Kabbalah Beginner's Guide

 

 

 

C O N T E N T S

 

 

To the reader

 

What is Kabbalah?

 

Why study Kabbalah?

 

Who is a Kabbalist?

 

The History of Kabbalah and The Zohar

 

Who can study Kabbalah?

 

How to study Kabbalah

 

Spirituality and Kabbalah

 

Reincarnation and Kabbalah

 

"Branches" -- The language of Kabbalists

 

Science and Kabbalah

 

Kabbalistic music

 

Frequently asked questions about Kabbalah

 

About Bnei Baruch

 

How to contact Bnei Baruch

 

Index

 

 

To the reader

Man has always sought answers to the basic questions of life: Who am I? What is the purpose of my being? Why does the world exist? Do we continue to exist after our physical being has completed its tasks?
Everyone, each in his own way, tries to answer these questions from the sources of information at his disposal. Each one of us formulates his perception of the world based on his or her experience. Reality and everyday life constantly put this perception to the test, making us react, improve, or otherwise change it. With some of us this process occurs on a conscious level; with others it happens unconsciously.
The urge to effect change and to seek answers stems from the will to receive pleasure and avoid suffering.
The laws of nature, our life experience and the behavior of living creatures teach us that there is no logical way to completely avoid suffering. From this aspect, we are just the same as all living creatures. A cow, a frog and a fish also seek, in their own way, the maximum amount of pleasure with a minimum amount of discomfort.
The essential questions of man's being add another dimension to human suffering. They do not allow us to feel satisfied even when this or that goal has been fulfilled. When one attains the goal he is striving for, he immediately feels he's missing yet another pleasure. This prevents him from enjoying his achievements, and his suffering is renewed. In retrospect, he sees he has spent most of his time making an effort to achieve his goals, and has gained very little pleasure from success itself.
In recent years, a massive, world-wide search for answers has been underway. Many rush off to the Far East and India in search of the truth. Some find temporary satisfaction in techniques or measures aimed at relaxation, or reducing suffering by minimizing expectations and the power of desire.
These actions merely provide a camouflage for the fact that they have not found contentment. Various forms of meditation, nutrition, and physical and mental exercise quiet man's animal instincts and enable him to feel more comfortable from the point of view of his physical state. He feels he is in control of his reactions as he develops self-awareness. He learns to listen to the needs of his body and personality, and to satisfy them. The process teaches him to lower his expectations, yet it serves as a mere alternative to his true desires.
Instead of solutions, he receives a local anesthetic against the source of his suffering. But when the effects of the anesthetic wear off, he discovers that he cannot ignore the truth: Minimizing the desire to receive pleasure still does not let him escape it. Anyone taking this path and examining himself in a completely honest manner realizes that he hasnt yet reached the longed-for goal leaving suffering behind and finding unbounded pleasure.
Then there are those who seek a logical explanation for the universe through scientific research.
The laws of nature and man's behavior have been studied for thousands of years. In the last hundred years there has been significant progress, ever since scientific thinking became a legitimate way to study our worlds natural phenomena.
Science uses as its basis logical assumptions and reliable, quantifiable research and data. The progress it has brought to the world is beyond doubt, yet it is limited. That which cannot be measured by scientific tools lies beyond its borders. Man's soul, his behavior and what motivates him are beyond the bounds of truly scientific study.
Even in the field of natural sciences, modern scientists and researchers discover that the more they make progress in their research, the more obscure and confusing they find the world to be than when they first embarked on their research. Even the most advanced science texts are going to resemble books on mysticism, or at the very least, science fiction. It is no wonder that many scientists are science fiction fans. But fiction does not supply solutions s--  it leaves those looking for their true way confused and frustrated, without answers.
Over the generations, Kabbalists have written many books in various styles, in accordance with the era in which they lived: the language of the Bible (which includes the five books of Moses, the Writings and the Prophets), the language of legends, the legalistic language, and the language of Kabbalah, a way of describing the spiritual upper-worlds system and how to reach it. In total, four languages were created to introduce us to our spiritual reality.
They are not different ways, but they are aspects of the same subject, in different format. They explain how to set forth in the spiritual world, and how it is built. The Bible and other spiritual authentic sources were set down in order to teach us how to add the feel of the spiritual sphere to this world, how to progress in it, study it and receive spiritual knowledge.
Baal Hasulam writes in his book Fruits of the Wise: "The inner wisdom of Kabbalah is the same as that of the Bible, The Zohar and the Legend, and the only difference between them is the manner of the logic. It is rather like an ancient tongue translated into four languages. It is self-evident that the wisdom itself did not change at all due to the change in language. All we have to consider is which copy is most convenient and widely accepted for conveyance."
Kabbalists used material objects of our world-- terms which are known to us - to describe the spiritual realm. It is why it was easier (and dangerous) for a person to err in his study, because he imagined material pictures of our world which absolutely do not exist in spirituality. [See chapter on Branches - The Language of Kabbalists.]
This book reaches out to all those who are seeking awareness, who have not yet forgotten what everyone ask himself to one degree or another when he is alone. It is a book for those searching for a logical and reliable method of studying the worlds phenomena.
It is not a Kabbalah book, but a primer describing the principles of the Kabbalah approach. It is a first step in understanding the roots of human behavior and the laws of nature.
This book presents the basis of Kabbalah wisdom and the way it works. It is intended for anyone who is interested in getting to know himself, in understanding the reasons for suffering and pleasure, and in finding answers to the major questions of his life.

What is Kabbalah?

