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 Kabbalah-why so prevalent?

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Bee

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PostSubject: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Sun Nov 27, 2011 5:26 am

How and why has kabbalah become so ingraned in Jewish studies in the last few hundred years when it was considered almost herectical. The Rambam was even against it, did it become so accepted to combat xtianity? Some of it is sooo out there and I have to wonder, I am currently reading "In The Service of The King" by Ben Ish Hai...alot I have to dismiss because of kabbalah and some I accept as having wisdom. I love my Rabbis like Brody and Greenbaum, but I just cannot make sense of their Breslev teachings.
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maculated

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Sun Nov 27, 2011 8:39 pm

My belief is that it's because the Ashkenazic Judaism was so non-spiritual and so much more focused on practiced in the past generations that Kabbalah has resurged to add life and mysticism to Judaism.
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Mon Nov 28, 2011 2:55 am

Huh, I never thought of it that way..you make a good point. I can see how one could be so focused on trying to attain merits and forgetting the very nurturing side of Hashem.
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BRNechama

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Mon Dec 05, 2011 1:50 am

I think its because today, spirituality is more attractive than religion. There is also a growing trend in the areas of self-help and personal development. So Kabbalah is a Jewish source for pulling out some of the more esoteric aspects of our beliefs; as opposed to turning to other sources for it (such as Eastern religions for example).

With that being said, the Chassidim, who at their core have more focus on the spiritual aspects of Judaism, have incorporated more Kabbalistic beliefs into their practice of Judaism. The widespread reach of Chabad may have also brought Kabbalah to the forefront.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:12 am

BRNechama wrote:

With that being said, the Chassidim, who at their core have more focus on the spiritual aspects of Judaism, have incorporated more Kabbalistic beliefs into their practice of Judaism. The widespread reach of Chabad may have also brought Kabbalah to the forefront.

That's a very good point. They do tremendous outreach (heck, even I use their site on a weekly basis) and they are more into the mysical, kabbalistic side of Judaism.
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Rabbi-In-Training

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Mon Dec 19, 2011 6:57 pm

Kabbalah can be misleading if one is not firmly grounded in Torah. I think that Chasidism does an excellent job of bringing it out and to the forefront without completely revealing it.

Ultimately, the best way to start one's study of kabbalah is to know that kabbalah means reception. A mekubal is one who receives, that being said, all Jews are mekubalim because they all received the Torah at Mt. Sinai. Once you get that Kabbalah is about being open to the reception of Torah, it serves to enhance your practice of Torah. It turns Judaism from rote obligatory practice to a dance of love between you and the creator.
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:51 pm

Well, I honestly don't need mysticism for that. The incredible works, love, mercy, kindness and justice of Hashem is overwhelming enough. Kabbalah is in my opinion, off the target and a new age kind of religion. It is a fairly new addition to Judaism and some sages like the Rambam was not for it. I am currently studying and reading, "In the Service of the King", some wisdom and a whole lot of nonsense, no offense but I find a lot of wordly influence in it.
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Dena

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:26 am

Rabbi-In-Training wrote:
Kabbalah can be misleading if one is not firmly grounded in Torah.

Yeah, I think people should be careful.

Bee wrote:
Well, I honestly don't need mysticism for that. The incredible works, love, mercy, kindness and justice of Hashem is overwhelming enough. Kabbalah is in my opinion, off the target and a new age kind of religion.

I can appreciate some aspects Kabbalah as presented by groups such as Chabad. I am admittedly not overwhelmed by the love and kindness of God. This world can be cruel and unjust. Every once in a while a little light of mysticism doesn't hurt, for me anyway. When it's not being overly presumptuous or ridiculous. There are some things that just make me roll my eyeballs.



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Yaakov_Ezra

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Sun Jan 01, 2012 10:09 pm

I recently got Esential Zohar, by Rav Berg and its great.


And I do enjoy Baal Shem Tov.
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:45 pm

Quote :
It is a fairly new addition to Judaism

Actually, according to Kabbalistic teachings, it's been around for a very long time. The Zohar was written in the 13th century and was supposedly from older, oral teachings. (That's debated, but it's also debated whether the Torah came into being at Mt. Sinai or evolved over several centuries; so who knows where the truth really lies?)

