The Kabbalah is an ancient, mystical Jewish tradition based on agnostic and esoteric ideas said to emanate from a deeper understanding of the teachings of the Torah and Talmud. It enables those who are able to take the spiritual journey to gain a greater understanding of G.d and his relationship with man. The Kabbalah provides a deeper knowledge to those who are ready and able to assimilate it. The word Kabbalah is Hebrew in origin and roughly translated means “tradition”.
The Kabbalah within Jewish convention is seen as an interpretation of the scriptures handed down from Abraham by word of mouth. It has been endorsed throughout its history to a greater or lesser extent by various strands of Judaism. By the middle ages many of the ancient mystical teachings passed on by word of mouth were written into the Book of Zohar and between 1500 and 1800 the Kabbalah was regarded by many as the true Jewish Theology. The practice of the Kabbalah remained to a great extent surreptitious and a fear of the impact it could have led to Rabbi’s in the 17 th century legislating that it could only be studied by married men over the age of 4 who had a substantial knowledge of the Torah and Talmud. With the advent of a more grounded rationalism Kabbalah lost ground from 19 th century onwards but has recently gained popularity particularly especially amongst Hasidic Jews and non- Orthodox Jews, and to some extent, in the world of the Orthodox.
Celebration of the Kabbalah
The practices of the Kabbalah revolve around developing an understanding of the hidden forces around us, a higher order of forces that are beyond our understanding in everyday life. While some forces are understandable to all, others are hidden and the Study of the Kabbalah facilitates an awareness of these forces, leading to an understanding of the Creator while still on this earth. The highest spiritual level is known as “The End of Correction” It provides a different way of looking at the world based on the depth of understanding.
While the Kabbalah is in essence a theological doctrine incorporating its own teachings from the Zohar and rooted in Jewish tradition it incorporates ritual and practice based on mysticism and mystic practices. It teaches meditation and spiritual discipline, fasting and the pursuit of a higher state of religious observance. It does incorporate the possibility of greater spiritual enhancement including dreams and visions.
The significance of the Kabbalah
The Kabbalah in many ways contradicts many of the basic tenets of Judaism. The ideas of reincarnation do not fit comfortably and the idea of obtaining a higher level of spirituality contradicts the need for preparation for the coming of the Messiah. And so for some branches like Chasidic Judaism is it central but for others it remains a difficult concept. For those within the faith who find the concepts difficult there is comfort in the words “It’s nonsense but its Jewish nonsense and the study of anything Jewish even nonsense, is worthwhile”.