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The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  898 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
A translation of the Kabbalah for the layperson includes a compact presentation of each primary text and features a practical analysis and vital historical information that offer insight into the various aspects of Jewish mysticism.
Paperback, 221 pages
Published June 14th 1996 by HarperCollins (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Devon
Dec 04, 2013 Devon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Devon by: Madonna :)
Shelves: spirit
I read this book alongside a cherished friend who died shortly thereafter. Together we poured over the pages and thoroughly enjoyed the language and the ambiguity. Now I cherish the book and her memory.
Nick Mather
I first read this book several years ago for a course I took while working on my master’s degree. As I decided to incorporate weekly meditations in my world religion course, I wanted to revisit some of the mystical writings of each tradition I cover. This is mostly selections of Kabbalistic writings, which are quite frequently rather abstruse, though that’s the nature of most mystical writing. There is a notes section in the back of the text that helps explain some of the hidden meanings and ref ...more
Chris brown
This was a very good introductory book on the subject of Kabbalah. The reader is left with and overview of the concepts and notions of Kabbalah without straying into areas that could be considered "occult" as well as not being to heavily laden with concepts that Kabbalic scholars and theologians spent a lifetime attempting to put into words. If you are interested in learning what Kabbalah is, this book will give you the essence of it and does have a "suggested reading" list at the end that will ...more
Owlseyes
Apr 14, 2015 Owlseyes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystical, qabalah
A quote from the book:


"Four priests had gotten inside pardes (paradise):
Ben Azzai,
Ben Zoma, Aher and the rabbi Akiva.

Ben Azzai saw it and died.
Ben Zoma saw it and got insane.
Aher cut the plants.

Rabbi Akiva left in peace".


xDEAD ENDx
Apr 29, 2016 xDEAD ENDx rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ideas finally started to click for me when reading this book. This book is more or less translations from different Kabbalah texts. They're much more understandable than reading Scholem's writings on kabbalah and much more interesting than the Yehuda Berg self-fulfillment neutered version.
Scott Cox
“The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” translated by Robert Thurman, is an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, specifically as it relates to the “between-state” after death. According to Buddhist thought, there are six realms or planes of existence (bardos): (1) hell-beings (hate), (2) pretans (“hungry ghost realm,” greed), (3) animal-life (ignorance, stupidity), (4) human-life, (5) titans (“asura,” richly-endowed), and (6) demigods (happy, but not enlightened). This is based upon a system of reincarnati ...more
Curtis Aguirre
Feb 04, 2015 Curtis Aguirre rated it it was amazing
I started this little intro into Kabbalah a few days ago. It was given to me by a rabbi from Vancouver who commended it as a good overview of a huge subject.
Jeneba Charkey
Aug 22, 2015 Jeneba Charkey rated it did not like it
When I read the introduction to this book, I did not know that the translations of the materials that comprise the body of the work would have no direct attributions. The author blithely states that the passages "come from Kabbalah." But the scope of Jewish mystical writings is vast and far from uniform. Many ancestors had a hand in contributing to the thought and practice. Not adding their names to their texts is disrespectful and does not promote a true appreciation of the mystical in context. ...more
Skylar Burris
Jan 05, 2008 Skylar Burris rated it liked it
Shelves: judaism
This book contains selections from the Jewish mystical work known collectively as Kabbalah. The selections are (unsprisingly) a little difficult to follow at times, but the collection does have some very poetic passages and interesting insights even for an outsider, and I received a basic introduction to the concept of Ein Sof and the ten emenations of God. I bought this little volume at, of all places, a gun show, from a table full of books. The seller looked at me oddly and said, "You're the f ...more
Johannes
Aug 30, 2016 Johannes rated it really liked it
Certainly not a systematic presentation of kabbalistic thought, but perhaps esotericism at its very best. Riddle: "Who is a serpent that flies in the air and wanders alone, while an ant lies peacefully between its teeth?" Answer: "Beginning in union, it ends in separation." If this makes any sense at all, then perhaps it's because you have rearranged the letters to discover a new statement entirely. I guess this is the received tradition at its best.
Robert
Jul 12, 2008 Robert rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book has served as an introduction to kabbalah for me, and it has certainly piqued my interest in that regard. I was surprised at how many concepts resonated deeply with me.

This is a collection of excerpts from major kabbalistic texts (for example the zohar) and from the works of many of the most influential kabbalistic writers, rabbis.

One complaint is that is would have been nice to have explained the difference between the tree of life presented in the book and the tree of life that see
...more
Matt Root
May 06, 2014 Matt Root rated it liked it
I struggled with how to rate this volume. On the one hand, I have no doubt it is an important, well-researched book. But as someone who struggles to find the key to why esoteric systems such as Kabbalah are attractive for people, I was disappointed. Not only did I not find the answers I was looking for, but I struggled to make heads or tails of it. I assume the fault here is mine and I was just looking in the wrong place.
Jessica G.
Sep 24, 2016 Jessica G. rated it liked it
The Essential Kabbalah has a very clear introduce with a nice overview of Kabbalah's development, followed by well selected passages from historic documents. I wish it was clearer that the author only wrote the introduction, though, because I expected much more commentary.
Ron Krumpos
Jul 10, 2014 Ron Krumpos rated it really liked it
"The Essential Kabbalah" is one of the books in the primary bibliography of my free ebook on comparative mysticism. "The greatest achievement in life" at suprarational.org/gail2012.pdf has been reviewed on Goodreads.

