecy passed, no one (outside of Israel) receives the soul of prophecy any longer.
  • Neshamah Yeseira: The "supplemental soul" that a Jew can experience on Shabbat. It makes possible an enhanced spiritual enjoyment of the day. This exists only when one is observing Shabbat; it can be lost and gained depending on one's observance.
  • Neshamah Kedosha: Provided to Jews at the age of maturity (13 for boys, 12 for girls) and is related to the study and fulfillment of the Torah commandments. It exists only when one studies and follows the Torah; it can be lost and gained depending on one's study and observance.

Reincarnation[edit]

Main article: Gilgul

Reincarnation, the transmigration of the soul after death, was introduced into Judaism as a central esoteric tenet of Kabbalah from the Medieval period onwards, called Gilgul neshamot ("cycles of the soul"). The concept does not appear overtly in the Hebrew Bible or classic rabbinic literature, and was rejected by various Medieval Jewish philosophers. However, the Kabbalists explained a number of scriptural passages in reference to Gilgulim. The concept became central to the later Kabbalah of Isaac Luria, who systemised it as the personal parallel to the cosmic process of rectification. Through Lurianic Kabbalah and Hasidic Judaism, reincarnation entered popular Jewish culture as a literary motif.[78]

Tzimtzum, Shevirah and Tikkun[edit]

Main article: Lurianic Kabbalah

16th-century graves of Safed, Galilee. The messianic focus of its mystical renaissance culminated in Lurianic thought.

Tzimtzum (Constriction/Concentration) is the primordial cosmic act whereby God "contracted" His infinite light, leaving a "void" into which the light of existence was poured. This allowed the emergence of independent existence that would not become nullified by the pristine Infinite Light, reconciling the unity of the Ein Sof with the plurality of creation. This changed the first creative act into one of withdrawal/exile, the antithesis of the ultimate Divine Will. In contrast, a new emanation after the Tzimtzum shone into the vacuum to begin creation, but led to an initial instability called Tohu (Chaos), leading to a new crisis of Shevirah (Shattering) of the sephirot vessels. The shards of the broken vessels fell down into the lower realms, animated by remnants of their divine light, causing primordial exile within the Divine Persona before the creation of man. Exile and enclothement of higher divinity within lower realms throughout existence requires man to complete the Tikkun olam (Rectification) process. Rectification Above corresponds to the reorganization of the independent sephirot into relating Partzufim (Divine Personas), previously referred to obliquely in the Zohar. From the catastrophe stems the possibility of self-aware Creation, and also the Kelipot (Impure Shells) of previous Medieval kabbalah. The metaphorical anthropomorphism of the partzufim accentuates the sexual unifications of the redemption process, while Gilgul reincarnation emerges from the scheme. Uniquely, Lurianism gave formerly private mysticism the urgency of Messianic social involvement.

According to interpretations of Luria, the catastrophe stemmed from the "unwillingness" of the residue imprint after the Tzimtzum to relate to the new vitality that began creation. The process was arranged to shed and harmonise the Divine Infinity with the latent potential of evil.[79] The creation of Adam would have redeemed existence, but his sin caused new shevirah of Divine vitality, requiring the Giving of the Torah to begin Messianic rectification. Historical and individual history becomes the narrative of reclaiming exiled Divine sparks.

Linguistic mysticism and the mystical Torah[edit]

Kabbalistic thought extended Biblical and Midrashic notions that God enacted Creation through the Hebrew language and through the Torah into a full linguistic mysticism. In this, every Hebrew letter, word, number, even accent on words of the Hebrew Bible contain Jewish mystical meanings, describing the spiritual dimensions within exoteric ideas, and it teaches the hermeneutic methods of interpretation for ascertaining these meanings. Names of God in Judaism have further prominence, though infinite meaning turns the whole Torah into a Divine name. As the Hebrew name of things is the channel of their lifeforce, parallel to the sephirot, so concepts such as "holiness" and "mitzvot" embody ontological Divine immanence, as God can be known in manifestation as well as transcendence. The infinite potential of meaning in the Torah, as in the Ein Sof, is reflected in the symbol of the two trees of the Garden of Eden; the Torah of the Tree of Knowledge is the external, finite Halachic Torah, enclothed within which the mystics perceive the unlimited infinite plurality of meanings of the Torah of the Tree of Life. In Lurianic terms, each of the 600,000 root souls of Israel find their own interpretation in Torah, as "God, the Torah and Israel are all One".[citation needed]

