Kabbalah is the mystical aspect of Judaism. It refers to a set of esoteric teachings and mystical practices that form an additional level within traditional Jewish interpretations of the Tanakh and religious observances.
Torah study is traditionally divided into three levels, while Kabbalah followers add a fourth:
- – Peshat, the surface meaning of the text;
- – Remez, allusions or allegories in the text;
- – Derash, a rabbinic or midrashic way of reading new lessons into the text;
- Sod, the hidden esoteric reading of the inner secrets of Torah.
Kabbalah is considered, by its followers, as a necessary part of the study of Torah – the study of Torah (the Law of G-d) being an inherent duty of observant Jews. It is the study of the inner meaning of Torah, and the inner secrets of Torah (Sod); and it is a set of beliefs followed by some Jews as containing the true meaning of Judaism.
The origins of the actual term Kabbalah are unknown and disputed to belong either to Solomon or else to the 13th century AD Spanish Kabbalist Bahya ben Asher. While other terms have been used in many religious documents from the 2nd century AD up to the present day, the term Kabbalah has become the main descriptive of Jewish esoteric knowledge and practices.
Kabbalah literally means “receiving”, and is sometimes transliterated as Cabala, Kabbala, Kabala, Kabalah, Qabalah.