Given the advanced mystical concepts in the Zohar, though, I doubt that a single person invented all of it himself; I think the bulk of the information did evolve over time and through the contributions of multiple people. How long ago that happened, though, is back into the realm of the debated.

I have been enjoying the study of Kabbalah because so many of the ideas it espouses are ideas which I developed on my own; in other words, it seems to confirm things I've already thought about the nature of God.

And I don't mind Kabbalah's practical side, which attempts to feel a connection to God. I've had a few odd experiences in my life which made me aware that there's more to existence than just what I experience on a daily basis. That's what practical Kabbalah attempts to do--feel the presence of God and/or something beyond ourselves.

Not all people like that feeling, and not all people are capable of feeling it (in the same way that some people can feel the presences of ghosts and some wouldn't notice if Michael Jackson moonwalked right through them), so it's not for everyone.

And it certainly does not replace the following of Jewish law. That's why, traditionally, it was not supposed to be taught to men under the age of 40: you were supposed to have a firm habit of following the law first before you began trying to connect to the Godforce. If you spend all your time trying to connect to the Godforce and you neglect your other duties as a Jew, then that creates a real problem. That may also be why men were supposed to wait to study: their earthly duties--namely raising a family--were largely taken care of by the age of 40. Also, it's natural that people who are getting older--and starting to feel their own mortality--would want to study mysticism in order to connect to that feeling that yes, there is more than just this decaying physical body; yes, there is a place for me after death.
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Bee

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Wed Jan 04, 2012 6:52 pm

In my opinion I am little skeptical of the claim that kabbalah was around during mt. sanai etc. I may change my mind in the future if i find evidence or truth...I have learned not to rule things out but I am a logical person and this to me is not logical. If it was so it would have been written and part of the early writings...this secret stuff well...we have been studying the book of secrets ( last week we finished our fifth tractate) and according to Talmud revealing secrets comes with great consequence. Kabbalah in my opinion is subletting from a form of Judaism, it has come into mainstream in the past few centuries. It may be beautiful just as some aspects of xtianity, among other theologies, but you don't need mysticism to get to that level in spirituality. If your faith (Judaism) lacks spiritualism then there is something wrong. Judaism is so emotionally powerful I sometimes take a step back. I believe there is an essence that is mystical of Hashem that oral traditions snowballed into outrages stories and to what kabbalah is today. As a previious xtian the level of spiritualism was high for me so much that I can tell you stories for days of many spiritual experiences. One in particular is when I use to pray in spirit for a particular child who would be accross the playground, and he somehow would contort his body and run on all fours and attack me. He would hiss and say weird things as if he was "demon"possesed. (He was 4 years old) long story short...how do you explain so many "spiritual" events, healings etc.? Its all mental and now that I have an understanding of who satan is...I have no more "visions" or spiritual events happening because I don't believe in that stuff anymore. When I was a child I honestly thought I could leave my body connect with gd or jc, that I could see what others could not. I still have such a powerful connection with Hashem but without the fluff and pagan residue (still working on dropping emotional xtian baggage). I hope this does not offend anyone. Its just my opinion, the Rambam says Gd is incorporeal which is a fascinating subject (Guide to the Perplexed) so I don't rule out that there may be some truth in kabbalah, how much is yet to be determined. I enjoy the wisdom of Ben Ish Hai, but feel it is not essential to my learning Torahs. Its more like poetry with a cup of hot cocao when i need a study break.
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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Fri Mar 15, 2013 12:28 am

I know that this discussion is a little dated, but I wanted to add another perspective.

Even if you do not study Kaballah directly (most of the Jews I know do not), there are still aspects of Kaballah woven through most modern Siddurs, beyond just Lecha Dodi. It's a pretty old tradition that was brought to the forefront with the Ari, but it's difficult to know just how much was passed on previous to that.

I have attended a few classes on Kabbalah and found that there are 2 types of people in these classes, generally. The first type isn't able to wrap their heads around the level of abstract thought and often lacks a foundational knowledge of Torah or Halachah. Often, these people are looking for a shortcut around that or are looking at Kabbalah almost as a separate religion. The second type does have the foundation and are able to grasp the idea of abstract thought.

