Mystic Path

Jewish Kabbalah

In Judaism, Kabbalah means literally "what has been handed down", i.e. Tradition.  The idea is that just as there is a written scripture or Divine Revelation, the "Revealed Torah (Law)", this being the Pentateuch (the so-called first five books of Moses; i.e. the first five books of the Old Testament; to which were later appended commentaries like the Talmud, Mishnah, and so on), so there is also an inner or "hidden" Torah, a "secret" (sod), which gives the inner meaning of the Torah, and describes the nature of God, creation, the origin of the Cosmos, the nature of man, and so on. It is this Hidden Torah, which is supposedly handed down by word of mouth (although since the twelfth century it has been committed to writing) that constitutes the Kabbalah.

Kabbalah then, is the occult or mystical branch of the religion, the inner or esoteric counterpart to the outer or legalistic doctrine, the Torah or "Law",  just as Sufism is the occult and mystical tradition within Islam.

Brief Early History

There were many early streams of Jewish mysticism and much of Jewish esotericism, such as the pre-Kabbalistic Merkavah mysticism of the first millennium C.E., as well as Kabbalah, shows the influence of Hellenistic Gnostic magic and cosmology, as has been pointed out for example by Gershom Scholem.  Kabbalah proper only dates back to the twelfth century, to the Sefer Bahir or "Book of the Brilliant (Light)".  More influential and important than the Bahir though was the school of Gerona and the Sefer Zohar of a century later.

Levels of Meaning in Holy Scripture: "PaRDeS"
Professor Bryan Griffith Dobbs
Sefer Zohar The Hermeneutics of R. Isaac of Acre
Professor Boaz Huss

Age 40 and study of Kabbalah

It is often said that no-one under the age of 40 should attempt to study Kabbalah.  While this prohibition has indeed been in place in the past, there is more to this than at first seems the case.  As Yakov Leib Ha-Kohain explains: "The "Gazairah," or prohibition, around the study of Kabbalah by anyone under 40 and unmarried was enacted by the 17th-18th century rabbis in reaction to the chaos created by Sabbatai Zevi's and Nathan of Gaza's reinterpretation of the Zohar. Prior to them, there were no such restrictions.  That prohibition has been lifted, essentially, by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe - even extending the study of Kabbalah to non-Jews in preparation for the coming of the Messiah."

The Kabbalistic after-life - The three souls Judaic Kabbalah and other Spiritual Paths Jewish "Kabbalah" and Christian "Cabalah"
critical remarks on Gentile misunderstanding of Jewish Kabbalah, with implications for the understanding of other non-Western esoteric traditions

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
most recent update 3 June 2001