What tradition means with Qabbalah
An ancient proverb warns us: “If we don’t change course, we will end up exactly where we are heading”.
The meaning of this statement may, at first sight, appear obvious
disarming. But … after having gone into the reading of some kabbalistic texts,
this admonition found a surprising place in what, it seems to me,
constitutes a kind of underground concept of kabbalistic doctrines.
In summary, man has long since abandoned his truest relationship with
Nature and the Creator, relying on Religions and Sciences.
Now all this does not seem to satisfy him anymore.
There is a need for Spirituality that Science and Religion do not seem to contain.
It is an almost indistinct but overwhelming need that one must have the courage to
“Perceive”, first, and strive to go to “know”, then.
I imagine this perception and this thirst for knowledge, like thrusts
stronger archetypes that animate those who venture into the study of the Kabbalah.
Knowledge of the Divine, of the First Cause, of Creation, of relationship
between Man and his Creator, search for the meaning of life, of necessity
to know ‘where we come from’, ‘where we go’, what is the purpose of ours
earthly existence and above all how to allow the ‘divine spark’ that
we carry within us, to reunite (after death) to that Infinite Light
from which everything emanates.
So, wanting to return to the initial aphorism, here is the necessity of a
‘Change of course’, to avoid the destruction of Nature, of our relationship
with it, the possibility of our return to the Divine, through re-establishment
of the supremacy of Spirituality over the seemingly unbridled materialism
having irremediably taken possession of man.
It is this ‘feeling’, perhaps, that engages the Conscience of those who hear the call
of Kabbalah and of one’s own salvation, through, above all, research and
the teachings of the Sacred Law and the Word of God which manifests itself in everything
Man, then, must really change course to deviate from that materiality
towards which he seems stubbornly to want to go.
In this sense, Quabbalah can provide humanity with intellectual tools
and Spirituals for an authentic rapprochement with Nature and towards realization
of that rapprochement with the substance of the Creator, the ultimate goal of human existence.
The term corresponds Qabbalah to the transcription of the Hebrew Qabbalah, from the root triletter QBL / KBL (receive) already attested in Akkadian, the oldest language
This term is used to indicate the secret tradition of Jewish mysticism
and, in particular, the movement of thought of esoteric connotation that it took
the start in Europe, starting from the 11th-12th century.
Already in the early Middle Ages with Qabbalah the cultural heritage received was designated from previous generations and ‘passed on’ from teacher to student or from father to son.
In its value, qabbalah enunciates the concept of ‘continuity with the past and also the sense of responsibility that this spiritual inheritance leads. According to the Jewish conception, every generation is called to accept
from the previous one the complex of values and teachings on which Judaism is based
and he must, in turn, pass it on to the next one.
The mystics therefore chose the term ‘Kabbalah’ to emphasize how the
esoteric teachings were a great cultural heritage that the
past entrusted them to maintain the compression and spread it
the message, albeit in the restricted areas that the difficulty of the subject required.
The link with the past, for traditional Jewish culture, has always been
the dominant theme, so much so that an undisputed authority was recognized
only to doctrines that could boast a long legacy: instead of considering
the passage of time as a progress towards ever more secure knowledge,
the passage between one generation and another was, if anything, seen as a danger
for the most ancient teachings which were believed to be of divine origin.
From its first appearance, the Kabbalah therefore referred to the long history
of Jewish mysticism of which he preserved some of the fundamental themes,
especially those concerning the relationship between divine energy and Creation.
In fact, the Kabbalistic writings, while drawing inspiration from the biblical text,
they contained extensive digressions of a cosmological tone and illustrated
how each part of Creation responded to a secret harmony of
In the intentions of the Jewish mystics, the Kabbalah system was to serve
to intensify Jewish religious life and to provide a symbolic explanation
not only of biblical images and themes but also of daily actions
prescribed for every Jew.
Because Judaism is above all an act on the basis of a set of norms and of
principles, mystical investigation measured the validity of their symbolic representations
even in daily experience, matching the material aspects
of the liturgy, the invisible relationships according to which the dynamic energy regulates creation.
From its beginnings, the kabbalistic discipline therefore wanted to be first and foremost
a spiritual deepening, far removed from the treatises of esotericism
which are generally evoked by the Italian term ‘cabala’.
