Kabbalah (Hebrew: קַבָּלָה, literally
"parallel/corresponding," or "received tradition") is an
esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought that originated in
Judaism. A traditional Kabbalist in
Judaism is called a Mekubbal
Kabbalah's definition varies according to the tradition and aims of
those following it, from its religious origin as an integral part
of Judaism, to its later Christian, New Age, and Occultist/western
esoteric syncretic adaptations.
Kabbalah is a set of esoteric
teachings meant to explain the relationship between an unchanging,
eternal, and mysterious
Ein Sof (infinity) and the mortal and
finite universe (God's creation). While it is heavily used by some
denominations, it is not a religious denomination in itself. It forms
the foundations of mystical religious interpretation.
to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature
and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions. It
also presents methods to aid understanding of the concepts and thereby
attain spiritual realization.
Kabbalah originally developed within the realm of Jewish tradition,
and kabbalists often use classical Jewish sources to explain and
demonstrate its esoteric teachings. These teachings are held by
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.
Traditional practitioners believe its earliest origins pre-date world
religions, forming the primordial blueprint for Creation's
philosophies, religions, sciences, arts, and political systems.
Kabbalah emerged, after earlier forms of Jewish
mysticism, in 12th- to 13th-century Southern France and Spain,
becoming reinterpreted in the Jewish mystical renaissance of
16th-century Ottoman Palestine.
Isaac Luria is considered
the father of contemporary Kabbalah. It was popularised in the form of
Hasidic Judaism from the 18th century onwards. Twentieth-century
Kabbalah has inspired cross-denominational Jewish renewal
and contributed to wider non-Jewish contemporary spirituality, as well
as engaging its flourishing emergence and historical re-emphasis
through newly established academic investigation.
1.1 Jewish and non-Jewish Kabbalah
History of Jewish mysticism
2.1.2 Mystic elements of the Torah
2.2 Talmudic era
2.3 Pre-Kabbalistic schools
2.4 Medieval emergence of the Kabbalah
2.5 Early modern era: Lurianic Kabbalah
2.5.1 Ban on studying Kabbalah
2.5.2 Sefardi and Mizrahi
2.5.4 Sabbatian mysticism
2.5.6 Modern-era traditional Kabbalah
2.5.7 Hasidic Judaism
2.5.8 20th-century influence
3.1 Concealed and revealed God
Sephirot as process of Creation
Sephirot as process of ethics
3.3 Divine Feminine
3.4 Descending spiritual worlds
3.5 Origin of evil
3.6 Role of Man
3.7 Levels of the soul
3.9 Tzimtzum, Shevirah and Tikkun
3.10 Linguistic mysticism of Hebrew
4 Primary texts
5.1 Claims for authority
6.1 Dualistic cosmology
6.2 Distinction between
Jews and non-Jews
6.3 Medieval views
6.4 Orthodox Judaism
6.5 Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism
7 Contemporary study
7.1 Universalist Jewish organisations
7.4 Rav Kook
8 See also
11 External links
According to the Zohar, a foundational text for kabbalistic
Torah study can proceed along four levels of
interpretation (exegesis). These four levels are called pardes
from their initial letters (PRDS Hebrew: פַּרדֵס, orchard).
Peshat (Hebrew: פשט lit. "simple"): the direct interpretations
Remez (Hebrew: רֶמֶז lit. "hint[s]"): the allegoric meanings
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
Tanakh and Rabbinic
literature) being an inherent duty of observant Jews.
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
Merkabah mystical concepts and methods. 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
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. They can
be readily distinguished by their basic intent with respect to God:
The theosophical tradition of Theoretical
Kabbalah (the main focus of
Zohar and Luria) seeks to understand and describe the divine
realm. As an alternative to rationalist Jewish philosophy,
particularly Maimonides' Aristotelianism, this speculation became the
central component of Kabbalah
The Ecstatic tradition of Meditative
Kabbalah (exemplified by Abulafia
Isaac of Acre) strives to achieve a mystical union with God.
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
The Magico-theurgical tradition of Practical
Kabbalah (in often
unpublished manuscripts) endeavours to alter both the Divine realms
and the World. While some interpretations of prayer see its role as
manipulating heavenly forces, Practical
Kabbalah properly involved
white-magical acts, and was censored by kabbalists for only those
completely pure of intent. Consequently, it formed a separate minor
tradition shunned from Kabbalah. Practical
Kabbalah was prohibited by
Arizal until the Temple in
Jerusalem is rebuilt and the required
state of ritual purity is attainable.: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. 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
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.
Modern halakhic authorities have tried to narrow the scope and
diversity within kabbalah, by restricting study to certain texts,
Zohar and the teachings of
Isaac Luria as passed down through
Hayyim ben Joseph Vital. 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, 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.
Jewish and non-Jewish Kabbalah
Latin translation of Gikatilla's Shaarei Ora
Renaissance onwards Jewish
Kabbalah texts entered non-Jewish
culture, where they were studied and translated by Christian Hebraists
and Hermetic occultists. The syncretic traditions of Christian
Hermetic Qabalah developed independently of Jewish
Kabbalah, reading the Jewish texts as universal ancient wisdom. Both
adapted the Jewish concepts freely from their Judaic understanding, to
merge with other theologies, religious traditions and magical
associations. With the decline of Christian Cabala in the Age of
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. Instead, academic and traditional
publications now translate and study Judaic
Kabbalah for wide
History of Jewish mysticism
c. 1 – 130s CE
Merkabah and Hekhalot
100 BCE – 1000 CE
c. 1150–1250 CE
c. 1175–1570 CE
1665–c. 1800 CE
According to the traditional understanding,
Kabbalah dates from
Eden. 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 Act of Creation in pairs, nor the Act of the Chariot to
an individual, unless he is wise and can understand the implications
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.
Originally, Kabbalistic knowledge was believed to be an integral part
of the Oral Torah, given by
Mount Sinai around the
13th century BCE according to its followers; although some believe
Kabbalah began with Adam.
For a few centuries the esoteric knowledge was referred to by its
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).
During 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"), the knowledge was referred to as
Ma'aseh Merkavah (Hebrew: מַעֲשֶׂה
מֶרְכָּבָה) and Ma'aseh B'reshit (Hebrew:
מַעֲשֶׂה בְּרֵאשִׁית), respectively "the act
of the Chariot" and "the act of Creation".
Merkabah mysticism alluded
to the encrypted knowledge 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 are also mentioned in the second chapter of the Talmudic
tractate Hagigah.
Mystic elements of the Torah
Isaiah had prophetic visions of the angelic Chariot and
When read by later generations of Kabbalists, the Torah's description
of the creation in the
Book of Genesis
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
Tree of Life
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.
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—Isaiah,
Ch.6. Jacob's vision of the ladder to heaven provided another example
of esoteric experience. Moses' encounters with the
Burning bush and
Mount Sinai are evidence of mystical events in the
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
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.
Rabbi Akiva in Tiberias. He features in
literature, and as one of the four who entered the Pardes
The grave of
Shimon bar Yochai
Shimon bar Yochai in Meron before 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
aspects of the Torah) (
Talmud Hag. 13a) and Razei
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
Hagigah 2:1), rabbis were
warned to teach the mystical creation doctrines only to one student at
a time.[full citation needed] 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):[citation
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". On the other hand, Rabbi
Louis Ginzberg, writes in the
Jewish Encyclopedia (1901–1906) that
the journey to paradise "is to be taken literally and not
Maimonides interprets pardes as physics and not mysticism.[need
quotation to verify]
The mystical methods and doctrines of
Hekhalot (Heavenly "Chambers")
Merkabah (Divine "Chariot") texts, named by modern scholars from
these repeated motifs, lasted from the 1st century BCE through to the
10th century, 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. From the 8th to
11th centuries, the
Hekhalot texts, and the proto-Kabbalistic early
Sefer Yetzirah ("
Book of Creation") made their way into European
Another, separate influential mystical movement, shortly before the
arrival there of Kabbalistic theory, was the "Chassidei Ashkenaz"
(חסידי אשכנז) or Medieval German Pietists from 1150 to 1250.
