An Aspiring Mekubal

The confessions of a Rabbi and would be mystic

Requirements to Learn Kabbalah: Rav Mordekhai Eliyahu.

Rav EliyahuQuestion: Is someone who is not Baki in Shas and Poskim permitted to study Kabbalah, and is it permitted for women to study Kabbalah?

Answer:  The study of Kabbalah is extremely important and it is in it’s merit that Israel will be redeemed, as is explained in the Holy Zohar, “In the future Israel will taste of the tree of life which is this Sepher HaZohar they will redeemed by it from the exile with mercy and lovingkindness.” And also in the Holy Zohar parashat Pekudei(247) it is how important is the study of the Zohar.

In the Shu”T Torah Lishmah(17) it is written: It is a truth that a man is required to labor in the study of Kabbalah and to learn the secrets of Hashem as it is written by David HaMelekh upon him be peace and his son Shlomo, “Know the G-d of your fathers and how to serve him.

However the Rama writes(Yoreh Deah 246:4): “A man should not sojourn in the orchard, until after he has filled his belly with meat and wine, which means to know Issur V’Heter and the laws of the mitzvot.”  And the Shakh writes(S”K 6): “The Kabbalists and the other achronim have argued over whether one should not learn Kabbalah until after he has filled his belly from the Shas.  There are also those that have written that one should not learn Kabbalah until he is forty years old as it is written: ‘A forty year old to understanding.’ Also there is need for holiness and purity and exactingness and cleanliness for this, many who rush to ascend to this wisdom do so before the proper time as it is written concerning the four Sages of truth.”

The Rema wrote in his sefer Torah HaOleh(3:4): “Many of the ordinary people, rush to study Kabbalah because it is desirable in their eyes… even Baalei Batim who do not know their right from their left in their ignorance they  don’t even know who to explain a page of gemmarra or the parasha according to Rashi, and they rush to study Kabbalah… and they all learn only a little but boast in learning much and give speeches to the masses.”  Note the warning of the Ramban in his well known introduction to the Torah for a man not to dare to learn the Kabbalistic issues in his book except from the mouth of a man who is certified to teach them.”

See the Shu”T Rav Pealim(Y”D 1:56) which writes: “Eve a great sage amongst the sages and a great Gaon of the Gaonim it is impossible for him to clearly understand the issues from his own wisdom and understanding, even if he has all the holy books the Kabbalah, for it is a tradition passed orally from man to  man until our teacher Rabbi Haim Vital who received it from our master the Ar”i Z”l who received it from the mouth of Eliyahu HaNavi Z”l, because there are things that are impossible to write and impossible to describe with pen and ink, rather they are only possible to be passed from person to another.”  Also in Shu”T Rav Pealim(O”C 2:61) he brings the words of the Hayei Adam(Nishmat Adam Klal 145:2) that in the midst of the things that bring a man to impurity he writes, “Also a person who is not worthy to learn the wisdom of Kabbalah it causes him to be impure.  Our teacher Rabbi Haim Vital writes(in the introduction to Shaar HaHakdamot 1C, and it is printed in the introduction to Sefer Eitz Chaim) Therefore a man should not say I will go and I will learn the wisdom of Kabbalah before he has learned Torah, Mishnah and Talmud, for our sages have already said, “A man should not enter the orchard unless he has filled his belly with meat and wine, and behold this is like a soul without a bodythat has no reward, or deeds or accounting until it is joined with a body and is thus able to uphold the 613 mitvot that are commanded in the Torah as is necessary.”

Therefore, one who has not learned Shas, and has not learned the four parts of the Shulchan Arukh is not able to enter into the wisdom of the Kabbalah, rather it is permitted and even a mitzvah to learn Chok L’Yisrael with the Zohar that is brought there even if he has not filled his belly with Shas and Poskim, even in depth, but not more than this.  Also one who is accustomed to learn Zohar simply by reading it, this is permitted for it purifies the soul, but he should not learn it in depth.

