What is the Kabbalah?

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk



A series of books called collectively the Kabbalah, or tradition, have existed among Jews for many centuries. These books are generally viewed as mysticism, in contrast to the Talmud and its vast commentary, which is viewed by Jewish scholars as rational.

Those who comment on these writings agree that both rational and mystic elements are included in both collections. The Kabbalah is quite old, much older than the Middle Ages, and includes traditions derived from non-Jewish sources such as Hindusim, such as the transmigration of the soul.

It also includes Babylonian and Persian demonology and rests in part on the Platonic idea of emanation.  (If this interests you, you may want to go to the library and get a book entitled Man’s Ascent to Reason which I published two years ago. This is a brief review of some of these ideas for those who don’t want to read volumes on the subject.)

As the persecution of the European Jews intensified during the Middle Ages and thereafter, the Kabbalah was used by some Jews to find a mystical answer to many of these horrors.

Then there were writers such as Aziel ben Menachem, who sought to describe the deity and reconcile Judaism with the Aristotelian view of God. These speculators even taught that God did not directly create the universe but that this was done through ten spheres, that is, indirectly.

All of this led some Jews to look for hidden meaning in the Torah and all Biblical texts. The Cabalists believed that the Hebrew letters, having numbers, could be combined in such a fashion as to create immense miracles. The Cabalists also thought that if they could only discover the true pronunciation of the name of God the Moshiach would arrive. Some even believed that the Kabbalah could allow them to walk on water without getting wet.

The most important of the Cabal books, then, is the Zohar. In the thirteenth century, i.e. in the 1200’s, there appeared in Spain a book called the Zohar, or Splendor. This was composed by Moses Shem Tov de Leon. It deals with astrology, demonology and the “science of numbers”. The purpose of this “science” was the redemption of the Jewish people by means of numerology. We would say that the Zohar permitted many a persecuted Jew to escape reality by believing in this “hocus pocus”.

Unfortunately, the Zohar did not help at all. Now the Jews, already expelled, massacred and persecuted, had to deal with the added burden of dealing with the “Evil Eye”, with “Satan” and other imaginary horrors.

Zohar followers claim that the Zohar explains Biblical meaning in four ways. As Peshat, or literal meaning, Remez or allusion, Derash or a mystical interpretation and Sod. The four first letters form the word Paradise.

The Zohar gave rise to the adventures of Sabbatai Zvi (1626-1676), who claimed to be the Moshiach and led thousands of Jews into a disastrous journey toward Yerusholayim, only to convert to Islam when confronted with the power of the Turkish sultan.

Today the Kabbalah still has followers. In this country the most prominent Kabbalah student is an actress of Catholic origin by the name of Madonna Ciccone, also known as Mrs. Guy Ritchie. This lady is best known for having sold a book exhibiting her various bodily parts to anyone willing to spend money for the view.

She is now associated with the Kabbalah Center in New York, whose Rabbi, Yehuda Berg, has written a book on the “72 Names of God”. The Kabbalah center sells a red string for $26 to ward off evil. It also sells a “Kabbalah Water” for $2.50 a bottle.

This entertainment has now attracted other “celebrities” who, no doubt, are bored with all the traditional enjoyments such as getting drunk, using cocaine or playing Don Juan.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Man's Ascent to Reason (2003) & the forthcoming Football & American Identity.

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