The word Kabbalah is the English transliteration of the Hebrew word קבלה which means receiving, receipt, reception, acceptance as well as oral tradition. The teachings of Kabbalah tell us how to fully receive the bountifulness that God is continuously giving us. And by receiving this bountifulness, we will draw nearer to God. Thus the teachings of Kabbalah constitute the soul of our traditional religious teachings.
The word וקבל is the second person masculine singular Piel imperative with conjunctive prefix of the root קבל meaning to receive, accept, or take. It occurs in Proverbs.
Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayst be wise in thy latter end. (Proverbs 19:20)
Hebrew is a holy language. Language patterns and relationships in Hebrew are not by chance. They all have spiritual meaning. There is another root with the letters קבל. It means to complain or cry out against. Why are there two roots with the same letters, one having a meaning to receive and the other to complain? Because there are two spiritual ways to relate to living: one way is to receive all that God gives; the other way is not to receive all that God gives. And if we do not receive all that God gives we will complain. We will cry out against God.
This is exactly Job's issue. After all of Job's wealth was taken from him, he was afflicted with vile sores from the soles of his feet to his crown. And his wife said to him:
Dost thou still retain thy integrity? Curse God, and die. But he said to her. Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaks. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we receive not the evil? (Job 2:10.)
Job's wife would rather not receive and, therefore, complains about his bad fortune than receive it. Job is saying to his wife that everything that happens to us happens by the hand of God. Some things have the appearance of good. Some things have the appearance of bad or evil. But whether the appearance is good or the appearance is bad we must receive it. Here Job uses the verb נקבל which is the first person plural Piel imperfect of the root קבל meaning to receive. This is Kabbalah: receiving.
God gave these teachings to Moses on Mount Sinai. They were passed on orally, generation to generation, to those people on a spiritual level ready to understand and live it.
Those people who are not on a spiritual level ready to understand and ready to learn to live in accordance with the teachings of Kabbalah will find the teachings confusing and incomprehensible. For them the teachings will make no sense and even appear to be contradictory to traditional religious teachings. But there is no contradiction. It was because of this possibility for misunderstanding that the teachings were orally and privately transmitted only to those people who were ready for it.
There are many spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical facets to receiving the bountifulness that God is continuously giving us. We begin learning about them by first learning the meaning of Kabbalah, receiving. For this we will consult the Torah, reasoning in an associative way, rather than in the logical linear way our western education has trained us. In this mode, the linear logic is not completely expressed, precisely for the reason that the level of understanding which we seek does not have a complete expression. This level is the level of wisdom, the level on which the foundation of the world is built. And this is the first and highest level for which we can have a conscious recognition of the meaning of the receiving that Kabbalah is all about.
One way to read Torah is chapter by chapter, story by story. This kind of sequential reading opens us to receive on one level of understanding. The sequence of one verse following another as in a story provides the thread that holds this kind of understanding together. The resulting understanding is more of a finite or closed understanding. To associatively understand, we read one verse and another, but these verses are not necessarily in sequence. What holds them together is the linkage of their contents. The resulting understanding is more of an infinite or open understanding. Our study will use the word gematria as this linkage.
The gematria of the word קבלה is 137: 100 for ק 2 for ב, 30 for ל, and 5 for ה. We will find in Torah words having gematria of 137 and we will understand קבלה through the verses in which they occur.
The word בקלה is the only word in the Pentateuch that has the same letters as קבלה It means unto her voice. It is a word that God uses when talking to Abraham.
In all that Sarah saith unto thee, listen unto her voice. (Genesis 21:12)
From this we learn that to receive we must first listen, for there is always something to be heard. Listening here is not listening to the chatter of various thoughts passing through our minds. Listening here is listening to the Matriarch Sarah, the one whose level of prophecy was even greater than Abraham's.
The word בפיהם has the gematria of 137 and means in their mouths. It occurs exactly once in the Pentateuch. When God tells Moses he will soon be returned to his forefathers, He tells Moses to recount the teachings to the Israelites. He says:
Now, therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 31:19)
Our mouth constitutes the opening in our bodies through which we put food. The food nourishes us. It provides us sustenance. God is telling Moses: Put these teachings in their mouths through their openings. Draw these teachings into their bodies that the children of Israel may be spiritually nourished. Draw these teachings into their minds that the children of Israel may be always conscious of them so that they may dwell in the land of milk and honey.
These teachings will be a witness for Me that I have explained how to live in the land of milk and honey and I have explained the consequences of not choosing to live in the land of milk and honey.
The word מוצא means that proceeds out of. It has the gematria of 137. God uses this word in speaking to the Israelites.
