By: Rabbi Yisrael Baron

Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, has become a popular subject.  We hear about it being studied by celebrities lately.  This is just a reflection of our society’s search for some sort of higher meaning.  At Chabad of Sunny Isles Beach, we will discuss the subject in a course called “The Kabbalah of Character”.


The literal meaning of Kabbalah is ‘received tradition': the body of classical Jewish mystical teachings, the central text of which is the Zohar.


That definition is still general and vague.   We all want to know what Jewish mysticism is. What are its origins? What does it teach? What does it have to do with me?  Is it something different than the Torah?


Scholars, starting all the ways back from the beginning of biblical times studied Kabbalah. Some are of the opinion that our forefather Abraham authored the Sefer Yetzierah (The Book of Creation), one of the first known Kabbalistic works.


The most famous Kabbalist is Rabbi Isaac Luria (Safed 1534-1572) also known as the “Holy Ari.” He was the greatest Kabbalist luminary, crystallizing the Kabbalah into its recognized final forms.  His teachings were transmitted orally. Today, we are left with about two dozen volumes that his disciples transcribed.


Often, as we hear about Kabbalah, we wonder about the secret super natural powers it may hold and the benefits we may gain from it.  Some writings of the Kabbalah involve the use of divine names, amulets, talismans, and astrology to alter the natural order of the world.  These powers are powerful and true; however, they have been frowned on by most Kabbalists, including Rabbi Isaac Luria, as dangerous and spiritually demeaning.  Therefore, amongst the over three thousand Kabbalistic texts in print very few of them deal with these subjects.


The latest explosion of Kabbalistic teachings began with the Baal ShemTov (1698-1760) the founder of the Chasidic movement.  His teachings brought new life into the Eastern European Jewish community after they suffered from the Cossack pogroms led by Chmelnitski (1648) and the dashed hopes of the false messiah, Shabtai Zvi, that followed.


Most mystical schools in the world somehow stress their freedom from the constraints of formal religion. However, Kabbalah mysticism does the opposite. It stresses the vital significance of the smallest details of law and ritual.  Rabbi Joseph Caro, author of the “Shulchan Aruch” Code of Jewish Law, was a mystic himself.  The goal of the Kabbalist was to add weight and meaning to formal practices of the Torah.


The Baal Shem Tov was no different in his teachings.  He incorporated the Mystical Principals of Kabbalah with the practical daily issues of serving G‑d. Learning this became mandatory in order to survive as a G‑d fearing community.


Chabad of Sunny Isles Beach will be hosting a new course called “The Kabbalah of Character”.

“The Kabbalah of Character” is a new and expanded revision of the popular course, “Soul Powers,” presented by the Jewish Learning Institute. The course helps students identify their particular dispositions and strengths. It then helps them to find ways to make the most of the gifts they have been given. Drawing on the organizational structure of the Kabbalah, this course examines the nature of the human soul created in the image of G‑d. It includes wisdom to amaze and stories to inspire, as well as journal exercises and practical tools to help students apply the lessons to their own lives.


The course invites you to choose from among a wealth of reflective approaches to chart your own path to personal growth.  It provides tools that will help you develop yourself and find new meaning in each day.


What can you gain by taking this course? A chance to discover who you really are; a chance to experience a tried, true method for self-improvement grounded in traditional spiritual teachings. And a chance to learn the secrets that will help you unlock your inner potential.