I am not a kabbalist. I don't even know tons about it, but I know SOME (because you can't be in the Jewish world for over thirty years without running into the topic at least a LITTLE).
Recently, I've been summarizing a little book on Kabbalah (a Brief Introduction for Christians, if anybody is interested in getting it - published by Jewish Lights) for a support group I moderate for people who are leaving the same fundamentalist denomination I was raised in. (and may I just say, boy howdy, am I glad I LEFT!)
What I can do, if anybody is interested, is copy that material over here - it runs into many pages (warning) but it seems pretty good - AND it is totally appropriate for people with a Christian background who want to 'learn more about it' without necessarily - at this point in time - taking it up as a practice.
I'll just put it out there: mysticism is not my natural trend. But the older I get, the more I can appreciate the non-rational or emotional aspect of faith (any faith).
But it will take some effort to do this, so only if someone responds with interest, okay? Otherwise I will just be available to answer random questions, which is also fine. What I find a lot of the time, is that when Christians (or new Jews) ask Jews certain questions, the Jews don't 'catch' the underlying Christian references and assumptions that are in those questions, so they give answers which may be RIGHT, but they are MISLEADING to the person who asked the question, because they have assumptions going in which color how they hear the answer.
Hi Simcha...Can you post a link to the pages? Is that what you meant? It would be nice to read what you have found of interest about Kabbalah. I would be interested. I am also interested in Buddhism. My daughter has been a Nicheren Buddhist for quite a few years now and she finds great comfort in that "religion". It is Japanese style and involves chanting.
I have this little book, called 'Kabbalah: A brief introduction for Christians' -
Anybody interested? Mysticism (which is about what this is, in a way) is not my usual 'way' of relating to anything. But it is actually impossible to totally avoid the ideas which have migrated into 'normative' Judaism over three thousand years from the realm of Sod (long o) - the extreme 'deep' interpretation.
Kabbalah means 'received', as in the received traditions. It was almost wholly oral (teacher to student) up until very recently - even the great classics of the kabbalah (which date back at least 2000 years) are usually written in such a fashion that they don't make sense to outsiders - you had to have a teacher to explain the symbology. The books were deliberately written to be confusing to outsiders.
Classically, nobody was supposed to even begin to study Kabbalah until they were well-based in Torah, Talmud and 'regular' studies, and were settled (married with children, basically). It was otherwise considered too dangerous (to the intellect and to faith). Kabbalah sort of asks people to believe two contrary things at once and to be perfectly okay with that.
So - the only thing most people have heard about Kabbalah is red threads and Madonna, and that - well, that's not what it is.
Bear in mind, there is no way I can 'teach you Kabbalah'. All I can do is relay some accurate information about what it is, and what it is about. History is the fiction we invent to persuade ourselves that events are knowable and that life has order and direction. That's why events are always reinterpreted when values change. We need new versions of history to allow for our current prejudices.
• Re: Kabbalah by agricola » Sun Jul 03, 2016 7:57 am I'll try to do justice to the book - it is by Tamar Frankiel and is available from Jewish Lights publishing. Although it also available from Amazon, natch. I bought my copy used, and somebody before me was a very generous underliner, highlighter, and margin note-maker, mostly in the first few chapters!
I'll start with Introduction: A Note on the History of Kabbalah Kabbalah, the popular term for Jewish mysticism, comes from a Hebrew root that means 'to receive'; thus, Kabbalah is the received tradition. The term was originally used to refer only to medieval Jewish mysticism, but now its usage is much expanded.
You sometimes see it spelled 'Cabbalah' and it is the root of 'cabal' in English (interesting, eh?) probably because it was so 'secret'.
Digression by me for no particular reason except I was reminded:
Did you know 'abracadabra' comes out of kabbalistic material? Or maybe it was taken INTO it.....Mispronounced, of course - it is Hebrew - maybe! avra kedavra: I create by the word. (or 'I create what I speak'). J.K. Rowling used a variation in the Harry Potter series: Avada Kedavra which she translates as 'I destroy as a speak' (the Killing Curse). But that's from an Aramaic version - where sometimes words that sound/look the same as Hebrew words, mean something different!
Looking it up, I see it first turns up in Roman records - that's pretty old! And it apparently got its start as a charm to heal illness. So maybe it is Latin originally.
Honestly, that is a lot like what happens when you start looking at Kabbalah - about as soon as you think you have something pinned down, suddenly it shifts to something else, like those line drawings that look like two different pictures, depending on how you look at it.
