Tuesday, February 14, 2012

God is Complicated: Kabbalah

My initial exposure to Kabbalah came when I was taking a Jewish folklore class, and decided to write a paper on the Angel of Death. This caused me to research the Sitra Achra (or "other side") which in folklore and the Kabbalah is associated with evil, the demonic, and the negative. I read many folk tales and Jewish legends. I also read Chaim Potok's "The Book of Lights" about a young rabbi who studies the Kabbalah as a way of making sense of the world after returning home from war. The protagonist has discussions at night with an agent of the Sitra Achra, who is trying to sway him from the lights of wisdom.

According to the Encyclopedia Judaica, the basic ideas of Kabbalah are:
  • God and creation
  • Will
  • Thought
  • Nothingness
  • The Three Lights "the root of all roots"
  • The Problem of Evil
  • Prayer and meditation
While Luria spent much time walking and discussing Kabbalah with his disciples around the streets of Safed, most Kabbalist study is solitary. Enlightenment comes from meditating on a passage or in the folktales from dreams. Personal experience and meditation brings about an understanding of Kabbalah texts and of God.

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