Whether one is Jewish or not, this book clearly and succinctly provides important knowledge about esoteric Jewish beliefs for those who are seeking answers to spiritual questions. The discourse on "Worlds" includes abstract but not difficult to follow ideas of how energy, thoughts, actions and feelings affect other dimensions ("worlds"). The description of the domain of angels and their interaction in the human realm is very lucid and enlightening. The mysteries of the Kabbalah are touched upon in terms of how the ten Sefirot connect to organic Reality. The mystery of life is revealed as events in our world affect the nature and quality of relations, in terms of light and power in other worlds. The importance of the study and practice of mitzvot can not be over emphasized. It is words and deeds that help illuminate our soul and bring about blessings which make the world a better place. Through human will, the inersection of all worlds occurs, because the human being has the power to change the fixed order of things. Rabbi Steinsaltz's description of that which is "Holy" is exceptionally clear. Holy means separation, that which is Holy is untouchable, distinctly "Other", and can not be understood or defined. He does however reassure us, despite the transcendental nature and distance of that which is Holy, human beings can become more receptive and open to Its influence. He connects time, space, and the soul of humans with the effects of the Sefirot in our realm, along with the performance of mitzvot. The results of all these connections and interacitons can be described as concentric circles or a helix of energy between realms. He describes how the spark of life in man, when expressed as a creative urge brings more divine influence into the world and thus expresses the image of G-d. The two last chapters, "Repentance" and "Search for Oneself" complete this discourse of how Jewish thinking views the role of mankind in connecting with the Divine expression of G-d. The Torah is seen as a plan of human action, a guide for the proper ways of thinking, behaving, dreaming and desiring in the world. The higher levels of repentance, called Tikkun, are described. The purpose of genuine Tikkun is to correct the effects of past misdeeds by creating new patterns that outweigh past wrongs. From this correction, a new condition is created, as merits are derived from past transgressions. The Jewish thinking and discourse developed by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz in this book is a wholistic framework which describes a path of self-discovery. He answers many questions asked by human beings since the beginning of time, such as, 'Why am I here?' 'What is my purpose in life?' The unique separate existence of each person is expressed in the sentence, "Myriads of sparks reflect the primal light everyone of them with its own situation, its own set of circumstances." [p.148] On the other hand, for the person who seeks to connect to the world, other human beings and ultimately G-d, this book provides a special path to follow. Erika Borsos (bakonyvilla)
With all the talk about angels lately, this book should be required reading for every Jew. In this thin but profound volume, Rabbi Steinsaltz, coming from an authentic position within both Orthodoxy and kabbalah, clearly explains the Jewish conception of angels and how they work on the four kaobbalistic levels of Action, Formation, Creation, and Emanation. Also explained is how the mitzvahs we do create new angels to raise up the universe's energy, and how a sin (heaven forbid) can drag the universal energies down. He then ties it all together by giving us a beautiful interpetation of the kiddush (wine blessing) ritual. After reading this book, you will never think of Torah as "mere laws" again!
This is an excellent book! I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to Christians who are searching for some meaning in life. This book explains what Jesus meant when he said, "In my Father's house are many mansions." It also explains what Paul meant by "seeing through a glass darkly." Since there is no doubt that both Jesus and Paul were Jewish mystics, it makes sense that explanations for their teachings can be found in Kabbalah! Excellent reading!
The introductory chapter Worlds speaks about the vast system of worlds that interacts with ours, explaining that every aspect of human existence consists of both matter and spirit. The world of action is one in a general system of four dimensions called emanation, creation, formation and action. The nature and missions of angels are examined, those who have existed from the beginning and those that are created through mitzvot. Chapter 2, Divine Manifestation, deals with continuous creation through the divine power. The Sefirot, their names and their qualities are explained. In many ways the order of the Sefirot is mechanical although the individual may cause alterations in their operation and pattern. Ultimately the relationship to the Divine is individual.
Next the concept of the Soul is explored. Each individual soul is special and unique and made up of a particular combination of different Sefirot from various dimensions. There are also different levels to the soul and it strives ever to return to its source. Chapter 4 discusses holiness with reference to the architecture of the Temple. Holiness is manifested in place and time: the hours of the day, days of the week and cycles of the month and year. The significance of holy days in this system of time is also discussed here.
The relation between Torah and the world is that of idea and actualization. Torah shows one how to relate inwardly and how to behave outwardly. The Torah regulates the whole of life, serving as a type of blueprint. The sacramental body of Knesset Israel is the inner content and closely tied to the essential holiness of the world. Israel is the priesthood of the earth with great responsibilities. Chapter 7, The Human Image, explores the prohibition against idolatry, with interesting remarks on the nature of the Hebrew language which prefers figurative and symbolic terms above abstractions. Thence the plethora of anthropomorphisms in the Bible.
Symbols are significant to every reality of existence. There is meaning in colors and their relationships, flowers and fruits, types of living creatures, kinds of plants and minerals. The central Sefirah of Tif'eret stands for the concept of beauty and is a harmonious blend of elements such as beauty, truth and compassion. The author next deals with the concept of repentance which embraces a variety of ideas fundamental to the existence of the world. It is a primordial phenomenon with two meanings, embedded in the root structure of the world and was established as an option for mankind before it was created. Repentance allows an ascendance even over time, and denotes return, turning about and response. Not just a psychological phenomenon, it effects real change in all dimensions. This is a most comforting thought.
The Search For Oneself is the subject matter of chapter 9. This is a search which cannot be compartmentalized philosophically, psychologically or scientifically. It is a process of both the individual seeking itself and God seeking man. The system of mitzvot is the design of coherent harmony, manifesting in prayer and blessing, modes of conduct at specific times, dietary regulations and relations to others. Steinzalts also discusses the Halakhah here, which is a formal structure that defines the order of mitzvot. The purpose of this system is to refrain from harmful actions and to act with the intention of improving the order of life.
Prayer, an activity blending the inner & the outer, is analyzed with reference to communal and private worship, its institutionalization, fixed schedules, the soul's need of it, preparation, concentration, study and as a service of the heart. Chapter 12 is an additional note on the Kiddush ritual. Chapter 13 concludes the book. It is an in-depth look at the Patach Eliyahu, the second introduction to the Tikkunei Zohar. First the full text is provided, and then every sentence is analyzed and discussed. This is a most beautiful and thought-provoking study and includes an illustration of the Ten Sefirot.
The Thirteen Petalled Rose is not an easy read nor immediately accessible. It requires concentration and reflection to digest the wealth and profundity of Steinsaltz' kabalistic interpretation. Understanding this classic of mysticism requires real effort and persistence but it is well worth it. I have found that the book illuminates and explains many aspects of spirituality and cosmology that I have not previously been able to reconcile or conceive of in total. As such it provided very valuable integrative knowledge.
Other works on Jewish mysticism that I have found to be illuminating: Zohar: Annotated & Explained by Daniel C Matt, The Essential Zohar by Rav P S Berg and The Truth Behind the Bible Code by Jeffrey Satinover.
I have literally given this book to at least a dozen people over the years. It is a profound instructional manual and guide to the beyond and to the here and now. Rabbi Steinsaltz is a unique thinker and a wonderful spirit for all of us, especially Jews, who often wonder: What are the underlying profound beliefs of my people. Too often,we cannot find these beliefs in the synagogue, but Rabbi Steinsaltz is more than a teacher, he is a direct path to profundity and hope.