Beginner Level Kabbalah: Where do I begin?

There is really no exact point to begin your studies. Learning Kabbalah and Chassidut is much more than just studying the Kabbalistic vocabulary, grasping the many spiritual maps of the spiritual worlds or understanding new and deep ideas. It’s about how to recognize, experience and come close to God. Any subject matter or specific topic that you choose will lead you to the same destination. Therefore, you can begin anywhere. There exist a number of introductory texts in English that aim to teach the secrets of Kabbalah and Chassidut. Unfortunately, not all of these texts can be considered reliable, and many are in fact misleading. It is of utmost importance to learn Kabbalah and Chassidut from an authentic source. Of course we recommend studying Harav Ginsburgh’s introductory volume, What You Need to Know About Kabbalah.

We also recommend setting up a daily regimen of study in the most basic Chassidic text, the Tanya by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (a daily lesson in Tanya is available on-line at Chabad.org).

However, when learning this or any other text in English, it should be remembered that the English translation of Hebrew terms can never be exact. The subtle meanings and inferences conveyed by these terms can only be grasped in the original Hebrew–the language of creation. Therefore, any serious student must realize that to go beyond a beginner’s level, the mastery of the Hebrew language is essential.

(Indeed, there is an intrinsic connection between Kabbalah and the Hebrew language per se. In fact, the earliest text of Kabbalah, Sefer Yetzirah, is also the first text of Hebrew grammar.)

Furthermore, beyond the question of terminology, difficulties may arise due to a basic difference between the approach to reading and study followed by Western culture and that of the Torah and Kabbalah.

Western culture sees the goal of study as the accumulation of knowledge, or, at least, gleaning of information; whether skimming or reading, the intent is usually to take out the useful points and proceed further.

In contrast, the goal of Torah and Kabbalah study is the refinement of behavior. Through our study we seek to come close to God, knowing that we can only draw close to Him by emulating His characteristics, as the sages say, “Just as God is merciful, so shall you be merciful.”

Some Guidelines

Clearly, within every aspect of Torah study, including the study of Kabbalah, there are more elementary texts and materials and more advanced texts. With this in mind, here are a few simple guidelines to help you to navigate the Inner Dimension website:

First we would recommend reading through the section called: Basics in Kabbalah and Chassidut.

Begin with the Frequenly Asked Questions for Beginners and then move on to the other sections in our Kabbalah for Beginners index. Once you have completed those, you can continue with our Intermediate Kabbalah section. You will want to read Harav Ginsburgh’s other books as well. To truly understand Kabbalah, you should explore the way that he applies its terminology and models to modern areas such as Torah and Science, Relationships, and Meditation. Explore these sections of our website too.

Together with this, begin to learn the secrets of The Hebrew Letters (you can also purchase the book, here). As stated, Hebrew is essential for understanding the deepest secrets of Kabbalah and Chassidut. You can begin by learning a new letter every day.

It is also important to “Live with the Times.” Always be “up to date,” knowing about the present Hebrew month and its inner meaning. Know what holidays and festivals are approaching and how they apply to you. All this can be found in our section called: The Hebrew Calendar

We recommend that you combine your learning with daily meditation. Be sure to visit the special section on Jewish Meditation. Here you can experience online authentic Jewish meditation with step-by-step guidance by Harav Ginsburgh. To enhance your meditation you will want to listen to authentic meditative melodies. Harav Ginsburgh has composed over 250 such melodies.

If you have any questions regarding your learning or material on our site, feel free to contact our staff (Harav Ginsburgh’s students). See our contact page for contact information.

We wish you success with your studies and with teaching others. Please keep us updated with your progress.

Introduction
What is the Inner Dimension of the Torah?
What is the origin of Kabbalah and Chassidut?
Who Can Study Kabbalah and Chassidut?
What Should be my Goals?
Where do I begin?
Can Kabbalah and Chassidut Change my Life?
How Do I Make Kabbalah and Chassidut Part of My Daily Life?
What is Practical Kabbalah?
Are Amulets Considered Practical Kabbalah? Do they work? 
Is it Advisable to Receive Advice from Kabbalists?
What About People Who Claim to have Spiritual or Healing Powers?
How Can I Know if the Source of Kabbalah I Am Studying is Authentic?

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