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Michael Laitman, PhD

In the Spotlight

Кabbalah has traditionally been closed to all but a few select and serious students. No longer. Like never before, Kabbalah has become hot, chic, cool, in. Moreover, Kabbalists, who were previously so hesitant to open their secrets to the public, have become the key players in doing just that.

From Small Groups to Mass Exposure

But Kabbalah wasn’t always so popular, and Kabbalists weren’t nearly so open. For almost 2,000 years, Kabbalah was kept secret, shunning the public’s eye for faintly lit quarters of Kabbalists who meticulously selected their students and taught them in small groups.

For instance, the 18th century Ramchal Group, the students of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato, made it especially difficult to join its ranks. Membership required agreeing to a rigorous pact of lifestyle and study that had to be met all day, every day, for as long as one remained a member.

Other groups, such as the Kotzk Group (named after a town in Poland), used to dress in worn-out clothes and treat nonmembers with offensive cynicism. They deliberately distanced themselves from others by appearing to disobey the most sacred Jewish customs like The Day of Atonement. Group members would scatter breadcrumbs on their beards to appear as if they’d been eating on this day of fasting. Naturally, most people were repelled.



Searching for “Kabbalah” on returns over five thousand books, almost none of which were written before 1980. Very few were written before 1990, and only a few more were written before the turn of the century. The vast majority of books on Kabbalah were written after the year 2000. In the last few years, Kabbalah really has been mass exposed!


Nevertheless, the same Kabbalists who hid the wisdom also made tremendous efforts to write the books that remain the pillars of Kabbalah to this day. Rabbi Isaac Luria (The Holy Ari) at once would take only one student and state that, from his time on, the study of The Book of Zohar (The Zohar, for short) is permitted to all who wish it.

For this reason, in his lifetime, the Ari taught a group of students, but at his deathbed he ordered all except Rav Chaim Vital to stop studying. The Ari said that only Chaim Vital understood the teaching properly, and he was afraid that without a proper teacher, the rest would go astray.

Breaking the Iron Wall

It was not until the last decade of the twentieth century that Kabbalah really began its advent to the center stage of public awareness. The single most dominant figure in the worldwide dissemination of Kabbalah is undoubtedly Rav Yehuda Ashlag, known as Baal HaSulam (Owner of the Ladder) for his Sulam (Ladder) commentary on The Book of Zohar. He was the first Kabbalist to not only speak in favor of dissemination, but to actually do it.

Baal HaSulam published a magazine, ha-Uma (The Nation), on June 5, 1940. He also tried to convince David Ben-Gurion and other leaders of the Jewish settlement in Palestine (today’s Israel) to incorporate Kabbalistic principals in the education system. Baal HaSulam also stated that in the future, people of all religions would study Kabbalah while maintaining their birth religions, with no collision between the two.


Spiritual Sparks

At the outset of my words, I find a great need to break an iron wall that has been separating us from the wisdom of Kabbalah since the ruin of the Temple to this generation. It lies heavily on us and arouses fear of being forgotten.

—Rav Yehuda Ashlag, “Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot”


Such statements and the act of disseminating Kabbalah seemed so unorthodox and unacceptable at the time that The Nation was shut down after just one issue by the British Mandate in Palestine. In justification, the British Mandate stated that it had been told that Ashlag was promoting Communism.

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