Kabbalah is a simple and accurate method which investigates and defines mans position in the universe. Kabbalah wisdom tells us the reason why man exists, why he is born, why he lives, what the purpose of his life is, where he comes from and where he is going after he completes his life in this world.
Kabbalah is the one method of reaching the spiritual world. It teaches us about the spiritual world, and by studying it, we develop another sense. With the help of this sense we can be in touch with the upper worlds.
Kabbalah is not an abstract or theoretical study, but a very practical one. Man learns about himself, who he is, what he is like. He learns what he needs to do now to change himself stage by stage and step by step. He conducts his research through his inner self.
All experimentation is conducted on himself, within himself. That is why Kabbalah is called "The Hidden Wisdom." Through Kabbalah, a person undergoes internal changes that only he feels and knows are taking place, hidden from the eyes of others. This activity occurs within a person; it is unique to him and only he
The word Kabbalah comes from the hebrew word laykabbel, to receive. Kabbalah describes the motives of actions as "the desire to receive." This desire refers to receiving various kinds of pleasure. In order to receive pleasure, a person is usually willing to invest great effort. The question is, how can one attain the maximum amount of pleasure while paying a minimum price for it? Everyone tries to answer this question in his own way.
There is a certain order to the way the desire to receive develops and grows. At the first stage he lusts after physical pleasure. Then he seeks money and honor. An even stronger desire makes him thirst for power. He may later develop a desire for spirituality, which is at the peak of the pyramid. A person who recognizes how great his desire for spirituality is starts to seek ways of satisfying this desire.
The passage through the stages of the desire to receive makes a person become familiar with his abilities and limitations.
Kabbalah deals with what we cannot grasp, since we have no control over it. We do not know how feelings are created. We wonder at experiences such as sweet, bitter, pleasant, rough and so forth. We are unsuccessful at building scientific tools to examine our feelings, even in the field of psychology, psychiatry and the other sciences dealing with human beings. Behavioral factors remain hidden from our understanding.
Kabbalah is like the mathematics of feelings: It takes the total of our feelings and desires, divides them, and provides an exact mathematical formula for each and every phenomenon, at each level, for every type of understanding and feeling.
This is the work of feelings combined with intellect. It uses, for beginning students, geometry, matrices and diagrams. Those who begin to advance find a very exact science that examines feelings. When studying, they feel each feeling and simultaneously understand it. They know what name it should be given according to its power, direction and character.
The wisdom of the Kabbalah is an ancient and proven method. Through it, man can receive higher awareness and attain spirituality. This is really his goal in this world. If a person feels a desire for spirituality, if he starts to feel a longing for it, he can then develop the desire through Kabbalah wisdom granted by the Creator.
Kabbalah is a word that describes the aim of the Kabbalist: to attain everything man is capable of, as a thinking being, the highest of all creatures.

Why study Kabbalah?

When an ordinary person studies the writings of the Kabbalists, he learns about what was formerly hidden from him. Only after acquiring the sixth sense through study does he begin to see and feel what was previously unrevealed.
Kabbalists do not convey their knowledge of the structure of the upper world, of the spiritual world, without a reason. An important phenomenon is found in their writings: Inherent in everyone is the ability to develop this sixth sense. [See chapter on Science and Kabbalah.]
When a person is exposed to Kabbalistic materials, he may not at first grasp what he is reading. But if he wants to understand, and tries to do so in the proper manner, he invokes what is called the surrounding light, the light that corrects him; very gradually he is shown his spiritual reality. The terms to correct and correction are used in Kabbalah to describe a change in the desire to receive, i.e., to acquire the qualities of the spiritual world and of the Creator.
Everyone has this sixth, still-dormant spiritual sense; this is called the point of the heart. Opposite it stands the light, which will eventually fill the point, the sixth sense, when it develops.
The sixth sense is also called the spiritual vessel (kli), and it continues to exist even without material reality. The spiritual vessel of the ordinary person is not sufficiently developed to feel the spiritual world. If he studies the original Kabbalah writings in the proper way, this light lights up the point of the heart and begins to develop it. The point then begins to widen and it expands sufficiently to allow the surrounding light to enter it. Entry of the light into the point in the heart gives a person a spiritual feeling. This point is the persons soul.
Nothing is possible without help from above, without the surrounding light descending from above and gradually lighting the way for a person. Even if we do not recognize this light, there is a direct connection between the point in the heart and the light due to fill it, as planned from above. Studying Kabbalah books enables a person to connect to the source of the light, and he gradually comes to feel a desire for spirituality. This process is called segula (remedy).
Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag wrote in Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot: "Accordingly, why did the Kabbalists instruct everyone to study Kabbalah? While it is great and worthwhile publicizing that there is an incomparably wonderful quality to studying Kabbalah wisdom, even though they do not know what they are studying, the tremendous desire to understand what they are studying awakens the lights surrounding their soul. That means that every person is assured the possibility of eventually attaining all the wonderful achievements the Creator intended for us in planning Creation. Those who do not attain them in this incarnation will do so in another, until the Creator's intention is fulfilled.
Even if a person does not achieve this completion, the lights are destined to be his; the surrounding lights wait for him to prepare his vessel to receive them.
Therefore, even when he lacks the vessels, when a person is engaged in this wisdom and recalls the names of the lights and vessels waiting and belonging to him, they will shine on him -- but only to a certain degree. But they will not penetrate his inner soul, since his vessels are not yet ready to accept them. Kabbalah is the only means to create the vessel to receive the light of the Creator.
The light he receives when he is engaged in the wisdom attracts heavenly charm, bestowing an abundance of holiness and purity on him, bringing him closer to reaching completion.
Kabbalah is special in that it gives a person a taste of spirituality while he is studying, and from that experience, he prefers spirituality to materialism. In proportion to his spirituality he clarifies his will, and learns to distance himself from those things to which he was once attracted. This is just like an adult who is no longer attracted to childish games.
Why do we need Kabbalah? Because Kabbalah is given to us as a springboard for change. It is given to us so that we can know the Creator. These are only reasons the Kabbalah was given. Whoever learns Kabbalah in order to alter himself, in order to know the Creator, reaches the stage in which he begins to see he can improve -- without suffering.

Who is a Kabbalist?

