Kabbalah is the esoteric or occultic (secret) teaching of ancient Jewish rabbis. It borrows heavily from pagan occultism, such as astrology and numerology.
It is supposed to be a third or “hidden” Torah (“Torat Ha-Nistar”) that was revealed to Moses, together with the Torah (Pentateuch) and the Mishnah (Talmud).
It is based on an allegorical interpretation of Scripture that finds secret and “inner” meanings in the words and even letters of Scripture.
Kabbalah is founded especially on esoteric interpretations of the days and events of creation in Genesis 1 and the visions of God’s fiery chariot in Ezekiel 1.
The founder of Kabbalah was Shimon Bar Yochai.
“Rabbi Shimon was a Midrashic rabbi of the third century C.E. He is frequently quoted in the Talmud (commentaries of Jewish Law) as a revered expert who was highly regarded by the scholars of the day. Rabbi Shimon spoke out against the Roman rulers, and they decreed a death sentence against him. Together with his son, Elazar, Rabbi Bar Yochai fled to a cave in the town of Peki'in [near Meron in northern Israel], and there they hid for 4 years, nourished, legend tells, by a carob tree that grew at the entrance to the cave. While in hiding, Jews believe, Rabbi Shimon was visited by God’s Divine Inspiration, which taught him the secrets of Jewish mysticism, the Kabbalah. Kabbalah means ‘to receive’ and one who studies Kabbalah receives the wisdom of the secrets which are hidden in the Torah, the Five Books of Moses. Understanding these secrets allows one, it is believed, to strengthen one’s relationship with God and with one’s fellow man. After the Romans reversed their death decree against him, Rabbi Shimon left his cave and traveled throughout the area, teaching the secrets of Jewish mysticism that he had learned while in hiding” (“Meron: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai,” www.safed.co.il).
Kabbalists believe that Shimon Bar Yochai wrote the Zohar, which means “the Shining,” and which is the basis of Kabbalah study. Zohar is a Hebrew word that is translated “brightness” in Ezekiel 8:2 and “shine” in Daniel 12:3. The Zohar was first published in Spain in the 13th century by Moses de Leon, who ascribed it to Bar Yochai.
Other prominent Kabbalah teachers include the following:
Isaac the Blind (1160-1235)
Moshe ben Nachman (Nahmanides or the Ramban) (1194-1270), Isaac’s disciple
Bahya ben Asher (the Rabbeinu Behaye) (d. 1340)
Isaac Luria Ashkenazi (1534-1572)
Yosef ben Ephraim Karo (1488-1575), author of Shulchan Arukh
Shlomo Alkabetz (1500-1580), author of Lekhah Dodi
Moses ben Jacob Cordovero (1522-1570), author of Pardes Rimonim
Eliyahu De Vidas (1518-1592), author of Reishit Chochma
Judah Loew ben Bezalel (1525-1609)
Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676)
Israel ben Eliezer Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760) (“the Besht”), founder of Hasidic Judaism
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746)
Elijah of Vilna (1720-1797)
Shalom Sharabi (1720-1777)
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810)
Ben Ish Chai (1832-1909)
Yehuda Ashlag (1885-1954)
Other influential Kabbalah texts are Talmud Eser Sefirot and HaSulam (The Ladder) by Yehuda Ashlag, Etz Chayim (Tree of Life), Sefer Yetzirah, Bahir, Sefer Raziel HaMalakah, and Nefesh HaChaim.
There is no one official or “right” Kabbalah teaching. It consists of a bewildering variety of doctrine and practice.
The very nature of Kabbalah as an esoteric or secret teaching and as a mystical path (with an emphasis on intuition and feeling rather than thinking) means it is abstract and complex, with multiple possible interpretations.
This lack of absolute authority and the freedom to personalize one’s own Kabbalah has popularized it with American entertainers such as Madonna, Britney Spears, Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore, and Ashton Kutcher. The Kabbalah Centre International claimed 90,000 active members in 2003. This is an American pop form of Kabbalah that has been condemned by some rabbis.
A 2014 report in England said that “Kabbalah is fast becoming the preferred religion of the one percent” (“Soul business: why London’s wealthiest are turning to Kabbalah,” Evening Standard, April 4, 2014).
The emphasis of Kabbalah is on cleaving to and being one with God, but the personal God of Scripture is replaced with Ein Sof, an impersonal omnipotent energy and infinite wisdom, “the divine infinity.” As in gnosticism, this unknowable God is only encountered through emanations, known as Partzufim (divine “faces”) and Ohr (the flow of spiritual light). Emanations include angels and the names of God.
