I’ve recently started studying chassidic texts, and though I am thoroughly enjoying the teachings, there’s one issue that is bothering me. How can any human claim to know of “other worlds”? Nobody has died and come back to tell us this information. Where does it come from?


Congratulations on entering the world of mystical teachings. I hope that you utilize your new spiritual journey to its maximum!

Now, how do the authors of these texts know what takes place in the spiritual worlds? Allow me to explain:

The basics of the teachings of Kabbalah—upon which all these texts expound and elaborate—were not invented by the human mind. They are teachings that were orally passed down through the generations, from teacher to disciple, dating back to Moses himself.

And Moses did go there and back. He spent months on Mount Sinai wandering through the various spiritual worlds, and then communicated his findings back to us. That which he didn’t personally experience was revealed to him by the Creator of all these spiritual worlds—together with the rest of the Written and Oral Torah. Even after he descended the mountain, he continued to learn directly from G‑d for the next forty years.

For many centuries these esoteric teachings were never transcribed, and were taught only to the holiest and most worthy pupils. With the writing of the Zohar (compiled by the 2nd-century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai), the teachings of Kabbalah became more accessible to the scholarly class. The 16th century saw another huge step in this direction, due to the efforts and teachings of the master Kabbalist the Arizal.

Ultimately, it was the growth of the chassidic movement that made the secrets of the Torah, those that were revealed to Moses some three thousand years earlier, accessible and intelligible to everyone—man and woman, young and old, scholar and layman, Jew and gentile. It also teaches how to apply these otherworldly lessons to make our own lives more spiritual and uplifted.

(Why this evolution in the accessibility of the mystical teachings of the Torah? See The Splattered Gem.)

Another important point: Throughout the generations there have been those who have experienced the spiritual worlds—and then reported their findings to the rest of us.

How did they get there? (Or, how did they get back? . . .) Well, the spiritual worlds are not a far-off location—by definition, a spiritual entity cannot be ascribed a “location”—but a deeper reality existing parallel to ours. Most of us cannot relate to this reality while still enclothed in a physical body which filters out all but that which can be sensed with the five senses. Most of us wait until the time when our soul is unencumbered by the body before experiencing the “other worlds.” But some people are sensitive to that reality. They have refined themselves and connected to G‑d, so much that their soul shines. Sometimes we call them prophets. Sometimes we call them rebbes. The point remains the same; they are sensitive to realms that we can only imagine (or study) about.

A blind person can’t visualize the vivid colors depicted by a sighted person. But he still relies on him to guide him through a busy intersection. We also rely on those who can see the spiritual side of things to help us through the maze we call reality.

Yours truly,
Rabbi Menachem Posner