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  • Torah and Jewish Thought
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Kabbalah prohibition


Rabbi Chaim Tabasky

14 Tevet 5766
The Mishna in Chagiga seems to negate most of the Kabbalah (i.e., what ever has been printed, at least). How does Kabbalah justify itself in the teeth of this prohibition. Also, if Im part from God, then how do I worship God. Aren't I worshipping myself. To say stay away from Kabbalah is impossible because its proclaimed from the highest mountan tops now.
Your question breaks into three parts: 1. Does teaching (transmitting) kabalah the way it is done today, through mass media, or even beyond teaching individuals, contradict the mishne in Chagiga. 2. Does the Kabbalistic doctrine of the Unity of G-d pose a problem in prayer? 3. Does Kabbalah contradict "traditional Judaism? 1. On the face of it, much of the teaching of Kabbalah does in fact contradict this mishneh. The mishne says that "ma'aseh merkava", which apparently refers to mystical teachings, should be transmitted only to individuals of high spiritual and intellectual level, and only in private. There are poskim that have suggested reasons to teach kabbalah more widely today, and many of the deep esoteric secrets of kabbalistic lore are not available in published works. However, the mass proliferation of mystical ideas is sometimes damaging, and does undermine commitment to traditional Torah and Mitzvot on many occasions. The lure of the occult pulls many people from traditional study and practice, often with no real understanding of the subject matter. Kabbalah is one of the seventy "panim" or methods of Torah study. It is an approach to the Torah, not meant to displace other approaches. It offers insights and ideas which deepen and broaden Torah understanding. Many ideas in the Kabbalah are suggested in Midrash and other Torah texts, may help us clarify many issues if studied properly. 2. I do not believe there is a contradiction between prayer and the doctrine that Hashem contains all things. Although this doctrine is most explicit in kabbalistic writings, it may be inferred from such sayings as "HaShem is called Makom (place) because He is the place of the world and the world is not His place. There is G-dliness in all things and and people, but G-d is also (paradoxically) the ultimate Other, the One who is most separate and unknown to me. If I am "contained" by G-d, it is because there is no reality at all that is outside of His existence. Nevertheless, when I pray I direct my prayers to that absolute existence, and not to the finite beings that are contained therein. 3. As I mentioned, learning Kabbalah does sometimes undermine commitment to normative Torah behavior. However, the great kabbalists were committed Torah Jews who saw the kabbalistic lore as a part of Torah and not something separate. I realize that there are kabalistic based customs that are at odds with halacha as it is commonly practiced, however I view this as part of the possible diversity within the Torah system. Kabbalah should be viewed as a branch of Torah study. Just as midrash seems to contradict the simple reading of the Torah, yet deepens our Torah understanding, so Kabbalah broadens and deepens the Torah understanding of those who are ready for such study.
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