|This article was constructed with the help of either writings, lectures or shiurim of Rabbi’s Noach Isaac Oelbaum, Berrel Wien, Eliyahu ben Chaim, Asher Hurzberg, Naftali Gonzvi, Pinchus Winston, Yossi Bilius, Abba Wagensberg, Nissan Midel and The Nachshoni|
|What’s the difference between a Kabbalist and a Rabbi? A Kabbalist is in a higher tax bracket.
Do traditional Jews take mysticism with a grain of salt? One prominent Orthodox Jew, when introducing a speaker on the subject of Jewish mysticism, basically said, “It’s nonsense, but it’s Jewish nonsense, and the study of anything Jewish, even nonsense, is worthwhile.”
However in many circles going to a Kabbalist is a way of life. One may have a favorite social drink, favorite sport team and a favorite Kabbalist. Perhaps in our New York circles, the Kabbalist has replaced the psychologist as “the go to guy” for help with every aspect of life’s decisions. It makes a great conversation piece at wedding, “Oh, who’s your Kabbalist? Does he take American Express?”
One has to ask if this is the right path for us Jews to consider. Do Kabbalists actually have special powers? And if they do, where do they get their powers from? Is it possible they can get their energy source from a negative evil side? Can we tap in to their superpowers?
First and foremost, one has to realize that once people begin to complicate their lives by attending a Kabbalist it becomes addicting. The reliance increases for every small item. It could start with a legitimate inquiry and gravitate toward the most trivial, like what color paint my patio should be. People start to think, “No I can’t make that decision, I’m not as worthy as the Kabbalist.” This is an addiction and it starts when man seeks to have an edge in life. However, man, not being G-d, is part of that perfect imperfection and is therefore prone to making mistakes. Man, be it the person seeking help as well as the Kabbalist, can, even innocently at times, end up working against G-d even when, at times, he thinks that he is working with Him. As it has been said, the road to Gehinom is paved with good intentions.
We see how having an edge sometimes could lead to a big fiasco. Korach saw through Ruach HaKodesh that from him is destined leadership. But “the eyes fooled him” (Rashi). He didn’t realize is that it was not him who was destined to be the leader but his descendent Shmuel. He misread the divine prophesy.
Similarly, Achitofel was King David’s teacher and was the smartest man in the world at the time. His advice was as good as gold. He saw in Ruach HaKodesh, again that edge, the he is destined the Kingdom. That motivated him to contrite a plan instigating David’s own son Avshalom to rebel against his father. This became one of the uglier episodes in Jewish History. At the end the coup failed and both Achitofel and Avshalom died. What he too didn’t realize was that it wasn’t he who would be king but his great grandson Shlomo.
Today however the generation is substantially weaker compared to yesteryear and it would be highly unlikely that we can produce high levels of great Torah scholars, and equally unlikely to have witches, demons, ghosts or goblins. You are the product of the environment.
Where do magic and extra -terrestrial powers measure on the glucometer of today? Let’s examine the mechanics or at least touch upon one of the many major ways one can elevate himself to superhuman status. In this week’s parsha we encounter one of the more fascinating characters in the Torah, Bilam.
In our modern world what can we learn from him? Not the black magic that he inherited from his father (or as some say his grandfather) Lavan. Nor is it the presents Balak received from the gifts that Avraham, our forefather gave to the sons of Ketura, one of his wives. Rav Yirmiya bar Aba taught, “He gave over to them the use of G-d’s name with impurity.” This, Rashi tells us, means that he taught them black magic and demonology. Some Sages teach us that some of the black magic had to do with incense. Avraham received the knowledge of this power from Pharoah as a gift along with his daughter Hagar when he went to Egypt. But today all this is pretty much irrelevant and a waste of time. The Torah is attempting to teach us something. In order to understand a tremendous insight in ourselves and our powers, what we can achieve, we have to examine a few occurrences in our rich past.
However, this does not seem to be correct. Just the opposite! The strength of impurity had been eliminated as a result of the revelation of the Divine Presence, as it says, “For the Children of Israel even a dog will not growl.” (Shemot 11:7). He judged their gods and killed their firstborn. If so, how can it be said that impurity has any control, G-d forbid?
In the month of Nissan, and especially on the first night of Pesach, Evil- the S”A was completely beaten and conquered to the point of extinction. If so, how can one say there was concern about the power of the 50th gate of Impurity?
For, G-d, shined His holy light onto the Jewish people, as the author of the Haggadah has written, “The King of Kings was revealed to them.” Therefore, they could not remain in Egypt a moment longer lest the S”A become completely eradicated and free will become eliminated. Egypt was the chief of all the Klipos- negative energy, and if she had been destroyed then so too the S”A and Evil inclination would have been destroyed completely. Free will would no longer have existed, and for this reason they could not delay. Thus, the verse says, “Egypt imposed itself strongly upon the people to hasten to send them out of the land, for they said, ‘We are all dying.'” (Shemot 12:33).
Thus, redemption had not occurred as a result of their own merit, but on the contrary, they had been quite absorbed and drowning in the zuhama and depths of Egyptian impurity. Indeed, only as a result of the merit of covenant with our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaacov had this been accomplished.
What begs to be asked is in what method did G-d eradicate and weaken Evil, the Yetzer Hara?
