Judaism: commonly asked questions

Are Jews a race, as well as a religion?

No. There is no such thing as the ‘jewish race’. Never has been. If we were a ‘race’, how could anyone convert to Judaism? Think back to the bible: Ruth was the first convert.

It was Hitler who popularised the idea that Jews were a separate ‘race’. According to him, , a person was ‘tainted’ with ‘jewish blood’ even if they had only one Jewish relative, several generations back. It didn’t matter if the person was a practising Christian, for example.

If there was any record of their having a Jewish relative, then their fate was sealed. Today, many people still refer to ‘jewish blood’. Usually, it’s a genuine misunderstanding. Occasionally, the phrase will be used by those with a more negative agenda. But the fact remains that Jews are a people, a religion, and a family. We are not a ‘race’. There is nothing ‘biological’ about being Jewish. **********************************************************************************

Does Judaism accept converts?

Time and again, you can hear it being stated that ‘you have to be born jewish’ or ‘you can convert but you’re never regarded as a real jew, unless you’re born jewish’. In fact, it’s rubbish. Anyone is welcome to join the Jewish family via conversion. Indeed, Jews are always very touched when a non Jew elects to join us, because we know that conversion requires a real commitment.

It’s a formal process and involves a fair amount of studying. Orthodox conversions – the only type recognised by all Jewish movements – are extremely rigorous and often it’s the case that converts, or ‘Jews by choice’ end up knowing more about Judaism than many of those born into the faith! Once someone converts, they are 100% Jewish – in other words, totally kosher! And the Talmud tells us that G-d has a special regard for converts, as they consciously seek out the Jewish religion. For anyone reading this who would like more information, this site is good: http://www.becomingjewish.org/ *************************************************************************************

What is meant by the ‘chosen people’?

If anything has caused Judaism to be misunderstood, then surely it is this. The loaded phrase ‘the chosen people’. I’m Jewish, but I can totally appreciate that for non Jews, the phrase may come across as being somewhat arrogant.

The irony being, of course, that unlike her Abrahamic sisters, Judaism teaches that ALL humans are EQUALLY G-d’s children. And Judaism also says that the righteous of all faiths ‘will have a share in the world to come’. So where does the phrase ‘the chosen people’ come from?

Well, the story goes that the eternal covenant with G-d was offered to all the nations, but none would accept it unconditionally. Finally, the Jews agreed – and ‘chose’ G-d. In return, G-d ‘chose’ them right back, to uphold his laws. So if anything, Jews are the ‘choosing’ people. All that ‘chosen’ means is that we are chosen to keep more laws. That is it, that is all. Nothing more exotic or exciting than that! Interestingly, you will rarely if ever hear Jews use this phrase, whereas Christians quite often use it about us! Go figure…! **************************************************************************

Do any Jews worship Jesus?

Not any Jew on this planet, no.

But what, you may ask, of the infamous group, ‘jews4jesus’? This group was founded by Martin Meyer – an ordained Baptist Minister. It is not and never has been a Jewish group. It was founded by evangelical Christians. It is funded by evangelical Christians.

David Brickner, second in command to Meyer, is also a Christian minister. ‘jews4jesus’ is a Messianic group, and one of many that are active in Europe and America. Their argument: a Jew can worship Christ and remain Jewish The facts: Jews are forbidden to worship any human.

Jews are forbidden to worship any human as ‘son of god’. Jews are forbidden to worship anyone or anything but G-d. A Jew who ‘accepts’ Jesus is not just adopting a certain view of him as messiah. They are, in fact, accepting that: – a man can be born of a virgin – a man can die for the sins of others – G-d has one ‘son’ above all other humans – G-d demands a blood sacrifice Every single one of these beliefs *violates* Judaism.

Every single one of these beliefs goes directly against what Jews read in the Torah, and let’s recall, in Judaism the Torah is the direct word of G-d. No Jew can adopt Christian beliefs, and still claim that they are ‘jewish’ in terms of religion. Could a person state that Jesus never existed – and still claim to be Christian? No? Well, that would be the equivalent stating that a Jew can worship Jesus and remain Jewish. Judaism does not allow for dual religious identity.

