Monday, July 17, 2006

Kabalah

All of Hashem’s actions in this world are systematic and work along certain patterns that He created. The study of these patterns and this system, and how they connect our world and Hashem, is Kabbalah. It has zero to do with witchcraft.

There are two reasons why only very advanced, very righteous, Torah scholars may learn Kabbalah. If anyone else tries to, first, it is wrong, and secondly, it won’t work.

All of Torah describes the will of G-d. This means that someone who learns Torah becomes familiar with who Hashem is. The more Torah you learn, the more you “recognize He Who created the world” (Sifri Devarim 6:7).

Now let’s say you have acquaintances who know you. But they only know the outside of you. Only your friends you let into the “inside” of you. But not all the way. Maybe there’s someone very special in your life that knows the real inside of you. Someone who has special access to really deep inside of you. Only this special person you let in there.

Same thing with the Torah. The goyim know Hashem as acquaintances or friends, so Hashem let’s them know Torah shebiksav (the Written Torah). But that’s as far as they can go.

We Jews are the special people to Hashem, we have that special relationship with Him that he allows us to know the inside of Him, what He is really like; what He really wants; what he really cares about. Only we can go there, because we are the special people in His “life”.

This inside of Hashem is called Torah shebal peh (the Oral Torah – the Talmud and Midrashim). Only Jews are privy to this special part of Hashem. A goy who learns Torah shebal peh commits a capital sin! Because he has no right to invade Hashem’s privacy like that. Only Jews, who are in a special relationship with Hashem, can go there.

But then, maybe there’s a part of you that’s so deep and so private, that not even that special person in your life knows that part of you. Maybe you yourself don’t even know that part of you. This is the inside of the inside. The deepest most private parts of your personality. Even your most special people you maybe won’t let in there.

That’s the Kabbalah. It’s the inside of the inside of Hashem’s Will. Even though he lets us in to the Oral Torah part of Him because we have that special relationship with Him, but to go to the inside of the inside – the Kabbalah – even Jews cannot go. For that, you have to have an especially special relationship with Him; otherwise it’s terribly inappropriate for you to peek so deep into the Will of Hashem. This place is reserved only for the special of the special. The great Tzadikim, the great Talmidei Chachamim.

That’s first.

Second, even if you were to learn Kabbalah, you would not be successful unless you are an advanced Torah scholar.

Kabbalah is like sunglasses.

Yes, sunglasses. Sunglasses let you look at the sun, but they distort the image. The sun looks green, less shiny, and altogether different than it is in reality.

So if you look at the sun with your sunglasses, but you don’t understand intellectually what the sun looks like, you will go away with a totally wrong idea of what the sun looks like.

So too the Kabbalah. It allows you to see places that otherwise would shine too bright for you to look at, but the image you will get is distorted. You therefore need the intellectual knowledge of advanced Shas and Poskim (Talmud and Halachah) so that when you do learn Kabbalah, you will get the proper impressions.

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Kabalah is, and always was, part of Torah. It is one of the "sod" part of the 4 parts of Torah, i.e. Pardes. Because only people who reached a certain level should learn it, it was restricted throughout the generations to mouth-to-mouth tradition from established mentor to worthy disciple.

From the earliest times, those worthy have learned Kabalah - after all, it is part of Torah. But you can't ask to find a proportionate sample of it in the Gemora - the Gemora was designed for a more inclusive audience. Not everything Chazal learned or said or did is in the Gemora. Don't think the Gemora is an accurate representation of Chazal's activities. Medrash exists too, and so did Kabalah. The Gemora has a specific purpose, and because something is not there does not mean it didn't exist.

As the Gemora (Pesachim 119a) learns from a posuk in Yeshaya:

"This refers to someone who conceals the things that Hashem concealed. And what are these things? The secrets of the Torah."

And in Gemora Chagiga (13a): Rav Ami said, we do not give the secrets of the Torah to anyone who does not have these five qualifications..."

These "secrets of the Torah" (sisrei torah) are Kabalah.

As far as Hashkafa and Neshama, etc, that as always dealt with, in Medrashim. It was made into Seforim by various authors as time went by for the same reason most seforim are made - there was a need for them.

