Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kabbalah: the way to God or a game for adults (Part II)

Kabbalh opposite Torah

"We want Mashiach now!"  the famous cry of the Lubavitch Chasidim.  It looks like they believe they have the right to demend Messiah's coming now,  They believe that there is increased study of Torah, and there are more Mitzvot performed then ever.  They offer "food for the soul" mixed with Kabbalistic ideas.  But did God really hide Himself from mankind like the Kabbalah claims?  Is the Kabbalah the right way to find Him, and find the Messiah?  And what do Scriptures have to say about that?  What does the prophecies about the Messiah say?  Who will He be? When and how will He appear?  What does the Torah have to say about the nature of God and how to stay connected to Him? What does the Tanach teach regarding the sinful nature of mankind, and how can we solve the implications?

The best thing to do is to listen to what the Torah says:

" The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this Law" ( Deut. 29:29).

how clearly did Moses address the Israelites before they enter the Promise Land.  The fact is, that throughout the five books of Moses we discover a personal God, who communicates with Moses and others freely and honorably.  The Torah reveals to us a holy God, separate, distinct, and exalted, and at the same time unreachable.  It shows us a God who distances Himself from sin, but at the same time paving a way for sinners to right the obstacles by teaching how to remove the consequences of sin.  The god of the Bible loves to be close to His people.

There are many hidden things in connection to God that the Torah does not reveal.  Also the God of Abraham did not insist on us knowing the precise mystery of his unique nature, yet God still revealed all we need to live a life of holiness, including strict warnings of the consequences for human rebellion and unconfessed sins.  In Deut. 31:17 God is  says:

" Then my anger will be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them and hide my face from them, and they shall be consumed, and many evils and troubles shall come upon them; so that they will say in that day, 'is it not because God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?' "

Adam and Eve sinned and were removed outside the presence of God.  The Israelites were warned that they too will be exiled from God's presence if they will live a life of sin without repentance.  God heeded his warning and Israel has a hard time to understand why this had happened.  The Kabbalists are wrestling with this issue and uses signs and symbols to support the mystical answers they come up with.  But what did God say to the first person who held the complete Torah in his hands?

" This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success" ( Joshua 1:8 ).

God commanded Joshua to take His words seriously, not to add nor remove anything from them.  God did not command Joshua to find some secret code in the Torah nor did He ask him to search for hidden mysterious meanings.  Joshua was to keep the commandments in a practical manner, honor God and neighbor.  Joshua was also to learn the severity of sin and the need for repentance before God.

Unfortunately, the philosophy of the Kabbalah concerning the redemption ignore these command completely, a command that still supposed to speak to us today.  How did we get to this condition?  well, a look at the historical development of the Kabbalah reveals some understanding on how this flawed philosophy concerning the redemption came to be.  Rabbinic Judaism itself was developed as a result of the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 AD.  The spirit of God resided in the Temple, but as God warned beforehand, his spirit departed the temple at the same time that the nation was dispersed.  The Talmudic Rabbis were not mysticans, they seriously struggled with the event of their time,  The questioned: how are we to continue living as Jews without the presence of God and without a temple?  They turned toward the traditions, the Chukim- rules and the Takanot-regulations.  Later on, when the Kabbalists also struggled with the loss of the presence of God, they developed a mystical yearning for His closeness, and later they systematically edited all these ideas and codefied them.

In order to explain the absence of God they combined Gnostic superstitions.  As a result of the troubles that the Jewish people experienced in the diaspora, which demanded explanation, the Kabbalists in Tzefat developed mystical superstitions and beliefs concerning the departure of the Shekinah.  Later on in a desperation to try to connect with God, the Chasidics zeroed in on mystical experiences, like "Dvekut" and "Kavanah," in order to try to unify with God and open a way for Messiah who will redeem and renew the world.

Despite the fact that god promised Moses that he will raise a prophet like him for the Israelites( Deut. 18:18) the Mysticans arrive to the belief that they, themselves, will be responsible to the return of the Messiah.  By doing so, the Kabbalists missed the important and open to everyone source, the teachings of the prophets.  Throughout the pre-exilic period God revealed clearly who the Messiah will be, and what he will do.  Messiah will be the one that will be sent by God to redeem the world through his sacrificial death.

All of us long for the mysteries of the universe to be solved and reveal hidden truths,  But god wants us to experience His presence without running through a maze in order to solve this mystery.  he sent the Messiah to show us how we can be with god today and forever.  Yeshua told His disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them, and they will know how to get there.  Yeshua said: "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by me.  If you see me, you see my Father."

whoever saw Yeshua, saw God.  Messiah came indeed, but the mysticans missed Him.  instead of searching for the answers through good intentioned scholars, but who lack godly gaudiness, we need to take into account that God revealed everything through Yeshua, who came to carry our sins, to forgive and to offer us an eternal future.  A future we will not see through dark glass anymore (1 Cor. 13:12).

God bless.


  1. It should be noted here that both Judaism and Christianity have a rich mystic history. Also, Kabbalah is the Jewish mystic tradition that is currently in vogue, but it is hardly the only form of Jewish mysticism. Probably every religious form has a mystic side to it, so it's not as if Kabbalah suddenly appeared in the Jewish landscape out of nowhere.

    I don't subscribe to mystic efforts to experience God in a realm beyond our own (although, how do we define our efforts to connect to God during prayer?), however, there are many beautiful and intriguing metaphors and stories in the Zohar and Tanya, as well as in the Chasidic Tales going back to the Baal Shem Tov. I don't take these as literal events but rather as lessons, where I can find them, that teach us something about all humanity and our eternal search for the God beyond our mortal experience.

    Take my comments for what you will.