The reapers of the Field are the Comrades, masters of this wisdom, because Malkhut is called the Apple Field, and She grows sprouts of secrets and new meanings of Torah. Those who constantly create new interpretations of Torah are the ones who reap Her.[80]

As early as the 1st century BCE Jews believed that the Torah and other canonical texts contained encoded messages and hidden meanings. Gematria is one method for discovering its hidden meanings. Each letter in Hebrew also represents a number; Hebrew, unlike many other languages, never developed a separate numerical alphabet. By converting letters to numbers, Kabbalists were able to find a hidden meaning in each word. This method of interpretation was used extensively by various schools.

In contemporary interpretation of kabbalah, Sanford Drob makes cognitive sense of this linguistic mythos by relating it to postmodern philosophical concepts described by Jacques Derrida and others, where all reality embodies narrative texts with infinite plurality of meanings brought by the reader. In this dialogue, kabbalah survives the nihilism of Deconstruction by incorporating its own Lurianic Shevirah, and by the dialectical paradox where man and God imply each other.[81]

Cognition, mysticism, or values[edit]

Kabbalists as mystics[edit]

The founder of the academic study of Jewish mysticism, Gershom Scholem, privileged an intellectual view of the nature of Kabbalistic symbols as dialecticTheosophical speculation. In contrast, contemporary scholarship of Moshe Idel and Elliot R. Wolfson has opened a phenomenological understanding of the mystical nature of Kabbalistic experience, based on a close reading of the historical texts. Wolfson has shown that among the closed elite circles of mystical activity, medieval Theosophical Kabbalists held that an intellectual view of their symbols was secondary to the experiential. In the context of medieval Jewish philosophical debates on the role of imagination in Biblical prophecy, and essentialist versus instrumental kabbalistic debates about the relation of sephirot to God, they saw contemplation on the sephirot as a vehicle for prophecy. Judaism's ban on physical iconography, along with anthropomorphic metaphors for Divinity in the Hebrew Bible and midrash, enabled their internal visualisation of the Divine sephirot Anthropos in imagination. Disclosure of the aniconic in iconic internal psychology, involved sublimatory revelation of Kabbalah's sexual unifications. Previous academic distinction between Theosophical versus Abulafian Ecstatic-Prophetic Kabbalah overstated their division of aims, which revolved around visual versus verbal/auditory views of prophecy.[82] In addition, throughout the history of Judaic Kabbalah, the greatest mystics claimed to receive new teachings from Elijah the Prophet, the souls of earlier sages (a purpose of Lurianic meditation prostrated on the graves of Talmudic Tannaim, Amoraim and Kabbalists), the soul of the mishnah, ascents during sleep, heavenly messengers, etc. A tradition of parapsychology abilities, psychic knowledge, and theurgic intercessions in heaven for the community is recounted in the hagiographic works Praises of the Ari, Praises of the Besht, and in many other Kabbalistic and Hasidic tales. Kabbalistic and Hasidic texts are concerned to apply themselves from exegesis and theory to spiritual practice, including prophetic

Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabbalah

kabbalah

This shows grade level based on the word's complexity.

or cab·a·la

[ kab-uh-luh, kuh-bah- ]

/ ˈkæb ə lə, kəˈbɑ- /

This shows grade level based on the word's complexity.


noun

a system of esoteric theosophy and theurgy developed by rabbis, reaching its peak about the 12th and 13th centuries, and influencing certain medieval and Renaissance Christian thinkers. It was based on a mystical method of interpreting Scripture by which initiates claimed to penetrate sacred mysteries. Among its central doctrines are: all creation is an emanation from the Deity and the soul exists from eternity.

any occult or secret doctrine or science.

