By Aaron Moss
I was watching a news report the other day interviewing Madonna (now known as Esther). She was discussing how Kabbalah has changed her life, and how the insights she has learned from her Kabbalah-Rabbi have transformed her.
My question is: What are your thoughts on the masses learning Kabbalah? Is it a good thing? Or is it a fad?
I'm not sure how authentic the "Kabbalah" being studied by Madonna is, but I would imagine there are much worse things she could be doing with her time. If indeed it has made her a better person -- good for her.
I think it is a good thing that more people are interested in Kabbalah. Although it was a restricted area of study in earlier generations, the Kabbalists always said that a time will come when their teachings will become available to everyone. Its blend of profound thought and down to earth spirituality is much needed today.
The question is not so much who can study Kabbalah, but rather how can you tell if it's the real thing. What concerns me is that some modern exponents of the Kabbalah claim that it is a separate religion, distinct from Judaism. This claim is not only untrue, it is self-destructive.
I predict (without using any mystical insight) that this idea of divorcing Kabbalah from its Jewish roots will spell the end of the so-called "Kabbalah movement." The real Kabbalah will thrive, but the cheap imitations will go the way of all the other fads.
You see, the Kabbalists call Jewish mysticism the Pardes, meaning "The Garden". What is the parallel between a garden and mysticism? If you see a beautiful flower in a garden, you may have the urge to pick it and take it home to enjoy its beauty. But a flower won't last long out of its natural habitat. Once it is disconnected from its life-force it will very quickly wither and die.
Taking Kabbalah out of its Jewish context is like picking a flower from a garden. It looks beautiful and smells nice for a while, but soon it starts to wither, rot and stink. Kabbalah is a living, breathing spirituality that is nourished by the rich soil of 3,000 years of Jewish wisdom and practice. But those who are calling it a separate religion (for the obvious reason of gaining a wider audience) are turning something deep and holy into just another passing fad -- it looks good, creates a stir, but won't last.
While one can taste the teachings of Kabbalah even without being particularly observant of Judaism, you can't detach it from its source. Kabbalah is the soul of Torah-Judaism. A body without a soul is lifeless; a soul without a body is baseless. Judaism without its mystical and spiritual side can become dry and unattractive. But Kabbalah without the grounding of practical Judaism, of Torah and its Mitzvos, is an uprooted flower.
We are a searching generation. We've tried empty materialism and it has failed to sustain us. We have experimented with spiritual escapism and it has left us floating towards nowhere. It is time to taste the fruits of The Garden -- the deepest mystical insights grounded in the fertile soil of tradition. That's real Kabbalah.
|Posted on February 16, 2005|