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Kabbalah (Hebrewקבלה) "reception, adoption, transmission, transmission") is the mystical tradition in Judaism. The original roots of Kabbalah are found in the Torah, the Holy Scripture of Judaism. In centuries of oral transmission, various other influences were also incorporated, including Gnostic, Neoplatonic and Christian elements. Since Pico della Mirandola, it has also been continued in non-Jewish circles, especially in the form of the Christian Kabbalah.

History of the word

Nachmanides (מֹשֶׁה בֶּן־נָחְמָן Mōšeh ben-Nāḥmān, 1194–1270), modern artistic depiction in Acre

The term Kabbalah (Hebrewקבלה) goes back to the Hebrew root q-b-l (קבל) and means something "to receive" and derived from it "transmission, taking over and passing on". The bearers of this transmission are called Baʕaleh Haqabalā בעלה הקבלה or Məqūballīm מקובלים, the latter form resonating the meaning of "received from God" because of the passive voice. Originally, the word Kabbalah could refer to any tradition in general, but especially to the revelation of the Torah to Moses at Sinai. Thus the "Sayings of the Fathers" from the Mishnah begin, "Moses received (q-b-l) the Torah at Sinai and delivered it ..." Older kabbalists bore non-specific and flowery names such as Knower of the Beauty of Grace (יודעי חן yōdəʕēy ḥēn) or simply Knower (יודעים yōdəʕīm), a designation that goes back to Nachmanides, reasoners (משכלים miśkālīm) and wise of heart (חכמי הלב ḥāchmēy halēv) and the object itself was (חכמה ניסתרה ḥåchmā nīstarā) the hidden wisdom. In the main body of the Zohar, the word "Kabbalah" is not used, but appears in later parts such as Ra'aya Meheimna and the Sefer ha-Tiqunim. Since the beginning of the 14th century, the term Kabbalah has almost completely replaced all synonyms.[1]


The basis of Kabbalistic traditions is the search for the experience of a direct relationship with God. According to the Kabbalistic view, God has created everything in the universe also in human beings. This gives rise to the worldview of the reciprocal correspondences of above and below. In these speculative forms, the basic Kabbalistic idea of microcosm and macrocosm becomes clear. According to this, the whole "lower" world was made in the image of the "upper" world and every human being is a universe in miniature. The physical form of the human being has a universal significance here, because God himself is conceived as anthropomorphic in the tradition of Jewish mysticism.

The perfection of the divine macrocosm is personified in the human being, who, although imperfect as a microcosm, is nevertheless an image of the heavenly primordial human being Adam Kadmon. God, as the boundless and eternal, needs the mediator being of man created by him in order to let his divine omnipotence work through the ten spiritual powers. These ten sefirot are the divine primordial powers, which, in the form of the Kabbalistic world tree, permeate all levels of being. This world tree with the human being connected to it represents the embodied organism of the universe. According to the Kabbalistic view, this elementary interweaving of the human being into a divine universal system also illustrates the mutual influence potential of the divine and human levels. - Man is under the holistic influence of universal forces, but can influence them in turn. An example of this is the kabbalistic word magic, in which the utterance of words is supposed to result in an immediate influence on what is signified by them.

As is more often the case in mysticism, it is about the conscious and self-directed transition into an ecstasy, i.e. a way of the I out of the body. There are various techniques for this, which are handed down as secret teachings that are studied and experienced. This initiatic experience was initially conveyed in a purely oral, later written tradition. For this reason, the relationship between teacher and student is still emphasised as essential in Kabbalah today.

Kabbalistic experience should be able to dissolve the boundary between subject and object. Accordingly, a Kabbalist breaks through the wall "harder than a diamond" and experiences the All-Unity. There are various kabbalistic writings and schools, but no dogmatics or verifiable doctrinal content, i.e. no universally valid kabbalistic teaching. But there are Kabbalistic techniques. Accordingly, all the written legacy of the Kabbalists is strongly symbolic.

According to Jewish tradition, only four wise men entered Paradise during their lifetime, and of these only Rabbi Akiba returned unharmed. Most of them only succeeded in taking a few steps on the ladder to heaven or in opening a few gates. However, all retain their special acquired abilities and, according to extra-biblical tradition, are even supposed to inherit them (deuterocanonical book of Sirach 4:16). This is how the blessing - Bəracha ברכה is supposed to come about. To prevent misuse of these powers, students are tested before they are admitted. To separate the "worthy" from the "unworthy", the Kabbalah has been divided into a theoretical (קבלה עיונית qabālā ʕīyūnit) and a practical (קבלה מעשית qabālā maʕăśīt), the former representing the system, and the latter describing magical and mantic practices such as amulet-making, casting lots, etc.


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  1. Encyclopedia Judaica, Art. Kabbalah, Vol. 10, p. 495.
This article is partly based on the article Kabbala from the free encyclopedia de.wikipedia and is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike. Wikipedia has a list of authors available.