There is also to know, that the study of Kabbalah requires one to be in holiness and purity and it is forbidden for women to join in this even if they Yirei Shamayim, and it is certainly forbidden for women and men to learn together.  Hashem the Blessed One may He save us and save all Yisrael from the curses written there by the Shakh.

And may it be his will that we shall all merit, and that everyone will return in complete teshuva, and that we will merit to serve the creator and to do his will and may we merit to see the redemption speedily in our days.  Amen may it be His will.


  1. There is a difference between the learning of the Eitz Chaim and Shaar HaKavvanot and the learning of the Zohar.
  2. One who has filled his belly with Shas and Poskim and who has entered into the four parts of the Shulchan Arukh it is a mitzvah for him to study Kabbalah form the mouth of a Mekubal.
  3. Someone who has not studied Shas and Poskim is able to read the Zohar but not in depth and to learn the Zohar that is brought in Chok L’Yisrael in depth, but it is forbidden for him to learn Kabbalah until he has learned Shas and Poskim.
  4. Women are not permitted to learn Kabbalah even if they are Tzadiket(Righteous) and Chasidinot(Pious).  Since a man is forbidden from teaching his own son, Kal V’Chomer men are not permitted to learn with women.
  5. It is a great mitvah to tell one who has learned Shas and Poskim that he has an obligation to learn Kabbalah.  And to tell one who has not arrived at the level where he is able to learn Shas and Poskim that he is not permitted to learn Kabbalah.

WIth great Blessing

Rav Mordekhai Eliyahu

Rishon L’Tzion Chief Rabbi of Israel

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25 thoughts on “Requirements to Learn Kabbalah: Rav Mordekhai Eliyahu.

  1. Shalom on said:

    Shalom u Bracha !

    Lichvod HaRav, I have several questions:

    -1Only is forbidden to study the kabbalah of the Ari Ha Kadosh? it is possible to study the books of the Kabbalists of Girona (Azriel, Ezra)?

    2-Is there a problem if we study Hasidut or Maharal books?

    3-There is a ban on the study of the Sefer Yetzirah and the Bahir?

    4-Is there a problem if we study books about the characteristics of the thought of great mekubalim? Gershom Scholem, Joseph Dan …. etc

    Todah Rabbah !!!

  2. I don’t understand his answer about women. It almost sounds as if he is implying women cannot be in holiness and purity. He actually does not give any reason for his position. Perhaps you should ask a follow-up question?

    • Quite difficult to ask a follow up question all things considered.

      However his logic is generally quite simple. It would be a major breach of holiness to discuss many of the inyanim of the Kabbalah with a woman. It would be a breach for a man to discuss them with his own son, all the more so a woman.

  3. Avraham Yeroshalmi on said:

    With all due respect, isn’t this the reason why so many Jews are drawn to Eastern spirituality and are found in many Hindu/Buddhist meditation halls? They don’t have access to spirituality through Judaism because of all these restrictions. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    • No. It is a Yetzer Hara and the desire for speedy gratification that has so many Jews in Buddhist and Hindu meditation halls. Jewish spirituality is and has always been predicated upon Torah observance. There is a path that one must walk to become a spiritual giant. Even in the Buddhist and Hindu meditation halls, any real success takes a lifetime of self deprivation and practice.

      The Jews(and flocks of other people) who are running off to quick ten day Vipassana courses aren’t getting a real taste of either the religion or the spirituality of the thing. They are getting a lot of hype and warm feelings… Put on by what are essentially Buddhist missionaries in the hopes of getting people to join their religion.

      If Jews really wanted a Jewish experience like that including all the warm and fuzzies, they need only go to one of the longer Chabad events, and I don’t mean that as a put down by Chabad. However Chabad in many of their outreach events, even their Yeshivacation are essentially dressing up(just like the Buddhists are doing) the rigors of a committed Jewish lifestyle in order to give people the “WOW” factor.