Re: Kabbalah by agricola » Sun Jul 03, 2016 8:12 am Jewish mysticism originated probably several centuries BCE, in the study of esoteric aspects of the written Torah...the contemplation of prophetic visions like those of Ezekiel and Isaiah, and apocalyptic traditions. Specific rabbis are known to have taught mystical theology and practice in the first centuries CE. Some scholars think that the Gnostics of the early Christian era (ca. 100-200 CE) developed their ideas from a core Jewish mystical tradition that existed before the first century. We have Jewish mystical texts that date back, in their first written forms, to the second of third century CE and possibly earlier....
...it is highly likely that the mystics limited their teachings to small circles because they were concerned about being considered culturally and even politically subversive...Yet in the long run, their thought was highly influential. The traditional Jewish prayer book, first complied and circulated in writing in the eighth century CE, incorporates profound mystical ideas.
Dr Frankiel goes on to mention the (apparent) flowering on mystical teachings in medieval times (such as in Spain before the expulsion, and Safed ('tzfat') in Israel (a very important center). The more important earliest written books are the Sefer Yetzirah (the Book of Creation) probably second century CE, the Bahir (Clear - I think? Clarity? 11th century CE) and the Sefer ha-Zohar (The Book of Splendor) attributed to a first century rabbi, but probably mostly written in Spain in the 1200's.
Major 'schools' of mystical ideas existed in Spain, the German states, and in southern France - and when the Spanish expelled the Jews, they scattered throughout Europe and Africa and to Israel (mostly to Safed) taking Kabbalistic ideas and schools with them.
This period (late Medieval? - around say 800-1400 or so - pre-Rennaisance) was also the time of a lot of the development of Christian mysticism also (Marianic devotion and Bernard of Clairvaux, and Meister Eckhart, for instance).
Re: Kabbalah by agricola » Sun Jul 03, 2016 9:20 am Safed (pronounced 'tzfat') - it is hard to overstate the importance of the mystics who settled in Safed. It is still - to this day - a center of Jewish mysticism, a place of pilgrimage, an artist's favorite retreat center (think 'Sedona' maybe). Safed is the 'highest' city in Israel (on a mountain in the North). I've been there. It is enormously interesting to visit.
Yohannan ben Zakai retreated there in Roman times and is buried there. After the expulsion of 1492, many fleeing rabbis from Spain headed there. In 1549, a young fellow named Isaac Luria arrived - taught his ideas (orally only) for three years, and died.
Isaac Luria was about 30 when he arrived in Safed. He died at 33. He taught only orally to his followers, who recorded his teachings and passed them on. He was reputed to be able to do miracles. Lurianic mysticism became the basis for much of Jewish mysticism up to the present day.
The next major name in mysticism was in the 1600's - Shabbatai Tzvi, an erratic teacher whose disciples believed him to the Messiah, but who converted to Islam to escape death. The followers of Tzvi were a continuing problem - they had some (ahem) rather unusual ideas about sex, for instance (orgies).
So after that, many rabbis discouraged people from teaching mystical ideas to the public, and teachers were even watched and actively discouraged from publishing.
In the 1700's, there was Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato in Italy. He was discouraged from teaching some of his more controversial ideas there, so he went to Amsterdam, but had the same difficulties. But he did manage to teach and wrote some important works.
However, the next really 'big' name in Jewish mysticism after Luria was the Baal Shem Tov (the Master of the Good Name), aka 'the Besht'.
I checked the member list, and you and Debbie have that designation of " God". I think it is because you have written a lot of messages. The forum gives different names to people according to how many messages they have written. So if you have written a lot of them, they must write "God" there. I don't know how to get rid of it. I will ask my friend who runs a very active forum for people who grow African violets.
Yes I enjoyed the book, I like learning ABOUT kabbalah, but I am not naturally inclined toward the mystical in anything. But Lurianic kabbalah (all modern kabbalah is in some way 'lurianic' or deals with Isaac Luria's themes) is interesting because it is so complete - so 'full' of detail and explanations of 'everything'. It is like a scientific Theory, which is a comprehensive explanation of an entire subject! I like that. Of course, a science Theory explains things that we can actually see and measure, while kabbalah is all based on supposition and interpretation and has no way to be tested or 'proved' (to prove actually means 'to test' - a scientific Theory can be 'proven' by testing - and if it withstands all tests to prove it WRONG, then we call the explanation a Theory and it is considered to be, for all practical purposes, True. Kabbalah is only 'testable' in people's thoughts and emotions, and only 'proved' by the way you live your life and how you see the world - it can't be objectively tested, in other words.)
If I reviewed the book I would also give it four stars, mainly because I rarely give any book I read five stars! I think it is a good introduction for Christians particularly, but it is not perfect. It also puts a lot of 'hard' (new, unfamiliar) information in a very short book, which is nice for conciseness, but also hard for real comprehension. It's a decent review though, and a nice introduction.