At one point in history, the leading sages were Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yosei the Galilite, and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. While discussing what attitude to take towards the Roman government, Rabbi Yehudah suggested a friendly one, Rabbi Yosei expressed no opinion, while Rabbi Shimon spoke very bitterly of the Roman tyrants and advocated every possible defiance. Rabbi Shimon could never forget the terrible sight of his beloved master and teacher, Rabbi Akiva, being tortured to death by the Roman executioners. The sages were not aware that their conversation was overheard by a certain young man, Judah ben Gerim. At one time a disciple of Rabbi Shimon, Judah ben Gerim later turned spy for the Roman authorities. This treacherous man reported the conversation of the sages to the Roman authorities.
Rabbi Shimon fled for his life together with his son Rabbi Elazar. Without telling anyone of their whereabouts, they hid in a cave for thirteen years.
One day after Rabbi Shimon emerged he met Judah ben Gerim, the treacherous spy who had caused him so much trouble. Rabbi Shimon exclaimed, “Is this man still alive?” and soon afterwards Judah ben Gerim died.
Our Sages comment how Rabbi Shimon killed the spy. “Rabbi Shimon gazed at him and he turned into a heap of bones.” With his gaze, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was able to suck out all the kedusha of the individual, like a mosquito sucking blood from a person. Similarly by the redemption, the kedusha was being drained out of Egypt and for this reason the Israelites had to hasten their leave.
Shabtai Tzvi (1648), the false prophet whom we discussed a few weeks ago, began eating prohibited foods claiming he was able to bring out the spark of kedusha from these products even though in essence you can’t. When the Mashiach comes then we all will be able to eradicate those sparks. Apparently Shabtai Tzvi thought he was the Mashiach and gave his stamp of approval to do so. The Sages were suspect of his claim and thought otherwise. We have seen that all of Creation is composed of a mixture of good and evil. Likewise, in every food that a person eats there is a combination of good and evil. Food physically consists of good counterparts, i.e. nutrients, and bad aspects, i.e. waste or indigestible matter. Likewise, spiritually, food contains sparks of holiness, or good components, and husks, or kelipot, which are the gross, bad components that encompass the sparks.
Eating is one of our most common activities. It must be G-d’s Will that we are so involved in eating. There must be an important spiritual purpose to it. If we really can separate good from evil by eating correctly, then this purification has great ramifications upon all levels of reality.
HOW CAN WE INCREASE OUR ABILITY TO BE SUPER?
The first verse in the Book of Psalms teaches: “Fortunate is the man (ISH) who has not gone in the counsel of the wicked, and has not stood in the path of sinners, and has not sat in the company of scoffers.” The Midrash Socher Tov, in the name of Rabbi Yehuda, comments that the phrase “Fortunate is the man (ISH)” refers to Noah, since Noah is called ISH, as in our pasuk.
Why is Noah described as “fortunate”? According to the Midrash, Noah was fortunate in that he did not follow the ways of the three categories of people (wicked, sinners, scoffers) cited in Psalms. These three negative categories correspond to the three generations that arose in the world over the course of Noah’s lifetime: the generation of Enosh (Adam’s grandson, who initiated the practice of idolatry), the generation of the Flood (who were immersed in immoral behavior), and the generation of the dispersion (who built the Tower of Babel in order to wage war against G-d). It was Noah’s good fortune that he did not go in the path of any of these three generations.
The Midrash teaches us that Noah spent his entire life surrounded by evil and wickedness, yet he managed to make himself into one of the most righteous people who ever lived. This is a remarkable feat. How is it possible for a person to maintain such a high level of spirituality while surrounded by an environment of depravity and corruption?
A passage from the Talmud will help us resolve this question. Ben Zoma says, “Who is a wise person? One who learns from everyone.” (Avot 4:1). This is a strange statement. It seems reasonable for us to want to learn from righteous people, but what is wise about learning from the wicked?
For example, if a righteous person were to witness someone passionately engaged in sinning, he would recognize and appreciate the tremendous motivating power of passion. However, instead of taking that power and using it to accomplish negative goals, the righteous person would redirect it for a meaningful purpose. The correct channeling of passion has the potential to change rote, sterile performance of God’s mitzvot into mitzvah observance driven by enthusiasm and fire! (Kedushat Levi, end of Parshat Bereishit.)
Noah epitomized this ability to channel negative forces toward a higher purpose. A hint to this idea is found in his name. The Torah tells us (Genesis 6:8) that Noah found chen (favor) in the eyes of God. The name NOAH (nun-chet), when reversed, spells CHEN (chet-nun)! Noah found favor in the eyes of God by mastering the art of reversal. He had the ability to redirect every energy from a negative goal to a positive one. All powers come from one source, and therefore they are all good; the only question is how they are used. It is written in our holy books, “Who is strong? One who conquers his self.” Our sages define conquering as channeling and redirecting, and that is what Noah did.
This is why a wise person learns from everyone. Instead of being corrupted by his evil generation, Noah used it as an opportunity for spiritual growth. He had the ‘best’ teachers available! All Noah had to do was learn to take their ingenuity, arrogance, passion, jealousy and zeal, and use them in a productive, constructive way to get closer to G-d.
May we all learn how to transform the power of every energy into positive actions in order to become the best we can possibly be ….. and that can be enormously super!
So in conclusion there is no difference if one, the kabbalist, goes through evil or kosher route, since all sources originates from G-d. This is evident from the reliance Bilam put on the Master of the Universe. What is important to note that we are able to transform a negativity to a positive light. Noach is the prime example of this. The other way around is also true, Furthermore, the kedusha in the world is not on the strength of yesteryear therefore the power of evil is not as strong. Good and evil are always equal.”