It was a short 2-hour drive from Tel Aviv, passing south of Jerusalem, and then traveling via the Ma’aleh Adumim highway directly to the Dead Sea Valley. The desert terrain was hilly and spotted with multiple rock outcroppings typical of this arid climate. Buildings and other structural signs of human civilization dotted the landscape. The sun was still young in the morning sky as the tour bus made its way down the winding road.
Joshua gently applied the brakes to the motor coach as the vehicle descended on the long winding path. The 46 tourists peered out the bus windows in marvel of the scenery. Excitement was building as the Dead Sea was coming into view.
As an employee of the Holy Land travel agency Joshua made this run almost every morning. After spending a few hours at the Dead Sea, he would reload the bus and take the tourists onto Masada. He had pictures of his family; wife Adira, daughters Kataniya, Levana, Rivka, and sons Yizrach and Shevi on the bus dashboard to add brightness to the trip. He loved them dearly.
They had arrived at the lowest level on the earth’s surface, 423 meters (1,388 feet) below sea level. The Dead Sea is a vast salt lake bordering Jordan to the east, and Israel proper to the west. It’s almost 9 times as salty as the Atlantic Ocean. The bus doors opened as the coach came to a stop in the parking lot, all 8 wheels now standing still.
How did the Dead Sea, once connected to a mighty ocean, get this way?
An arm of the Mediterranean existed in this area before continental rifting started about 15-million year ago. As the land rose the waters drained off, both eastward through the Haifa Channel to the Mediterranean, and southward into the Gulf of Elat.
The moving African tectonic plate and the Asia/Arabian plate caused a rift valley to develop. The African plate is tending to rotate in a counterclockwise direction, so when there is northward movement the segment is shifted slightly eastward. The Asia/Arabian plate has moved northward 65 miles along a strike-slip fault system, with 18.6 miles of those having been in the last five million years alone.
The rifting started in the early Miocene, crossed this residual arm of the sea isolating a portion of it, which became the Dead Sea segment. The area originally grew in size as it was in a wet period and became known as Lake Lisan. Varying levels of Lake Lisan came and went as recorded on the sediment on the walls of the rift.
With time, the sinking of the graben (an elongated, relatively depressed crustal unit bounded by faults on both sides) and evaporation reduced Lake Lisan to a smaller area which became known as the Dead Sea.
As the passengers made their way down to the Sea with their tour guide, Joshua settled down to meditate at his favorite spot. It was a small hill overlooking the majestic view. He and his family were practitioners of Kabbalah, and he often did his morning meditation at this same place. He closed his eyes, and the wonders of the subtle worlds began to reveal themselves once again.
The practice of Kabbalah meditation generally involves a morning meditation, plus a recitation of the 3 blessings, and meditation verses.
Kabbalah meditation enables the seeker to directly interact with the higher worlds and bring about positive changes in life. It is also the quest for the transcendent eternal absolute value of life.
Its various forms:
» Wrapped in a prayer shawl, sit and shut your eyes and transcend the physical as if your soul has left your body and is ascending to heaven.
» Introspection and visualization to improve moral character.
» Concentration, do not focus on the Sefirot (Divine emanations) per se, but rather on the light from the Infinite (“Atzmut”-essence of God) contained within the emanations.
» Mental recitation on a sequence of Hebrew letters and words, permutations and combinations, coupled with giving thanks to God. The Hebrew letters have significant numerical values.
» Techniques that elicit visionary experiences of the angels and their resident chambers.
» Guided and experiential listening to Kabbalistic music.
» Breathing exercises in four stages corresponding to the four letters of the ineffable name of the Creator.
» A series of head movements and breathing, combined with pronouncing the Divine name.
» “Hear Oh Israel” prayer with deep and internal intention and devotion, and understanding the
logic and spiritual structure of prayer, as an authentic and uplifting experience for the soul.
» Intellectual analysis of philosophical and mystical concepts.
The 3 blessings:
These blessings are intended to invoke the healing power of spirits, allowing them to descend upon you and give you their strength. They are:
May Hashem bless you and protect you
May Hashem shine His face upon you
May Hashem lift His countenance towards you, and grant you peace
(Hashem in Hebrew is “God”)
This is usually recited at night, as a way of beseeching the powers that be to return your soul to your body in the morning. Kabbalistic thought holds that the spirit leaves the body during sleep to inhabit a higher plane of consciousness. In Kabbalah tradition it is believed that every night the soul ascends to the upper worlds and returns to the body in the morning.
The Kabbalah tradition is old and ancient. It has always been taught through oral instruction, even though there are books and texts that expound its philosophy. Although associated with Judaism it contains universal truths applicable to all people of all times. It prescribes a method for rising above suffering and egoism. It can be considered to be the musical notes of creation, as well as the silent pause between each note. The true nature of God is transcendent and cannot be described, except with reference to what it is not.
Some Jews consider the Kabbalah to represent the true meaning and teachings of Judaism, while others do not. The actual term “Kabbalah” may have first been used by the Jewish philosopher Solomon Gabirol around the year 1040 AD. Today it represents Jewish esoteric knowledge and practices.
