The Kabbalah is a philosophical and esoteric tradition stemming from Judaism, whose ultimate goal is to access knowledge of the universe. A subject as vast as it is mysterious, it would probably require a lifetime of practice and study. In this article, we tell you more about the Jewish Kabbalah; the origins, the first texts, as well as the great concepts of philosophy.
Presentation of Kabbalah
According to the Kabbalists, the earthly world is an emanation from the spiritual world and creation. The Kabbalah would contain all the hidden teachings of the Torah: the origin of the world, prophecy, reincarnation or even the scope of our actions on a divine plan.
In the Jewish tradition, there are three ways to study Kabbalah in order to access a higher level of consciousness:
By interpreting the texts (Torah and Talmud) and sacred symbols to discover the nistar ie the "hidden" meaning.
By oral transmission of the tradition by a kabbalistic master
By direct revelation, which may include the visitation of an angel, prophet or other supernatural experience.
The origins of Jewish mysticism
The word kabala comes from the Hebrew קבלה Qabbala which means "reception" and is often interpreted as "ancestral tradition".
It is difficult to determine the exact origins of Jewish mysticism. But these would go back to the Mount Sinai episode.
Gd transmitted the oral tradition of the Kabbalah to Moses, along with the Torah (written and public law). This would be the interpretation of the other sacred texts. Moses, later would have brought this knowledge to 70 wise men only. And it would have been transmitted orally from generation to generation, to only a few initiates.
Other scholars and historians attribute the origin of kabbalistic science to the prophet Ellie.
Let us now discover the first texts of Jewish mysticism.
Texts dating from the Middle Ages
The Sefer Yetsirah, "Book of Creation" is the first precursor text of the Kabbalah. It appeared between the 3rd and 4th century and is attributed to the prophet Abraham. This treatise is the origin of the concept of the Sephirot, as well as Jewish numerology.
The Sefer Habahir, "Book of Clarity" was written during the 12th century CE, in Languedoc. This is the first work that evokes the great concepts of the Kabbalah. The book develops the theory of the ten sephirot, among which three superior forces stand out: thought, wisdom and intelligence. Unlike the Sefer Yetzirah, these ten sephirot no longer appear as external to Gd, but as essential constituents of the Divine Essence and Creation.
The Sefer Ha Zoar, also called Book of Splendor and Zohar, is considered the reference book of the kabbalah. It appears in the 13th century in Spain, and is attributed to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohaï. The Zohar is a collection of Torah commentaries, intended to guide people who have already reached a high level of spirituality. There is the concept of “the final repair”. According to this concept, we experience different spiritual states as our souls progress. At the end of the process, souls achieve mystical union with Gd, the highest degree of spiritual knowledge.
It is also from the 13th century that the thinkers of this current are called "kabalists".
Concepts of Kabbalistic Philosophy
According to kabbalistic philosophy, there is no real separation between God and humanity. Within the soul of every being is a hidden part of Gd waiting to be revealed. In the Kabbalah tradition, there are several tools that provide access to knowledge.
The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters, it is Aramaic. These letters were transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai and are the origin of the Torah. They each represent a symbol, a name that has a particular meaning and strength, as well as a number.
Gematria is a form of numerology, in which the numerical value of letters and sentences is associated in order to decode and interpret sacred texts.
The Sephiroth tree
The tree of the Sephirot or the "tree of life" is based on the idea that the universe is made up of different levels of reality (physical, spiritual, psychic) as well as forces that connect them. Thus, the tree of life is a pathway to knowledge of the universe, G‑d, and self. The origin of the tree is unknown but its first representations date from the 13th century.
The Tree of Life diagram is formed of:
10 Sephirot (creative forces),
3 veils of existence,
In the diagram of the tree of life, there is a notion of flow, direction or even flow of energy.
The tree of the Sephirot can be read in both directions:
in the downward direction, which represents the path of the creation of the universe by the Almighty.
in the direction upward, which represents the path of man towards Awakening.
72 Kabbalah Angels
Each of the 72 Kabbalah angels has a Hebrew name and each is assigned a role and an energy that any human being can connect to for spiritual upliftment.
According to Kabbalist philosophy, 3 angels are assigned to us at the time of our birth. An angel for each category: Guardian Angel, Angel of the Heart and Angel of the Spirit.
How to study Kabbalah?
With respect for tradition, Kabbalah must be transmitted from master to student, in confidence and total secrecy. If you are interested in studying Kabbalah, you can contact the Chabad rabbi closest to you. This one can offer you an initiation course or put you in contact with a kabalistic master. But beware, the study of the ancestral tradition is a long work, which requires a high spiritual level.
We hope to have given you a deeper understanding of what Kabbalah is. Do not hesitate to share in comments, your own experience of Jewish mysticism..