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I have been very much interested in learning the core teachings of mysticism since I was a young boy. I didn't know that it was called Jewish mysticism but nonetheless I was attracted to its beliefs with the books and symbols I have been acquainted with from some folks who, I believe, were deeply associated with it.

Please tell me, how and where should I start? Am I even allowed to study it? If I am, am I allowed to pursue this knowledge on my own do I have to to have a "guide" with me?

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The proper way to study Kabbalah is with prior knowledge of Tanach, Talmud, Yad HaChazaka, and Shulchan Aruch (not including the introduction books to Kabbalah- some of the Ben Ish Hai's books, some of the Ramak, a lot of Rav Ashlag, and Rav Frisch). Without a massive knowledge of the aforementioned, Kabbalah won't do you any good, quite the contrary it can confuse your belief system. For example if someone doesn't know that the Eser Sefirot are not divisions of Qudsha Berich Hu, rather something else (which seems too deep for this site), they may actually be going against the core beliefs of Judaism.

Another problem is, you must have a teacher to teach you, and not a scam artist.(BN) I teach someone on Sundays. You may be able to find a Kabbalist to teach you on the weekends. Then there is an issue with age- according to mainstream ashkenazic Judaism (and some Sephardic) you must 40 years old to learn Kabbala (Shach Y"D 246:6. Or Lesion Musar, Torah ch. 7). Here are some tips to start learning on a low budget(so far)! (in order):

  • Go to Chabad.org and learn Tanach with in English with Rashi 2/3 chapters a day, you will finish in a few years.
  • Go to Chabad.org and start learning the Rambam's Mishne Torah. If you do 1 chapter a day, you will finish in about 3 years. If you do 3 chapters a day you will finish in 1 year. Whichever way you like.
  • Go to dailygemara.com or dafyomi.org or some dafyomi site and start learning a little Talmud.
  • By now, you will have a solid foundation, to start learning Halacha BeIyun and Gemara BeIyun. If you can read Hebrew, at Hebrewbooks.org you will find an entire set of Mishna Berura, and other poskim. If you are ashkenaz, I highly recommend Mishna Berura (they also have in English), and if you Sephardic I highly recommend Yalkut Yosef (they already have more than 15 volumes in English). Then you will learn 2/3 simanim in each if day for a few years and eventually you will be a Halachic expert.
  • Next, you must read the Shulhan Aruch HaAri discussing the Halachot and Minhagim of the Ari. You can finish that book in a few months.
  • Now You can start to learn the INTRODUCTORY books of Rav Ashlag, Ben Ish Hai, Rav Yaakov Hilel, Rav Frisch etc. You must become and expert in the concepts of the Kabbalah before starting to learn.
  • After hard work, you have arrived at the point where you purchase the Kitve HaAri (the Rashash warned against other Kabbalists books, you may only learn Kabbalah from here and the Zohar according the Rashash) and the Zohar with Or HaYakar. Now you are able to start learning Kabbalah with a teacher, and with all your prior knowledge from the other books I listed you will know who is real and who is fake.

IN SUMMARY: After about 7-13 years of in-depth study of Judaism etc. you can begin your journey to Kabbalah.

Also, you must keep in mind the 10 do and 10 don't do at the beginning in Es Haim (5b I believe).

