With people like Madonna, Britney Spears, and Demi Moore all endorsing it, the teachings of Kabbalah have gained a new audience in the world today that is continually increasing. Though there are some differences between traditional Kabbalah and the pop-kabbalah of current celebrities, many of the fundamental values are still the same. Kabbalah consists broadly of an esoteric branch of Judaism concerned with the mystical, using the Torah to find hidden meanings through the use of numbers and symbolism. Although it has origins further back, it really gained its ground at the level of the masses from the 12th century onward. The 20th century saw a growing interest in kabbalistic thought with the founding of International Centre for Kabbalistic Research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1925. This interest in the teachings and ideas of kabbalah has continued to grow into the 21st century, although at a much more popular level.
Belief about God
Does God exist?
Yes, God does exist. There is one God who is both transcendent and immanent, hidden and revealed.
How do you describe God?
God in His hidden state (Ein Sof) is completely inaccessible, however, he is manifested in a structure of ten emanations (sefirot). God is described through a hierarchy of attributes and qualities known as the Sefirot. These attributes are translated as Crown, Wisdom, Understanding, Mercy, Strength, Beauty, Splendor, Glory, Foundation, and Kingship. The Ten Sefirot include both masculine and feminine qualities. Kabbalah pays a great deal of attention to the feminine aspects of God (Understanding, Strength, and Glory).
Is there any kind of spirit world?
Yes, there is a spirit world. There are angels who were there at creation; there are angels of grace, love, mercy, paradise, peace, truth, and water. However, there are also angels of confusion, destruction, fear, fire, insomnia, terror, and thunder. Kabbalists believe that humans can be possessed by a wandering soul (a dybbuk).
Belief about the world
Is there an overall plan or order behind nature?
Once enough followers of Kabbalah bridge the gap between the human world and the perfect world God first created, paradise will once again reign on earth. - Are human beings different from the rest of the world? The world can’t restore itself into perfection. However, humanity, by their good deeds will be the ones to restore the world and God itself. Humans are distinct from the rest of the created order in that they are made in the “image of God.” This image is typified in the sefirot representing primordial Adam. "The human soul is a part of the Creator [that is, Divine Light]. Therefore, there is no difference between Him and the soul. The difference is that He is the 'whole' and the soul is a 'part'.
Belief about humanity
Where did we come from, & where are we going?
Humanity was brought into creation through God’s sacrifice of itself. This has left humanity on earth to achieve unity and restoration for and with God through righteousness and good deeds. The Zohar emphasizes that human action has an effect on the higher world and that, through serving God, the pious soul will achieve union with the Divine.
What happens at death?
There are two after-death states. The first state is an astral region where a person reviews their life because the soul has to evaluate its own progress. There isn’t any judgement from God. The second state is a higher state of consciousness in which the soul has a beautiful dream, which is its “heavenly” reward.
2.1 Beliefs about purpose
What is the overall purpose or meaning of humanity?
Kabbalah teaches that every human being is a work in progress. Any pain, disappointment, or chaos that exists in our lives is not because this is how life is meant to be, but only because we have not yet finished the work that brought us here. That work, quite simply, is the process of freeing ourselves from the domination of the human ego and creating an affinity with the sharing essence of God.
What is the main purpose or highest good for each individual?
The universe began with a benevolent sacrifice by God. Unlike Christianity, which says God sacrificed his only Son to save the world, Kabbalah teaches that God sacrificed Himself so that the world and the human race might flourish. There is a tension in Kabbalah about God being incomplete, yet infinite. To make room for the human race and everything in the universe, God first had to recoil into itself. In the process of withdrawal, God’s identity shattered, dispersing God’s energy throughout the world. Every Kabbalist's main duty is to restore their fractured God to a state of wholeness through righteousness and good deeds.
Belief about ethics
How does one decide right & wrong?
Right thoughts produce right actions. Right actions produce right results. There is no known universally-accepted standard of right and wrong, but in the mind of the righteous individual, any thought or deed that promotes or sustains life is considered right. Any thought or deed that does not is wrong. Some believe that if we label aspects of life or actions as “bad,” than we acknowledge another power that is attempting to usurp the power of God. This belief is considered idol worship.
There are countless remarks throughout all the works of Kabbalah regarding the negativity of bad character traits, such as anger, laziness, depression, and others. The harshest condemnation of depression, anger, and other negative counter-productive emotions are found within the works of Kabbalah. Yet, the Kabbalistic method of character refinement is quite a different approach than the approaches that we are accustomed to encountering. It is not a head-on battle of countering negativity on its own turf, but neither is it to overwhelm the negative with the positive. Its approach is to come from another vantage point and see things from another perspective.
By overcoming this false sense of self, which stems from one's false estimation of survival, one's negative emotions is conquered. Consequently, the illusion of separateness/ego, and as a result, the preservation of this mirage will slowly begin to fade, and with it will fade the negative emotions which is the ego's manifestation.
In the place of seeing the ego as a real enemy who needs to be engaged in battle in order to be overcome, we begin to realize that there is nothing besides the Light, and everything else is simply a concealment of that truth. Such is the Kabbalistic approach for self-perfection. It does not deal with the negative head-on, nor does it deal with it at all. Rather it goes to the source of all problems, the I/ego, and by extension, the entire physical reality, and it demonstrates how, in fact, these seemingly independent realities are but a camouflage. By realizing this, our negativity is more easily overcome.
Is it possible for humans to know truth?
Yes. Truth is knowable and accessible because God has revealed himself, primarily through the Torah.
What are legitimate sources of truth?
The Torah is the primary source of Truth but there is other Kabbalistic literature that is considered authoritative, such as the Zohar, a collection of mystical writings (12th Century). States of enlightenment and understanding can be achieved through meditation on the individual sefirah , probing the divine and ascending back toward the One. Among its many pre-occupations, Kabbalah teaches that every Hebrew letter, word, number, even the accent on words of the Hebrew Bible contains a hidden sense; and it teaches the methods of interpretation for ascertaining these meanings.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
The Sefirot is constructed onto three pillars. On the left side are the feminine attributes, and they are considered to be severe and destructive. On the right side are the masculine attributes, and they are considered to be merciful and expansive. The "center pillar" of the tree does not have any polarity, and no gender is given to it. Thus evil is really an emanation of Divinity, a harsh byproduct of the "left side" of the creation.
According to the Sages, Rosh Hashanah is a return to the moment of humanity’s Creation, before the sin of Adam, before the seed of our personal and global tikkun (correction) took root. It is a return to the part of ourselves that is eternally pure and complete. At the time of creation, our souls were perfect and completely fulfilled in ways unimaginable. And as there is no time and space in the realm of spirituality, this window of opportunity opens every year on Rosh Hashanah, allowing us to reconnect to that perfection within our soul. We can become a completely different person, a better person, a stronger person. Why? Because once we tap into this unadulterated aspect of our nature, we can carry that forward into the year to come. But we do this work for more than just our own personal fulfillment. We do it for the world. On Rosh Hashanah, with so many sparks united together again as one, we can bring about the complete removal of pain and suffering from the world.
Christians, Hindus, Buddists, Muslims, and Jews use Kabbalah to improve their spiritual experience.