(Last updated 08/30/00)
This is the beginning of our fifth background section for our Revelation study. Thus far, the teachings have gone from the more basic and literal (i.e., the study of the tribes in Section I) through deeper areas (the Temple, Priesthood and Feast Days in Sections II and III) to the previous section IV, concerning Spiritual Dimensions, which looked at some of the more mystical concepts involving the realm beyond our physical world.
Section V involves the deepest area of Hebrew Bible study, which is concerned with the very "nature of God." Jewish tradition says that these teachings (which have been virtually unavailable to the non-Jewish world since the time of Yeshua and Paul), would be disclosed as we approached the Messianic era. At that time, it would not only be permissible, but also obligatory to study these "sod-level" teachings of God's Word. 1
Any study of God (or other subjects in the Bible) can be approached in one of several ways. Historically, Judaism can be seen to fall into such methodologies regarding the study of Torah. As with most related groups of systems there is overlap in both theory and practice, so it should not be thought that these are exclusive to any degree. The "deepest" of these, the mystical area commonly known as Kabbalah, is where much of the text of Scripture is said to have a (hidden) means of actually connecting us spiritually with God.
WORDS OF CAUTION
The remainder of this background study is concerned with the mystical aspects of Torah study, commonly known as Kabbalah. (Also called Torat haSod - the mystical study of Torah.) Unfortunately, many people have a negative image of Kabbalah, usually having heard from someone that it is dark or evil. When speaking of Torah-based Kabbalah, nothing could be further from the truth. It is a fact that through history, people (often gentiles) have introduced occultic elements into Jewish mystical studies. It is also true that many people today (especially in "Hollywood" in the United States) say they are "into Kabbalah" (often spelled with a "C" or a "Q") which is also usually tied to something pagan/occult.
None of these things however, has anything to do with Torah-based Kabbalah, which is the study the mystical parts of the Bible in order to learn more about the God of the Bible -- something we are in fact commanded to do. It should be noted that various groups have also abused concepts such as "Bible Study," or "gifts of the Spirit." No one would consider a general condemnation of these things based on the actions of a few confused people, therefore it is equally incorrect and irresponsible to condemn Kabbalah on similar grounds.
Nonetheless, as this is the most mystical area of Bible study, caution must be exercised in terms of the student being spiritually prepared. This is true with any area of study. (i.e., No one takes advanced Calculus before learning the basics of mathematics) Therefore it is imperative that anyone embarking on a serious course of study in Kabbalah must be well versed in Torah, in both understanding as well as observance.
Learning to "drink milk"
(Torah study and observance)
Even those who are Torah observant (also called "Torah submissive") should proceed slowly and diligently when entering the study of the mysteries of God and His creation. God will allow you to be tested. Anyone who is not following Torah in faith, should NOT be dealing with mystical studies. Such people are almost certain to go off the right path. (Our Matthew study is a good place to start to learn about Torah!)
BEING CONFORMED TO HIS IMAGE
When examining how we are to relate to God, we are faced with a number of difficulties. The first of these involves who "God" is. Earlier in this study we brought up the term Eyn Sof -- meaning eternal, infinite and boundless. (Eyn meaning "without," and Sof meaning "end," "border" or "definition").
God, who brought all of creation into existence, has no physical form and cannot be assigned any specific attributes. Nor, as we have previously discussed, is He limited by time or space. Upon assigning any type of dimensional attribute to God, you have "defined Him," and placed Him within the finite realm of existence, making Him no longer eternal, infinite and boundless.
This concept of God, creates a problem for us. How can finite beings comprehend an infinite being if we cannot define this being? Seeing this is not possible, there is a definite "gap" between man and this "impersonal" God in terms of having any kind of personal relationship.
The fact is however, that the Bible in many places does assign "human-like" attributes to God.
Consider the following:
However, if we are "already" created in the image of God, then why are we told that we will be conformed to His image?:
Furthermore, we are also told we will be conformed to the image of Yeshua ...
... Whom Scripture says is the image of the
invisible Eyn Sof:
The dilemma is that although we are aware of God's existence, we cannot begin to fathom the nature of the unknowable, infinite, Eyn Sof.
Did God give us any way to sort all this out?
We begin our quest for answers with the Eyn Sof, which in the Zohar is also known as the Uncaused Cause, or the Cause of Causes, as there is nothing above or beyond this.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD - THE SEPHIROT What is revealed concerning God, is what we can read about or experience when there is some type of interaction between the Eyn Sof and His creation. This "bridge" between the unknowable, infinite God, and man, makes known to us various aspects of God's being. These "emanations" of God, are known as the Sephirot (singular: Sephirah). The Eyn Sof caused the Sephirot to come into existence in creation.
These are divine emanations by which God reveals Himself to man, and by which that He conducts the worlds. 2
For example: In Scripture, at times we can clearly see the wrath of God in action. Does this mean He is no longer a merciful God? (A lot of people "see this" when they compare the God of the "Old Testament" to the God of the "New Testament.") Of course God is the same throughout Scripture. What we are "seeing" in this case is God's characteristic (Sephirot) of judgment coming to the forefront. God does not change. Our perception of Him does based on what we can "see."
The term Sephirot has no English equivalent. The word meaning can be traced to several Hebrew roots meaning; cipher, numeral, "to tell," or sapphire. The Sephirot are what "bridge the gap" between the Eyn Sof and the finite creation.
The Sephirot can be regarded in one of two ways, which are considered complimentary, not contradictory:
By studying the Sephirot we can understand
several things including:
Whereas the Eyn Sof is infinite, unknowable and never changes, the Sephirot (within creation) are identifiable and often operate distinctly, thus giving an appearance of "change," to God, though He never does. However, because the Sephirot emanate from Eyn Sof, they are also "Divine."
For clarity of understanding, it could be said that the Sephirot is to the Eyn Sof, what man's body is to his soul. Our bodies are vessels that contain our souls, and are used by us to perform deeds that reflect our souls. Our bodies will fade away. Our souls go on for eternity. Thus, the being known as "God," consists of both the infinite and the finite, as well as the personal and impersonal aspects of God.
By understanding the Sephirot, we retain the idea of an "unknowable" God who is eternal, infinite and boundless, yet who is also the personal God that; "spoke" at Mount Sinai, "followed" the children of Israel in the wilderness in the form of a rock/well, "appeared" as the Shekinah, and whose "attributes" were/are most perfectly found in Yeshua.
1. Zohar, Selections translated and annotated by Moshe Miller, Moshe L. Miller, Fiftieth Gate Publications and Seminars, Morristown NJ, 2000, Foreward to the book.
2. ibid, p.39.
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