This ethical-ascetic movement arose mostly among a single scholarly
Kalonymus family of the French and German Rhineland.
Medieval emergence of the Kabbalah
The 13th-century eminence of Nachmanides, a classic Rabbinic figure,
Kabbalah mainstream acceptance through his
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.
There were certain
Rishonim ("Elder Sages") of exoteric
are known to have been experts in Kabbalah. One of the best known is
Nahmanides (the Ramban) (1194–1270) whose commentary on the
considered to be based on Kabbalistic knowledge.
Bahya ben Asher
Bahya ben Asher (the
Rabbeinu Behaye) (died 1340) also combined
Torah commentary and
Kabbalah. Another was
Isaac the Blind
Isaac the Blind (1160–1235), the teacher of
Nahmanides, who is widely argued to have written the first work of
classic Kabbalah, the
Book of "Brightness").
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 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 Arizal's teachings. The majority of
Zohar as the representative of the Ma'aseh Merkavah and
Ma'aseh B'reshit that are referred to in Talmudic texts.
Early modern era: Lurianic Kabbalah
The leading scholars in 16th-century
Safed invigorated mainstream
Judaism through new legal, liturgical, exegetical and
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
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
Safed mystics responded to the Spanish expulsion by
turning Kabbalistic doctrine and practice towards a messianic focus.
Moses Cordovero and his school popularized the teachings of the Zohar
which had until then been only a restricted work. Cordovero's
comprehensive works achieved the systemisation of preceding Kabbalah.
The author of the
Shulkhan Arukh (the normative Jewish "Code of Law"),
Yosef Karo (1488–1575), was also a scholar of
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
its biggest transformation in the Jewish world with the explication of
its new interpretation from
Isaac Luria (1534–1572), by his
disciples Hayim Vital and
Israel Sarug. Both transcribed Luria's
teachings (in variant forms) gaining them widespread popularity, Sarug
Lurianic Kabbalah to Europe, Vital authoring the latterly
canonical version. Luria's teachings came to rival the influence of
Zohar and Luria stands, alongside
Moses de Leon, as the most
influential mystic in Jewish history.
Ban on studying Kabbalah
The ban on studying
Kabbalah was lifted by the efforts of the
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
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
we forever eliminate war, destruction, and man's inhumanity to his
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." 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."
Sefardi and Mizrahi
This section does not cite any sources. Please help improve this
section by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material
may be challenged and removed. (September 2015) (Learn how and when to
remove this template message)
Synagogue Beit El Jerusalem. Oriental
Judaism has its own chain of
Kabbalah of the Sefardi (Iberian Peninsula) and
East, North Africa, and the Caucasus)
Torah scholars has a long
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
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
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
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 of Prague articulated a mystical exegesis in
One of the most innovative theologians in early-modern
Judah Loew ben Bezalel
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. 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
Isaac Hutner (1906–1980) continued to spread the Maharal's
works indirectly through his own teachings and publications within the
non-Hasidic yeshiva world.
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
Sabbatai Zevi (1626–1676) captured the hearts and minds of
the Jewish masses of that time with the promise of a newly minted
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 Zvi'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
Due to the chaos caused in the Jewish world, the Rabbinic prohibition
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. 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 who were
Jacob Frank (1726–1791) who eventually became an
Judaism by apparently converting to Catholicism. This era
of disappointment did not stem the Jewish masses' yearnings for
Modern-era traditional Kabbalah
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, a leading Italian kabbalist, also wrote secular
works, which the
Haskalah see as the start of modern Hebrew literature
The Vilna Gaon, 18th-century leader of Rabbinic opposition to Hasidism
- a Kabbalist who opposed Hasidic doctrinal and practical innovations
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto
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.
Elijah of Vilna
Elijah of Vilna (Vilna Gaon) (1720–1797), based in Lithuania,
had his teachings encoded and publicised by his disciples, such as
Rabbi Chaim Volozhin, who (poshumously) published the mystical-ethical
work Nefesh HaChaim. 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
Torah and does not try to understand them will be judged harshly,
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
In the 20th century,
Yehuda Ashlag (1885—1954) in Mandate Palestine
became a leading esoteric kabbalist in the traditional mode, who
Zohar into Hebrew with a new approach in Lurianic
Synagogue of the
Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, in Medzhybizh
Ukraine. It gave a new phase to Jewish mysticism, seeking its
popularisation through internal correspondence
Main article: Hasidic Judaism
Israel 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
Divinity for the masses. With the 19th-century
consolidation of the movement, leadership became dynastic.
Among later Hasidic schools:
Nachman of Breslov
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
Hasidic dynasties and taught that each Hasid must "search
for the tzaddik ('saintly/righteous person')" for himself and within
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
Jewish mysticism has influenced the thought of some major Jewish
theologians in the 20th century, outside of Kabbalistic or Hasidic
traditions. The first Chief
Rabbi of Mandate Palestine,
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. 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.
Concealed and revealed God
Metaphorical scheme of emanated spiritual worlds within the Ein Sof
The nature of the divine prompted kabbalists to envision two aspects
to God: (a)
God in essence, absolutely transcendent, unknowable,
limitless Divine simplicity, 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 "that which has no
limits"). 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 revealing the
concealed mystery from within the Godhead.
Zohar reads the first words of Genesis, BeReishit Bara
Elohim – In the beginning
God created, as "With the level of
Ein Sof created Elohim-God's manifestation in
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
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 in man. These symbols are
used to describe various parts and aspects of the model.[citation
Main article: Sefirot
Scheme of descending
Sephirot in 3 columns, as a tree with roots above
and branches below
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,
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.: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,
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
Judaism and the particular nature of any entity.
Sephirot as process of Creation 
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), and are emanated from the Creator for the
purpose of creating the universe. The sephirot are considered
revelations of the Creator's will (ratzon), 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.
Sephirot as process of ethics 
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".
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.
Main article: Shekhinah
Descending spiritual worlds
Medieval Kabbalists believed that all things are linked to
these emanations, making all levels in creation part of one great,
gradually descending chain of being. Through this any lower creation
reflects its particular characteristics in Supernal Divinity.
Hasidic thought extends the
Divine immanence of
Kabbalah by holding
God is all that really exists, all else being completely
undifferentiated from God's perspective. This view can be defined as
monistic 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 is
dealt with at length in
Origin of evil
Amulet from the 15th century. Theosophical kabbalists, especially
Luria, censored contemporary Practical Kabbalah, but allowed amulets
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. 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".
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
Sephirot in the divine realm and exile from
Creation. The demonic realm, though illusory in its holy origin,
becomes the real apparent realm of impurity in lower Creation.
Role of Man
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
Kabbalah this scheme was universalised to describe harmonia
mundi, the harmony of Creation within man. 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
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
Building on Kabbalah's conception of the soul,
meditations included the "inner illumination of" the human form
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:
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
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
Main article: Gilgul
Reincarnation, the transmigration of the soul after death, was
Judaism as a central esoteric tenet of
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
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.
