Jewish mysticism has taken many forms.
The Jewish mystical tradition is rich and diverse, and Jewish mysticism has taken many forms. Scholar Moshe Idel groups the different expressions of Jewish mysticism into two fundamental types: moderate and intensive. Moderate mysticism is intellectual in nature. It is an attempt to understand God and God’s world, and ultimately affect and change the divine realm. This type of mysticism incorporates many aspects of traditional Judaism, including Torah study and the performance of the commandments, infusing these activities with mystical significance. Intensive mysticism, on the other hand, is experiential in nature. Intensive mystics use nontraditional religious activities, including chanting and meditation, in an attempt to commune with God.
The first forms of Jewish mysticism emerged in the early centuries of the first millennium. Merkavah mysticism was the most common early form. Merkavah mystics aimed at understanding and experiencing the vision of the divine throne discussed in the first chapter of the biblical book of Ezekiel. Another form of early mysticism focused on exploring the mysterious methods that God used to create the world. Sefer Yetzirah, the most important work of creation mysticism, describes the creation of the world through the arrangements of letters and numbers.
Kabbalah is the most famous form of Jewish mysticism. It flowered in 13th century Spain with the writing of the Zohar, which was originally attributed to the 2nd century sage Shimon bar Yohai. The Zohar is a commentary on the Torah, concerned primarily with understanding the divine world and its relation to our world. According to kabbalah , God as God–also known as Ein Sof or “the Infinite”–cannot be comprehended by humans. However, God can be understood and described as revealed in ten mystical attributes, or sefirot.
Much of all future Kabbalah, including the important 16th-century Kabbalah of Isaac Luria–whose intricate theology of creation describes how God contracted to make room for the world–concerns itself with the sefirot. Abraham Abulafia was the most important of the medieval intensive mystics. He tried to achieve a state of prophecy through methods of experiential Kabbalah. Hasidism, a religious movement that emerged in the 18th century, spread mystical thinking and living to the masses of European Jewry by teaching that all people could have an experiential connection with God.
The New Age
Traditional mystical concepts permeate mainstream Jewish thought to this day (for example, the notions of tikkun ha-olam, or repair of the world, and of tzimtzum, God’s self-limiting), and texts of mystical origin have penetrated Jewish liturgy (including Lecha Dodi, the Friday night hymn welcoming the Sabbath, and other liturgical poetry). In addition, the academic study of Jewish mysticism has flourished in recent decades, due primarily to the work of a single scholar, Gershom Scholem. Scholem discovered and interpreted a wide range of mystical manuscripts and shed light on the origins and development of Jewish mysticism. With the emergence of New Age spirituality, Jewish mysticism has also experienced a popular renaissance. Jewish groups like the Renewal movement teach mysticism to spiritually inclined, nontraditional Jews, while controversial institutions such as the Kabbalah Centre offer a more universal and magical mysticism to Jews and non-Jews alike.
These supernatural beings appear widely throughout Jewish texts.
Angels are supernatural beings that appear widely throughout Jewish literature.
The Hebrew word for angel, mal’ach, means messenger, and the angels in early biblical sources deliver specific information or carry out some particular function. In the Torah, an angel prevents Abraham from slaughtering his son Isaac, appears to Moses in the burning bush and gives direction to the Israelites during the desert sojourn following the liberation from Egypt. In later biblical texts, angels are associated with visions and prophesies and are given proper names.
Later rabbinic and kabbalistic sources expand on the concept of angels even further, describing a broad universe of named angels with particular roles in the spiritual realm.
Angels in the Bible
Angels appear throughout the Bible. In their earliest appearances, they function as bearers of information. In Genesis, an angel appears to Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, and informs her that she will bear a son whose descendants will be numerous. A similar encounter happens later with Sarah herself, when three visitors bring the news that she will give birth the following year. When Abraham sets out later to sacrifice that child, his son Isaac, it is an “angel of God” that cries out to him and instructs him not to harm the boy.
