A few thoughts on kabbalah and related mystical systems. There is a lot more in the video than appears here. The video is a discussion on this page. Enjoy.
There are many online sites on Jewish mysticism. Sadly most of these do more harm than good as they inevitably draw people into pseudo-intellectualism and New Age avodah zarah (foreign to us beliefs and practices). They do this in the name of Kabbalah however rather than delving ever deeper into HaTorah and the actual concealed wisdom of the Holy One they spread inaccuracies.
The only saving grace for many of these would be 'Kabbalah teachers' is that unlike the four sages who visited Pardes, their teachings usually lack the foundational understanding to suffer as greatly for their presumptuous mistakes. They who learn their techniques (usually at considerable cost) are like an innocent child who drinks milk from a container that a serpent has previously drank from. While desiring pure milk, the are poisoned instead. Their consciousness becomes polluted and in the end they often even abandon HaShem for deism, universalism, and voidism, may HaShem protect us all.
In my public groups and pages we have as many non-Jews as Jews, and more non-observant Jews than observant. It would be a disservice to teach these sorts of seductive mystical understandings to those who are spiritually unprepared. Such people lack the foundational supports and realizations for them. Such teachings, with any specicificity, would only led to error because of the very nature of mysticism. We witness such error all too oftem. The purpose of Jewish mysticism is lead one to ever greater devekut or attachment to G-d. Before benefitting from a college education one must first master the basics. For this reason our sages reccommend that Jewish mysticism is not for everyone, not even for the majority. Those websites and books that claim without Kabbalah one can not know HaShem are not speaking the truth. As Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, one of the greatest mystics of all time, explained:
No sophistication is needed in serving G-d - only simplicity, sincerity and faith.
Simplicity is higher than all else. For G-d is certainly higher than everything else, and G-d is ultimately simple! -- Sichot Haran #101
My work focuses on good, sincere people who are seeking to better their lives by turning to HaShem. We are there to assist such people as we may. While Kabbalah and related systems have their rightful place among the observant to be sure, even the real versions of our teachings can easy become snares for the ego, can lead one to embrace yetzer hara, and can very eeven, may HaShem protect us, destroy emunah (active faith) and destroy our connection with HaShem.
Hence Rebbe Nachman advises:
Throw aside all wisdom and clever ideas and serve G-d with simplicity. Make sure your deeds are greater than your wisdom, because the main thing is not study but its practical application. This obviously applies to most ordinary people's clever ideas, which are mere folly, but it even applies to genuine wisdom. When it comes to serving G-d, even a person whose head is filled with genuine wisdom should set it all aside and serve G-d simply and innocently.Seek HaShem. Is He not enough for you?
One whose love of G-d is sufficiently strong becomes His dearly beloved child. G-d will show him abundant love and kindness, permitting him to explore the King's hidden store-chambers and even to understand what is beyond wisdom, including the deepest of all secrets, such as why the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper -- Likutey Moharan II, 5
Given that by His very nature HaShem is utterly "other" to us, how can we concieve of such a Being, let alone know Him personally? Torah provides our foundation for this. It presents Ain Soph in terms we can conceieve. It speaks of the King of kings and Judge and judges. We can conceive of kings and judges.
Our mystics refer to the Holy One Ain Soph (Ein Sof). This refers to the Holy One beyond conception. it speaks of the "No-Thing," "Without Ending," "Without Borders," and yet even these are but conceptions of the inconceivable. This is because the Ain Soph is Bal Tachlis, unbounded. This is the domain of Jewish mysticism. In order to trod these paths of Derech HaShem one must prepare oneself through Torah study under qualified masters.
The ten Sefirot are our human perceptions of the manifestations of the One reality within the world. One way our sages seek to convey the inconceivable conception of the Holy One is Holy Light (Ohr Chadash). When considered in this way Ain Soph is conceived as manifesting Self as the Light of Creation into a dark world. Were this Light pervcieved directly Its radiance would blind us,, as one staring directly into the physical sun. To protect us the Light is concieled and appears as prisms of Light. While each prism is in reality the manifestation of the Single Light, each takes on unique characteristics due to its being difused. As explaimed by Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yehiel Michal, (the Malbim):
"As the image of a rainbow in the cloud on a rainy day, so is the image of the glow surrounding it; it is the image of G-d's majesty." (Ezekiel 3:26)This prism effect is described as emanations, which we call sephirot (plural, sefirah singular). These sephirot should be concieved as metorical conceptions. Although this insight reveals much that is otherwise hidden, the metephore must obscure the reality by being taken too literally. It is like the way we refer to G-d as seated on a throne when in truth "He" has no form with which to "sit."
In truth, Ain Soph, and hence HaShem, is utterly and indivisibly echad or One. It is only for the pupose of expanding our conception of the inconcievable that we speak of G-d as a "Unity" and declare that there is no unity like His Unity. Howso? All other unity refers to more than a single thing as being joined or united, while His Unity is utterly One and indivisible.
God is One. Not two or more than two. One that is unlike any other unity. Not a unity that consists of parts, nor a corporeal unity which may be divided into parts and components, but rather a unity that is unlike any other unity. (Maimonides, The Foundations of the Torah 1:7)We have a clear indication that we are using a metaphor by the use of the number ten. Kabbalah, like the material universes themselves, may be thought of in mathematical terms. The number ten is a completion recognized by most ancient cultures. Single digits become doubled beginning with 10. With the ten fingers of our hands we are commanded to "do" HaTorah.
