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    What is Kabbalah? – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. What is Kabbalah?

    Title page of the Kabbalistic work, the Zohar, Mantua, 1558

    A. From a root that means “to receive”, Kabbalah (“tradition”) denotes a system that is said to date back to ancient origins.

    There are mystic currents in Biblical and post-Biblical literature and the early rabbinic sources report a number of mystics and mystical experiences.

    By the Middle Ages the mystical strand in Judaism had become a complex system of thinking, focussing on themes such as the nature of God and the history and structure of Creation.

    Mystics often concerned themselves with the flaws and malfunctions of the world and how to mend them and re-unite God with his exiled Sh’chinah.

    The major kabbalistic text is the Zohar, said to date back to Mishnaic times and ascribed to Shimon bar Yochai in the 2nd century, who claimed that his secret wisdom derived from earlier generations commencing with the time of Adam and Eve. The modern scholars attribute the Zohar to the 13th century rabbi Moses de Leon.

    Neither the Zohar or indeed the whole kabbalistic tradition is easy reading of the modern popularistic self-help kind.

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