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Kabbalah Iyunit and Kabbalah Maasit

Contemplative and Practical Kabbalah

Contemplative and Practical Kabbalah

Intermediate Intermediate
Contemplative and Practical Kabbalah
Kabbalah Iyunit and Kabbalah Maasit

Kabbalah Iyunit (or "Contemplative Kabbalah"), the category to which the majority of kabbalistic texts in circulation today belong, attempts to explain the process whereby, through the will of the one infinite G‑d, the created finite realm came into being and is constantly directed. Kabbalah Iyunit also analyzes the nature of the relationship between Creation and the divine source from which it emerges. On a deeper level, Kabbalah Iyunit explores the complex character of the divine reality itself— in particular, the paradox of the transcendence of G‑d and the consequent inability of human thought to grasp Him at all, together with His immanence and active relationship with finite Creation.

An additional aspect of the contemplative tradition is the use of various meditative techniques to ponder the Divine and the esoteric underpinnings of the material world. These include meditations on Hebrew letter permutations and ways in which the sefirot (supernal divine forces) harmonize and interact. Some ancient forms of kabbalistic meditation produced a visionary experience of the supernal "chambers" and the angelic beings who occupy them. This is known as the Heichalot tradition.

These techniques are also sometimes used as a means of rectifying imperfections in the soul, rather than producing spiritual knowledge or elevation.

Kabbalah Iyunit has thus been characterized as a descriptive "anatomy" of the divine reality. Kabbalah is concerned with the technical identities and "locations" of, and relationships between, the worlds (planes of reality), the sefirot (divine emanations), and the order in which they evolve from one another and affect one another in the vast chain of being, known in Kabbalah as the seder hishtalshelut--the process by which divine energy (or "light", in kabbalistic terminology) devolves from higher spiritual planes to lower ones, eventually to become manifest in this physical plane of existence.

Practical Kabbalah involves techniques aimed specifically at altering natural states or events

Kabbalah Maasit

Kabbalah Maasit (or "Practical Kabbalah") involves techniques aimed specifically at altering natural states or events and includes techniques such as the incantation of divine names or the inscription of such names upon amulets. On occasion, these methods have been used to fashion a golem (humanoid) or some other creature. Kabbalah Maasit is meant to be employed by only the most saintly and most responsible of individuals and for no other purpose than the benefit of man or implementation of G‑d's plan in creation.

Even during the mid-16th century in the era of the great kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, known as the holy Ari, there are indications of these techniques being abused by unfit practitioners. The holy Ari himself admonished his disciples to avoid the practical arts of Kabbalah, as he deemed such practices unsafe as long as the state of ritual purity necessary for service in the Holy Temple remains unattainable.

In essence, there is no clear demarcation between the contemplative elements of Kabbalah and those aimed at influencing or altering existence. As does Kabbalah Maasit, Kabbalah Iyunit, through its system of kavanot (guided meditations), can influence the configuration of divine forces affecting our reality. Like Kabbalah Iyunit, Kabbalah Maasit is founded upon knowledge of kabbalistic theory and doctrine.

Of course, the primary objective of Kabbalah (including Kabbalah Iyunit) is practical— to reveal in this world the divinity manifest in the hidden planes of reality. The ultimate intention of both types of Kabbalah is to bring the individual—and then all aspects of reality into harmony with the divine purpose for which they were initially created.

The next article in the Kabbalah for Beginners tutorial: Mysteries and Truth.

Click here to find out what the Kabbalah for Beginners Tutorial is all about.

Rabbi Moshe Miller was born in South Africa and received his yeshivah education in Israel and America. He is a prolific author and translator, with some twenty books to his name on a wide variety of topics, including an authoritative, annotated translation of the Zohar. He has developed a coaching-type approach to dealing with life's issues based on Chassidism and Kabbalah—a tool for dealing with normal issues that everyone faces as well as issues psychologists usually address, often ineffectively. He also gives free live classes over the Internet.
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Jessica Wilkins Great Falls February 22, 2017

Had an out of body experience I have had a few out of body experiences, and I was reveled things that I didn't understand at the time, but as time went on I put pieces together that make sense about my family's future and what we are supposed to be doing. I thought I was crazy but then I started to look up meanings of what happened to me and knowing that I have prayed for wisdom and knowledge, I believe G-D is pointing me towards kabbalah, towards an understanding that I don't quite know just yet. The thing is I can't still put the things I saw in words. Reply

sandra peters brooklyn ny September 18, 2015

with every reading I develop a better understanding of my role in the universe and my purpose for being here...thank You Reply

Adamah Ruach Lovejoy, Ilinois April 7, 2013

New I just want to learn and understand how this effects my life in being new to learning about the Torah and Jewish history Reply

Anonymous Woodland Hills, CA/LA via October 22, 2010

I Trust your advice & comments I am Sephardic Jew, and I respect Trust and Love Chabad, everywhere in the world where Chabad is, they give their support without question, help the sick, the needy, the foreigner, there is not race, color or creed that they refused to help! Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, MA October 19, 2010

Practical Kabbala You can short circuit all of this with deep feeling, with praise that comes from a soul place, and by genuine acts of kindness and love. Practical Kabbala is available to us all without even knowing it's Kabbala, in how we act, in how we receive, in how we give, as our being vessels are deeply part of the Kabbalist tradition.

If you want to study, there is such a wealth of material everywhere, and I think, I truly do deeply believe, that those who seek are led to those places and those teachers who will further their education.

The Hebrew letters are a good place to start. By meditating on them, their beauty and form, a universe arose for me, and life has never been quite the same, each tree with branching menorahs, and each menorah the Hebrew letter Shin.

The Shin in Shine! Reply

Shahid October 17, 2010

Informative Piece! This is really informative piece of information Kabbalah. Thanks for sharing! Reply

Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles via June 30, 2010

meditations (Costas) Look in the left menu. There is a folder: MEDITATION & Prayer Reply

COSTAS PAPAC/NOU athens, greece June 27, 2010

KAVANOT This system of practical Kaballah seems to me very helpful, I do not know if you have meditations for use, in different circumstances. Reply

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