7 Wondrous Novelties From Kabbalah And Chassidut To The World

You may be wondering: so what did Kabbalah and Chassidut REALLY bring to the Jewish World?

Well, I’m glad you asked this because in this article we will delve into some fascinating chiddushim that were NOT revealed to us by the Tanach, Talmud, Midrash, or the Rishonim.

The study of Kabbalah and Chassidut opens a person’s mind to depths never before imagined. After some time, one begins to understand the interconnectedness of events, an increased passion for Avodat Hashem, His guiding Hand in the world through synchronicity and serendipity, and a lot more. Suddenly the physical pull of our world becomes weaker, and the pleasures once held in high esteem are seen as not so attractive anymore.

There’s a deep, felt change at every level of one’s psyche, and new insights are revealed. One can be said to “wake up” from the slumber of not having really understood much previously. Energy levels start rising, there’s a change in moods for the better and one becomes more aware.

There is, however, a lot of stigma regarding Kabbalah and Chassidut even among Jews. This can be either because they don’t understand or their Rabbis have misled them into thinking they don’t need it and it’s all hocus-pocus (chas v’shalom). We will not delve into this right now.

As you probably know, Rav Yitzhak Luria (the Arizal) is the “father” of modern Kabbalah. He’s the one who revealed to us a great deal about the system of the Zohar, the Kavanot (mystical intentions) and the workings of the Spiritual Worlds and Sephirot. His disciple, Rav Chaim Vital wrote most of his works and after a few decades, came the Holy Rashas’h (Rabbi Shalom Sharabi), who systematized everything into the Siddurim we know nowadays.

I’d guess 90% of all Kabbalah studied nowadays is either from him, the Rashash (who is thought to be his reincarnation), or the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto). The rest is from the previous Kabbalists like the Ramban, Rabbi Yosef Gikatilla, the Ramak (Rabbi Moshe Kordovero), Rabbi Avraham Abulafia, or some of the few books from the Rishonim we have. But this is more of a wild guess, to be fair.

Either way, there was a clear shift in history with the coming of the Arizal even though he lived such a “short” life. In his 38 years, he was able to expound upon pretty much every single extant Mitzvah we have nowadays, all the Parshiot from the Torah and a lot on the Prophets and Scripture. There’s probably not a minhag that was not touched by his insights and a lot of our Avodat Hashem today is explained by his writings.

It all makes sense once we delve into it.

I often insist that one who thinks Kabbalah and Halacha conflict – doesn’t know Kabbalah at all. Or Halacha for that matter. What do you think we are doing when we give Tzedaka or put Tefilin or go out to pray if not rectify the very same spiritual worlds and Sephirot that the Arizal and Zohar wrote about?

Why do we do things the way we do, when we do, if not to elicit a positive response Above through these actions? The system works because, as I explain in my free e-book, it’s a self-evident reality. It works because it’s based on reality and all the Torah (and Talmud) is based on it. Even Rashi’s commentary, thought by many to be the pshat (simple meaning) is actually filled with Kabbalistic parlance and symbolism.

And so I present here 7 benefits that Kabbalah and Chassidut brought to the world

Kabbalah and Chassidut have changed the world as we know

1. Praying at Kivrei Tzadikim (graves of the righteous)

While we have some hints of praying at Kivrei Tzadikim, it was really popularized with the Arizal and Rav Chaim Vital. As I mentioned in this article, praying at the graves of Tzadikim is much more powerful than any other place.

There are awesome benefits beyond “getting your prayers answered” that a person can get such as receiving the Yibur (pregnancy) from the Tzadik, improving your soul, and yes, receiving direct guidance from him.

To be fair, we have accounts of many Rabbis who used to pray at Kivrei Tzadikim, but perhaps this practice was not found among the general population as it is nowadays. Consider the great celebration of Lag Baomer hosted every year where about half a million Jews go to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai or the great Rosh Hashanah of Rebbe Nachman in Uman in which about 80.000 people went this year 5784 despite the war in Ukraine.

There’s a very good reason for that.

2. Jewish Meditation

The depths of the soul cannot be experienced without meditation. This is a simple fact.

And Jewish meditation is barely heard of before Kabbalah and Chassidut. We do have some meditation practices from Rabbi Avraham Abulafia and Rav Hai Gaon, but these have almost always been reserved for Tzadikim.

Many people are unaware, but there are a lot of good practices from non-Jews that help us understand the workings of the human body and psyche. We can learn about what to do regarding breathing, posture, energy and a lot more in very simple language. These are all concepts we are all bound by, but somehow meditation fell into this nebulous realm where Jews fear approaching.