It's similar to when I was part of a class and we had one student who got hung up wondering exactly how many wings an angel has and how the physics work for them to fly. Or another class where a student was hung up figuring out how carnivores could eat plants in Gan Eden. Some people have a perspective that needs to be rooted in the concrete and it is difficult for them to separate the concrete and physical from more abstract concepts.

All of this is why, historically, Sages were very careful about how they taught Kabbalah. They recognized that these were concepts that could be easily misunderstood and might be difficult to teach widely.
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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Sun May 19, 2013 6:51 pm

Thank you for sharing interesting comments,

Ludwik Kowalski

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daniel eliezer

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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Tue May 21, 2013 6:04 am

Kabbalah: Giving and Receiving

Before we start, hopefully everyone knows that the Hebrew word ‘קבלה’ - kabbalah means ‘receiving’, which means there’s ‘giving’. It helps when we know what we’re talking about.

Life has two aspects to it: how and why. We have to know how and we have to know why. Society tells us, “you have to get married,” but if we only get married because society tells us ‘we have to’, then our marriages are going to be limited or have their limitations. So, too, if we get married only because we love someone, we can have a very great relationship, but we may very well have a dysfunctional marriage. When we have both the external structure of marriage, the ‘how’, and the internal meaning, the ‘why’, it’s then that our marriages have the best chance of being healthy, fulfilling relationships, marriages, and families.

In life, we are familiar with people who are so fixated on the structure that as people they just ‘aren’t there’, just as we are familiar with people who as people ‘are there’ but the structure to their lives isn’t. (I deliberately left out the word ‘religious’ when referring to ‘people’, because this is endemic to mankind – regardless which garments [of behavior] we wear.)

So, too, is Torah comprised of ‘structure’ and ‘meaning’. Kabbalah isn’t external to Torah; kabbalah is intrinsic to Torah. It’s just that as a ‘visible revelation’ and as a focus of study and learning it remained in the realm of the hidden and obscure. In the schism that developed in the world of Exile, the world of Sephardic Jews never lost their ‘spiritual’ connection, their internal identification to and with Torah, and consequently the kabbalistic dimensions of Torah remained open and permissible to them. With no small credit given to the perverted influence of the Xtianity in Europe, the world of Ashkenazic Jews mostly lost their ‘spiritual’ connection, their internal identification to and with Torah, and in consequence the kabbalistic dimensions of Torah were closed and forbidden to them. It was only with and because of the advent of Chassidut is when the world of Ashkenazic Jews began to rebuild their ‘spiritual’ connection and to restore their internal identification to and with Torah, and subsequently kabbalah.

Because the ‘soul of Torah’ and hence ‘the soul of Jews’ had sunk to such a devastated state, it took a massive outpouring of ‘souls on fire’ (in Hebrew: התלהבות – hitlahavut, burning desire) in order to right the imbalance. The Soul of Am Yisrael was at stake and for this reason Chassidut was so visibly extreme: when it’s a question of life-and-death you don’t give aspirin and benign platitudes.

As we all know too well, when our souls are sick often we react negatively and even violently to any efforts ‘to reform and to rehabilitate’, and so it was with Chassidut. The opponents, known as ‘misnagdim’ or ‘mitnagdim’ [lit: opponents], became bitter enemies of Chassidut and Chassidim. Over time however, as we see today, in the Ashkenazic world everyone learns Torah according to the Vilna Gaon while how to serve God is from the Ba’al Shem Tov.

The emphasis on learning kabbalah today isn’t for the sake of all the mysticism or hocus-pocus or voodoo that the genuinely ignorant and genuine charlatans and genuinely evil portray it to be. Kabbalah is in order to bring a massive infusion of love and caring and opening of hearts and souls to what, in specific, ‘being a Jew is’ and to what, in general, God’s world is all about. Kabbalah is Torah reaching and touching us outright, and it’s imperative to know that kabbalah has to be learned with the same overwhelming commitment and integrity and total absorption as all Torah is learned with and demands.

