25 Questions
& Answers about

14. What parts of the Kabbalah are "safe"?

Even in the face of widespread opposition to its study, the Israelite soul has always thirsted for the sweet waters of the mystical Torah. From the 1600's onwards, as the writings of Rabbi Moses Cordovero and Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, the ARI, began to reach increasing numbers of Diaspora communities, this thirst began to be quenched by masters who had the power to clothe and explain Kabbalistic wisdom in vessels accessible to the educated seekers of their times.

Among the first such masters were Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the Maharal of Prague (c. 1525-1609), and Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565?-1630),known as the SheLAH (acronym of his multifaceted work, Shney Luchot HaBrit, Two Tablets of the Covenant). Later giants were Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto, (RaMHaL, 1707-46) and Rabbi Elijah ben Shlomo Zalman, the Vilna Gaon or Ha-GRA (= Ha-Gaon Rabbi Eliyahu, 1720-1797) and his students.

New and original vessels for bringing understanding of Kabbalistic ideas and experience of the mystical within the grasp of more Jews were created by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), founder of the Chassidic Movement. The teachings of outstanding Chassidic masters of later generations, such as Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1813), founder of the ChaBaD movement, and Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), have brought the sweet waters of the mystical Torah ever further afield. For many Sefardic seekers, an important channel of the authentic Kabbalah is Rabbi Yoseph Hayyim ben Elijah Al -Hakam, known as Ben Ish Hai, "Son of the Living Man" (1833 or 1835-1909).

The true kabbalists did not discourage study of Kabbalah when this holy wisdom is treated with the proper respect and reverence. The Zohar states that "they will go out of exile with this book!" The Kabbalistic masters of 16th century Safed believed that the time had come for the Kabbalah to be studied more widely, and they encouraged it.


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