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Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticsim)

Means 'receiving'

Is a way of looking at the universe beyond what is known or experienced. It is the quest for ultimate meaning and has roots in the bible and throughout Jewish history.

The school of thought, that is Kabbalah, seeks to ask lifes ultimate question such as: who is God? What is the purpose of life? and so on.

The Kabbalah seeks to explain the relationship between God and man by ten step, powers, or emanations, called Sefirot. It teaches that there is an unbroken connection between God and man.

The Kabbalsists agreed that god himself is beyond all human knowledge. Between unknowable being generally called Ein Sof ('The infinite') and the created world, there are a series of emanations, which begins with the Diving will and proceeding through a sequence of ten 'Sefirot'

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Early Rabbinic Mysticism

Various strands within the Talmud and the Midrashic literature can be distinguished with Jewish mysticism. For example , Merkavah ('Chariot') mysticism connected with the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel, in which God's chariot is decribed and each of the four faces represents God in the world.

The aim was to free oneself from the physical retraints and ascend to the realm of paradise. Some individuals were thought to have done this and passed on their message; these mystics experiences were related to the Hekhalot ('heavenly hall') literature, which dates around the seventh to the eleventh century.

For tradiotional Judaism, the love of God is expressed through obedience to the commandments. For the Mystics it is a powerful emotion, as they feel that love has to be stirred in the heart, not out of fear.

Maimonides has a similar argument: the simple are taught to obey God out of fear; it is only when one comes to know God that one can begin to love Him. This thought is the basis of the Mystic ideal of Devekut, 'Cleaving' to God.

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For the mystics it was prayer that served as the main vehicle for the upward journey to the Devine. The Kabbalists developed a system of medative Kavvanot (intentions) which focused on the secret meaning of each prayer, and helped the worshipper to use conical wors of the prayer as stepping stones towards a perception of the Names of God and the mysteries of the universe.

Mysticism recieved an imporant turn through the Lurianic Kabbalah, Joseph Caro, who is primarily remembered for his legal code, the Shulhan Arukh ('Prepared table'). The doctrine of Tikkun (meaning repairing/ healing/ transforming the world). To be a Jew means to ahve a sacred mission. In partneship with God, the Jewish mission is to take the univers God gave them and combat its evil.

According to Jewish thought, the perfection of the world will come when the Messiah has come. To bring around the Messianic age, every Jew - must embrace the mission of Tikkun olam - to strive and make a contribution to the ongoing process of bringing the world towards transformation, healing and perfection

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This is the significance of the Lurianic school: their purpose is not just the blissful reunion of the individual soul with God, but the reperation of the whole cosmos. In this work, man and God are bound together by a closer bond than in Talmudic Judaism.

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The Zohar

The Zohar is attributed to Moses de Leon of Granada, Spain, in the late 1200s.

The Zohar presents mystical teachings on the five books of the Torah. The teachings emphasize that the Torah contains higher truths in addition to the literal meaning of the text.

The publication of the Zohar began the period of the Kabbalah, the mystical interpretations of the pilosophies and the hidden meanings of the Jewish life and teachings

The Zohar is regarded as a sacred book and in some North African synagogues contain two holy arcs, one for the Torah and the other for the Zohar.

According to the Zohar the final goal of the mystical quest is Devekut and the book became enourmously popular in poland with the rise of Hasidism

The Zohar was written in Aramaic as a Midrash on the Torah, it taught that the sefirot emanated from God. They were identified as (see the Sefirot diagram). The Zohar taught that human action had a real effect on the higher world. By the end of the sixteenth century the doctrines of the Zohar had spread throughout europe.

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