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Is New-Wave Kabbalah Authentic?

Is New-Wave Kabbalah Authentic?

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Question:

I was watching a news report the other day about Madonna (now known as Esther). She was discussing how Kabbalah has changed her life, the new views she has and the insight she has gained from learning with her Rabbi. She apparently even keeps a kosher home. My question is - what are your thoughts on the masses learning Kabbalah? Is it a good thing? Or is it a fad?

Answer:

I'm not sure how authentic the "Kabbalah" being studied by Madonna is, but I would imagine there are much worse things she could be doing with her time. If it has indeed made her a better person - good for her.

The renewed interest in Kabbalah is a good thing. The Kabbalists always said that although in earlier generations Kabbalah was a restricted area of study, a time will come when these teachings will become available to everyone. Its blend of profound thought and down to earth spirituality is much needed today.

The question is not so much who can study Kabbalah, but who can teach it and how it is taught. Some modern exponents of the Kabbalah claim that it is a separate religion, distinct from Judaism. This claim is not only untrue, it is self-destructive, and one should beware of such teachers.

The Kabbalists call Jewish mysticism the Pardes, meaning "The Garden." If you see a beautiful flower in a garden, you may have the urge to pick it and take it home to enjoy its beauty. But a flower won't last long out of its natural habitat. Once it is disconnected from its life-force it will very quickly wither and die.

Taking Kabbalah out of its Jewish context and removing it from Jewish practice, is like picking a flower from a garden. It looks beautiful and smells nice for a while, but soon it starts to wither, rot and stink. Kabbalah is a living, breathing spirituality that is nourished by the rich soil of Jewish wisdom and practice. But those who are calling it a separate religion, for the obvious reason of gaining a wider audience, are turning something deep and holy into just another passing fad. It looks good, creates a stir, but won't last.

While one can taste the teachings of Kabbalah even without being particularly observant of Judaism, you can't detach it from its source. Kabbalah is the heart of Judaism. A body without a heart is lifeless. A heart without its body is useless. Judaism without its mystical side can become dry and unattractive. But Kabbalah without the grounding of practical Judaism is an uprooted flower.

We are a searching generation. We've tried empty materialism and it has failed to sustain us. We have experimented with spiritual escapism and it has left us floating towards nowhere. It is time to taste the fruits of The Garden, the deepest mystical insights grounded in the fertile soil of the Jewish tradition and observance. That's real Kabbalah.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
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Discussion (28)
August 14, 2014
Thanks for this, good read! Kabbalah changed my life!
Stacie Richardson
Narellan
December 28, 2013
Thank You., --much appreciated.
Pogin
Bellingham WA.
August 20, 2013
Judaism? Kabbalah?
I am Polish. My grandfather told me never to trust a Jew. He lived in his times, I live in mine... I spent some time translating the wisdom of Kabbalah into Polish language and I was profoundly affected by it. "don't do unto others what you don't want others to do unto you" and "love your neighbor as you love yourself" are the prevailing principles of everything I have heard. All this seams so obvious and so deeply rooted in Polish-Catholic upbringing, yet there is so much repulsion against it somehow... This exactly is our work: To challenge our own ego and to force ourselves into follow the right path of love, forgiveness and above all of truly caring about the others. And after that comes the importance of the very moment you live in, the importance of the goal and the faith above the reason. It is so very much a common sense. I wish with all my heart that we all eventually get it. However, going through this revelation is sometimes very painful. But there is no other way... God bless!
1 charecter remaining: YOU!
Sydney
April 18, 2013
Thank you
Thank you.
Enrique Williams
Panama city Panama.
April 5, 2012
wow
being a Buddhist i was blown away by the answer , i met a Jewish friend who opened my eyes to so much more and the power of now, i was so interested on how he saw things the way he explained about kabbalah and that's what led me here , must say this site is amazing!!
Anonymous
colombo, Sri Lanka
February 11, 2012
Beautiful Answer !!!
Awesome, thanks for the beautiful answer.
Eric Sean Tite Webber
Hammock Dunes, FL/USA
June 2, 2011
A Fad of Kabbalah?
The question is excellent; the answer even better. Judaism without Kabbalah is like Eleazar without Akiva. Without either, Judaism would perish. The Talmud has considered that one reason for the destruction of the 2nd-Temple was the unfeeling adherence to the letter of the law without the life-force that the law expresses. We cannot let Judaism lapse into such a state again. The Jews are the life of the law and kabbalah is the life of the Jew.

This only an opinion from an outsider, born and reaised Christian, I am awaiting a date for the Bet Din that will erase the term outsider. But, I have read in Talmud that one who is not idolatrous is called a Jew.

Thank you Chabad for your help in my two years of study. An especial thanks to Aaron Moss for his excellent article that brought the two concepts into such an harmonious whole.
Anonymous
June 1, 2011
Beautifully put!
What a clear and positive explanation that offends no one and includes everyone. Yashar koach!
Rochel Chana RIven
Toronto, Canada
June 1, 2011
attn Anonymous, Hville
what do you think moses studied for 40 days on mt sinai in the spiritual realm?
levi rapoport
syracuse , NY
June 1, 2011
please clarfy
Your essay seems to contain a contradiction, correct me if I am wrong.

You state kabbalah can make one a better person and that the earlier Rabbis said Kabbalah teachings with in time be avaliable to EVERYONE. Spirituality for all.

Then at the end of your article you state Kaballah without Judaism is a rotting flower. That it will just be a passing fad, a nice sugary rush.

You have it seems contradicted with this your earlier statements of the good Kaballah can bring to mankind regardless of wether they are jewish or not.

Please could you clarify this!
rhl