What is Kabbalah?
Kabbalah (Hebrew: Qabbl, meaning “receiving, tradition,” or “correspondence”) is a Jewish mystic’s esoteric method, discipline, and school of thought. In Judaism, a traditional Kabbalist is referred to as a Mequbbl ( ). Kabbalah’s definition differs according to its theological origins as an inherent component of Judaism and its later adaptations in Western esotericism (Christian Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah). The Jewish Kabbalah is a collection of esoteric teachings intended to explain the relationship between the eternal, unchanging God—the enigmatic Ein Sof (, “The Infinite”)—and the mortal, finite universe (God’s creation). It is the bedrock of Judaism’s mystical religious interpretations. Originally, Jewish Kabbalists formed their own transmission of sacred writings within the framework of Jewish tradition, frequently referencing traditional Jewish scriptures to clarify and demonstrate their mystical teachings. These teachings are held by Judaism’s adherents in order to describe the inner meaning of both the Hebrew Bible and traditional rabbinic literature, as well as their previously unknown transmitted dimension, as well as to explain the purpose of Jewish religious observances. The Zohar, one of the major kabbalistic writings, was originally published in the 13th century, and Lurianic Kabbalah is the practically ubiquitous version of Kabbalah practised in modern Judaism. According to traditional practitioners, it predates world faiths, serving as the primal pattern for Creation’s philosophies, religions, sciences, arts, and political systems. Kabbalah evolved from older types of Jewish mysticism in 12th- to 13th-century Spain and Southern France, and was reinterpreted during the 16th-century Ottoman Palestine Jewish mystical revival. Isaac Luria is regarded as the founder of current Kabbalah; Lurianic Kabbalah was popularised in the 18th century as Hasidic Judaism. Academic interest in Kabbalistic writings, sparked principally by the Jewish historian Gershom Scholem, sparked the growth of historical research on Kabbalah in the field of Judaic studies during the twentieth century.
Kabbalah, which translates from Hebrew as tradition or received tradition, is an esoteric school of thought and discipline in Jewish mysticism. The study of Jewish mysticism classifies different kinds of mystic schools of thought in different periods in Jewish history.
The Kabbalah method emerged in Europe in the 12th century and is among the most well-known branches of Jewish mysticism. Some other schools of Jewish mysticism include Merkabah mysticism and Ashkenazi Hasidim. In Judaism, a traditional follower of Kabbalah is called a Mekubal. There is no standard, clear-cut definition of Kabbalah as it can be interpreted in various ways.
At its core, Kabbalah is a collection of esoteric teachings that explains the relationship between the intransient, eternal God or Ein Sof and the finite, mortal Creation of God, that is, the universe. Ein Sof or The Infinite in Kabbalah refers to God before he has created any spiritual realm.
Kabbalah In Judaism
Kabbalah has predominantly been an oral tradition. In other words, one’s introduction to its doctrines and methods is done by a personal mentor to avoid the problems inherent in such mystical experiences. Kabbalists use sacred texts of Judaism to mystically interpret the Hebrew Bible’s hidden meaning and other Rabbinic literature. The Zohar is one of the fundamental texts of Kabbalah, said to be first published in the 13th century.
The tradition of esoteric Kabbalah claims that it has the secret knowledge of the unwritten Torah, which is the divine revelation God made to Adam and Moses. While the Law of Moses remains a core tenet of Judaism, Kabbalah provides a more direct path to God in its teachings.
One of the earliest Jewish scriptures on cosmology and magic was the Sefer Yetzira or the Book of Creation which appeared around the third to sixth century AD. Sefer Yetzira described the creation as an event in which the ten divine numbers, the sefirot, of God and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Altogether, they are said to form the thirty-two paths of secret wisdom.
Another significant text, especially of the 12th-century Kabbalistic period, was the Sefer ha-Bahir or the Book of Brightness which also affirms the idea of the ten numbers of sefirot contributing to the creation and sustenance of the universe. Additionally, the Sefer ha-Bahir also connects the concept of transmigrations of souls to the mystical symbolism of Kabbalah.
Kabbalists consider Kabbalah as an essential part of the study of the Torah. Studying the Torah, that is, the Tanakh and other rabbinic literature) is regarded as a fundamental duty of observant Jews. This was historically considered the traditional understanding of Kabbalah. The modern understanding is slightly different – the term kabbalah, in the contemporary academic study of Jewish mysticism, is used for referring to specific and selective doctrines that developed during the Middle Ages.
According to the modern description, Kabbalah comprises both versions of Kabbalistic theory, which has developed throughout Jewish history – the medieval Zoharic tradition and the early modern Lurianic school of thought. Together, these two constitute the Theosophical tradition of Kabbalah. There is also a Meditative Ecstatic form of Kabbalah and a more controversial school that uses the magical ideas of Practical Kabbalah.
Some Kabbalistic Concepts
Some of the significant concepts in Kabbalah are as follows:
These include ideas like the concealed and revealed God, the sephirot, the divine feminine, descending spiritual worlds, the origin of evil, the role of man, the levels of the soul, reincarnation, Partzufim, Tzimtzum Shevirah and Tikkun, and finally, linguistic mysticism and the mystical Torah.
Kabbalists delineate two characteristics of God in their understanding. Firstly, God in essence – that God is transcendental, limitless, unknowable and that the divine simplicity of God is beyond revelation to mortals; and secondly, God in manifestation. This means that the persona through which God creates the universe and everything in it is the revealed identity of God. The sefirot refer to God’s ten outcomes or attributes through which He maintains the existence of his creation.
According to the Lurianic cosmology of Hebrew thought, sefirot represents the various levels of creation that emanate from God to create the universe. This divine creation process through the ten sefirots is also interpreted as an ethical process. The different sefirots are said to represent various aspects of morality. The concept of the Four Worlds (Atziluh, Beri’ah, Yetzirah and Assiah) also becomes an integral part of understanding sefirots and other Kabbalistic concepts.
Kabbalah In Numerology
The mystic rules of Kabbalah have also lent themselves to the pseudoscience of numerology. Kabbalah numerology draws its work from the old Hebrew mystical traditions and the Hebrew alphabet. Kabbalistic numerology provides a way to find the inner purpose of one’s life and the path one must follow to fulfill one’s destiny. The method uses the letters in one’s name and the traditional numbers linked with them to chart a person’s life pattern.
In the Kabbalah numerology chart, each letter is assigned a specific numerical value. Initially, these numbers were taken from the Hebrew alphabet. The goal is to find one’s Kabbalah number. But, in contrast to Pythagorean numerology or Chaldean numerology, Kabbalah numerology only assesses one’s name. So, numerologists often find the Kabbalah numerological system less efficient than other methods.
The word ‘Kabbalah’ itself means received tradition or knowledge, so the Kabbalistic numerology method aims to derive a higher level of knowledge through a sense of heightened self-awareness.
To find one’s Kabbalah number: take a person’s full name (including the middle name). Using the Kabbalah numerical chart, find the value corresponding to each letter in the name. Add all the numbers and divide the resultant double (or triple) digit number by nine. Add one to the remainder. This number is the required Kabbalah number of a person.
One’s Kabbalah number helps one to figure out a person’s energy. The significant values that the Kabbalah numerology mentions are progression, expansion, love, success, dashing, unfortunate, fulfillment, dashing, creation and magic. One’s Kabbalah number can help a person get a sense of direction in life. Numerologists can interpret this number to chart out one’s life plan and lead the person to a higher state of self-knowledge.