The Besht: Israel ben Eliezer Many mystics stayed underground. According to one tradition, a circle known as the 'hidden ones' carried on the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria for nearly two hundred years in Eastern Europe. In 1740, a member of this circle emerged into public view in the Ukraine, saying that is was now time to reinvigorate mystical teachings among the general populace...His teachings, transmitted by his disciples and theirs in turn, sparked flames of piety across Eastern Europe.
The members of this movement were known as Hasidim...('the devout ones'). They taught love of God, joy in worship, and the ability of every Jew to be connected to God through prayer and service, whether or not a person was learned according to rabbinic criteria.
(Coincidentally - or not - this was the same time as the Great Awakening in the US, and the rise of pietistic devotion throughout European and English Protestantism.) History is the fiction we invent to persuade ourselves that events are knowable and that life has order and direction. That's why events are always reinterpreted when values change. We need new versions of history to allow for our current prejudices.
Re: Kabbalah by agricola » Sun Jul 03, 2016 9:52 am Although the Hasidic movement is heavily mystical, the study of mystical topics was also fairly common among the non-Hasidic Jewish population in Europe too. A smart student interested in esoteric interpretations might be given a copy of the Zohar, even as a teen.
The Reform movement (started in Germany) was mostly rationalistic, anti-mystical (1800's originally).
Then came World War II - which came very close to completely wiping out the Jewish population of Eastern Europe - the 'home territory' of Jewish mysticism in Europe (and the world, pretty much). At least 90% of the rabbis - the teachers and community leaders - in Eastern Europe died during the war and so did most of their students and followers.
Where did the survivors go? Israel and the US.
Info: There are two major 'groups' of Jews: Ashkenazic (from communities settled for a long time in Europe, particularly eastern and northern Europe) and Sephardic (from communities that settled long term in Arab/Muslim countries - the Middle East and Africa - and the Spanish communities. Mystic ideas were always current and relatively mainstream (and non-controversial) in Sephardic Jewry, but were usually 'hidden' and more 'secret' in Ashkenazic communities - at least until the advent of Hasidism in the 1700's.
Generally, until the middle of the 20th century, kabbalistic teaching resources were only found in orthodox or Sephardic communities. Then Martin Buber (for one) began publishing collections of traditional Hasidic tales and sayings, which spread mystical ideas to anybody who wanted to read them. And the Lubavitcher Hasidim began their hugely influential Chabad program, spreading knowledge of basic Jewish practice along with Hasidic teachings to Jewish communities throughout the world (joke: how do we know there is no life on Mars? there isn't a chabad house there).
the Jewish Renewal movement (1970's California, basically) also encouraged serious study of mysticism.
Right now, there are various streams or approaches to Kabbalah, but (unlike in the past) these are accessible to almost everyone.
Plenty of non-Jews are interested - the problem is... for the non-Jewish beginner with a strong interest in mysticism...is very difficult because it requires familiarity with many basic Jewish texts and concepts, and often (familiarity) with Hebrew words and letters.
Frankiel is circumspect: Another recently emerging alternative is groups that specialize in Kabbalah for a general audience, but one must be careful because some of these groups are of doubtful authenticity, and/or use questionable methods...
Therefore this book - from the Jewish perspective on Jewish mysticism, designed for the beginner especially the non-Jew (Christian) unfamiliar with mysticism and with Jewish traditions too.
I just got reminded (elsewhere) so I thought I'd better stick this in:
KABBALAH IS NOT SOME KIND OF 'DIFFERENT' RELIGION!!!
It is the 'mystical interpretive' branch of traditional Judaism.
It just so happens that ALL 'mystical interpretive' branches of practically EVERY religion is using a lot of the same kind of ideas - meditation, imaginative storytelling, 'practices' to 'enhance/improve/generate' mystical (i.e., 'out of body') experiences. Kabbalah is just the specific JEWISH take on these same major ideas.
You don't have to know anything about kabbalah if you don't want to. But since kabbalah develops OUT OF traditional historical Judaism, it has also developed ideas and themes which have traveled INTO traditional historical Judaism - and especially in its current popular revival arm: Jewish Renewal.
I think if you know 'something' about kabbalah, you will find more interest (and have a better understanding) of some of the themes of the siddur, especially the more esoteric (i.e., mystical, kabbalistic) ideas - like the Sabbath as a Queen/Bride, the idea of tikkun olam, and so on.
If you think you want to PRACTICE kabbalah - that is, really study, learn and get into it, then start with some good introductory texts, and then find yourself a legitimate teacher. Be careful. This sort of esoteric/mystical enterprise is a fertile field for charlatans and scam artists. Don't just look up 'kabbalah' in the local phonebook. Do your research, and ask reputable authorities (most certified rabbis) before proceeding - and if they want major money, step way WAY back.