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Appendix One: Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Wisdom of Kabbalah?

What is Kabbalah?

Kabbalah is not theoretical research. It is a practical method intended to help us through every moment of our lives. Through Kabbalah, one discovers the future, the past, one’s attributes when he or she first descended into this world many lifetimes ago, and the distance one still needs to traverse.

Seeing “both ends of the rope,” Kabbalists understand what to do to benefit their lives and ours, and how best to do it. Kabbalists can also see the forces operating on them at any given moment in time, such as why one should marry a specific individual, or why one’s children behave as they do.

What is the wisdom of Kabbalah about?

The wisdom of Kabbalah encompasses the entire reality below the Creator: the worlds, everything within them, the descent of the soul to this world, and its return upwards. In other words, the wisdom of Kabbalah contains all of humanity’s states and situations.

All the worlds, including ours, stand one below the other. The Light emerges from the Creator and traverses all the worlds down to this world. Therefore, each element that is present in the world Adam Kadmon is also present in all the other worlds. Kabbalists define this relationship as “root and branch.”

In his essay, “The Essence of the Wisdom of Kabbalah,” Baal HaSulam defines the root and branch connection in the following way: “Thus, there is not an item of reality or an occurrence of reality found in a lower world that you will not find its likeness in the world above it, as identical as two drops in a pond, and they are called ‘Root and Branch.’ That means that that item, found in the lower world, is considered a branch of its pattern in the higher world, which is the root of the lower item, as this is where that item in the lower world was imprinted and made to be.”

We therefore see that every element and detail in this world, with all its connections, is also present in all the Upper Worlds, from Assiya to Adam Kadmon. The universe, Planet Earth, the still, vegetative, animate, and the speaking are all found in the worlds above this world, too. There is only one difference between the elements of this world and the elements of the Upper World: in the Upper Worlds, the elements are forces, and in our world, they are matter.

Using Kabbalah, we can attain the Upper Worlds and discover the forces that operate upon every item in this world. When we attain this level, we come to know the modes of behavior of every element of that world’s reality, its qualities, and the reason for its behavior. The wisdom of Kabbalah facilitates our ascension to the Upper World and permits us to observe every object’s behavior in our world from above.

What is the source of the name, The Book of Zohar?

Zohar means “radiance,” as it is written in The Book of Zohar: “The righteous sit with their crowns on their heads, and delight in the splendor of Divinity.” According to The Book of Zohar, the sensation of the Creator (the Light) is called “Divinity.” In any place where the books of Kabbalah say, “so it was written in the book…” they always refer to The Book of Zohar. All other books are seemingly not considered “books” because the word, “book,” (Sefer in Hebrew) comes from the word Sefira, which comes from the word “sapphire,” radiance, a revelation (of the Light, the Creator). And this is found only in The Book of Zohar.

Some people suffer their entire lives … why is this so and why is there suffering at all?

Everyone suffers all the time. Humanity in general has been suffering throughout its history. People lived, died, and never understood the actual reasons for their pain. The pain should accumulate and reach a certain level before we can discover the reasons for it, and who or what is responsible for it.

The wisdom of Kabbalah is a method that addresses the question of humanity’s suffering and how it can be resolved. As a whole, humankind has already accumulated enough pain to begin to ask about the reasons for it. In fact, this is why Kabbalists are now opening the wisdom of Kabbalah to everyone.

What Is Spirituality?

How do you discern between corporeal and spiritual?

Spiritual is that which is absolutely not “for me,” but only “for the Creator,” when the outcome of the act is not related in any way to the one who performs it, even indirectly.

What is the “point in the heart,” and do we all have it?

Every person has a point in the heart, but many people still don’t feel it because they haven’t “matured” or ripened enough to feel it. During our life cycles, we come to a situation where the point in the heart is revealed. In that state, we begin to feel a desire for spirituality, for the Upper One. This is called “the point in the heart.”

What is the difference between this world and the spiritual world?

This world is the lowest point that a Kabbalist attains. It is the total opposite of the Creator and is termed, “the exile in Egypt.” The natural power that works on us in this state, the power of our egoistic nature, doesn’t allow us to do anything if it isn’t for ourselves. This state is called “the state of Pharaoh.”

Our egoism doesn’t let us feel the sublime, perfect state. It is egoism, man’s inner and vicious force called “Pharaoh,” that the Torah (Pentateuch) speaks of at length. The force that liberates us from that state and admits us into the spiritual world is called “Moses.” Pharaoh, Moses, and everything that is written about the Exodus describe spiritual states and emotions that we all experience at some point in our spiritual growth.

The Revelation of the Creator

Does the Creator exist?