In order to give some measure of what we’re talking about regarding kabbalah, 3-4 or so years ago there appeared on the front page of the New York Times a headline that read: “Scientists have finally perfected the study that proves that prayer does not work.” (If not exactly these words, nevertheless the language is very, very close to the original.) The topic died entirely within a day or two. What happened? Clearly the NY Times brought interviews with significant religious authorities and so forth, but it was the non-religious medical profession which irrevocably refuted the Times assertion. “Anyone who works in this profession knows that prayer works!

Without having to prove anything, prayer is from the innermost place inside us, those places that are the most hidden: our hearts and our souls. These are the places where life touches us most deeply and from which we connect most deeply with life. We can have absolutely no formal religious knowledge of education, but intuitively we know to pray to the Source of All Life and Being, expecting he is listening for and is hearing and is answering our prayer.

Why do we pray?...because when we’re connected to life prayer comes of itself. We’re not here alone, and even without our being formally taught this, we intrinsically know it. As to how prayer works?...ahhh, for that we Jews have to learn Torah and kabbalah.

As crazy as it sounds, prayer is the language of the soul, which makes it kabbalah, because it’s dependent upon 'giving and receiving' (our opening sentence). Just as ‘kabbalah’ is the innermost dimensions of Torah, so, too, does prayer come from our innermost dimensions. It’s for this reason that we’re taught that prayer is heard, understood, and accepted in every language. Why?…because the language that we truly speak is the essence of our psychological-emotional-spiritual being, of our speaking with our own neshama, our own soul.

Of course, prayer in Hebrew always works, but achieving that level of comprehension and understanding until ‘prayer in Hebrew just flows from us’ is ‘a work in progress’: however much we put into our ‘prayer in Hebrew’ determines how much ‘prayer in Hebrew' puts into us.

Giving and receiving…from and to ourselves…dimensions of Godliness that are little emphasized.

B’Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer
12 Sivan 5773

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Salvia



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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Sun May 26, 2013 4:45 pm

Sorry for being captain obvious, but isn't ALL religion based on giving and receiving, and thus on prayer and trying to maintain a relationship with the divine? Like, the light in the heart communicating with the greater Light, G-d?

Of course one can't be connected all the time, and there are times one just goes through the motions of religion, like prayer services and eating kosher because the Torah says so and so on, but why would anyone WANT to do this if there's no connection, there has never been any connection, or at least you're not yearning for a connection, a bond with the Divine, of giving all you have and receiving love and bits of wisdom and insight and this feeling of understanding a bit more what Unity, what a Divine, created Universe is?

Is this kabbalah?
I've always called it 'religion'. But maybe I'm just missing the point....

In that case, sorry for my own, pointless post!
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PostSubject: Re: Kabbalah-why so prevalent?   Mon May 27, 2013 8:13 am

For those who have difficulty with the transliterated Hebrew and who don't have access
to Jewish libraries, most transliterated Hebrew can probably be found through Google.
If the word is critical to what I'm saying, then it is explained.

* * *

Salvia, let me answer you like this. Short and sweet.

Last week was our wedding anniversary. Upon hearing this someone asked, “How long have you been married?”…to which I instantly replied, “How long have you been alive?” Of course it stopped them, but it also created for me the openness in them to listen to what I needed to give over.

In explaining I said, “At the age of 15 we expect to be different at 20, just as at 20 we expect to be different at 30, 30 at 50, and so forth. For us, please God, life and aging reflect growth and growing. When it comes to marriage, however, the way we measure marriage often seems to be in terms of survival and longevity. For this reason I don’t say ‘we’ve been married 20-25-30 years, but that our marriage is 20 or 25 or 30 years old, in order to reflect our anticipations of and our need of growth and growing.’”

Along this line, I once worked with someone whom I disagreed with about almost everything, but one thing he said I’ve always valued. “Is 30-years experience ‘1-year of experience x 30, or is it 30 accumulated years of experience, with each year building on the next?”

In a similar vein, I once had to talk with my son’s 3rd grade teacher about the teacher’s concern over my son not praying in the morning with the class (religious schooling). This didn’t faze me in the least, and among the things I said to the teacher, while pointing in the direction of one of the 18 synagogues in my small (800 families) community, “synagogues are filled with people who were forced to daven [pray] when they were children. As a child he has absolutely no obligation to pray. (It’s part of educating and preparing him for when he becomes bar mitzvah at 13.) Let him sit quietly, and when he’s ready he’ll pray.”

