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Kabbalah helps us rectify ourselves by seeing the Infinite nature of Creation.

Character Refinement, Kabbalah-Style

Character Refinement, Kabbalah-Style

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Character Refinement, Kabbalah-Style
Kabbalah helps us rectify ourselves by seeing the Infinite nature of Creation.

In classic Kabbala texts, there are countless remarks regarding the negativity of bad character traits, such as anger, laziness, depression, and others. However, while the harshest condemnation of depression, anger, and other negative counter-productive emotions are found within the works of Kabbala, the Kabbalistic method of character refinement is quite a different approach than the approaches that we are accustomed to encountering. It is not a head-on battle of countering negativity on its own turf, nor is it to overwhelm the negative with the positive. Its approach is to come from another vantage point and see things from another perspective.

The person is supposed to be awakened to consciousness that all that really exists is the Inifinite….

The primary objective of mystical thought is to make the person understand that there is nothing else besides the Infinite. Reading the various configurations, maps, and diagrams the Kabbala presents, the person is supposed to be awakened to consciousness that all that really exists is the Ein Sof - the Infinite. There is a feeling that is meant to be aroused when we penetrate the truths of Kabbala, and that is the feeling that the world as we tend to perceive it, as separate and independent of a creator, is but an illusion. But in reality there is nothing other then the infinite light. Having this notion in mind, consciously or even subconsciously, we are then able to conquer all our personal negative emotions and traits.

Ego is the fountainhead from which all negativity stems….

Rabbi Eliyahu ben Moshe Di Vidas, a 16th century Kabbalist, posits that there are three primary negative traits which may be considered the “principal traits” from which all further dissention occurs. They are: haughtiness, stubbornness, and anger; all of these claim origin in the same source - the ego. Ego is the fountainhead from which all negativity stems. The core of all corruption is that false sense of self/ego, which lives in an incessant state of what it thinks will cause its survival.

When a person becomes angry, it is the ego's way of showing its objection that it is not happy. The ego, when it feels it is threatened, is the one who protests, “How can you do this to me,” which arouses the anger. The fear of annihilation is the constant condition with regards to the ego. Anger is but a manifestation of a persons preoccupation with his imaginary presumptions of survival. The total involvement with the illusory “self” is the root of all negative emotions.

We begin to realize that there is nothing besides the Light….

By overcoming this false sense of self, which stems from one's false estimation of survival, one's negative emotions are conquered. Through the study of the Kabbala, we come to the realization that the false sense of self/ego is but a masquerade of our true and inner dynamics, our transcendent soul. The feeling we get when contemplating Kabbala is that all that exists is the Infinite. We ought to feel this on a cosmic level, and then understand it on our own level. Consequently, the illusion of separateness/ego, and as a result, the preservation of this mirage will slowly begin to fade, and with it will fade the negative emotions which is the ego's manifestation.

Instead of seeing the ego as a real enemy who needs to be engaged in battle in order to be overcome, we begin to realize that there is nothing besides the Light, and everything else is simply a concealment of that truth. Such is the Kabbalistic approach for self-perfection. It does not deal with the negative head-on, nor does it deal with it at all. Rather it goes to the source of all problems, the I/ego, and by extension, the entire physical reality. It demonstrates how, in fact, these seemingly independent realities are but a camouflage.

Excerpted from a longer article, “What is Kabbalah?”, on, and reprinted with permission. Copyright The Iyyun Institute.

Rabbi DovBer Pinson is an internationally acclaimed author, teacher and speaker, who has lectured in both scholarly and lay settings throughout the globe. He heads the Iyyun Institute and lectures at the Jewish Learning Annex, a center dedicated to advanced Jewish studies in Brownstone Brooklyn. His four published books include works on Reincarnation, Meditation, and "The Kabbalah of Music".
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Anonymous January 21, 2016

How come Choni HaMagil (the tzaddik)wasted away and died because he was not accepted by his family or society. Surely you cannot say it was his ego? Reply

Rachel Philadelphia PA December 26, 2015

Why isn't some anger justified? I find it hard to believe there is never a time or instance when anger is not justified. I'm angry that the UN "decided" that the Western Wall is not a Jewish holy site just because Mohammed allegedly tethered his donkey to the Wall. I'm angry that Judea and Samaria are referred to (even in some Jewish publications) as the West Bank. I'm angry that some parts of Israel are referred to as "occupied territory" I'm angry that Arabs are referred to as Palestinians, despite the fact that the UN vote in 1947 was to create and Arab and a Jewish state out of what was named Palestine by the Romans. Those are just a few examples of what I consider justifiable anger. And I think it's very simplistic to consider all anger as a negative character trait. Certainly holding a grudge against your neighbor for a real or imagined wrongdoing is a negative character trait but I don't believe all anger is unjustified. Reply

Herbert Danville, PA April 30, 2015

Is Kaballah pantheistic? Reply

Anonymous PA April 21, 2015

Thanks, nice article. Reply

Maria New York, NY February 17, 2014

To Anonymous seeking character refinement There is the Mussar tradition for character refinement. You may find a course of study/practice at Also, you may count the omer and do the meditation and exercise at The Path of the Just is a wonderful read that you would want to share and discuss with a group of friends. May the Al-mighty bless you with much spiritual growth. Reply

Anonymous Albuquerque, NM June 16, 2011

Character Refinement Thank you so much for this article. Do you have a book or course on character refinement that I can purchase or download? Reply

Sandra Johnson Demotte, Indiana January 11, 2011

Shalom to all I am blessed to hear that to concentrate on "ein sof" when faced with controversy helps us to be wiser in our response to it. Reply

devora miami August 23, 2010

exelent Reply

Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles via March 18, 2010

Answer to Renata Click on "Classic Kabbalah" in the left menu. there you will find an entire section of source material about the Jewish Beliefs in Reincarnation. Reply

renata renaud liverpool, UK via March 17, 2010

compliment your explanation helps very well about ego's way,because we contact every day the people with this ,,problem,,
i would like to know more about Reincarnation Reply

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