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12. It seems like the study of Kabbalah was discouraged, and still is today. Why was the Kabbalah always kept secret? Why is it widely perceived as being dangerous and not to be dabbled with?

Indiscriminate teaching of the inner secrets of the Kabbalah to all-comers was always and still is discouraged by the true Mekubalim, the authentic recipients of the tradition, past and present. Great damage can be caused when knowledge of divine names, letter permutations and their power in the spiritual and physical realms falls into the hands of those who are insufficiently mature, or worse still, intent upon evil.

Because of the very holiness of the Kabbalah, it becomes distorted when the receiving vessel is unholy. An enthusiastic beginning student who has not yet cleansed himself of physical desires, pride and other negative traits may seriously misunderstand and misapply powerful Kabbalistic teachings, causing psychological, emotional, financial or even actual physical damage to himself, those around him and those under his influence.

The false prophets of biblical times possessed fallen Kabbalistic knowledge, which they exploited to entrance large followings. One of the most notorious unfit students was Yeshu of Nazereth, who according to the Talmud, "burned what he cooked in public" (Sanhedrin 43a; 103a). Another unfit student who caused great damage was the false messiah Shabbetai Tzvi (ShaTz, 1626-76), whose movement, based upon distorted teachings from the Zohar, led people for generations thereafter to cast off the yoke of the Torah and its commandments.

In the face of these and similar tragedies, the rabbis who remained faithful to the Torah discouraged widespread, indiscriminate teaching of the Kabbalah and its devotions. The majority encouraged their students first to master the intricacies of the Talmud and legal codes and only then to swim in the sea of the Kabbalah. In some cases, those who studied and taught Kabbalah, particularly those who publicly followed Kabbalistic practices, were persecuted.

Opposition to the Kabbalah from another direction came from those who embraced rationalism and secularism, who tended to view the Kabbalah - and mysticism and religion in general - as non-scientific, intuitive, primitive and bound up with superstition.


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