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MISC-----kabalah and nistar


Abcyr Posted - 05 July 2002 1:47

Are Zohar, Sefer Yetzirah, Bahir, Shiur Komah part of torah m'sinai - subject to mesorah from sinai, or are they intellectual sevarah/philosophy that was used by either tanoim, amoraim, geonim or rishonim who based themselves on agados of maseh breshis and merkavah from the shas?

For example, the idea that nefesh, ruach, neshamah are 3 parts of a person's soul is found in nister; but in nigleh, the midrash says that nefesh and ruach both mean the same thing. Now, this idea, that a soul could be 'dissected' into three souls (intellectual, spirited, and appetitive) was used by secular thinkers too - Plato for example, because it has some logic to it. So it seems the Chachamim took that logic and applied it to the word 'neshomah'.

It seem to me, correct me if I'm wrong, that Geonim (Steipler says Zohar was compiled and edited by geonim from earlier braisos) used certain rational concepts, like philosophers, and applied them from svarah to explain certain questions in agados?

Parts of zohar were the philosophy of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, while moreh nevuchim was the philosophy of Rambam z'l. So those parts of zohar are holier than moreh nevuchim, but both are still philosophy.

While the agados from gemarah/medrash about maseh breshis and maseh merkavah are not philosophy - they are halocha l'moshe m'sinai; we know they have a mesorah all the way back to moshe rabeinu.
Can we say the same thing about the Zohar though?

MODERATOR Posted - 05 July 2002 3:17

Kabalah is Torah, not philosophy. Not at all. In fact, they are pretty much opposites. The word Kabalah means something that was received, or handed down, and that’s what Chochmas HaKabalah is. You can’t "think up" Kabalah.

As opposed to philosophy, which only comes through "thinking it up." Totally on the other end of the spectrum.

The understanding of the Soul is purely Torah-based. In Tanach, you will find not find the word Neshama used in reference to anything but a human being, as opposed to Nefesh or Ruach, that is used even with regard to animals.

In Koheles it says that the "animal soul" goes "down" when someone dies. From there we derive the existence of the Nefesh HaBehamis.

I would suggest checking out R. Menashe ben Yisroel's Nishmas Chaim, for a philosophy of the Soul with the vast majority of sources mostly from Tanach.

The Medrash doesn’t argue with the Zohar regarding the parts of the soul. The soul is divided into two sections - the Lower (animal) Soul, and the Higher (intellectual) Soul. Those two souls are divided into sub categories. Sometimes we use the word Nefesh to describe the entire Lower Soul, including everything until the Upper Soul, and sometimes we use it to describe only the Nefesh part of the soul, excluding even the Ruach. This is very common in both Midrashic and post Midrashic sources.

Philosophy, in the context that it is used and useful in Torah literature - simply mean "clear thinking." It is simply a method of coming to logical conclusions. Good ideas can come from philosophy just as good ideas can come from physics. But they are only ideas. There is no way in the world to derive Kabbalistic concepts from philosophy.

Abcyr Posted - 05 September 2002 19:51

Rav Shach doesn't agree with you, in his hakdomah to avi ezri (I forgot which edition, maybe the 3rd?) He states clearly that a person doesn't get reward for Torah learning when one learns Kaballah; although, says he, Kabalah is still a great thing (inyan godol).

Also, Rav Sadiyah Gaon says about Sefer Yetzirah (in Emunos Vdeiyos, it's brought down in a note by the translator, in the popular hebrew edition): "hokrim in maseh breshis took 9 approaches to ... the 8th approach is the approach of the author of Sefer Yetzirah, but the Torah true approach is not like that, rather the Torah hold that God caused everything to come into being at once [and not step by step from letters of Aleph-Beis]."

Anyway, he calls the author of Sefer Yetzirah a choker - a philosopher. How is it possible that there should be a mesorah for
Kabballah if it's forbidden to teach it, except certain elemental concepts - the roshei perokim.

In fact what gemorah calls Maseh breshis and maseh merkavah has very little in common with Kabbalah.

Even such simple thing as sefiros mean different things in different seforim: in the bahir the sefiros are G-dly midos/emanations, like in the Zohar; but in sefer yetzira they are numbers or directions of the world, ruach/wind and other things - all totally different from the conventional understanding of what the sefiros are.

