Judaism is based on the public Revelation at Sinai,
when the Torah was given to Israel. The historical event of Sinai attests to the
divine source and nature of the Torah, and the Torah in turn serves as the
exclusive criterion for any subsequent claims and teachings.
Authentic Jewish mysticism is an integral part of
Torah, and Torah determines what is authentic Jewish mysticism.
The general term for Jewish mysticism is Kabbala.
Kabbala means "tradition". The Kabbala is not a compound of personal insights.
It is not a collection of reports of what various sages and saints had to say on
the meaning of life and ultimate values - based on their mystical experiences or
visions. It is not a system born in a vacuum.
The Kabbala and its teachings - no less than the
halacha - are an integral part of the Torah. They are traced back to the
historical roots of Sinai, part and parcel of "Moses received the Torah from
Sinai and transmitted it…."
To be sure, in various works of the Kabbala one can
find reports of mystical experiences, visions, the supernatural - all those
things and more which we normally link to mysticism. They are there, but they
are not the essence or even a major part of the Kabbala. At best they are
effects, possibilities of potential effects that may accompany a mystic's life.
The authentic mystic, however, will not seek to manipulate, and will shun
interference with the natural order instituted by the Creator.
The authentic mystic seeks knowledge, understanding.
He wants to "Know the G-d of your father", to fulfill the precept of "You shall
know this day and consider in your heart that G-d He is G-d in Heaven above and
upon the earth below - there is nothing else." He seeks to realize and
understand this axiom not only as an intellectual affirmation of truth but as a
living reality within the limits of his capacity - profoundly sensing the
literal omnipresence of G-d, with a penetrating understanding and knowledge, as
much as possible.
The Authenticity of Kabbala
Kabbala is theology in the fullest sense -
including ontology, cosmogony and cosmology. It is not speculative philosophy
based on human insight nor theories derived from human reasoning. It is a study,
as it were, of Divinity and of the relationship between G-d and His Creation,
based on the premises of revealed truth.
The Kabbala takes man beyond the normative
understanding of reason. It goes beyond the exoteric part of Torah and
transcends normative existence. It uncovers many of the infinite layers of the
secrets of life, of Creation, of the soul, of the heavenly spheres. It
penetrates beyond the garments and the body of the Torah. It is the very core
and soul of Torah, the ultimate revelation of Divinity - exposing the inner
meaning, effects and purpose of Torah and
mitzvot. The illumination
emanating from the
Kabbala ignites the soul of man, setting it on fire in
the awareness of a deeper and higher reality. Its study and insights are
themselves mystical experiences.
[from "The Mystical Dimension" Vol. I by Rabbi Jacob Immanuel Schochet]