Tzimtzum, Shevirah and Tikkun
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
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
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. 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 of Hebrew
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 esoteric
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
Names of God in Judaism have further
prominence, though fluidity of 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, Halachic Torah, through which mystics can
perceive the unlimited
Torah of the Tree of Life. In Lurianic
expression, each of the 600,000 souls of
Israel find their own
interpretation in Torah.
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
Torah are the ones who reap Her.
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.
Title page of first printed edition of the Zohar, main sourcebook of
Kabbalah, from Mantua, Italy in 1558
Main article: Kabbalah: Primary texts
Like the rest of the Rabbinic literature, the texts of kabbalah were
once part of an ongoing oral tradition, though, over the centuries,
much of the oral tradition has been written down.
Jewish forms of esotericism existed over 2,000 years ago. Ben Sira
(born c. 170 BCE) warns against it, saying: "You shall have no
business with secret things". Nonetheless, mystical studies were
undertaken and resulted in mystical literature, the first being the
Apocalyptic literature of the second and first pre-Christian centuries
and which contained elements that carried over to later kabbalah.
Throughout the centuries since, many texts have been produced, among
them the ancient descriptions of Sefer Yetzirah, the Heichalot
mystical ascent literature, the Bahir,
Sefer Raziel HaMalakh
Sefer Raziel HaMalakh and the
Zohar, the main text of Kabbalistic exegesis. Classic mystical Bible
commentaries are included in fuller versions of the Mikraot Gedolot
(Main Commentators). Cordoveran systemisation is presented in Pardes
Rimonim, philosophical articulation in the works of the Maharal, and
Lurianic rectification in Etz Chayim. Subsequent interpretation of
Lurianic Kabbalah was made in the writings of Shalom Sharabi, in
Nefesh HaChaim and the 20th-century Sulam. Hasidism interpreted
kabbalistic structures to their correspondence in inward
perception. The Hasidic development of kabbalah incorporates a
successive stage of
Jewish mysticism from historical kabbalistic
Main article: List of
Jewish mysticism scholars
The first modern-academic historians of Judaism, the "Wissenschaft des
Judentums" school of the 19th century, framed
Judaism in solely
rational terms in the emancipatory
Haskalah spirit of their age. They
opposed kabbalah and restricted its significance from Jewish
historiography. In the mid-20th century, it was left to Gershom
Scholem to overturn their stance, establishing the flourishing
present-day academic investigation of Jewish mysticism, and making
Heichalot, Kabbalistic and Hasidic texts the objects of scholarly
critical-historical study. In Scholem's opinion, the mythical and
mystical components of
Judaism were at least as important as the
rational ones, and he thought that they, rather than the exoteric
Halakha, were the living current in historical Jewish development.
The Hebrew University of
Jerusalem has been a centre of this research,
including Scholem and
Isaiah Tishby, and more recently Joseph Dan,
Rachel Elior, and Moshe Idel. Scholars across the
Jewish mysticism in America and Britain have included Arthur
Green, Lawrence Fine, Elliot Wolfson, Daniel Matt and Ada
Moshe Idel has opened up research on the Ecstatic
the theosophical, and has called for new multi-disciplinary
approaches, beyond the philological and historical that have dominated
until now, to include phenomenology, psychology, anthropology and
Claims for authority
Historians have noted that most claims for the authority of kabbalah
involve an argument of the antiquity of authority (see, e.g., Joseph
Dan's discussion in his Circle of the Unique Cherub). As a result,
virtually all early foundational works pseudepigraphically claim, or
are ascribed, ancient authorship. For example, Sefer
an astro-magical text partly based on a magical manual of late
antiquity, Sefer ha-Razim, was, according to the kabbalists,
transmitted by the angel
Adam after he was evicted from
Another famous work, the early Sefer Yetzirah, is dated back to the
patriarch Abraham.:17 This tendency toward pseudepigraphy has its
roots in apocalyptic literature, which claims that esoteric knowledge
such as magic, divination and astrology was transmitted to humans in
the mythic past by the two angels, Aza and Azaz'el (in other places,
Azaz'el and Uzaz'el) who fell from heaven (see Genesis 6:4).
Part of a series on
Criticism of religion
Latter Day Saint movement
Westboro Baptist Church
New religious movement
By religious figure
Charles Taze Russell
Mormon sacred texts
Book of Mormon
Criticism of atheism
Criticism of monotheism
Kabbalah propounds the Unity of God, one of the most serious
and sustained criticisms is that it may lead away from monotheism, and
instead promote dualism, the belief that there is a supernatural
counterpart to God. The dualistic system holds that there is a good
power versus an evil power. There are two primary models of
Gnostic-dualistic cosmology: the first, which goes back to
Zoroastrianism, believes creation is ontologically divided between
good and evil forces; the second, found largely in Greco-Roman
metaphysics like Neo-Platonism, argues that the universe knew a
primordial harmony, but that a cosmic disruption yielded a second,
evil, dimension to reality. This second model influenced the cosmology
of the Kabbalah.
According to Kabbalistic cosmology, the Ten
Sephirot correspond to ten
levels of creation. These levels of creation must not be understood as
ten different "gods" but as ten different ways of revealing God, one
per level. It is not
God who changes but the ability to perceive God
God may seem to exhibit dual natures (masculine-feminine,
compassionate-judgmental, creator-creation), all adherents of Kabbalah
have consistently stressed the ultimate unity of God. For example, in
all discussions of Male and Female, the hidden nature of
above it all without limit, being called the Infinite or the "No End"
(Ein Sof)—neither one nor the other, transcending any definition.
The ability of
God to become hidden from perception is called
"Restriction" (Tzimtzum). Hiddenness makes creation possible because
God can become "revealed" in a diversity of limited ways, which then
form the building blocks of creation.
Kabbalistic texts, including the Zohar, appear to affirm dualism, as
they ascribe all evil to the separation from holiness known as the
Sitra Achra ("the other side") which is opposed to Sitra
D'Kedushah, or the Side of Holiness. The "left side" of divine
emanation is a negative mirror image of the "side of holiness" with
which it was locked in combat. [Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 6,
"Dualism", p. 244]. While this evil aspect exists within the
divine structure of the Sephirot, the
Zohar indicates that the Sitra
Ahra has no power over Ein Sof, and only exists as a necessary aspect
of the creation of
God to give man free choice, and that evil is the
consequence of this choice. It is not a supernatural force opposed to
God, but a reflection of the inner moral combat within mankind between
the dictates of morality and the surrender to one's basic instincts.
David Gottlieb notes that many Kabbalists hold that the
concepts of, e.g., a Heavenly Court or the Sitra Ahra are only given
to humanity by
God as a working model to understand His ways within
our own epistemological limits. They reject the notion that a satan or
angels actually exist. Others hold that non-divine spiritual entities
were indeed created by
God as a means for exacting his will.
According to Kabbalists, humans cannot yet understand the infinity of
God. Rather, there is
God as revealed to humans (corresponding to Zeir
Anpin), and the rest of the infinity of
God as remaining hidden from
human experience (corresponding to Arich Anpin). One reading of
this theology is monotheistic, similar to panentheism; another reading
of the same theology is that it is dualistic.
Gershom Scholem writes:
It is clear that with this postulate of an impersonal basic reality in
God, which becomes a person—or appears as a person—only in the
process of Creation and Revelation, Kabbalism abandons the
personalistic basis of the Biblical conception of God....It will not
surprise us to find that speculation has run the whole gamut—from
attempts to re-transform the impersonal En-Sof into the personal God
of the Bible to the downright heretical doctrine of a genuine dualism
between the hidden
Ein Sof and the personal
Demiurge of Scripture.
