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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Call to the personal infinite
The book Essential Kabbalah, compiled by Daniel Matt, is a wonderful basic introduction to a very mysterious and often overlooked mystical practice. So often in popular (and even educated) opinion, Judaism of old was considered legalistic and pedantic; however, the Kabbalistic practices introduced here helped to keep alive a true tradition of spirituality through Judaism...
Published on 22 Nov. 2005 by Kurt Messick

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the uninitiated
The Kabbalah requires a great deal of contemplation upon messages hidden in its pages. In Mr. Matt's abridged version, we are given many things to ponder. However, not having read the Kabbalah in its entirety, one has to wonder if essential elements to understanding are missing. This title makes for short reading, and for those uninitiated, probably end up more...
Published on 26 July 1997


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Call to the personal infinite, 22 Nov. 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
The book Essential Kabbalah, compiled by Daniel Matt, is a wonderful basic introduction to a very mysterious and often overlooked mystical practice. So often in popular (and even educated) opinion, Judaism of old was considered legalistic and pedantic; however, the Kabbalistic practices introduced here helped to keep alive a true tradition of spirituality through Judaism (more heavily influencing Sephardic Judaism than others).
According to Prof. Lawrence Fine (one of my professors when he and I were at Indiana University): 'Kabbalah is a mystical tradition filled with radiance, vitality, and spiritual depth. [In Matt's book] we catch a glimpse of the sparks of diving life about which the kabbalists speak.'
'Those who persevere in this wisdom find that when they ponder these teachings many times, knowledge grows within them--an increase of essence. The search always leads to something new.'
Kabbalah has often been a secret, or restricted, knowledge. Some have likened it to a gnostic framework. Some kabbalists would not teach, or indeed even discuss, kabbalistic knowledge and practice with anyone under forty years of age.
'Other requirements included high moral standards, prior rabbinic learning, being married, and mental and emotional stability. The point is not to keep people away from Kabbalah, but to protect them.'
The tendency for people to get lost in spirituality, essentially to get lost in the vastness of God to be found deep within themselves, has been noted in almost every spirituality of maturity throughout history. And many has been the false prophet who entices the unwary and uninitiated into mystical territory only to abandon them there.
The similarity of some practice of Kabbalah and other mystical traditions can be seen in this passage on mental attachment:
'In meditation, everything depends on thought. If your thought becomes attached to any created thing--even something unseen or spiritual, higher than any earthly creature, it is as if you were bowing down to an idol on your hands and knees.'
Kabbalistic practices have not been restricted to Jewish practitioners, either (and I'm not talking about Madonna's recent excursion into the territory). Italian humanist Mirandola found great love for the Latin translation of Kabbalah during the Renaissance, and laid a foundation for a 'Christian' kabbalistic literature, expanded by Johannes Reuchlin and Knorr von Rosenroth (who in turn influenced the likes of Leibniz, Lessing, Swedenborg, and Blake).
Kabbalah, translated from Hebrew, means 'receiving' or 'that which is received'. Kabbalah combines philosophical principles and divine instructions, heavily influenced by Talmud and Torah, infused with a heavy dose of feminine-God imagery, to explore the mysteries of human relationship with God as both father and mother, Lord and lover. There is the tradition that 'Kabbalah conveys our original nature: the unbounded awareness of Adam and Eve.'
Around 1280, Moses de Leon of Spain began circulating literature, based on earlier uncompiled teachings, that merged with other materials into the Zohar, the book of radiance, now considered the canonical text of kabbalistic literature. The Zohar concentrates on the aspects of God in personal naming and attribute (a God-with-us) and the Ein Sof, the endless or infinite (a transcendent God). The Ein Sof incorporates the negative theology of Maimonides:
'The description of God by means of negations is the correct description--a description that is not affected by an indulgence in facile language....With every increase in the negations regarding God, you come nearer to the apprehensions of God.'
Kabbalah heavily influenced Hasidism, an eighteenth century Jewish revivalist movement. Imagery of sparks and fire are prominent in Hasidic teaching and lore; this comes often from kabbalistic texts.
Most of the passages in Matt's book are from the Zohar, translated anew by Matt.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Call to the personal infinite, 17 Oct. 2003
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism (Essential (Booksales)) (Hardcover)
The book Essential Kabbalah, compiled by Daniel Matt, is a wonderful basic introduction to a very mysterious and often overlooked mystical practice. So often in popular (and even educated) opinion, Judaism of old was considered legalistic and pedantic; however, the Kabbalistic practices introduced here helped to keep alive a true tradition of spirituality through Judaism (more heavily influencing Sephardic Judaism than others).
According to Prof. Lawrence Fine (one of my professors when he and I were at Indiana University): 'Kabbalah is a mystical tradition filled with radiance, vitality, and spiritual depth. [In Matt's book] we catch a glimpse of the sparks of diving life about which the kabbalists speak.'
'Those who persevere in this wisdom find that when they ponder these teachings many times, knowledge grows within them--an increase of essence. The search always leads to something new.'
Kabbalah has often been a secret, or restricted, knowledge. Some have likened it to a gnostic framework. Some kabbalists would not teach, or indeed even discuss, kabbalistic knowledge and practice with anyone under forty years of age.
'Other requirements included high moral standards, prior rabbinic learning, being married, and mental and emotional stability. The point is not to keep people away from Kabbalah, but to protect them.'
The tendency for people to get lost in spirituality, essentially to get lost in the vastness of God to be found deep within themselves, has been noted in almost every spirituality of maturity throughout history. And many has been the false prophet who entices the unwary and uninitiated into mystical territory only to abandon them there.
The similarity of some practice of Kabbalah and other mystical traditions can be seen in this passage on mental attachment:
'In meditation, everything depends on thought. If your thought becomes attached to any created thing--even something unseen or spiritual, higher than any earthly creature, it is as if you were bowing down to an idol on your hands and knees.'
Kabbalistic practices have not been restricted to Jewish practitioners, either (and I'm not talking about Madonna's recent excursion into the territory). Italian humanist Mirandola found great love for the Latin translation of Kabbalah during the Renaissance, and laid a foundation for a 'Christian' kabbalistic literature, expanded by Johannes Reuchlin and Knorr von Rosenroth (who in turn influenced the likes of Leibniz, Lessing, Swedenborg, and Blake).
Kabbalah, translated from Hebrew, means 'receiving' or 'that which is received'. Kabbalah combines philosophical principles and divine instructions, heavily influenced by Talmud and Torah, infused with a heavy dose of feminine-God imagery, to explore the mysteries of human relationship with God as both father and mother, Lord and lover. There is the tradition that 'Kabbalah conveys our original nature: the unbounded awareness of Adam and Eve.'
Around 1280, Moses de Leon of Spain began circulating literature, based on earlier uncompiled teachings, that merged with other materials into the Zohar, the book of radiance, now considered the canonical text of kabbalistic literature. The Zohar concentrates on the aspects of God in personal naming and attribute (a God-with-us) and the Ein Sof, the endless or infinite (a transcendent God). The Ein Sof incorporates the negative theology of Maimonides:
'The description of God by means of negations is the correct description--a description that is not affected by an indulgence in facile language....With every increase in the negations regarding God, you come nearer to the apprehensions of God.'
Kabbalah heavily influenced Hasidism, an eighteenth century Jewish revivalist movement. Imagery of sparks and fire are prominent in Hasidic teaching and lore; this comes often from kabbalistic texts.
Most of the passages in Matt's book are from the Zohar, translated anew by Matt.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful survey of traditional Kabbalah, 27 July 1997
By A Customer
Daniel C. Matt's compilation is an excellent sampling of traditional kabbalistic writings, covering a wide variety of topics in the "tradition." As a survey, it is remarkable; its translations are poetic and beautiful. However, the span of writing it covers is widely scattered, historically speaking; writings are grouped by topic, unrelated to chronology; if you're looking for a historical perspective on Kabbalah, this isn't likely to be your cup of tea. As an introductory text, though, it will provide those interested in Kabbalah's philosophy and symbolism a good survey of paths to strike out on for further investigation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read, 25 May 2011
By 
G. Campbell (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism (Essential (Booksales)) (Hardcover)
The New Age movement and many previous generations have attempted to pervert the purpose of Kabbalah...pity because this book shows the true richness of all that Kabbalah represents as another foundation of Judiac thinking and theology.