Returning to the oral tradition as the main concept of the term ‘Kabbalah’,
it derives its meaning from the first and far more important ‘transmission’
and which refers to the divine teachings given by God to Moses along with the
All the scope of the ‘oral traditions’ was later formalized in important ones
written works, whether in the Hebrew context, such as the Talmud or other specific esoteric texts, e.g. Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation), Sefer Ha Bahir (Book
of Clarity) and the Sefer has Zohar (Book of Splendor); both in numerous works
of kabbalistic inspiration by Christian authors or converts to Christianity.
To close this first delimitation of our discourse, we report
the definition that the scholar George Vajda gives of the Kabbalah: ”the Kabbalah
it is a product that supposes, in addition to the ancient Jewish esotericism, the body
integral of Talmudic and Midrascic studies, and almost all speculations
theological-philosophical of the Judeo-Arab period.
THE MAIN CONCEPTS OF QABBALAH
In the concepts listed below, it has been preferred to refer to the meaning more commonly
accepted by the Jewish kabbalistic tradition, not considering the various
interpretations, often more markedly Neoplatonic,
gnostic, or pantheistic, of the authors of other traditions.
The terms presented are often interpreted based on the works of
Gershom Scholem, who was perhaps one of the authors who best grasped
their meaning and their development over time.
As for the most important concepts of the Kabbalah, they can
distinguish two fundamental periods: the first that begins from the origins
up to the School of Gerona and the Zohar, with primitive symbology
and the rise of the theory of the Sefirot and the second that starts from Luria,
with its innovative system, up to the present day.
EIN – SOF (WITHOUT END)
This concept is very difficult to clarify, also because, in the course of
time, has not remained unchanged throughout the history of kabbalistic thought.
The term indicates something infinite (without end).
At first it indicated God as being secret, mysterious,
not revealed, therefore unknowable by the human mind.
Later, however, with an interpretation of the Kabbalah
of a more popular type, the EIN-SOF has been assimilated to one of the names of God.
One of the most difficult problems to face is precisely that of unknowability
of God in himself. He is understandable to us only in relation to the double revelation of him:
Creation on the one hand and Revelation (Bible) on the other.
For this reason some authors prefer not to discuss (if not in passing)
the concept of Ein-sof, while for others it becomes one of the high points
interest. In this context, then, particular attention is paid to
concept of Emanation not considered so much from the Neoplatonic point of view
or gnostic where its beginning is assumed to be a center of spiritual energy
to then extend to the surrounding space and finally transform into matter,
but it is, in most cases, a form of Emanation within the
person of God himself. The movement takes place within the divinity that
everything contains. In this way, dynamic gradations are created
within the divinity they take on different aspects: the Divine Will,
that for some it would have been coexistent from the beginning with Ein-Sof, it would be instead
the first Emanation of Ein-Sof, in the form of the Infinite Will to create
In any case, the question was open among the kabbalists whether, indeed, this
dynamism of the divinity was turned towards the interior of the divinity itself, a
turn towards itself, or towards the outside, thus accepting one
more neoplatonic vision of the concept of Emanation.
According to some, this first Emanation would correspond to the
before Sefirot, even if it is difficult to separate, in the process of Emanation,
this from the other Sefirot.
It will be above all in Spain and in Safed that the process, from inside, will come
seen as an outward Emanation, where what is called
Ein-sof inside, becomes Keter (the first Sefirah) on the outside.
In any case, the Divine Will acquires the importance of the true engine of
Creation, and is considered, especially by the early kabbalists, as
first Emanation of the Pre-Existing Being (although not identical
to God, it “adheres in every part to the substance of the bearer).
Even in dealing with this concept, care must be taken as
it is not intended here in a strictly Neoplatonic sense as of a
dynamic process within God himself.
In the Greco-Roman, Gnostic, ancient Chaldean tradition, the process of
Emanation is understood as an event under which the Original Energy
emanating from the Divinity breaks the barrier between the Divine dimension and dimension
physics to be transmitted to our world.
The Chaldean Oracles, the work of the first centuries of our era, often report
this concept: the spiritual energy moves away from the emanating Father to radiate
all round; from the decay of luminosity, matter is formed, which it would not be
other than frozen Spiritual Energy.
The emanation of the kabbalists is instead the dynamic unfolding of internal actions
Divine modality (the Sefirot), which only in the Sefirah closest to the physical world
(Malkut) find a point of contact with man.
