Kabbalah facts for kids

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Tree of Life, Medieval
The tree of life

Kabbalah is an interpretation of the Torah (Hebrew Bible), or the religious mystical system of Judaism claiming an insight into divine nature. The kabbalah started in the 1st-century by Rabbi Simeon bar Yochai. It continued in the 13th century in Spain by Rabbi Moses de León.

It tries to explain how something beyond thought and imagining can still be seen and felt. The kabbalah has a great influence on the Jewish spiritual life. It is based on the various spiritual movements. It is a set of beliefs concerning God, God's creation of the universe and the laws of nature, and the path by which adult religious Jews can learn these secrets.

Kabbalah stresses the reasons and understanding of the commandments in the Torah, and the cause of events described in the Torah. Kabbalah includes the understanding of the spiritual spheres of creation, and the ways by which God administers the existence of the universe. The kabbalah is based on the tree of the 10 Sephirot called the "Tree of Life". In the tree are presented the 10 powers that affect each domain in the world.

According to Jewish tradition, this knowledge has come down as a revelation to elect saints from a remote past, and preserved only by a privileged few. It is considered part of the Jewish Oral Law.

Origin of Jewish mysticism

Ark of the Covenant 19th-century
Ezekiel and Isaiah had prophetic visions of the angelic Chariot and Divine Throne

According to followers of Kabbalah, the origin of Kabbalah begins with the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible. When read by a Kabbalist, the Torah's description of the creation in the Book of Genesis reveals mysteries about God's creation of the universe, Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and a Tree of Life, the interaction of these creations with the Serpent which leads to disaster when they eat the forbidden fruit, as recorded in Genesis 2.

Jacob's vision of the ladder to heaven is another example of a mystical experience. Moses' experience with the Burning bush and his encounters with God on Mount Sinai, the prophet Ezekiel's visions are all evidence of mystical events in the Tanakh, and form the origin of Jewish mystical beliefs.

In the medieval era Jewish mysticism greatly developed with the appearance of the mystical text, the Sefer Yetzirah. Jewish sources attribute the book to the biblical patriarch Abraham. This book became the object of the systematic study of the elect who were called baale ha-kabbalah ("possessors or masters of the Kabbalah").

Rakia-Letters
Kabbalistic painting of the Hebrew letters in Creation

Kabbalah teaches that every Hebrew letter, word, number, and accent of the Hebrew Bible contains a hidden sense; and it teaches the methods of interpretation for understanding these meanings.

Kabbalistic works are a theodicy (an attempt to answer the question of why a good God permits evil), of how the existence of a good and powerful God is compatible with the existence of evil in the world. There are mainly two different ways to describe why there is evil in the world, according to the Kabbalah. Both makes use of the kabbalistic Tree of Life.

Modern forms

A recent modern revival has been initiated by the Kabbalah Center founded by Philip Berg in Los Angeles in 1984, and run by him and his sons. With a number of branches worldwide, the group has attracted many non-Jews, including entertainment celebrities such as Madonna, Demi Moore, Mick Jagger and Britney Spears. Reactions from organized Jewish groups have been mostly negative.

Fictional representations

Promethea
Cover of Promethea vol. 1

The anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion utilised the Kabbalah imagery heavily and implied a secret portion of the Kabbalah contained within the Dead Sea scrolls and maintained through time by various individuals. Imagery such as the Systema Sephiroticum is utilised by various characters in their offices and operation areas. During an apocalyptic sequence, referred to as the "Third Impact", in the film End of Evangelion, heavy use of the Tree of Life is undertaken, both visually and with characters "walking through" the explanation of what is happening.

The comic series Promethea by Alan Moore draws heavily on Kabbalah, and is in large part a framework for an overview and explanation of many Kabbalistic concepts. The main character journeys up through the entire tree of life over the course of many issues exploring the symbolism and meaning of each level and of the journey itself.

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