Authenticity of Kabbalah

There appear to be serious Torah authenticity issues with much of what is called “Kabbalah” nowadays.

My use of the term “Torah authenticity” refers to evidence, if it exists, that a particular concept or set of concepts can be traced to valid, ancient Torah sources such as the Jewish Bible and/or Talmud. Or whether a particular concept conflicts with ancient Torah sources.

The Mishna is certainly a valid, ancient Torah source.

“Kabbalah” claims to be the esoteric Torah teachings. A well known Mishna refers to the esoteric Torah teachings:

„אֵין דּוֹרְשִׁין בָּעֲרָיוֹת בִּשְׁלֹשָׁה, וְלֹא בְּמַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית בִּשְׁנַיִם, וְלֹא בַּמֶּרְכָּבָה בְּיָחִיד, אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן הָיָה חָכָם וּמֵבִין מִדַּעְתּוֹ. MISHNA: One may not expound the topic of forbidden sexual relations before three; nor the work of the Creation before two nor by oneself the work of the Chariot, unless he is wise and understands on his own.”

The ancient Torah sages organized the esoteric Torah teachings in two categories, the Work of the Creation and the Work of the Chariot. The ancient Torah sages prohibited teaching the esoteric Torah subjects publicly.

This raises a number of severe questions about the authenticity of the “Kabbalah”. For example, how can the present “Kabbalah” constitute the esoteric Torah teachings, since those teachings were not allowed to be publicly taught by the Torah sages?

Rabbeinu Nissim (Ran) was one of the great medieval rabbis who wrote extensively. Ran composed a series of sermons (drashot) known as Derashot HaRan. In the first Drasha, Chapter 1, Ran provides a detailed explanation of what topics are discussed in the Work of the Creation and the Work of the Chariot.

Derashot HaRan

In Ran’s drasha, there seems to be no mention of the “Kabbalah” and its specialized terminology such as “sefirot”, “tzimtzum”, “Ein Sof” etc. This suggests that what is referred to as “Kabbalah” nowadays has no real relationship to what the ancient Torah sages referred to as the Work of the Creation and the Work of the Chariot.

Much of what we call “Kabbalah” today thus appears to be a set of highly speculative concepts invented since the Middle Ages that may have no Torah authenticity.

Authenticity of Kabbalah