It would therefore not be a question of an Emanation that proceeds directly
from the inside of God to the outside, towards the created world, but it would come
mediated by the structure of the Sefirot, which prepare it to be transmitted to the
secret, spiritual structure of the Cosmos, through an important filter: the Torah,
composed of 22 letters with which (together with the Sefirot) the divinity created
Ayin (the Nothing)
When referring to Creation from Nothing (ex nihilo), accepted by faith
from the Jewish and Christian tradition, one should not think that, from the point of view
esoteric, this Nothingness is, according to the ancient interpretation, the raw material
formless from which the Universe is formed.
The concept of nothing, in a kabbalistic context, is much more subtle: if the movements
of divinity itself are unknown to human thought, we can
to say that Creation came out of one of these internal movements, to us
unknown. The Nothingness would therefore not be a dimension of absence of existence,
but an inconceivable dimension for human intelligence.
Tsimtsum is a concept introduced by Luria and means “withdraw”, “contract”
to indicate the retreat of the light of God in a point so that in that point
(-absence of Light-) in the Space-Darkness thus formed, could take place there
In practice, before the Emanation process we have a Contraction,
necessary to form a space in which to create a substance to be modeled.
This Contraction would therefore have allowed the formation of the first Sefirah:
This concept, not entirely new, becomes the founding moment for Luria
of the whole Universe: the principle of everything is therefore not to be sought
in the Emanation, but in an act of contraction, of concealment.
Here there is the belief that divinity is infinite, and as such (if she ‘creates’)
cannot create anything other than itself; she must therefore contract in some
point, to leave a space devoid of Self, a NOTHING (in fact) where it can exist
something other than “EIN-SOF”. This is not a large space:
as Scholem argues, it is only one point, compared to size
of Ein-Sof, but a point that encompasses all the dimensions of the existence of
all that is not Ein-Sof.
A theory of Creation (according to Luria and Scholem)
Until God made the decision to create, all his strength
they were co-present in him indistinctly; from the moment he wanted it
to create, one of these forces, DIN (Judgment), was gathered in one place, private
of Mercy. The power of Judgment was mixed with the remnants of the Light
of Ein-Sof, remaining after the process of Contraction (Tsimtsum), forming
a compound called ‘Reshimu’. The first letter falls into the compound
of the ‘Tetragrammaton of God, the Yod, which is characterized by the power to form
and organize. We thus have a double intervention of God: on the one hand we have
what remains of his Light after the ‘Contraction’, which provides the structure
mouldable and on the other, the intervention from above, from the very essence of divinity, by sending the Yod.
The remaining divine matter comes to be collected in “VASES” (Kelim), which are
of two types: an original one, called ‘Primordial Air’, still indistinct and a
another called ‘Primal Man’ (Adam Kadmon), which he begins to take
distinct and clear form (the ten Sefirot arranged in a line in the form of a man)
as we will see later.
SHEVIRAH (Breaking of Vessels. Lurianic Concept.
After the Tsimtsum, with the Emanation, the Divine Light is diffused, destined to be collected in the Vessels (Kelim).
This Light, both that present in the Primordial Space (Tehiru) and
the one emanating directly from the divinity has as its objective
the elimination of Din’s forces, according to a double modality: elimination
total or their purification first, and a slow purification, then.
To continue on its path, Emanation needs to materialize
structures designed to contain and substantiate it, the Vases; these will, in turn
allow the establishment of a dynamic process of self-regulation of theirs
same containment function.
The Vases are created from the various characteristics of the Emanated Light, which,
colliding with each other, they crystallize in individual containers.
The ray of light coming from the divinity works in two ways
dynamics: the Circle and the Line.
The Circle responds to the original form of the Tsimtsum, while the line
from top to bottom and vice versa and originated directly from the EIN-Sof.
The Divine Light that flows into the Vessels that collect it and are no longer capable
to contain it, finally it overflows but, while the three superior Sefirot succeed
to contain it, the lower Sefirot cannot bear the load and shatter one
after the other, while the Sefirah further down (Malkut), cracks but does not break.
The overflowing Light partially returns to its origin, while another
part falls together with what remains of the crushing of the vessels themselves.
The result of this catastrophic event is the lowering of worlds
originating: everything moves downwards, a part of the light fallen together with the
shards becomes the matter as we know and the fragments create the so-called
Kelippot, dark forms, roots of evil.
According to some kabbalists (including Luria) the reason for the breakdown of this system
original would reside in a cathartic action, necessary to purify the
characteristics of the Din and of the waste present, to re-establish a new luminous flux
throughout the system.
