Kabbalah is the mystical tradition of the Jewish people. It dates as far back as Abraham (almost four thousand years), although it has gone through many stages of revelation since that time.
The accumulated insights of Kabbalah provide access to the inner dimension of reality and thereby to the experience of God in this world. Simply put, Kabbalah is the study of God. The students of Kabbalah desire to know God in order to emulate Him and thus come close to Him.
To come close to God, the Creator of the universe, students of Kabbalah seek to intellectually comprehend what might be termed the "physics of creation." The focus of Kabbalah is never the acquisition of wisdom in and of itself. Wisdom is only a tool, a bridge to connect us to our Creator through comprehension of the creative process, which is ongoing, dynamic, and constantly responsive to the feedback from creation.
The first person who devoted his life to discover and come close to God was Abraham. Due to his great self-sacrifice, many deep secrets of creation were revealed to him, allowing him to experience what he desired most–a closeness and sense of oneness with his Creator. The very first classic text of Kabbalah, Sefer Yetzirah, "The Book of Formation," is attributed to Abraham.
This basic text of Kabbalah outlines the thirty-two paths of wisdom that function in the creative process. The thirty-two paths are in turn comprised of:
The ten sefirot–the ten emanations of Divine light, which energize the creative process and define its parameters
The twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet–the building blocks of creation and the channels through which Divine consciousness flows into creation.
Abraham passed this wisdom on to his son, Isaac, who passed it on to his son, Jacob, who in turn passed it to his twelve sons, the progenitors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Seven generations after Abraham, the Israelites merited to encounter God at Mt. Sinai and to receive the Torah. The Torah contains not only instructions for living life according to God's will, but also, concealed within it, God's blueprint for creation.
Indeed, the Torah has two aspects–"the revealed" and "the concealed" or the "body" and the "soul."
The "body" of the Torah is comprised of laws of behavior. These laws express the will of God for our ultimate and absolute good in this world and the World to Come. In Hebrew, this aspect of the Torah is called gufei Torah, "the body of the Torah," or nigleh," the revealed dimension [of the Torah]."
The "soul" of the Torah–or Kabbalah–is comprised of the secrets relating to God the Creator, the creative process, and God's Providence over creation. These secrets possess many dimensions of mysteries and mysteries within mysteries. In Hebrew, this aspect of the Torah is called sitrei Torah, "the secrets of the Torah," ornister, "the concealed dimension [of the Torah]."
God gives us the understanding of both dimensions of the Torah because He desires that we become partners with Him in the process of creation, so that we may be worthy to receive the ultimate reward of becoming one with Him. We do so when we freely choose to align our will with His will. To align our will with God's means living by the commandments of the Torah, delving into its mysteries, and devoting our lives, like Abraham, to bring into the world's consciousness transcendent and infinite light–light which appeared at the outset of creation but which subsequently became hidden from human eyes.