A Kabbalist is an ordinary person, just like anyone else. He need not have any special skills, talents, or occupation. He need not already be a wise man. He does not have to wear a holy expression.
The Kabbalist is a researcher who studies his nature using a proven, time-tested and accurate method. Throughout history, Kabbalists have studied the essence of their existence using simple tools that we can all utilize today feelings, intellect and heart.
At some point in his life, he decided to seek a way in which he would find credible answers to the questions that were troubling him. By utilizing a distinct method of learning, he was successful in acquiring an extra sense, a sixth sense, which is the spiritual sense.
Through this sense, he feels the spiritual spheres as a clear reality, just as we feel our reality here; he receives knowledge about the spiritual spheres, the upper worlds, and the revealment of higher forces. These worlds are called upper worlds since they are beyond our world, higher than it.
Man ascends from his current spiritual level to his next spiritual level, or upper world. This movement brings him from one upper world to the next. They are the roots from which everything that exists here has developed, everything that fills our world, including ourselves. The Kabbalist is simultaneously in our world, and in the upper worlds. This quality is shared by all Kabbalists.
Kabbalists receive the real information that surrounds us, and feel this reality. Therefore, they can study it, be familiar with it, and teach us about it. They bring us a new method through which we can meet the source of our lives, and lead us to spirituality. They give this knowledge to us in books that are written in a special language. We must read these books in a special way, and then they become a vessel for discovering the truth for us as well.
In the books they have written, the Kabbalists inform us about the techniques based on mans personal experiences. From their all-encompassing point of view, they found the way to help those who would follow, and then climb the same ladder as they did. Their method is called Kabbalah wisdom.

The History of Kabbalah and The Zohar

The first Kabbalist we know of was the patriarch Abraham. He saw the wonders of human existence, asked questions of the Creator, and the upper worlds were revealed to him. The knowledge he acquired, and the method used in its acquisition, he passed on to coming generations. The Kabbalah was passed among the Kabbalists from mouth to mouth for many centuries. Each Kabbalist added his unique experience and personality to this body of accumulated knowledge, based on the souls of his generation.
Kabbalah continued to develop after the Bible (5 books of Moses) was written. In the period between the First and Second Temples (586 BC - 515 BC), it was already being studied in groups. Following the destruction of the Second Temple (70 CE) and until this generation, there have been three particularly important periods in the development of Kabbalah, during which the most important writings on Kabbalah study methods were written.
The first period occurred during the third century, when the book of The Zohar was written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (150 CE - 230 CE), the Rashbi, a pupil of Rabbi Akiva (40 CE - 160 CE). Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and four others were the only ones to survive. Following the death of 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva's disciples, the Rashbi was authorized by Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yehuda Ben Baba to teach future generations the Kabbalah as had been taught him. Following the capture and imprisonment of Rabbi Akiva, the Rashbi escaped with his son, Eliezer. They hid in a cave for 13 years.
He emerged from the cave with The Zohar, and with a crystallized method for studying Kabbalah and achieving spirituality. He reached the 125 levels man can achieve during his life in this world. The Zohar tells us that he and his son reached the level called "Eliyahu the Prophet, "meaning that the Prophet himself came to teach them.
The Zohar is written in a unique form; it is in the form of parables and is in Aramaic, a language spoken in biblical times. The Zohar tells us that Aramaic is "the backside of Hebrew," the hidden side of Hebrew. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai did not write this himself; he conveyed the wisdom and the way to reach it in an organized manner by dictating its contents to Rabbi Aba. Aba wrote The Zohar in such a way that only those who are worthy of understanding would be able to do so.
The Zohar explains that human development is divided into 6,000 years, during which time souls undergo a continuous process of development in each generation. At the end of the process all souls reach a position of "the end of correction," i.e., the highest level of spirituality and wholeness.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was one of the greatest of his generation. He wrote and interpreted many Kabbalistic subjects that were published and are well known to this day. On the other hand, the book of The Zohar disappeared after it was written.
According to legend The Zohar writings were kept hidden in a cave in the vicinity of Safed in Israel. They were found several hundred years later by Arabs residing in the area. A Kabbalist from Safed purchased some fish at the market one day, and was astonished to discover the priceless value of the paper in which they had been wrapped. He immediately set about purchasing the remaining pieces of paper from the Arabs, and collected them into a book.
It happened because the nature of hidden things is that they must be discovered at a suitable moment, when suitable souls reincarnate and enter into our world. That is how The Zohar is revealed over time.
The study of these writings was conducted in secret by small groups of Kabbalists. The first publication of this book was by Rabbi Moshe de Leon, in the thirteenth century in Spain.
The second period is very important to the Kabbalah of our generation. This is the period of the Ari, Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, who created the transition between the two methods of Kabbalah study. The first time the pure language of Kabbalah appeared was in the writings of the Ari. The Ari proclaimed the start of a period of open mass study of Kabbalah.
The Ari was born in Jerusalem in 1534. A child when his father died, his mother took him to Egypt where he grew up at his uncle's house.
During his life in Egypt, he made his living in commerce but devoted most of his time to studying Kabbalah. Legend has it that he spent seven years in isolation on the island of Roda on the Nile where he studied The Zohar, books by the first Kabbalists, and writings by another of his generation, the Ramak, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero.
In 1570, he arrived in Safed in Israel. Despite his youth, he immediately started teaching Kabbalah. His greatness was soon recognized; all the wise men of Safed, who were very knowledgeable in the hidden and revealed Torah, came to study with him, and he became famous. For a year and a half, his disciple Rabbi Chaim Vital committed to paper the answers to many of the questions that arose during his studies.
Some of these writings are the Ari's writings, known to us as Etz Hachayim (The Tree of Life), Sha'ar Hakavanot (The Gateway of Intentions), Sha'ar Hagilgulim (The Gateway of Reincarnation), and others. The Ari left behind a basic system for studying Kabbalah. His system of study is still in use today. The Ari died in 1572, still a young man. His writings were archived according to his last wish, in order not to reveal his doctrine before the time was ripe.
The great Kabbalists provided the method and taught it, they knew that their generation was still unable to appreciate its dynamic. They therefore often preferred to hide or even burn their writings. We know that Baal Hasulam burned and destroyed a major part of his writings. There is special significance in the fact that the knowledge was committed to paper, and later destroyed. Whatever is revealed in the material world affects the future, and is easier to be revealed a second time.
Rabbi Vital ordered other parts of the Aris writings to be hidden and buried with him. A portion was bequeathed to his son, who arranged the famous writings, The Eight Gates. Much later, a group of scholars headed by Rabbi Vitals grandson removed another portion from the grave.
Study of The Zohar in groups started only during the period of the Ari. Following that, the study of The Zohar prospered for two hundred years. In the great Hassidut period (1750 - end of 19th century), almost every great rabbi was a Kabbalist. Kabbalists appeared, mainly in Poland, Russia, Morocco, Iraq, Yemen and in several other countries. Then, at the beginning of the twentieth century, interest in Kabbalah waned until it almost completely disappeared.
The third period contains an additional method to the Ari's doctrines, written in our generation by Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, who authored the commentary of the Sulam (ladder) of The Zohar, and the Ari's teachings. His method is particularly suited to the souls of our generation.
Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag is known as Baal Hasulam for his rendition of the Sulam of The Zohar. Born in 1885 in Lodz, Poland, in his youth he absorbed a deep knowledge of the written and oral law, and later became a judge and teacher in Warsaw. In 1921, he immigrated to Israel with his family and became the rabbi of Givat Shaul in Jerusalem. He was already immersed in writing his own doctrine when he began to pen the commentary of The Zohar in 1943. Baal Hasulam finished writing his commentary of The Zohar in 1953. He died the following year and was buried in Jerusalem at the Givat Shaul cemetery.
His eldest son, Rabbi Baruch Shalom Ashlag, the Rabash, became his successor. His books are structured according to his fathers instructions. They gracefully elaborate on his father's writings, facilitating our comprehension of his father's commentaries as bequeathed to our generation.
The Rabash was born in Warsaw in 1907 and immigrated to Israel with his father. Only after his marriage did his father include him in study groups of selected students learning the hidden wisdom -- Kabbalah. He was soon allowed to teach his father's new students.
Following his father's death, he took it upon himself to continue teaching the special method he had learned. Despite his great achievements, like his father, he insisted on keeping to a very modest way of life. During his lifetime he worked as a cobbler, construction worker, and clerk. Externally, he lived like any ordinary person, but devoted every spare moment to studying and teaching Kabbalah. The Rabash died in 1991.
The right spiritual leader for our generation is Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, the Baal Hasulam. He is the only one in this generation who has written a fully comprehensive and updated commentary of The Zohar and the writings of the Ari. These books, with the addition of his son, Rabbi Baruch Ashlag's essays, the Rabash, are the only source we can use to assist us in further progress.
When we study their books, we are actually studying The Zohar, and the Ari's writings, through the most recent commentaries (the past fifty years). This is a life belt for our generation, since it enables us to study ancient texts as if they had been written now, and to use them as a springboard to spirituality.
Baal Hasulam's method suits everyone, and the sulam he built in his writings ensures that none of us need fear studying Kabbalah. Anyone learning Kabbalah is assured that within three to five years he will be able to reach spiritual spheres, all realities, and divine understanding, the name given to that which is above and beyond us and not yet felt by us. If we study according to the books of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, we can reach true correction.
The study method is constructed to awaken in us a desire to understand the upper worlds. We are given a greater desire to get to know our roots and to connect to them. We are then empowered to improve and to fulfill ourselves.
All three great Kabbalists are of the same soul: first appearing as Rabbi Shimon, on a second occasion as the Ari, and the third time as Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag. On each occasion, the timing was ripe for further revealment because the people of that generation were worthy, and the soul descended to teach the method suitable for that generation.
Each generation is increasingly worthy of discovering The Zohar. What was written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and hidden was later discovered by the generation of Rabbi Moshe de Leon, and then of the Ari, who started to interpret it in the language of Kabbalah. These writings were also stored away and partly rediscovered when the timing was right, while our generation is privileged to learn the Sulam, which enables everyone to study Kabbalah and to correct himself now.
We see that The Zohar speaks to each generation. It is more revealed and better understood in each generation than in previous ones. Each generation opens the book of The Zohar in a unique way, suited to the roots of its soul.
Importantly, at the same time, an attempt is made to conceal kabbalistic writings so that those feeling the need to seek them will discover them by themselves. The Kabbalists evidently know that the process of change requires two conditions: correct timing, and maturity of the soul. We are witnessing a very interesting occurrence characterized by the breakthrough and signaling of a new era in the study of Kabbalah.

