There is a wide range of credible, and not so credible sources in the field of Kabbalah.

I was wondering if the works of the Baal HaSulam (Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag) such as "Talmud Eser Sefirot" are considered kosher in orthodox communities?

  • 1
    Afaik, some yeshivos removed his works from their shelves. As the story goes they found some ideas presented that diverged from what was deemed acceptable. From experience with other works that were removed from the same said Yeshivos, all i can say is some people are trigger happy and obviously not always are the people stocking the shelves talmidei chachamim, nor are the people they answer to. However, proceed with caution as always.
    – user6591
    Mar 2, 2015 at 14:05
  • I have heard that his understanding of the zohar's system was influenced by his chassidic idea's. I don't know what that means but that's what I heard.
    – Gavriel
    Mar 2, 2015 at 19:37
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    AFAIK Ashlag's commentary on the Zohar 'The Sulam' was the most common up until Metuk M'dvash of Rav Frish...if that is any consolation.
    – warz3
    Mar 3, 2015 at 0:31
  • you have to take his words in context of the other commentaries
    – ray
    Mar 19, 2015 at 19:35
  • You should be aware that the current publisher isn't kosher, as discussed elsewhere on this site, especially here: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/44662/4504 Dec 14, 2018 at 20:21

4 Answers 4


Rav Ashlag was considered by his contemporaries as a scholar of note as well as a mystic. He served as the Rabbi of Givat Shaul, Jerusalem in 1924. However, his ideas on Kabbalah were considered very un-orthodox and thus he was always considered a man of stature but also a fringe personality. Famously, he was an ardent socialist to the extent that in a meeting with Ben-Gurion the first Prime Minister of the State of Israel complained: “I wanted to talk about kabbalah, but the rabbi wanted to talk about socialism.”

As is widely known his philosophy has been used to disseminate "Kabbalah" to the masses Jew and non Jew alike, and has been grossly misinterpreted in doing so. This has turned off many people from his writings and philosophy (assuming people even know of the origins of the Kabbala Centre)

In summation, Rav Ashlag was a well respected albeit fringe personality in his day, the progenitor of a peripheral Kabbalistic philosophy and an avowed socialist. His legacy is complicated in the orthodox world, and thus I would not say he wasn't "Kosher" for he was greatly respected by the Rabbinic establishment of his time, but also I wouldnt say he was fully embraced in the mainstream of the Jewish world, and his works are approached with a small amount of trepidation mostly due to his self described students and legacy bearers have misused his teachings in grotesque ways.

See more here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehuda_Ashlag

  • His legacy might be complicated in the Orthodox world, but I don't think it's fair to say that his work has suffered because of it.
    – Yitzchak
    Mar 3, 2015 at 17:51
  • it depends what your yarstick of "suffered" is. is the fact that a supposed disseminator of his ideas sells blessed kabbalistic water at $2 50 a pop. i would say his works have suffered... Mar 3, 2015 at 17:54
  • My yardstick was acceptance of the book in the Orthodox world. He's probably rolling in his grave about Berg (and from what you say, he's rolling both as a kabbalist and a socialist) but that doesn't change the fact that the Sulam is accepted enough that "zohar with peirush sulam" is a part of yeshivish idiom.
    – Yitzchak
    Mar 3, 2015 at 17:58
  • Ok when stripping everything aside (his socialism, his zionism, his belief in teaching kabbalah as a self help guide [this was the main sticking point among the kabbalists of his time], and the fact that his name is forever linked with berg and madonna the fact that he is known as a peirush on the zohar is considered as accepted in the orthodox world? All I pointed out was that his legacy is complicated and thus his works are in a gray area. all i am doing is taking the whole picture into account Mar 3, 2015 at 18:04
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    From what you have written, I would say it is an attempt, reasonably successful, at presenting an evenhanded & accurate historical portrait of Rabbi Ashlag & his torah. Do you have any tangible written references from him to support your comment that he was an avowed socialist? Dec 14, 2018 at 13:54

I have seen Rav Ashlag's commentary on the Zohar (The Sulam) in many varying shuls and yeshivot in Israel and I have never heard of anyone who thought to exclude his works from the Orthodox canon. Many yeshivot do not promote the study of kabbalah so perhaps they would not have a zohar at all.

On the other hand, Philip Berg the founder of the Kabbalah Centre, was a disciple of Rabbi Yehudah Brandwein, the primary disciple of Rav Ashlag. He has NOT been accepted by the Orthodox community. The Kabbalah Centre also published an edition of the Sulam which they gave away for free and therefore it made its way into unsuspecting Jewish institutions. As far as I know the edition is the same as the standard edition. You can see a picture of it at this link Kabbalah Centre Hebrew store


My experience in mainstream Yeshivish circles is that if someone has heard of one commentary on the Zohar, it's the Sulam. (Among sefardim where learning kaballa is more popular, the standard is the Matok Midvash which is more textual.)

  • What, in your opinion, qualifies as a mainstream Yeshiva circle? Oct 2, 2019 at 18:38

Is the Mishkan Kosher? Though he was student of his times and environment politically, Rav Ashlag's connection with the Upper Worlds was so complete, and dominant in his days, that it would be impossible to say that the word "Kabbalah" would be on the lips of the world today, if it were not for this great sage. No man of his generation provided such an uncorrupted example of cleaving to the Creator, and the removal of ego. His indelible mark on the development and dissemination of this sacred wisdom will continue to grow in relevance, throughout the fabric of space and time, until the Final Redemption has been achieved by All of Humanity! His greatest wish would be for knowledgeable Torah Scholars to step forward and fulfill their sacred obligations rather than continue to obfuscate the true purpose of their studies and place in this world. We exist not for the sake of merely ourselves, but for sake of others in this world. When this is understood and practiced in our communities as a given, the great peace will arrive and our spiritual exile will end. Rodef Shalom.

  • The question was not if he was great. That's not challenged. Rather was his work accepted in the mainstream orthodox world. rather you present a polemic defending his honor and achievements as if it's being questioned Mar 19, 2015 at 17:11
  • Would you separate spiritual "greatness" from blind acceptance in the mainstream orthodox world? If so, I believe the definition of Kosher should be reconsidered within, regardless of labels which are but only 1% of the truth behind the concept. In addition, many of the parsings above more than questioned his greatness. I wanted to set the record straight and add something about the purpose for which he lived and accomplished that we all share if we can transcend our our own egos and return to our source. What could hold more of the essence of what Kosher is all about in the 99% realm?
    – user9139
    Mar 19, 2015 at 19:03
  • Nobody questioned his greatness. His legacy is what is under scrutiny. The OP asked in regards to its acceptance the orthodox world under his own definition (I'm assuming a commonly shared definition of it) . You answered under your own definition. That would be deemed as not answering the OP question. Mar 19, 2015 at 20:20

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