20. Can one study Kabbalah from books, or must one have a teacher? How do I find the right teacher? How can I know who is reliable?
Diligent students may be able to gain a grasp of fundamental Kabbalistic ideas and concepts through the study of books alone, and those possessing knowledge of Hebrew and textual skills may be able to make considerable headway. In most cases, however, the help of a live teacher is necessary to explain and clarify the true meaning and implications of Kabbalistic teachings and to provide guidance as to how they are to be applied in practice.
Where classes by a reliable, expert teacher are available, it is desirable to take advantage of them. Where no such classes are available, it is advisable to seek a suitable teacher who can provide guidance and direction through periodic consultations and discussions, whether in person, on the phone or through correspondence. Even when one has a teacher, and particularly when one does not, it can be helpful andsupportive to swith a partner or a group of people who have similar interests.
The Kabbalah is called the hidden wisdom of the Torah. It is therefore not surprising that genuine experts are hard to find, while many claiming to teach the Kabbalah turn out to be unreliable or even defective in character. It is often hard for the inexperienced student to gauge the caliber of a teacher who appears to know a lot more than himself, or at least enough to be able to bluff.
It is wise to make thorough inquiries about prospective teachers. Judging who is the right teacher for you is partly a matter of personal intuition - you must decide whether you feel this person has the ability to teach you what you want to know and help you advance in your spiritual quest. Is the teacher's personal conduct consistent with what he teaches? One of the ways of judging whether a teacher is good for you is by considering your reactions in response to his teaching. Does it make you feel enriched, inspired and elevated? Or does it leave you feeling confused, frustrated and restless? Use your answers to these and similar questions as a way to decide whether to continue with this teacher or not.
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