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Kabbalah

Kabbalah

The Kabbalah (also Cabala, Kabala, Kaballah, Qaballah, etc.) is a mystical Jewish tradition that teaches that the elect of God shall know both Him and the universe and will be raised above common knowledge to a spiritual level where they will understand the secrets of Holy Writ and creation through symbolic interpretation. Kabbalists affirm that the elect shall discover in the ancient texts whatever they choose, and they have the right to assert that the things they discover had been in the sacred scriptures from the beginning.

Letters and numbers, the Kabbalah teaches, are not merely signs invented by humans to record things, events, and thoughts, but are in themselves reservoirs of divine power. Hebrew, in the Kabbalistic sense, is a universal language, capable of restoring to humankind the universal understanding that existed before the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel. It is interesting to note that the Greek school of neo-Pythagorean philosophers also understood numbers and letters to be divine things endowed with supernatural powers.

The Kabbalah began to emerge as a text of power and influence in Spain and southern France in the thirteenth century. Many of its teachers proclaimed that the Kabbalah (Hebrew for "received tradition") had been given by God to Moses (14th13th century b.c.e.) on Mt. Sinai along with the Torah, and generations of magi, alchemists, and magicians believed this claim to be true and revered the ancient texts as a legacy of the Creator to humankind, the apex of His creation. Contemporary scholarship suggests that rather than a divinely authored text, the Kabbalah was a product of the earlier mystical tradition of the Maaseh Bereshit and Maaseh Merkavah, both of which would only be taught to one student at a time. The Maaseh Bereshit (Hebrew for "work of creation") dealt with the divine utterances that brought the universe into being and how control of these sounds or letters would grant great magical powers over the material substance of the world. Maaseh Merkavah (Hebrew for "work of the chariot") attempted to utilize the mystical practices of heavenly ascent achieved by Ezekial in his vision of the fiery chariot and the throne of glory in heaven. After a period of intense preparation, including fasting, meditation, chanting, and the recitation of certain letter combinations and the names of angels, the adept of Maaseh Merkavah sought to attain a vision of the divine throne of God and to become transformed from human to angel.

Combined with the Maaseh Merkavah and the Maaseh Bereshit to form the Bible of the Kabbalists was the Zohar (Hebrew for "splendor"), which was ascribed to the followers of Simeon Bar Yochai, who was said to have recorded the mystical teachings of Elijah during the years the prophet spent hiding in a cave. Moses De Leon who claimed to possess a copy of the ancient manuscript, published The Zohar in the thirteenth century. After De Leon's death, however, his wife admitted that he had attributed his own writings to Simeon Bar Yochai in order to assure sales to those interested in such ancient magical texts. Modern scholars concede that while the Zohar splendidly depicts the spiritual reality that lies behind everyday experience in the material world, there are many passages that betray the influence of Spanish culture of the thirteenth century and were likely written at that time by De Leon.

The influence of the Kabbalah on mystical Judaism, as well the European alchemists, scholars, and philosophers of the Middle Ages, was powerful and all pervasive, and the text remained a source of strength and inspiration to seekers of enlightenment for many centuries. As the influence of the Christian Church grew stronger throughout all of Europe, the Kabbalah and those who taught its mysteries retreated into the shadows of universities and libraries; and for many scholars, the text was regarded as one of the esoteric and sometimes forbidden hidden works of ancient wisdom. In the twentieth century, Carl G. Jung (18751961) introduced the Kabbalah to the psychotherapeutic community and spoke highly of its value in achieving a sense of wholeness with the universe.

Study of the Kabbalah underwent a dramatic rebirth of interest in the 1960s when there was both a resurgence of Jewish spirituality and an interest in the mystic teachings of the Kabbalah by many individuals in the New Age Movement. The appeal of the Kabbalistic teachings to those seekers in the New Age lay to a great extent in the understanding that God's essence may emanate through various realms of existence and that each human may draw from that supreme power to help bring the act of creation to its final perfect state. Many Kabbalistic groups sprang up around the country utilizing the ancient teachings to assist their members to achieve deeper states of meditation, to accomplish healings of themselves and others, and to reach higher levels of mystical insight.

Delving Deeper

Berg, Yehuda. The Power of Kabbalah. San Diego, Calif.: Jodere Group, 2002.

Kaplan, Aryeh. Meditation and Kabbalah. New York: Weiser, 1989.

Scholem, Gershom. Kabbalah. New York: Penguin Group, 1978.

Spence, Lewis. Encyclopedia of Occultism. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1960.

Unterman, Alan. Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend. New York: Thams and Hudson, 1991.