A Jew who adopts *any* other religion is an Apostate to Judaism. Judaism alone gets to define Jewish beliefs, and Jewish identity. This myth, above all others, needs to be addressed and understood, because of the many Christian groups who go round posing as “messianic jews”. Let’s be really clear: some 99% of these Messianics have never BEEN Jewish, ever!

The entire Messianic movement was started by evangelical Christians, and it is 100% funded by evangelical Churches. Does that sound remotely ‘jewish’ to you? Most Christian movements have publicly condemned the Messianics. But this hasn’t stopped such groups setting up Messianic ‘synagogues’ and referring to themselves as ‘judaism’.

This attempt by *some* evangelists to hijack and rewrite Jewish beliefs and Jewish festivals, is nothing short of spiritual theft. And what is distressing is the sheer level of deception used by many Messianics in their efforts to lure young, naive Jews into Christianity. For more about this, please check out our blog, and specifically the article: ‘The Missionary Position’.

To reiterate: the Messianic movement is a Christian movement. It has no connection to Judaism at all. There is no ‘Messianic’ sect IN Judaism. Judaism is inherently messianic: Jews await their messiah. This was not Jesus. Judaism alone gets to define the Jewish messiah. Christianity does not get to define it FOR us! *************************************************************************************

What is the Jewish bible?

The Tanakh This comprises the Torah, Prophets and Writings. Most Jews read and study it in the original Hebrew. The ‘old testament’ is the Church-edited, Christianised version OF the Tanakh. The two are not identical. Much of the Hebrew is MIStranslated in many versions of the old testament. Indeed, the very fact that Christianity calls it the ‘old’ testament says a lot. Judaism would hardly call the Jewish bible ‘old’. After all, for us, there is nothing ‘old’ about it. The Tanakh is our scripture and we follow no other. *************************************************************************************

Did The Jews Kill Jesus?

Answer: NO This is the big one. Of all the myths that have ever existed about the Jewish people, it is THIS that has been the most dangerous. Lethal, in fact. What we can refer to as ‘classical’ anti semitism is predicated on the notion that the Jews killed the ‘son of god’.

Until recently, the Christian charge of ‘deicide’ against the Jews stood. But to anyone who understands the situation back when Jesus lived, the idea that the Jews killed him is foolish beyond belief.

And here’s why:

1 – Crucifixion has always been forbidden to Jews, precisely because it is such a cruel method of killing a person. The Romans were the only people ever to practise this manner of murder.

2 – The Jews were a despised minority, with no power to request let alone ‘demand’ a man’s death. They were entirely at the mercy of the Romans and to suggest that the Jewish leaders ‘pressured’ the Romans over ANYTHING is laughable.

3 – Pilot was renowned for being a ruthless and violent leader. He didn’t take orders from the Jews, that’s for sure. Simply put: if Pilot had wanted to free Jesus, he *would* have, and that’s all there is to it.

4 – Even in the Christian bible, the Jews are referred to as being overly ‘legalistic’ and ‘pedantic’. The overturning of their many ‘laws’ was the aim of Christianity! Yet Christianity would also have us believe that the Jews ignored all of their own rules in order to hand Jesus over. Well, which is it? The Christian scriptures blatantly contradict themselves on this issue.

5 – Jesus was one of many, many young Jewish preachers in Judea at that time. He was not unique. And he taught basic Judaism. ‘Love thy neighbour’ appeared first in the Torah, written *thousands* of years before Jesus was even a glint in Joseph’s eye. The Jews had no problem with Jesus. Sure, he sought to reform some aspects of the religion, but so what? That, again, was not uncommon. Judaism has always cherished debate and discussion.