QUIZ

ARE YOU A TRUE BLUE CHAMPION OF THESE "BLUE" SYNONYMS?

We could talk until we're blue in the face about this quiz on words for the color "blue," but we think you should take the quiz and find out if you're a whiz at these colorful terms.

Question 1 of 8

Which of the following words describes “sky blue”?

Also cab·ba·la,kab·a·la,kab·ba·la .

Origin of kabbalah

First recorded in 1515–25; from Medieval Latin cabbala, from Hebrew qabbālāh “tradition,” literally, “something received,” i.e., “handed down”; see also cabal

Words nearby kabbalah

Kabalevsky, kabaragoya, Kabardian, Kabardino-Balkar Autonomous Republic, Kabardino-Balkar Republic, kabbalah, kabbalism, kabbalist, kabbalistic, kabeljou, Kabila

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

How to use kabbalah in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for kabbalah

kabbalah

kabbala, kabala, cabbala, cabalaorqabalah


noun

an ancient Jewish mystical tradition based on an esoteric interpretation of the Old Testament

any secret or occult doctrine or science

Derived forms of kabbalah

kabbalism, kabalism, cabbalism, cabalismorqabalism (ˈkæbəˌlɪzəm), nounkabbalist, kabalist, cabbalist, cabalistorqabalist, nounkabbalistic, kabalistic, cabbalistic, cabalisticorqabalistic, adjective

Word Origin for kabbalah

C16: from Medieval Latin, from Hebrew qabbālāh tradition, what is received, from qābal to receive

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Sours: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/kabbalah
  1. Napa high point
  2. Birthday shenanigans quotes
  3. Gbtc predictions 2021
  4. Collier surname origin

kabbalah - Meaning in Tamil

Popularity:

Word Forms / Inflections

kabbalahs(noun plural)

Definitions and Meaning of kabbalah in English

Kabbalah

noun
  1. an esoteric theosophy of rabbinical origin based on the Hebrew scriptures and developed between the 7th and 18th centuries
    Synonyms : Cabala, Cabbala, Cabbalah, Kabala, Kabbala, Qabbala, Qabbalah

kabbalah

noun
  1. an esoteric or occult matter resembling the Kabbalah that is traditionally secret
    Synonyms : cabala, cabbala, cabbalah, kabala, kabbala, qabala, qabalah

Synonyms of kabbalah

cabala, cabbala, cabbalah, kabala, kabbala, qabbala, qabbalah, qabala, qabalah

Description

Kabbalah is an esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought in Jewish mysticism. A traditional Kabbalist in Judaism is called a Mequbbāl. The definition of Kabbalah varies according to the tradition and aims of those following it, from its religious origin as an integral part of Judaism, to its later adaptations in Western esotericism. Jewish Kabbalah is a set of esoteric teachings meant to explain the relationship between the unchanging, eternal God—the mysterious Ein Sof —and the mortal, finite universe. It forms the foundation of mystical religious interpretations within Judaism.

கபலா என்பது யூதத்தில் உருவாகிய ஓர் மறைபொருள் முறை, ஒழுங்குமுறை மற்றும் சிந்தனை முறையாகும். யூதத்திலுள்ள பாரம்பரிய கபலாக்கள் "மெகுபல்" (Mekubal) என அழைக்கப்படுவர்.

Also see "Kabbalah" on Wikipedia.
Sours: https://www.shabdkosh.com/dictionary/english-tamil/kabbalah/kabbalah-meaning-in-tamil

Definition of Kabbalah in English:

Kabbalah

Translate Kabbalah into Spanish

noun

(also Kabbala)

  • The ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible, first transmitted orally and using esoteric methods (including ciphers). It reached the height of its influence in the later Middle Ages and remains significant in Hasidism.

    ‘It's very characteristic of Judaism and of the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition.’

