Thursday, December 10, 2009


Are We Allowed to Teach Mysticism? - Part 2

by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths

So, we are back to our original question. Are we allowed to teach mysticism openly?

The Torah tells us clearly that there will be an End of Days,” which refers to the time when the Moshiach will come and the Third and final Temple will stand.[i] Then, the world will know peace. The entire world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d. When an individual knows G-d, he will not sin. Who would sin seeing the Holy One revealed? This means that, at some point, people will no longer have free will. Reward is given according to the effort extended. When there is no free will, we will be like angels; our spiritual position will be fixed. Whatever we were able to attain when we had free will determines our station. No more growth! Now is the only time to gain. Now is the only time to improve our spiritual lot.

Today, since we are so close to the Redemption, we must do whatever we can to allow each person in the entire world to attain the greatest merit they can possibly attain. This growth cannot be done without learning the spiritual aspects of the Torah. Now even some of the non-Chassidic yeshivas are beginning to teach basic Kabbalah to their students. They realize that, because of the state of this generation, they have to teach mysticism in order to keep their students. Even the non-Jew must understand the mystical depths of the Seven Commandments of Noah in order for him to really want to keep them.

But these mysteries must be taught within the structure of the physical Torah. Even the simplest Jew must learn the mystical depths of saying a blessing, laying tefillin, and all of the spirituality that the mitzvahs bring. But these depths have to be learned within the framework of the physical Torah. We must accomplish the spiritual while applying the physical. The soul of the subject cannot be properly taught without its body.

Each mitzvah is designed to benefit a certain aspect of the Jew. Imagine a Jew with a very good heart, who gave charity his whole life, but never put on tzitzit (the fringed garment). He just does not see the need for it. After all, he reasons, he already does spiritual acts by giving so much to charity. In the end of days, he will receive a tremendous reward for his good heart, but his spiritual garment and spiritual remembrance that should have been developed from wearing tzitzit will be missing. We must take advantage of each mitzvah in order to develop every aspect of our lives.

Studying the kabbalah brings spiritual light down into this lower world, but this light must have a strong physical vessel to contain it. Without the proper vessel, the spiritual light can become wild and actually be a source of great spiritual damage. The vessels that have been designed to hold this light are the physical mitzvahs that we have been given.

And what of the potential problem of beginning students running off to a cave or mounting a camel and wandering the streets, calling out “The time is now!” when they are taught mysticism? If they are taught the spiritual Torah within the physical Torah, that is, while they are doing the mitzvahs, they will be grounded. But even more importantly, when they are taught the spiritual beauty and joy of within the physicality of the mitzvahs, they will not want to forsake the physical Torah. This, in fact, is why we have been given the physical world. Not to forsake it, but to elevate it.

[i] See Appendix of Gemora Sanhedrin, Artscroll edition.


  1. respectfully to reb gutman: i've had discussions with rabbis about after geulah is our position 'fixed'. they said not necessarily; that one can still do mitzvos and even still advanced. this is the chesed of HaShem. personally, i find the 'deadline'kinds of statements as creating unnecessary stress in an already stressful world. i know they're intended to help; but not everyone experiences them that way. in the charedi world i think they are received postively, but in the b.t. and other places, it could ch'v backfire.
    also, what you said about someone who gives charity 'missing' the mitzvah of tzitzit. again, i have heard that it depends on an individual's tikkun in their life. it could be that they fulfilled it w/ charity! or, we don't know their gilgul etc so maybe what was 'missed' in tzitzit was made up in other ways.
    again, this kind of view creates a stress that i feel is counterproductive.
    there are different perspectives for different jews, and different people, at different levels. what works for one may not work the same for the other.
    overall, i think people need to be aware of what kabbalah/zohar is. that they shouldn't deal with it unless properly prepared.
    i knew a talmid chacham z'l, who knew chumash, neviim, all of tanach very well. he never purposely studied zohar too much. but he was an amazing chacham with a great heart.
    i think the question is how to inform people about the mystical and what is permitted and what isn't.
    my question was: is tanya, for example permitted. since r' steinsaltz published a big english commentary on it. and chabad publishes lots of tanya all over the world.

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