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FAQ: Kabbala Basics - 1

FAQ: Kabbala Basics - 1

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FAQ: Kabbala Basics - 1

QUESTION: "I want to study the Kabbala, but I am not sure where I should begin as a novice. I do not speak or read Hebrew. Can you help me to find resources so that I can start to fully understand the secret holy teachings of these books?"

ANSWER: On our Home page, click on the large "Beginners Start Here" button and follow the guidelines. You can also click on References in the left menu. From References, the choices "Reading", "Links", and "Study" lead you to print, internet, and human resources respectively.


QUESTION: "Who began Kabbala? When was it founded? How was it founded?"

ANSWER: There are two possible answers for all three of your questions combined.

1) The secret mystical teachings of the Kabbala are part of the package of teachings that Moses received at Mt. Sinai.
2) They first derive from what Adam, the first human, learned at the time of Creation.

The first would be 3316 years ago, in the year 2448 after Creation. The date for second is obvious.


QUESTION: "I was wondering if you can tell me what is Kabbala? Why are people learning it? Are we allowed to learn it? Aren't there laws that don't allow learning it until a certain spiritual level or a certain age? Has that changed because of the times and the amount of chasidut that is spread already?"

ANSWER: See our article, What is Kabbala?...and Why? (click here)


QUESTION: "What is a "Kabbalist"? Is it just someone who knows a lot of Kabbala, or does the person have to have some sort of prophetic spirit or be divinely inspired?"

ANSWER: Most kabbalists, even most legitimate kabbalists, would fit into your first definition. The latter would apply only to a select few.


QUESTION: "Do you know if the full Zohar is going to be translated into good, readable English by someone who is spiritually as well as technically qualified?"

ANSWER: Yes. It has already started. But it will take a long time and much financial support.


QUESTION: "How do I go about finding a Kabbalistic teacher in my area?"

ANSWER: Wherever you live, there is probably a Chabad rabbi in the vicinity (go to Chabad.org and click on "Centers"). He is the most likely to know the answer. Also, studying the book of Tanya with him is anyway one of the recommended ways to begin.


QUESTION: "What is the basic overview of the spirituality of a Kabbalist?"

ANSWER: Jewish, with fervent fulfillment of the commandments because of awareness of their inner meanings.


QUESTION: "How do contemporary kabbalists rate Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, specifically his "Sulam" commentary on the Zohar and his school? Is he as universally accepted as the Arizal? What about the Kabbalah Center?"

ANSWER: Many but not all utilize Rav Ashlag's commentary; he certainly does not have the universal credibility of the Ari, but then, can anybody? Today in Israel there are many Ashlag grandsons and great grandsons and grandsons -in-laws etc. Many teach, but not all the same. The one thing they seem to universally agree on is that Phil Berg and his Kabbalah Center are not Ashlag and not kosher. I have no personal experience, but I've heard many horror stories.


QUESTION: "Why has the Zohar proved to be such a controversial book?"

ANSWER: Because it was in manuscript form and hidden for many centuries before it was printed, and some academics do not accept the tradition of the pre-print manuscripts. Those who penetrate to the depths of the Zohar have no doubts. Did you read the series of articles about the authorship in our seres on the Introductions/History section? See our series of articles on the Authenticity of the Zohar (click here) .


QUESTION: "Madonna is one of the well-known people who converted to Kabbala. Some people think that Kabbala is now a "trend religion". Is that so?"

ANSWER: Kabbala is the old and sacred tradition of the Jewish mystical teachings. It is not a religion in and of itself, so you can't convert to it. Kabbala is an integral part of Judaism and inseparable from it. The people whose awareness of it is limited to Madonna and "trend religion" journalists and opportunist charlatans have been thoroughly deluded. It is not yet clear whether this is amusing or sad.


QUESTION: "I know that Kabbala is all about the study of Jewish mysticism and an offshoot of Judaism, but could it be considered a "religion" on its own?"

ANSWER: Kabbala is neither a religion on its own or an "offshoot of Judaism"; it is an integral part of Judaism and always has been.


QUESTION: "What's the real deal with not learning Kabbala until you're forty? Does this apply to all levels of the subject?"

ANSWER: The best preparation for Kabbala is not so much age as background. Of course, it is desirable to be as well versed as possible in the Jewish holy books. But certain basic concepts are available to everyone and should not be ignored.

Anyway, it is not a question to ask someone in Safed, as the holy Ari was the main Kabbala teacher, and he was not yet 40. His students included the author of Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Law, who was then over 70.

See our article, Kabbala Before Age 40 (click here).


QUESTION: "What does Kabbala contain that makes it so dangerous for people to read if they are younger than 40 years and if they are not well versed in Torah?"

ANSWER: I doubt if there is much danger in "reading" it, especially in translation, which of necessity loses both layers of meaning and preciseness (even if there is enough left to be informative and inspiring). But someone who gets into it in a deep level can lose his bearings and be swept away if he is not well grounded, which is the idea of being 40 years old and learned in the basics before approaching Kabbala.