MODERATOR Posted - 05 September 2002 20:27

I cant find that from Rav Shach, but I don’t have all the chelokim of AE. Please tell me where it is (I have an answer but I want to see what he says before I explain it!).

proud2bfrum Posted - 12 November 2003 19:39

It's a year later and I want to know what happened!

Admonit Posted - 13 November 2003 21:29

Guys I borrowed a copy of an english book that had in it the kuzari , emunos v;dayos, and some philosopher named philo in it. all three. I borrowed it from my teacher, and it broke .

I'm really embarrassed and I wish I could return it, but I cant find a new one anywhere. if you have it in your house or you know any bookstore I can order it from PLEASE tell me.

Every time I see that teacher I feel terrible. thanks! :-)

MODERATOR Posted - 13 November 2003 21:41

Well, I still haven’t found it in Avi Ezri, and I'm still waiting for someone to tell me where it is, IF it really exists, which I doubt. There is no question that Kabalah is not philosophy. Its like telling me that is says in a sefer that an apple is philosophy. It just doesn’t go.


I have it. "Three Jewish Philosophers" - Atheneum College Edition, Atheneum, New York, 1985.

Here's the deal: If your teacher's copy is still readable, even if it's broken (I assume the binding cracked - it is indeed a lousy binding), I will trade you mine, which is in excellent condition, for your teacher's. Email me - - and we'll work out the logistics.

But HELLO! First of all, Philo is not a Torah authority like Rav Sadiah Gaon or Rav Yehuda Halevi. You have to know what to take and what to discard. And also what is useless. It's better to ignore that part of the book unless you know how to "use it" properly.

Second, please do not be misled by anti-Torah blurbs on the back cover of the book regarding what the Kuzari is.

"Apologetics" is a very, very wrong word to use. It's pretty repulsive, actually, the way these people looked at the works of our sages. You have to be very careful when using such books, since they were not written by Bnei Torah or even frum Jews, even if they are only translations. They have a tendency to sneak trash into the recipe when you’re not looking.

MODERATOR Posted - 15 November 2003 21:48

PS ---- the book does not have the complete version of any of those seforim. The people who did the translation decided to skip the pieces of the Kuzari that he thought were not pertinent. So you cant hold Rav Yehuda HaLevi responsible for what it says there.

Admonit Posted - 25 November 2003 10:35

THANKS SO MUCH ! SO MUCH! k fine, IYH I’ll check out where my copy is and email you when I find it, probably tomorrow. but I just want to tell you that my teacher only lent it to me on the condition that I don’t read philo, which I didn’t- RS"G was heavy enough for me anyways, no way did I get to the kuzari. k gtg study will email you later BE"H

londoner Posted - 29 December 2003 20:52

Mod you still haven't addressed the point made about RS'G comments concerning the ideas of Sefer Yetzirah.

MODERATOR Posted - 29 December 2003 21:10

Rav Saadiah Gaon's comments don’t mean that the Sefer Yetzirah was a philosopher. First, the Emunos V'Deos wasn’t written in Hebrew. The word "choker" is indeed used in Hebrew to mean philosopher but it can mean philosopher, thinker, or something of the sort, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in the original Arabic the word, or the word it was translated form could be used with different connotations.

And if you look in context of Rav Sadiah, he's not saying that anyway. He’s saying that the 8th opinion of the chokrim is the opinion of the Sefer HaYetzirah - he’s not necessarily saying the sefer hayetzirha is a choker.

The bottom line is, we have literally a thousand years of mesorah on the Kabblistic works, and on the contrary - the philosophers themselves all believed the Kabalah to not be philosophy. The whole idea has no basis whatsoever.

was2frum Posted - 06 January 2004 8:09

were would I be able to get a hold of this book for reading pleasure? if I do am I not supposed to read philo?

MODERATOR Posted - 06 January 2004 15:34

Don’t read Philo. He wasn’t a Torah authority. The book isn’t bad, but you have to start form the beginning, and this book isn’t at the beginning.

If you want to read Jewish philosophy and you aren’t adept at loshon hakodesh, I would highly recommend Rabbi J. David Bleich's "With Perfect Faith", a book about the 13 Ikarim, with collected writings from the Moreh Nevuchim, Kuzari, Sefer HaIkarim, and other major philosophy works. It also has good introductions to each of the 13 Ikarim.

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