The panentheistic view is emphasized in Hasidic (Chassidic) Judaism, a prominent Kabbalah sect. It was founded in Poland by Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer in the 18th century. He is called Baal Shem Tov, meaning “Master of the Good Name.” He is also called the Besht, which is an acronym of his name. He believed that “the whole universe, mind and matter, is a manifestation of God.” The universe is “suffused with God.” He taught that “whoever does not believe that God resides in all things, but separates God and them in his thoughts, has not the right conception of God” (“Baal Shem Tov,” Wikipedia).
For a sample of Kabbalah teaching on God, consider the following statement from the Zohar’s comments on Genesis 1:
“At the very beginning the King made engravings in the supernal purity. A spark of blackness emerged in the sealed within the sealed, from the mystery of the Ayn Sof, a mist within matter, implanted in a ring, no white, no black, no red, no yellow, no colour at all. When He measured with the standard of measure, He made colours to provide light. Within the spark, in the innermost part, emerged a source, from which the colours are painted below; it is sealed among the sealed things of the mystery of Ayn Sof. It penetrated, yet did not penetrate, its air. It was not known at all until, from the pressure of its penetration, a single point shone, sealed, supernal. Beyond this point nothing is known, so it is called reishit (beginning): the first word of all...” (Zohar I, 15a, English translation from Jewish Mysticism--An Anthology, Dan Cohn-Sherbok, pp. 120-121).
If you don’t understand this paragraph, you are not alone. There is no logical meaning. The words of Kaballah can mean anything and nothing.
The goal of Kabbalism is a mystical union with God or an “experience of personal awe of God.”
It is a vain attempt to know God apart from the atonement of Jesus the Christ, by which alone the sinner can be reconciled with the holy Creator.
Kabbala teaches that the human soul has three parts: nefesh, ruach, and neshamah. The nefesh exists from birth, but the other two must be developed through spiritual awakening by Kabbalah beliefs and practices. The neshamah is achieved when the soul is in union with God.
Kabbalah’s union with God is accomplished through a wide variety of rituals and endeavors, including prayer rituals and bodily movements, asceticism, seclusion, meditation, moralism, washings, dancing, giving, communal living, keeping rabbinic tradition, and practicing happiness.
For example, Isaac Ashkenazi Luria, one of most influential of Kabbalist teachers (d. 1572) left his wife and children and became a recluse, living on the banks of the Nile for seven years and devoting himself to meditation. He visited his family only on the sabbath but did not speak to them. Luria then moved to Safed in northern Israel and taught his Kabbalist principles. His chief disciple was Hayyim Vital, who Luria considered a pure soul “which had not been soiled by Adam’s sin” (“Isaac ben Solomon Ashkenazi Luria,” Jewish Encyclopedia).
Baal Shem Tov emphasized “living in the moment” by being aware of the presence of God at all times and in all activities. This is similar to Buddhism.
The “72-fold name of God,” derived from an allegorical, esoteric interpretation of Exodus 14, is used as an incantation and invocation. It was supposed to have been used by Moses to cross the Red Sea and can “control demons, heal the sick, prevent natural disasters, even kill enemies.”
The Kabbalah Centre sells a red string that is thought to promote well-being and bring protection and blessing and bottled water that supposedly absorbs the Torah’s “holy energy” when it is read and imparts this power to the consumer.
The color blue is especially important in Kabbalah. The tombs of revered Kabbalah rabbis in and around Mt. Meron are marked with blue paint. This signifies various things such as mystical regions of heaven and levels of reincarnation.
Some aspects of Kabbalah are purely occultic. “Practical Kabbalah properly involved white-magical acts.” There are incantations, invocations, enchantments, amulets and seals with secret names used to protect from evil influences (such as Lilith, the supposed first wife of Adam) and magic rituals (e.g., “making circles to circumscribe the spirits, gouging out cocks’ eyes, skinning lambs and throwing the blood around to incantations to bring up the ghosts of the departed”).
Hasidic Judaism, which is Kabbalistic, focuses on a strong leader known as the Tzaddiq (“the righteous one”), Admor (“master or teacher”), and Rebbe (same as rabbi).
It is divided into sects known as “courts,” each headed by a hereditary leader to whom submission is owed. “Reverence and submission to the Rebbe are key tenets, as he is considered a spiritual authority with whom the follower must bond to gain closeness to God” (“Hasidic Judaism,” Wikipedia).
On the sabbath, many of the courts have a feast for the male disciples during which they sing, dance, eat, and hear a sermon by the rebbe. A chozer (“repeater”), who is selected for his good memory, writes down the text of the sermon at the end of the sabbath, such actions are forbidden on the sabbath itself by Hasidic tradition.
There have been violent disputes between the various Hasidic courts. For example, after Yissachar Dov Rokeach II broke with the Orthodox Council of Jerusalem in 1980, he had to travel in a bulletproof car for protection. And the 2006 dispute between brothers Aaron Teitelbaqum and Zalman Teitelbaum resulted in mass riots.
