Tuesday, July 12, 2005

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Question: Kabbalah makes me dizzy.

A kind reader sent a note, which included this (edited for anonimity):

I have read some of the beginner kabbalah stuff that reliable sources said was kosher and found it confusing. And although it feels a little funny admitting this, I didn't feel well spiritually and mentally after reading it, so I stopped right away. I concluded that it was way out of my league and that I'd better just ask my source to explain it to me if I had a question about reincarnation or whatever. I just bring this up to say I'd encourage you to ask my source what he thinks. And then put his response up on your fine site!

This brought up two points I wanted to comment upon. The first is kabbalah sources and reliable stuff. As I've previously posted about, there's a huge amount of cow poo poo relating to kabbalah floating around the web. Not only is there inaccurate info, but there's very seriously spiritually misleading info. Be very careful in selecting your sources.

Then, even if you've selected an excellent, reliable and kosher source, not every lesson or teacher is right for you, and in some cases it just may not be an area that you're ready to grasp. This is not, G-d forbid, an insult to anyone's abilities, but rather a proper recognition of one's spiritual standing. If you haven't prepared and trained, you can't run a marathon, and trying to do so might even be deadly.

There's a story told about the great Jewish sage, Rabbi Yosef Karo, zt"l. Rabbi Karo is also known as the Mechaber, literally 'the author', as he is the author of one of the greatest Jewish religious works, The Shulhan Aruk, the complete codification of all Jewish religious law. Rabbi Karo lived in the city of Tzfat (or Safed) in Israel, and he lived there during the same time as Rabbi Yitzchok Luria, zt"l, the holy Ari, the master mystic and master of Kabbalah, who created the system of Lurianic kabbalah.

The story says that Rabbi Karo, the greatest Jewish sage of Jewish religious law, went to Rabbi Luria, the greatest Jewish sage of kabbalah and mysticism, and asked to begin learning with him the deepest mystical secrets that he didn't already know. Rabbi Luria agreed and they set a time for their learning sessions. They got together and Rabbi Luria began teaching, after a few minutes Rabbi Karo fell asleep. This is a sage who spent years working through the night preparing his incredible publication. Rabbi Luria awakened him and they began again. Again Rabbi Karo fell asleep. After this happenened a number of times and through a number of sessions, Rabbi Luria told Rabbi Karo, "it seems your soul is not enabled to learn this material, continue to focus on that which your soul excels beyond all others."

Different people have different abilities, we have the responsibility to make the best of our abilities that we can, but not to be what we are not. If mysticism is not for you, don't try to force it.

The second point was regarding asking different sources. Judaism is currently decentralized. This means, there is no formal worldwide religious structure. There are sects, sub-sects, and communities. Within each there are different organizational structures. Generally within the orthodox Jewish world, the greatest scholars and sages rise to their positions by being recognized from within the crowd for their exceptional abilities and holiness.

Generally, I direct questions I have to my rabbi and/or sages and scholars within my sub-sect. In certain specialized cases, I may attempt to direct a question to certain great scholars that specialize in particular areas. (I've never had a question worthy of going to the greatest sages of the generation.)

Your source is a special and worthy person who I respect, but not someone to whom I direct those types of questions.

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