—Major Trends in Jewish
Mysticism Shocken Books (p.11–12)
Jews and non-Jews
Isaac Luria (1534–72) and other commentators on the
Zohar, righteous Gentiles do not have this demonic aspect and are in
many ways similar to Jewish souls. A number of prominent Kabbalists,
Rabbi Pinchas Eliyahu of Vilna, the author of Sefer ha-Brit,
held that only some marginal elements in the humanity represent these
demonic forces. On the other hand, the souls of Jewish heretics have
much more satanic energy than the worst of idol worshippers; this view
is popular in some Hasidic circles, especially Satmar
On the other hand, many prominent Kabbalists rejected this idea and
believed in essential equality of all human souls. Menahem Azariah da
Fano (1548–1620), in his book Reincarnations of souls, provides many
examples of non-Jewish Biblical figures being reincarnated into Jews
and vice versa; the contemporary
Rabbi and mystic Dov Ber Pinson
teaches that distinctions between
Jews and non-
Jews in works such as
the Tanya are not to be understood as literally referring to the
external properties of a person (what religious community they are
born into), but rather as referring to the properties of souls as they
can be re-incarnated in any religious community.
But one point of view is represented by the Hasidic work Tanya (1797),
in order to argue that
Jews have a different character of soul: while
a non-Jew, according to the author
Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (born
1745), can achieve a high level of spirituality, similar to an angel,
his soul is still fundamentally different in character, but not value,
from a Jewish one. A similar view is found in Kuzari, an early
medieval philosophical book by Yehuda Halevi (1075–1141 AD)
Abraham Yehudah Khein (born 1878),
believed that spiritually elevated Gentiles have essentially Jewish
souls, "who just lack the formal conversion to Judaism", and that
Jews are "Jewish merely by their birth documents". The
great 20th-century Kabbalist
Yehuda Ashlag viewed the terms "Jews" and
"Gentile" as different levels of perception, available to every human
David Halperin argues that the collapse of Kabbalah's influence
among Western European
Jews over the course of the 17th and 18th
century was a result of the cognitive dissonance they experienced
between the negative perception of Gentiles found in some exponents of
Kabbalah, and their own positive dealings with non-Jews, which were
rapidly expanding and improving during this period due to the
influence of the Enlightenment.
However, a number of renowned Kabbalists claimed the exact opposite,
stressing universality of all human souls and providing universal
interpretations of the Kabbalistic tradition, including its Lurianic
version. In their view,
Kabbalah transcends the borders of
can serve as a basis of inter-religious theosophy and a universal
Rabbi Pinchas Elijah Hurwitz, a prominent
Lithuanian-Galician Kabbalist of the 18th century and a moderate
proponent of the Haskalah, called for brotherly love and solidarity
between all nations, and believed that
Kabbalah can empower everyone,
Jews and Gentiles alike, with prophetic abilities.
The works of
Abraham Cohen de Herrera (1570–1635) are full of
references to Gentile mystical philosophers. Such approach was
particularly common among the
Renaissance and post-
Jews. Late medieval and
Renaissance Italian Kabbalists, such as
David Messer Leon and
Abraham Yagel, adhered to
humanistic ideals and incorporated teachings of various Christian and
A prime representative of this humanist stream in
Kabbalah was Rabbi
Elijah Benamozegh, who explicitly praised Christianity, Islam,
Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, as well as a whole range of ancient pagan
mystical systems. He believed that
Kabbalah can reconcile the
differences between the world religions, which represent different
facets and stages of the universal human spirituality. In his
writings, Benamozegh interprets the New Testament, Hadith, Vedas,
Avesta and pagan mysteries according to the Kabbalistic theosophy.
For a different perspective, see Wolfson. He provides numerous
examples from the 17th to the 20th centuries, which would challenge
the view of Halperin cited above as well as the notion that "modern
Judaism" has rejected or dismissed this "outdated aspect" of the
religion and, he argues, there are still Kabbalists today who harbor
this view. He argues that, while it is accurate to say that many Jews
do and would find this distinction offensive, it is inaccurate to say
that the idea has been totally rejected in all circles. As Wolfson has
argued, it is an ethical demand on the part of scholars to continue to
be vigilant with regard to this matter and in this way the tradition
can be refined from within.
However, as explained above, many well known Kabbalists rejected the
literal interpretation of these seemingly discriminatory views. They
argued that the term "Jew" was to be interpreted metaphorically, as
referring to the spiritual development of the soul, rather than the
superficial denomination of the individual, and they added a chain of
intermediary states between "Jews" and idol worshippers, or
spiritualised the very definition of "Jews" and "non-Jews" and argued
that a soul can be re-incarnated in different communities (whether
Jewish or not) as much as within a single one.
Golden age of Spanish
Judaism on the Knesset Menorah, Maimonides
holding Aristotle's work
Kabbalah mysticism on the Knesset Menorah, which shared some
similarities of theory with Jewish Neoplatonists
The idea that there are ten divine sephirot could evolve over time
into the idea that "
God is One being, yet in that One being there are
Ten" which opens up a debate about what the "correct beliefs" in God
should be, according to Judaism.
Saadia Gaon teaches in his book
Emunot v'Deot that
Jews who believe in reincarnation have adopted a
Maimonides (12th century) rejected many of the texts of the Hekalot,
Shi'ur Qomah whose starkly anthropomorphic vision of God
he considered heretical.
Nachmanides (13th century) provides background to many kabbalistic
ideas. His works offer in-depth of various concepts. In fact, an
entire book, entitled Gevuras Aryeh, was authored by
Yehuda Aryeh Leib Frenkel and originally published in 1915,
specifically to explain and elaborate on the kabbalistic concepts
Nachmanides in his commentary to the Five books of Moses.
Moses ben Maimon, in the spirit of his father
Rabbi Saadiah Gaon, and other predecessors, explains at
length in his Milḥamot HaShem that
God is in no way literally within
time or space nor physically outside time or space, since time and
space simply do not apply to his being whatsoever. This is in contrast
to certain popular understandings of modern
Kabbalah which teach a
form of panentheism, that his 'essence' is within everything.
Around the 1230s,
Rabbi Meir ben Simon of Narbonne wrote an epistle
(included in his Milḥemet Mitzvah) against his contemporaries, the
early Kabbalists, characterizing them as blasphemers who even approach
heresy. He particularly singled out the Sefer Bahir, rejecting the
attribution of its authorship to the tanna R. Neḥunya ben ha-Kanah
and describing some of its content as truly heretical.
Rabbi Leone di Modena, a 17th-century Venetian critic of Kabbalah,
wrote that if we were to accept the Kabbalah, then the Christian
trinity would indeed be compatible with Judaism, as the Trinity
closely resembles the kabbalistic doctrine of the sephirot. This
critique was in response to the knowledge that some European
the period addressed individual sephirot in some of their prayers,
although the practice was apparently uncommon. Apologists explain that
Jews may have been praying for and not necessarily to the aspects of
Godliness represented by the sephirot.
Yaakov Emden, 1697–1776, wrote the Mitpaḥath Sfarim (Veil of the
Books), a detailed critique of the
Zohar in which he concludes that
certain parts of the
Zohar contain heretical teaching and therefore
could not have been written by Shimon bar Yochai.