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The Rambam did not use Kabalah in his writings (although the Migdal Oz quotes a letter from the Rambam written in his later years that says he discovered Kabalah and he regrets many things that he said previously about it), and he was also never saw the Zohar. He based his writings on philosophy, not Kabalah.

Nevertheless, there is a school of Kabalists - the Yismach Moshe and his line - that use the Rambam's writings to explain Kabalistic concepts, and vice versa. (A computer search for Moreh Nevuchim quoted in Chasidishe seforim will show it very rarely -usually not quoted at all, a couple of times in Kedushas Levi, but all over the Yismach Moshe.)

The Satmar Rebbe ZTL, a descendant of the Yismach Moshe writes that even though the Rambam did not have Kabalah, because he was on such a high level to know the truth, because of his greatness, he came to truths on his own that are Kabalistic concepts; and that the Rambam - get this - did not contradict the Kabalah at all.

(As far as sheidim, they are all over Shas. But Rabbeinu Avrohom, his son, quoted by Rav Yonason Shteif ZTL at the beginning of Brachos - says that the Rambam really did believe in sheidim and statements otherwise were inserted by others.)

So while it is theoretically possible for any Rishon to base his statements on a metzius that is later shown to not be the case, the words of the rishonim can be interpreted on all levels of PaRdES (pshat, remez, drush, and sod), and it is fine to interpret their words in a way that fits in with reality.

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The Zohar was indeed written by Rav Shimon bar Yochai, as confirmed by all our Torah experts, including the Arizal, who was the greatest expert in Kabbalah ever. The Gra, too, as well as all other experts in this topic agree that the Zohar is for real. It is quoted by the Bais Yosef in Ch. 140, and by the Ramah in Shulchan Aruch in a number of places. It is also quoted countless times in the Poskim, throughout the generations. (There was one Rav who questioned the authenticity of the Zohar, but his opinion has been dismissed as an overreaction to the Shabse Tzvi debacle, because of the above reasons, plus the fact that he had not one shred of evidence to back up his position).

We do not learn Kabalah because it is the "inner sphere", but it is more than 100% legitimate. There is no Torah authority after the above authenticating authorities who have chas v'sholom rejected the Zohar. The whole idea is nonsensical, and a product of non-religious, anti-Torah elements.

Rav Yaakov Emden held that parts of the Zohar were written by the "students and students' students" of Rav Shimon bar Yochai without a doubt, but it is as if Rav Shimon bar Yochai himself wrote it" (M'tpchas Sforim I p.31).

This is not the issue. The issue is whether the Zohar was "written centuries later", which alludes to the old, disproven opinion of Gershom Sholem, a heretic who knew not much about Judaism, despite - or actually, in line with - his title of "Professor of Kabalah" at Hebrew University.

This man decided, about 60 years ago, that that he understood Kabalah better than the Arizal, the Ramak, and the other masters, and that really Kabalah is not part of Torah but rather an alien outgrowth from Gnosticism and philosophy.

This is not, c"v, the view of Rav Yaakov Emden, the Chasam Sofer, or any other clear headed Jew. R. Yaakov Emden writes about the Zohar:

"Holy is the Sefer HaZohar ... cholilah to question it! The worthy reader will see in it holy light and the path to righteousness ... " (ibid, intro.)

Said R. Yaakov Emden, "The Seforim that I authored are full of Kabalah, based on the Zohar" (Adus B'Yaakov p. 21)

While it is true that Rav Yaakov Emden did on occasion change the text of the Zohar to conform to what he held was the original, or remove some later insertions - and it should be mentioned that even this opinion of his was rejected by the overwhelming majority of scholars - he writes, "Cholilah that I should erase even one letter from the Zohar except where it is absolutely necessary" (MS I p.31). (See also Teshuvos Teshuva M'Ahava I:13, and I:26).

