I believe that we are all searching for a universal theme within our religion - and within life in general.
Unfortunately, Judaism is widely known for its many sects and branches - Orthodox, Conservative, Hassidic, Jewish Renewal, and the list goes on. But what is its essence? What is its core? Is there a component of Judaism that underlies its true reality?
In all honesty, many sections of the Bible made no sense to me at first. They seemed very irrational, and lacked a logical foundation. For example, the Midrash states that when the Red Sea split all the waters of the world split as well. I remember learning about this in school and then reflecting on how a man on the other side of the world was sitting naked in his tub, and then out of the blue, the water split in half? It seemed ludicrous to me.
The Bible is filled with stories of wars, killings, and murder, in which I was given the impression that we Jews lived under a vengeful God. A deity who was in need of our prayers in order to subdue his wrath. I was instilled with teachings of fear, and servitude. We Jews had to obey God - like a dog obeying his master.
In addition, my initial contact with Judaism seemed likea life filled with denials and deprivation - ranging from sexual contact, to foods, to all other types of pleasures. I raised a question or two, and the responses weren't there - "This is the way it has been done. This is the way that it is. And this is the way that it will be." There was too much rigidity, no room for true inner change, and a lack of unconditional love amongst the participants.
I still questioned though, and my mind was always searching. I jumped from one form of Jewish thought to another - experimenting with each, as well as tasting bits and pieces from almost every religion. This void in my spirit is what probably directed me towards my current practice, a Holistic Medical Center, which combines alternative and conventional medicine in treating the mind, body and soul.
But this still wasn't enough. My mind wasn't at ease. There was still something lacking - something missing. It's probably the same questions that we all share. Like, why is this world filled with pain, human suffering, and man's inhumanity towards his fellow man? Where was God when we needed him the most? Where was he during the Holocaust? Where was he during the suicide bombings in Israel? Where can we find true healing when we're sick, when we're hurt, or when we have been paralyzed by the passing of a loved one?
The tradition of the Kabbalah is as old as the Bible itself. It was given to Moses on Mount Sinai alongside with the Ten Commandments and the written Torah. It was never meant to be just a component of Judaism, or replaceable by something else, but rather the fundamental purpose of our religion.
In time, I believe that Kabbalah will be the pioneering force in unifying the various sects of Judaism. Its core teaching of unconditional love and proactive sharing serve as powerful tools that have the ability to harmonize our peoples.
Whereas traditional Judaism seemingly contradicts with modern scientific theories, Kabbalah has the power to become the frontier in regards to not only being up to date with science, but leading science into the future. For example, the Kabbalistic approach to the splitting of the Red Sea is more than the idea of God waving his magic wand just for the fun of it. Rather what was taught to us at that time was the scientific truth of MIND OVER MATTER.
When faced with imminent death - a bloodthirsty Egyptian army right behind us, and a raging sea in front of us - we (the Israelites) according to Kabbalistic thought, controlled that potentially chaotic situation. After that, we just crossed the sea. It wasn't necessarily that the waters split, but that the nature of water split. WE exercised the innate power of our consciousness, applied MIND OVER MATTER, and transformed the sea back to its natural, primordial state. WE transformed those waters into a state of Godliness, in which the water could cause no harm to any individual.
The Zohar (the main text of the Kabbalah) emphasizes that it was not God who actualized this feat. WE were the ones responsible for transforming those waters. After that, we just walked right through. Our clothes didn't even get wet.
In fact, the dialogue between God and Moses at the time of the splitting of the Red Sea is the essence of this Kabbalistic teaching. The Israelites were trapped between a raging sea and a vengeful army. Hope was lost; they complained to Moses and accused him of faulty leadership. What did they do next? They prayed to God. Just like usual - Blame your problems on someone else and then pray to God so he can save you.
But pay close attention to scripture. What was God's response in this episode - "Ma Titzak Eylai" - "Why are you crying out to me?"
Why such a crude response by our Creator? The Kabbalists teach us that God was really saying, "Why are you crying out to me? Don't you know that YOU possess this God-like power? I have already given you the Formula - the Kabbalah - of how YOU can create your own miracle. Now just do it!" The next verse in the passage reads - "Veyisaoo" - "Just walk right through!"
And that's what we did.
And that's the main difference between most approaches to Judaism as opposed to the Kabbalistic one. Whereas I was previously taught that I would have to rely on God for salvation, the Kabbalistic approach is a more liberating one. The Zohar teaches that it is necessary to connect with God, but to realize that YOU are responsible for your own fate. YOU are capable of controlling you own future. YOU have the power to transform any situation - no matter how impossible it seems.
This idea of being the master of my destiny reawakens my desires for this Wisdom. As I apply these Teachings in my life I receive more in my daily life, which in turn causes my enthusiasm for the Kabbalah to become more organic. It keeps growing.
So how do we do it? How do we create these miracles in our lives?
We should note that although it possesses all of life's answers, the Bible can not always be understood only literally. The Zohar says very clearly that "anyone that looks at the Bible as a book of stories is a fool."
The Bible is a deeply coded document. The Kabbalah is the essential Wisdom that is needed to crack the code. Thereby, revealing its true meaning. For example, the Bible speaks of the war against Amalek, in which we Jews were commanded to annihilate this nation. The Bible goes further and informs us that in every generation we have to wage war against Amalek. It is a mitzvah, a divine command, to wipe them out. Mercy is not allowed.
It sounds like a cold and harsh commandment, but it is only the Kabbalah that demystifies this passage. "Amalek" has the same numerical value as "Safek," which means "doubts." What scripture is discussing here is the war against our inner doubts and uncertainty. It's about going to war against the part of us that is confused and unsure of tomorrow.
Numerous other Bible stories discuss how the Jews were ordered to perform genocide over cities, villages, women, and even little children. The Kabbalah teaches that the stories are codes. What we are really discussing is the war against our desires for the self alone - our selfish nature, our ego, our reactive behavior, and all the other inner negativities that disallow us from receiving true happiness.
By focusing less on the self and more on others we become more God-like. Thereby, unlocking this power of control that we have been talking about. But it's a war. There is a part of us - our selfishness, and doubts, and our desires for the self alone - which block us from making the correct choices in life.
Therefore, much of Kabbalah speaks about inner change, and inner transformation. This is the war. These are the first steps towards reclaiming the kingship over our destiny.
When a critical mass of people are taking part in this war then the Moshiach has arrived. The Moshis not just a man, but he symbolizes a global state of eternal peace, happiness, and fulfillment. The end of chaos as we know it. Contrary to much thought, we are not waiting for the Moshiach to come, but rather, WE are the ones and WE are the only ones that through our efforts are capable of creating this state of being.
Dr. Raphael Kellman is the founder of the Center for Progressive Medicine in Manhattan, NY, and is the author of Gut Reactions. He can be reached via email at