Tikkun for reading through the night of Shavuot, a popular Jewish
custom from the
Rabbi Yiḥyeh Qafeḥ, a 20th-century
Yemenite Jewish leader and
Rabbi of Yemen, spearheaded the Dor Deah ("generation of
knowledge") movement to counteract the influence of the
modern Kabbalah. He authored critiques of mysticism in general and
Lurianic Kabbalah in particular; his magnum opus was Milḥamoth
ha-Shem (Wars of Hashem) against what he perceived as neo-platonic
and gnostic influences on
Judaism with the publication and
distribution of the
Zohar since the 13th Century.
founded yeshivot, rabbinical schools, and synagogues that featured a
rationalist approach to
Judaism based on the
Talmud and works of
Saadia Gaon and
Yeshayahu Leibowitz (1903–1994), an ultra-rationalist Modern
Orthodox philosopher and brother of Nechama Leibowitz, publicly shared
views expressed in
Rabbi Yiḥyeh Qafeḥ's book Milḥamoth HaShem
against mysticism. For example, Leibowitz called
collection of "pagan superstitions" and "idol worship" in remarks
given after receiving the
Yakir Yerushalayim Award (English: worthy
citizen of Jerusalem) in 1990. In modern times, rationalists
holding similar views aligned with the rationalism of
Dor Daim have
described themselves as "talmide ha-Rambam" (disciples of Maimonides)
rather than Dor Daim, and are more theologically aligned with the
rationalism of Modern Orthodox
Judaism than with Orthodox Ḥasidic or
There is dispute among modern Haredim as to the status of Isaac
Luria's, the Arizal's Kabbalistic teachings. While a portion of Modern
Dor Daim and many students of the Rambam, completely
reject Arizal's Kabbalistic teachings, as well as deny that the Zohar
is authoritative, or from Shimon bar Yohai, all three of these groups
completely accept the existence and validity of Ma'aseh Merkavah and
Ma'aseh B'resheet mysticism. Their only disagreement concerns whether
the Kabbalistic teachings promulgated today are accurate
representations of those esoteric teachings to which the Talmud
refers. Within the
Haredi Jewish community one can find both rabbis
who sympathise with such a view, while not necessarily agreeing with
it, as well as rabbis who consider such a view absolute heresy.
Eliyahu Dessler and
Gedaliah Nadel maintained that it is
acceptable to believe that the
Zohar was not written by
bar Yochai and that it had a late authorship.
Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov
Weinberg mentioned the possibility of Christian influence in the
Kabbalah with the "Kabbalistic vision of the Messiah as the redeemer
of all mankind" being "the Jewish counterpart to Christ."
Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism
A version of
Lekhah Dodi song to welcome the Shabbat, a cross
denomination Jewish custom from Kabbalah
Kabbalah tended to be rejected by most
Jews in the Conservative and
Reform movements, though its influences were not completely
eliminated. While it was generally not studied as a discipline, the
Shabbat service remained part of liberal liturgy,
as did the Yedid Nefesh prayer. Nevertheless, in the 1960s,
Lieberman of the
Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Jewish Theological Seminary of America is reputed to
have introduced a lecture by Scholem on
Kabbalah with a statement that
Kabbalah itself was "nonsense", but the academic study of
"scholarship". This view became popular among many Jews, who viewed
the subject as worthy of study, but who did not accept
teaching literal truths.
Bradley Shavit Artson
Bradley Shavit Artson (Dean of the Conservative
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in the American Jewish University)
Jews insisted that their future and their freedom
required shedding what they perceived as parochial orientalism. They
Judaism that was decorous and strictly rational (according
to 19th-century European standards), denigrating
Kabbalah as backward,
superstitious, and marginal.
However, in the late 20th century and early 21st century there has
been a revival in interest in
Kabbalah in all branches of liberal
Judaism. The Kabbalistic 12th-century prayer
Anim Zemirot was restored
to the new Conservative Sim Shalom siddur, as was the B'rikh Shmeh
passage from the Zohar, and the mystical Ushpizin service welcoming to
Sukkah the spirits of Jewish forbearers.
Anim Zemirot and the
16th-century mystical poem
Lekhah Dodi reappeared in the Reform Siddur
Gates of Prayer
Gates of Prayer in 1975. All Rabbinical seminaries now teach several
courses in Kabbalah—in Conservative Judaism, both the Jewish
Theological Seminary and the Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies of
the University of
Judaism in Los Angeles have full-time instructors in
Kabbalah and Hasidut, Eitan Fishbane and Pinchas Giller, respectively.
In the Reform movement Sharon Koren teaches at the Hebrew Union
College. Reform Rabbis like
Herbert Weiner and
Lawrence Kushner have
renewed interest in
Kabbalah among Reform Jews. At the
Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, the only accredited seminary
that has curricular requirements in Kabbalah, Joel Hecker is the
full-time instructor teaching courses in
Kabbalah and Hasidut.
According to Artson:
Ours is an age hungry for meaning, for a sense of belonging, for
holiness. In that search, we have returned to the very
predecessors scorned. The stone that the builders rejected has become
the head cornerstone (Psalm 118:22)...
Kabbalah was the last universal
theology adopted by the entire Jewish people, hence faithfulness to
our commitment to positive-historical
Judaism mandates a reverent
receptivity to Kabbalah.
The Reconstructionist movement, under the leadership of Arthur Green
in the 1980s and 1990s, and with the influence of Zalman Schachter
Shalomi, brought a strong openness to
Kabbalah and hasidic elements
that then came to play prominent roles in the Kol ha-Neshamah siddur
Teaching of classic esoteric kabbalah texts and practice remained
traditional until recent times, passed on in
Judaism from master to
disciple, or studied by leading rabbinic scholars. This changed in the
20th century, through conscious reform and the secular openness of
knowledge. In contemporary times kabbalah is studied in four very
different, though sometimes overlapping, ways:
The traditional method, employed among
Jews since the 16th century,
continues in learned study circles. Its prerequisite is to either be
born Jewish or be a convert and to join a group of kabbalists under
the tutelage of a rabbi, since the 18th century more likely a Hasidic
one, though others exist among Sephardi-Mizrachi, and Lithuanian
Rabbinic scholars. Beyond elite, historical esoteric kabbalah, the
public-communally studied texts of Hasidic thought explain kabbalistic
concepts for wide spiritual application, through their own concern
with popular psychological perception of Divine Panentheism. In recent
Orthodox Jewish outreach organisations for secular Jews
teach Kabbalistic and Hasidic texts.
A second, new universalist form, is the method of modern-style Jewish
organisations and writers, who seek to disseminate kabbalah to every
man, woman and child regardless of race or class, especially since the
Western interest in mysticism from the 1960s. These derive from
various cross-denominational Jewish interests in kabbalah, and range
from considered theology to popularised forms that often adopt New Age
terminology and beliefs for wider communication. These groups
highlight or interpret kabbalah through non-particularist,
A third way are non-Jewish organisations, mystery schools, initiation
bodies, fraternities and secret societies, the most popular of which
Rosicrucianism and the Golden Dawn, although hundreds
of similar societies claim a kabbalistic lineage. These derive from
syncretic combinations of Jewish kabbalah with Christian, occultist or
New Age spirituality. As a separate spiritual tradition
Western esotericism since the Renaissance, with different aims from
its Jewish origin, the non-Jewish traditions differ significantly and
do not give an accurate representation of the Jewish spiritual
understanding (or vice versa).