Who can study Kabbalah?

Whenever Kabbalah is discussed, statements are tossed about such as: One can go mad studying Kabbalah; it is safe to study Kabbalah only after the age of forty; a man must be married and have at least three children before embarking on its study; women are forbidden to study Kabbalah, etc.
Kabbalah is open to all. It is for those who truly wish to correct themselves in order to attain spirituality. The need comes from the souls urge to correct. That is actually the only test to determine whether a person is ready to study Kabbalah: the desire to correct. This desire must be genuine and free of outside pressure since only ones self can discover ones true desire.
The great Kabbalist, the Ari, wrote that from his generation onwards Kabbalah was intended for men, women and children, and that all could and should study Kabbalah. The greatest Kabbalist in our generation, Yehuda Ashlag, "Baal Hasulam," left a new study method for this generation. It is suitable for anyone wishing to do so.
A person finds his way to Kabbalah when he is no longer satisfied by material reward and hopes studying will provide answers, clarification and new opportunities. He no longer finds solutions in this world to the significant questions about his existence. Usually, the hope of finding answers is not even cognitive; he simply takes an interest and finds it necessary.
Such a person has questions: Who am I? Why was I born? Where do I come from? Where am I going? Why do I exist in the world? Was I already here? Will I reappear? Why is there so much suffering in the world? Can it somehow be avoided? How can I attain pleasure, completeness, peace of mind? Unconsciously, he feels the answers to these questions can be found only beyond the realm of this world.
The one answer to these questions is to know and feel the upper worlds, and the way to do so is through Kabbalah. Through its wisdom, man enters the upper worlds with all his feelings. They are worlds that provide all of the reasons for his existence in this world. He takes control of his life, thereby attaining his goal tranquility, pleasure and completeness while he is still in this world.
In the Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot it is written: "If we put our hearts into answering just one famous question, I am sure all questions and doubts will disappear from the horizon and we will find they are gone. And that tiny question is What is the point of our lives?"
Anyone attracted to the study of Kabbalah due to this question is welcome to study Kabbalah. Anyone reaching serious study is someone who feels this question and asks himself constantly: "What is the point of our lives?" This is what urges him to search and find answers.
Unfortunately, there is not a sufficient desire today to study Kabbalah. People want quick cures. They want to learn about magic, meditation and healing associated with Kabbalah. They are not truly interested in the revealment of the upper worlds, or how to reach spiritual realms. This does not qualify as a genuine desire to study Kabbalah.
When the time is right and the need is there, a person will look for a framework of study and will not be satisfied until he finds one. Everything depends on the root of man's soul and that point in his heart. A true desire to discover and feel the upper worlds within will lead him to the way of Kabbalah.

