KEENE VALLEY — If the only Kabbalah reference you have is Madonna, then Rabbi Moishe New’s talk, “Kabbalah,” is a must-hear Monday evening at the Keene Valley Library.
New, the spiritual leader of the Montreal Torah Center, will give an introduction in the world of Jewish mysticism with emphasis on the insights it offers to deal with 21st century challenges.
Kabbalah in Hebrew means “to receive.” The study of Kabbalah is a traditional teaching that is passed down on an elemental level.
“The Torah, which is the Bible, was the written law as dictated by God and simply written down,” said New, who is a sought-out lecturer on the topic and its relevance today.
“When God gave the Torah to Moses, he also gave Four Keys, which unlock the meaning of the text. Quite frankly, the text on its own, in many places are ambiguous or contradictory and often not understandable. The reality is, it wasn’t meant to be studied on its own.”
The Torah is a divine, inscrutable text that continues to yield teachings, information and insight.
“But it reveals by means of these four basic keys,” New said. “These keys are four levels of understanding the text. Level I is the simple level to make it intelligible enough on the simple, most pragmatic level. What’s the story and what is the Bible telling us to do? All these keys are defined further and have a whole system of rules and formulas by which the text yields insights and information.”
Key I is understanding the literal meaning of the text.
“Key II is a deeper level,” New said. “You apply the information from Key I. It yields allusions and hints that are not obvious in the text. Key III is often described as a very broad area. It’s the psychological, legal and philosophical dimensions, the homiletic dimension of the text. The Talmud is devoted to understanding the text at Level III. It’s much more complex.”
Level IV, the Kabbalah, reveals the mystical teaching about the nature of God, the nature of divinity, through each word.
“Every line in the text is also talking about God and his interaction with the creation,” New said. “It’s metaphysical and really the study of the nature of God and the nature of the divine.”
In the 3,400 years since the exodus from Egypt, Jewish scholars have developed Levels I, II and III.
“The study of Kabbalah was reserved for only very select scholars, and even they very often did not make public they were studying the Torah on that level, but however the last 300 years, this fourth level is being studied, developed and disseminated increasingly with the passage of time.”
There are two basic reasons for the transmission of this once-secret practice.
“One reason is that the test of faith, challenges to faith in a complex world requires complex answers,” New said. “It’s a new level of spiritual vaccine for the level of spiritual virus we face in a new world that is challenging us on many levels.
“The second reason, more interesting reason for the dissemination of the teaching the last few hundred years, is a preparation for the Messianic Era of enlightenment, where all people understand God and the consequences of living in peace and harmony. It’s an era of God consciousness that will be experienced by all human beings, all humanity.”
The Kabbalah is a bridge to the Messianic Era.
“My talk will focus on some of the basic teaching of the Kabbalah and address the big questions such as the purpose of life and reincarnation. That’s quite a bit to digest.”
New, 56, has studied the Kabbalah since he was 13.
“The misconceptions, it’s kind of hocus-pocus. You can manipulate things and do magic. It’s neither of those two. It’s a deeper understanding of the nature of life and the purpose of life.”
Historically, the Kabbalah was not exclusive to men.
“There were some women,” New said. “Kabbalah is very much the feminine dimension of Judaism because female spiritually is deeper than male spirituality.”
The general difference between men and women is men are about performing, doing, acquiring and conquering.
“Women are more about being,” New said. “For men, their spirituality is more performance. The feminine aspect about being and connect to God not for what God does but who God is and that’s much deeper.”
Email Robin Caudell: email@example.comTwitter: @RobinCaudell
IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Kabbalah" presented by Rabbi Moishe New of the Montreal Torah Center.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday. WHERE: Keene Valley Library, 1796 Route 73, Keene Valley.