      The problem with both, whether Jewish Kiruv or Buddhist/Hindu experiences is that the long term retention rates are abysmal. Eventually the “WOW” takes you as far as you are going to go with it and reality sets in, and often when people are won by the “WOW” the figure that reality is not what the signed on for and bolt.

      Sticking with your Buddhist example, have you ever read the Buddhist ten commandments(or precepts as they call them) or the other 227 commandments that they have to keep in order to have a spiritually fulfilling life?

      So no I don’t think that these restrictions are why so many Jews are found in Buddhist and Hindu meditation halls…

  4. Isha, The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught Hassidut to women and you can learn kabbalistic oriented texts in the Shuva Midrasha in Ofra. Rav Bazri’s cousin, Haviva Pedaya is a professor of Kabbalah in B.G.U. In Beer Sheva.
    Rabbi Michael, I don’t mean to be provocative or contrarian but I know quite a few kabbalists who allow women to learn and actually learn Zohar with their wives! I see no reason to impose such strict restrictions on God fearing people whose only demand is to become holier. Those who permit are no less qualified. You should be quite sure that if you don’t give them God they will eventually look elsewhere in desperation, and I wouldn’t dare risk being blamed for that in heaven.

    • I won’t risk going against the Gedolim, and Mekubalim. If you have Teshuvot please provide them… Otherwise it is very very clear in Kabbalistic literature that it forbidden.

      • There are reasons for the prohibitons which are not as essential to the nature of women as they are to the social milieu in which they were written. Times have changed and the reasons for the prohibitions may not apply anymore.

      • There are a great many reasons why women should not learn Kabbalah, most especially the Kabbalah of the Ari. Some deal with pashat, and some come from Kabbalah itself.
        First I don’t think the social reasons are gone. The Mishnah leaves as halakha that a man shouldn’t talk more than necessary about certain issues with his own wife, and definitely not with other women. So just from that one(of many reasons) a Rav teaching women is highly problematic.
        Then like I said there are also reasons that stem from the Kabbalah itself. According to Kabbalah it would be a shveira for a woman to daven with the Kavvanot. Therefore it would be a major bitul zman(as well as other problems) to teach a woman them…

  5. Agreed. But surely there is an elementary class, ala Kabbalah 101, which is suitable for women. One can teach basic Kabbalistic concepts about the role of man in the world without discussing the kavvanot. Isnt shevirat hakelim a basic concept that both men and women can appreciate?

    • Sure. I mean honestly at that point you are dealing more along the lines of Chassidus. Even if you read the drushim of say the Ben Ish Hai or Rav Yaakov Abichatzeira you are essentially reading the Jewish version of Chassidus. An explanation of basic Kabbalistic concepts.
      However, in all honesty, that is a far cry from actually learning Kabbalah. What Rav Eliyahu is addressing here, is the study of actual Kabbalah. In depth study of Kitvei and so forth. There have, in recent years, been several Rabbis who thought that they were more clever than our sages who decided that they would teach women, every time serious issues of ishet ish arose.
      There was even a situation in Tzfat some years ago where some Sem girls decided that they would learn Kabbalah, more or less on their own, and the debauchery that they fell into became such legend that an Israeli film maker made a movie out of it.
      I understand that to a rationalist mind much of this might be quite hard to understand. But to anyone who wants to truly study Kabbalah, there has to be a recognition that we are dealing with very serious and very powerful spiritual forces that ought not to be taken lightly. Our sages have instituted certain safeguards through the generations for very good reasons.

  6. Rabbi Michael,
    You are talking about using Kavvanot. I was talking about learning texts. Ask Rav Batzri what he thinks of his cousin. Bitul zman is not a halahic concept. You can have great insight in Avodat Hashem from learning Lurianic texts and concepts and their meanings, not necessarily Rashash style, but rather Ramchal, Rav kook, Hassidut etc. or from learning Zohar with a bonafide teacher. I see no halahic reason why this would be forbidden and it will do good for Yirat Shamyim instead of using primitive behavoristic “mussar” literature.
    “Jewish version of hassidus” -Pardon???