How to study Kabbalah

The primary objective of Kabbalah is to achieve spirituality.
Only one thing is necessary proper instruction. If a person studies Kabbalah the right way, he progresses without forcing himself as there can be no coercion in spirituality.
The aim of study is for a person to discover the connection between himself and what is written in the book; this should always be borne in mind. That is the reason Kabbalists wrote down what they experienced and achieved. It is not in order to acquire a knowledge of how reality is built and functions, as in science. The intention of the Kabbalah texts is to create an understanding and assimilation of its spiritual truth.
If a person approaches the texts in order to gain spirituality, the text becomes a source of light and corrects him. If he approaches the texts in order to gain wisdom, it is for him mere wisdom. The measure of inner demand is what determines the measure of strength he gleans, and the pace of his correction.
That means that if a person studies in the proper manner, he crosses the barrier between this world and the spiritual world. He enters a place of inner revealment and reaches the light. That is known as the beautiful sign. If he does not achieve this, it is a sign that he has been negligent in the quality or quantity of his efforts; he did not make a sufficient effort. It is not a question of how much he studied, but a question of how occupied he was in his studies or if he lacked something. If he reaches this desire, he can attain spirituality. Only then will the heavens open for him to enter into another world, another reality and dimension. He reaches this stage by studying Kabbalah the right way.
Embracing Kabbalah does not work by merely avoiding nice things so that ones desire will not be kindled. Correction does not come from self-punishment; it is as a result of spiritual achievement. When a person achieves spirituality, the light appears and corrects him.
This is the only way a person changes. Any other way is hypocritical. He is mistaken if he believes that by putting on a nice appearance he will achieve spirituality. Inner correction will not follow, since only the light can correct. The purpose of studying is to invite the light that corrects man. Therefore, a person should work on himself only for that purpose.
If there is any pressure, or any obligatory rules or regulations, it is a sign that it is man-made and is not an action intended by the upper worlds. In addition, inner harmony and tranquility are not prerequisites for attaining spirituality; they will appear as a result of the correction. But a person should not believe this can happen without an effort on his part.
The Kabbalah way absolutely rejects any form of coercion. It grants a person an inkling of spirituality, bringing him to prefer it to materialism. Then, in relation to his spirituality, he clarifies his desire. Accordingly, he retreats from material things as his attraction to or necessity for them disappears.
Studying Kabbalah incorrectly, even with the best intentions, can distance a person from spirituality. This type of student will only fail.
Therefore, Kabbalists prohibited the study of Kabbalah by people who had not been prepared for it, unless they did so under special circumstances. They treated their students cautiously to ensure they studied in the proper manner. They limited students by certain criteria.
Baal Hasulam describes these reasons at the beginning of his Introduction to the Study of the Ten Sefirot. However, if we understand these restrictions as conditions for the proper comprehension of Kabbalah, we will see that they are intended as a way to prevent students from deviating from the correct way.
What has changed is that we now have more of a language, better conditions and a stronger determination to study Kabbalah. Because souls feel the need to study Kabbalah, Kabbalists such as Baal Hasulam have written commentaries that enable us to study free of errors. Everyone can now learn Kabbalah through his books.
To study Kabbalah in the proper way, it is recommended that the student focus solely on the writings of the Ari and Ashalg (Baal Hasulam and Rabash) in their original versions.
Among the languages of the study of spiritual worlds, between the Bible (which includes the five books of Moses, the Writings and the Prophets) and Kabbalah, the latter is the most useful and direct. Those who learn it cannot err in their understanding. It does not use names from this world, but possesses a special dictionary directly indicating the spiritual tools for spiritual objects and forces, and the correlation between them.
It is therefore the most useful language for the student to make inner progress and to correct himself. If we study the writings of Baal Hasulam, there is no danger of becoming confused.
Several hundred years ago, it was impossible to find Kabbalah books or books on this subject. Kabbalah was transmitted solely from one Kabbalist to another, never reaching the ordinary person. Today, the situation is reversed. There is a desire to circulate the material among all, and to call on everyone to participate in its study. When studying these books, the desire for spirituality grows, whereby the surrounding light around us, the real world hidden from us, starts to reflect on those people who wish to be closer to the special charm of spirituality, and they start to desire it even more.
Spirituality can be attained by studying the right book, i.e., books written by a true Kabbalist. The Bibles texts are Kabbalah texts. They are books Kabbalists wrote to one another to exchange ideas and to assist each other in learning. A person whose spiritual feelings have grown can see how these books assist him in continuing his growth and development. It is like being with a tour guide in a foreign country. With the aid of the tour book, the traveler gets his bearings and better understands his new whereabouts.
We need books that are suited to our souls, books by the Kabbalists of our generation or the previous one since different souls descend in each generation and require different teaching methods.
A student in search of a Kabbalah teacher must do so with care. There are so-called kabbalists who teach incorrectly, e.g., wherever the word "body" is written it refers to our physical body, that the right hand symbolizes charity and the left, bravery. This is exactly the strict prohibition rendered by the Bible and Kabbalists in "Thou shall not make a sculpture or a picture.
Why are there those who teach and interpret this way? First of all, they themselves do not comprehend. Moreover, if there were a direct connection between spiritual forces and our physical bodies, it would have been possible to teach people to succeed in life, and to cure the body by physical means under the guise of spirituality.
It is important to join the right study group in which to explore the writings of a real Kabbalist. This should be done under the guidance of a Kabbalist.
The group gives strength. Everybody has at least a small desire for materialism, and an even smaller desire for spiritualism. The way to augment the will for spiritualism is through joint desire. Several students together stimulate ohr makif (surrounding light). Although the physical body separates people, it does not affect spiritualism, since in spiritualism, the point in the heart is shared by all, resulting in a much greater result.
All of the Kabbalists studied in groups. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai held a group for students, and so did the Ari. A group is vital in order to progress. It is the primary tool of Kabbalah, and everyone is measured by his contribution to the group.
It is essential to receive from a true Kabbalist who himself studied under the guidance of a Kabbalist. A group does not negate a Kabbalist, it is impossible without a Kabbalist since it is he who directs the group.
The texts and the Kabbalist help the student so that he does not deviate from the correct way of studying. He works on himself and on his inner being. No one knows the others place in the group, nor his level of spirituality. The books, the group and the Kabbalist simply help him to stay on course and increase his will for spirituality, instead of following other desires or worthless endeavors.
To help students avoid failure, a list of questions and answers and an index of words and expressions is provided. During study sessions, attention is drawn to spiritual truth, not to the depth or measure of comprehension. What is important is that the student is motivated to make spiritual progress, and not merely to advance intellectually.
In the Introduction to Study of the Ten Sefirot, Baal Hasulam writes that whoever studies the right way reaches spirituality within three to five years.
It is true that people are attracted to the wisdom of Kabbalah in the hope of becoming more successful. We are all made of the desire to receive pleasure. It is our basic makeup, but with proper instruction some of us attain spirituality and eternity. Others, without the proper instruction, live under the illusion that they have achieved something spiritual. In fact, they lose their chance of attaining spirituality in this lifetime.

