An Introduction to the Kabbalah

S. L. Mastros; Winter 2002

Many people have asked me what sort of Jew I am. I do not exactly understand the question, but I assume they ask if I am Reform or Orthodox or whatnot. I attend a Reform shul, but I am much more traditional than many people there. I am, however, certainly not Orthodox, and no one has ever tried to call me conservative about anything.

I like to look at words, to divine deeper meaning from their make-up (as surely you will see if you study Kabbalah with me). I look at "reform" and I see change. I do not want to change Judaism. I consider what I practice to be exactly what was revealed to me at Sinai. I look at "orthodox" and I take apart the Greek. "doxia" means belief or opinion, and "ortho" means straight. Often "orthodox" is translated as right believing, but I think that is a flawed translation. Ortho does not mean correct, it means straight, as in "orthoganal" meaning straight angle (perpendicular) and "orthodontist" meaning tooth straightener. So, it is better to translate "orthodox" as "straight-thinking". We have an idiom very similar to this in English, which I think applies well. I would translate "straight thinking" as "narrow minded".

I do not think that applies to me. Rather, I follow along side the straight beliefs of tradition, making my own way. The word for "alongside" in Greek is "para" and so I consider myself to practice Paradox Judaism. That, however, may not have answered your questions, so here is a sort of loose statement of my beliefs.

I believe in One G-d, eternal and complete, indivisible and perfect.

I believe that this G-d created the universe, and that He is revealed in His creation, in the ways of nature, and the flow of time, in the joys and sorrows of life, and in the depths of our being.

I believe that I entered into covenant with this G-d at Sinai, there I accepted His Torah into my heart and pledged to keep it for all time; the entirety of the Living Torah:

I believe in the Written Troah, revealed to me by the Lord of Worlds, at Sinai, treasure of my heart. I consider the written Torah to be, word by word, letter by letter, the revelation of G-d to Man.

I believe in Prophecy, the Word of G-d in the Voice of Man. In particular, I accept the Biblical Prophets as well as Mohammed as authentic and true Prophets of G-d. Jesus was, I suspect, also a true prophet, but his words have been twisted and lost so that the turth in them is veiled in centuries of lies and evil. I also accept persoanl prophecy, that G-d speaks to us still, but no longer as a nation, only as individuals.

I believe in the Oral Torah, revealed in story and law, comment, debate, and myth. I believe that when the Oral Torah is written, it becomes impure, and is non-binding. The Oral Torah is Story primeval, and it can only be shared as such, in the guttering firelight, from person to person. As such, I do not consider the Rabbinic works binding, as Karaites do not. However, I value them immensly, and in most cases, unless a clear reason exists for not doing so, I follow them.

I believe in the Created Torah, the world we are a part of. It is said that G-d looked into Torah and created the world, and so all of creation is revalation of the secrets of the heart of G-d the Creator. The Created Torah is the most vast and the most pure, for it is literally the handwork of G-d, eternal and alive. It can never be changed or tainted by outside hand, because, in a very real way, there is no outside hand. All of the universe, including you and me and everything we have ever done, or could ever do is a part of G-d's eternal Teaching, the Living Torah.

I believe in the Inmost Torah, the quiet voice in my heart that whispers to me in the Voice of G-d. This is the nature of Inner Prophecy.

ps-I use the name "Lord of Worlds" as an alternate translation of the more common "Master of the Universe". The old form always makes me want to scream out "By the Power of Greyskull!", which seems both silly and impious. It can lead to trouble when one is deep in contemplation, making unification with the Almighty, and suddenly one gets a giggling fit. On the other hand, somtimes it is exactly what is required. Ah, Kabbalah. Good Stuff.