The Truth about Kabbalah (Part 1)

The Truth about Kabbalah
By
James Scott Trimm
Part 1

There have been many broad sweeping attacks made on “Kabbalah” in the Hebraic Roots Community.   The problem is that many of those who attack Kabbalah really do not know that much about it.  This is complicated by the fact there are many things out there being called “Kabbalah” (sometimes spelled “Cabala” or “Qabala” or some other variation) which are not true Jewish Kabbalah, and this has created a good deal of misinformation on the topic as well.

The truth is that many Orthodox Rabbis who have come to know Yeshua as the Messiah, have come to their conclusions largely through Kabbalah.

In 1665 Jewish Kabbalist Solomon Meir Ben Moses accepted Yeshua as the Messiah when using Kabbalitic methods, he found a series of messages embedded in the first word of the Torah pointing to Yeshua as the Messiah.

In the 19th Century Rabbi Tzivi Nasi, an Orthodox Rabbi from Poland accepted Messiah and wrote a book called The Great Mystery: How Can Three Be One? Showing the Messiah as the incarnate Word, the Son of Yah and the Middle Pillar of the Godhead in the Zohar and other Kabbalistic texts.
(this book is available at http://nazarenespace.com/page/books-dvds )

In the 1980’s my old mentor Rabbi Moyal, an Orthodox Rabbi from Israel accepted Yeshua as the Messiah based largely on material he found in the Zohar.
(see http://nazarenespace.com/profiles/blogs/testimony-of-rabbi-moyal )

Until his death in 2006 Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri was one of the most renowned Mizrahi Haredi rabbis and kabbalists in Israel.  He was known as “The Elder Kabbalist.”  In January 2006, Rabbi Kaduri was hospitalized with pneumonia in the Bikur Holim hospital in Jerusalem, where there wasn’t an authomatic artificial respirator, which was donated by a close person. He died at around 10 p.m. on January 28, 2006 (29 Tevet 5766). He was alert and lucid until his last day.  An estimated 300,000 people took part in his funeral procession on January 29, which started from the Nachalat Yitzchak Yeshivah and wound its way through the streets of Jerusalem to the Givat Shaul cemetery near the entrance to the city of Jerusalem.  In 1908 Kaduri received a blessing by Yosef Chaim (Yoseph Ḥayyim) (1 September 1832 – 30 August 1909) who was a leading hakham (Sephardic Rabbi), authority on Jewish law (Halakha) and Master Kabbalist, that before his death Kaduri would see the Messiah. In a 1990 meeting with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the last Rebbe of the Lubavitch movement, Schneerson also spoke a blessing to Kaduri that Kaduri would not pass from this world until he met the Messiah.  These blessings was fulfilled on 9 Cheshvan 5764 (4 November 2003) in a mystical vision when Kaduri spoke with the Messiah and the Messiah revealed His name to Kaduri. Kaduri later told his disciples that the revealed name of the Messiah would be found hidden among his writings.  Shortly before his death Rabbi Kaduri wrote a short note with instructions not to open until one year after his death. The note was penned in Hebrew and signed in the rabbi’s name. It read:

בעניין הר”ת [ראשי תיבות, ע.י.] של משיח. ירים העם ויוכיח שדברו ותורתו עומדים. באתי על החתום בחודש הרחמים [אלול, ע.י] התשס”ה,

יצחק כדורי

Concerning the letter abbreviation of the Messiah’s name, He will lift the people and prove that His Word and His Torah are valid.

This I have signed in the month of mercy (Elul),
Yitzhak Kaduri

The first letter of each word in the phrase in Hebrew spells Yahushua or in modern pronunciation Yehoshua, the long form of the name Yeshua.
(see: http://nazarenespace.com/xn/detail/2182335:BlogPost:162423 )

It was the Kabbalah that led each of these Orthodox Rabbis to Yeshua as the Messiah.

The Four Levels of the Oral Law

In a previous article I have shown that Moshe received not only the Written Torah on Mount Sinai, but an Oral Torah as well.  (see: http://nazarenespace.com/page/nazarenes-and-the-oral-law )  The Oral Torah may be thought of as having four layers: The Pashat (the basic level); the Remez (the implied level); The Drash (the allegorical or homiletical level) and the Sod (the hidden, mystical or secret level).