The Kabbalah is studied precisely in order to feel and see the Creator. Everyone will discover and experience Him. Only when we discover the Creator will we be truly able to say that He exists, because then we will know for ourselves.

Discovering the Creator is only possible according to the measure of equivalence of qualities with the Creator. If we could feel the Creator right now, we would be Kabbalists.

If Pharaoh had priests capable of doing what Moses did and even more, how can I know that the Creator is better than Pharaoh?

There is only one power: the Creator. He influences us in a variety of ways, using contradicting forces. In this way, He forms us, affecting us in various ways, generating diverse reactions. As a result, we develop an attitude toward the Light and toward the darkness, and we will ultimately understand of the meaning of giving and receiving.

The created desire in its entirety, which is equal to the Creator’s greatness, is called “Pharaoh.” When one is born, one receives only a small desire, and little by little discovers one’s inner Pharaoh. And to the extent that one can overcome Pharaoh, so does one ascend in spirituality.

The difference between the Creator and Pharaoh is not in their power, but in their goal. If it is “for myself,” it is Pharaoh; if it is for the Creator, it is the end of correction.

What is love?

Love is a consequence of equivalence of inner traits, meaning attributes. In Kabbalah, there is only one law: “the law of equivalence of form, attributes and desires.” If two spiritual objects are equal in their attributes, they unite. That does not mean that from two they have now become one, but rather, that they are as one. Everything that happens to one of them is immediately experienced in, and enriches, the other.

“Love” is that mutual sensation that two separate objects share between them, when there is absolute equality between them (be it two people, or the Creator and a person). Love is the sensation of equivalence of spiritual attributes. Remoteness of attributes and desires distances people from one another, even to the extent of hate.

Affinity of desires, thoughts and attributes (which is actually the same, because the attributes determine the thoughts and the desires), makes them draw near, love and understand one another. When one achieves that similarity of attributes with the Creator, one also discovers the Creator and loves Him. Kabbalah states that the greatest pleasure in the world is the sensation of equivalence of form with the Creator.

Kabbalah Is Not Mysticism

How does Kabbalah explain supernatural phenomena such as healing or out-of-body travels?

Kabbalah enables you to live in the spiritual world and in this world simultaneously. It helps you to feel, see, and understand your spiritual growth. By studying it, you will learn to see your past, present, and future, and you will know how to lead your life more wisely.

Supernatural phenomena are not spiritual. They are natural, physiological phenomena of which people remote from Nature are simply unaware. Kabbalah, however, speaks of a spiritual body, about what happens with the soul. In other words, Kabbalah speaks of one’s transformation from egoism to altruism—the nature of the Creator.

Which charm is the best for success in life?

Kabbalah is a science with clear and concise laws that must be studied. It has nothing to do with charms, blessings, or other items or rituals done in its name. The misconceptions regarding Kabbalah originate from the time Kabbalah was concealed from people and ascribed magical forces. The books of Kabbalah clearly explain what steps we need to take to acquire true spiritual knowledge. With the knowledge you acquire, you will know which action is best for you in any given situation.

There are many methods and teachings to achieve spirituality. Why choose Kabbalah?

The difference between other teachings and Kabbalah, as I understand it from the perspective of the Kabbalah, is that they are built on the nullification of desires, or at least on suppressing them. Kabbalah, however, states that the Creator can be sensed precisely by expressing the desire for Him, only by inverting the aim of its use, and certainly not by nullifying it. He can not be sensed by nullifying the desire to discover Him.

Is Kabbalah a mystical experience?

Kabbalah is not a mystical experience. It is an explanation of a system of natural laws of which we are all part, and which we must learn to use to our benefit. These laws are active on all levels of Nature—still, vegetative, animate, and speaking. Therefore, when we discover them, we can improve all aspects of our world, from climate change to social structures.

Studying Kabbalah

Does studying Kabbalah mean I must retire from daily life?

There is no requirement to fast or to mortify yourself. One does not have to leave everyday life or abandon family duties. Nor does one float in the air or practice breathing exercises in order to attain tranquility.

Quite the contrary, students build their egos and turn them into vessels that help them attain their sublime goal—to sense the Creator. To study Kabbalah and understand how the Upper World operates, one must be at the center of that world and act from within it.

Therefore, one must continue doing all his or her mundane duties. The attainment of the spiritual reality must be in one’s corporeal senses, and closely connected with one’s normal life.

Where and how is freedom of choice expressed? When exactly does one choose, and what should one choose?