Fourthly, since the mid-20th century, historical-critical scholarly
investigation of all eras of
Jewish mysticism has flourished into an
established department of university Jewish studies. Where the first
academic historians of
Judaism in the 19th century opposed and
Gershom Scholem and his successors repositioned
the historiography of
Jewish mysticism as a central, vital component
of Judaic renewal through history. Cross-disciplinary academic
revisions of Scholem's and others' theories are regularly published
for wide readership.
Universalist Jewish organisations
The two, unrelated organisations that translate the mid-20th-century
Yehuda Ashlag into a contemporary universalist
message, have given kabbalah a public cross-religious profile:
Bnei Baruch is a group of
Kabbalah students, based in Israel. Study
materials are available in over 25 languages for free online or at
printing cost. Michael Laitman established
Bnei Baruch in 1991,
following the passing of his teacher,
Rabbi Ashlag's son Rav Baruch
Ashlag. Laitman named his group
Bnei Baruch (sons of Baruch) to
commemorate the memory of his mentor. The teaching strongly suggests
restricting one's studies to 'authentic sources', kabbalists of the
direct lineage of master to disciple.
Kabbalah Centre was founded in the United States in 1965 as The
National Research Institute of
Philip Berg and Rav Yehuda
Tzvi Brandwein, disciple of
Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag's. Later Philip Berg
and his wife re-established the organisation as the worldwide Kabbalah
Centre.[not in citation given] In recent times its outreach
New Age style has attracted a cross-religious celebrity
following and media profile, though the organisation is led by
Orthodox Jewish teachers.
Other prominent Jewish universalist organisations:
Kabbalah Society, run by Warren Kenton, an organisation based
instead on pre-Lurianic Medieval
Kabbalah presented in universalist
New Age syncretic style. In contrast, traditional kabbalists read
earlier kabbalah through later Lurianism and the systemisations of
The New Kabbalah, website and books by Sanford L. Drob, is a scholarly
intellectual investigation of the Lurianic symbolism in the
perspective of modern and postmodern intellectual thought. It seeks a
"new kabbalah" rooted in the historical tradition through its academic
study, but universalised through dialogue with modern philosophy and
psychology. This approach seeks to enrich the secular disciplines,
while uncovering intellectual insights formerly implicit in kabbalah's
"By being equipped with the nonlinear concepts of dialectical,
psychoanalytic, and deconstructive thought we can begin to make sense
of the kabbalistic symbols in our own time. So equipped, we are today
probably in a better position to understand the philosophical aspects
of the kabbalah than were the kabbalists themselves."
From the early 20th century,
Neo-Hasidism expressed a non-Orthodox
Jewish interest in Jewish mysticism, becoming organisational among
Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionalist Jewish denominations from
the 1960s, through
Jewish Renewal and the
Chavurah movement. The
writings and teachings of Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Arthur Green,
Herbert Weiner and others, has sought a Kabbalistic
and Hasidic study and spirituality among modernist Jews. Arthur
Green's translations from the religious writings of Hillel Zeitlin
conceive the latter to be a precursor of contemporary neo-Hasidism.
Since the 18th century, Jewish mystical development has continued in
Hasidic Judaism, turning kabbalah into a social revival with texts
that internalise mystical thought. Among different schools,
Chabad-Lubavitch and Breslav with related organisations, give outward
looking spiritual resources and textual learning for secular Jews. The
Intellectual Hasidism of
Chabad most emphasises the spread and
understanding of kabbalah through its explanation in Hasidic thought,
articulating the Divine meaning within kabbalah through human rational
analogies, uniting the spiritual and material, esoteric and exoteric
in their Divine source:
"Hasidic thought instructs in the predominance of spiritual form over
physical matter, the advantage of matter when it is purified, and the
advantage of form when integrated with matter. The two are to be
unified so one cannot detect where either begins or ends, for 'the
Divine beginning is implanted in the end and the end in the beginning'
(Sefer Yetzira 1:7). The One
God created both for one purpose –
to reveal the holy light of His hidden power. Only both united
complete the perfection desired by the Creator."
The writings of
Abraham Isaac Kook
Abraham Isaac Kook (1864–1935), first chief rabbi of
Mandate Palestine and visionary, incorporate kabbalistic themes
through his own poetic language and concern with human and divine
unity. His influence is in the Religious-Zionist community, who follow
his aim that the legal and imaginative aspects of
"Due to the alienation from the 'secret of God' [i.e. Kabbalah], the
higher qualities of the depths of Godly life are reduced to trivia
that do not penetrate the depth of the soul. When this happens, the
most mighty force is missing from the soul of nation and individual,
and Exile finds favor essentially... We should not negate any
conception based on rectitude and awe of
Heaven of any form—only the
aspect of such an approach that desires to negate the mysteries and
their great influence on the spirit of the nation. This is a tragedy
that we must combat with counsel and understanding, with holiness and
Lurianic Kabbalah - Learning materials
Ayin and Yesh
Ka-Bala board game
Kabbalah: Primary texts
List of Jewish Kabbalists
The Four Who Entered Paradise
^ a b c d Ginsburgh,
Rabbi Yitzchak (2006). What You Need to Know
about Kabbalah. Gal Einai. ISBN 965-7146-119.
^ "קַבָּלָה". Morfix™, ™מורפיקס. Melingo Ltd.
Retrieved 19 November 2014.
^ Kabbalah: A very short introduction, Joseph Dan, Oxford University
Press, Chapter 1 "The term and its uses"
^ "אינסוף". Morfix™, ™מורפיקס. Melingo Ltd. Retrieved
19 November 2014.
^ "Imbued with Holiness" - The relationship of the esoteric to the
exoteric in the fourfold Pardes interpretation of
Torah and existence.
^ "The Freedom Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) Kabbalah
Kabbalah Education & Research Institute".
Kabbalah.info. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
^ "What is Kabbalah?". ReformJudaism.org. 2014-06-18. Retrieved
^ Shnei Luchot HaBrit, R.
Isaiah Horowitz, Toldot Adam, Beit
^ "ZOHAR". JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
^ "The Written Law - Torah". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved
^ Kabbalah: A very short introduction, Joseph Dan, Oxford University
Press, Chapters on "the emergence of Medieval Kabbalah" and "doctrines
of Medieval Kabbalah"
^ Moshe Idel, Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic, p. 31
^ Megillah 14a, Shir HaShirim Rabbah 4:22, Ruth Rabbah 1:2, Aryeh
Kaplan Jewish Meditation: A Practical Guide pp.44–48
^ Yehuda Ashlag; Preface to the Wisdom of Truth p.12 section 30 and
p.105 bottom section of the left column as preface to the "
^ See Shem Mashmaon by
Rabbi Shimon Agasi. It is a commentary on
Otzrot Haim by Haim Vital. In the introduction he list five major
schools of thought as to how to understand the Haim Vital's
understanding of the concept of Tzimtzum.
^ See Yechveh Daat Vol 3, section 47 by
Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef
^ See Ktavim Hadashim published by
Rabbi Yaakov Hillel of Ahavat
Shalom for a sampling of works by Haim Vital attributed to
that deal with other works.