Far, far more than just an occult system...(the occult actually degrades it) this view of reality and existence has a poetry and aesthetic well worth reading about and considering alongside the less esoteric qualities of Judaism.

It takes one beyond simply the Judaic framework of thought and explores the further reaches of religious and philosophical ideas.
Well worth the read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Kaballah, 24 May 2012
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This is actually my second purchase of the same book (Essential Kaballah by Daniel C. Matt), forThe Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism (Essential (Booksales)) a friend. Before reading this book, I know absolutely nothing about Kaballah. Reading this book I have a pretty good impression about Kaballah. Highly recommended for anybody who would like to have the first impression about Kaballah: Daniel C. Matt is an excellent author. Together with this book, I also purchase Zohar (small booklet by the same author), also an excellent reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect distillation, 24 May 2015
Daniel Matt is a great Kabbalist who makes the Kabbalah accessible to modern students. This poetic and enriching volume is a 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.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the uninitiated, 26 July 1997
By A Customer
The Kabbalah requires a great deal of contemplation upon messages hidden in its pages. In Mr. Matt's abridged version, we are given many things to ponder. However, not having read the Kabbalah in its entirety, one has to wonder if essential elements to understanding are missing. This title makes for short reading, and for those uninitiated, probably end up more confused than when you started. I would suggest for those who are beginning their investigation into Jewish mysticism, an annotated work would be more helpful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 10 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism (Essential (Booksales)) (Hardcover)
good book top service
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Poetic but esoteric, 12 Nov. 2009
This is undoubtedly an intriguing book but for a comprehensive introduction to Kabbalah, e.g. for the purposes of writing an essay, there are other much more clear books. To give you a taste of the great language in this book though here is an excerpt:

"The purpose of the marriage of a woman and a man is
union.
The purpose of union is fertilisation.
The purpose of fertilisation is giving birth.
The purpose of birth is learning.
The purpose of learning is to grasp the divine.
The purpose of apprehending the divine is to maintain the
endurance of the one who apprehends with the joy of
apprehending." (p.21)

Fab, huh?
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