However, the way to receive a boost in Kedusha, Yirat Shamayim, Ahavat Hashem is by doing Jewish meditation.

Meditation is essentially achieving the trance state, which is the state of Chokhmah. This powerful state of Dveikut (bonding) enables any part of Avodat Hashem to have more power. Through the Arizal and Rav Chaim Vital, we now have access to many Kavanot (mystical intentions) and Yichudim (unifications) which bring awesome benefits not only to the spiritual worlds but to the person practicing them.

3. Unifying system of thought

Kabbalah and Chassidut follow a very methodological, complex and comprehensive system.

This system helps us understand the works of Creation and, ultimately, Hashem. Since the entire system of Creation is an expression of Hashem, knowing it in-depth is a great way of getting into His mind and appreciating it.

And there’s no greater way of achieving closeness to Him except by understanding Kabbalah and Chassidut because you cannot love that which you don’t understand.

Whether people like it or not, this system and its governing principles affect us all and we can choose to make the most out of it, or simply ignore it (but still be bound by its rules). Personally, with so much chaos and misery in the world, when few things actually seem to make sense nowadays, I find it comforting to know there’s a way to understand a lot of it through this system.

Broken chain of Kabbalah is difficult to trace

This system operates via the Hebrew alphabet, which not only links concepts through Gematria, but also via interconnected ideas that seem disparate. One of the most beautiful aspects of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s Torah is that he can find links between different ideas in all of Tanach, the Talmud and the Zohar, then link them together and form a profound picture of an aspect of Creation.

4. Consciousness of the immensity of Creation

The Arizal already wrote in Sha’ar HaKavanot (gate of intentions) that the only real Torah Lishmah is Kabbalah. This is because one cannot “appear smart” by giving a nice short idea since it will perforce be lacking unless the recipient have previous knowledge.

There’s no way of explaining it in a post because a person must know the entire system before understanding it a little. As mentioned in the introduction, Kabbalah and Chassidut open one’s mind to appreciate the immensity of Creation, how every letter of the Tanach, Talmud and Zohar is filled with meaning, how every word is woven into the tapestry of the spiritual worlds and allude to incredibly high concepts.

This fills a person with true fear of Heaven…

5. True Fear of Heaven

Again, the Arizal and Rav Chaim Vital bring an important lesson here.

There’s a reason why we call it the “Wisdom of Kabbalah”. That is because of the Pasuk “Reshit Chokhmah Yir’at Hashem” (the beginning of wisdom is fear of Hashem). One can interpret it to mean that in order to acquire wisdom, you need fear of Heaven, but also that, in order to acquire fear of Heaven, you need wisdom.

Wisdom, as I mention here, is not mere understand of words. It’s building up ideas in one’s mind and forming a picture. I personally dislike the term “fear” because it has negative connotations. I’d suggest translating Yir’ah as “conscious reverence”, which is a more proper term. Just as someone is consciously aware of the power of fire and “revere” it not to play with it, so too in a way we also revere Hashem whose words are like fire.

One wouldn’t dress in his regular clothes, act in his regular way, or speak without measuring his every word in front of a great mortal king. How much more so, the King of Kings who made all the worlds and Created this wondrous system of though which is available to all. Once we are made aware of Hashem’s greatness and the magnitude and splendor of the world He created, we simply change.

In many places in the Zohar, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai speaks sternly against the Jews that ignore the study of Kabbalah and think that the Torah is telling mere stories.

I won’t write down his insults, but they are pretty scary.

6. Map of the mind and the spiritual worlds

Many non-Jewish traditions did a great job mapping out the mind and even the spiritual world of Assiyah. Some are also able to explore the spiritual worlds and have described them in great detail.

Yet, Kabbalah gives the ultimate formula of understanding Creation and the human psyche, which follows the pattern of the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life) as below:

Full

For those who have never seen it, I recommend watching my Sparks of Light webinar or download my free Kabbalah e-book to understand better what I’m talking about.

Knowing the Tree of Life in depth helps us navigate life’s challenges and understand why certain things keep happening. For example, one who has a pain on the left leg may attribute it to the fact that he’s grown complacent of other’s or that he might lack humility. One who feels weak in his right arm or hand could attribute it to him being stingy with his time or money.

These are, of course, only examples of what could be, and each case must be thoroughly examined before jumping to conclusions but the above model is present in every facet of Creation, and even non-Jews use it for meditation.

7. The figure of the Tzadik

Ok, so we all know there are Tzadikim in every generation.

But the extent to which a Tzadik’s Avodat Hashem goes remains clouded for many. What is the difference between him and a regular good-hearted person? What can he do? What do WE gain from him?