^ Wagner, Matthew. "Kabbala goes to yeshiva - Magazine - Jerusalem
Post". Jpost.com. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
^ Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, Joseph Dan, Oxford University
Press 2007. Chapters: 5 Modern Times-I The Christian Kabbalah, 9 Some
Aspects of Contemporary Kabbalah
^ The Jewish Religion: A Companion, Louis Jacobs, Oxford University
Press 1995. Entry: Kabbalah
^ a b
Sefer Raziel HaMalakh
Sefer Raziel HaMalakh First Paragraph
^ אין דורשין ... במעשה בראשית בשנים ולא
במרכבה ביחיד אלא אם כן היה חכם ומבין
^  Archived January 24, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
^ "The Kaballah: Ma'aseh merkavah". SparkNotes. Retrieved
^ "The Kaballah: Ma'aseh bereshit". SparkNotes. Retrieved
^ a b Artson, Bradley Shavit. From the Periphery to the Centre:
Kabbalah and the Conservative Movement, United
Spring 2005, Vol. 57 No. 2
^ Urbach, The Sages, pp.184ff.
^ A. W. Streane, A Translation of the Treatise Chagigah from the
Talmud Cambridge University Press, 1891. p. 83.
^ Louis Ginzberg, Elisha ben Abuyah", Jewish Encyclopedia,
^ Mishneh Torah, Yesodei Torah, Chapters 2-4.
^ "The Zohar". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
Isaac Luria &
Safed My Jewish Learning". My
Jewish Learning. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
Avraham Azulai quoted in Erdstein, Baruch Emanuel. The Need to
Learn Kabbala Archived 2008-02-05 at the Wayback Machine.
^  Archived November 6, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
^ Shulhan Arukh YD 246:4
^ Shulhan Arukh 246:4 S"K 19[unreliable source?]
^ The Jewish Religion: A Companion, Louis Jacobs, Oxford University
Press 1995: entry on Judah Loew
^ "News". myJLI.com. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
^ "Where to Start - Recommended books". Azamra,
Torah for our Time.
Retrieved 20 June 2017.
^ The Soul of Life: The Complete Neffesh Ha-chayyim: Rav Chayyim of
Volozhin, Eliezer Lipa (Leonard) Moskowitz: Amazon.com: Books.
Amazon.com. ISBN 9780615699912.
Theology on Tap Winter 2014 under way in Mandeville: Keeping the
Faith". NOLA.com. 2014-01-29. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
Jews of Ponte Vedra/Jacksonville Beaches Address Relevance of
Judaism in Modern Society". PR.com. 2014-01-08. Retrieved
^ Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University
Press, chapter on the Contemporary Era
^ Such as the theological novel The Town Beyond The Wall by Elie
Wiesel. Norman Lamm gives a Biblical, Midrashic and Kabbalistic
exegesis of it in Faith and Doubt: Studies in Traditional Jewish
Thought, Ktav pub.
Zohar I, 15a English translation from Jewish Mysticism – An
Anthology, Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Oneworld pub, p.120-121
^ See Otzrot Haim: Sha'ar TNT"A for a short explanation. The vast
majority of the Lurianic system deals only with the complexities found
in the world of Atzilut as is explained in the introductions to both
Otzrot Haim and Eitz Haim.
^ The Song of the Soul, Yechiel Bar-Lev, p.73
^ J.H.Laenen, Jewish Mysticism, p.164
^ Wineberg, chs. 20–21
^ "Beginner Level Kabbalah: What is Practical Kabbalah?". Inner.org.
2014-02-24. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
^ Cantoni, Piero (2006). "Demonology and Praxis of Exorcism and of the
Liberation Prayers", in Fides Catholica 1". Archived from the original
^ Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, chapter on
^ (Otzar Eden Ganuz, Oxford Ms. 1580, fols. 163b-164a; see also Hayei
Haolam Haba, Oxford 1582, fol. 12a)
Judaism Says About Reincarnation".
^ Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, tentative analysis
Gershom Scholem and
Isaiah Tishby of Luria's scheme
^ Moshe Cordovero, Or Ha-Hammah on
Zohar III, 106a
^ Sirach iii. 22; compare Talmud, Hagigah, 13a;
^ "Overview of Chassidut (Chassidus) ". Inner.org. 2014-02-12.
^ The Founder of Hasidism, the
Baal Shem Tov, cautioned against the
Kabbalah without its Hasidic explanation. He saw this
as the cause of the contemporary mystical heresies of Sabbatai Zevi
Jacob Frank. Cited in The Great Maggid by
Jacob Immanuel Schochet,
quoting Derech Mitzvosecha by Menachem Mendel Schneersohn
^  Archived September 21, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
^ http://www.srhe.ucsb.edu/lectures/info/matt.html#bio Archived
2012-08-28 at the Wayback Machine.
^ Moshe Idel, Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic, p.28
^  Archived October 6, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
^ Dovid, Nissan. "Kelipot and Sitra Achra - Kabbalah, Chassidism and
Jewish Mysticism". Chabad.org. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
^  Archived January 24, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
^ a b Dov Ber Pinson,
Reincarnation and Judaism
^ סידור הרב, שער אכילת מצה
^ "Sefer Kuzari". www.sefaria.org. Retrieved 2018-02-09.
^ ר' אברהם חן, ביהדות התורה
^ article, The Seductiveness of Jewish Myth
^ Love of one's Neighbour in Pinhas Hurwitz's Sefer ha-Berit, Resianne
Fontaine, Studies in Hebrew Language and Jewish Culture, Presented to
Albert van der Heide on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday,
Israel and Humanity, Elijah Benamozegh, Paulist Press, 1995
^ Wolfson, E.R. Venturing Beyond: Law and Morality in Kabbalistic
Mysticism, Oxford University Press, 2006, ch.1.
^ Maimonides' responsa siman (117 (Blau) / 373 (Freimann)), translated
Yosef Qafih and reprinted in his Collected Papers, Volume 1,
footnote 1 on pages 475-476; see also pages 477–478 where a booklet
found in Maimonides'
Genizah with the text of
Shi'ur Qomah appears
with an annotation, possibly by Maimonides, cursing believers of
Shi'ur Qomah (Hebrew: ארור המאמינו) and praying that
elevated exceedingly beyond that which the heretics say (Judeo-Arabic:
תע' ת'ם תע' עמא יקולון אלכאפרון; Hebrew:
יתעלה לעילא לעילא ממה שאומרים
^ Encyclopedia of Yemenite Sages (Heb. אנציקלופדיה
לחכמי תימן), ed. Moshe Gavra, vol. 1, Benei Barak 2001, p.
545, s.v. קאפח, יחיא בן שלמה (Hebrew) שהקים את
תנועת... דור דעה (he established the Dor Deah movement).
^ Gamliel, Amram (1 January 1984). "A SPARK OF ENLIGHTENMENT AMONG THE
JEWS OF YEMEN". Hebrew Studies. 25: 82–89.
^ "Idol Worship is Still Within Us- Yesayahu Leibowitz". Scribd.com.
^ "halacha - Is one allowed to become a Talmid HaRambam? - Mi Yodeya".
Judaism.stackexchange.com. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who ruled that it is "impossible" to
consider dardaim as heretics: לגבי הדרדעים "אי אפשר
(מעין אומר סימן צג עמ' עדר) available at
^ An Analysis of the Authenticity of the
Zohar (2005), p. 39, with
"Rav E" and "Rav G" later identified by the author as
Rabbi Gedaliah Nadel, respectively (
Rabbi Dr. Marc Shapiro
in Milin Havivin Volume 5 , Is there an obligation to believe
Shimon bar Yochai
Shimon bar Yochai wrote the Zohar?, p. יב [PDF page
"I approached Rav A [Aryeh Carmell] with some of the questions on the
Zohar, and he responded to me - 'and what about nikud? Nikud is also
mentioned in the
Zohar despite the fact that it [is] from Geonic
times!' he said. I later found this comment in the Mitpachas Seforim.