So out of touch was this G. Sholem, and that he even went on a campaign to publicize his "discovery" that Rav Yonason Eyebuschitz ZT"L was a closet follower of Shabse Tzvi! Of course, Rav Yonason was accused of that in his day by Rav Yaakov Emden, but the accusation was subsequently found to be a total mistake. But the fact that the Vilna Gaon himself found only pure Torah in Rav Yonason's Kabalistic writings did not impress Sholem. I guess it was because The Gra was did not have a PhD from Hebrew U in Kabalah.

Of course, all serious scholars at that time such as Rabbi Reuven Margolis ZT"L did a chainsaw massacre on Sholem's "discovery", exposing it for nothing more than ignorance and distortions.

Sholem latched on to a statement of Rav Yonason quoting "Drush Tanini" regarding the Kabalistic concept of "the holy nachash" and that Moshiach is Gemtria "nachash", which, the professor of Kabblaah said, is obviously referring to a work of Noson Ha'azasi, the notorious student of Shabse Tzvi.

Of course, Rav Margolis pointed out that in the Zohar (Bo) there is a "Drush Taninim" and that is what Rav Yonason was referring to.

Sholem insisted that his opposition doesn’t know what they are talking about, and "anyone who understands the Zohar knows that this is an open lie, that we do not even have to deal with".

He wrote: "Every single commentary on the Zohar without exception agrees with me".

This is what happens when someone tries to learn Kabalah from the printed word without a mentor, thus misunderstanding everything he sees.

Well, the professor, of course, turned out to be wrong. The Kabalistic explanation of Rav Yonason Eyebushitz ZT"L turned up --- guess where? -- in the commentary of Rav Yaaov Emden on that very Zohar!

Kind of a Kiddush Hashem, when something like that happens. (See Zaharei Yaavetz p.125 - 132 for details)

Even the phony secular pseudo-Kabalists have begun to give up on Sholem's ideas. Moshe Idel, "Professor of Jewish thought" (sic) in Hebrew U (he has a "PhD in Kabalah" (sic). I am not kidding) has proven Sholem wrong. In his "Kabalah, New Perspectives" (SIC!) he shows that Kabalah is really ancient and that the Gnostics actually were influenced by Kabalah, not vice versa.

Well, duh. At least someone takes Sholem seriously enough to bother disproving him.

No, sorry, all so-called "scholarship" trying to discredit Kabalah has already been discredited, and if you present any particular tidbit of such "scholarship" I will show you why it doesn’t work.

Or perhaps you can find a "Professor of Truth" somewhere in Hebrew U that can explain it.

Rav Yaakov Emden surely does dispute that. He said clearly that the Zohar was written by the students etc. of Rav Shimon bar Yochai - please see above. It is not necessary for him to repeat that.

The Arizal and the GRA, as well as other authorities of that caliber accepted the authorship of the Zohar as RSHB"I, or at the very most, with some parts by the students etc. But its authority as a Talmudic source was undisputed among the Torah authorities.

There is also no reason to oppose the Minhagim or Halachos from the Zohar. The Gemora about Eliyahu Hanavi is talking about Eliyahu making a gezeirah against a Minhag (see Meiri ad loc). Since we had a minhag to do chalitzah with a sandal, we will not accept his gezeirah. But if he were to come and tell us we were wrong, we would have to contend with his position with due Halachic process. Another interpretation is that the Gemora's ruling in the theoretical case of Eliyahu saying not to use a sandal for Chalitzah is because he has no halachic reasoning to back up his position. In other words, even if Eliyahu tells us something halachicly invalid, we should not listen. But if he would have the reasoning to show us we were wrong then we would indeed listen.

Besides, the Zohar may disagree with the Gemara regarding the statement about Eliyahu hanavi, the same as it can argue with any other part. But it is not at all necessary to make such a dispute. Following the Zohar where appropriate is not a contradiction to what the Gemora says.

That Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochaii didn’t write the Zohar meaning the all the exact words are not written by him is pretty clear - and yes, you don’t need to swear to that. The Zohar was clearly edited by students of RSHBI, or even Geonim (the Steipler said that). Like the Mishna was edited by R"Y Hanasi.

That doesn’t mean at all that it doesn’t have the authority of RSHBI any more than the fact that the Mishna was edited means c"v it doesn’t represent the opinions of the Tannaim quoted there.