Vikki Marshall
Aug 10, 2012 Vikki Marshall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part of “The Mystical Classics of the World” this text delves into a branch of Judaism thought to have been created in 16th Century Palestine. The movement has been thought of as both a traditional practice as well as a radical idea that has been dismissed. Kabbalists believe in our original nature such as that explored in the Garden of Eden with the tasting of the fruit of knowledge. This book explores Ein Sof, Sefirot and the Shekhinah all aspects of Jewish mysticism and contains beautiful tea ...more
Barry
Nov 23, 2008 Barry added it
A very compact, succinct introduction to the beliefs of Kabbalah, this consists of what the author considers to be the essential core beliefs, philosphies, and almost daily devotionals of kabbalists. A great book to open to one page and read its contents, then carry it with you during the day. Nothing overwhelming in size, nonetheless each page requires the reader to truly take their time and re-read several times each passage in order to soak up and process the true meanings of the sometimes di ...more
Angel
This books provides a pretty good overview of Kabbalah. If you are a casual reader who may know little of this religious tradition, this may be the book for you. The introductory material is pretty good in laying out some background and history. The rest of the book presents selections from Kabbalistic texts. Overall, the language is pretty accessible. I think Judeo-Christian folks may find some connections here too. The text provides a nice sense of the spirituality of Kabbalah as well as its v ...more
Barb
May 15, 2015 Barb rated it did not like it
Can't finish this book. Just "double speak" as far as I am concerned.
Amelia
Sep 02, 2008 Amelia rated it really liked it
This is a very good introduction to Kabbalah, managing to convey both how complex and in-depth it is, as well as some of the bigger concepts like the ten sefirot and Ein Sof. Matt's excerpts and translations of various Kabbalistic texts are excellent and broad ranging, and the notes about each excerpt at the end are very useful.

There's no doubt that Matt's book is very simply introductory and just scratches the surface. Nonetheless, Essential Kabbalah definitely grabbed my interest enough to ma
...more
Amy
Apr 24, 2010 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: omg
Most interesting to me were the intro and the notes to the text. The rest were excerpts from kabbalistic writings, which seem to be catalysts for meditating on the nature of God, which is, of course, unknowable. All reason and self awareness, therefore, must try to be negated in order to draw closer to the divine. Reminds me of Christian mysticism. I would have enjoyed more a history of the kabbalistic movement and how it has evolved as this is not my cup of tea right now, hence my two subjectiv ...more
Eric Villalobos
Sep 29, 2013 Eric Villalobos rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaism
Definitely enjoyed this book. Although, I have to admit that some of it just went straight over my head. I will have to either re-read it or find another book on the subject. I should probably brush up on the terms that were used and on my knowledge of the Bible, and I recommend anyone looking to read this book should do the same. Actually, I think even after that, most of it would still fly right over my head.
Talya Rubin
Oct 04, 2009 Talya Rubin rated it really liked it
So far this collection of Jewish mystical writing is stunning. It is an excellent way in to Kabbalah as Daniel C. Matt's introduction is beautifully written and unfolds a wonderful way down this path of relating to the divine. The book makes me want to read more in the tradition and the translations of the various writings are accessible but remain delectably mysterious.
Keith Wilson
Jan 08, 2014 Keith Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the title suggests, an essential book for all those interested in the Kabbalah. It should be called the Kabbalah for dummies, but I understand that title is already taken. It lost me in its explanation of the ten sefirot, although I suspect I'm not the first to say that they don't understand an important aspect of Kabbalah.
Sophie
May 24, 2015 Sophie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Daniel Matt is a great Kabbalist who makes the Kabbalah accessible to modern students. This poetic and enriching volume is a perfect distillation of the Jewish Kabbalistic tradition - essential in name and in nature. Over the years it has become a bedside companion, never far from my hand or heart.
Luna Chakra
Nov 16, 2013 Luna Chakra is currently reading it
As an avid follower of the Occult, esoteric knowledge, and Hermeticism, I thoroughly enjoy Daniel C. Matt's selections and insight of the Kabbalah. For illuminated minds, truth-seekers, and the lovers of knowledge, this book is an excellent "beginner/intermediate" resource regarding this ancient scripture.
Amber Moors
the information contained within this book was not very helpful, it's an interesting work, but if you are the consumer looking for more information about kabbalah, I felt that it was a bunch of b.s.
Danielle
Oct 06, 2009 Danielle marked it as to-read
Shelves: spirituality
Attended a program on kabbalah at our synagogue last weekend and the presenter highly recommended this book for beginners. Seemed like something worth knowing about.
Paulo Reimann
Apr 01, 2015 Paulo Reimann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
interesting

The book should or could read and re read several times and in different order. Must be studied in depth.
Grasped in Thought
Jul 15, 2012 Grasped in Thought rated it really liked it
A fairly good collection. Contains Ein Sof, the Sefirot, and the Shekhinah. A must read if you want to understand Jewish mysticism.
Robert
Sep 14, 2013 Robert rated it did not like it
ZZZZZ - ho-hum; myscticism, little more than convaluted, wishful thinking whirrling around in senseless circles.
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