Kabbalah is a Hebrew word meaning 'receipt'. The term refers to the fact that Judaism is knowledge and morals that are passed on from father to son, from a Rabbi to his student. It started at Moses who received the Torah from God and passed it on to his student, Joshua.
The knowledge in Judaism is divided into four categories: literal, clues/hints, philosophical & profound, secretive.
The category of 'literal' refers to the literal meaning of the law as presented in the Five Books of Moses.
The category of clues and hints covers the part of the law that is not explicitly expressed in the text. It refers to the teachings that were provided by hints and clues within the written text.
The category of philosophical and profound refers to the philosophical aspects of the law, the aspects that reveal to us themes or concepts, how we must perceive the law and the proper mindset while performing the rituals.
The category of secretive is the one that is known 'Kabbalah'; it includes high level spiritual ideas and knowledge. It provides a 'view' of what the world of spirituality 'looks' like. The physical world has a parallel spiritual world. Each and every creature and object is a combination of matter (this world) and spirit (the spiritual world). The Kabbalah
shows that anything that happens in the physical world is a reflection of what happened or what was dictated in the spiritual world.
For many years the Kabbalah was passed on in secret. Just a small number of people mastered that knowledge.
There are specific restrictions in regards to studying Kabbalah.
According to the Kabbalah, only a person who has mastered all the other fields of study in Judaism and who is leading a life of purity and who is following all the restrictions and commandments in Judaism and is over a certain age - only he may study Kabbalah.
Jews who do not lead a life according to the restrictions and the commandments of the Torah or non-Jews should not study Kabbalah.
Even those who are pure and who are following all the commandments and the restrictions are at risk. The Talmud presents the case of four Rabbis who tried to master the knowledge of Kabbalah. They were very spiritual people (in levels that do not exist in the world anymore). Yet, three of them were severely harmed:
One of them lost his mind or, in other words, became 'crazy'.
The second became very sick and died.
The third understood it all backwards so he stopped leading a pure and spiritual life. He was then punished in the spiritual world, after he passed away.
The case of the three Rabbis describes to us the hazardous situation when studying Kabbalah without proper background - as required:
The one that became sick represents physical sufferings and illness, the one that 'lost his mind' represents losing connection with world, with human beings, not being able to be part of the productive and educated society anymore. The third represents the very possible outcome of understanding it all backwards.
Studying Kabbalah outside the guidelines presented above will be like letting a first grade child to perform an open heart surgery...
It is there. It is intriguing. The way people talk about it today makes its very tempting.
Yet, either you do it right or you don't.