    1. James,

      If the Zohar is a legitimate part of the Jewish Tradition that the Apostles refer to (e.g. Acts 21, etc) then how is it that the Zohar wasn't codified into the Talmud? how is it that it wasn't even written until the 13th century? and if there was a "special" or "secret" aspect of Jewish tradition that was important for us to understand, wouldn't the Apostles have written about it? Why would they make us wait until the 13th century?

      I think people are drawn to kabbalah in much the same way that they're drawn to sinister groups like the Masons and Scientology. I personally find this infuriating. We don't need mystical guides---we need to love other human beings, give to the poor, the helpless, the widows and orphans, not seclude ourselves with mysterious texts that promise personal enlightenment.

      Oy vey,


    2. Peter and Dan

      I'm not sure what your disagreement is.

    3. "onedaringjew",

      The disagreement is that James is a proponent of the Zohar and I believe the Zohar is not a part of the Jewish tradition that was in place in first century Judaism. I think it's a distraction to what the Apostles preached.



    4. "The disagreement is that James is a proponent of the Zohar and I believe the Zohar is not a part of the Jewish tradition that was in place in first century Judaism. I think it's a distraction to what the Apostles preached. "

      Does EVERYTHING have to come from the 1st century for it to be spiritually legitimate and valuable? Not to most Jews and not to this Jew. Some folks just wish they could go back to 1st century when everything was "perfectly clear" (yeah, right!), but since they can't, they'll just do things their own imagined way.

    5. Gene,

      Are we to understand that the Zohar is not imagination?

    6. "Are we to understand that the Zohar is not imagination?"

      Are you a Zohar expert, Dan? Somehow I doubt it.

    7. Gene,

      How typical of you to answer a question with a question in order to divert the issue...

      I asked a legitimate question, can't you answer?

  2. James,

    your comment betrays your complete lack of understanding of what esoteric teaching and mystical experience in approaching God can lead to.

    Take my comments for what you will.

  3. Thanks Dan, I empathize with much you have said.

    Shouldn't the NT be our guide on how we relate to God and the Messiah?

    1. Bog,

      You mean I should throw the OT away?

    2. Dan, if Bog "amens" what is being said about (or rather against) Judaism, it's usually not a good sign.

    3. Gene,

      Well, in some casses Bog needs some attitude adjustment...I work with him on that....

  4. Dan,

    I want to thank you for addressing this issue about the Kabbahah. I've spent a lot of time reading someones writtings that constantly refer to the Kabbalah, and The teaching of Rabbi's. Some of these teachings seem good, yet many left me with more questions than answers, too much ambiguity. I'm really just an ordinary person, no Bible scholar, and I questioned myself, why keep reading this stuff? Why does it have such an attachment?(Especially since I've heard it is steeped in witchcraft) After much prayer, this is my answer: (the fact that it has such a "hold" or "pull" says in it's self that it's evil). So,there you go. Thank you so much for takeing the time to write about it, and I pray many more are set free from its hold, and return to the Torah of Truth and Life.

  5. Michelle,

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

    I wouldn't call Kabbalah evil...Evil is done by intent. The Kabbalists did not mean to cause any harm, their intentions were never evil. All they wanted is to find a way to God and in the process they missed the Scriptures.

  6. Peter where, oh where in your wildest imagination did you get that I said the Apostles consulted the Zohar? There are mystic traditions that precede the Zohar and Kabbalah by many, many centuries. Nor did I say that Jewish mysticism in any way was equivalent to Scripture. I only said that I found some meaning and beauty in portions of the Jewish mystic traditions by way of metaphor and symbolism.

    I guess none of you find meaning and beauty in religious songs or poems, which are also metaphorical and symbolic and yet are also spiritual. You are all strictly dedicated to literalism. More's the pity.

  7. James,

    Song and poems are meant to be metaphorical. They don't claim a new of different ways to God. what are you talking about?

  8. I'm talking about how I personally relate to some of the message of Jewish mysticism. I'm not attempting to evaluate its overall purpose and I'm certainly no mystic. I'm only describing why I read mystic texts from time to time and why I believe they have something to teach. Others can choose to avoid them. I used to for a long time. But then, reading Levertoff showed me that a mystic point of view didn't always involve "mumbo jumbo". A significant part of most Siddurim contain passages from the Zohar (so I suppose you could just avoid using a siddur to pray). It's not for everyone. But you don't have to rain on the parade of those who have chosen to have a look, either.

  9. James,

    There is a difference between taking a look and writing a "study guide and commentary" which containes inaccuracies as FFOZ did. Leading people to stumble is not God's way.

  10. There is a difference between taking a look and writing a "study guide and commentary" which containes inaccuracies as FFOZ did. Leading people to stumble is not God's way.

    First, it seemed like your blog post was criticizing people being interested in Jewish mysticism (and like I said, it's not for everyone), and now you are shifting your focus to FFOZ/Vine of David publishing an inaccurate commentary on Levertoff. This is the first I've heard of a problem with the Levertoff material. You'll probably have to take it up with FFOZ and show them the sources that highlight where you feel they made mistakes. If their errors can be verified, they'll probably correct them in the subsequent publications and/or put up an errata page.

    As an author, I can confirm that, no matter how careful I am, no matter how careful the editorial staff is, some mistakes still sneak in. It doesn't mean I'm a bad person, bad writer, or that I'm dumb (although opinions vary about my intelligence in some corners of the blogosphere). It just means "reality happens."

  11. "First, it seemed like your blog post was criticizing people being interested in Jewish mysticism "

    This is not what my blog post was all about, and you know it. My blog was about people who invented "Jewish mysticism." Big difference...

    I tied FFOZ to the discussion onlt to show how they emphasis esoteric teachings that lead to nowhere and giving it the importance it does not deserve, BTW, I know of at least one case where they admitted of being incorrect.