The choices that we have during our lives are narrowed down to our discovery of what compels us to study Kabbalah. Besides the study of Kabbalah, all other pursuits are considered “animate,” since they are transitory and expire when the physical body dies. As human beings, we have freedom of choice only in our decision to study Kabbalah. There are three reasons that compel us to study Kabbalah:

  1. Reward and punishment in this world;

  2. Reward and punishment in the next world;

  3. Bestowal upon the Creator, when we are driven by the desire to resemble Creator's attribute of bestowal. We study Kabbalah as a means to attain the ultimate altruistic goal: to bestow upon Him who created us.

For these three reasons, spirituality is higher than us. We cannot convince our bodies to give to the Creator because our bodies immediately retaliate with the question, “What will I get out of it?” By its very nature, the body (which in Kabbalah is defined as “the will to receive”) cannot understand bestowal.

Thus, we have no choice but to ask the Creator to give us the desire and the will to bestow, to act and to think regardless of if and how this will benefit us. If we focus all our thoughts and desires on attaining that trait, the Creator will replace our corporeal nature with a spiritual one.

Then, in contrast to when we could not understand the possibility of working for others, now we cannot understand notworking for the Creator.

When I try to read The Book of Zohar, I find it very difficult to understand. Is it just me or is it truly a very difficult book to grasp?

The Book of Zohar is a very important Kabbalistic book, but it is written in a concealed way, making it impossible to understand until a person is in the spiritual world. Because of that, it is suggested that we do not begin to study straight from The Book of Zohar. Instead, there are introductions and books by Baal HaSulam that teach us how to understand what is written in The Zohar.

The Book of Zohar is not a book through which one can attain spirituality; it was written for those who have already attained it. To understand it properly, we first need to study several other texts, such as “Preface to The Wisdom of Kabbalah,” “Introduction to The Book of Zohar,” “Preface to The Book of Zohar,” and “Foreword to The Book of Zohar.” Without first acquiring clear and correct knowledge through those introductions, the book will remain completely abstruse to us.

Lately, there have begun to appear various study groups for Kabbalah. Is it worthwhile to check them out?

It is always worthwhile to explore, at least once, who studies and how they study Kabbalah. It will also help you get to know yourself. Therefore, I advise you to check things out and decide if it will be right for you.

Is there a difference in how men and women study Kabbalah?

Both men and women must develop spiritually, and the only difference between them lies in the method. The beginning of the learning process is the same. That is why our introductory courses feature the same method for men and for women. Later on, if a person goes deeper into the study of the actual Kabbalah, the difference in the method becomes apparent. Men and women will begin to sense the world differently, because men and women are indeed two different worlds and have a different perception of creation.

What do Kabbalists mean by “attainment”?

In Kabbalah, understanding the Thought of Creation—the deepest level of understanding—is called “attainment.” Put differently, attainment is the ultimate degree of understanding. Attainment of a state (or degree) means that you perceive every single element in that state.

What is a prayer?

The feelings in our hearts are prayers. But the most powerful prayer, as Baal HaSulam writes, is the feeling in one’s heart during study, the yearning to understand the material, meaning to match one's properties to what one is learning about.

Since everything is determined Above, where is there freedom of choice?

Man’s only freedom is in the choice of environment, the society that affects us. You can read about it in Baal HaSulam essay, “The Freedom.” Everyone’s path is completely predetermined. The only way to go is forward, meaning up, to the Creator. We should want to do it ourselves, consciously; but if we don’t, Nature will force us to want to progress.

If the Creator made Creation in order to delight His creations, why does He deny us pleasure?

It is not the Creator who denies us the pleasure. The reason we suffer is because of our oppositeness from Him. He is absolute goodness, and when we want to be like that, too, we will see that all He does is impart to us abundance and pleasures. But as long as we are opposite from Him, we cannot receive those pleasures because we are detached from Him.

Who can study this wisdom?

When Rav Kook was asked who was permitted to study Kabbalah, he replied: “Anyone who wants to.” If a person really wants to study, it is a sign that he or she is ready.

Body, Soul, and Reincarnation

Does the Creator have a body?

Not only does the Creator not have a body, but we, too, Creation, do not have a body. A creature is not a corporeal, physical, biological body, but a pure desire to be filled with the Light of the Creator. This desire exists in each of us, and it is that which Kabbalists call “a soul.”

The soul is divided into parts named after parts of the body. However, there is no connection between those parts, and the parts of the soul that are called by names of organs of our corporeal body. Kabbalists have simply found a way to express concepts in the spiritual world using words from this world. They do that by taking words of this world and using them to depict spiritual powers, which are the roots, the origins of those objects. These powers could not be expressed except through the language of roots and branches.

What does it mean to disseminate Kabbalah?

Humanity acquires knowledge about itself and the world by researching itself and its surroundings.

