On The Kabbalah

A Jewish proselyte wrote:

I missed the reference to Kabbalah when I initially read your post. FYI, Kabballah is part of Judaism. If you object to Kabballah then I assume you object to Judaism, which seems rather odd to me. Do not judge Kabballah by what Madonna is doing. Get your information from a kosher source. Madonna is not a kosher source. Please do not lump the kosher with the treif.

Your assumption; If you object to Kabballah then I assume you object to Judaism, is a wonderful example of sophistry. I should imagine that your argument is drawn from the false syllogism:

The Kabbalah is Jewish.
You object to Kabbalah;
Therefore you object to Judaism.

Perhaps different wording would provide a more clear illustration of your sophistry:

Gefilte fish is Jewish food.
You do not like gefilte fish;
Therefore, you do not like Jews.

Enough about your use of sophistry. Perhaps it would be more useful to examine a few things about Kabbalah that may be objectionable to conservative Christians. First, it would be well to identify what we are discussing, for the benefit of those readers who may not know. Kabbalah [also transliterated as cabala] is a:

Hebrew term meaning “tradition” or “reception” (teachings received orally from generation to generation), applied to an important complex of Jewish and non-Jewish mystical philosophy and practice.— David Bridger (Ph. D.), Ed., in association with Rabbi Samuel Wolk, The New Jewish Encyclopedia, Behrman House, Inc., © 1962 David Bridger, pp.258-59

FYI, Bridger and Reb Wolk define “kosher” in these terms:

KOSHER Hebrew term meaning “fit,” “in proper condition,” as a designation for ritually pure things, especially food permitted to be used on Passover, in accordance with dietary laws.--Bridger and Wolk, Op. cit., p. 275

With the above definition in mind, it is difficult for me to understand how an information source might be considered “ritually pure.”

My dictionary provides a more detailed definition of cabala:

1 : a system of occult theosophy or mystical interpretation of the Scriptures originally developed orally among Jewish rabbis in the Geonic period and transmitted to certain medieval Christians, holding such tenets as creation through emanation, supremacy of man's spirit over his desires, Messianic restoration of the world to a perfect state, and laying stress on hidden senses in the Scriptures and occult means of interpretation even to foretelling events by these methods;
2 a : a traditional, esoteric, occult, or secret matter b : esoteric doctrine or mysterious art [of the several cabalas the most prominent are the mystic and the psychoanalytic, while the Marxist method ... itself at times threatens to expand to the nebulousness of a cabala -- Charles Neider]
-- "cabala." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002.

With that out of the way, let us now point to a few Kabalistic issues that may not sit well with conservative Christians.

The chief problems dealt with by the Kabbalah are the nature of God, the creation of the Universe, the destiny of man in the world, the nature of evil, and the ultimate meaning of the Written law. The major teachings of the Kabbalah are:

1) God did not create the world directly, since He is above all existence; He is the Eternal, the En Sof (the “Endless”); the world and all higher and lower forms of life and conduct are emanations proceeding from God and then from one another, from the more spiritual to the less spiritual. The Ten Spheres (Sefirot) emanated in the following descending order, each succeeding one from the preceding one: Crown, Wisdom, Intelligence, Greatness, Strength, Beauty, Firmness, Splendor, Foundation , and Kingdom. The last Sphere, “Kingdom,” created the physical world. Through these Spheres God rules the world and through them are explained all His activities.

2) Everything that exists is part of Deity, and man can achieve union with God through his acts of piety and moral conduct. Through the observance of the commandments every Jew can influence the Spheres which, in turn, can influence God in behalf of mankind. The Jewish people were chosen to preserve the world by strict observance of the Law.

3) Man is judged by his soul, which is the most important part of his being. All souls were created at the same time during Creation, and the soul which remains pure after its contact with the body becomes after death a part of the world ruled by the Ten Spheres. The impure of contaminated souls must, after death, reinhabit another body, and continue to migrate from body to body, until they have been purified.

4) Evil does not exist in itself but is the negation of good, and can be overcome by prayer, repentance, self-affliction and strict observance of the Law.

5) The text of the Bible is filled with hidden meanings. Although written in the language of man, its words contain divine and mysterious concepts that man should strive to uncover. The Kabbalists, therefore, employed different techniques by which they tried to discover the hidden and divine meanings of Biblical terms.—David Bridger, Op. cit

Roman Catholicism claims to be Judaism fulfilled. If in no other area, Mama Church certainly has developed mysticism to a high degree, as have Jewish Kabbalists. Conservative Christians are likely to reject Catholicism’s mystical writings, and also are likely to reject Kabbalistic mysticism. For another example of mysticism that is objectionable to at least this conservative Christian, I offer this look Kabbalistic teachings about the human soul:

The Zohar posits that the human soul has three elements, the nefesh, ru'ah, and neshamah. The nefesh is found in all humans, and enters the physical body at birth. It is the source of one's physical and psychological nature. The next two parts of the soul are not implanted at birth, but are slowly created over time; their development depends on the actions and beliefs of the individual. They are said to only fully exist in people awakened spiritually. A common way of explaining the three parts of the soul is as follows:

Nefesh (ðôù) - the lower part, or animal part, of the soul. Is linked to instincts and bodily cravings.

Ruach (øåç) - the middle soul, the spirit. It contains the moral virtues and the ability to distinguish between good and evil.

Neshamah (ðùîä) - the higher soul, or super-soul. This separates man from all other lifeforms. It is related to the intellect, and allows man to enjoy and benefit from the afterlife. This part of the soul is provided both to Jew and non-Jew alike at birth. It allows one to have some awareness of the existence and presence of God.

The Raaya Meheimna, a later addition to the Zohar by an unknown author, posits that there are two more parts of the human soul, the chayyah and yehidah. Gershom Scholem writes that these "were considered to represent the sublimest levels of intuitive cognition, and to be within the grasp of only a few chosen individuals".

Chayyah (çéä) - The part of the soul that allows one to have an awareness of the divine life force itself.

Yehidah (éçéãä) - the highest plane of the soul, in which one can achieve as full a union with God as is possible.

Both Rabbinic and kabbalistic works posit that there are also a few additional, non-permanent states to the soul that people can develop on certain occasions. These extra souls, or extra states of the soul, play no part in any afterlife scheme, but are mentioned for completeness.

Ruach HaKodesh (øåç ä÷åãù) - a state of the soul that makes prophecy possible. Since the age of classical prophecy passed, no one receives the soul of prophesy any longer.

Neshamah Yeseira - The supplemental soul that a Jew experience on Shabbat. It makes possible an enhanced spiritual enjoyment of the day. This exists only when one is observing Shabbat; it can be lost and gained depending on one's observance.

Neshoma Kedosha - Provided to Jews at the age of majority (13 for boys, 12 for girls), and is related to the study and fulfillment of the Torah commandments. It exists only when one studies and follows Torah; it can be lost and gained depending on one's study and observance.—Wikimedia, Kabbalah

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words offers this information concerning the soul:

The language of Heb. 5:12 suggests the extreme difficulty of distinguishing between the soul and the spirit, alike in their nature and in their activities. Generally speaking the spirit is the higher, the soul the lower element. The spirit may be recognized as the life principle bestowed on man by God, the soul as the resulting life constituted in the individual, the body being the material organism animated by soul and spirit.—W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Vol. 4: Set-Z, © 1981 Fleming H. Revell Company, p. 54

I hope that some of this is useful.

Ron

If the Arabs put down their weapons, there would be
no more terrorism.
If Israel put down its weapons,
there would be no more Israel.

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