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Israel Shahak in his book Jewish History, Jewish Religion: the Weight of Three Thousand Years claims that the majority of Orthodox Jews believe the following quotation. He does not give sources for any of these claims. Is this actually true? Is this only believed by Hasidic Jews? Is this what it says in the Zohar? If there are Jews who believe this, is it condemned by others?

According to the Kabbalah, the universe is ruled not by one god but by several deities of various characters and influences emanated by a dim, distant First Cause. Omitting many details, one can summarize the system as follows. From the First Cause, first a male god called ‘Wisdom’ or ‘Father’ and then a female goddess called ‘Knowledge’ or ‘Mother’ were emanated or born. From the marriage of these two, a pair of younger gods were born: Son, also called by many other names such as ‘Small Face’ or ‘The Holy Blessed One’; and Daughter, also called ‘Lady’ (or ‘Matronit’, a word derived from Latin), ‘Shekhinah,’ ‘Queen’, and so on. These two younger gods should be united, but their union is prevented by the machinations of Satan, who in this system is a very important and independent personage. The Creation was undertaken by the First Cause in order to allow them to unite, but because of the Fall they became more disunited than ever, and indeed Satan has managed to come very close to the divine Daughter and even to rape her (either seemingly or in fact– opinions differ on this). The creation of the Jewish people was undertaken in order to mend the break caused by Adam and Eve, and under Mount Sinai this was for a moment achieved: the male god Son, incarnated in Moses, was united with the goddess Shekhinah. Unfortunately, the sin of the golden calf again caused disunity in the godhead; but the repentance of the Jewish people has mended matters to some extent. Similarly, each incident of biblical Jewish history is believed to be associated with the union or disunion of the divine pair. The Jewish conquest of Palestine from the Canaanites and the building of the first and second Temple are particularly propitious for their union, while the destruction of the Temples and exile of the Jews from the Holy Land are merely external signs not only of the divine disunion but also of a real ‘whoring after strange gods’: Daughter falls closely into the power of Satan, while Son takes various female satanic personages to his bed instead of his proper wife. The duty of pious Jews is to restore through their prayers and religious acts the perfect divine unity, in the form of sexual union, between the male and female deities. Thus before most ritual acts, which every devout Jew has to perform many times each day, the following Kabbalistic formula is recited: ‘For the sake of the [sexual] congress of the Holy Blessed One and his Shekhinah.’

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4 Answers 4

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Reductionism is the ultimate form of sarcasm.

Sarcasm is a subset of cynicism and is forbidden and very dangerous for one's soul, because it makes light of the holy, and that has a powerful affect in putting people off the idea, and thus losing touch with truth and holiness. One shouldn't really even read the above at all.

Some of the above is reductionism of parables given in authentic sources. Some of it is foreign completely. All of the conjectures and conclusions that are made are incorrect.

The Tzemach Tzedek explains in Derech Mitzvotecha He'Emanut Elokut 5, that this type of reductionism is a misunderstanding (at best):

שֶׁאֵין הַכַּוָּנָה שֶׁהַכֵּלִים פּוֹעֲלִים בְּעַצְמָן חַס וְשָׁלוֹם כְּפִי שֶׁנִּרְאֶה מִשִּׁטְחִיּוּת לְשׁוֹן

The point about the Sefirot is not that they work independantly [of Hashem], chas veshalom, according to a superficial appearance of the wording [used in Kabbalistic parables]

tl;dr: NO!

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The claim:

The universe is ruled not by one god but by several deities of various characters

That line contradicts three of the first 13 principles of our faith, as redacted in the Ani Ma'Amin's and summarized by the Yigdal prayer.

אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה, שֶׁהַבּוֹרֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ הוּא בּוֹרֵא וּמַנְהִיג לְכָל הַבְּרוּאִים, וְהוּא לְבַדּו עָשָׂה וְעוֹשֶׂה וְיַעֲשֶׂה לְכָל הַמַּעֲשִׂים. ‏

  1. To believe that the Creator created and runs the world and its creatures, and He, Himself, by Himself alone did, does and will continue to make everything happen.

אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה, שֶׁהַבּוֹרֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ הוּא יָחִיד וְאֵין יְחִידוּת כָּמוֹהוּ בְּשׁוּם פָּנִים, וְהוּא לְבַדּוֹ אֱלֹהֵינוּ, הָיָה הוֶה וְיִהְיֶה. ‏

  1. To believe that the Creator is unique, nothing compares to His Uniqueness and He Himslef, by Himslef, is The Power Behind Everyting (a.k.a. Gcd), who always, was, is, and will be.

אֲנִי מַאֲמִין בֶּאֱמוּנָה שְׁלֵמָה, שֶׁהַבּוֹרֵא יִתְבָּרַךְ שְׁמוֹ אֵינוֹ גוּף, וְלֹא יַשִּׂיגוּהוּ מַשִּׂיגֵי הַגּוּף, וְאֵין לוֹ שׁוּם דִּמְיוֹן כְּלָל.‏

  1. To believe that The Creator has no physical aspects to Him, is impossible to describe using physical terminology, and has no similarity to anything else in existence.

That's what all Orthodox Jews believe, including Hasidim.

The first line is false. The rest is not worth reading. It is full of nonsense from that first line to the word in brackets on the last line.

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I will answer your question as to whether Jews believe this not by using a source, but by means of giving you a counterexample.

I could very easily write: According to Christians, the universe is not ruled by one god but by a zombie Jew who definitely didn't die but disappeared a few thousands years ago. This Zombie still appears to Christians and they strengthen their belief in him by opposing abortion laws and eating Pigs on their Zombie God's birthday, etc etc.

Everything I said above is technically true but no Christian would agree that I've represented their beliefs honestly or even cogently. The same is true of what you quoted. Sure on the surface this person knows the big strokes of the pen regarding Kabbalah, but what he chose to write about it is basically nonsenical.

Just like no Christian would say their God is a Jewish Zombie, I doubt any Kabbalist would agree with even the starting premise of "the universe is ruled not by one god but by several deities of various characters and influences emanated by a dim, distant First Cause". Most kaballistic Jews who had a good Jewish foundation before studying Kabbalah would die on the hill of Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the Lord is One/Alone.

Note: My description of Christianity should be taken as a parody, not my personal view or Judaism's view on Christianity.

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  • You've given the most cogent description of the religion based around that man I've seen in some time. Chazak u baruch, @Aaron! May 7 at 17:52
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    I'm sorry but I must refuse your compliment. While I am not Christian, and have very many reasons for not being Christian. This post was meant to be satire. There are many Christians in my life whose religion and relationship with God I respect. I ask that anyone who reads this post not consider it my opinion about Christianity.
    – Aaron
    May 8 at 23:43
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The short answer to your question is no, "kabbalah" does not teach this and it is not actually true.

Nor do "Hasidic Jews" believe this and it does not accurately portray what is written in the Zohar.

For more details and a discussion of your closing question, see the "Move to chat" link from Isaac Moses in the comments under the question.

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