Hasidic Jewish men wear long beards and locks of hair hanging down from their temples. The custom of keeping long sidelocks is called payot, the Hebrew word translated “corners” in Leviticus 19:27. “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.” But the context of this commandment is separation from idolatrous practices. See verses 26-28. The Israelites were tempted to follow the practice of the Egyptians and Canaanites and other pagans who wore hair styles reflecting various idolatrous beliefs. “It seems probable that this fashion has been learned by the Israelites in Egypt, for the ancient Egyptians had their dark locks cropped short or shaved with great nicety, so that what remained on the crown appeared in the form of a circle surrounding the head, while the beard was dressed into a square form. This kind of coiffure had a highly idolatrous meaning; and it was adopted, with some slight variations, by almost all idolaters in ancient times. Frequently a lock or tuft of hair was left on the hinder part of the head, the rest being cut round in the form of a ring, as the Turks, Chinese, and Hindus do at the present day” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown).
Hasidic married women wear headscarfs, hats, or wigs to hide their hair in public. They dress modestly, but not in a proscribed uniform like the Amish. The modesty emphasizes long skirts with stockings, long sleeves past the elbow, covered necklines, loose clothing rather than tight.
In Hasidic, Haredi, and Yemenite Judaism, following Kabbalistic tradition, the prohibition against adopting pagan hair styles has lost its biblical meaning and has devolved into a vain tradition and a distinctive hair style in itself. The rounding off of the corners of the head is interpreted as the hair between the front of the ears to the temples (the sideburns), and this area of hair is grown out, but there are different styles of payot in different sects. Some have short payot. Some never cut them. Some curl them. Some wrap the payot around their ears. Talmudic Rabbi Samson Hirsch taught that the payot signify separation between the front part of the brain, the intellectual, from the rear part of the brain, the sensual. The wearer of peyot thus makes a statement that he is keeping these things separate and in their right place.
On the sabbath and Jewish holidays, Hasidic Jews wear large fur hats called shtreimel. Different sects wear different styles of hats. In some sects only married men wear the shtreimel, while in others males after the age of Bar Mitzvah wear them. The shtreimel is worn over a kippah or yarmulke, and the double head covering is considered to multiply spiritual merit. The schtreimel is typically made from the tips of the tails of sable, marten, or grey fox. There is a Kabbalistic mystical meaning to the number of tails used in its manufacture. For example, 13 furs is supposed to correspond to the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, and 42 is supposed to correspond to the 42 letters of a mystical way of counting the letters in God’s name. It is supposedly formed from the first letters of the first words of the Torah as well as from the name of God in Exodus 3:14, HAYAH HAYAH (“I am that I am”). By a Kabbalistic formula, the numerical value of the four letters of the Hebrew word hayah is 21, and hayah repeated twice equals 42. All of these things are thought to have spiritual power.
Male Hasidic Jews wear a bekishe or kapoteh on sabbath and Jewish holidays. This is a long coat, usually black, made of silk, wool, or polyester. The kapoteh has four buttons in the front (instead of six for the bekishe) and has a slit in the back.
Hasidic Jews take the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” seriously, with the average Hasidic family having eight children.
Hasidic Judaism has been a hotbed of Messianic aspirations. Some of the Rebbes, such as Shabbethai Tzvi and Nachman of Breslov, have been considered Messiahs.
Kabbalism is said to have appeared in the Middle Ages, particularly in southern Spain in the 12th to 13th centuries, but evidence of pagan influence upon Judaism appeared in the early centuries after Christ and can be seen in the ruins of ancient synagogues.
The Greek sun god riding his four-horse chariot in the center of a pagan zodiac was found in mosaics in the ancient synagogues at Tiberias, Zippori, and Bet Alfa.
Some of the synagogues had images of the Medusa, a monster from Greek mythology who had serpents for hair and could turn people to stone. Medusa images were used as good luck talismans. The Medusa image from the synagogue at Yafia near Nazareth is in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, and the one from the synagogue of Chorizin can still be seen in the ruins of the city.
Even the Talmud itself warns of the spiritual danger of Kabbalah. Hagigah 2:1 instructs rabbis to teach these doctrines to one student at a time. Hagigah 14b of the Babylonian Talmud contains the following legend by way of warning:
“Four men entered pardes [paradise]--Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher [Elisha ben Abuyah], and Akiba. Ben Azzai looked and died; Ben Zoma looked and went mad; Acher destroyed the plants; Akiba entered in peace and departed in peace.”
The geographic focus of Kabbalah is Mt. Meron in northern Israel, where Hillel the Elder, Shammai, Shimon Bar Yochai and other influential rabbis are buried.
Hillel (c. 110 BC - AD 10) was one of the founders of the Pharisees. He was the grandfather of Gamaliel (died AD c. 52), the most prominent Pharisee of Jesus’ day (Acts 5:34) who trained the apostle Paul (Acts 22:3).
