An Aspiring Mekubal

The confessions of a Rabbi and would be mystic

There is Judgement and there is a Judge

I saw this on the eve of municpal elections here in Israel and I thought it was great.   It is a great reminder about who really is in charge.

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.

Summary:

  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

The History of Kabbalah

magenThis is an excerpt from Rav Porush’s introduction to the Shaar HaShamayim printing of Sefer Sulam HaAliyah.  Sefer Sulam HaAliyah is a well known sefer that promotes the Abulafian system of Kabbalah, namely the letter permutation meditations.  Here Rav Porush offers first a brief history of Kabbalah and then a longer exposition on how the Ari’s Kabbalah was primarily a codification of what had gone before, as well as how the Ari was a recipient of the Abulafian system and how he passed it on to his own students.  I am sorry that this is only in Hebrew I have no time presently to translate it:

Rav Morgenshtern on the Parasha

Rav Morgenshtern

The Heights of Hesed: Rav Yaakov Hillel on the Parasha

hillel-300x296

Nekudot HaKesef- Book Review

NekudotFor the past year I have been using a little known book called Sefer Nekudot HaKesef by Rabbi Yechezkel Bing.  It is a step by step introduction to the Kavvanot.  I had seen the book laying around on book shelves for years but I’ve never had more than a passing interest in it.  I had always figured that the method for learning Kavvanot that had been around until now was still the best, namely intense study with the Shaar Hakavvanot, Shemen Sasson and Petach Enayim.  All that changed when someone gave me a set of Nekudot HaKesef.

I was offered a set(a full five volumes) for ten shekel if I would agree to learn from them.  I agreed and initially started to learn through volume three(Erev Shabbat) with my Chavruta.  In very short order I was quite impressed.  First with the scholarship involved, it really is an immense work.  Secondly with how exhaustively it deals with the various Kavvanot.  For a single sefer(even a large multivolume set) it does a quite splendid job of reviewing most of the pertinent sources and presenting them in a logical and understandable way.

It should be noted that the sefer does not seek to be an iyun sefer.  You are not going to find within it a heavy dose of pilpul(dialectic).  Rather it presents the Kavvanot according to a single overall shita, namely that of Yeshivat Shaar HaShamayim.  Not surprising considering that the author(now a Rosh Yeshiva in his own right) was a Talmid Muvhak of the late Rosh Yeshiva of Shaar HaShamayim.  In that respect there are some places that deviate from typical minhag Beit El(I have found five to date) and even from the opinions of the Sadeh(four to date).  However if one studies it with Shaarei Rachamim, Peot HaSadeh or Petach Enayim they will be readily evident, and in truth they are rather minor.   More impressively I have learned through three volumes and have only found two(minor) mistakes.

I was even more impressed when I heard from a friend of mine who learns there that Yeshivat HaChaim VeHaShalom(Rabbi Attiah’s Yeshiva) has begun using them for their beginner course in Kavvanot.  In my opinion they really are written on that level.  Personally, having been to University, I look at them as more or less University text books on the Kavvanot.  That would be both their level of scholarship and their usefulness.  They lay out each Kavvana with it’s various sources and boil it down to how it appears in the siddur, while also giving a healthy dose of background information as to reasons behind the kavvana.

Overall I would say that is an incredibly good sefer to have and to use and it is very close to being in the category of a must have.

