It was the Talmud's way of warning us that over-involvement with mysticism is dangerous. Its esoteric knowledge isn't for everybody. For that very reason, the teachings of Jewish mysticism are known as Kabbalah, literally "received." These ideas were only to be received by direct word of mouth from master to disciple so that the one who transmits its information could be certain of the worthiness and the emotional maturity of the one receiving it.
In time, it was even suggested that there is a minimum age requirement for receiving this secret knowledge: No one under the age of 40 was permitted entry into the club of kabbalistic students.
QUOTABLE"Salt adds flavor to food, though it is not itself a food. The same is true of the Kabbalah. In itself it is hardly comprehensible, and it is tasteless, but it adds flavor to the Torah."
-- Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Lyadi (1747-1813), founder of the Lubovitch movement
"My Little Monster"
THE GOLEMGolem means unformed clay. The golem came alive when Rabbi Loew wrote the word for truth, emet, on his forehead. When it was time for the golem to be returned to dust, the rabbi erased the first letter, leaving on the word met--death.
The Bible Codes
More recently, another insight of Jewish mysticism that had previously been accessible only to a select few became known worldwide with the publication of a book on Bible codes. Studying the Torah by way of a special system that takes note of sequences of letters, mystics see predictions revealed, including events like the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Don't believe it? No one says that you have to. Judaism doesn't mandate belief, only action. Mysticism isn't a must; it's only for those who choose to believe in its teachings. Before you reject out of hand Kabbalah's insistence that, since the Bible has everything in it, it even predicts contemporary events, see what you make of this example:
Biblical sentences correspond to years and important moments of history are alluded to in the verses that correspond to the Hebrew year in which they take place. The State of Israel in modern times was established in the Hebrew year 5708. The 5,708th verse in the Bible is Deuteronomy 30:5. It reads: "And the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed and you shall possess it; and He will do you good and multiply you above your fathers."
Coincidence? You're a good Jew whether you believe it or not. And you're a candidate for the study of Kabbalah if you're excited by the concept.
Excited by what you know of Kabbalah so far? Read more.