December 10, 2017

Kabbalah 101

Ben-Gurion University, as part of IsraelX for edX, is offering an Introduction to Kabbalah. The course, described as Learn about the major ideas and practices of the Kabbalah in their historical and cultural setting. The About is ...major ideas and practices of the Kabbalah in their historical and cultural settings because information available non-academic...misleading and confusing.

I am taking this course, and posting some info on Tikkun Olam that I found inspiring. The professor states According to Talmudic tradition, there are 613 commandments that corresponds to the 248 limbs and 365 tendons in the human body. Online resources verify that these commandments are known as Mitzvot.

According to Kabbalistic theory, a specific pathway (as a detailed, Jewish directive for practice) may spiritually treat a specific illness of the world on a spiritual level (aka the "spiritual body") and, in the same way (as below so above and as above so below), treat a corresponding physical ailment on a material/physical level.

In my opinion, and on a first glance at introductory level, I noticed too many commandments to absorb at once. I also noticed that many of the traditional 613 commandments (for example, those referring to sacrifice practices from ancient times) seem irrelevant/weird/dangerous/illegal/unethical to contemporary spiritual/religious practice, which would lead a person to interpret, what is the intention? How is the intention relevant to contemporary practice?

For example, a commandment To offer only animals which are at least eight days old would not be appropriate for most faiths. Of course, we do not sacrifice animals anymore. But, if we did (which of course we do not) then the intention may have been to offer something that had reached an acceptable level of maturity. So, as an example of a contemporary interpretation of this same commandment: offer a rose in bloom, or a bud that has already started to bloom, because a tightly closed, green rose bud is unlikely to bloom if cut too soon from the bush.

Other commandments are easier to work into a spiritual practice, although a knowledge of correspondences (for holidays, etc) and Judaic practice seems important for a user-friendly interpretation.

To go through each of the 613 commandments and interpret in such a way, would be extremely time consuming. However; it might be a very interesting practice for a group. I wonder what might transpire, if a (large) group of Pagan/Wiccan people were to investigate these commandments as a team, along with the corresponding Tikkun Olam (the repairwork that is done via adhering to a specific commandment in response to a specific situation or ailment) ... and re-interpret them on a Pagan/Wiccan level? World peace, perhaps?

I don't believe this type of project, on this topic and at this level of complexity, has been done before, and it's too big a project for one person. Similarly, I believe following 613 commandments (as reinterpreted to be acceptable in contemporary Paganism/Wicca) might be better as a group effort, since it might probably be too hard for any one person to interpret all the commandments, or even to remember and follow them all.

It's also not clear exactly what texts might be most helpful to resource to link a commandment with a specific intended result...I'm finding some extremely generic info on Tikkun Olam, and not at all the specific remedies referenced in the coursework. Nothing about correspondences between specific limbs/tendons and the commandments, except some references to Hebrew texts that haven't yet been translated. (Pri Yitzchak, a Chassidic text published in 1834, and Sefer Chareidim by R' Elazar Azikri, for example)

Some sources suggest that the 248 positive commandments (what to do) correspond to the 248 limbs, bones and significant organs of the body, while the 365 negative commandments (what not to do) correspond to 365 sinews and ligaments, and the 365 days of the year.

I'm thinking of this as a possible development of spiritual/magical practice, for whomever is interested in the idea. Is anyone familiar with the 613 Commandments and Tikkun Olam in traditional, non-magical, Judaic Kabbalah?

Here's my interpretation, so far, for the 613, ordered according to the list in Wikipedia (accessed 12/10/2017). If you have any suggestions, or interpretations, please post a comment.

1. Know that there is a divine presence.
2. Do not be confused by different names and attributes given to the divine presence.
3. Know that the divine presence is a unifying presence.
4. Love the divine presence.
5. Beware of dangerous aspects that may exist within the divine presence.
6. Hallow or sanctify the name or names you recognize as divine.
7. Do not profane the name or names you recognize as divine.
8. Do not destroy books or other objects associated with the name or names you recognize as divine.
9. Listen to wise and enlightened people who speak the name or names you recognize as divine.
10. Do not constantly test the divine presence.