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How do you spell it?


All these different spellings - and not just the ones in the title: Kabbalah, Kabbala, Kaballah - there is also Kabala, Kabballah, Kabalah, Kaballa, Kabballa, what shall we make of it?

And then there are the "C" spellings: Cabbalah, Cabbala, Caballah, Cabala, Cabballah, Cabalah, Caballa, Cabballa.

And let us not forget about the "Q" spellings: Qabbalah, Qabbala, Qaballah, Qabala, Qabballah, Qabalah, Qaballa, Qabballa.

There are a total of 24 possible spellings, as in the following table:


First things first, let's consider the first-letter choices. "C" (as in Cabbala, Cabala, etc.); or "K" (as in Kabbalah, Kabala, etc.); or "Q" (as in Qabala, Qabalah, etc.).

Some pundits posit as a general guideline, i.e., not 100% of the cases, that whereas Jews spell it with a "K" (Kabbalah, etc.), Christians tend to use a "C" (Cabala, etc.) while the occultists tend towards the "Q" (Qabalah, etc.).

Next, to consider the last not last, is the question of the final "H" (as in Cabalah, Kabbalah, Qabalah, etc., but not in Cabala, Kabala, Qabbala, etc.).

This variation is usually a reflection of pronunciation practices, so here I'll stick to Jewish orthography. The word has three syllables. The final "H" (Kabbalah, etc.) is to induce you to emphasize the final syllable, while its omission (Kabala, etc.) leads to middle syllable stress. ...how silly it would be to have cosher cabala or qosher qabalah!

Speaking of middle, doubling the "b" (Kabbalah, etc.) or not (Kabala, etc.) and/or doubling the "l" (Kaballah, Kabballah, etc.) or not (Kabbalah, Kabalah, etc.) is also a manifestation of the effort to invoke correct pronunciation, in this case the three short "a" vowels as well as correct syllable stress. I refuse to elaborate further, as the theories here are inconsistent and even contradictory.

As for Kosher Kabbalah (Kosher Kabbala, Kosher Kaballah, Kosher Kabala, Kosher Kabballah, Kosher Kabalah, Kosher Kaballa, Kosher Kabballa), in this case it is probably safe to drop the "C" and "Q" options according to the above principle, because the term 'kosher' can be applied only to authentic Jewish Kabbala (Kabbalah, Kabala, etc.). Anyway, look how silly it would be to have "cosher cabala" or "qosher qabalah"!

This does not mean that every "K" internet site or print book is authentic; far from it. Only a few are. Many if not most kosher Kabbalah websites can be found on our links page and the English version books on our reading lists. But at least you know that the chances are better than on any of the "C" (Cabbalah, Cabbala, Caballah, Cabala, Cabballah, Cabalah, Caballa, Cabballa) or "Q" (as in Qabbalah, Qabbala, Qaballah, Qabala, Qabballah, Qabalah, Qaballa, Qabballa) sites.

Oh yes, about the main spelling variations based on pronunciation difference. As I mentioned above, this variation is usually a manifestation of accent distinctions, with the final "H" indicating emphasis on the final syllable, while its omission leads to middle syllable stress. I think it is safe to say that the latter (Kabbala, Kabala, Kaballa, etc.) reflects the Ashkenazic Jewish manner of pronounciation, while the former (Kabalah, Kabbalah, Kaballah, etc.) indicates the Sephardic way.

But for kosher Kabbalah (Kosher Kabbalah?, Kosher Kaballah?, Kosher Kabala?) sites and books, how they spell it and how you pronounce it are of virtually no significance. What counts is that for the product to be kosher, the Kabbalists (Cabbalists, Cabalists, Qabbalists, Qabalists) or whoever is producing it have to be impeccably kosher themselves, faithful to the unbroken chain of Jewish traditional teachings since the Mount Sinai revelation.

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By Yerachmiel Tilles   More articles...  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Yerachmiel Tilles is the co-founder of Ascent-of-Safed, and was its educational director for 18 years. He is the creator of www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org and currently the director of both sites. He is also a well-known storyteller, a columnist for numerous chassidic publications, and a staff rabbi on AskMoses.com, as well as and the author of "Saturday Night, Full Moon": Intriguing Stories of Kabbalah Sages, Chasidic Masters and other Jewish Heroes.


Reader Comments
Latest Comments:
Posted: Nov 12, 2013
I think, hereafter, I'm going to write "Kabbalah"
I'm a newcomer in Kabbalah and I need to say thank you for all this useful information that we, the readers, have gotten from these articles.
Posted By Anonymous, Qr

Posted: June 2, 2013
The K in Kosher, Q in Qabalah.
The first letter in Kosher is Kef (Keph) and evolved from the same Phoenician letter as the Roman K. The first letter is Kabbalah (Qabalah) is Kof (Qoph) and evolved from the same Phoenician letter at the Roman Q. While it may be true that most traditional Kabbalists use the "K" spelling, and the "Q" spelling is more common among Hermetic Qabalists, but the Hermetic spelling actually more correct than the commonly accepted spelling.
Posted By John, Baltimore, USA
via kabbalaonline.org

Posted: Dec 20, 2011
middle eastern pronunciation
In the middle eastern jewish communities, Q and K are pronounced differently... also, one B and two B's are pronounced differently. Finally, -a and -ah are also pronounced differently (e.g. malka = queen; malkah = her king). Ashkanazim have lost these distinctions centuries ago for some reason. The right spelling is Qabbala. Stress on the 2nd or 3rd syllable is fine... in classical Hebrew, the stress shifts around depending on the position of the word in the sentence. That said, kabbalah is the most common way it's written today so this is probably the "right" way in English. hope this helps. sorry to be a wiseguy.
Posted By David, Ann Arbor, MI

Posted: Feb 17, 2010
I don't really get it
Is this serious? Is this a parody?
Posted By sammy ekol, Brooklyn, NY

Posted: Nov 24, 2009
kabala or whatever
who cares how you spell it!
especdially since it is not an english word
better to call it "acceptance" or something like that.
Posted By simcha, israel
via kabbalaonline.org


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