And Jesus, with his tiny following, was certainly no threat to Judaism as a whole. But the Romans did view Jesus as a threat. For one thing, he had this unfortunate habit of calling himself ‘the most powerful man in the Roman Empire’. Such a statement was not going to be tolerated. The Romans also viewed Jesus as a political rebel. It’s worth noting that there were various other Jewish men claiming to be the ‘maschiach’ and most of them were also crucified by the Romans! *************************************************************************************

How similar to Christianity, is Judaism?

I’ve heard many people claim that ‘Judaism is really just Christianity – without Jesus’. This claim is a tad upsetting. After all, it suggests that Judaism was nothing more than the religious warm up act for the main event, Christianity.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Judaism was already a complex and complete religion for *thousands* of years before Christianity even began evolving. Christianity represents, if anything, the rejection of Judaism – as it contradicts core Jewish tenets. Now, this is not to imply that one faith is better than the other: it is merely to clarify how profoundly different these two religions are.

Here are just some of the differences in key beliefs between Judaism and Christianity:

JUDAISM – says that no human can ever die for the sins of others

CHRISTIANITY – says that Jesus died for the sins of mankind

JUDAISM – says that all humans are born pure, and innocent

CHRISTIANITY – says that all humans are born with ‘original sin’.

JUDAISM – says that G-d would never allow/enable a ‘virgin birth’

CHRISTIANITY – says that Mary gave birth, though a virgin

JUDAISM – says that no man gets a ‘second coming’

CHRISTIANITY – says that Jesus will have a ‘second coming’

JUDAISM – says that every human should speak directly to G-d

CHRISTIANITY – Jesus claims in the ‘new testament’ that the ‘only way’ to G-d is via him

JUDAISM – says G-d is one, indivisable, cannot be separated into three aspects/incarnations

CHRISTIANITY – speaks of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

JUDAISM – says that we are ALL equally G-d’s children

CHRISTIANITY – says that Jesus was ‘god’s son’ above all others

JUDAISM – has no concept of ‘hell’

CHRISTIANITY – *some* Christians non believers to ‘hell’

JUDAISM – has no ‘devil’, the Jewish ‘satan’ is just an ordinary angel, under G-d’s control

CHRISTIANITY – describes ‘satan’ as a devil and ‘fallen’ angel

JUDAISM – the ‘messiah’ will be a normal, mortal man who must fulfill all the Jewish messianic prophecies in one normal, mortal lifetime

CHRISTIANITY – Jesus was the ‘messiah’ and will fulfill the prophecies when he ‘returns’

JUDAISM – says that the righteous of ALL faiths will reach ‘gan eden’ or ‘garden of eden’.

CHRISTIANITY – *some* Christians insist that only those who ‘know Christ’ can reach heaven

JUDAISM – forbids Jews from trying to convert anyone to Judaism

CHRISTIANITY – believes in actively ‘witnessing’ and encouraging people to convert to Christianity Clearly the two religions differ on many core beliefs. Again, remember there are many other differences; this is only a partial list. It is, of course, true that Christianity began life as a tiny fringe sect within Judaism. But the followers of Jesus were not ‘christians’ in the sense that we use that word today.

Many of the Christian doctrines did not develop until much, much later, by which time Christianity was already an entirely non Jewish faith. The final and irrevocable parting of the ways between the faiths came when Christians deified Jesus. At this point, Christianity was endorsing a belief that is blasphemy for any Jew, because in Judaism, no human can ever be ‘divine’ or on a par with G-d. *************************************************************************************

Do Jews believe in the devil?

Answer: No ‘satan’ in Hebrew, means ‘adversary’. The Jewish satan is an angel. Not a ‘fallen’ angel, just an ordinary angel, and totally under the control of G-d. In Judaism, satan acts rather like a prosecuting attorney, but there is nothing ‘demonic’ about him. And as Judaism is pure monotheism, there can be no figure that rivals G-d for power. *************************************************************************************

What does Judaism say about ‘evil’?