    • ‘The Cabala was a Jewish mysticism which was influential from the 12th century on.’
    • ‘Thus far she has used Catholic iconography and explored Buddhism, and is now studying Kabbala, an ancient Jewish mystical tradition.’
    • ‘He then embarked on intensive study, first of the philosophy of Maimonides (too rational), then of the esoteric Kabbala, which was rather more to his taste.’
    • ‘His study correlates the Enneagram with the Jewish Kabbalah's Tree of Life.’
    • ‘And her life has been enhanced through her study of 13th century Jewish mysticism called Kabbalah.’
    • ‘The rabbi, in turn, offers lessons in Yiddish and Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism.’
    • ‘The whole of the Kabbala series is sparkling treasure!’
    • ‘The titular reference is to what she learned from her grandfather, a rabbi and scholar of the Kabbalah.’
    • ‘In the Cabala, the Quaternical system is the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter name of God, commonly pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah.’

    the supernatural, the paranormal, supernaturalism, magic, black magic, witchcraft, sorcery, necromancy, wizardry, the black arts, Kabbalah, cabbalism, occultism, diabolism, devil worship, devilry, voodoo, hoodoo, white magic, witchery, witching, orenda, mysticism

Pronunciation

Kabbalah

/kəˈbälə//kəˈbɑlə//ˈkabələ//ˈkæbələ/

Origin

From medieval Latin cabala, cabbala, from Rabbinical Hebrew qabbālāh ‘tradition’, from qibbēl ‘receive, accept’.

Sours: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/kabbalah

Pronunciation kabbalah

Learn how to pronounce Kabbalah centre

Kabbalah centre

Listen Kabbalah centre pronunciation
X

Rate the pronunciation difficulty of Kabbalah centre

  • Very easy

  • Easy

  • Moderate

  • Difficult

  • Very difficult

Thanks for your vote!

Pronunciation of Kabbalah centre with 1 audio pronunciations
Listen Kabbalah centre pronunciation 1

0 rating rating ratings

Record the pronunciation of this word in your own voice and play it to listen to how you have pronounced it.

Practice mode

xxx

Recording

Click the record button to pronounceUnfortunately, this browser does not support voice recording. We recommend you to try Safari.Unfortunately, this device does not support voice recordingClick the record button again to finish recording

Have you finished your recording?

Have you finished your recording?

Since you have exceeded your time limit, your recording has been stopped.

Can you pronounce this word better
or pronounce in different accent or variation ?

Contribute mode

xxx

Recording

Click the record button to pronounceUnfortunately, this browser does not support voice recording. We recommend you to try Safari.Unfortunately, this device does not support voice recordingClick the record button again to finish recording

Have you finished your recording?

Have you finished your recording?

Since you have exceeded your time limit, your recording has been stopped.

Quiz on Kabbalah centre

{{view.quiz.name}}
{{quiz.name}}

{{ quiz.name }}

{{ quiz.questions_count }} Questions

Sours: https://www.howtopronounce.com/kabbalah-centre

Learn how to pronounce Kabbalah

Kabbalah

Listen Kabbalah pronunciation
X

Rate the pronunciation difficulty of Kabbalah

  • Very easy

  • Easy

  • Moderate

  • Difficult

  • Very difficult

Thanks for your vote!

Pronunciation of Kabbalah with 2 audio pronunciations
Listen Kabbalah pronunciation 1

3 ratings rating ratings

Listen Kabbalah pronunciation 2

0 rating rating ratings

International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)IPA :kəˈbɑːlə

Record the pronunciation of this word in your own voice and play it to listen to how you have pronounced it.

Practice mode

xxx

Recording

Click the record button to pronounceUnfortunately, this browser does not support voice recording. We recommend you to try Safari.Unfortunately, this device does not support voice recordingClick the record button again to finish recording

Have you finished your recording?

Have you finished your recording?

Since you have exceeded your time limit, your recording has been stopped.

Can you pronounce this word better
or pronounce in different accent or variation ?

Contribute mode

xxx

Recording

Click the record button to pronounceUnfortunately, this browser does not support voice recording. We recommend you to try Safari.Unfortunately, this device does not support voice recordingClick the record button again to finish recording
Sours: https://www.howtopronounce.com/kabbalah

Now discussing:

.



870 871 872 873 874