by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths
A reader asked:
I am having more and more of a difficult time in my learning of niglah (the written, revealed Torah, the five books of Moshe), and I want to learn nistar (the hidden mystical Torah). I also feel that I have not learned enough niglah to really learn nistar. Can one be successful in learning nistar and minimizing niglah? If so, where should I start?
The written Torah is like your body, and the hidden, mystical Torah is like your soul. The body cannot live without the soul, and a soul without a body cannot accomplish anything at all. We need both in order to fulfill our mission on earth.
For many years, the study of mysticism has been pushed to the background for fear of students becoming so involved with it that they end up neglecting the physical Torah. A Jew can survive in this world as a Jew with only the physical Torah, although he might become burdened by his Torah, but a Jew cannot survive as a Jew with only the mystical Torah. He will intermarry, or not bother to marry at all.
Chassidus came about to provide the Jews with a safe form of mysticism. The study of chassidus is mystical, but it does not take you away from the physical, written Torah. Whereas Kabbalah tends to speak of what G-d is doing in Heaven, Chassidus tends to speak about what G-d is doing on earth.
Do not neglect your studies of the written Torah, but add some study of Kabbalah or Chassidus to your schedule. If you learn these properly, they will make your study of the written Torah more current, more real to you. You will find the written Torah more important in your life, and you will become a happier person.
Which Kabbalah or Chassidus should you should study will depend on your individual taste. For Kabbalah, you can look to the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato), whose writings make the Ari’s teachings more accessible, or to Aryeh Kaplan’s Meditation and the Kabbalah. For Chassidus, try either the Tanya or Rebbe Nachman’s writings. Your soul will tell you which you will want to study. Continue on that path, and if you become unhappy, try a different one.
There certainly is a place for you in both the written Torah and the mystical Torah, because the entire Torah is your inheritance. You were born a Jew, so the Torah is yours.