This is a major simplification, but Tzadikim are essentially people who have dedicated their entire beings to Hashem, Torah, the Jewish People and the world at large. They have exerted outstanding effort in rectifying their Middot (character traits) to desire solely that which Hashem wants, and have very little, if not zero self interest.

It is a marvel to be next to a Tzadik, and with a little awareness, one can feel his love and wisdom irradiating from him. The Zohar says there are 36 Tzadikim in every generation who “justify” Creation and act as defenders in the Heavenly Court. Another source says there are 36 in Israel and 36 outside of the Land. According to the Baal Shem Tov, the Tzadik is a mirror and reflects our moral standing, so our perception of him is actually a perception of us. This is because the Tzadik know’s he “has nothing of his own” as the Sephira of Malkhut, symbolized by King David is described by the Zohar.

In other words, by “not existing” in this world, the Tzadik can channel down blessings from Hashem. As we learn in Massechet Moed Katan, the Tzadik decrees and Hashem fulfils, Hashem decrees and the Tzadik annuls.

It is the Baal Shem Tov and Rebbe Nachman of Breslov who popularized the figure of the Tzadik, not necessarily “the one” who’s the leader. Though many Breslovers make the mistake of thinking there’s only one Tzadik (Rebbe Nachman), Rav Chaim Vital’s teaching from Pri Etz Chaim, Drush Rosh Chodesh, Perek 3, disproves this notion completely and without a doubt:

“And behold, in every generation, there is one righteous person worthy of being the leader of the generation. He too walks and comes with the people of his generation, to illuminate them. This is the initial light, and afterward, the sun rises. This is what our sages said: before the sun of Eli (the Kohen Gadol) sets, the sun of Samuel the HaRamathi (the prophet) rises.

Before the passing of the righteous one, another righteous one is born, as our sages say. And this is the “sunrise and the setting of the sun to its place”. The intention is that when the righteous one departs, from there he illuminates the remaining Tzadik in his place. This [the meaning of] ‘to his place’: the righteous one who remains in his place, aspiring and rising [from] there.

Chaim DMT scene of an upside down world with a young man in the b5440845 524e 4655 a88d 3ade88eeda9d

Either way, Tzadikim help us see how much we are lacking. They not only guide us, but illuminate in all matters of Avodat Hashem. Some have Ruach HaKodesh and can predict the future with fair accuracy. Some can see your past or who your were, or what your Tikkun is. And some simply know a lot of Torah.

But ALL of them must perforce have a solid grasp on Kabbalah and Chassidut. Even Ashkenazi Poskim like Rav Chaim Kanievski Zt’l, Rav Aharon Shteinman Zt’l, Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv Zt’l and many others mastered the writings of the Arizal and a lot of Chassidut, but revealed little about it.

Concluding remarks

According to the Arizal, Kabbalah stands as the highest form of Torah, from the world of Atzilut. One cannot give that which he doesn’t possess and so, if someone want to illuminate with the highest light of Torah, he must study its internal part.

Those who can are encouraged to start studying Kabbalah with the Otzrot Chaim. Those who can’t are able to fulfill their obligation with Chassidut (this is more or less an implied consensus).

This is a story that Rabbi Benayahu Shmueli, current Rosh Yeshiva of Nahar Shalom brings in his book. Once a big Ashkenazi posek attended Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi’s class on Etz Chaim. Though he had studied a lot of Torah, he lacked in Kabbalah and had difficulty understanding the class. After a few classes he died and revealed to him that the Tikkun of all the Torah he learned could not compare to a single hour he spent in Rabbi Mordechai Sharabi’s class.

In an ideal world we’d all have mastered Talmud and Halacha before engaging in Kabbalah. Yet, times have changed and the principles, which is what I try to bring in the blog and webinars, are accessible to all. They can help everyone who’s looking for guidance, Tikkun, and a way of getting closer to Hashem. The prohibition of studying 40 years of Nigleh (the revealed part of Torah) was canceled long ago with Rav Chaim Vital who already implied this is not extant anymore.

There’s no need to wait and, with so many books available in English nowadays, starting one’s journey couldn’t be easier.

B’ezrat Hashem, may we all merit it.

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Chaim Apsan

Chaim is a teacher and Kabbalah enthusiast. He loves helping Jews connect with true Torah teaching and enhancing their spiritual growth. With a focus on meditation, he guides individuals on transformative journeys of prayer, contemplation, and connection with Hashem. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and kids, and is committed to sharing the wisdom and power of Kabbalah in a genuine way.

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