- Religion and Philosophy
Don't Mess With The Zohar
No, this hub has nothing to do with Adam Sandler nor with bad slapstick movies. Anyway, he was called the Zohan in that movie, not the Zohar. The Zohar of this hub refers to the Kabbalahistic book that is often referred to as the Book of Splendor. It wasn't bad enough that the Rabbanites usurped the authority of the Torah with their massive tome called the Talmud but they still felt the compunction to write and search for the existence of magic within God's creation and as a result Kabbalah came into being. The Zohar was their attempt to express the innermost recesses of the human soul. Because sadly, these men believed they had the ability to explain what is still most certainly an inexplicable concept. To these Kabbalahistic Rabbis the soul had a life of its own and only through manipulating the soul could they find the hidden meaning of the Torah. Therein lies the heart of the problem or at least the causal belief that separates these Rabbanites from those of us which follow Karaism. They make two assumptions which we consider fatal to Judaism. The first is that they wish to harness and manipulate the essence of creation of which the eternal soul is part of and secondly their insistence that the Torah wasn't sufficient as it was handed down by God. That somewhere there had to be a cache of secrets locked away in its words because they just weren't happy with the way it was and they swore that until they found those secrets the Torah was incomplete. Let me express my Karaite logic in that regard and in so doing make you understand my contempt for Kabbalah. If the Torah is incomplete then it would imply that God is neither insightful nor farsighted. It would imply that God had shortcomings and that he handed to Moses an imperfection. That in itself would imply that our ancestors were following an incompete and imperfect path and only when the day came when these Kabbalah masters resolved the riddles and uncovered the Torah's secrets would we achieve an understanding. Until that time came we'd be living a lie and floundering in ignorance. Sorry, I don't by it. As far as myself and my Karaite brethren believe, God gave us the perfect book of laws. It has its share of metaphorical stories and moralistic homilies but all these have a purpose of providing us with representations of how the laws are enacted and effected. If one point stand out above the rest, it teaches us that man is imperfect. That it is our nature to be destructive and as a result most refuse to accept anything offered to benefit us at face value. The Kabbalahists are not holy sages, they are the imperfections of mankind always seeking something better, doubting the truths, and in so doing, doubting God. Recruiting Madonna as a high profile celebrity to show off their knowledge might just say it all. But that alone wouldn't justify my contempt for their teachings so let me tell you more.
As the product of Zadokite beliefs and generations of being Kahana, my thoughts on the soul are somewhat different from some of my fellow Karaites. Because I have no belief in the afterlife, yet I recognize the soul is eternal, then there must be some place where souls come from and return to. This to me is what the Shekinah represents. It is where all things come from and where all things go to. It is the beginning and it is the end of all things. The Old Testament described it as the cloud which came to rest over the Tabernacle. And God was present within the cloud as well. That would suggest that we are all part of the Shekinah at some point in time. We are all one and we are also one with God. I find comfort in this thought and I have no need for heaven or hell knowing that in the end I will return to my origins.
But the Rabbis of the Kabbalah do not see it this way. In the Zohar they explain that when God was about to create the world he decided to fashion all the souls that would be necessary to animate the bodies of men for an eternity and each soul was an exact outline of the body it would inhabit. But even more than that, these rabbis proclaimed that the character of each soul was also known before the child was ever born and some souls were naturally prone to wicked ways. In this way no man was in control of his own destiny. At the time of his birth he was destined to perform either good or evil. So what point was there in giving man the laws of the Torah if it mattered not since the destiny of each man was predetermined? I can only say these so-called Masters of the Kabbalah are sadly misguided.
Now the Kabbalists also teach that there are specific souls which God loves. And when these souls depart from the living world he places them in the Palace of Love which sits amidst a vast rock, a most secret firmament. These are their words, not mine. In this palace all the treasures of God are kept and every soul loved by the Almighty will be blessed and enter into this place. But if as they say some souls are predetermined to perform wicked deeds when they enter into the world of the living then by this belief they would be eternally condemned never to be embraced and loved by God and brought to his Palace of Love. This in turn would suggest that God condoned the fact that there was no freewill, no possible redemption for he had established a bias and iniquity at the time of creation.
Not trying to appear contradictory but that would be an impossibility for the Kabbalists not to do, they went further into attempting to explain how the human soul functions. In their wisdom they deciphered that the soul was formed from three strands of spirit drawn from three different netherworlds. These were in ascending order of purity the nefesh (vital soul), the ruah (spirit) and the neshamah (supersoul). Rabbi Judah declared that the nefesh and ruah were conjoined but only those that set themselves upon a holy path of righteousness are granted the neshamah. An ordinary man that lives an ordinary life never has the neshamah infused into his being. Based on the preceding paragraph it would appear that only those with the neshamah component in their souls would ever be placed in the Palace of Love by God. How sad for the rest of us if that is the case for these rabbis had reserved the neshamah for themselves for only they that studied the Talmud and the Kabbalah had set their lives upon the proper path of holy righteousness. Or so they think!
It goes without saying that as the Rabbinical scholars of Kabbalah are insistant that the Torah is superficial when read as it was given by Moses to the people then they without directly saying so are suggesting that what God has given is insufficient. And in making that claim they have justified why it is necessary for them to decipher its true meaning since without the benefit of their 'inspired' wisdom we would be like ships without rudders, unable to navigate through the Torah to our destination. These are not my words but a paraphrase of their own from both their Talmud and the Zohar. They have written that Rabbi Simeon said, "IF a man looks upon the Torah as merely a book presenting narratives and everyday matters, alas for him! Such a torah, one treating with everyday concerns, and indeed a more excellent one, we too, even we could compile. More than that, in the possession of the rulers of the world there are books of even greater merit, and these we could emulate if we wished to compile some such torah. But the Torah, in all of its words, holds supernal truths and sublime secrets." And there in a nutshell you have it. To the rabbis the Torah was insufficient because it dealt with everyday matters for everyday lives. It guided the common man to perform properly and morally and in his boast, Rabbi Simeon proclaimed that he could have written similar or better. He even paid insult to the Torah by saying that there were even better books of codified laws in possession of other nations. Therefore in order to justify his adherance to the Torah he was insistant that it was unique in that it had codified secret messages buried in its passages and those had to be uncovered in order to appreciate the superiority of the Torah. Such is the folly of the Rabbis. Had I been around at the time of Rabbi Simeon, as a Karaite I would have made this simple wager. I would have given him forty days in which to write a superior book to the Torah. The Talmud took them four hundred years and with all its contradictions, confusion and petty arguments it is in no way superior to the Torah. Three thousand years later the Torah still stands as a monumental masterpiece of codified laws, historical narratives, morality lessons, religious practices, rituals and metaphorical analogies. It is the centrepiece of Karaism, not some outer garment as the Zohar refers to it, that needs to be undressed to find its inner adornment. I'm afraid my rabbanite brethren have it all wrong. I will expose the Zohar as being far from splendorous but I won't mess with the Torah!