Spirituality and Kabbalah

Man is incapable of making a move without there being some advantage in it for him. In order to act, he must first see how he may gain from it. This gain serves as the fuel that gets him moving. The fuel is either the immediate or future gain he envisages. If a person does not feel there is any profit or there will not be any in the future, he will immediately halt his actions. That is because man cannot exist without feeling he will gain something.
The Kabbalah teaches man how to receive. In order to attain spirituality a person must expand his will to receive. He must expand his will to absorb all worlds, including this one. This is the purpose for which he was created. It is not necessary to become a monk or ascetic, or steer away from life. On the contrary, Kabbalah obliges man to marry, bear children and work and live a full life. Nothing has to be given up; everything was created for a reason, and man need not withdraw from life.
When a person begins to study Kabbalah, he may have no spiritual feelings and therefore, he embarks on the learning process with the aid of his intellect. We are supposed to open our heart through our intellect. When the heart develops, we feel what is right and what is not, and are naturally drawn to the right decisions and actions.
The Kabbalists begin by teaching spirituality in small doses to allow the students to expand their will to receive more light, more awareness, more spiritual feeling. Increased will brings with it a greater depth, understanding and attainment. A person then reaches the highest level of spirituality he can attain, down to the roots of his soul.

Reincarnation and Kabbalah

None of us are new souls; we all have accumulated experiences from previous lives in other incarnations. In each generation over the past six thousand years, souls have descended that were here on previous occasions. They are not new souls, but souls of a different kind that attained some form of spiritual development.
Souls descend to earth in a special order: They enter the world cyclically. The number of souls is not infinite; they return again and again, progressing toward correction. They are encased in new physical bodies which are more or less the same, but the types of souls that descend are different. This is what is popularly called reincarnation. Kabbalists use another term: the development of generations.
This intertwining, the connection of the soul and body, assists in the correction of the soul. Man is referred to as "soul," not "body." The body itself can be replaced, just as organs can now be replaced. The body is useful only in that it serves as an encasement out of which the soul can work. Each generation physically resembles the previous one, but they are different from one another because each time, the souls descend with the added experience of their previous lives here. They arrive with renewed strength obtained while they were in heaven.
Thus, each generation possesses different desires and goals from the previous one. This leads to the specific development of each generation. Even a generation that does not reach the desire to know true reality or Godlike recognition accomplishes the task by the suffering it endures. That is its way of making progress toward true reality.
All souls are derived from one, called the soul of the first man. This does not refer to Adam as we know him. It is a concept of spiritual, inner reality. Parts of the soul of the first man descend into the world, taking the form of bodies, leading to a connection between body and soul. Reality is directed in such a manner that the souls descend and correct themselves. When they enter into body form they raise their level 620 times above the level from which they began. The order in which souls descend into this reality of wearing a body goes from light to heavy.
The soul of the first man comprises many parts and many desires, some light, others heavy, based on the amount of egoism and cruelty they possess. They come into our world, the lighter ones first, the heavier ones following. Accordingly, correction requirements differ. When correcting lighter desires, they can later assist in correcting heavier, more difficult desire.
In their descent into the world, souls have gathered experience from their suffering. This is called the path of suffering as this experience develops the soul. Each time it is reincarnated, it has an increased unconscious urge to seek answers to questions on its existence, its roots, and the importance of man's life.
Accordingly, there are souls that are less developed, and souls that are more so. The latter have such an enormous urge to recognize the truth that they cannot limit themselves to the confinements of this world. If they are given the right tools, the proper books and instruction, they will attain recognition of the spiritual world. Kabbalah also describes the descending souls as pure or as less refined. It is a measurement in direct proportion to how much the souls require for correction. Souls requiring a greater correction are called less refined.
As different souls descend, they require different guidance and correction, unique for that generation's souls. This is why in each generation there are people who lead us in our spiritual progress. They write books and form study groups in order to convey the method of discovery of the reality that is most suited to that generation. In this, the media age, they may appear on television, radio and most currently, on the Internet.
In the beginning (before the soul of Ari appeared), there was an era of experience gathering and perseverance in this world. The souls existence was sufficient in order to make progress toward correction. The suffering they accumulated added urgency to their souls to relieve their suffering. The desire to leave their suffering behind was the motivating force behind the development of the generations.
That era continued until when, in the sixteenth century, the Ari appeared and wrote that from his generation onwards men, women, children, in all the nations of the world could and were required to engage in Kabbalah. The reason was that the time had arrived in the development of generations in which souls descending into the world were able to recognize the true reality and were ready to complete their correction by the special method the Ari had developed. They could achieve what was required of them.
Souls have but one desire to return to their roots, to the level they were before their descent, even while existing within physical bodies. Physical bodies, with their desire to receive, pull them back into this world. Man consciously wishes to rise spiritually. The great effort spent on the friction created by this dichotomy is what assists him in rising 620 times above his previous level.
If a soul does not complete its task, the next time it descends into the world, it will reincarnate more deserving of correction.
Sometimes, we believe that we should deny our desires and longing so that in the next reincarnation we will be more successful. We think we should not desire anything except a little nutrition and lying in the sun as would a cat. However, the contrary is true since next time, we will be even more cruel, demanding, exacting and aggressive.
The Creator wants us to be filled with spiritual pleasures, to be complete. That is possible only through great desire. Only with a corrected desire can we truly reach the spiritual world and become strong and active. If our desire is small, while it cannot do great harm, it also cannot do much good. Desire is called "corrected" only when it functions out of the proper influence. It does not exist in us automatically, but is acquired while studying the Kabbalah in the correct manner.
A pyramid of souls exists, based on the desire to receive. At the base of the pyramid are many souls with small desires, earthly, looking for a comfortable life, animal-like: food, sex, sleep. The next layer comprises fewer souls, those with the urge to acquire wealth. These are people who are willing to invest their entire lives in making money, and sacrifice themselves for the sake of being rich.
Next are those that will do anything to control others, to govern and reach positions of power. An even larger desire, by fewer souls, is for knowledge, scientists and academics who spend their lives engaged in discovering something specific. They interested in nothing but their all-important discovery.
The strongest desire, developed by only a few, is for the attainment of the spiritual world. They are all built into the pyramid.
Man also has the same pyramid of desires within him, which he must overturn so that its sheer weight will compel him to aim for the purest desire, the infinite desire for truth. He must reject and discard all his earthly desires and put every effort and energy into increasing the desire for spirituality. He achieves this through the proper way of studying.
If a person truly wishes to increase his longing for spirituality, the light around him, the spiritual world hidden from him, starts to reflect back on him, making him long for it even more. At this stage, group study under a Kabbalists guidance is crucial. [See chapter on How to study Kabbalah.]
A major change in the souls descending today lies in the fact that we are starting to see around us a definite desire to achieve a spiritual system. Even ordinary people are seeking something spiritual, something beyond our world.
Although this "spirituality" still includes all sorts of shortcuts, magic tricks and esoteric groups promising an answer to those who join them, nevertheless, it bespeaks of the search for true reality. If this generation displays a stronger desire within the souls themselves, a new method, suited to these souls, will probably emerge.
In the last fifteen years there has been swift and active development in the descent of new souls. The desire of these souls, these people, is much stronger and more genuine. It is directed at achieving the real truth, and nothing else.
If we truly comprehend how reality applies to us and how we are affected by it, we will cease doing that which is prohibited, we will insist on doing the right thing and we will do it. Then, we will discover harmony between ourselves and the real world.
In the meantime we merely abuse, then realize we have abused. There is no possibility of escaping the situation. That is why mankind finds itself more and more in a blind alley, mired in increasingly difficult dilemmas. We will discover that there is no alternative to recognizing the spiritual world of which we are a part. This recognition will lead us to a new situation in which we will consciously begin to act as one, and not as individuals.
All people are connected to one another in one soul, from one generation of souls to the next. We all possess collective responsibility. That is why the Kabbalist is regarded as "founder of the world." He influences the entire world, and the world influences him.

