I am studying kabbalah. Last year my kabbalah mentor suggested I buy the Zohar book at close to $400 which I couldn’t afford. Now, it is selling for $72. They say it is translated in English. My question is if it will have the same effect of spiritual benefits if it is not in its original language. Will I be spending my money for nothing. Thank you!
We’re going to try to answer this delicately because we are aware that our answer may dismay you. But you did ask, right?
Imagine if someone offered you a high-priced pill to solve a physical problem you were having, let’s say high blood pressure, and your blood pressure went down. Did the pill work? It is indeed possible that the pill worked in accordance with well established medical and pharmacological principles. However it is also possible that the pill was really a placebo made from innocuous ingredients. It was your miraculous human mind and its belief in the efficacy of the pill that was responsible for the health improvement you experienced. To the chagrin of many, and to the amazement of some doctors, that can and does happen.
Kabbalah (also known as caballa, kabala, kabbala, Qabala, etc….) is an authentic part of ancient Jewish wisdom. However, we can assure you with no doubt whatsoever that people who publicly teach it or claim to be teaching it to students who have no solid background in Hebrew, Scripture, Mishnah, Talmud, and Halachah, may be teaching some interesting things but they are not teaching Kabbalah.
Imagine someone claiming to be teaching nuclear physics to students who have no background in algebra, physics, chemistry, calculus, let alone thermodynamics. It’s laughable really, right? Kabbalah is exactly the same. It is quite impossible to understand the real Kabbalah without many years of study and mastery of the underlying basics. It usually isn’t available on the open market, but rather passed privately from a very limited number of teachers to very specifically chosen students.
Your teacher may indeed have valuable information to impart, but the term Kabbalah is perhaps being used in a generic way. There is no way that we can judge if what you are learning is equivalent to buying a Rolex watch on a Manhattan street corner for $20 or if your teacher is providing value and using the name ‘kabbalah’ just to suggest a tie to ancient spiritual secrets.
Would a copy of the Zohar help you? If you believe that reading it has spiritual powers then it might, akin to that placebo pill we mentioned earlier. We would, however, suggest that you find a less expensive way to attain your goal. We would also suggest judging anything you are learning based on measurable improvements in your life not on assuming that it is spiritual magic and certainly not based on being told that spending some more money will allow you to see amazing and wondrous things.
Sadly, there is no shortcut to authentic wisdom any more than there is to authentic physical health and vitality. It takes time and work. Seldom is a $400 or even a $70 book necessary.
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin