by Christopher Fredrickson
This year in my Torah Portion teachings, I am using a lot of Kabbalist sources for my final year of doing the Torah Portion teachings. A majority of the commentaries I am using come from my set of Zohar. But I had to work my way to that level of understanding. Otherwise, something good could turn into something evil, the Talmud warns of this when 4 rabbis go into the PaRDeS and one dies, one goes crazy and another became apostate, the only one who left unsakajved was Rabbi Akiva.
I am mentioning this because today I was looking at commonalities between many of the cults that have made the headlines in my lifetime and the thing I found shocking with the Heaven's Gate cult and the Branch Davidians is the common factor of Kabbalah. Now neither one of them mention Kabbalah by name, their leaders, Doe Applewhite (Heaven's Gate) and David Koresh (The Branch Davidians) have obviously jumped into Kabbalist studies and have tried to pass it off as a "divine message from G-d". Now, this was easier to do at that time, because this was before the Kabbalah center, so at this time the Zohar wasn't online, and you had to pay a couple thousand dollars to get yourself a copy of it. So of course their followers would not know any different. They could see it as something "new" and as a "divine message" given to their leaders. But if you go to Heaven's Gate's website (which astoundingly after 20 years is still up and running) www.heavensgate.com you can see from their online book, there is a bunch of language straight from the Sefer Yetzirah, the Zohar and very very heavy influence from the book Enoch. The book of Enoch, is rejected by us Jews straight out anyway, but some of these oddball cults think it is the only book of the Bible you need.
Ok, so are you saying Kabbalah is bad? Not at all, many books of our Bible are written on the level of Kabbalah, such as Daniel, Zechariah, John, and Revelation. Are texts like the Sefer Yetzirah or the Zohar bad? No. But they can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Take for instance, in the Talmud (which is nowhere near as complex as the Kabbalists texts) it says "Moses was 10 cubits tall". Now if a person then thinks from reading that, it means Moses is a giant, then they are not ready to study Talmud let alone Kabbalah. So if a person reads Kabbalah as a liberal text as opposed to applying the 32 rules and 32 paths from the hebrew letters (22) with the 10 attributes of the sefiros then the outcome could be devastating. Such as Koresh's ideals about the book of Revelation or Applewhite's ideas about a spaceship behind the Hale Bop comet coming to take them to the "Next Level of Existence". This is the dangers of the Kabbalah.
Now does this mean that we as Lapid Jews should reject Kabbalah outright? G-d forbid. That would be like a non-diabetic condemning a type 1 diabetic for taking insulin, or a person saying that peanuts are bad because some are allergic to them. An automobile is dangerous if a 5 year old is behind the wheel but a 30 year old with an at least average level of responsibility is a different story. Kabbalah is the same way. So like these things, even if someone is not at the level of observance and understanding of hermeneutics in Judaism, a person can still have a healthy respect for Kabbalah. And it is important for them to have a healthy respect for it. Because the very notion of a Messiah coming to earth, who is Hashem in the flesh, and dying and resurrecting is a kabbalist notion. Therefore, a healthy respect is required, even if you are not at the level of understanding yet to study it. One day you will be.
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah the North American Rebbe of Ani Judaism