Monday, October 24, 2011

A Pathway to Lurianic Kabbalah


"From my flesh I'll perceive Divinity (Job 19:26)"

Lurianic Kabbalah is largely about the overall cosmos - the very big picture of created reality. This sweeping overview is often referred to as the "macrocosm". In contrast, the human being was created as a "microcosm" of this "macrocosm". In other words, there's a sampling of every level, physical and spiritual, inside the human being. This is why the Creator announced, "Let us make man in our image and our likeness.." (Genesis 1:26).

Rabbinic commentators relate that the our in this verse refers to all the forces of creation. Each force of creation contributed something of itself to man ~ making man a sample, in miniature, of the entire creation. Therefore, as creation became physical as a result of eating the fruit in the Garden of Eden, man's body also became physical, changing to match the universe's new circumstances.

Since the macrocosm and microcosm mirror each other, the best possible place to begin studying the macrocosm is by studying the microcosm. If somehow the whole universe is within, then it's best to start from within. It's the most accessible starting point. We're more naturally in touch with ourselves than we are with what's occurring outside ourselves. 

Therefore, when studying "Tree of Life", the magnus opus of Lurianic Kabbalah, I recommend first relating to the text as a description of our body, soul and super-soul levels. Each level should be identified within ourselves. We should understand what our inner "partzufim" look like, what our inner realms look like, what Divine Names look like in our psyche, etc.  Once the "Tree of Life" is understood in this light, an inner model has been developed for taking it to the macrocosmic level and trying to understanding the cosmos. 

Although I wish I had a teacher to show me what every detail described in the work "Tree of Life" looks like within me, I do have a place to begin. Chassidic teachings often rework deeper Kabbalistic concepts, making them more user friendly by explaining what they look like inside of ourselves. In fact, there's a work of Kabbalah dedicated to just this approach. It's called "Tal Orot" by Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shpielman. The author takes Chassidic teachings and uses them to explain Lurianic Kabbalah.


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