They are the ten entities created by God to contain the creative spiritual power of him:
divine energy, shining, descends from above along the channels that lead it
in the world. In the descent it dims its brightness because the world
can welcome it by passing from the immaterial to the material.
Man could not face the blinding brightness of God.
Moses himself could see the glory of God only in a crevice of the rock,
protected by the hand of God and only after his glory had passed in front of him
he could see the final part of it.
Seeing God in his real essence (however he appears) would have entailed the
The last Sefirah (Malkut – Sovereignty) is however in contact with man
and through it, by spiritualizing himself, man can get in touch with the Presence
of God, the Shekhinà and go up along the other Sefirot until you make contact
the first Sefirah (Keter-Corona) with the last, thus restoring Unity.
Having reached the first Sefirah, the spiritual man is at the maximum level
contact with the Divine and is associated by the Creator in his work
of Ordering of the Cosmos.
From the Neoplatonic point of view, the Emanation process is understood
as a phenomenon which proceeds from divinity but which is attenuated
externally to it, while the phenomenon of the Sefirot would take place
within God and would constitute an intermediate phase (not composed, however
by divine entities) between God and Creation.
The Sefirot can also be understood as various stages of Emanation
proceeding from Ein-Sof (God, the One without Whom nothing exists) and, al
same time, as attributes, characteristic names of God.
They are also the root of all created things, because they act as intermediaries
Between Him who emanates, and the existing things separated from Him, allowing
to pass from unity to multiple.
The Sefirot form the tree of Emanation, which proceeds from the root,
placed at the top, to the foliage placed at the bottom.
Scholem speaks of the Sefirot as primal powers that become level
increasingly clear to man. In reality they constitute a unity but it is the mind
of the man who sees them as differentiated, articulated in various ways and how
The Sefirot form primordial man and constitute the unfolding of the name
Of God (YHWH) who transforms himself into the spiritual elements of him (the letters).
It was through the Sefirot and the letters that the lower world was created
(as illustrated in the Sefer Yetsirah), for which there is a correspondence
symbolic between them and the latter. Every single thing is a sign.
The Sefirot have the following names:
Keter elyon – Supreme Crown.
Hokmah – Wisdom.
Binah – Intelligence.
Hesed- (Love, Grace) or Gedullah (Greatness).
Din – Judgment or Gevurah – Power.
Tif’eret – Beauty.
Netsah – Victory.
Hod – Majesty.
Yesod – Foundation.
10) Malkut – Kingdom.
According to Scholem, the first three Sefirot are secret and have no correspondence
with the seven days of Creation, while the remaining are associated with the
secret week of Creation.
The first Sefirah represents God’s coming out of infinity, and bears the name of
Ehyeh (I will be). It is the deepest light that surrounds everything.
The second Sefirah is represented by the original point, arising from this
Deep light. It is the formation in the divine Will of the intention to create: it is
called Wisdom because it contains what will happen next. It matches
at the point of the letter Yod of the Tetragrammaton, while the hook of the same letter
represents the Nothing. It is also called the ‘Father of All’.
The third Sefirah constitutes the Palace, the feminine principle (Mother
dei Mondi), within which the Original Point is sown
(the second Sefirah). It is shaped like a Hebrew H, similar to a house,
and corresponds to the second letter of the Tetragrammaton. It is the name of God
Elohim which is understood as the object of a hidden subject: in
principle (He) created Elohim (instead of “In the beginning God created ….”).
After this phase, we have a second deployment of the Powers
Divine: the three successive Sefirot, understood as unity of action and present
many points in common with the Aeons of the Gnostics.
These Sefirot are called the Right (Power of Love), the Left
(Power of Judgment), the Central Column (Power of Mercy).
These Sefirot (IV, V, VI) are associated with the names of the three patriarchs (Abraham,
Isaac, Jacob) and the three names of God: El, Elohim, YHWH as well
the first three days of Creation (Hesed, Din, Tiferet)
The VII Sefirah (Netsah) is represented by Moses.
The VIII Sefirah (Hod) represents the source of prophecy.
The IX Sefirah (Yesod) constitutes the foundation of the worlds: it has the
containment function of the Generating Force, is its seat,
it is the turn of Creation.
The X Sefirah (Malkut), the Kingdom, remains detached from the place where one is
treated before: it represents God as Shekhinah (presence,
dwelling). The other powers pour into it, unite, yes
they prepare for the Creation itself. The Shekhinah has valence
eminently passive (feminine), everything he has has received
and is associated with the negative polarity of the Universe, that is, the Moon,
to the night, to the earth, to the feminine. It represents the Kingdom of
God in the higher dimension, the divine one.