Answer: In Judaism, we speak of something called the ‘yetzer ra’, which literally translated, means the ‘bad impulse’. All humans are born with this and also with the conflicting impulse, the good impulse, or ‘yetzer tov’. Thus Jews view ‘evil’ as being more of an internal tendency, and something which each person must strive to overcome.

*************************************************************************************

Why do Jewish boys get circumcised?

All Jewish boys are circumcised at the age of eight days. Circumcision can perhaps best be described as ‘the seal of G-d’. In Bereshit, the first book of the Torah, G-d says: ‘This is my covenant… every man child among you shall be circumcised.’

Abraham, in fact, then went and circumcised himself! The circumcision represents an obligation; to observe and uphold the covenant between G-d and Israel (the Jews). It is the physical manifestation OF the covenant. Historically, circumcision has met with intense opposition. Antiochus Epiphanes made it against the law and instigated the death penalty for anyone who broke that law. Hadrian also forbade the practice of circumsision, and a Visigoth monarch named Sisebut, ordered Jews to be baptized instead.

Despite all this and more, circumcision has remained a Jewish custom. Perhaps our ancient ancestors knew more than us? For today, numerous studies confirm that the partners of circumcised men do not develop cervical cancer. Interestingly, while circumcision is almost associated with Jews, Judaism did not invent it. Herodotus refers to the custom among ancient Egyptians.

The Syrians, Phoenicians and Ethiopians all practised circumcision, as do many tribes around the world, in India, Africa, Indonesia, the Philipines, and Australia. Many Eskimos and Native American Indians also circumcise young boys. *************************************************************************************

What is the actual Jewish name for G-d?

Jews refer to G-d in a number of ways. In prayer, we use ‘Adonai’, which means ‘lord’. We also use ‘Hashem’ – literally, ‘the name’. And ‘Hamakom’ – ‘the place’. Confusion sometimes arises over the tetragrammatron; this refers to the ancient and holiest name for G-d: YHVH.

Hebrew has no vowels and as this name was only spoken aloud once a year, on Yom Kippur, by the high priest, we simply don’t know how it was pronounced. Thus for Jews, the tetragrammatron represents the mystery of G-d; just as we cannot ever fully comprehend the true nature of G-d, so too we cannot fathom our original name for him. Early Christian theologians incorrectly inserted vowels into YHVH, and thus ended up with ‘yahweh’ and ‘jehovah’. Jews don’t use either of these, however. ********************************************************************************************

What is the difference between Judaism and Zionism?

zionism = belief that Israel has the right to *exist* Judaism = religion of the Jewish people.

Anybody, of any or no religion, can be a zionist. *************************************************************************************

How do Jews achieve salvation?

As there is no concept of ‘original sin’ in Judaism, there isn’t really any concept of needing to be ‘saved’. You’ll never, ever hear any Jew speak of this, in fact. Judaism teaches that we are all born with a divine spark within us, and that we are born pure and innocent. I

t is entirely possible for every person to draw closer to G-d, and he has provided us with the way of doing this. For Jews, that ‘way’ is studying Torah and applying it to our everyday life, and in general, simply by behaving with compassion and integrity to our fellow men. Non Jews are advised to follow the seven Noahide Laws. Nobody is expected to be ‘perfect’.

Only G-d can ever achieve ‘perfection’. What we as humans must do is learn from our mistakes, sincerely repent when we have offended either G-d or any fellow human, and to make amends to anyone we have hurt. We must try our best – and our actions count more than our beliefs.

Thus Judaism says that the ‘righteous of all nations will have a share in the world to come’. We don’t believe in ‘hell’, so we don’t act with honour to avoid ‘punishment’ in the afterlife. Rather, we try to do the right thing purely because it *is* the right thing to do 🙂 In Judaism we have a concept called ‘tikkun olam’ or ‘repairing the world’. We try to make the world a tiny bit better through our own actions 🙂 ************************************************************************************************************************** Have the Jewish Scriptures been altered by man at all?