Shammai (50 BC - AD 30) was another prominent rabbi among the Pharisees. Hillel and Shammai led two different parties, with Shammai being the stricter of the two.
Shimon Bar Yochai, as we have seen, is the founder of Kabbalah and the supposed author of the Zohar.
Sephardic Jews settled in the area of Mt. Meron after being expelled from Spain in 1492 and built the town of Tzfat, which is called “the City of Kabbalah.”
Mt. Meron is a major Jewish pilgrimage site where practitioners go in search of “blessing” and “good fortune.”
“Hundreds of thousands of visitors come to visit the gravesite of Rabbi Shimon yearly. They come to pray, to beseech his spirit's intervention in the heavens for good health, to make a living, for a good marriage, peace in the home, and a variety of other requests that believers hope can be achieved by asking for the Tzaddik's, Righteous One's, intervention” (“Meron: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai,” www.safed.co.il).
On the anniversary of Shimon’s death, the day on which he was supposed to have revealed the deepest secrets of Kabbalah, called Lag BaOmer, an estimated 250,000 people visit Mt. Meron seeking blessing and mystical enlightenment. They believe that the burial place of the “holy rabbis” is especially steeped in shekinah power, and the deceased rabbi is considered by many to be a heavenly intercessor who can answer prayers.
Since the 16th century, it has been customary among Hasidic Jews to bring three-year-old boys to Mt. Meron for their first haircut. It is called upsherin (opsherin or upsherinish, Yiddish for “shear off”). (Skverrer Hasidim cut the boy’s hair on the second birthday.)
“In the Hasidic community, the custom marks the male child’s entry into the formal educational system and the commencement of Torah study. A yarmulke and tzitzis will now be worn, and the child will be taught to pray and read the Hebrew alphabet. So that Torah should be ‘sweet on the tongue,’ the Hebrew letters are covered with honey, and the children lick them as they read” (“Upsherin,” Wikipedia).
The custom is based on a mystical Kabbalah interpretation of Leviticus 19:23, which forbids the eating of fruit from a tree in its first three years.
We witnessed one of these ceremonies in March 2017. The father and grandfathers laid hands on the boy’s head and pronounced blessing on him before his hair was cut.
The above is excerpted from JEWS IN FIGHTER JETS: ISRAEL PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE, which is scheduled for publication in late 2017. This book covers the past 2,500 years of the history of the most amazing nation on earth, the only nation directly created by God and called by God “my people,” the nation to whom “were committed the oracles of God” and “of whom, as concerning the flesh Christ came” (Romans 3:2; 9:5). The author has been studying Israel for nearly 45 years and has visited Israel multiple times, traveling from the Red Sea to Mt. Hermon. For starters, we have traveled the entire length of the Jordan River, taken a boat entirely around the Sea of Galilee, observed the Plain of Megiddo from a hot air balloon, and gone to many places where tourists never go. We’ve interviewed Netafim engineers and Biobee representatives, toured banana, mango, and dairy farms, visited many of the kibbutzim and a great number of Israel’s museums. Israel is still in apostasy today, but her conversion is on the horizon. When I visit Israel, I feel as if the whole place is vibrating, as it were, in the anticipation of the fulfillment of prophecy. The stage is set! The book is divided into three major sections: ISRAEL PAST: 2,500 YEARS OF FULFILLED PROPHECY. This section covers the Assyrian captivity, the Babylonian captivity, the Syrian wars (the Maccabees), the Jewish-Roman wars (AD 70 and 135), the Diaspora, the Talmud, and Kaballah. ISRAEL PRESENT: THE MODERN STATE OF ISRAEL. This section covers the Ezekiel 37 prophecy of Israel’s return to the land in a spiritually-dead condition in preparation for the fulfillment of the last seven years of Daniel’s 70 Weeks. We cover the Zionist movement, the early kibbutzim, the Balfour Declaration, the fall of Palestine to Britain, the British Mandate, the Jewish Brigade, the Haganah, the founding of the state of Israel, the War of Independence, the Six-day War, the Yom Kippur War, the intifadas, Israel’s modern military, national development, and technological prowess, and the preparations for building the Third Temple. We deal with little-known things such as Talpoit, Yamas, Operation Opera, Operation Mole Cricket 19, Israel’s invention of drip irrigation, her massive desalinization plants using homegrown technology, and her homemade fighter jets. ISRAEL FUTURE: A PROPHETIC VIEW. This section covers false Messiahs, the Antichrist, the Third Temple, the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, the Two Witnesses, Gog and Magog, the battle of Armageddon, the conversion of Israel, the New Covenant, the Regathering, the Muslim nations in prophecy, the Millennial Temple, the river of life, and Christ’s glorious kingdom.
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