See our article, Kabbala Before Age 40 (click here).


QUESTION: "Why does the Sefiriotic Tree sometimes have keter but not daat, sometimes daat but not keter, and sometimes both of them?"

ANSWER: See our article, Two Systems of Ten Sefirot (click here).


QUESTION: "When Rabbi Chaim Vital says, 'To study the mysteries of the Torah before Scripture, Mishna, and Talmud is at best like a soul without a body, lacking efficacy and accountability' - Does that mean to be fluent in these areas and then go study the mysteries of the Torah? Or to put these first in your day of study and at the end of the day study more of the mysteries of the Torah?"

ANSWER: The language of Kabbala is extremely difficult to penetrate and its deepest "mysteries" almost impossible to understand in context and to integrate without that background. Your first answer reflects his intention towards the "deeper" mysteries, but certain basic concepts are available to everyone and should not be ignored.


QUESTION: "Why is studying Jewish Law and fulfilling the commandments exactly as written relevant to understanding Kabbala? Yet I know some say it is the only way to become a holy vessel for spiritual knowledge. I find it difficult to understand why that should be."

ANSWER: Kabbala is deeply spiritual; it is not solely an intellectual study like other subjects. As such, lack of purity inevitably results in lack of true understanding. One reason expressed in the Torah for why G‑d gave us the commandments is that we should "become holy."


QUESTION: "Can you study just the Kabbala or do you have to study other teachings as well to understand the Kabbala?"

ANSWER: Without the background in basic teachings, the possibility to gain a true understanding of most of the Kabbala teachings is vastly limited.


QUESTION: "Could you explain to me the relationship between Kabbala, Zohar, and the Talmud?"

ANSWER: Talmud, the expansion of the Mishna, is the basic compendium of the Jewish Oral Law. Zohar is the basic text of Kabbala study. It was compiled before the Talmud, during the period of the Mishna. Kabbala is a collective name for the mystical teachings and traditions of the Jewish people, of which the Zohar is an important part.


QUESTION: "Do you have any information on how Tarot and Kabbala are related, if they are related at all?"

ANSWER: Tarot has no connection to authentic Jewish Kabbala. However, certain Christian sects and individuals have used Kabbala terminology and symbolism in the development of their own version of mystical theology, and it is from this, I believe, that it crept into occult usage, including Tarot. Today we encounter Jewish Kabbala, Christian Cabala and occult Qabalah. The original Jewish Kabbala is inseparable from the Jewish religion (which prohibits any form of fortune-telling).


QUESTION: "Who can give an explanation of a dream I had. Someone told me that dreams should be consulted with a Kabbalistic person. Is that true?"

ANSWER: It is an option. But it is effective only in person. But very few dreams require such explanation.


QUESTION: "Are there kabbalistic healers, and if so, how can you tell a charlatan from a true kabbalist healer?"

ANSWER: Anyone who advertises himself as such is very likely not the real thing, and if he asks for significant money the likelihood becomes a virtual guarantee. Shulchan Aruch, in a discussion of healing amulets, states that you take such a person seriously only if it is proven that he was successful at least three times. There are no formulas, although I suppose a person knowledgeable in Kabbala could test the proposed healer's knowledge. It is also worthwhile to ascertain that he had a kosher teacher.


QUESTION: "A man who calls himself a spiritual psychologist and, claims the ability to read energy told me that I am "possessed" via my father's line, from a curse placed on his great grandfather. I know this sounds crazy, but I have had my own streak of bad luck so I thought I would inquire whether you have heard about any Kabbala curses - and of course the "cure" to break them."

ANSWER: It doesn't seem too likely, and as Jews we don't give much credence to info offered by psychics, but if it worries you then consider going to visit in person a holy Jew and ask his help. Where do you live?


QUESTION: "Can a Kabbalist use his knowledge of Kabbala to tell me my future career in life? What can I do to achieve it as a Jewish man?"

ANSWER: To achieve all you can achieve as a Jewish man means first of all that you have to know very well what it means to be a Jewish man in the fullest sense of the term. That means lots of Torah study. You also will have to improve your love and awe of G‑d, and your fulfillment of His Torah. Then many wonderful things will happen to you, as described in the Torah.


QUESTION: "Can the Kabbala predict an individual's future, almost like astrology? If I have a question or I am unsure what to do in the future can the Kabbala help me to determine my destiny?"

ANSWER: In Judaism it is forbidden to use such techniques to determine one's future and decisions, even Jewish techniques such as those available through Kabbala. However, it is recommended for a Jew to seek the advice and blessings of a highly learned and/or spiritually accomplished Jew for the major events of one's life.


QUESTION: "I am very curious as to what the Kabbalist or Chassidic masters thought of "out-of-body experiences." Kosher? Not Kosher? Dangerous? And why?"

ANSWER: There are two main problems, and it seems that you are already aware of both.
People find it so thrilling and exhilarating and "spiritual" that they start to prefer out of body to in body. This is not the way of Judaism, which has clearly established that the key to the spiritual is to be found in elevating the physical, not escaping it. That lesson you have clearly mastered.