Among the most famous stories of angels in the Bible is the encounter between the patriarch Jacob and an angel with whom he wrestles all night. In the morning, when Jacob asks his adversary to identify himself, the angel admonishes him not to ask. Afterwards, Jacob names the place P’niel — literally “face of God.” In explaining this choice, the Torah makes plain that the wrestling adversary was an emissary of God: “I have seen a divine being face to face, yet my life has been preserved.”
In the books of the prophets, angels continue to carry out their function as messengers, but they are also associated with visions and prophecies. One particularly detailed account is recorded in the first chapter of Ezekiel. The prophet encounters four creatures (chayot in Hebrew) that resemble human beings, but each has four faces (human, lion, ox and eagle), four wings and their legs are fused into a single leg. A parallel vision is recorded in the 10th chapter, only there the angels are described as cherubs.
Not all the angelic figures in the Bible are identified as such. The three visitors who came to Abraham and Sarah are described in the text as “anashim,” or men, though rabbinic sources indicate they were angels . Likewise, the angel that appeared to Jacob is described merely as “ish,” or man. When biblical angels are asked to identify themselves, they refuse. In the Book of Judges, Manoah, the father of Samson, asks the name of an angel who had prophesied a child for his barren wife. The angel declines, saying his name is unknowable. The Book of Daniel is the first time in the Bible where named angels appear: Gabriel and Michael.
Angels in Early Rabbinic Literature
Rabbinic literature expounds significantly on the nature of angels and their roles in biblical stories. The Midrash identifies Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael as the four chief angels who surround the divine throne, each of whom has particular attributes. The Talmud identifies Michael, Gabriel and Raphael as the three angels who visited Abraham to deliver the news that his wife will bear a son. Though the Bible records that the men ate a meal that Abraham had prepared for them, the rabbis stipulate that the trio only appeared to eat — since, being angels, they are not physical beings, but merely resemble them.
The Midrash includes many fanciful portrayals of angels. According to one source, Michael is made entirely of snow and Gabriel entirely of fire, but despite their proximity they don’t harm one another — a symbol of God’s power to make peace in his lofty heights. Multiple midrashic sources identify Michael as the heavenly defender of Israel at odds with the demon Sama’el. And another Midrash describes a debate among the angels over whether human beings should be created. In this debate, the angel of love is in favor of creating humans, because of the human capacity for expressing love, but the angel of truth disagrees, fearing that humans will be prone to falsehoods. In support of creating humans, God shows the angels examples of righteous people from the Bible, but the angel of earth rebels and denies the angel Gabriel the dust he needs for the creation of people, fearing that humans would wreak devastation on the earth. The angel of Torah argues against human creation too, contending that people should not be created because they will suffer.
The Talmud records a teaching that two ministering angels — one good and one evil — accompany a person home from synagogue on Shabbat evening. If they find the person’s home prepared for Shabbat, the good angel declares: “May it be Your will that it shall be like this for another Shabbat.” And the evil angel answers against his will: “Amen.” If the home is not prepared, the reverse happens: The evil angel voices a wish for it to be this way for another week and the good angel responds “Amen.”
Shalom Aleichem, a liturgical song welcoming angels into the home before the Sabbath meal, is inspired by this teaching.
As in the Midrash, angels in the Talmud occasionally argue with God, affording them a degree of independent agency that complicates the notion of angels as mere messengers carrying out divine objectives. The rabbis of the Talmud may have been concerned that angels would become the objects of worship in and of themselves, a concern that some understand to be behind various talmudic texts indicating that righteous people can equal or even surpass the holiness of angels. In Tractate Sanhedrin, the Talmud states that righteous people are greater than the ministering angels.
Maimonides’ Angelic Hierarchy
Maimonides, the 12th-century scholar, devotes a section of his Mishneh Torah to the nature of angels. They are incorporeal beings, he writes, possessing form but no substance. Descriptions of angels as winged or made of fire, Maimonides says, are merely “enigmatical” prophetic visions — that is, inevitably inadequate attempts to describe the formless and the spiritual within the confines of human language.