"Branches" - The Language of Kabbalists

When we think or feel something and wish to convey it to someone else so that he may feel it too, we use words. There is a general consensus in the use of words and their meanings; if we call something "sweet," the other person immediately understands what we mean since he imagines the same taste. Yet how closely does his conception of sweet match ours? How can we best communicate our feelings while still using words?
The feelings of Kabbalists are above our level. Nevertheless, they wish to convey to us their wonder at things that have no meaning for us. They do this through means taken from our world: often words, sometimes notes, and on occasion, by other means.
Kabbalists write about their experiences and feelings in the upper worlds. They write about the higher forces and what they discover there. They write for other Kabbalists, since the interaction of studies between them is so essential and so fruitful. Their writings are then extended to those who havent yet sensed spirituality, for those whom spirituality is still hidden.
Since there are no words in the spiritual world to describe their spiritual feelings, Kabbalists call these experiences branches, a word taken from our world. Therefore the language used in books on Kabbalah is called the "language of branches." It is a language that borrows words from our world and uses them to identify spiritual experiences. Since everything in the spiritual world has an equivalent in the physical world, each root of the spiritual world has a name and the name of its branch. And because we cannot describe our feelings precisely and do not know how to measure or compare them, we use all kinds of auxiliary words to help us.
Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag writes in his book Study of the Ten Sefirot (Part One, Looking Inwards): "... the Kabbalists chose a special language that can be referred to as the 'language of branches.' Nothing takes place in this world that is not drawn from its roots in the spiritual world. On the contrary, everything in this world originates in the spiritual world and then descends into the world. The Kabbalists accordingly found a ready language by which they could easily convey their achievements to one another orally and in writing for future generations. They took the names of branches from the material world; each name is self-explanatory and indicates its upper root in the higher world system."
For every force and action in this world there is a force and action in the spiritual world that is its root. Each spiritual force correlates to only one force, its branch in the material world.
Of this direct correlation it is written, "There is nothing growing below that does not have an angel above urging it to grow." That is, there is nothing in our world that does not have a corresponding force in the spiritual world. Because of this direct correlation, and because spirituality does not contain names -- just feelings and forces -- Kabbalists use names of branches in this world in order to define their spiritual roots by them.
Baal Hasulam writes further: "With all the explanations, you will comprehend what sometimes appears in the Kabbalah books as strange terminology for the human spirit, particularly in the basic Kabbalah books, The Zohar and books by the Ari. The question arises, Why did these Kabbalists use such low terminology to express these lofty ideas? The explanation is that no language or tongue in the world can reasonably be used, except for the special language of branches, based on the corresponding upper roots... It should not be surprising if strange expressions are sometimes used, since there is no choice in the matter. The matter of good cannot replace the matter of bad, and vice versa. We must always convey precisely the branch or incident showing the upper root as the occasion dictates. We must also elaborate until the exact definition is found."
The spiritual world is abstract where forces and feelings function without the mantel of animal, mineral, vegetable, or speech. In Kabbalah, the student repeats the main ideas of the Kabbalah wisdom: "place," "time," "movement," "lack," "body," "body parts" or "organs," "match," "kiss," "hug," etc., over and over again, until he feels within himself the right feeling for every idea.
A final word: It should be noted that there are some so called instructors of Kabbalah who communicate erroneous interpretations to their students. The error stems from the fact that the Kabbalists wrote their books using the language of branches and used words from our world to express spiritual ideas. Those who do not understand the correct use of the language are mistaken. They teach that there is a connection between the body and the spiritual vessel, as if the spiritual vessel engulfs the body, making it part of the spiritual organ, as if by physical action a person is doing something spiritual. The branches are an integral part of Kabbalah and without their use, one is not learning Kabbalah.