As we dig deeper into the Torah we peal back these layers, each one getting deeper and more intense, like the layers of an onion.

In the Rabbinic literature the Mishna represents the Pashat level.  The Talmud (the Gemara) contains the implied level, inferring from the Mishna.  The Midrashim contain the allegorical or homiletical level.  Finally the Zohar contains the Sod level.  For this reason it is said that the Kabbalah is “The Soul of the Torah”.

The Kabbalah is not a book, it is an area of knowledge.  It is the Sod level of the Oral Law.  Just as the Talmud deals with the area of halacha (customs and practices), the Midrashim deal largely with Aggada (narrative material) the Zohar contains the Kabbalah.

The Mystery of Elohim

Now the minute the word “mysticism” is used, many people panic.  The word “mysticism” derives from the word “mystery.”  In this case the reference is to what Paul calls the “mystery of Eloah” (1Cor. 2:1).

1 My brothers, when I came to you, I declared to you the mystery of Eloah; not with
great words or with wisdom.
2 And I did not judge my nefesh among you, as though I knew a thing, except Yeshua
the Messiah, and also His being crucified.
3 And I was with you in much fear and in trembling.
4 And my words and my proclaiming was not by persuasion of words of wisdom, but by
demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5 That your trust would not be by the wisdom of the sons of men, but by the power of
Eloah.
6 Now we speak wisdom among the mature; not the wisdom of this world, nor of the
authorities of this world who come to naught:
7 But we speak the wisdom of Eloah in a mystery that was hidden, and [that] Eloah had
before separated, from before the ages; for our glory,
8 That not one, of the authorities of this world knew: for if they had known it, they
would not have crucified the Adon of glory.
9 But as it is written, The eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard, and into the
heart of a son of man has not entered … that which Eloah has prepared for those
who love Him. (Isaiah 52:15; 64:3 (4))
10 But Eloah has revealed [it] to us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searches into everything,
even the deep things of Eloah.
11 For who is the Son of Man who knows what is in a son of man except the Spirit of the
Son of Man that [is] in him? So also, that which is in Eloah no man knows, except the
Spirit of Eloah.
12 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from Eloah, so
that we might know the gifts that were given to us from Eloah,
13 Which also we speak, not in the teaching of words of the wisdom of sons of men, but
in the teaching of the Spirit, and to spiritual men we compare spiritual things.
14 For the son of man who is in the nefesh, does not receive spiritual things, for they are
foolishness to him, and he is not able to know that which is judged spiritually.
15 Now the spiritual man judges all things, and is not judged from man.
16 For who knows the mind of YHWH that he might instruct Him? (Isaiah 40:13; Wisdom 9:13) But we have the
mind of the Messiah.
(1Cor. 2:1-16 HRV)

In verse 9 Paul quotes from the Prophet Isaiah who writes:

And whereof from of old men have not heard,
nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen
an Elohim beside You, who works for him that
waits for Him.
(Is. 64:3(4))

There is a Baraita (a pre-talmudic tradition of the oral law which was not incorporated in the Mishnah) on this verse that appears twice in the Talmud once in the Midrash Rabbah and four times in the Zohar.  The following is the Baraita as it appears in the Talmud:

What is the meaning of “Eye has not seen” (Is. 64:3)
Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said:
This is the wine that has been kept
in its grapes from the six days in the beginning.
(b.Berakot 34b; b.Sanhedrin 99a)

The phrase “wine that has been kept” in the Hebrew is Yayin HaMeshumar “wine of keeping”. The tradition of the Yayin HaMeshumar runs deep in traditional Judaism. It is the wine that will be served at the Messianic Feast when the Messiah re-establishes the Kingdom of Israel on earth.

In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul also quotes, or perhaps we should better say paraphrases Is. 64:3(4) as follows:

But as it is written:
The eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard,
and into the heart of a son of man has not entered
that which Eloah had prepared for those who love Him.
(1Cor. 2:9 HRV)

Note that Paul’s citation is influenced by the Baraita as the actual text of Isaiah says that “eye has not seen… an Elohim beside you” but Paul says “Eye has not seen… that which Eloah has prepared for those who love Him.” And the Baraita has “Eye has not seen… the wine which has been kept…”.