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    In response to Hacham gavriel's comment, it should be noted that many disagree with his ruling. First off, The whole concept of being +40 yrs of age to engage in hochmat haemet, as brough down by the shach in YD:246:6 has absolutly no mekor for it anywhere in our gemarah, or for that matter, no where in divrei hazal. As the famous klal goes, "ein lanu ligzor gezerot hadashot"- rosh to shabbat 104:122, pri hadash orah hayim 461. As well, the leshem in sefer hadeah p79 writes that after the year 5600, anyone with a true desire is allowed to dwelve into pinimiut hatorah. The baal hagaot ubiyurim – user1331 Mar 9 '12 at 2:41
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    This isn't a Gezera, it's a Minhag. Not that I agree with it, but you can't really say the Shach and RBAS are completely wrong. You can disagree (as I do), but you can't say that their making a Gezera. And by the way, I heard someone that I can't remember - maybe from Rav Yitzchak Yosef Shelit"a that when the Hachamim say you can't make your own Gezerot (but only to your own community) they mean one that won't necessarily benefit everyone. However, Gezerot that have validity may be enforced. I happened to have researched a lot about this, so if you want we can continue this in chat. – Hacham Gabriel Mar 9 '12 at 2:58
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    BTW - Welcome to J.SE! Hope to see you around. Thanks for bring to your comments here. – Hacham Gabriel Mar 9 '12 at 4:41
  • Note: Gra-nic's comment was converted from an answer and cut off in the process. Here's the rest of his answer: ...The baal hagaot ubiyurim (of etz haim) writes in his hakdama to rav hs"d z"l sefer "eifa shelema" that those who believe one must be mastered in the shas and poskim before learning pinimiut hatorah are "tipshim". The toldot yaakov yosef writes in paarshat taazria that there is a limud zechut for those who wish to engage in pinimiut hatorah before mastering shas and poskim, as this ruling is for all of klal yisrael, being one entity, ... – msh210 Mar 9 '12 at 7:08
  • ... however, not to each and every individual limb, "ever". Rav Ashlag z"l, Rav Yechiel Bar-Lev shlit"a, The damesek eliezer and mahara azulai all write in their intro to their peirushim on the zohar the same. There will be a time when even tinokot shel beit raban will compihend the sodot hatorah as the zohar says in 1:112 if im not mistaken. There is no greater mitzvah to engage in pinimiut hatorah bizman hazeh, of course, with the proper giudence and yirat shamayim, as well as not being "reik baposkim" as the kaf hayahim says in orah haim 153:13. End of Gra-nic's answer. – msh210 Mar 9 '12 at 7:08
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Strongly recommend Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's books.

  • Thank you for the link. I am checking it out now. Upped +1 – Jhourlad Estrella Jun 3 '11 at 18:16
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It is hard to tell what you mean by "the core teachings of mysticism".

There is a part of Jewish tradition called "kabbala", but it is mostly reserved to be learned by people who have previous experience with other parts of Judaism, primarily Jewish Law.

If you would like to pursue more knowledge in the teachings of Judaism, and are not interested in the intricate logical structure that is gemara and halacha, I would recommend looking into the Midrashic literature, since therein lies some of the greatest ethical teachings of Jewish tradition, as well as the inspiration for much of later Jewish mysticism. If you prefer your literature in English, I have no better recommendation than to study the Chumash with the accompaniment of "The Midrash Says", by R' Moshe Weissman.

  • Thank you for pointing it out. Would you be so kind to share some link where I should start? – Jhourlad Estrella Jun 3 '11 at 18:17
  • @Jhourlad Estrella, I linked to amazon, where they are available individually or in a set. Unfortunately, there is no preview on google books. Since you don't really specify your background, it is hard to say where you should start exactly. I assumed you are a newcomer with little to no previous Torah learning experience. – jake Jun 3 '11 at 18:29
  • I am a newcomer and my knowledge of the Torah is very minimal and I whish to be educated on the matter as a start. – Jhourlad Estrella Jun 3 '11 at 18:31
  • Which matter, as a start? Kabbalah? or Torah? Because jumping into kabbalah is not advised, since what will likely happen is a misunderstanding even of the kabbalistic concepts. – josh waxman Jun 5 '11 at 13:46
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The teachings of Chassidus are helpful to understanding Jewish mystical texts.

Here are some examples from Lubavitch Chassidus:

  1. http://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/6240/jewish/Shaar-Hayichud-Vehaemunah.htm Lessons in Tanya (main text written by the first Lubavitcher Rebbe. Notes written by R' Yosef Wineberg and checked by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, then translated into English)

  2. http://www.truekabbalah.com/documents.php translated and annotated many such books (most are from R' Dovber Shneuri, the 2nd Lubavitcher Rebbe)

  3. http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/crown-jewels-1/index.html and http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/crown-jewels-2/index.html "Sichos in which the Rebbe expanded the Conceptual Frontiers of Chassidic Thought From the works of the Lubavitcher Rebbe"

  4. http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/the-tree-of-life-kuntres-etz-hachayim/index.html (A classic chassidic treatise on the mystic core of spiritual vitality)

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