The other problem is, of course, danger. There are just too many recorded instances of people who went out and then never got back.
"Kosher or not kosher" depends on the methods used. There are Jewish masters that have done it, but very few if any that recommend it and teach it.


QUESTION: "I am trying to find out the significance of the hand that is used commonly as a medallion, I think called a "hamsa". What does this mean? What is the meaning of the hand?"

ANSWER: If you have seen one, you know there is an extraordinary amount of writing on it, and obviously that level of detail is impossible to explain in an email format. Nor does everyone have the same text!
The basic idea is that it provides a certain form of protection, beyond or different than that of the mezuzah. "Hamsa" means "five" in Arabic.


QUESTION: "A friend told us that Kabbala is believed to be some form of witchcraft and we should stay away from it - why do people think this way? Also, was Einstein or any other scientist a Kabbalist?"

ANSWER: Occult people use some ideas from Kabbala (they usually spell it "cabala" or "qabalah") for some of their "magic". This has nothing or very little to do with the real Kabbala. There were some famous classic scientists into these occult practices. As for contemporary scientists and Kabbala, go to http://www.borhatorah.org/ and the "Torah and Science" section of the Kabbala site, www.inner.org. 


QUESTION: "From reading the Bible/Torah the Lord specifically speaks out against magic and mysticism, yet this is basically what the Kabbala is teaching. Can you justify that for me?"

ANSWER: The Torah speaks against magic. But Kabbala is not magic. The Torah nowhere speaks against mysticism. The inner teachings are an integral part of Torah. Please read our article about the position of the great Safed masters towards "Practical" Kabbala (click here).


QUESTION: "What is the main difference between the way you are teaching Kabbala and what is offered at 'The Kabbalah Center'?"

ANSWER: We are offering teachings translated or based on genuine sources and we are not offering any magic, curses, or instant superficial solutions. Also, all of our teachings are consistent with revealed Jewish law and we do not charge money for them.


QUESTION: "I hear Kabbalists can tell me if the person I am dating is my destined spouse - yes or no?"

ANSWER: Sorry, we don't get involved in that with people we don't know.


QUESTION: "Do Kabbalists use the red string bracelet?"

ANSWER: The red string bracelets from the Tomb of Mother Rachel are for good luck and protection (if you believe in things for good luck and protection - not everyone does). In Israel they cost 1 shekel - less then $USA 0.25. Some unscrupulous people sell them on the Internet for as much as $30.


QUESTION: "Where and how can I buy the Kabbala water?"

ANSWER: Forget about it. It is almost for sure not real, and absolutely certain to be exaggeratedly overpriced. Better, make a trip to Israel. Here you can get all kinds of things like that for free, as well as having a meaningful and inspiring experience.


QUESTION: "Which is the best talisman to wear for protection, well being, wealth and happiness? Where can I buy these spiritually empowered items?"

ANSWER: The only such item of apparel I am aware of is a kosher tallit katan with kosher tzitzit. Equally or more effective is to have kosher mezuzahs on each door of your dwelling that requires it. They should be bought only through an Orthodox Jewish scribe or rabbi. However, according to Kabbala, there are many spiritually empowered deeds you can do. But I can't advise you further on this until I know the extent of your current involvement in Torah and Mitzvahs.


QUESTION: "How does the Kabbala explain the fundamental difference between Jews and non-Jews?"

ANSWER: See our articles on the subject of Tikun, especially Jewish and Non Jewish Tikun (click here).


QUESTION: "Can you explain to me the involvement of gentiles in learning Kabbala?"

ANSWER: IT is currently "in" so they think it is cool. At superficial levels it can be helpful in their search for G‑d and "truth".


QUESTION: "Do you have to be Jewish to study Kabbala?"

ANSWER: You have to be Jewish and qualified in order to understand true authentic Kabbala in its depths. However, there are benefits to everyone at an elementary level.


QUESTION: "I would like to know about some of the prayer rituals of Kabbalists. I have just recently been introduced to the religion and was informed that you face the east in order to pray and also when you cast spells. My question is if so why do you face the east?"

ANSWER: Casting spells is forbidden in our religion. We do not face in a specific direction of the compass when we pray. Nor are our prayers to be considered rituals; they are conversations with G‑d, the Creator. We understand what the words mean, and we mean them when we say them. In our communal prayers, we face towards Jerusalem. In Europe and USA that means facing east, while in South Africa, for example, the Jews face north when they pray. In Iraq they face west. Etc.


QUESTION: "What does Kabbala teach about coincidences? Are there really coincidences or is G‑d, like in the story of Purim, hiding behind the scenes?"

ANSWER: Both Kabbalists and Chasidim believe firmly that there are no coincidences. G‑d is in complete and active control.


For further questions and answer exchanges, click here.

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John USA February 12, 2013

What about the 10 lost tribes of Israel? There are many non-Jewish souls who are probably have Jewish souls from a 1000 generations ago. Reply

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