Now lets look at Paul’s quote in context:

But we speak the wisdom of Eloah
in a mystery that was hidden
And [that] Eloah had before separated
from before the ages for our glory.
That not one of the authorities of this world knew,
for if they had known it,
they would not have crucified the Adon of glory.
But as it is written:
The eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard,
and into the heart of a son of man has not entered
that which Eloah had prepared for those who love Him.
(1Cor. 2:7-9 HRV)

When we look at Paul’s context we see an even greater influence from the Baraita of the Yayin HaMeshumar “…a mystery that was hidden and that Eloah had before separated from before the ages… eye has not seen… that which Eloah has prepared for those who love Him.”

It is clear that Paul here must be referring to the Yayin HaMeshumar as his audience is, no doubt, familiar with this Baraita to Is. 64:3.

Likewise the Zohar says:

The Tzadik (The Righteous) is the Yesod (foundation) in Yah,
the mystery (SOD) which is the wine which has been kept
in its grapes from the six days in the beginning.
(Zohar; Roeh M’haimna on Pinchas)

There is a clear connection here because SOD (“mystery”) has a gematria (numerical value) of 70 which is also the gematria of YAYIN (“wine”). Just as the Zohar identifies the “mystery” with the Yayin HaMeshumar, so does Paul in 1Corinthians.

For more on the Yayin HaMeshuamar see http://nazarenespace.com/profiles/blogs/the-yayin-hameshumar-the-wine )

Hermetic Cabala vs. Jewish Kabbalah

Not everything that is called Kabbalah is true Jewish Kabbalah.  It is important to distinguish true Jewish Kabbalah from so-called Hermetic Kabbalah (often spelled Hermetic Cabala or Hermetic Qabbala) arose in the 1500’s.  It grew out of a movement known as Christian Cabala that arose in the 1500’s during the renaissance when certain Christian scholars sought to combine Jewish Kabbalah with Christian mysticism.  Some of these Christian mystics also sought to combine pagan Hermeticism.  Hermeticism is a pagan occult teaching based on the alleged teachings of Hermes known to the Egyptians as “Thoth.”

Hermetic Cabala is not to be confused with Jewish Kabbalah they are clearly two very different things.  For example one Hermetic Cabbalist writes:

…in devout Jewish circles in which Cabala had its origins,
involved using the idea of the symbolic alphabet as a way to
interpret the holy books of Judaism…. This belief can still
be found today in Cabalistic circles within orthodox Judaism,
but the main current of the magical Cabalistic tradition [Hermetic
Cabala] passed long ago beyond dogmatic reliance on any
one traditional set of Scriptures.
(Paths of Wisdom; Principles of the Practice of Magical Cabala
in the Western Tradition; John Michael Greer p. 21-22)

Any attempt to discredit Jewish Kabbalah because of the occult connections of Hermetic Cabala is dishonest to the highest degree.  Hermetic Cabala is not rooted in Jewish Kabbalah, it departs from Jewish Kabbalah almost entirely.  It is rooted in Gentile Christian Cabala and Pagan Hermeticism.  Seeking to discredit Jewish Kabbalah because of the occultism of Hermetic Cabala is like trying to discredit Yeshua because of the pagan origins of Christmas.

Practical Kabbalah

The next issue to discuss is to attack so-called “occultism” in Jewish Kabbalah, especially that area of Jewish Kabbalah known as “Practical Kabbalah”.  Some have wrongly associated “Practical Kabbalah” with sorcery and witchcraft.

In fact sorcery, necromancy and the use of unholy Names, are prohibited in Kabbalah.  Learning about these matters was not prohibited.  In fact, at times it is helpful information in combating the forces of evil.  Unfortunately, because information on these matters was at times included in books with information on acceptable, practical Kabbalah, some Gentiles mistakenly grouped them all together giving Kabbalah in general a negative reputation among the Gentiles.

Manifestations of the Ruach

One of the areas of true practical Kabbalah is that which Paul calls the “manifestations of the Ruach” (1Cor. 12).  Among these manifestations is the “working of miracles.”  It has been pointed out that one man’s “miracle” is another man’s “sorcery”.  For example the Talmud and the Toldot Yeshu both characterize Yeshua’s miracles as “sorcery” and Christians since the middle ages have also often characterized Jewish Practical Kabbalah as “witchcraft”.

