(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Sun, 21 May 2000 23:31:20 -0400 (EDT)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Answers About Learning Kabbalah

In previous postings I have said that it is prohibited to
study Jewish mysticism and have given reasons(Because
we don't fully understand it).

But we also don't understand the Bible fully. Thus the
statement that we shouldn't study Mysticism needs

We don't fully understand the Bible and we don't fully
understand the Zohar. Why is it then that we CONTINUE studying the Bible
even though we don't fully understand it but we do NOT CONTINUE studying
the Zohar because we don't fully understand it."

I think a simple analogy would help. Suppose I tell a person that the
Empire state building is in Manhattan. True I haven't given him full
information (Eg he doesn't know the address). But it would be USEFUL for
this person to go to Manhattan. He would have accomplished something. He
could then go on to ask where the Empire is.

By contrast if I told a person that the Empire was in a BIG CITY then
besides not giving full information I have given misleading information.
For example, this person might go to Los Angeles to find the Empire since
Los Angeles is a big city.

In conclusion: It is OK to teach someone something even if all details are
not known as long as the statements are not misleading. It is wrong to
teach someone something if the statements might lead to harmful behavior.
There is nothing wrong () of teaching Gen 1:1--we
know that G-d created the world. This is not misleading even if I don't
know all details.

But to use an analogy I mentioned several issues ago it can be very harmful
to suggest eg that Torah law is built on mercy (A Kabbalistic concept). As
I showed last time, eg if a poor person owed someone money the court is
prohibited from having mercy on him!!(Rambam Loans 1). By contrast, the
court is prohibited to physically abuse him(which was the custom in non
Jewish nations till recently). By further contrast the community is
obligated to help him. Even if the person complains that "If you take this
money from me my non Jewish creditors will sell me into non Jewish slavery"
it is still forbidden to have mercy.(Because after he is sold into slavery
ALL Jews (not just the lender) are commanded to redeem him.. it would be
'wrong' to redeem him now with the lenders money).

I could go on..but I think I illustrated the concept...there is alot of
danger in making Kabbalistic arguments...hence we abstain until we FULLY
understand them. There is no such danger in interpreting Biblical verses
even though we also don't fully understand them

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; rhendel@towson.edu
Moderator Rashi is SImple, http://www.shamash.org/rashi/