Kabbalah: Making a Mystery of God’s Word
An expert is defined as a person who displays a special knowledge derived from training or experience. Over two decades ago, as a junior in college, I was boarding with several other students—all Gentiles. In that environment, I regarded myself as an expert on Jewish things, calling on my years of living in a religiously observant home to answer any philosophic or religious inquiries they might have. My bubble was burst, however, when I found one of my roommates poring over Jewish-looking books. As we talked, I learned that he was pursuing a personal study of Kabbalah. Other than a familiarity with the term, I knew very little about it. I asked him two questions: “What is it? And why would you (or anyone else) want to study it?”
Kabbalah (received by tradition) is a vast collection of biblical writings heavily augmented with superstition, astrology, spiritism, and mystical thinking. At first, this knowledge was limited to a few selected (according to Jewish belief, from heaven) people. It was propelled to prominence during the suffering and persecution experienced by Jewish people in the Middle Ages.
To the Kabbalist, every word is divine, and every letter in the Hebrew alphabet is full of power. Its message is simple enough for a youngster but filled with hidden messages that can take the Kabbalist to great spiritual depth and power. Unlocking these hidden messages demands further study in numerology, Gnostic thought, and dualistic thinking. With these occultic tools, the Kabbalist is guided by two overriding principles. The first is redemption for suffering through a pursuit of the knowledge of God. The second is a pursuit of righteousness and spiritual purity to bring in the Messiah. Various topics are investigated: the essence of the Supreme Being, the universe and its beginning, the creation of mankind and its destiny, and angels and their destiny. The Kabbalist’s desire is to master the “spiritual highway” the same way personalities such as Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and Ezekiel were believed to have done.
In Kabbalistic thinking, God is viewed as infinite, endless, and boundless; He is called the Ain Soph. Humans, as finite creatures, are capable of comprehending or relating to the Ain Soph only through prayer, meditation, and a willingness to be spiritual receptacles. Thus, they learn the power of the ten Sephiroth, the energies that emanate from the Soph to form the universe. These energies are associated with aspects of the human being: the world of thought, the world of the soul, and the world of the body. If this sounds a bit complex, brace yourself—these are but the basics. This universe of ten spheres, when united, could be broken down into four worlds: action (the lowest), formation (next highest), creation (second highest), and emanations (the highest).
Through Kabbalah, people can project themselves into another world, a world different from the world of the Talmudist, which is made up of the objective and the rational. This mystical world has incredible potential for spiritual advancement. It is a most appealing world to those repeatedly subjected to anti-Semitism.
Kabbalistic doctrine has explanations for many biblical doctrines. Hell, for instance, is not an external place of suffering but a suffering from within. Satan is an evil being, created by God to minister to people on His behalf. Jewish physical symbols, such as mezuzahs and phylacteries, are thought of as religious receptacles for spiritual awareness. The feasts given in the Bible are specific days that, when observed properly, open a “window” of opportunity for the Almighty to make something good happen for us. When Jewish people perform mitzvahs (good deeds), according to Kabbalistic thought, they align themselves in a positive position in the universe.
The Kabbalistic view of the Messiah is twofold. First, the Anointed One is a person who teaches the world about spiritual paths to God. The first person with that capability was believed to be Adam, but he failed. In spite of his failure, he passed on this “messianic potential” to future generations. Kabbalists believe that the Messiah can be brought to earth by righteous living and a proper path to God. If He does not come within a 6,000-year span (we are presently in the year 5756), then His coming will be with destruction and devastation. The Messiah, it is believed, will be the Son of Man, not the Son of God.
One of the many notable works in Kabbalah is Zohar, the book of splendor. Written in a secret language, it is a commentary on the Bible. Mastering this text supposedly helps a person to be in the center of God’s will. Another is Sefer Yetzira, the book of creation, which tells the creation story using a complex numbering system.
My Gentile roommate’s reason for studying Kabbalah was interesting, revealing, and even frightening. Involved in the use of Ouija boards and Tarot cards, he was constantly searching for higher planes of consciousness. Just as for the Jewish person who is not satisfied with the plain truth of the Scriptures, a search for deeper meaning and a higher plane is very attractive.
Bible-believing Christians understand that there is a supernatural side to the Bible, with numerous examples of miracles, angels, spirits, etc. The difference, however, involves a realization that these things come from God. Humans are in no way able to propel themselves into a higher spiritual plain. Moreover, Scripture warns of the dangers of dealing with any supernatural power other than that which comes from our Lord Himself. May we marvel in the awesome power of God and God alone.