A Guide to the Hidden Wisdom of Kabbala
The Zohar is written in a unique form; it is in the form of parables and is
presented in Aramaic, a language spoken in biblical times. The Zohar tells us
that Aramaic is “the reverse side of Hebrew,” the hidden side of Hebrew.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai did not write this himself; he conveyed the wisdom
and the way to reach it in an organized manner by dictating its contents to
Rabbi Aba. Aba rewrote The Zohar in such a way that only those who are
worthy of understanding would be able to do so.
The Zohar explains that human development is divided into 6,000 years,
during which time souls undergo a continuous process of development in
each generation. At the end of the process souls reach a position of “the end
of correction,” i.e., the highest level of spirituality and wholeness.
Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was one of the greatest of his generation. He wrote
and interpreted many Kabbalistic subjects that were published and are well
known to this day. On the other hand, the book of The Zohar, disappeared
after it was written.
According to legend, The Zohar writings were kept hidden in a cave in the
vicinity of Safed in Israel. They were found several hundred years later by
Arabs residing in the area. A Kabbalist from Safed purchased some fish at
the market one day, and was astonished to discover the priceless value of
the paper in which they had been wrapped. He immediately set about
purchasing the remaining pieces of paper from the Arabs, and collected them
into a book.
This happened because the nature of hidden things is such that they must be
discovered at a suitable moment, when suitable souls reincarnate and enter
into our world. That is how The Zohar came to be revealed over time.
The study of these writings was conducted in secret by small groups of
Kabbalists. The first publication of this book was by Rabbi Moshe de Leon, in
the 13th century in Spain.
The second period of the development of Kabbalah is very important to the
Kabbalah of our generation. This is the period of “the Ari,” Rabbi Yitzhak
Luria, who created the transition between the two methods of Kabbalah
study. The first time the pure language of Kabbalah appeared was in the
writings of the Ari. The Ari proclaimed the start of a period of open mass
study of Kabbalah.
The Ari was born in Jerusalem in 1534. A child when his father died, his
mother took him to Egypt where he grew up in his uncle’s home.
During his life in Egypt, he made his living in commerce but devoted most of
his time to studying Kabbalah. Legend has it that he spent seven years in
isolation on the island of Roda on the Nile where he studied The Zohar, books
by the first Kabbalists, and writings by another rabbi of his generation, “the
Ramak,” Rabbi Moshe Cordovero.
In 1570, the Ari arrived in Safed, Israel. Despite his youth, he immediately
started teaching Kabbalah. His greatness was soon recognized; all the wise
men of Safed, who were very knowledgeable in the hidden and revealed
Wisdom, came to study with him, and he became famous. For a year-and-a-
half his disciple Rabbi Chaim Vital committed to paper the answers to many
of the questions that arose during his studies.