If you’ve been taught that Kabbalah is demonic or evil, Rabbi Yitzchak Michaelson from the city of Tzfat (Safed) in Northern Israel wants you to know that you don’t need to be afraid of it.
He told Breaking Israel News that “Kabbalah got a bad rap because of associations with mysticism and notions that it’s connected to red strings, holy water and amulets. Popular misconceptions [about Kabbalah] abound.”
He further explained that people who are untrained and uneducated in Kabbalah find bizarre or outrageous things in English translations of kabbalistic texts which they then quote out of context, perpetuating the misconceptions.
Michaelson decries the fact that Kabbalah has been presented in “a New Age package. That’s a problem, [because it actually] has its roots in Judaism.” He is on a mission to restore the true nature of Kabbalah, to make it “palatable to the masses, without divorcing it from Judaism.”
Under the auspices of The Kabbalah Project, Michaelson is creating a curriculum he calls The Science of Kabbalah. Based on Jewish wisdom, he said the ideal student is “a person who is hungry for more than what they’ve learned so far, who has a desire to draw closer to the Creator and transform themselves and to help usher in redemption.”
The first two volumes of The Science of Kabbalah are already available in both paperback and eBook formats.
Michaelson is a student of Rabbi Yehuda Leib Ashlag. Born in Poland in 1885, Rabbi Ashlag, who is also known as the Baal Sulam after his greatest work, divided kabbalistic teachings into two parts. According to Michaelson, one part is meant to be “studied only by those who are well-rounded in Torah.”
But there is a whole other part of Kabbalah, called ta’amei Torah (literally a taste of Torah) that should be widely disseminated throughout the world. Michaelson said that Rabbi Ashlag, “wept over the fact that not enough time was spent on studying Kabbalah. [He believed that] the lack of spreading ta’amei Torah is holding back geula (redemption).”
Kabbalah means reception. In modern Israel, to check in to a hospital or a hotel, you go to the kabbalah – the reception desk.
Thus, studying this ancient wisdom gives us “the ability to transform ourselves individually from being selfish, with a will to receive for ourselves alone, to wanting to receive in order to give to others and therefore to be more like Hashem (God).”
Michaelson explained that Rabbi Ashlag, who passed away in Jerusalem in 1954 “saw us living as broken people in a broken world. The only way to see true transformation was to disseminate this information and give people tools to destroy the ego and to be able to give out what they receive, which is the light they get from Hashem.”
Michaelson shared a basic principle of Kabbalah which teaches that, in order make room for creation, God contracted Himself. The space He evacuated was called choshech (darkness).
the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from Hashem sweeping over the water Genesis 1:2
This Godly contraction created a number of side effects, one of which was that sparks of holiness fell throughout the world. “Perfection of the world means gathering up the holy sparks. In teaching and bringing this wisdom to the Nations, we are giving them tools to transform themselves,” Michaelson emphasized.
This transformation and restoration is the very definition of tikkun olam (repairing the world). “We know that in order for there to be true tikkun olam, perfection of the world, there must be a gathering of the holy sparks, which include not only the Jewish people, but holy sparks of the Nations that need to be gathered in as well. This is the only way to bring redemption and true perfection to the world.
“There has to be participation in this ancient wisdom by all with a desire to see the coming of Moshiach (messiah) and redemption. That’s why it’s being made available.” Michaelson especially wants to reach the person who is afraid of Kabbalah because they’ve heard it’s bad or wrong.
He wants people to know that Kabbalah provides, “answers to deep questions. We are not speaking of evil things.” He emphasized that, “The real intention is to share the real secrets of the Torah that Hashem meant for us to know.
“It is Judaism, not science, that has the answers. [God] wants us to learn this wisdom in order to transform ourselves, transforming our will to receive in order to give,” he asserted.
Since the original texts of Kabbalah are written in Hebrew or Aramaic, they are not accessible to most people. Michaelson emphasized the importance of studying with a qualified teacher who knows the material.
“I felt like there was a vacuum in this area for the non-Jew.” It was to fill this vacuum that he created the Science of Kabbalah series. The first few volumes compare science to Kabbalah, demonstrating how Kabbalists 800 years ago understood concepts that modern science is just revealing now.
At this stage, he’s focusing on showing his students how “the wisdom of Kabbalah reveals secrets in the Torah that explain creation and the beginning of the universe, by narrowing the gap between modern science and Kabbalah.”
He offered an example to illustrate this principle. Bible believers and scientists differ on the question of how old the universe is. According to the Hebrew calendar, which began its count at the creation of Adam, we are in the year 5779. According to science, the world is billions of years old. How can both be true?
Kabbalah explains the time period between Genesis 1:26 when man was made
And Hashem said, “Let us make man Genesis 1:26
and Genesis 1:27 when man was created.
And Hashem created man in His image Genesis 1:27
Kabbalah explains the discrepancy by teaching that the first version of man, the human-like creatures that God created in verse 26, existed for a period of time without a soul. It wasn’t until God blew the breath of life into Adam, that humans had a neshama (soul). Starting in verse 27, man became fully human and the Hebrew calendar began its counting.
Along with co-host William Hall, Michaelson has a new radio show called The Science of Kabbalah on Israel NewsTalk Radio where he explains many of these teachings.
He is well-aware that a significant portion of the INTR audience is not Jewish. “I’ve always had tomatoes thrown at me because I don’t think Torah is exclusively for the Jews. Torah is not just about the Jews. It’s about the Nations. Hashem chose us [the Jewish people] to give this wisdom to the world. I don’t think we can have redemption without the Nations,” he said.
“[This study] is going to open up answers to questions that a Christian would have. It will give them tools that they wouldn’t have otherwise.” Michaelson wants people to know that, by studying the lessons he is preparing, “there are sources in Judaism that have answers” for the really knotty questions in life.
For more information, go to KabbalahProject.com or email him at RavYitzchak@KabbalahProject.com.