Jewish Mysticism – Kaballah

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jewish Mysticism: Kaballah

When a Jew questions the nature of God or wonders how the world came to be – or when he asks the meaning of life – he is entering the mystical realm of Judaism. He can go for help to the Zohar (splendor, radiance), the Talmud (teachings), and finally to Kaballah.

This prime work on mysticism comes from a Hebrew root meaning “to receive.” It is thus the “received tradition”, transmitted orally through early prophets and sages.Its probable roots are from the 10th century before Christ. Though the various sects of Judaism today shun Kaballah study, the teachings have become interwoven throughout Jewish religious writings and culture, so some degree of Jewish mystical thought is as much a part of Jewish identity as Jesus is to Christianity.

 Kaballah is the study of esoteric (hidden) aspects of the written Torah, the Pentateuch. The early prophets were mystics as well as seers and they had prophetic visions in the apocalyptic tradition. Many rabbis and scholars were known to teach mystical theology and practice even in the first centuries A.D. Some bear similarity to spiritual truth. The Prophet Joseph Smith knew of the theosophical aspects: 

 Kaballah holds that God is neither matter nor spirit but creator of both. The first aspect of God “Ein Sof” is that he is infinite, though unknowable. All things have been brought into being through Him, so one image of God is seen through what he has brought into the universe. According to this theory, there are ten “emanations” of God that are called revelations of His will. See

The Tree of Sefirot (enumerations, channels of Divine energy) shows how the qualities are organized; the right side being positive and masculine, the right side negative and feminine. The center demonstrates the ethical mediation of the two sides. These mystical theories were a way of explaining the universe. They correspond to qualities of God and are interactive: an occult, ever changing and transforming Tree of Life. A creation myth.

The English words, descending order: Top and right side: will (crown), wisdom, mercy, victory. Left side: understanding, justice, glory. Center: beauty, power and (lowest) kingdom.

In Kaballah, God is infinite. He has poured His light into each thing that is created so that every person carries the Divine light of truth within him or her, the stamp of divinity. God is not separate from creation for even a moment. Mankind’s life task according to Kaballah is to become “revealed”, not “concealed”: to be a clear, radiant image of God. Meditation upon the divine name of God is a necessary part of becoming like Him. These mystical theories were a way of explaining the universe to questioning minds of the Diaspora and prior to the formulation of Christian theology. But when the apostles of Christ were proselytizing, some of these teachings were considered heretical. For more information on Kaballah, see;;

My novelette, People of The Book translates some of the Sefirot into characters who act out their parts accordingly. The hero, Yesod (power), is a devout Jew who comes to realize that Jesus is the Messiah. His love is Tiferet (beauty), his serious lawyer friend, Gevurah (law). I recommend it to everyone wishing to understand the Jewish soul and spirit! (Image from Wikipedia)


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