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Related Terms

Age of Redemption, Ain Soph, Ain Soph Aur, Breaking of the Vessels, Descent to the Chariot, Messiah, Mitzvah, Nejuda Reshima, Sefirot, Shekhinah, The Correction, The Withdrawal, Tikkun, Treatise on the Emanations on the Left


There is an important distinction to be made between a proper Jewish Kabbalah and a Christianized Kabbalah. "The kabbalah was transformed from a uniquely Jewish religious tradition into a European concept, integrated with Christian theology, philosophy, science, and magic, at the end of the fifteenth century. From that time to the present it has continued its dual existence as a Jewish phenomenon on the one hand and as a component of European culture on the other hand. The failure to distinguish between the two different—actually, radically different—meanings of the kabbalah in the intrinsic Jewish context and in the European-Christian context is a key reason for the confusion surrounding the term and concept of the kabbalah today. Readers are disappointed when they do not find the characteristics of the Jewish kabbalah in the writings of Christian kabbalists, and vice versa. The confusion is increased by the fact that there is no unanimity in the usage of the term either within Judaism or outside of it, so that various, different and conflicting conceptions of what the kabbalah is prevail in both cultures."[1]

"Essentially, this term conveys the opposite of what usually is recognized as “mysticism,” which is conceived as relating to original, individual visions and experiences. “Kabbalah” in the Hebrew religious vocabulary means nonindividual, nonexperiential religious truth, which is received by tradition."[2]

"The word “kabbalah” is, therefore, a claim by Jewish spiritualists from the High Middle Ages to this day that they have a tradition that was held secret for many centuries. This is a self-designation that denies creativity and originality. These people just happened to receive these secrets from the previous generation, or happened to find manuscripts that contain these teachings. In a few extraordinary cases, people claimed to have learned these secrets in a visionary way, by the spirit of proph-ecy or by uplifting their souls to the divine world and participating in the deliberations of the celestial academy or by meeting a supernal messenger, an angel or a divine power or, sometimes, a prophet such as Elijah, who revealed these secrets to them. Even in these cases we do not find the kabbalists saying that what was revealed to them is new or original. Even in the few examples in which the way the kabbalah was transmitted was supernatural, the content and the teachings were regarded as ancient and traditional. It is inconceivable, from the point of view of the kabbalists, that a medieval or modern spiritualist is able to possess knowledge that was not known, in greater depth and detail, by King Solomon, the Prophet Isaiah, and the talmudic sages. Divine truth is eternal, and it is shared by everybody who is worthy of it, and the nearer one is to the source of tradition, that is, the revelation on Mount Sinai, the more complete and profound the knowledge. One can only learn more through the discovery of more ancient books, or studying in greater depth the old sources. The kabbalah, according to the kabbalists, is never new; it can be newly discovered or newly received, but essentially it is millennia-old divine truth."[3]

"The beginning of Jewish esotericism can be found in a talmudic statement, in the Mishnah (Hagiga 2:1), originating probably from the first century CE. It declares that it is forbidden to expound two sections in the scriptures in public, and warns of the danger in studying them even in small groups. The first section is the chapters of the Book of Genesis, describing the creation of the cosmos, which is called in the Talmud ma’aseh bereshit (the work of genesis). The second section is the first chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, called the ma’aseh merkavah (the work of the chariot), the description of Ezekiel’s vision of the celestial chariot in Ezekiel 1 and 10. Thus, these chapters and subjects were separated from the body of Jewish traditional expounding and speculation, and relegated to a separate realm, which was regarded as spiritually—and sometimes even physically—dangerous."[4] . "

  1. Dan, Joseph. Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. (Kindle Locations 104-106). (Kindle Locations 917-924)"
  2. Dan, Joseph. Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. (Kindle Locations 104-106). "
  3. Dan, Joseph. Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. (Kindle Locations 120-131). "
  4. Dan, Joseph. Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. (Kindle Locations 234-240). "