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The Real Deal

Alternative medicine and metaphysical philosophies of all sorts have been growing in popularity in recent years. Along with the interest in meditation and the occult, many seeking individuals have developed an interest in the mystical teachings of Kabbalah. These teachings seem to hold the key for elevating oneself above the boundaries of reality, to grasp the profound and the meaningful. Lectures and classes in Kabbalah have cropped up everywhere, some taught by dubious masters of the field.

On the one hand, this phenomenon seems to be a positive one. Kabbalah is an integral part of Torah; moreover, the very depth of Kabbalistic teachings ensures that when one studies this area, one becomes bound to the Torah on an essential, soul-level.

Yet it is troubling that many of these courses are taught by individuals who themselves do not keep the mitzvot of the Torah. How do we explain this phenomenon? What attracts people to the study of Kabbalah, yet not to the discipline of Torah observance? Furthermore, why is their interest sparked specifically by Kabbalah but not by other aspects of Torah? If a person feels a true connection to the essence of Torah, how can they not desire to perform the practical acts, the mitzvot, through which the teachings of Kabbalah take root in real life?

This indicates that the current trend to study Kabbalah is missing one crucial element. There is a disconnect between the lofty and powerful spiritual concepts expressed by Kabbalah and their practical application. The ultimate purpose of all Torah study is that it permeate every aspect of our lives, from the sublime to the mundane. The popular courses in Kabbalah fall short in communicating this message.

If one is truly interested in plumbing the depths of the Torah's teachings and applying them practically, the ideal place to begin is at the local Chabad House. Join a class in Chassidic philosophy, and you'll be exposed to a body of learning that is based on Kabbalah yet fully grounded in traditional Judaism. The Chassidic approach teaches one how to comprehend the highest levels of G-dliness while at the same time apply them in the physical world. Chassidism shows us how to use Kabbalistic principles to improve ourselves and the world, through added enthusiasm in the fulfillment of mitzvot.

A prime example of the synthesis of Kabbalah and practical Judaism was Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson, the father of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the anniversary of whose passing is on the 20th of Av, the upcoming Monday. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak was known as a master of Kabbalah; at the same time, he was also a Rav and authority on Jewish law, famous for his uncompromising commitment to every detail of Jewish law, great or small. His refusal to bend on matters of Jewish law led to his imprisonment by the Communist authorities in the 1940's, and eventually he died in exile in Alma Ata in 1944.

A healthy approach to the study of Chassidism and mysticism, like that of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, indeed leads to the elevation of the soul and the attainment of the greatest spiritual lights. The revelation that we experience through the study of Chassidism is a fitting preparation for the final Redemption, when G-dliness will be fully expressed in this world with no barriers.
 

 


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