13. It is often said that one has to be 40 years old before embarking on the study of Kabbalah? Is this true?
The respect and caution with which the Kabbalah was guarded in face of the tragedies caused by its abuse led to the recommendation that one should wait until the age of forty before embarking on its study. It is in any case a law that the Torah may be taught only to a worthy student. The presumption was that by the age of forty, the average student would be married, settled and stable, and would have the thorough grounding in the Talmud and codes necessary to make serious Kabbalistic study safe and meaningful. The rabbinic dictum about the ages of man states: ".And a man of 40 is ready for Binah - understanding." (Avot 5:24).
Nevertheless, this was not a rule that was universally observed. Rabbi Moses Cordovero (1522-1570) began the study of Kabbalah at the age of twenty, while R. Isaac Luria, the ARI (1534-1572), started at the age of seventeen. Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto, RaMHaL (1707-46) wrote a synopsis of the ARI's Etz Hayyim at the age of 14.
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