Maimonides describes a 10-level hierarchy of angels, with different types such as holy creatures (chayot hakodesh) flying serpents and chariot bearers. All of these forms are alive and know God intimately, Maimonides writes, but while they all know God more deeply than human beings do, even the highest among them, knowing more than all those below, cannot know the full truth of God.
Angels in Kabbalah
The Jewish mystical tradition expounds even further on the nature of angels. Kabbalistic sources portray angels as forces of spiritual energy. Rabbi David Cooper, who has written extensively about Kabbalah and Jewish meditation, has described angels as “invisible metaphysical energy bundles” that act like magnets, causing physical changes by means of forces that are invisible to the eye.
In Kabbalah, angels reside in the worlds of beriah (creation) and yetzirah (formation) — the middle two of Kabbalah’s four worlds, which represent the spiritual stages through which divine energy is conducted down to the material world. In his classic work on Kabbalah, The Thirteen Petalled Rose, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes that human behavior can create angels. In a counterpart to the way biblical angels bear messages from the divine realm down to humanity, the angels created by human actions carry the energies of humankind upwards into the higher spiritual realms.
Angels are singular and unchanging in their essences, Steinsaltz writes, and can be either good or evil (demons), the latter the product of human beings doing the opposite of a mitzvah — harboring evil thoughts or committing acts of wickedness. Like good angels, evil angels also act in a dual fashion — bringing evil from the spiritual to the material world by inspiring sin or causing suffering and punishment, while also receiving energy from the misdeeds of human beings. “To be sure, were the world to root out all evil completely, then as a matter of course the subversive angels would disappear, since they exist as permanent parasites living on man,” Steinsaltz writes. “But as long as man chooses evil, he supports and nurtures whole worlds and mansions of evil, all of them drawing upon the same human sickness of soul.”
Emotional: Tens of thousands of Israelis praying at the Western Wall, saying “We have sinned against you, have mercy on us”.
Video: The Keffiyeh Monitor News
Video you can watch at: https://www.facebook.com/hnaftali/videos/1683794654965398/
If my people ,which are called by my name ,shall humble themselves , and pray , and seek my face , and turn from their wicked ways ;then will I hear from heaven , and forgive their sin , and will heal their land 2 Chronicles 7:14 KJV
God of Abaham, and Isaac,and Jacob, You are Complete Truth. Reveal Yourself to your people. Open the eyes of your precious Jewish people. Remove the veil that keeps them from knowing the Messiah.
“I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe— I Hashem do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7 (The Israel Bible™)
While the heavens raged above in one of the most disastrous hurricane seasons in history, the earth trembled below as a global epidemic of major earthquakes shook all around the volatile Pacific Ring of Fire. A Bible Codes expert, searching for the divine message hidden in the Mexico disaster, discovered a shockingly clear reference that indicates this trend will only continue.
The past month has had more than its share of natural disasters, with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose causing almost 250 deaths and a record $180 billion in damages. Now, a global series of earthquakes is beginning to raise fears of even greater disasters to come. This double dose of elemental fury is explicitly described in Isaiah as presaging the end-of-days.
Therefore shall heaven be shaken, And earth leap out of its place, At the fury of God of Hosts On the day of His burning wrath. Isaiah 13:13
This month, while even more hurricanes brewed over the Atlantic Ocean, two deadly earthquakes hit Mexico. On September 8, an 8.4 magnitude earthquake hit the country’s west coast, killing almost 60 people and generating a minor tsunami. This was followed last Tuesday by a 7.1 magnitude quake that devastated Mexico City, killing at least 326 people.
Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson (Screenshot)
Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson, a Bible codes expert, believes he found the cause of this recent seismic outbreak. In a video published after the first Mexican earthquake, Rabbi Glazerson, using special software, searched for hidden messages within the Bible that would explain current events. The results corresponded to a remarkably appropriate verse relating to the revolt led by Korach described in the Book of Numbers.