Qabbalah: language and number.
The kabbalistic interpretation of language, based on some characteristics
of the Hebrew language, including that of having a correspondence between letters and
numbers (letters are also used to denote numbers, as well as
in other languages including ancient Greek), sees in the written tradition of the texts
biblical the direct intervention of God, who, in a certain sense, manifests himself there,
just as He manifests himself in Creation.
This means that language, containing something divine, allows
to go beyond the simple meaning and to intuit, if not really understand,
also other secret and mysterious meanings of the entire Cosmos.
Ghimatria term borrowed from the Greek word ‘Ghematrea’
(in the sense of ‘form’ but also of ‘calculation’) is one of the seven degrees of
Study of the Kabbalah, the penultimate, since the last or highest is the Kabbalah
itself. With the ‘Ghimatria’ system, all the secrets can be decoded
handed down in the book of the Torah or Pentateuch, handed down by God through
of his prophet Moses.
The Hebrew alphabet is alphanumeric, meaning that each letter has
also its numerical value, fixed and immutable.
Gematria, has nothing to do with numerology, consists of
explain a word or group of words according to the numerical value
of the letters or to replace other letters of the alphabet according to a
fixed system. Also, although the term is normally employed
in the sense of “manipulating according to the numerical value”, sometimes
it can take on the meaning of “calculations”.
This discourse deserves much more in-depth analysis than it would require
knowledge and studies that are beyond our competences and perhaps even from
purpose of this work.
Returning to the original discourse (Kabbalah: language and number),
we can note that the Revelation, with its Cosmogony,
lays the causes and foundations of the things described in the divine language.
Everything, after all, can be translated into letters, which, in turn,
can be translated into numbers: the Universe appears to be materialized in this way
of numbers and relationships between them. For the kabbalists the letters, and consequently
the numbers are considered as the fundamental building blocks of the Universe
and all the operations carried out with them would also lead to consequences
in the material world as well as in that of the spirit.
The power of these effects, both physically and psychologically
and spiritual, are such that the kabbalistic tradition places clear limitations
access to the discipline (ghimatria) in terms of psychophysical characteristics,
moral and age of the person who intends to undertake the study of
Qabalah. Clearly, the Number we are considering here is not of type
quantitative (typical of the exact sciences). More exactly, the training
of the alphabet and the production of numbers are similar to creation
of the world. By virtue of the law of analogy and the correspondence between
the different planes of the Universe, the kabbalists consider the form, the number
and the value of the letters, no longer as allegories, but as of
The same can be said, with differences in the interpretative code, by the way
of the Notaricon and Temurah. This discourse, however, is even more specialized and
it would take us further away from the scope of this work.
From time immemorial the number has raised in all civilizations a
almost religious respect for something elusive and, at the same time,
so well known intuitively, as the relationship between things.
Indeed, it is not so much the number as a unit of numbering
which has created enormous expectations in the imagination of humanity but,
on the contrary, its qualitative value and the concept of relationship.
Suffice it to say that it is the interaction and relationship that they constitute
the backbone of the magical interpretation of the Universe.
We are perhaps faced with the secret of the secrets of the interpretation of each
what and number, as such, takes on a decisive meaning
especially when it is treated from this esoteric point of view.
The kabbalist is a person who, from the outside, is like everyone else.
He doesn’t necessarily have to be intelligent or cultured.
Through the study of the Qabalah, he acquires a “sixth sense”
additional; the feeling of the hidden part of the world.
This ‘hidden’ part is understood by ordinary people as
‘The spiritual world’. A kabbalist can perceive the entire Universe with this
new sense; he can perceive both our world and the spiritual world
as a single tangible reality, just as we perceive ours
everyday reality. They sense the Higher World and achieve it
directly. It is called the ‘Upper World’ because it exists beyond
our ordinary perception. They see that everything comes from the ‘World
Superior ‘and manifests itself in ours. They see the causes and effects given
who live in both our world and our world at the same time
‘Superior’. An ordinary person perceives only a fraction
of the surrounding Universe and calls this fraction ‘our world’.
The kabbalist perceives the entire purpose of the Universe.
Kabbalists pass on their knowledge with books written in a special language.
These texts must be studied under their guidance following a special method.
In such a context, these books become a means to achieve
the real reality.