Friday, February 27, 2009


Scary Concepts

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

The first time I ran into kabbalah was in my early twenties. An enthusiastic friend said he had a rav (rabbi) giving a private shiur (lesson) late that evening, and would I like to join him? I said sure, always interested in learning a new bit of Torah. Oh, by the way, it's a kabbalah lesson. Cool I thought.

We arrived, it was maybe 10:00 at night. The rav was a middle aged man sitting hunched over a sefer on the dining room table. He had a small desk lamp next to the sefer providing focused light - all the other lights in the room were off. That was the setting for my first kabbalah lesson - gloomy room, hunched over rav, single focused light, late at night.

The lesson he started teaching discussed a particular avera (sin - violation of a negative commandment), the damage it causes to one's soul and the negative forces released into the world by the misappropriated G-dly energy. Negative forces, aka angels of destruction.

...He went on at some length, describing how those now released negative forces injure others and bring bad events onto communities.

Judaism is not a fire and brimstone religion. Yes, we are commanded to love and FEAR Hashem, but since the time of the Baal Shem Tov the path of fear as a primary motivator (as opposed to love) has been in severe decline. And since the Holocaust, having met angles of destruction in human form, spiritual angels of destruction may not be the motivator they once where.

In the whole sefer Tanya, the Alter Rebbe speaks of spiritual punishments only in a few sentences. Similarly, in Likutei Mohoran from Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, the rebbe speaks of corrections for sins - not (much) about punishments for them.

Yet the works of kabbalah do. They speak of damage to the soul, punishments in this world and beyond this world. They speak of negative forces. It's often not a pretty picture.

We're not used to that kind of talk anymore. When we heard "the rabbis" give community injunction about simple matters such as talking in synagogue, we scoff. When they give a stronger injunction such as inappropriate dress, we're insulted. When they add in just a hint of the words of kabbalah - "such actions bring negative events upon the community", we gag. Yet they are often being deadly serious - not just an injunction to improve community behavior but to avoid literally releasing negative spiritual forces into and upon the community.

We'll come back to this topic. R. Nati and I are discussing how to give a few glimpses from the bits we know. But, it's the month of Adar, and when Adar arrives we increase in joy. Now is the time to speak of happy things, and pray that our enemies evil plans should be turned around upon their own heads.

(Photo: Hunter's Moon from NightSkyInfo.Com)


Anonymous said...

fear itself can be joyous, the 'higher fear', where even fear really is love. Like the moon that is actually closest to the sun when completely invisible to us..

Neshama said...

I don't understand why you need to go into anything "scary", if you do.
There is kabbalistic commentary on our Torah that can be grasped by some (or most) without anything scary, that the Neshoma will be elevated by. This is done by someone extremely knowledgeable, with pure intentions, of high middos, and who knows how to 'bring it down' to us.
I see no need for any other kind of kabbalah being discussed.
ch'v's We don't want to come anyplace near that Berg character.
Shabbat Shalom

Anonymous said...

One thing along these lines that may be helpful and interesting is for you to discuss and list the sins and mitzvahs associated with ailments in particular body parts. I know Sefer Haredim discusses this a lot, but there's probably more elsewhere in our literature.

yitz.. said...

Kabbalah isn't inherently scary.
and one of the things i've found is that for every single dark and scary teaching, there is a countering unbelievably powerful teaching.

The first time I encountered this was my first few weeks in my Rav's Kollel. I learned a number of things, but two that stood out were: 1. Whenever someone gets angry they lose all of their spiritual accomplishments and must start from scratch. (I inquired about the Torah being a shield, and my Rav explained that our Torah learning guards our previous level until we can return to it)

2. Whenever someone says baruch atah HaShem elokeinu melech ha'olam, they are crowning HaShem as king of all creation and they are a Tzaddik gamur. (a complete and total tzaddik.)

So yes, it's really scary when we go into all the damage that anger causes.. but to know that with one simple berachah, you change and affect the whole world, that makes you feel like it's not a lost cause, if we work on ourselves, there's no limits to what we might accomplish.

josh said...

I think that fear does work.
This compilation of traffic accident videos disturbs me enough to really be careful on the streets.

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