Introduction to Practical Kabbalah: A Fascinating Short Guide On What It Entails

Introduction to Practical Kabbalah: Just don’t

There’s a certain allure to the word Practical Kabbalah (in Hebrew, Kabbalah Ma’assit). I personally think people often think it’s an easy way to get your wishes granted if you just say the right words. But Practical Kabbalah is fraught with dangers as we shall soon see.

The first thing to understand is that yes. It’s real. Hashem created the system of the olamot and built certain rules that can be activated by uttering specific keys. These keys are often divine names, prayers or segulot. When pronounced at certain times (or, sometimes, anytime!), it can cause supernatural phenomena to happen.

This shouldn’t be surprising since the Talmud is filled with stories of sages that made use of Practical Kabbalah, without any hesitancy whether we, the so advanced people of the future, would believe in them. They had no worry about convincing us or trying to justify why certain “magical” things happen. It just happens because the world is in fact a magical place, but that’s a subject for another post.

practical kabbalah

So, what’s the big problem with Practical Kabbalah?

The words below come from Sha’arei Kedusha 3:6, written by Rav Chaim Vital Zt”L on Practical Kabbalah:

This [Ruach HaKodeshconsists of a transmission of the lights of Yetzira itself, as well as lower levels. Attaining this level is called Ascending to the Orchard [Pardes]”. This refers to Yetzira, which is called “the Universe of [the angel] Mata’t.

There are certain names and prayers through which one can open the gates of the physical world so as to enter Asiya and Yetzira [with one’s mind]. These consist of Unifications (Yechudim) and prayers pertaining to the World of Yetzira and its ten sefirot. It is these techniques that are taught in the Chapters of Hekhalot, and these practices were used by Rabbi Nehuniah, Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Ishmael, and the members of the Great Assembly.

It’s noteworthy that in order for these practical kabbalah rituals to work, one needs to have an incredibly strong mind through intense Talmud and Halacha study since they “break the klipot inside.

However, Rav Chaim Vital writes also that…

The use of techniques involving the universe of Asiya… does not bring any enlightenment…

These techniques were then forgotten [to a large extent]. Besides this, the ashes of the Red Heifer [needed to attain ritual purity] were lost in the period of the later Talmudic sages, during the generation of Abaye and Rava [who lived in the Fifth Century]. After this, they no longer made use of these techniques to ascend to the Orchard.

The techniques and prayers currently exist mostly in manuscripts only. They are not disseminated to the public for obvious reasons. Rav Chaim Vital continues:

From then on, people only made use of techniques involving the world of Asiya. Since this is the lowest of the universes, its angels have very little and are mostly evil. Besides this, this is a level where good and evil are closely intertwined [and it is very difficult to separate them]. This does not bring any enlightenment, since it is impossible to perceive good alone, and one’s perception is, therefore, a combination of good and evil, truth and falsehood.

This is the significance of the Practical Kabbalah. It is forbidden to make use of it since evil necessarily binds itself to the good. One may actually intend to cleanse his soul, but as a result of the evil, he actually defiles it. Besides polluting his soul, he will also be punished.

I can’t emphasize this point enough. There are clear, obvious risks that one incurs when making use of these techniques, especially when it comes to uttering names of angels. The Arizal warned Rav Chaim never to pronounce the names of angels except those such as Gavriel, Michael, Uriel and Rephael.

Even if one does gain some perception, it is truth intermingled with falsehood. This is especially true today, since the ashes of the Red Heifer no longer exist. [Since one cannot purify himself,] the uncleanliness of the kelipot attaches itself to the individual who attempts to gain enlightenment through the Practical Kabbalah.

Therefore, “he who watches his soul should keep far from them”. For besides polluting his soul, he will also be punished in Gehinom. We also have a tradition that such an individual will be punished in this world. Either he or his children will become sick, will be impoverished, or will become apostates. Learn a lesson from Yosef Della Reina and Rabbi Shlomo Molcho, who made use of the Practical Kabbala and were destroyed from the world.

Practical Kabbalah very often ends in disaster

Look into the story of Rabbi Yosef Della Reina, who attempted to bring the Geulah with Practical Kabbalah and you will see how far away from Hashem it can bring a person.

Rav Yitzhak Kaduri Zt”l, a master Mekubal in his own right, was easily able to look into Kameot (amulets) and see which names were holy and which were meant to bring in demons.

abstract rainbow magic

There’s a printed version of his writings with fascinating amulets drawn gathered by his son and published through his Yeshiva. (Interestingly enough, Rav Kaduri quotes Rebbe Nachman’s Likutey Moharan in many places). Some of the instructions include:

  • The one who’s writing the Kamea must have reached an incredibly high level in Avodat Hashem both in wisdom and in teshuva/middot.
  • He must be doing the Kamea entirely L’Shem Shamayim (with no vested interest)
  • He must unify the spiritual worlds in his mind while writing
  • He must keep a pure mind and fast while writing, since it is a sort of “permitted sin” in itself

Other precautions include that a person must be wary that one “wrong move/thought” and the forces contained in the Kamea may turn against him. At best, it won’t have the intended effect and it be a waste of one’s time.

Binding Angels

It is said that once someone asked Rav Kaduri whether he bound angels by an oath to do his bidding. In his tremendous humility he explained he didn’t, but the angels themselves, “seeing he was an old man, agreed to help him out of their own volition”.

There’s a way to bind angels and make them do one’s bidding. The problem with this is that angels hate most humans unless you are a Tzadik of legendary proportions. The reason is that they see us as… let’s put it like that… bugs. Due to our many sins, we are simply too disgusting in their eyes to be paid any attention and they’d much rather stay away from us unless commanded by Hashem.

Actually, if you ever experience a vision of some kind old men in white robes that were “waiting for you” with a smile, have no doubts that they are demons. They are the ones who enjoy tricking people into doing their bidding while granting them some little gift in exchange for their soul. We will explore this in another time.

For more information, the reader is enjoined to read “Faith and Folly”, by the Rosh Yeshiva of Ahavat Shalom, Rabbi Yaakov Hillel.

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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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