Read More on This Topic. Under these circumstances, starting around , manifestations of markedly theosophic ideologies appeared in southern France in the regions….
Jewish mysticism offers a poetic explanation of the Big Bang and black holes
Facts Matter. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. Under these circumstances, starting around , manifestations of markedly theosophic ideologies appeared in southern France in the regions of Provence and Languedoc. The two types that can be distinguished at the outset are very different in appearance, form, and content. In the 16th century, Jewish myth and legend took several new directions.
The disappointment of messianic expectations through the dismal eclipse of the pretender Shabbetai Tzevi increased interest in occult speculation and in the mystical lore of the Kabbala. Important schools of Kabbala ….
Sefirot , in the speculations of esoteric Jewish mysticism Kabbala , the 10 emanations, or powers, by which God the Creator was said to become manifest. In the development of…. History at your fingertips.
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Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. More About. Jewish Encyclopedia. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. The majority of Haredi Jews accept the Zohar as the representative of the Ma'aseh Merkavah and Ma'aseh B'reshit that are referred to in Talmudic texts.
Following the upheavals and dislocations in the Jewish world as a result of anti-Judaism during the Middle Ages , and the national trauma of the expulsion from Spain in , closing the Spanish Jewish flowering , Jews began to search for signs of when the long-awaited Jewish Messiah would come to comfort them in their painful exiles.
In the 16th century, the community of Safed in the Galilee became the centre of Jewish mystical, exegetical, legal and liturgical developments. The Safed mystics responded to the Spanish expulsion by turning Kabbalistic doctrine and practice towards a messianic focus. Moses Cordovero and his school popularized the teachings of the Zohar which had until then been only a restricted work.
Cordovero's comprehensive works achieved the systemisation of preceding Kabbalah. The author of the Shulkhan Arukh the normative Jewish "Code of Law" , Yosef Karo — , was also a scholar of Kabbalah who kept a personal mystical diary. Moshe Alshich wrote a mystical commentary on the Torah, and Shlomo Alkabetz wrote Kabbalistic commentaries and poems.
The messianism of the Safed mystics culminated in Kabbalah receiving its biggest transformation in the Jewish world with the explication of its new interpretation from Isaac Luria — , by his disciples Hayim Vital and Israel Sarug. Both transcribed Luria's teachings in variant forms gaining them widespread popularity, Sarug taking Lurianic Kabbalah to Europe, Vital authoring the latterly canonical version.
Luria's teachings came to rival the influence of the Zohar and Luria stands, alongside Moses de Leon, as the most influential mystic in Jewish history. The ban on studying Kabbalah was lifted by the efforts of the 16th-century kabbalist Avraham Azulai — I have found it written that all that has been decreed Above forbidding open involvement in the Wisdom of Truth [Kabbalah] was [only meant for] the limited time period until the year 5, C.
From then on after is called the "Last Generation", and what was forbidden is [now] allowed. And permission is granted to occupy ourselves in the [study of] Zohar. And from the year 5, C. And because in this merit King Mashiach will come in the future—and not in any other merit—it is not proper to be discouraged [from the study of Kabbalah].
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The question, however, is whether the ban ever existed in the first place. From the year and onward, the basic levels of Kabbalah must be taught publicly to everyone, young and old. Only through Kabbalah will we forever eliminate war, destruction, and man's inhumanity to his fellow man. The lines concerning the year are also missing from the Hebrew edition of Hesed L'Avraham , the source work that both of these quote from. Furthermore, by Azulai's view the ban was lifted thirty years before his birth, a time that would have corresponded with Haim Vital's publication of the teaching of Isaac Luria.
Moshe Isserles understood there to be only a minor restriction, in his words, "One's belly must be full of meat and wine, discerning between the prohibited and the permitted. The Vilna Gaon says, "There was never any ban or enactment restricting the study of the wisdom of Kabbalah. Kabbalah in various forms was widely studied, commented upon, and expanded by North African, Turkish, Yemenite, and Asian scholars from the 16th century onward.
Shlomo Alkabetz, author of the hymn Lekhah Dodi , taught there. His disciple Moses ben Jacob Cordovero or Cordoeiro authored Pardes Rimonim , an organised, exhaustive compilation of kabbalistic teachings on a variety of subjects up to that point. Cordovero headed the academy of Tzfat until his death, when Isaac Luria rose to prominence.
Rabbi Moshe's disciple Eliyahu De Vidas authored the classic work, Reishit Chochma , combining kabbalistic and mussar moral teachings. Chaim Vital also studied under Cordovero, but with the arrival of Luria became his main disciple.
Vital claimed to be the only one authorised to transmit the Ari's teachings, though other disciples also published books presenting Luria's teachings. The Oriental Kabbalist tradition continues until today among Sephardi and Mizrachi Hakham sages and study circles. One of the most innovative theologians in early-modern Judaism was Judah Loew ben Bezalel — known as the "Maharal of Prague". Many of his written works survive and are studied for their unusual combination of the mystical and philosophical approaches in Judaism.