As far as the disproofs of Gershom Sholem, my point is that since there is a clear tradition and expert testimony to the authoritativeness of the Zohar, the onus would lie on those who dispute that. Once their claims are disproven, the default value so to speak of this issue is the traditional one.

The Zohar was not widely publicized, and not printed, and went lost in the days of the Tannaim. It was "found" later on - some say the Ramban found it.

The Gemora is not kol hatorah kulah, though it is the most authoritative part of it. The Rishonim that rejected gilgulim did so not because it says in the Gemora that gilgulim do not exist but rather for the lack of evidence that it does exist, together with their own understanding. There is no disagreement here between the Mishnah and the Zohar.

The idea that the Zohar was written by Moshe DeLeon comes form the maskilim. It has long been disproved, discredited, and discarded. Please do a search for his name on the Frumteens.com website where the proofs against those ignorami are discussed.

It’s not only the Zohar that accepts gilgullim - it is every Torah authority unanimously that ever discussed the issue since the Zohar was uncovered. That goes all the way forom the Rishonim to the Arizal to the GRA down.

The idea that Gilgulim are fiction is not accepted at all, and we attribute such statements in Rav Sadiah Gaon to the fact that he did not have the benefit of the Zohar. Nobody, since the Zohar was revealed, agrees with it.

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5 Comments:

Blogger amolam said...

hey taon, thanks for the link, I plan on returning the favor!

Hatzlocho!

11:52 AM  
Anonymous taon said...

theres nothing to thank about it. We're all working together towards the same goal. thanks, though

5:24 PM  
Blogger amolam said...

amen to that, brother!

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several points if you will allow. Firstly, if the Zohar was written by Yohai, why did Moses De Leon admit to inventing it himself? If as others suggest, Moses De Leon found the scroll, where is it and how did it survive for nearly 1500 years in the open - it must therefore be unique among all scrolls - but nobody can find it to establish any trugh in the matter.
Secondly, I'm not a Jew however, I possess many volumes of Midrashim and other legends, both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds and many other commentaries. As a non Jew, I'm not bound by jewish law so how can it be against the "law" for me to have and/or study them? As for "capital punishment" - all civilised nations banned it years ago. Are you suggesting something akin to the taliban? going round lopping peoples heads off just because they shaved that morning??
I know that this is, in general a frum site but is it fair to push out such un-corroborated information to the gullible. After all, with no knowledge of science, how can a young jew differentiate between reality and fantasy? A good example is the comments about Albert Einstein elsewhere on your site. Einstein was an atheist but he used the term god occasionally to make various points. He, in no way believed in him/her/it. Many people use misunderstood Einstinian quotes to "back their side" with no understanding of what he actually said.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous taon said...

1 I don't know the story here, try posting on the site. R' Mod and others should know better than I.

2 You should know, I was usually the kid who sat quietly in the classroom observing everyone's behavior. And being on Frumteens.com all these years got me to pick up a few things on human behavior. So don't tell me you're not Jewish. No non-jew would be this disrespectful. Not without racist remarks or comment son other religions, depending on their purpose. The only person who would act like this is someone who is desperately trying to push away his past and surroundings. Trying to justify what he is doing. I don't care wqhat you call yourself, it doesn't change anything.Please, just talk. If i've got stuff wrong about you, tell me what, i don't care. Post on the site, even better to get help with whatever. But this isn't helping anyone.

3 Gullible? No knowledge of science? Can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality? I'd almost believe you aren't Jewish. Do you know what nation you are speaking of? We are stiff-necked and skeptical, and you know it. And hardly ignorant.

4 I don't now where to start with your capital punishment comment. Is that why you called yourself a non-jew? Or do you consider yourself as such?

5 Heh. Reminds me, when something came out that made Einstein seem athiestic, there was all this relief in atheist groups. I saw this message that actually said (I don't remember word for word, but the main words I remember)"Don't worry! Einstein didn't believe in God [Caps mine of course]". Actually, he swung back and forth. He did believe in something, it's just hard to tell what because people take anything they can find and interpret it how they want.

10:14 AM  

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