As you point out, it’s easy to be dogmatically and parochially religious, fulfilling the so-called letter of the law without in any way having any heart in what you’re doing or in letting it touch you. We merely need look around and observe that the overwhelming majority of Jews don’t really ‘connect’ to their religion. It is much more a social-personal-familial relationship than it is a soul relationship with the Source of All Being. Admittedly, while I mention this about Jews, it’s a common reality in every religion and society. We pretty much absorb without questioning, unless we’ve been blessed to have parents or others for whom it’s real and genuine and give it over to us such that we receive it – not merely ‘absorb’ it – and thus it becomes real and genuine for us.

If you remember, we learned about this in the topic “‘Feeling Jewish’ and ‘being a Jew’ are not the same thing…”, when we learned about Yithro and discussed Yithro’s knowledge, comprehension, and outright involvement in every possible kind of religion and religious practice in existence, about which we also learned the importance and value of religion to and for every society and culture. When Moshe fled Egypt and came to live in Midian, Moshe continually taught Yithro that from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob our spiritual discipline is ‘God is relationship and commitment to that relationship’ (covenant, right).

But it wasn’t until Yithro went to the Midbar to join Moshe and B’nei Yisrael, where in hearing there the story of redemption from the tyranny of Pharaoh and Egypt, that something else was revealed. Yithro discovered that on the other side - the non-man[kind] side - of the relationship that God cares and is involved and acts for the sake of the relationship. In absorbing Moshe’s recounting, Yithro discovered himself looking at, “for Jews it isn’t solely that ‘man believes’ but equally true that ‘God believes’. Furthermore, it isn’t only that God is personal (i.e. a ‘personal God’), but that for God, too, ‘it’s personal’. If these wouldn’t be true, there could never be any relationship or mutuality.”

Against this, in Moby Dick, one of the shipboys is pressed into going out into the chase boats a number of times, and it happens that he ends up getting thrown out of the boat and accidentally being left afloat in the sea for hours. (Melville describes the beauty and peacefulness of the South Pacific to counterbalance the sense of abandonment.) When the main ship finally comes along and picks up the castaway, Melville writes, “The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infiniteness of his soul.

The Jewish People have endured 2000 years of Exile, and it’s the destructive influence of Exile which is exactly what Melville describes, “…kept his [their] finite body up, but drowned the infiniteness of his [their] soul.” The purpose of Torah is healing and fixing, and the more damage that has been done then the more deeply does one have to plunge the depths and scale the heights of Torah to reach that which is capable of fixing and healing. Tremendous damage demands tremendous healing. The purpose of kabbalah for the Jew is to connect him ‘heart and soul’ to the Source of All Being, outright mainlining him and her to the Source of All Living.

We hear the word ‘kabbalah’, and either we start drooling about the mysteriousness of it or we freak out over its weirdness. Either way, though, it’s not too difficult to conceive of kabbalah as a purely intellectual enterprise, because it really and truly is complex and sophisticated learning. Less understood is that it’s purpose is to reach the heart and soul; not stay trapped in the mind. For the very damaged spiritually, it is living heart and soul resuscitation, restoring hearts and souls by connecting them to the vibrant Source of All Living.

Today we have everything, literally everything money can buy, but as Shlomo (whom I’ve mentioned elsewhere) relates, “in contrast to our material wealth, we suffer from tremendous poverty of the soul.” I’ll close with this story of Shlomo’s.

He tells of how one time he was walking on the beach at night and he came across a young man sitting there crying. “What’s wrong? Is there some way I can help you?” he asked. Replied the young man, “To tell you the truth, I have all the money I need and I know what to do with the money. I also know what to do with everything I have. But I also have a soul, and I don’t know what to do with my soul?”

The immensity of being a Jew...not only is it missing, but worse...no one even knows it exists.

Shalom,
Daniel Eliezer


* * *
What I write doesn't invite comments within the topic, but I do want you to know
that all are welcome to write me should you have any questions or comments.
I can be reached at: d.e.ben.eitan@gmail.com.
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