Monday, April 11, 2011


Which Should I Learn?

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?

Gutman’s answer:

     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.


  1. The Tanach people!!!! You want spiritual, you will find all you need right in our Bible. That's scripture, period. If one choses to read other writings such as those suggested by Gutman, make sure it lines up with the Tanach. If you don't you will end up following the precepts of men and not our Father. That's proven throughout history until today.

  2. In "Vedibarta Bam" on Parshas Acharei Mos, we read the following:

    "And G-d spoke to Moshe after the death of the two sons of Aharon,
    when they approached before G-d and they died... 'He shall not come at
    all times into the Sanctuary.' " (16:1-2)


    1) Why after the death of Nadav and Avihu did Hashem instruct the
    Kohanim not to enter the Beit Hamikdash while intoxicated (10:9), nor to enter the Sanctuary at all times?

    2) What relevance do these prohibitions have to all Jews, even in contemporary times?

    ANSWER: The death of Nadav and Avihu was not simply due to the
    violation of an ordinary Torah precept. It was a spiritual death which was caused by their immersion in the deepest esoteric teachings of Torah and detachment from this mundane and physical world.

    Chassidut analyzes this spiritual immersion in terms of the concept of "ratzo" and "shov" - advancing and retreating - as in Ezekiel 1:4.
    When the soul senses the all-encompassing greatness of G-dliness it is aroused to a passionate desire for "ratzo" - running - seeking to be merged in G-dliness. In this state, the soul yearns to leave the body and the world, but the Divine will is for it to remain on earth and to establish a dwelling place for Hashem. Thus, man must "shov" - retreat
    - return to this world and to observe Torah and mitzvot.

    Comprehending the beauty and profundity of G-dliness, Nadav and Avihu reached the level of "kelot hanefesh" - expiration of the soul through absolute attachment to Hashem - and thus departed from their physical bodies. From this we learn that ratzo without shov - advancing without retreating - caused their unfortunate end.

    "Kelot hanefesh" can occur in one of two ways: either through
    understanding the profundity of G-dliness or by perceiving the
    lowliness of this physical world. When a person realizes the extent of his degradation and how he has succumbed to his evil inclination and transgressed the Torah, he may resolve 1) to dispense with physical existence, or 2) live a holy life in seclusion.

    The Torah does not approve of either of these approaches, and
    consequently, after the spiritual death of the sons of Aharon, the
    following Torah decrees were issued: "Beware of becoming intoxicated with wine" and "He shall not come at all times into the Sanctuary."

    Wine alludes to the secrets of Torah. ("Yayin" - "wine" - and "sod" - "secret" - have the same numerical value of 70). The prohibition of priestly drunkenness thus teaches all scholars of Torah that, even while involved in the most esoteric and sublime teachings of Torah, one must remember that the neshamah has to remain vested in a physical body in this world and not become so "intoxicated" with holiness that the soul loses its moorings in physical reality.

    The prohibition of "Al yavo" - "not to come" - "bechal eit el hakodesh" - "at all times into the Sanctuary" - teaches Jews of all levels that, when one repents for inappropriate behavior and is in a Yom Kippur spirit, the resolve should not be to enter a life of seclusion from worldly matters. A Jew must exist in this physical world and through Torah and mitzvot make it a dwelling place for Hashem.

  3. moshe...they died because the fire of Hashem went into them and killed them. they could not "take" it.

  4. thanks reb gutman, this is a valuable piece. what you say is true: the balance of chassidus and tanach study is excellent and very healthy for the jewish soul. tanya and reb nachman are great examples. but also, people should enjoy the commentaries of rashi, ohr hachayim etc on the chumash. they are available in english.


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