While conversant in Kabbalistic learning, he expresses Jewish mystical thought in his own individual approach without reference to Kabbalistic terms. However, his thought influenced Hasidism, for example being studied in the introspective Przysucha school. During the 20th century, Isaac Hutner — continued to spread the Maharal's works indirectly through his own teachings and publications within the non-Hasidic yeshiva world.
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The spiritual and mystical yearnings of many Jews remained frustrated after the death of Isaac Luria and his disciples and colleagues. No hope was in sight for many following the devastation and mass killings of the pogroms that followed in the wake of the Chmielnicki Uprising — , the largest single massacre of Jews until the Holocaust, and it was at this time that a controversial scholar by the name of Sabbatai Zevi — captured the hearts and minds of the Jewish masses of that time with the promise of a newly minted messianic Millennialism in the form of his own personage.
His charisma, mystical teachings that included repeated pronunciations of the holy Tetragrammaton in public, tied to an unstable personality, and with the help of his greatest enthusiast, Nathan of Gaza , convinced the Jewish masses that the Jewish Messiah had finally come. It seemed that the esoteric teachings of Kabbalah had found their "champion" and had triumphed, but this era of Jewish history unravelled when Zevi became an apostate to Judaism by converting to Islam after he was arrested by the Ottoman Sultan and threatened with execution for attempting a plan to conquer the world and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.
Unwilling to give up their messianic expectations, a minority of Zvi's Jewish followers converted to Islam along with him. Many of his followers, known as Sabbatians , continued to worship him in secret, explaining his conversion not as an effort to save his life but to recover the sparks of the holy in each religion, and most leading rabbis were always on guard to root them out. Due to the chaos caused in the Jewish world, the rabbinic prohibition against studying Kabbalah established itself firmly within the Jewish religion.
One of the conditions allowing a man to study and engage himself in the Kabbalah was to be at least forty years old. This age requirement came about during this period and is not Talmudic in origin but rabbinic.
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Many Jews are familiar with this ruling, but are not aware of its origins. According to Moses Cordovero, halakhically, one must be of age twenty to engage in the Kabbalah. The Sabbatian movement was followed by that of the Frankists who were disciples of Jacob Frank — who eventually became an apostate to Judaism by apparently converting to Catholicism. This era of disappointment did not stem the Jewish masses' yearnings for "mystical" leadership.
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Moshe Chaim Luzzatto — , based in Italy, was a precocious Talmudic scholar who deduced a need for the public teaching and study of Kabbalah. He established a yeshiva for Kabbalah study and actively recruited students. He wrote copious manuscripts in an appealing clear Hebrew style, all of which gained the attention of both admirers and rabbinical critics, who feared another "Shabbetai Zevi" false messiah in the making.
His rabbinical opponents forced him to close his school, hand over and destroy many of his most precious unpublished kabbalistic writings, and go into exile in the Netherlands. He eventually moved to the Land of Israel. Some of his most important works, such as Derekh Hashem , survive and serve as a gateway to the world of Jewish mysticism. Elijah of Vilna Vilna Gaon — , based in Lithuania, had his teachings encoded and publicised by his disciples, such as Chaim Volozhin 's posthumously published the mystical-ethical work Nefesh HaChaim.
Although the Vilna Gaon did not look with favor on the Hasidic movement, he did not prohibit the study and engagement in the Kabbalah. This is evident from his writings in the Even Shlema. The Vilna Gaon, Even Shlema , In the Oriental tradition of Kabbalah, Shalom Sharabi — from Yemen was a major esoteric clarifier of the works of the Ari. The Beit El Synagogue, "yeshivah of the kabbalists", which he came to head, was one of the few communities to bring Lurianic meditation into communal prayer. In the 20th century, Yehuda Ashlag — in Mandate Palestine became a leading esoteric kabbalist in the traditional mode, who translated the Zohar into Hebrew with a new approach in Lurianic Kabbalah.
Israel ben Eliezer Baal Shem Tov — , founder of Hasidism in the area of the Ukraine, spread teachings based on Lurianic Kabbalah, but adapted to a different aim of immediate psychological perception of Divine Omnipresence amidst the mundane. The emotional, ecstatic fervour of early Hasidism developed from previous Nistarim circles of mystical activity, but instead sought communal revival of the common folk by reframing Judaism around the central principle of devekut mystical cleaving to God for all.
This new approach turned formerly esoteric elite kabbalistic theory into a popular social mysticism movement for the first time, with its own doctrines, classic texts, teachings and customs. From the Baal Shem Tov sprang the wide ongoing schools of Hasidic Judaism, each with different approaches and thought.