Sunday, March 27, 2005

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Danger of Uncensored Kabbalah

Kabbalah and Chassidut

The third danger is to study Kabbalah in our generation without Chassidut. As previously explained, the fifth stage of the revelation of the wisdom of Kabbalah is Chassidut. From the time that Chassidut was revealed it is the preferential form in which to study this wisdom. Kabbalah must be studied from the original texts as well, but always with the inspiration and highest sources that Chassidut gives and reveals. The Ba’al Shem Tov explained that even when the classic texts of Kabbalah (that predate Chassidut) are studied with a heart for inner understanding, nonetheless, because of the coarseness of the human mind, the teachings may be misinterpreted and the result may be an anthropomorphizing of the Almighty, which is otherwise known in Hebrew as hagshamah.

The teachings of Kabbalah especially in the texts of the Arizal, involve a personification of the Divine. The Divine is described by an entire sequence of interlocking personas (partzufim). The only way to avoid a misunderstanding of this personification is to study Kabbalah with Chassidut. For example, even without going as far as the Arizal’s personas of the Divine, we can take the secret of the contraction (sod hatzimtzum), which is the first thing taught in Eitz Chayim, the Arizal’s central work. If, G-d forbid a person understands this secret literally they may think that G-d is not omnipresent in reality; that somehow “G-d has left the earth” and receded from it. Only by studying the teachings of Chassidut are we convinced that the contraction of G-d’s light should not be understood as literal, but as a metaphor. The correct way to interpret this teaching can be understood only by studying Chassidut.

Submission, Separation, Sweetening

These three dangers correspond to the basic model of psychological change introduced by the Ba’al Shem Tov. The three stages of this model are known as submission, separation, and sweetening.

The stage of submission corresponds to the first danger, because to overcome it one has to submissively acknowledge that action must come before understanding and that in order to study Kabbalah there must be a commitment to the Torah as a whole, just like the Jewish people did as a whole at Mt. Sinai.

The stage of separation involves distancing oneself from a non-authentic teacher of Kabbalah.

The final stage of sweetening corresponds to the sweetness of studying Kabbalah in our generation as it should be studied with the inspiration offered by the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov.

...from, the writings of Rabbi Ginsburgh (hassidic kabbalist in Israel).


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