No. The Torah is not allowed to be changed by even *one* letter. And the parchments found as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls show that the scriptures we read and study are the same now that they were thousands of years ago. The original Hebrew scriptures, the Tanakh, have been mistranslated and revised and reorganised in *some* versions of the ‘old testament’, though. The OT is a Christian text; Jews don’t study it nor read it; it does not represent our actual texts.

*************************************************************************************************************** According to Judaism, what is the longest a soul spends in Gehenna?

Gehenna refers to a real place, in fact; it was a valley just outside Jerusalem where human sacrifice was practised. As this is forbidden in Judaism and always has been, this valley was regarded as unholy and evil.

There is a type of ‘purgatory’ in Judaism – a soul spends up to one year there but not longer. http://www.jewfaq.org/ recommends these books: Adin Steinsaltz’s The Thirteen Petalled Rose (Hardcover) or (Paperback) is a complete mystical cosmology written by one of the greatest Jewish scholars alive today.

It discusses the various levels of existence, the angels and demons that are created by our actions, the concept of reincarnation, and many other subjects of interest. For an outline of Jewish thought on the afterlife, see The Death of Death : Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought, by Neil Gillman. Gillman is a Conservative rabbi and a professor of Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary (a most important school for Conservative rabbis).

For information about the wide variety of Jewish views on what happens after death, see Simcha Paull Raphael’s book, Jewish Views of the Afterlife (Hardcover) or (Paperback). Raphael, a Reconstructionist rabbi, takes a historical approach to life-after-death theories, exploring the views that predominated in each era of Jewish history. ************************************************************************************************************

Is the G-d in the ‘old testament’ the same G-d that is in the ‘new testament’?

I’m not sure they are. Remember that both testaments are *Christian* texts. The ‘old’ testament is just a Church-edited, MIStranslated, wrongly organised version of the TANAKH, the Jewish bible. The Tanakh and NT have NO connection. Christians can say what they like, but they don’t get to define what ‘fulfills’ or does not ‘fulfill’ the Tanakh. The NT does NOT ‘fulfill’ the Jewish scriptures. It ***contradicts* them. The Tanakh stands alone. The Tanakh makes sense alone. The Tanakh was a complete text way before Christianity even existed.

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How do the Tanakh, and the Christian Bible, contradict each other?

The Jewish G-d makes it clear in the Tanakh that: NO MAN can die for the sins of others Yet in the NT, G-d demands PRECISELY that of Jesus! In the Tanakh, G-d states that he is ‘NOT A MAN’. Yet in the NT, we find that Jesus claims to be ‘god incarnate’.

Judaism is the only faith that started with G-d speaking to ALL the members of that faith that were alive at that time. Millions of Jews all HEARD G-d speaking when he gave them the Torah at Mt Sinai. And at no point did G-d EVER mention that the rules he was providing would be cancelled by another religion: Christianity.

G-d’s covenant with Jews is ETERNAL and his laws still stand. If Christianity believes it has its own covenant with G-d, that is their right. But far too many of them claim that the covenant with the Jews has been ‘replaced’ and this is NOT true and not for them to say. G-d said it was ETERNAL. G-d does not lie. ********************************************************************************************************

What is the Talmud?

The Talmud is also known as the ‘oral Torah’. The written Torah, the five books of Moses, is the actual holy text, given directly by G-d to the Jews at Mt Sinai. But the various laws referred to in the Torah are sometimes cryptic, or not elaborated upon sufficiently. Implicit both within the Torah and within Judaism, from the start, was the understanding that G-d *also* gave to the Jews the Oral Torah – which illuminated and ‘fleshed out’ the written Torah.

For centuries, the Talmud or Oral Torah was passed from fathers to sons verbally. But eventually it had to be put into written form. This took centuries in total, as it involved long and involved debates and discussions between various Rabbis, theologians and lay people, all of whom contributed to the Talmud.

