The most succinct definition of Jewish mysticism is found in the Zohar .

Said R. Shimon: Woe to the man who says that the Torah merely tells tales and ordinary matters.

(The Torah contains many narratives, especially in the Book of Genesis (Bereishit), which may appear of no use or significance, as, for example, the genealogies and territories of the families descended from Noah (Genesis, ch. 10), and the genealogies of Edom (Genesis, ch. 36); Moreh Nevuchim,III:50.)

If this were so, we could compose, even nowadays, a `torah' dealing with ordinary matters, and an ever better one at that!

(If the Torah were merely a history-text, a book of legends, a practical guide for social behaviour, or some combination of these, man can easily compose a similar, and even better, work.

In truth, however, the Torah is not a human or worldly composition of finite and relative value. The Torah is Divine: every word and letter is a Divine revelation to the point that a Torah-scroll in which a mistake has been made by adding or omitting even a single letter is disqualified for use as a Torah- scroll.)

In reality, all the words of the Torah represent lofty themes and sublime mysteries.

The Torah is clothed in `garments' which relate to this world, because otherwise the world would not be able to contain and absorb it.

(If the Torah is to be intelligible to man - a finite being living in a finite, physical world - then the Torah has to speak in the language of man (Berachot 31b), using anthropomorphic terminology and ideas adapted to man's mental capacity. See R. Bachya ibn Pakuda, Chovot Halevovot, Sha'ar Hayichud, ch. 10; and Moreh Nevuchim I:33.)

The stories of the Torah are only the 'garment' of the Torah, as opposed to the Torah itself. David thus said: `Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Torah' (Psalms 119:18) - i.e., that which is beneath the garment of the Torah.

Come and see: There are garments which everyone can see. When fools see a person in clothes which to them look beautiful, they look no further.

(The wise see not only the outer garment and the body, but they are aware that the `body' (the precepts; the `letter of the law') is and must be accompanied and complemented by the `soul' of the Torah.

The commentators note the seemingly parenthetical phrase `those who stood at Mount Sinai.' They read it in context of the tradition that not only the generations of those who partook in the exodus from Egypt but all the souls of Israel, to the end of time, participated in the revelation and receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai (see Shabbat 146a;Pirkei deR. Eliezer, ch. 41; Shemot Rabba 28:6; Zohar I:91a).

Our text thus implies here that those who do not accept or believe that there is an inner meaning (soul) to the Torah, those who reject the mystical tradition (sod) - which in fact is the very essence or soul of the Torah - did not partake in the revelation at Sinai; see there R. Chaim David Azulay, Nitzutzei Orot.)

The Torah also has a 'body', namely the precepts of the Torah which are called gufei Torah (the `bodies', i.e., main principles of the Torah), and that body is vested in garments - namely the worldly tales (and language of the Torah).

The fools of this world look at the 'garment', the narrations of the Torah, and they do not know anything more. They do not consider what is beyond that garment. Those who realize more (than the fools) do not look at the garment but at the body beneath it.

But the wise - the servants of the Supreme King, those who stood at Mount Sinai - they look for the 'soul', the very essence of everything, the real Torah.... And in another passage the Zohar states: How precious are the words of the Torah! For every single word contains sublime mysteries.

One of the thirteen exegetical rules by which the Torah is expounded states: `When a particular case is included in a general proposition, but was then singled out from the general proposition to teach us (concerning something specific), it was not singled out to teach only concerning that specific case but to apply its teaching to the whole of the general proposition.' (Now it is likewise with the Torah itself:) The Torah is the supernal, general proposition. (As for the specific narratives,) however, every one of these is clearly not restricted to its very own context alone but indicates sublime ideas and sublime mysteries. `It was not singled out to teach only concerning that specific case but to apply its teaching to the whole of the general proposition' - that is, relating to the sublime proposition of the total Torah.

Woe to those who maintain that a particular narrative of the Torah teaches only about itself! If that were so, the supernal Torah would not be that which it really is, namely a `Torah of Truth.'

Come and see: It is not dignified for a king of flesh and blood to engage in common talk, and less so to commit it to writing. How then can one conceive that the most high King, the Holy One, blessed be He, was short of sacred words to commit to writing and with which to compose the Torah, so that He collected all sorts of `common subjects' - like the words of Esau, the words of Hagar, the words of Laban to Jacob, the words of Balaam and his donkey, the words of Balak, the words of Zimri and the other recorded narratives, to make of them a Torah! No doubt but that the supernal, holy Torah is a Torah of Truth, `the Torah of G‑d is perfect' (Psalms 19:8), and every single word signifies sublime matters.

This premise is so basic that Maimonides incorporated it in the Thirteen Fundamental Principles of the Jewish Faith, by stating: "There is no difference between verses like `The sons of Cham were Cush and Mitzraim, Phut and Canaan' (Genesis 10:6) or `His wife's name was Mehatabel, daughter of Matred' (Genesis 36:39) and verses like `I am G‑d, your G‑d...' (Exodus 20:2) and `Hear, O Israel, G‑d, our G‑d, G‑d is One' (Deuteronomy 6:4). They are all equally of Divine origin, and all belong to the Torah of G‑d which is perfect, pure, holy and true!"