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The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,174 ratings  ·  64 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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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  1,174 ratings  ·  64 reviews

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Mar 12, 2008 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
This was the first book I’ve read on the Jewish variant of the Kabbalah as opposed to the Christian or Hermetic. There is no mention of Dion Fortune, Israel Regardie, Aleister Crowley, or A.E. Waite and likewise no mention of the correspondences with the tarot. Nevertheless, it was interesting; I had not heard of Abraham Abulafia before nor his meditation technique on the Hebrew letters.
Oct 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a vital introduction to Kabbalah. Daniel Matt is a trustworthy guide into the lands of Jewish mysticism, and this book is simply written, divided into subjects and parables about them. Even if Kabbalah isn't one's "path", this book is a good contribution to one's Jewish, mystical, or occult knowledge.
Owlseyes inside Notre Dame, it's so strange a 15-hour blaze and...30-minutes wait to call the firemen...and
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".

Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirit, csns, philosophy
Though not nearly enough information to be considered a comprehensive overview, I devoured just about the whole thing in one sitting. Beautifully written with plenty of references, lots of insight. A must-read for anyone who wants to dip their toe into the vastness of Kabbalah
Curtis Aguirre
Aug 04, 2012 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.
B. Rule
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This doesn't get too far into the esoterica of Kabbalah, but it's a good summary of an important facet of Jewish wisdom traditions. I thought the selections were well-curated and translated, and it's all succinct enough that you can absorb the whole thing very quickly.
Pintele Zane Naftali
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great for beginners wanting to know more about kosher Torah Kabbalah.
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
The introduction and selections are amazing, but I wish there was more exegesis.
Gary Jaron
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books for an introduction to the Jewish literature on the Kabbalah. The best book to use for a group discussion on the topic. I am involved in one group and lead another group that has been slowly going through these essays over the years. The amazing thing about this book is that EVERY version, from all hardback editions to all paperback editions, they are all paginated the exact same way!!! Thus when you say turn to page 23, everyone in the group, no matter which copy they have ...more
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In addition to Yehuda Berg's book, this another work that is well-organized and precise as it presents important basics of kabbalah (i.e., the mystical part of Judaism).

This book, along with other means (e.g., music bands like "Kabbalah Cowboy" is moving Kabbalah more into the mainstream
K. Counihan
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good Understandable Translation

Good Understandable Translation. This would be the best book to start with regarding The Kabbalah. This was easier to follow than others out on Kindle.
Brenda Stahl
Jan 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Beautiful introduction to mysticism. Not thorough, however superficial and inquisitive. Finished in one day.
Jun 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: judaica
This is a level that my brain simply doesn't operate on.
M.A. Stern
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a good primer on the principles of Kabbalah. It’s a bit dry but a useful source for information about this tradition.
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved it only because I am interested in the topic. It is not the first book one should read on Judaism. read man other things before you get to this book.
Christian Fontaine
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A worthy collection of contemplations.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This should be read again and again. Wisdom resides in Qabalah.
Brett C
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysticism
A good beginning read into the background and information about the Kabbalah. Filled with wisdom and spiritual prose.
Jun 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This book came to me highly recommended, and that may have hurt things more than helped, as I came in with high expectations. I am by no means an expert on the Kabbalah, but I am quite familiar, and I’d be hard pressed to recommend this book to a beginner or someone looking for an introduction to Kabbalah. There is some good information contained in the book, and parts are written well, but overall it comes off as very disjointed. Anyone just starting to look into the Kabbalah would be better se ...more
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
Dale Rosenberg
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very accessible and comprehensive introduction to both Kabbalistic concepts and Kabbalistic texts in translation. Matt, one of the best known popularists of Jewish mysticism, explains basic kabbalistic concepts and practices, then presents texts, with notes, that illustrate different aspects of Jewish mysticism.

Skylar Burris
Dec 23, 2007 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
William West
This cleared up some areas of ignorance for me. I confess that prior to some recent readings on Judaism, I thought the Kabbalah was a specific book, like the Bible or Talmud, rather than a genre or tradition of spiritual writing. I also thought it goes back much farther than it does, the earliest examples not appearing till the 12th century.

These selections give the reader a clear sense of how Kabbalah has influenced twentieth century thinkers. The notion of existence as a text that is forever
Jun 09, 2008 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
Vikki Marshall
Jan 09, 2012 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
Oct 08, 2008 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
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
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