The Talmud – there are two actually – comprises a series of volumes which cover almost every topic imaginable, and how to apply Jewish law *to* said topics. Orthodox Jews adhere far more closely to the Talmud. Liberal Jews far less closely. Karaite Jews don’t follow it at all. The basics of the Talmud were given by G-d, but as one Jewish writer put it rather well: ‘ The Torah was G-d speaking to us. And we can say that the Talmud is us answering!’ ***********************************************************************************************************

What is Kabbalah?

Kabbalah is Jewish mysticism. It is a tradition going back thousands of years and involves a particular way of approaching and interpreting the Torah, the holy Jewish text. Even Jews who are well versed in Torah are usually not Kabbalists.

Forget whatever the hell Madonna ‘practises’. It’s not Kabbalah and it has *nothing* to do either with Judaism or authentic Kabbalah. – taken from http://www.jewfaq.org/ – Mysticism and mystical experiences have been a part of Judaism since the earliest days. The Torah contains many stories of mystical experiences, from visitations by angels to prophetic dreams and visions. T

he Talmud considers the existence of the soul and when it becomes attached to the body. Jewish tradition tells that the souls of all Jews were in existence at the time of the Giving of the Torah and were present at the time and agreed to the Covenant. There are many stories of places similar to Christian heaven and purgatory, of wandering souls and reincarnation. The Talmud contains vague hints of a mystical school of thought that was taught only to the most advanced students and was not committed to writing.

There are several references in ancient sources to ma’aseh bereishit (the work of creation) and ma’aseh merkavah (the work of the chariot [of Ezekiel’s vision]), the two primary subjects of mystical thought at the time. In the middle ages, many of these mystical teachings were committed to writing in books like the Zohar. Many of these writings were asserted to be secret ancient writings or compilations of secret ancient writings. Like most subjects of Jewish belief, the area of mysticism is wide open to personal interpretation.

Some traditional Jews take mysticism very seriously. Mysticism is an integral part of Chasidic Judaism, for example, and passages from kabbalistic sources are routinely included in traditional prayer books. Other traditional Jews take mysticism with a grain of salt. One prominent Orthodox Jew, when introducing a speaker on the subject of Jewish mysticism, said basically, “it’s nonsense, but it’s Jewish nonsense, and the study of anything Jewish, even nonsense, is worthwhile.” The mystical school of thought came to be known as Kabbalah, from the Hebrew root Qof-Beit-Lamed, meaning “to receive, to accept.”

The word is usually translated as “tradition.” In Hebrew, the word does not have any of the dark, sinister, evil connotations that it has developed in English. For example, the English word “cabal” (a secret group of conspirators) is derived from the Hebrew word Kabbalah, but neither the Hebrew word nor the mystical doctrines have any evil implications to Jews.

Kabbalah: The Misunderstood Doctrine Kabbalah is one of the most grossly misunderstood parts of Judaism. I have received several messages from non-Jews describing Kabbalah as “the dark side of Judaism,” describing it as evil or black magic. On the other end of the spectrum, I receive many messages wanting to learn more about the trendy doctrine popularized by various Jewish and non-Jewish celebrities.

These misunderstandings stem largely from the fact that the teachings of Kabbalah have been so badly distorted by mystics and occultists. Kabbalah was popular among Christian intellectuals during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods, who reinterpreted its doctrines to fit into their Christian dogma. In more recent times, many have wrenched kabbalistic symbolism out of context for use in tarot card readings and other forms of divination and magic that were never a part of the original Jewish teachings.

Today, many well-known celebrities have popularized a new age pop-psychology distortion of kabbalah (I have heard it derisively referred to as “crap-balah”). It borrows the language of kabbalah and the forms of Jewish folk superstitions, but at its heart it has more in common with the writings of Deepak Chopra than with any authentic Jewish source. I do not mean to suggest that magic is not a part of Kabbalah. There are certainly many traditional Jewish stories that involve the use of hidden knowledge to affect the world in ways that could be described as magic. The Talmud and other sources ascribe supernatural activities to many great rabbis. Some rabbis pronounced a name of G-d and ascended into heaven to consult with the G-d and the angels on issues of great public concern.

