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Kabbalah & Mysticism

Jewish History: Kabbalah and Mysticism

What is kabbalah? When was kabbalah exposed to the world? Rabbi Berel Wein elaborates

Kabbalah and Mysticism
Kabbalah means traditionally received knowledge. Kabbalah always existed, though it did not exist publicly; meaning there were no books available on kabbalah and it was kept within an inner circle of chosen scholars.

In the 13th and 14th centuries kabbalah became more public and Jews were exposed to a more mystical and mysterious world. Perhaps the reason for this exposure was that people were looking for answers to the mysteries of life beyond the rational.  

In the commentary to the Bible of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (Ramban / Nachmanides) from Spain, he has a section called 'Secret – The Way of the Ultimate Truth', which is supernatural, mysterious and Kabbalistic texts.

Another commentary by Rabbi Bachye, also from Spain, has a section devoted to the mysterious hidden mystical interpretation of the verses of the Torah.

In the 15th century, Moses de Leon published a book called Zohar. He attributed it to the third century scholar Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai. Zohar became the basic book of Kabbalah, written in Aramaic the dialect of the Palestinian Aramaic of the 3rd century. It contained the basis of all the later works of kabbalah, although the later works would diverge from it to a great extent.