It is important to distinguish “Practical Kabbalah” and the “manifestations of the Spirit” from “Witchcraft” or “Sorcery”.  Terms like “Magician”, “witch”, and “sorcerer” are generally ascribed to those who make use of unholy names (names of demons, pagan gods) or engage in other harmful practices. In Exodus we read, “You shall not tolerate a sorceress to live.” (22:17).

The use of Names of Elohim and divine invocation, on the other hand, is thought of as being a higher class of activity.  Practices, which invoke Elohim or other supernatural aid (such as angels) and/or use true sacred Names are permitted as “miracles”.

True practical Kabbalah deals with the manifestations of the Ruach and not witchcraft of Sorcery which the true Jewish Kabbalah actually forbids.

The Zohar Says….

Those who attack the Kabbalah often do so by quoting or citing something from the Zohar which they find objectionable.  There are a number of reasons that this kind of attack is unwarranted.

The Zohar is to Kabbalah what the Talmud is to Halacha.  One may cite or quote things from the Talmud that we as Nazarenes would not agree with, but that does not negate truth of the concept of the Oral Law.  The Talmud is simply the Rabbinic account of the Oral Law.  In the same way the Zohar is the Rabbinic account of the Kabbalah, and there may well be material in the Zohar that we as Nazarenes would disagree with, just as there is material in the Talmud we would disagree with.

Another problem with these kinds of attacks is that the Zohar, like the Talmud, includes debates and discussions by the Rabbis on the subjects it covers.  Like the Talmud, the Zohar often presents contradictory and opposing views, and both minority and majority views in its own text.

Finally the Zohar often contains information that is intended to be understood as symbolic.  Critics often misrepresent this material in a literal manner which it was not intended to be understood.

Kabbalah is Gnot Gnosticism

Another reason that is often used to attack Kabbalah is an alleged connection to Gnosticism, in fact one source goes so far as to call Kabbalah “Jewish Gnosticism”.

Of course “Gnosticism” actually comes from the Greek word Gnosis (Knowledge) and actually means “knowledge-ism”.  Of course there is nothing wrong with knowledge, as we read in Hosea:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge
I will also reject you, that you shall be no cohen to Me: seeing you have forgotten the law
of your Elohim, I also will forget your children.
(Hosea 4:6 HRV)

However when the term Gnosticsim is used it generally refers to the modern scholarly term used to describe a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices that were found among some of the early Christian groups called “gnostic” (“learned”) by Irenaeus and other early Christian “Church Fathers.”

Anyone who knows and understands the elements of Gnosticism could never confuse Kabbalah for Gnosticsim.  Sure, Christian Gnostics were influenced by Kabbalah, because their Nazarene Jewish forefathers had passed the teachings of Kabbalah down to them.  But there are very important differences between Kabbalah and Gnosicism.

An important characteristic of Gnosticsim was the teaching that the realization of Gnosis (esoteric or intuitive knowledge), is the way to salvation of the soul from the material world. They saw the material world as essentially evil and created through an intermediary being (demiurge) rather than directly by Elohim. In Gnosticsim this demiurge was seen as imperfect if not evil.

This is totally at odds with Kabbalah in which the Sefirot are aspects of Elohim who is the actual Creator and the creation itself is fundamentally good.  Moreover the Zohar teaches salvation trough the atonement of the Messiah:

In the Garden of Eden there is a hall that is called the
“hall of  the afflicted.” Now it is into this hall that
the Messiah goes and summons all the afflictions and pains
and sufferings of Israel to come upon him.  And so they all
come upon him. And had he not eased the children of Israel
of their sorrow, and taken their burden upon himself, there
would be none who could endure the suffering of Israel
in penalty of neglecting the Torah. Thus it is written:
“Surely our diseases he did bear and our pains he carried.”
(Is. 53:5) As long as the children of Israel dwelt in the
Holy Land, they averted all afflictions and sufferings from
the world by the service of the sanctuary and by sacrifice.
But now it is the Messiah who is averting them from the
habitants of the world.
(Zohar 2:212a)

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