Rav Morgenshtern on the Parasha

Rav Morgenshtern

Perfection Through Milah: Rabbi Yaakov Hillel on the Parasha

hillel-300x296

Kabbalah Vs Chassidut: From the Mail Bag

Open book magic on blackI got the following email, and I thought I would share it as I have heard this question several times, and there are probably others out there wondering the same thing:

How do I respond to a friend who favors “chasidut” and says that kavanot is just this fancy thing way out there.  He always likes to recite the story of the 2nd and 3rd Lubavitch Rebbes where one says I have kavana of child and the other says I had one of shtender during tefilah.  In other words, he claims simplicity is best.  He claims who ever discusses the “zip codes” to Hashem has gaavah.
 At same time I now make sure I don’t mention certain subjects around him ie taanit of shovavim or other non-chasidic matters.  (Funny thing is that a large portion of chasidim show up for the taanit at Rabbi X’s in Brooklyn during Shavavim).
First let me say that Kabbalah and Chassidut are not mutually exclusive paths.  Four Yeshivot that spring to mind that defy this dichotomy are Shaar HaShamayim founded by Rav Yehuda Leib Auerbach, then son of the Admur of Chernowitz-Chmielnik Chassidim and heir apparent to the dynasty.  Yeshivat Torat Chakham under Rav Morgenshtern, Yeshivat Divrei Shalom under Rav Bing and Yeshivat Magen Avot under Rav Elazar Mordechai Koenig leader of the Breslav community in Tzefat.  Also there is Rav Ginsburg, who if I am not mistaken has learned Kabbalah in depth and teaches the Kavvanot of the Rashash.  I am sure that there are others that I am not thinking about.  Therefore I would have to say that I believe that your friend’s understanding of both Chassidut and Kabbalah is quite immature, and he may have suffered some unqualified Rabbanim instructing him.
Regarding the stories of the two Admurim, one they are Admur stories…  they are not necessarily true.  However even if they are what they mean becomes a matter of interpretation.  I wish I had the Kavvana of a child.  My own young children will often get so engrossed in a book or a game that even shouting their name, they will not be disturbed.  Likewise I doubt that there is anything as single minded, so to speak, as a shtender.  So one could interpret the story as regarding simplicity or one can interpret it regarding single-mindedness.
He may claim that the Kavvanot are Gaavah.  In truth they can be, for some individuals they may very well be, however, I would say that to think that one knows better than centuries of Israel’s greatest sages is a far greater gaavah.  The Shovavim are also a very Chassidic thing.  All of the major Chassidic groups in Israel fast and do the tikkun of the Rashash throughout the Shovavim.

The Reason for the Kavvaont Part 1

qqxsgKabbalahMadonnaA common question is why the Kavvanot?  Why spend so much time learning how to pray and saying these really long prayers?  Isn’t the normal prayer service enough?  There are a couple of sources that beginners in the world of Kabbalah learn that answer those questions.  This first one is from the Zohar, Parashat Hukat 184a:

Rabbi Shimon said, here something needs to be revealed.  Come and see, every one that knows to order his deeds, meaning to arise, to relieve himself, to wash his hands, to put on talit and tefillin ect properly and his prayers properly, namely all four sections of the prayers, korbanot, pisukei d’zimra, yotzer and Amidah, he will certainly arouse the Holy One Blessed be He to send down supernal blessing and sustenance of which he is worthy, and if he does not know how then he is not worthy.

If this is so all the world knows how to arranger their actions and their prayers, what then is the importance of these tzadikim that know the essence and source of the prayers and mitzvot, and know how to focus their hear and will more than those who do not know how?

Rather those that do not know the essence and source of the mitzvot, rather they merely do them and nothing more, they draw down upon them a drawing from the back, so to speak, of the Holy Blessed be He it does not change the atmosphere, this is called hashgacha clallit which in itself is necessary for the continued sustenance of  the world.

Whereas these that know and focus their hearts and will, they bring forth blessings from the supernal mind, and they come forth in all the types and sources of light in a straight path as is fitting, until everything above and below is blessed, and the name of the Holy one is blessed by them.  Happy is their portion, for the Holy One Blessed is He is close to them and dwells among them.  When they call out to him He answers them, and when they are in trouble He is with them.  He honors them in this world and in the world to come.  This is what is written, “For he has yearned for Me and I will deliver him; I will elevate him because he knows My Name.”

So we see there is more than just a quantitative difference there is a qualitative difference as well.

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