We create fantasies for anything we cannot understand, but wish to. These are based on analogy, speculation, and calculated conjectures grounded in whatever we already know. But however hard we try, we cannot speculate or imagine a part of the universe we have never felt. Analogy will not help either, since our senses have never experienced anything similar.

Kabbalah creates, or more accurately develops, a new sense in us. Only by developing this sense does one begin to feel that world. Only then is it clear that no fantasy could possibly help us perceive it.

One cannot convey such feelings to others who lack this sense. If one does possess this sense, another can pass along spiritual sensations, but only to the extent that the recipient has developed this sense.

Hence, on the one hand, Kabbalah is a science because we develop a sense of the surrounding space and research it using a strictly scientific method. On the other hand, Kabbalah differs from all other natural methods, as it is impossible to research that world without first acquiring the special sense for it. Only to the extent that one feels that world, does one begin to feel and perceive things differently.

One who doesn’t feel it is unable to imagine it. The meaning and the goal of “disseminating Kabbalah” is to bring all people to feel the need to develop their souls and experience the spiritual worlds for themselves. Disseminating Kabbalah gives us a method for such a development, and teaches us how to use this newfound sense. That is why Kabbalah is a special science and not a religion.

It is written in the Haggada (the text read on Passover night) that Pharaoh made Israel come nearer to the Creator. How can such a negative force work for the Creator and against itself?

Pharaoh is the force of the Creator. It is a good force that takes a negative appearance in us, as it is written, “Two angels lead one to the goal—the ‘good’ and the ‘bad.’”

The whole experience of progress in Kabbalah pertains to acquiring new forces of bestowal. If we had only good inclinations, we would never be able to advance. Pharaoh, the evil inclination, allows us to take from it greater desires for pleasure, correct them and thus rise even higher.

Therefore, it is important to relate to Pharaoh as a Force of the Creator that was sent to assist us. Pharaoh promotes us by evoking a desire in our egos to advance and develop materially. As a result, we gradually understand that material progress will not give us anything, and that true development is spiritual.

When, under the influence of Pharaoh, we begin to develop spiritually, we search in the spiritual world for a vessel to be filled with the desire for pleasure. Thus, our own egoism, Pharaoh, is the motivating force behind everything. This is because we cannot receive the Upper Light in our will to receive without our intention to bestow, to be like the Creator.

Instead, we can only enjoy the (very small) pleasures of our world that, once gone, leave us feeling emptier and even more dissatisfied than before.

Pharaoh motivates us to spirituality so that afterwards, when we receive the spiritual delight, he will take it for himself. In our world, Pharaoh motivates us to receive pleasure using our regular desire to please ourselves.

In the Passover Haggada, this is called the “old Pharaoh.” Afterwards, it is said that a new king rose in Egypt. It is this Pharaoh who takes us to spirituality, and then takes it for himself.

Science has already succeeded in cloning the biological body; what about the soul?

The soul has no connection with our corporeal body. Our physical body can exist as a biological, “animate” body, with an enlivening force called the “animate soul.” But that has nothing to do with the Upper Soul.

We do not ask ourselves why there are cows, chickens, or cats, or what kind of soul dwells in them. Yet they, too, have souls, but theirs are simply the animate force that sustains them, the same force that sustains our own bodies.

Therefore, a body can be cloned and there is no problem with that. In the future, all organs, and eventually an entire body will be cloned. But the soul does not depend on the body because man receives a soul according to well-defined spiritual laws, on which physical and biological sciences have no bearing. This is why we cannot clone a soul.

There are many people in our world whose Upper Soul does not exist at all. That soul is called the “point in the heart.” There are people who have it, and there are those who still don’t. Incidentally, we cannot know who has it and who does not.

How does a soul transfer itself into the collective soul of Adam?

The soul never actually left the collective soul; it simply stopped feeling it once it acquired an egotistical desire. But in the process of desiring correction, the soul corrects this lack of perception and rediscovers its true state in the collective soul.

Retrieving this feeling is called “the ascent up the steps of the spiritual ladder,” from our world into the world Atzilut.

How is the individual soul separated from the collective soul?

As the soul acquires additional, uncorrected egotistical desires, it loses its sense of the spiritual world, which the soul interprets as a separation from the collective soul. As a result, it starts to feel a more crude desire in itself, called a “body.” The soul feels this as “birth” in the biological body.

How does a soul get into a body?

If you mean the biological body, then the soul has nothing to do with it. But if by “body” you mean “desire, then if the desire is egoistic, it is called “a body of this world.” If the desire is altruistic, it is called “a spiritual body.” All these questions are explained in the “Introduction to the Book of Zohar.”

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