Science and Kabbalah

Everything we know about our world is based on man-made study. Every generation studies our world and conveys its knowledge to the following generation. Through it, each generation comprehends the sort of framework in which he should live, and what his position is in relation to other generations. In each era, mankind uses the world surrounding him.
The same process takes place in spiritualism. Every generation of Kabbalists from Abraham onwards studies and discovers the spiritual worlds. Just as in scientific research, they pass along the knowledge they have attained to future generations.
In this world we have a general sense, called the desire to receive, with five receptors, which are our five senses. When a person undergo a correction he attains the sixth sense, known as the spiritual sense and functions according to these five senses.
Scientists too use only their five senses. Any instrument-- precise, advanced, technical, mechanical or otherwise -- we regard as "objective." But these instruments merely expand the limits of our senses so that we may hear, see, smell, taste and touch more intricately. Ultimately, it is man who examines, measures and assesses the results of research, through his five senses. Obviously, he cannot provide an exact, objective answer to what is accomplished by the senses. Kabbalah, the source of all wisdoms, enables us to do this.
When starting to study reality, we discover that we cannot study or understand that which is beyond us since it is unknown and unrevealed to us. If we cannot see it or touch or taste it, we may question whether it really exists. Only Kabbalists, those who attain a higher abstract upper light beyond our senses, are able to truly comprehend our true reality.
Kabbalists tell us that beyond our senses there is only an abstract upper light, called "creation," which has no form. Imagine that we are in the middle of the ocean, within a sea of light. We can sense all kinds of feelings that seem to be incorporated into it, as far as our ability to comprehend allows us. We do not hear what is happening elsewhere. What we regard as hearing comes as the response of our eardrums to external stimuli. We do not know what is causing it. We simply know that our eardrum reacts from within us. We assess it internally and accept it as an external event. We do not know what is happening outside of ourselves; we merely comprehend the reaction of our senses to it.
As in the example of hearing, so too is it with our other senses: sight, taste, touch and smell. That means that we can never exit our "box." Whatever we say about what is happening externally is in fact the picture we paint inside us. This restriction can never be overcome.
The study of Kabbalah can assist us in expanding the borders of our natural senses to achieve the sixth sense, through which we can become acquainted with the reality around us and within us. This reality is the true reality. Through it, we will be able to experience the reaction of our senses externally. If we direct all of our five senses correctly, we will see the true picture of reality. We need merely to internalize the characteristics of the spiritual world.
It is like a radio that is able to tune into a certain wavelength. The wavelength exists outside of the radio, which receives and responds to it. This example applies to us too. If we have at least one tiny spark of the spiritual world, we will begin to feel it within ourselves.
During his development, the Kabbalist acquires more and more spiritual characteristics, thereby connecting to all the levels of the spiritual world, all built on the same principle. ]When a person studies Kabbalah, he begins to understand, to feel, to assess and work with all realities, both spiritual and material, without differentiating between them. The Kabbalist reaches the spiritual world while encased in his body in this world. He feels the two worlds without any border separating them.
Only when a person experiences this true reality can he see the reasons for what is happening to him here. He understands the consequences of his actions. He then begins to be practical for the first time, living, feeling everything and knowing what he should do with himself and his life.
Prior to this recognition he does not have the ability to know why he was born, who he is and the consequences of his actions. Everything is enclosed within the borders of the material world, and the way he enters it is also the way he leaves it.
In the meantime, we are all at the level called "this world." Our senses are equally limited; therefore, we are capable only of seeing the same picture. Baal Hasulam writes, "All upper and lower worlds are included in man." This is the key sentence for anyone interested in the wisdom of Kabbalah and living the reality around him. The reality around us includes upper worlds and this world; together, they are part of man.
For the time being, we understand this world through material, physical elements. However, we add several elements when we study, through which we discover additional elements. It allows us to see things we cannot see today.
Our level is very low, as we are located diagonally opposite the level of the Creator. We start to rise from this level by correcting our desire. We then discover another reality surrounding us, although no change actually occurs. We change within ourselves, and following the change, become aware of other elements surrounding us. Later, these elements disappear and we feel everything is due solely to the Creator, the Almighty. The elements we begin to gradually discover are called worlds.
We should not imagine spiritual reality, but should sense it. Imagining it merely distances us from its reach. Kabbalists reach the upper worlds through their senses, just as we reach out to the material world. The worlds stand between us and the Creator, hiding Him from us. As Baal Hasulam writes, it is as if they filter the light for us. We can then see reality surrounding us in a different way. In fact, we can say that there is nothing between us and the Creator.
All these disturbances, these worlds between us, hide Him from us. They are masks placed on our senses. We do not see Him in his true form; we see only fractured elements. In Hebrew, the origin of the word olam (world) is "alama" (concealing). Part of the light is transmitted, and part is hidden. The higher the world, the less hidden it is.
Different pictures of reality are painted differently by those in this world. Logic dictates that reality should be uniform to everyone. Nevertheless, one hears one thing, another hears something else, one sees one thing, another sees it differently.
Baal Hasulam illustrates this by using electricity as an example: We have in our homes an electric socket which contains abstract energy which cools, heats, creates a vacuum or pressure depending on the appliance using it, and on the ability of the appliance to utilize the electricity. Yet the energy has no form of its own, and remains abstract. The appliance reveals the potential found in the electricity.
We can say the same about the upper light, the Creator that has no form. Each person feels the Creator according to the level of his correction. At the beginning of his studies, a person can see only his reality exists, and is unable to sense any higher force.
He gradually discovers, through using his senses, the true, expanded reality. At a more advanced stage, if he corrects all his senses according to the light around him, there will not be any partition between himself and the light, between man and the Creator. It will be as if there is no difference between their characteristics. The person then achieves godliness in the real sense. Godliness is the highest level of spirituality.
How can a beginner master this science when he cannot even properly understand his teacher? The answer is very simple. It is only possible when we spiritually lift ourselves up above this world. This is possible only if we rid ourselves of all of the traces of material egoism and accept attaining spiritual values as our only goal. Only the longing and the passion for the spiritual in our world -- that is the key to the higher world.

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