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kabbalah

kabbalah or cabala (both: kăb´ələ) [Heb.,=reception], esoteric system of interpretation of the Scriptures based upon a tradition claimed to have been handed down orally from Abraham. Despite that claimed antiquity, the system appears to have been given its earliest formulation in the 11th cent. in France, and from there spread most notably to Spain. There were undoubtedly precedents, however; kabbalistic elements are discernible in the literature of earlier Merkavah mysticism (fl. after c.AD 100) inspired by the vision of the chariot-throne ( "merkavah" ) in the Book of Ezekiel. Beyond the specifically Jewish notions contained within the kabbalah, some scholars believe that it reflects a strong Neoplatonic influence, especially in its doctrines of emanation and the transmigration of souls (see Neoplatonism). In the late 15th and 16th cent., Christian thinkers found support in the kabbalah for their own doctrines, out of which they developed a Christian version. Kabbalistic interpretation of Scripture was based on the belief that every word, letter, number, and even accent contained mysteries interpretable by those who knew the secret. The names for God were believed to contain miraculous power and each letter of the divine name was considered potent; kabbalistic signs and writings were used as amulets and in magical practices.

The two principal sources of the kabbalists are the Sefer Yezirah (tr. Book of Creation, 1894) and the Zohar (tr. 1949; The Book of Enlightenment, 1985; The Book of Splendor, 1995). The first develops, in a series of monologues supposedly delivered by Abraham, the doctrine of the Sefirot (the powers emanating from God, through which the world is created and its order sustained), using the primordial numbers of the later Pythagoreans in a system of numerical interpretation. It was probably written in the 3d cent. The Zohar consists of mystical commentaries and homilies on the Pentateuch. It was written by Moses de León (13th cent.) but attributed by him to Simon ben Yohai, the great scholar of the 2d cent. AD Following the expulsion (1492) of the Jews from Spain, kabbalah became more messianic in its emphasis, as developed by the Lurianic school of mystics at Safed, Palestine. Kabbalah in this form was widely adopted and created fertile gound for the movement of the pseudo-Messiah Sabbatai Zevi. It was also a major influence in the development of Hasidism. Kabbalah still has adherents, especially among Hasidic Jews.

See G. Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (1965) and Kabbalah (1974); H. Weiner, Nine and One Half Mystics: The Kabbalah Today (1969); J. Dan and F. Talmage, ed., Studies in Jewish Mysticism (1982); M. Idel, Kabbalah (1988); D. Rosenberg, Dreams of Being Eaten Alive: The Literary Core of the Kabbalah (2000).

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"kabbalah." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Kabbalah

Kabbalah or Qabbalah. Teachings of Jewish mystics. The term encompasses all the esoteric teachings of Judaism which evolved from the time of the second Temple. More particularly, it refers to those forms which evolved in the Middle Ages. Kabbalah draws on the awareness of the transcendence of God, and yet of his immanence (e.g., through Sefirot). God can most closely be perceived through contemplation and illumination. God both conceals and reveals himself. Through speculation and revelation, the hidden life of God and his relationship with his creation can be more nearly understood. Because mystical knowledge can so easily be misinterpreted its spread should be limited to those of a certain age and level of learning.

Although the influence of kabbalah was limited in the area of halakhah, the kabbalists created fresh aggadic material and completely reinterpreted much early midrashic aggadot. The classic anthology of kabbalistic aggadah is Reuben Hoeshke's Yalkut Re'uveni (1660). Kabbalistic teaching and motifs entered the various prayer books and thus spread to every diaspora community. Popular customs were also affected by kabbalah, and kabbalistic ideas were absorbed as folk beliefs. These customs and beliefs were described by Jacob Zemah in Shulḥan Arukh ha-Ari (1661). Popular ethics were also influenced by kabbalism, as is evidenced by such works as Elijah de Vidas' Reshit Hokhmah (1579). From the 15th cent., attempts were made to harmonize kabbalistic ideas with Christian doctrines, and, although this tendency was derided by the Jewish kabbalists, it did serve to spread kabbalah beyond the Jewish community. K. von Rosenroth's version of kabbalah texts (Kabbala Denudata, 1677–84) led the way to a popular appropriation of kabbalah outside Judaism, at least in Theosophy.

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"Kabbalah." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Kabbalah

Kab·ba·lah / ˈkabələ; kəˈbä-/ (also Kab·ba·la, Ca·ba·la, Cab·ba·la, or Qa·ba·lah) • n. the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible, first transmitted orally and using esoteric methods (including ciphers). It reached the height of its influence in the later Middle Ages and remains significant in Hasidism. DERIVATIVES: Kab·ba·lism / ˈkabəˌlizəm/ n.Kab·ba·list / -list/ n.Kab·ba·lis·tic / ˌkabəˈlistik/ adj.

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"Kabbalah." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Kabbalah

Kabbalah the ancient Jewish tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible, first transmitted orally and using esoteric methods (including ciphers). It reached the height of its influence in the later Middle Ages and remains significant in Hasidism.

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"Kabbalah." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/kabbalah