Scarcely had he finished speaking all these words when the ground under them burst asunder. Numbers 16:31
Attached to this verse, he found a code of the word ‘Mexico’ with the Hebrew words ‘rash’ (shaking) and ‘adamah’ (ground). Also attached to this grouping were the words ‘kavod Hashem’ (honor of God). The rabbi noted that the earthquakes today are related to Korach, who was swallowed up by by the earth. The rabbi warned that the sin of Korach is being repeated today on an international scale.
“People, even people who claim to be religious, are trampling God’s honor,” the rabbi said. “It is foretold that the earth will open again before Messiah to restore Korach.”
Rabbi Glazerson found Bible Codes relating to the earthquake in Mexico. (Screenshot)
The rabbi warned that this clearly means that the days preceding the Messiah will necessarily be filled with earthquakes.
The rabbi’s warnings seem well-founded, as hints of a similar disaster were felt in the U.S. last week when a 3.6 magnitude earthquake hit near Los Angeles. On Sunday, over a period of 24 hours, 28 minor tremors ranging from 1.5-2.6 hit Tuolumne City, in central California.
Seismic activity around the globe is increasing at an alarming rate. The quakes in Mexico are not isolated incidents, since Mexico is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a tectonically active region surrounding the Pacific Ocean accounting for nearly 90 percent of the seismic activity on the planet.
In fact, other sections of the Ring of Fire have been unusually active recently. Two powerful earthquakes were reported to have struck New Zealand on Wednesday, while Japan had flashbacks of a national disaster when seismic activity began off the coast east of Fukushima early on Thursday morning. In total, there have been ten major quakes of 4.9 or more recorded around the Pacific in the last week alone.
The danger was made even more emphatically clear when the Monaro Voui volcano erupted violently on Tuesday, leading to the evacuation of the entire island of Ambae, part of the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. On Monday, 50,000 people were evacuated from Bali, Indonesia as seismologists warned that Mount Agung was about to erupt.
Rabbi Yosef Berger (Courtesy David’s Tomb)
Earthquakes are indeed a source of alarm, but they are only one of the many forms of natural disaster that have struck in recent weeks. Last month, millions of acres of forests in the Northwest U.S. were destroyed in raging wildfires. Yellowstone, one of the most troubling seismic hotspots on the planet, is having one of the most active years ever with over 2,300 tremors since June.
Like Rabbi Glazerson, Rabbi Yosef Berger, rabbi of King David’s Tomb at Mount Zion, understands the natural disasters as part of the Messianic process. Rabbi Berger explained that all of the natural disasters, earthshaking and ocean-born, are intended to bring about one specific result: the ultimate redemption.
“We have seen all parts of the globe struck by natural disaster recently,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News. “All parts, except Israel.”
Rabbi Berger told that he had been approached by a man recognized among the ultra-Orthodox Jews of Jerusalem as a hidden tzaddik (righteous man). This tzaddik requested that Rabbi Berger make known a message for the world.
“Anyone who looks around the world today has to see that Israel is a wonderful place,” Rabbi Berger said, repeating what he had been told. “The ingathering of the exiles is one of the final and most important stages in the geula (redemption). All these disasters have made it more clear than ever that it is time for the Jews to come home.
“The tzaddik said that this is happening in the time of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in order that people do tshuva (repent), and the highest form of repentance is to return to Israel.”
Since Jewish holidays begin at sunset, most home rituals related to Rosh Hashanah take place in the evening. The central home ritual of this holiday consists of a special festive meal, during which families use their nicest china and place settings, much like on a Friday evening at the beginning of Shabbat.
When Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday and Friday (as it does in 2017), it is traditional to say an extra blessing called Eiruv Tavshilin before lighting the candles on the first night. In it, the head of the family should take bread or matzoh and an item of cooked food such as meat or fish, put them on a plate and say the blessing, which can be found here. After the blessing, that item of food is put away and saved to be eaten on Shabbat .
