Studying Kabbalah

While I do usually spend daily effort and attention to Talmud (oral Torah) and Tanach (written Torah), what really appeals to me at this point in my life is generally described as Kabbalah, our “mystical” tradition.

No, I have no dreams to become a KABBALIST, some sort of “sorcerer”.  I don’t want to make a golem, sell charms on the internet nor be ordained as an exorcist. (I don’t even know if there are living today, any of our people with those “powers”, although I’m sure that there have been eras when certain extremely-rare and special personalities have gone beyond our mundane world.)  Nonetheless, this area of our tradition makes up the bulk of my Torah learning.

I’m certainly not trying to understand the “mind of God” because, obviously, that’s an impossible, and impossibly arrogant, undertaking.

So, why do I spend so much of my time and intellect to study the unknowable and impractical? Does it benefit anyone or is it merely for my personal amusement?

First, let’s review some of the concepts I discussed in a previous article, Basic Spiritual Mechanics.  Every thought, action and even emotion we perform in our everyday lives affects spiritual realms beyond our own perception which, in turn, affects our experienced universe.  Thus, I have to assume that reading, contemplating and learning anything will create a sequence of neural activity in my own brain and, on the most basic level, this particular configuration of electrical energy will generate a related pattern of energy in these “upper realms” which will then cascade back into our world and, to some degree which is probably below any threshold of perception but real nonetheless, change our world.

I assume that Torah study, in general, generates patterns which ultimately benefit our world.  I also assume that each soul is uniquely rooted, and thus attracted to a unique area of Torah.  Years of honest searching as we study hopefully will lead each of us to exactly what we’re most connected to.  There are those whose hearts lead them to Tanach (roughly, the Old Testament), some to Halacha (legal study), others to Talmud, to theology, to philosophy, to social issues and more.  While a background in all areas of Torah are required to more-than-superficially understand any one area, and while this neural activity will occur in all of them as well (just as it will with secular study and all other mental activity), when we focus on our own unique ד’ אמות, dalet amot, four cubits (which describe one’s personal “space”), that neural activity, these lights, will be most intense, having the maximum effect we’re able to create.

Again, while realizing that our individual contributions to bettering the world, either through Torah study, additional mitzvot and other good deeds we undertake, will likely be too small to perceive, they’re are still significant.  They are, like everyone else’s, necessary-but-not-sufficient elements for our great Tikun Olam, partnering with God and each other in bringing Creation to perfection.

I certainly hope that my studies do go beyond merely filling my time with an enjoyable activity.

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7 Responses to Studying Kabbalah

  1. Mr. Cohen says:

    Tosefta, tractate Chagigah, chapter 2, paragraph 2:
    Four [men] entered into paradise:
    Ben Azai, Ben Zoma, Achair, and Rabbi Akiva.
    Ben Azai gazed at what was there and died, Ben Zoma gazed
    at what was there and went insane, Achair gazed at what was
    there and became a heretic, and Rabbi Akiva went up there
    in peace and came back down in peace.

  2. Mr. Cohen says:

    Sefer Chasidim, chapter 292:
    …secrets of the Torah, [these] things should only be
    revealed to an Av Beth Din who is modest [tzanua].

    Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid (born 1150 CE, died 1217 CE)

  3. Mr. Cohen says:

    Midrash Rabah, Seder Bereshit,
    parshah 8, end of paragraph 2:

    Rabbi Eliezer taught in the name of Ben Sira:
    Into that which is beyond you, do not seek.
    Into that which is more powerful than you, do not inquire.
    About that which is concealed from you, do not [desire to] know.
    About that which is hidden from you, do not ask.
    Contemplate that which is permitted to you,
    and do not engage yourself in hidden things.

    • Certainly, one should not misuse any aspect of Torah, either for profit or for fame or for cheap thrills. But we’re each drawn to exactly that which fits our unique Neshama.

  4. Colyn Peter Spurrell says:

    All those are good posts and vital wisdom.

    Should you be drawn in a right and good way to continue, this is a proper guide to traveling that road safely:

    Sefer Chasidim, chapter 292:
    …secrets of the Torah, [these] things should only be
    revealed to an Av Beth Din who is modest [tzanua].

    Your response shows you have right understanding:

    “Certainly, one should not misuse any aspect of Torah, either for profit or for fame or for cheap thrills. But we’re each drawn to exactly that which fits our unique Neshama.”

    Dear Rabbi, I am certain you approach the study with humility, compassion and great respect, so certainly continue with the development of your true tzanua as you travel the path.

    That which is ‘esoteric’ simply reveals itself when one’s understanding of Talmud, Torah, expands. As that comprehension expands, one is naturally drawn to appreciate and comprehend additional messages and these are a joy. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who carefully traveled the path of expanded comprehension in prior ages and left written wisdom to guide and keep us safe.

  5. Mr. Cohen says:

    Babylonian Talmud, tractate Chagigah, page 13A, 4th thick line on page:
    Rabbi Yochanan said to Rabbi Elazar:
    Come, I will teach you the [secrets of the] Divine Chariot [Maaseh HaMercavah].
    He answered: I am not old enough.

    Rabbenu Chananel on this page explains:
    He was not yet 50 years old שנה חמשים בן.

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