24. If I want to study Kabbalah, what should I study?
The beginner who wants to become acquainted with the Kabbalah, particularly if he has little or no knowledge of Hebrew, should consider one important point. A beginning student of science could not expect to gain a grasp of advanced theoretical physics or complex chemical formulae on the basis of a few introductory books or lectures. Similarly, one wishing to embark on the study of Kabbalah cannot expect to jump into the most advanced texts.
It is not fitting for beginning students to embark on the study of advanced meditations based upon divine names and letters, which in any case are so complex as to be meaningless without knowledge of Hebrew and considerable background information.
The most appropriate place to start the study of Kabbalah study is with the Kabbalah worldview as it emerges from the Bible, Talmud and Midrash, The Zohar, writings of the ARI and Chassidut. Understanding this worldview can help one refine and deepen his faith in God.
This Kabbalistic worldview is presented clearly and concisely in Derech HaShem - The Way of God by Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto. It is presented differently in Tanya by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1813), and derivative literature of the ChaBaD movement, and in the writings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810). These works are available in English translations.
With regard to Kabbalistic devotions: even the most advanced masters know that the ancient blessings and prayers of the everyday Siddur, which were composed by outstanding prophets, contain all the necessary devotions to become attached to the God on the highest of levels. The pathway to true devotion is to recite the words of the prayers according to their simple meaning, i.e. the meaning they have to each person on his level according to his knowledge.
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught that the most ancient Kabbalistic devotion is hisbodedus, secluded prayer and meditation. The methods are accessible to all, each on his level, and information about them is available in print and on Internet.
© AZAMRA INSTITUTE 5763 - 2003 All rights reserved