Note: Blessings and translations below are reprinted from the Machzor Rosh Hashanah Ashkenaz Linear as it appears on Sefaria.
Candle Lighting and Shehechiyanu
The holiday celebration begins with the lighting of candles (hadlakat nerot), symbolizing the transition from profane to sacred time, and the recitation of the blessing thanking God for enabling us to reach this season (Shehechiyanu).
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה
Blessed are You, Adonoy
אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
our God, King of the Universe,
אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו
Who sanctified us with His commandments
and commanded us
לְהַדְלִיק נֵר שֶׁל יוֹם טוֹב:
to kindle the Yom Tov light.
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel yom tov.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְהֹוָה
Blessed are You, Adonoy
אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
our God, King of the Universe,
Who has kept us alive and sustained us
וְהִגִּיעָֽנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶּה:
and brought us to this season.
Barukh ata adonai elohenu melekh ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiyimanu, v’higiyanu la’z’man ha’zeh
Kiddush (Blessing Over Wine)
Next, one sanctifies the holiday by reciting the special Kiddush (blessing over wine) for Rosh Hashanah. It is a custom to ensure that all family members and guests are able to participate by holding and drinking from their own cup of wine or grape juice. As with all other festivals, it is traditional to recite the Shehechiyanu prayer again after the Kiddush and before drinking.
Before partaking of the meal, one recites hamotzi, the blessing over bread. This is also a feature of Friday night Shabbat meals in which this blessing is made over challah, the traditional twisted egg loaves. (The text of the Hamotzi on Rosh Hashanah is exactly the same as the text on Shabbat.) However, because Rosh Hashanah celebrates the cyclical passage of time and the recurring progression of seasons and holidays, it is customary to make the blessing over round loaves of sweet raisin bread, symbolizing the circle of life and the revolving seasons. And because we want to ensure that the coming year will be a sweet one, filled with good and joyous experiences, the bread is sweetened by drizzling honey over the pieces of bread as one is about to eat.
בָּרוּך אַתָּה אַדָנָי אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם הָמוֹציא לֶחם מן הַארץ
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has brought forth bread from the earth.
Blessing Over the Apples
To express the hope that it will be a sweet year, one of the most well-known and popular customs of Rosh Hashanah is to eat apples dipped in honey. Why? It is a tradition to eat a newly ripened fruit for the first time that season, and since Rosh Hashanah falls around the beginning of apple season, the apple has become that “first fruit.” This provides us with the opportunity to recite the blessings both over the apple (bore pri ha’etz: who creates the fruit of the tree) as well as another Shehechiyanu. And then, before eating the fruit dipped in honey, we ask God “to renew this year for us with sweetness and happiness.”
Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam borei p’ri ha’eitz.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.
round challah bread
Birkat Hamazon (Grace After Meals)
After the meal, one recites the Birkat Hamazon, the “grace after meals,” including all the special additions marking the festival of Rosh Hashanah.
Since Rosh Hashanah is a two-day festival, all of the above rituals are repeated the second evening as well, except that there is a tradition among some people to use a different newly ripened fruit of the season, such as pomegranates. This is a popular Rosh Hashanah fruit for several reasons, first because it is mentioned as being one of the native fruits of the land of Israel (see Deuteronomy 8:8), and second, because of the traditional claim that there are 613 of the juicy sweet seeds in each fruit, which corresponds to the number of commandments in the Torah. When eating a pomegranate, it is not necessary to dip it in honey since its seeds are sweet enough by themselves.
A festive meal with Kiddush over wine and Hamotzi over round loaves of raisin bread can also be enjoyed for lunch each day of Rosh Hashanah. At this time of year, one greets one’s friends and family with the greeting “Shanah Tovah,” which means “(May you enjoy) a good new year.” Over the course of the last century or so it has become customary to send family and friends Rosh Hashanah greeting cards.