More specifically, when the Holy One commnaded the people of Israel to embrace His Torah He did so through Ten Utterances (aseret hadibrot). Before that, when He determined to perform the inital act of creation we are told that He uttered Ten Hebrew Words. These dual Ten Utterances are indicative of the Ten Sephirot we are discussing and suggest their creative power. Hence we learn the following from the Holy Zohar:
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught: kaf asarah asarah — (“Each incense bowl weighed ten sanctuary shekels”—lit:) each bowl ten ten. Why (the doubled words) “ten ten?” Once, to allude to the work of creation, and once to allude to the Torah. There are ten utterances in the creation of the world, and (corresponding to them) ten utterances in the Torah (the Ten Commandments).It is in part for the revelation of this secret that the Holy One said "Let us" and so on.
The creation is not something once done and then abandoned as concieved by the Deists. Rather it is the constantly occuring action of calling forth from the Primal Reality. We refer to this primal reality as Adam Kadmon, the first spiritual World that was spoken into being following the contraction of G'd's Infinite Light. Adam Kadmon must not be confused with Adam Ha-Rishon (the Adam of the Garden of Eden).
For those with understanding, we are part of this ten-fold process of creation. The ten Sephirot may be likened to a toolbox. HaShem has given us a 'toolchest' with which to asist in the ulitimate goal of His creation. In this humanity is unique. The perfection of creation will be experienced once the Olam Haba or World to Come is fully established. Glimpses of this time beyond time can be experienced even now by those who are properly attached (devekut) to the Creator. The goal of Kabbalah and all real Jewish mysticism is to empower the souls, the children of the Most High, to acheive this state of consciousness and to assist in the final Redepmption. It is with this understanding that we unlock Tehilim 82:
A tehilim of Asaph. G-d stands in the divine assembly; among the divine beings He pronounces judgment.The following are stored, as it were, within the Divine 'toolbox' as divine emanations of the One Light.
How long will you judge perversely, showing favor to the wicked? Selah.
Judge the wretched and the orphan, vindicate the lowly and the poor,
rescue the wretched and the needy; save them from the hand of the wicked.
They neither know nor understand, they go about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth totter.
I had taken you for divine beings, sons of the Most High, all of you;
but you shall die as men do, fall like any prince.
Arise, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are Your possession.
The Ten Sefirot
During the annual counting of the omer we focus on the lower seven Sefirot and their various attributes. Each day of the count we seek to develop and harmonize these seven attributes within our own consciousness. Each of these is part of our divine heretage as the Children of the Most High. We are after all the princes and princessess of the High King. His Will is that we master these qualities in His service for the well being of all existence:
Emotional Qualities of the Ten Sefirot
Above Chessed is Da'at, Binah, Chochmah and Keter, known as the 'Upper Triade' (excluding Da'at which has certain unique properties). These attributes are referenced in my daily guide to the Omer Count and elsewhere.
Application of The Ten Sefirot
Intellect, Preparation, Rational
Rav Zutra bar Tuvya said that Rav said: The world was created through ten attributes: Through wisdom, through understanding, through knowledge, through strength, through rebuke, through might, through righteousness, through justice, through kindness, and through mercy.
Scriptural proof is provided for this statement as follows: It was created through wisdom and through understanding, as it is written: “The Lord founded earth with wisdom, and established the heavens with understanding” (Proverbs 3:19); through knowledge, as it is written: “With His knowledge the depths were broken up” (Proverbs 3:20); through strength and through might, as it is written: “Who by Your strength sets fast the mountains, who is girded about with might” (Psalms 65:7); through rebuke, as it is written: “The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at His rebuke” (Job 26:11); through righteousness and justice, as it is written: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne” (Psalms 89:15); through kindness and mercy, as it is written: “Remember Your mercies, O Lord, and Your kindnesses, for they are from times of old” (Psalms 25:6).
Means to an End, the Tactical Sefirot:
The Kingdom of G-d
Think of a human being who is a judge. Wrong-doers stand before him in fear while the innocent look to him hopefully as their protector. To his wife he is husband, soul mate, trusted confidant, lover, and someone who keeps forgetting to take the trash can out to curb on Mondays. To his children he is dad, baseball partner, joke teller, religious instuctor, allowance provider, he-who-must-be-answered for a bad report card or deed. To his friends he is a buddy, and so on. He is but one man however he is viewed in completely different ways depending on which role he fulfilling and to whom. In the same way we interact wirth the Holy One in many different ways.
The Sephirot can be thought of in this way as well. Each represents a different aspect or role of the total, which is Ain Soph. There exist within the seven sephirot inumerable applications to every aspect of existence. It is said that we "climb this tree" upward from Malchut to Chesed over and over again until we unlock the knowing of Da'at. Belief is not the same thing as knowing. The child believes the parent's warning that the stove is hot and yet may eventually touch it despite the belief. Once the child is burned he knows what 'hot' really means and avoids the experience again. Da'at is 'knowing'.
Once a degree of 'knowing' is achieved one continues into the uper triad. Blessed is one who attains to Keter, wherein 'Keter becomes Malchut of the next order' and the soul continues its endless journey of devekut, attachment to and with the Eternal.
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