    • I don’t need to ask him, I have heard him on more than one occasion refer to said cousin as an apikorus. Rav Batzri feels very strongly that women should not be allowed to learn Kabbalah. It was one of the disagreements that lead to his split with Rav Kaduri many years ago.
      Rav Kaduri never saw reason to close the women’s balcony when Kabbalah shiurim were going on in the Beit Midrash. Rav Batzri did, and to this day at his own Yeshiva before a Kabbalah shiur occurs in the main Beit Midrash the women’s balcony is cleared and the door is locked.

  7. I know Haviva Pedaya and I’ll ask her whether this is true. I find it rather hard to believe. She used to learn with her grandfather, Rav Yehudah Ptaya’s son, a mekubal in his own right. To the best of my knowledge she and Rav Batzri get along . Regardless of what Rav Batzri thinks she isn’t an epikores and those words shouldn’t be thrown around at the tip of a hat like by the Kanaim.

  8. I love honest answers only. I just want to be sure I’m not misinformed so Ill ask her directly.Maybe you heard this second hand or maybe he has another cousin. Anyhow, I don’t think Rav Batzri has the right to call God fearing people Kofrim, especially when as you mention the issue is disputed by no less than Rav Kaduri who was not a Kofer.

    • Didn’t say Kofer. Said apikorus, there is a difference you know. Rav Batzri considers anyone in University to of necessity be an apikorus.

      Further do not take from my words that Rav Kaduri would have ever in any way permitted women to study Kabbalah. He says quite clearly that he does not as is recorded in the printed Teshuvot of his. The dispute between them was whether some lady saying Tehillim in the women’s section had to be kicked out lest she over hear parts of shiur that she probably wouldn’t understand. Rav Batzri felt(and feels) very strongly that they do, that any study of Kabbalah by women is to be avoided. Rav Kaduri did not.

  9. B”H

    The times I feel myself ashamed for that they write here with so great lack of education with Mr. HaRav Michael Tzadok Shelit”a, people whom no respect…

    instead of attacking it doubts with so great lack of education, we would have to thank for the Harav this donating a little of its precious time, in teaching, and bringing new things, a little more than respect, therefore the Harav not this here for the delight of our proper pleasures… it this only stops here in teaching them and passing what it was taught…

    I particularly am thankful of all the heart for each new teaching … dear Harav Michael Tzadok SHelit”a,

  10. Rabbi Michael I realize you obey your Rabbis, but as a college grad, honestly, do you buy in to the kind of things you just quoted from Rav Batzri? Do you think such blanket statements can be taken any more seriously than the Haredi municipal parties calling other h.m. Parties epikoresim? By the way, I know Rav Batzri and his son greatly respect Kabbalah prof. Moshe Idel and even rise for him when he enters the room. I personally heard him say this, and saw him do an interview with Rav Yizchak Batrzi.

    • Yes I do have a Uni degree, and I don’t think that Rav Batzri, or anyone else who is Sephardi litterally means that they believe someone is an apikorus in the full halakhic sense. However, I do think that he thinks that Apikorus is taught at Uni, and that one cannot consider those that take part in it to be yirei shamayim.

      In that, in many ways I would have to agree with him. Research Universities in particular with their publish or perish rules are the worst of all. Just look up the reviews I did on Pinchas Giller’s Shalom Sharabi and the Kabbalists of Beit El to see what I am talking about.

      I even wrote to him about many of the problems in his work after someone asked me to on the blog. I never published his response for various reasons but it left much to be desired to say the least.

      Of course they rise and give respect to Dr. Idel. He is over 60. The Ari says one must give respect to someone over 60 even if they are an Am HaAretz or a Rasha.

  11. If you banished me , please explain this to me in my email. I find it rather perplexing and unnecessary if you ask me. I insist I was not disrespectful on purpose and should be tolerated.

  12. I dont think Rav Batzri is speaking literally when he says anyone in Uni is an apikoros. Would he count them toward a minyan?

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