Its literature developed over a period of time. During the 1st and 2nd centuries the Hekhalot texts and Sefer Yetzirah appeared. During the 12th-13th century the Zohar, the mainstay of Kabbalistic thought and philosophy, was written. In the 16th century there was a revival of the knowledge led by Isaac Luria. In the 18th century the Eastern European Hasidic groups took the knowledge under their wing and spread its teachings.
Today, Kabbalah literature consists of these primary texts:
Hekhalot, the Heavenly Palaces:
These texts primarily focus either on how to achieve a heavenly ascent through the Hekhalot (heavenly palaces) and what to expect there, or on drawing down angelic spirits to interact and help the adept.
Sefer Yetzira, the Book of Formation/Creation:
This book describes how the universe was created, through the 32 wondrous ways of wisdom.
» the 10 Sefirot; the 3 elements air, water and fire, plus the 6 directions and center.
» the 22 letters (3 mother letters, 7 double letters plus 12 simple letters) of the Hebrew alphabet.
The book relies on the 32 ways to explain the makeup of the universe and the laws governing its function.
Bahir, the Illumination/Midrash:
This is a summary of the essential teachings of Kabbalah literature.
Raziel Ha-Malakh, Raziel the Angel:
Most likely written in the 13th century by Elazar Rokeach, it explains Kabbalah astrology along with the mystic alphabet and formulas.
Zohar, the Book of Splendor:
This book is the Kabbalistic commentary on the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, and is the most important Kabbalistic text.
Quotes from the Zohar:
“The entire lower world was created in the likeness of the higher world. All that exists in the higher world appears like an image in this lower world; yet all this is but One.
All souls must undergo transmigration and the souls of men revolve like a stone which is thrown from a sling, so many turns before the final release…Only those who have not completed their perfection must suffer the wheel of rebirth by being reborn into another human body.
Before God manifested Himself, when all things were still hidden in Him… He began by forming an imperceptible point; that was His own thought. With this thought He then began to construct a mysterious and holy form… the Universe”.
Pardes Rimonim, the Garden of Pomegranates:
Written in the 16th century this book by Rabbi Moshe Cordovero is one interpretation of the Zohar.
Etz Hayim and the Eight Gates, the Tree of Life:
This consists of a primary introduction to the remainder of the Lurianic system.
There are subtle differences between the Kabbalah of Moses Cordovero and the Lurianic Kabbalah (the primary school in Eastern Europe).
The basic principles of Kabbalah:
1) There is a basic universal eternal (upper) force that we all live in. We are the egoistic parts that are opposite to it. Our egos evolve in this world but in the end we reach a state where we have to unify with this force.
2) Who are we? The upper force is good. We were created in opposition to it in order to reveal that the nature of the ego is destructive. We want to break free from this (the ego) to become like IT. We can accomplish this through the method of Kabbalah.
3) We are one soul, one egotistical desire, created by the upper force to enjoy. We were shattered into millions of parts called individual souls. They are what develop during this whole process on earth in time/space.. We have to correct ourselves to become like the creator, so we all need to unify together back into one soul. Realize that our ego is destructive, and strive to reconnect back together with everyone.
The Kabbalah tree of life is a mystical symbol that describes the attributes/properties of life and defines a path to Hashem (God). It describes how the universe was created, continues to exist, and the process for human reunification with Hashem.
The 10 Sephiroth are the attributes that God created for space/time/causation manifestation.
1) Keter – supernal crown, representing the above consciousness and will, humility
2) Chochmah – the highest potential of thought, wisdom
3) Binah – the understanding of the potential
…… Da’at – intellect of knowledge
4) Chesed – sometimes referred to as Gedolah-greatness, loving-kindness
5) Gevurah – sometimes referred to as Din-justice or Pachad-fear, severity/strength and power
6) Tipheret – beauty, mercy, adornment
7) Netzach – victory/eternity
8 Hod – glory/splendour
9) Yesod – foundation
10) Malkuth – the kingdom, physical reality
From the lower primal universal energies (Malkuth) to the higher levels of human soul individuation and spiritual union with the divine (Keter), the Tree of Life depicts the unfoldment and levels of realization of our world, similar to the way that Chakras and the Pingala Nadi (right) and the Ida Nadi (left) channels do.
The Kabbalistic teaching refers to the 7 gates of heaven, which are the different states of consciousness.
Kabbalah seeks to define the nature of the universe and the human being, the nature and purpose of existence, and various other ontological questions.
The Maggi of Mezerich has said:
“A man should actually detach his ego from his body until he passes through all the worlds and becomes one with God, till he disappears entirely out of the bodiless world”.
One can easily spend a lifetime learning Kabbalah and mastering it principles and meditation practices. The various levels of the relative world and the absolute transcendent can thereby be realized.
Joshua and his family were born in Israel and have followed the Kabbalistic teachings for years. It is their guide and foundation for spiritual development.
Meditation opens our awareness to new vistas and greater intellectual understanding. As we journey through life, challenges and adventures open our heart and mind to the field of all possibilities. Wondrous lands are within and afar. The joy of finding the timeless value of life within a delicate flower, in the majesty of the mountains and seas, and in the smile of your loved ones, is unbounded.