One scholar is said to have created an artificial man by reciting various names of G-d. Much later stories tell of a rabbi who created a man out of clay (a golem) and brought it to life by putting in its mouth a piece of paper with a name of G-d on it. However, this area of Kabbalah (if indeed it is more than mere legend) is not something that is practiced by the average Jew, or even the average rabbi.

There are a number of stories that discourage the pursuit of such knowledge and power as dangerous and irresponsible. If you see any books on the subject of “practical kabbalah,” you can safely dismiss them as not authentic Jewish tradition because, as these stories demonstrate, this kind of knowledge was traditionally thought to be far too dangerous to be distributed blindly to the masses.

It is important to note that all of these magical effects were achieved through the power of G-d, generally by calling upon the name of G-d. These practices are no more “evil” than the miracles of the prophets, or the miracles that Christians ascribe to Jesus. In fact, according to some of my mystically-inclined friends, Jesus performed his miracles using kabbalistic techniques learned from the Essenes, a Jewish sect of that time that was involved in mysticism.

Ein Sof and the Ten Sefirot To give you an idea of the nature of Kabbalah, I will briefly discuss one of the better known, fundamental concepts of kabbalistic thought: the concept of G-d as Ein Sof, the Ten Sefirot, and the kabbalistic tree of life. This explanation is, at best, a gross oversimplification. I do not pretend to fully understand these ideas.

According to Kabbalah, the true essence of G-d is so transcendent that it cannot be described, except with reference to what it is not. This true essence of G-d is known as Ein Sof, which literally means “without end,” which encompasses the idea of His lack of boundaries in both time and space. In this truest form, the Ein Sof is so transcendent that It cannot have any direct interaction with the universe.

The Ein Sof interacts with the universe through ten emanations from this essence, known as the Ten Sefirot. Tree of Life (Large)These Sefirot correspond to qualities of G-d. They consist of, in descending order, Keter (the crown), Chokhmah (wisdom), Binah (intuition, understanding), Chesed (mercy) or Gedulah (greatness), Gevurah (strength), Tiferet (glory), Netzach (victory), Hod (majesty), Yesod (foundation) and Malkut (sovereignty).

The middle five qualities are mentioned explicitly and in order at I Chronicles 29:11: Yours, O L-rd, is the greatness (gedulah), the strength (gevurah), the glory (tiferet), the power (netzach), and the splendor (hod). I have seen this passage translated in widely varying ways, but the Hebrew corresponds to the names of the Sefirot in order.

The Ten Sefirot include both masculine and feminine qualities. Kabbalah pays a great deal of attention to the feminine aspects of G-d. The Sefirot are commonly represented as in the diagram at left. This diagram is commonly known as the Tree of the Sefirot or the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. There is great significance to the position of these various attributes and their interconnectedness. The Sefirot are not separate deities, as some might think by taking this too literally. They are intimately a part of G-d, and yet they are in contact with the universe in a way that the Ein Sof is not. The Sefirot connect with everything in the universe, including humanity. The good and evil that we do resonates through the Sefirot and affects the entire universe, up to and including G-d Himself. Suggested Reading Readings in this area should be undertaken with extreme caution.

There is entirely too much literature out there under the name “Kabbalah” that has little or nothing to do with the true Jewish teachings on this subject. Any book on the subject of practical Kabbalah should be disregarded immediately; no legitimate source would ever make such teachings available to a faceless mass audience. Books written by Christians should be viewed with extreme skepticism, because many Christian sources have reinterpreted Kabbalah to fit into Christian dogma. There is a nice online introductory Kabbalah course available from Aish Ha-Torah at Kabbala 101.

Buy it at amazon.comFor an academic and scholarly information about Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, check out the works of Professor Gershom Scholem. He was a prolific writer on the subject, and his writings are widely available and well-respected by both Jews and non-Jews. Dozens of his books are available at amazon.com. Click here to see a list. For a more personal and experiential approach to Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, see the works of Aryeh Kap lan.

Copyright ©2008 Jew With A View Blog

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