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Word from the Hebrew, kabbalah, which signifies "reception, transmission"; used in the Talmud in the sense of "tradition." Also designates the body of Jewish mystical and esoteric commentaries on biblical writings and their oral tradition. With roots in the period of the Second Temple (first century C.E.), Kabbalah, from the thirteenth century on, developed into a distinct doctrine. The basic idea of this mystical teaching, composed in Aramaic, was to attain to knowledge of the infinite based on an analysis of the finite through all of its elements. Born from this principle was Gematria, a branch of numerology that allows an interpretation of the meaning hidden in each word and letter of the Torah. Cabalistic mysticism, based on ecstasy and meditation, exerted a great influence in the Jewish world and also on Christianity during the Renaissance. The significance of the messianic idea in Cabala was emphasized by Isaac Luria (1534–1572), called Ari the Lion. The great schools of Kabbalah were in Provence, France, in the twelfth century; Gerona, Spain, in the thirteenth century; and Safed, Palestine, in the sixteenth century.

SEE ALSO Christianity;Hebrew;Talmud;Torah.