In Parshas Beshalach, God frees the Jewish people from Egypt, and they travel towards the Yam Suf, the Sea of Reeds. The Torah [Shemos 13:18] describes the Jews as leaving Egypt “Chamushim.” What does this Hebrew term represent and what deeper ideas are hidden within this word?
The words of the Torah contain many layers of meaning, and each verse in the Torah can be interpreted on many different levels. In one place, our Sages tell us that the Torah has seventy facets of meaning (Bamidar Rabbah 13:15). The Ramchal writes in Derech Etz Chaim that there are no fewer than 600,000 possible interpretations of every verse in the Torah!
The Vilna Gaon (Mishlei 1:20) writes that there are four main categories of interpretations of the Torah, each of which encompasses numerous interpretations of every verse: P’shat (straightforward explanation of the text), Drash (deeper explanations of the text), Remez (hints or allusions in the text) and Sod (Kabbalistic, secret or mystical explanations of the text). Teaching the different levels of understanding of “Chamushim” is a meaningful context to introduce students to Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.
There are three Morasha shiurim on Kabbalah. The first class discusses the definition of Kabbalah, its authenticity, and the prerequisites for its study. The second shiur explores some fundamental principles that Kabbalah teaches us about God, the universe, and man’s role in the universe. The third class explores how Kabbalah elucidates both the Torah narratives and its mitzvos, and how it can affect the practical application of halachah. The third class also explains the four main categories of Torah interpretation, as well as the illustration of the verse above containing the Hebrew word “Chamushim.”
Kabbalah – Jewish Mysticism I
The Morasha shiur on What is Kabbalah and the Prerequisites for its Study addresses the following questions:
- Is Kabbalah an authentic expression of Judaism? Is it a recent development or is it part of the Sinai transmission?
- Who were the primary teachers of Kabbalah and what texts did they write?
- How can one differentiate real Kabbalah from pseudo-Kabbalah?
- How does one become a Kabbalist? What are the prerequisites?
- Is it necessary to study Kabbalah to establish a connection to spirituality and enable personal development?
Kabbalah: Part II
The Morasha shiur on Principles of Jewish Mysticism: Hishtalshelut examines the following issues:
- What is Kabbalah? What are its basic teachings?
- What does Kabbalah reveal to us about God?
- What are the Ten Sefirot and the Four Worlds?
- What is the Kabbalistic understanding of man’s role in the world?
Kabbalah – Jewish Mysticism III
The Morasha shiur on Kabbalistic Explanations of the Torah, Mitzvot, and Reincarnation explores the following questions:
- How does Kabbalah enhance our understanding of the Torah and its commandments?
- What is the Kabbalastic explanation of “Chamushim” in Parshas Beshalach?
- What does Kabbalah reveal about reincarnation?
- What are the dangers of studying Kabbalah in the “wrong” way?
- What can the study of Kabbalah add to my life?