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What are the necessary conditions for being ready to learn Kabala?

And if one meets those conditions, what books should he start with?

Please provide a source.

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related (as to prereqs) judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/1883/… Halachipedia says: Zohar (Pekudei 247b) describes the importance of learning the secrets of Torah and it’s reward. However the poskim write that one needs to have first learned Gemara and Poskim including Etz Chaim (pg 1d), Rama Y”D 246:4, Maharsha (Chagiga 13a), Shelah (Eser Maamarot 29b) and Sh”t Yachave Daat 4:47. –  Danno Aug 22 '13 at 19:40
    
Conditions are being Baki in Kol Miksaot HaTorah and following certain Humrot. Kalach Pitche Hochma, Kise Eliyahu, Daat Utvuna, and Binyan Ariel are great beginner books. –  Hacham Gabriel Aug 23 '13 at 3:16
    
@HachamGabriel, if you can provide an explanation (and preferably evidence) for that, it sounds like it'd make a good answer. –  msh210 Aug 23 '13 at 4:22

3 Answers 3

Have a look at Chagiga Daf 13a about the qualifications needed for learning the hidden parts of the Torah. From there you could follow through to the Poskim:

E.g.:

ולא במרכבה ביחיד: תני רבי חייא אבל מוסרין לו ראשי פרקים אמר רבי זירא אין מוסרין ראשי פרקים אלא לאב ב"ד ולכל מי שלבו דואג בקרבו איכא דאמרי והוא שלבו דואג בקרבו

NOR [THE WORK OF] THE CHARIOT IN THE PRESENCE OF ONE. R. Hiyya taught: But the headings of chapters may be transmitted to him. R. Zera said: The headings of chapters may be transmitted only to the head of a court and to one whose heart is anxious within him. Others say: Only if his heart is anxious within him.

Or:

אמר רבי אמי אין מוסרין סתרי תורה אלא למי שיש בו חמשה דברים שר חמשים ונשוא פנים ויועץ וחכם חרשים ונבון לחש

R. Ammi said: The mysteries of the Torah may be transmitted only to one who possesses five attributes, [namely], The captain of fifty, and the man of rank, and the counsellor, and the cunning charmer, and the skillful enchanter.

Or:

אמר ליה רבי יוחנן לרבי אלעזר תא אגמרך במעשה המרכבה א"ל לא קשאי

R. Johanan said to R. Eleazar: Come, I will instruct you in the ‘Work of the Chariot’.28 He replied: I am not old enough.

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I believe that Gemara is speaking of Kabbalah Maasit (special Tikkunim and the like). Looking for a source. –  Hacham Gabriel Aug 25 '13 at 17:30
    
chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/380400/jewish/… they weren't just "learning Kabala" they were doing serious Tikunim that were dangerous. –  Hacham Gabriel Aug 25 '13 at 17:32
    
@HachamGabriel That article doesn't even mention the Gemaras quoted here. –  Double AA Aug 25 '13 at 19:52

Let's splitt Kabbalah into two parts:

  • Reading Zohar without understanding which is permitted for anyone, and even recommended (Pele Yoes, Erech Zohar. Moreh BaEsba + many more).
  • Learning actual Kabbalah Sifre HaArizal- this is where the arguments start-

According to the Shach (Shulhan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 246) and the Or Lesion (Shaar HaTorah #7) one must be 40 in order to learn Kabala (as you can obviously tell that is a broad statement- does that mean that any 40 year old Am HaAres should start learning Es Haim?)

According to the Kaf HaHaim (Orah Haim 155:12), Hacham Ovadia Yosef (Yechawe Daat 4:47, Yabia Omer 10:YD:23), and Hacham Ovadia Hedaya (Deah WeHaskel 1:1) the prerequisites are the following: 1) knowledgeable in Posekim (Halacha),2) 20 years old, 3) married.

I personally don't think Kabala is useful to someone who isn't a serious Oved Hashem who has knowledge in at least Tanach, Gemara, Shulhan Aruch, Sifre HaMusar, and modern-day Posekim.

For those who believe they are ready to learn Kabala, the introduction books I recommend are: Kalach Pit'he Hochma (Ramhal), Kise Eliyahu (Rav Eliyahu Mani), Daat Utvuna (Rabenu Yosef Haim), Binyan Ariel (Rav Yaakov Hilel) and maybe a few more that I'll BN add later.

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1  
what is meant by "knowledgeable in Posekim"? how knowledgable and which halachas? –  ray Aug 23 '13 at 7:10
    
also how much up the ethics ladder described in the book "Mesilat Yesharim" must a person be (watchfulness - zeal - cleanliness, etc.) or maybe it doesn't matter? –  ray Aug 23 '13 at 7:11
    
@ray knowledgable in Orach Haim and Yoreh Deah. Also by Messilat Yesharim you should be by Hassidut. See the beginning of Es Haim of Rav Haim Vital where he writes his own 20 prerequisites for learning his books. They are all Humrot. –  Hacham Gabriel Aug 23 '13 at 18:13
    
@Hacham Why not Even haEzer and Choshen Mishpat? Why not Zeraim, Kodshim, and Taharot as well? –  Double AA Aug 25 '13 at 18:13
1  
@DoubleAA I see where you're coming from but I disagree. We aren't saying to stop learning Peshat, just that you may begin your journey to Kabala. –  Hacham Gabriel Aug 25 '13 at 23:09

here

13. רבי יוסף נולד בקסטיליה והיה תלמידו של רבי אברהם אבולעפיה, שאמר עליו בספרו "אוצר עדן הגנוז": "והוא בלא ספק הצליח הצלחה מופלאה במה שלמד לפני, והוסיף מכוחו ומדעתו וה' היה עמו". והרחיב והפיץ את תורת רבו ברבים. בהיותו כבן 24 חיבר את ספרו גנת אגוז העוסק בגימטריות וצירופי שמות קבליים. ספרו שערי אורה נחשב אצל המקובלים לאחד מספרי היסוד הקבליים, ומפורסם שהאר"י אמר על ספר זה כי הוא המפתח לכל תורת הסוד. גם תלמידו הגדול של הגר"א, רבי חיים מוולוז'ין, התבטא פעם שעל מנת לצאת ידי חובת תורת הקבלה, יש ללמוד את ספר הזוהר ואת ספר שערי אורה. בספרו "ספר שערי אורה" רצה לספק לתלמידיו הסברים על הקבלה, התייחס לאלוהים דרך הספירות. הספר פותח בתשובה לשאלה מהם שמותיו של אלוהים, כל אחד מהשמות, חוץ מהשם המפורש, מצביע על יחס לעולם, התלמיד השואל רצה להפיק מאגיה מהם, לעשות שימוש מגי בשמות, ג'יקטיליה מנסה להניא את התלמיד מעשיית שימוש בשמות, וודאי שלא לצורך רווח חומרי.

Part of the question was, what book to start with. As can be seen from this article the sefer 'Shaarai orah' is considered the 'basic' kabala sefer. It is not too difficult either.

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