What are the principles for learning kabbalah in Ashkenaz Yeshiva world (Litvish/Yeshivish, non-hasidim)?

I understand that Yeshiva bochurim do not learn kabbalah: in Yeshiva they concentrate solely on Gemara, Halacha and Musar.

Do Kollel students learn Zohar or other kabbalah texts?

Who is seen as a person fit to learn kabbalah?

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/37284/3
    – WAF
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 14:13
  • dupe? judaism.stackexchange.com/q/30699/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 14:42
  • 1
    @doubleaa, I don't think so, as it asks about one specific community's practice.
    – Yishai
    Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 14:53
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    Who says that they don't learn Kabbalah? Perhaps not the Zohar, but Seforim like Nefesh HaChaim are certainly learned.
    – WhoKnows
    Commented Jun 12, 2014 at 0:05
  • @WhoKnows, perhaps you can make that into an answer. If you do, I'll ask you - I would have thought they would categorize Nefesh HaChaim as Musar. Do they actually delve into and study the Kabbalistic references there? Perhaps your answer could address that.
    – Yishai
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 14:34

1 Answer 1


The Yeshivish world definitely learns kabbalah — it just depends on how you define kabbalah. Zohar? Perhaps not. But the idea that "Zohar=kabbalah" is quite misconceived. Indeed, I know that quite a lot of the Yeshivish world learns the Nefesh HaChaim, which is quite a kabbalistic sefer. While they may not go too deep into the more esoteric ideas — and certainly do use it as a mussar platform — even just reading the basic text is quite kabbalistic and mystical. There are other books that are rather kabbalistic in nature that are widely read by the Yeshivish world like Derech Hashem, some of the Kuzari, as well as much of the Ramban's peirush on the Chumash, and so on.

As to why many people tend to stay away from the Zohar? There are a number of reasons, not all of which is this the proper place for. But in short, it is deeply esoteric, very difficult to learn, hard to understand (properly, or even at all), and is known to have some sections that are forgeries. Thus, if you're going to learn the Zohar at all, it is much wiser, unless you are a true scholar (and I mean that in the greatest sense of those words) to do it through, say, the Vilna Gaon, or the Arizal (who both wrote commentaries on the Zohar).

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    "...is known to have some sections that are forgeries." Could you please elaborate?
    – SAH
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 11:01
  • In my chareidi litvish yeshiva, texts like that would be learned, but the Kabbalistic sections would be skipped, and it sounds like that's your experience too, so is the opening sentence true? Also note that learning Zohar through Vilna Gaon or Arizal still "counts" as "learning Zohar", right? So what is your second point? Do they learn Vilna Gaon or Arizal on Zohar at all, and if not then why not (if not for similar reasons to what the OP was questioning/what you are asserting)? For now, -1 as I don't understand it, but will happily turn to +1 if you clarify
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 19:22
  • @SAH Rav Emden believed that there were some non-original materials inserted into the Zohar: sefaria.org/…
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 19:38

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