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August 21, 1992 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-08-21

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an explanation, on the To-
rah, mixed with stories of
Rabbi Yohai and his associ-
Kabbalists then and now
believe that only through
the study of Kabbalah can
man unlock the secret codes
of Torah and of the universe.
All Kabbalistic systems
have their origin in the
same questions: Is God an
entity to Himself? How does
He relate to His creation?
To express the unknow-
able aspect of God, early
Kabbalists of Provence and
Spain coined the term, Ein
Sof, Hebrew for infinite,
without end. Ein Sof refers
to the absolute perfection of
God. Only through the finite
nature of every existing
thing, through creation it-
self, is it possible to deduce
the existence of God.
For years, secrets like this
were concealed. Rabbis said
its study should be limited
to males 40 years and older.
They said Kabbalah should
be learned only after one
had mastered the Talmud
and Mishnah, the more tra-
ditional religious texts.
It was Abraham ben Mor-
dechai Azulai, a 15th-cen-
tury Kabbalist, who decreed
that everyone should study
the Kabbalah. He believed
the Messiah would appear

only through the merit of
Kabbalistic learning.
However, beginning in the
late 18th century, Jews were
so eager to be accepted into
the salons of western Euro-
pean society that they aban-
doned Kabbalistic teachings,

preferring to assimilate
more easily with the gen-
tiles. To prove they were as
modern and enlightened as
their neighbors, they
shrugged off those teachings
that stressed the uniqueness
of Judaism: the divine na-

ture of the Torah, the spe-
cial relationship between
God and the Jews, the belief
in Messiah.
In the process, many Jews
lost their way; the elements
that made up Kabbalah be-
came lost or suppressed. To-

day, Jews search in vain for
spiritual depth, not realiz-
ing that Judaism already
contains a vast and varied
mystical dimension.
Ms. Lowe-Schwartz was
one of those who searched in
"I eventually came to Kab-
balah through my love of art
history," Ms. Lowe-Schwarz
said. For years, I explored
Christianity and became ac-
quainted with other reli-
gions. At first I'd find other
religions and philosophies
reasonably profound, then it
would eventually flatten out
and become superficial."
Ms. Lowe-Schwartz
turned to psychology, going
as far as starting a master's
program. She tried tran-
scendental meditation. She
ate only macrobiotics. She
studied the principles of
Ying and Yang.
"It was helpful for a short
while," she said, "but didn't
teach me how I could help
Eventually, Ms. Lowe-
Schwartz heard about the
Lubavitch movement and
Rabbi Elimelech Silberberg
of Bais Chabad in West
"I studied about Judaism
for a long time," Ms. Lowe-
Schwartz said. "When I was
ready, the rabbi suggested


Terms Kabbalists Use:

Devekut: A Kabbalistic be-
lief in a mystic union of the
soul with God. From the He-
brew, lidvok, to cling to.

Eyn Sof: The hidden, infi-
nite aspect of God is called
the Eyn Sof. From the He-
brew, without end.

Gilgul Nefashot: Gilgul is
Hebrew for transmigration
of souls, sometimes ex-
plained as reincarnation.

Gematria: One of the ag-
gadic rules for interpreting
hidden aspects of the Torah.
Consists of explaining a
word or group of words ac-
cording to numerical value
of letters.

husks created by man's neg-
ative deeds which cover and
limit man in his spiritual

Kabbalah: Received in a
chain of transmission traced
back to Adam. From the He-
brew, L'kabel.

Neshamah: Third of the
five levels of the soul.

Kavanah: Intention, mysti-
cal concentration.

Klippot: The shells or evil

.1_J_GW_C ■ S et..1



Nefesh: Lowest of the five
levels of the soul.

Sefirot: The 10 personal as-
pects of God. They are keter,
(crown); binah, (under-
standing); hokhmah, (wis-
dom); din, (judgment);
hesed, (kindnus); tiferet,

(beauty); hod, (splendor);
netzah, (victory); yesod,
(foundation); malkhut,
(majesty). Through the se-
firot , God reveals himself.

Shekhinah: Shekhinah is
an expression used to denote
the presence of God in the

the sin of Adam and Eve.
From the Hebrew, L'taken,
to fix.

Tzimtztum: The symbol of
a universe coextensive with
God. As if God contracts
himself to make room for
man and his universe.

• Hitpashtut: Reentry of God
into the empty space. The
second step of the action. It
is the opposite of the first
Tiklum Olam: The doctrine act, the breathing out which
of restoring the universe to succeeds the breathing in. LI
its original design before

Sitra Ahra: An aspect of the
universe, connoting evil.

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