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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

URL: www.scjfaq.org/faq/04-10.html
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Question 4.10:
What is Kabbalah and how can I learn about it?

Answer:

It's important to differentiate between the popular notion of Kabbalah and the concept within traditional Judaism. In the popular culture, Kabbalah is perceived as a form of magic or the occult, studied for selfish personal gain. This misinformed idea resulted from those who adapted Jewish ideas out of the context of Jewish belief and practice, warping it away from its foundations to their own purposes. These include medieval Christian mystics, neo-pagan groups, and contemporary "new age" movements.

Within Judaism, though, Kabbalah is the part of Torah that addresses the process of creation ("Ma'aseh B'raisheet") and the relationship that G-d maintains with creation ("Ma'aseh Merkavah"). As such it is the Torah's inner aspect. Some traditions say that some of the key texts go as far back as the Patriarch Abraham.

Parts of Kabbalah, such as the Zohar and Rabbi Moshe Cordovero's "Pardes Rimonim," are accessible, but difficult to understand without a firm grounding in the more basic Jewish sources and an informed teacher. Other parts remain hidden and unavailable to the public. Parts have been committed to print, but others remain as closely held, orally transmitted tradition.

The most accessible, traditionally accurate books for English language study of the topic are Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's "Innerspace, Introduction to Kabbalah, Meditation and Prophecy" (Moznaim Publishing, Brooklyn NY), "Meditation and Kabbalah," "Kabbalah and the Bible" (Samuel Weiser and Sons, New York), and "Jewish Meditation" (Schocken, New York). Lubavitcher Chassidim recommend directed study of the Tanya. (Kehot Publications, New York)

Additional information may be found in the Mysticism Reading List.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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