All the commandments that I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live and multiply and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God that led thee these forty years in the wilderness that He might afflict thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or not. And He afflicted thee, and suffered thee to hunger and fed thee with manna, which thou knowest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that not by bread alone doth man live, but by every thing that proceedeth out of the mouth of יהוה (The Eternally Transcendent) doth man live. (Deuteronomy 8:1-3)
This is a direct statement telling us that the food which enters our mouths and nourishes us are the words which come out of the mouth of God. It is these words by which creation continuously is. It is by these words that the spiritual life inheres in the physical world. It is to these words that we must listen.
The word ואמץ is the Kal imperative second person masculine singular with conjunction of the root אמץ, which means to be strong, vigorous, bold, valiant, or of good courage. It has the gematria of 137. Moses uses this word when he speaks with Joshua.
And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel:
Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt go with this people into the land which יהוה (The Eternally Transcendent) hath sworn unto their fathers to give them. And thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
And יהוה (The Eternally Transcendent) : He it is that doth go before thee. He will be with thee. He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee. Fear not, neither be dismayed. (Deuteronomy 31:7-8)
When we receive, we can be strong and of good courage, even if the situation is difficult, having the appearance of bad or evil. For by receiving we enter the land of milk and honey, the land that God has given us. This is our spiritual inheritance. Do not worry about the difficulty. For יהוה, The Eternally Transcendent, has gone ahead of us. That is, יהוה has arranged just the right circumstances that provide openings for us that we may ascend spiritual level upon spiritual level. God will be with us. יהוה will not fail us. יהוה will not abandon us. We need have no fear. We need not be dismayed.
The word ויחבקהו also has the gematria of 137. It means and he embraced him. The Pentateuch uses this word at the time that Jacob is about to meet his brother Esau after being apart from him for many years.
And Esau ran to meet him, and he embraced him and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept. (Genesis 33:4)
Here we learn that it is in the difficult circumstance that we will meet our Esau. Esau stands for that in us that is animal-like, that which in us is far from God. By fully receiving what God gives us in our situations, we can have even the animal part of us embrace our Jacob, who stands for that in us that is close to God. This embracing is a unification of the near to God essence with the far from God essence.
The word ונעבדה is the first person plural Qal cohortive imperfect with conjunction of the root עבד, which means to serve. It has the gematria of 137. The first time it is used in the Pentateuch was when the Israelites had just left Egypt and they were by the Sea of Reeds when they saw the army of Pharaoh marching after them. There were some among the Israelites who said:
Is not this the word that we spoke unto thee in Egypt saying:
Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?
For it is better for us to serve the Egyptians than we should die in the wilderness.
And Moses said unto the people:
Fear ye not. Stand still and see the salvation of יהוה (The Eternally Transcendent), which He will work for you today. For whereas ye have seen the Egyptians today: ye shall see them again no more forever more. (Exodus 14:12-13)
The Egyptians stand for those who live in limitation. To serve the Egyptians is to serve those who live in limitation. In the difficult circumstances of having to face the possibility of fighting the soldiers and chariots of Pharaoh, there were some among the Israelites who thought the situation was impossible. That there was no way out. Therefore, it was better for the Israelites never to have left the bondage of Egypt. But Moses says: Do not fear. Stand still and receive. See the salvation. For that level of limitation which is pursuing you, you shall see no more. In effect he says to the Israelites, there is a way out. The way out is not logical. It is not a way that you control. You need not cry out. You need not fight. You need not pray. Just let God do what needs to be done, through you.
Again the word ונעבדה is used in the section of the Pentateuch describing what prophets and people not to listen to.
If thy brother entice thee, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, that is as thine own soul, in secrecy, saying:
Let us go, and let us serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers, of the gods of the peoples that are round about you, those nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth, thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him. Neither shall thine eye pity him; neither shalt thou spare; neither shalt thou conceal him. (Deuteronomy 13:7-9)
This second verse is yet stronger. We have a choice to receive or not to receive. If we are enticed to serve other gods, then we do not receive from יהוה, The Eternally Transcendent. Other gods means idolatry. Idolatry does not mean only bowing and giving reverence to wooden statues. Idolatry means putting anything other than God first. Idolatry means having anything in our consciousness that is not connected with holiness.
We engage in idolatry when we engage our vices: for example, when we engage or activate self-satiation, anger, pride, lust, deceit, sloth, or avarice. These are the gods which we have not known. These are gods which our forefathers and foremothers have not known. These are the gods of the common culture around us. These are the gods we see people in the street serve. These are the gods that we see people on television serve. These are the gods we see many politicians serve. These are the other gods, the gods that throw us out of the land of milk and honey and into the land of limitation.