I would just add that not only is nikud mentioned, but only the
Tiberian Nikkud - the norm in Europe of the middle ages - is mentioned
and not the Yerushalmi nikud or the Babylonian one — which was used
then in the Middle East, and is still used by Yemenites today. Also
the Taamay Hamikrah - the trop - are referred to in the
Zohar - only
by their Sefardi Names. Rav A told me a remarkable piece of testimony:
'My rebbe (this is how he generally refers to Rav E [Elijah Dessler])
accepted the possibility that the
Zohar was written sometime in the
"Rav G [Gedaliah Nadel] told me that he was still unsure as to the
origin and status of the Zohar, but told me it was my absolute right
to draw any conclusions I saw fit regarding both the
Zohar and the
^ Scholars and Friends:
Jacob Weinberg and Professor
Samuel Atlas in The
Torah U-Madda Journal, Volume 7 (1997), p. 120 n.
5. Hebrew original quoted in Milin Havivin Volume 5 , Is there
an obligation to believe that
Shimon bar Yochai
Shimon bar Yochai wrote the
Zohar?, p. י).
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-04-23. Retrieved
^ Joseph Dan, Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction, chapters on
Kabbalah and the Contemporary Era
^ "On Authentic Sources". Laitman.com. 2008-07-08. Retrieved
^ "The Teaching of the
Kabbalah and Its Essence Yehuda Leib HaLevi
Ashlag (Baal HaSulam)
Kabbalah Library -
Bnei Baruch Kabbalah
Education & Research Institute". Kabbalah.info. Retrieved
Kabbalah Centre - learn transform connect". kabbalah.com.
Retrieved 5 October 2015.
Rabbi Philip Berg". Daily Telegraph. 2013-09-20. Retrieved
^ "Kabbalah". New Kabbalah. Retrieved 2015-09-27.
^ Sanford Drob, Symbols of the Kabbalah: Philosophical and
Psychological Perspectives, Jason Aronson publishers, p.xvi-xvii.
Comparisons of the Lurianic scheme to Hegel, Freud and Jung are
treated in respective chapters of Sanford Drob, Kabbalistic Metaphors:
Jewish Mystical Themes in Ancient and Modern Thought, Aronson. The
modern disciplines are explored as particular intellectual/emotional
perspectives into the inclusive supra-rational Lurianic symbolism,
from which both emerge enriched
^ HaYom Yom, Kehot publications, p. 110
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (Orot 2)
Bodoff, Lippman; "Jewish Mysticism: Medieval Roots, Contemporary
Dangers and Prospective Challenges"; The Edah Journal 2003 3.1
Dan, Joseph; The Early Jewish Mysticism, Tel Aviv: MOD Books, 1993.
Dan, Joseph; The Heart and the Fountain: An Anthology of Jewish
Mystical Experiences, New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Dan, Joseph; "Samael, Lilith, and the Concept of Evil in Early
Kabbalah", AJS Review, vol. 5, 1980.
Dan, Joseph; The 'Unique Cherub' Circle, Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1999.
Dan, J. and Kiener, R.; The Early Kabbalah, Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist
Dennis, G.; The Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism, St.
Paul: Llewellyn Worldwide, 2007.
Fine, Lawrence, ed. Essential Papers in Kabbalah, New York: NYU Press,
Fine, Lawrence; Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos: Isaac
Luria and his Kabbalistic Fellowship, Stanford: Stanford University
Safed Spirituality, Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1989.
Fine, Lawrence, ed.,
Judaism in Practice, Princeton N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 2001.
Green, Arthur; EHYEH: A
Kabbalah for Tomorrow. Woodstock: Jewish
Lights Publishing, 2003.
Grözinger, Karl E., Jüdisches Denken Band 2: Von der
mittelalterlichen Kabbala zum Hasidismus, (Campus) Frankfurt /New
Hecker, Joel; Mystical Bodies, Mystical Meals: Eating and Embodiment
in Medieval Kabbalah. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005.
Levy, Patrick, HaKabbalist, edi. Yael, Tel Aviv 2010.Author's website.
Idel, Moshe; Kabbalah: New Perspectives. New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 1988.
Idel, Moshe; The Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the
Artificial Anthropoid, New York: SUNY Press, 1990.
Idel, Moshe; Hasidism: Between Ecstasy and Magic, New York: SUNY
Idel, Moshe; Kabbalistic Prayer and Color, Approaches to
Medieval Times, D. Blumenthal, ed., Chicago: Scholar's Press, 1985.
Idel, Moshe; The Mystica Experience in
Abraham Abulafia, New York,
SUNY Press, 1988.
Idel, Moshe; Kabbalah: New Perspectives, New Haven, Yale University
Idel, Moshe; Magic and
Kabbalah in the '
Book of the Responding
Solomon Goldman Lectures VI, Chicago: Spertus College of
Judaica Press, 1993.
Idel, Moshe; "The Story of
Rabbi Joseph della Reina"; Behayahu, M.
Studies and Texts on the
History of the Jewish Community in Safed.
Kaplan, Aryeh; Inner Space: Introduction to Kabbalah, Meditation and
Prophecy. Moznaim Publishing Corp 1990.
McGiney, John W.; 'The Written' as the Vocation of Conceiving Jewishly
Samuel, Gabriella; "The
Kabbalah Handbook: A Concise Encyclopedia of
Terms and Concepts in Jewish Mysticism". Penguin Books 2007.
Scholem, Gershom; Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 1941.
Scholem, Gershom; Jewish Gnosticism,
Merkabah Mysticism, and the
Talmudic Tradition, 1960.
Scholem, Gershom; Sabbatai Zevi, the Mystical Messiah, 1973.
Scholem, Gershom; Kabbalah, Jewish Publication Society, 1974.
Wineberg, Yosef; Lessons in Tanya: The Tanya of R. Shneur Zalman of
Liadi (5 volume set). Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, 1998.
Wirszubski, Chaim; Pico della Mirandola's Encounter with Jewish
Mysticism, Harvard University Press, 1989.
Wolfson, Elliot; Through a Speculum That Shines: Vision and
Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism, Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1994.
Wolfson, Elliot; Language, Eros Being: Kabbalistic Hermeneutics and
Poetic Imagination, New York: Fordham University Press, 2005.
Wolfson, Elliot; Venturing Beyond: Law and Morality in Kabbalistic
Mysticism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Wolfson, Elliot; Alef, Mem, Tau: Kabbalistic Musings on Time, Truth,
and Death, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
Wolfson, Elliot; Luminal Darkness: Imaginal Gleanings From Zoharic
Literature, London: Onworld Publications, 2007.
The Wisdom of The Zohar: An Anthology of Texts, 3 volume set, Ed.
Isaiah Tishby, translated from the Hebrew by
David Goldstein, The
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906).
"article name needed". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk &
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kabbalah.
Amazon.com: From the Depth of the Well: An Anthology of Jewish
Mysticism by Ariel Mayse
Jewishencyclopedia.com: Cabala Redirected from Kabbalah
Chabad.org's "What is Kabbalah?"
Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism
Jews and Judaism
Outline of Judaism
Index of Jewish history-related articles
Origins of Judaism
Israel and Judah
Second Temple period
Lists of Jews
Land of Israel
Who is a Jew?
Jewish Virtual Library
Relations with other Abrahamic religions
Jews and Judaism
Judaism – book
Conceptions of God
Gender of God
Gender of God and gods
the Bahá'í Faith
Shield of the Trinity
Trinity of the Church Fathers
God in Christianity / in Islam
Godhead in Christianity
Latter Day Saints
Great Architect of the Universe
Oneness of God