Mysticism: A Denial of God

Moshe Ben-Chaim

If you were given proof that mysticism is non existent, and merely a belief like the false beliefs of other religions and cultures, would you accept the proof? The intelligent answer is "Yes." God designed mankind with intellect and a primary function of intelligence is to distinguish truth from falsehood. When we are presented with 100% proof for anything, we know that all opposing views must be false. We recognize proof alone as the sole determinant of what is real. And without proof, we have no basis to accept anything, and certainly not to base our lives on mere beliefs. If, however, we do accept beliefs without proof, we must realize we may be fooling ourselves.

As Maimonides teaches, we must accept as true only that which we perceive with any of our five senses. We also accept as true what our minds tells us must be so. For example, if we see a building, we know there were once construction workers executing the plans of an architect. We need not witness the plans being drawn or the crew constructing the building. And lastly, we accept as true that which is contained in the Torah, since Revelation at Sinai is incontrovertible, and Torah's leaders who remain true to the verses are reliable. Other than these three criteria, Maimonides teaches we must not accept something as true. Maimonides' teaching is quite reasonable, since he follows God's design of the human being. God gave us senses and reasoning, and no other faculty for determining truths. This is because these faculties 'alone' are to be used in our acceptance of truths.

The Torah has no cases of mysticism. When in need, the Jews approached Moses and asked for food and water or they fought for salvation from their enemies. Never did they assume they could obtain their needs through unproven methods, what we refer to as "mysticism." We define mysticism as belief without proof. None of the Prophets accepted mysticism. When hunted by his twin Esav, Jacob prepared for battle, he prepared a bribe, and he prayed. But he did not resort to imagined beliefs in powers or amulets. Even though his life and the lives of his family were at risk, he followed a plan based on reality. He could use either might, bribe his brother's heart, or God could assist. There were no other options for Jacob. This story is recorded for good reason. When Rachel asked Jacob to give her children, he became angry for God's honor and said, "Am I in God's place?" And the Prophets throughout the books of Prophets constantly accuse the Jews of their mystical beliefs. 

Therefore, as mystical forces or beings were never witnessed, and we are in fact admonished against such beliefs, as they are incomprehensible, and as the Torah is bereft of such notions…the belief in mysticism has no basis in reality and violates Torah.

It is notable that proponents of mysticism do not live their lives based on such beliefs. They work to earn a living, as they realize money does not grow on trees, nor are there forces that make man prosperous. 

So why do so many Jews accept mysticism? 

One reason is desperation. When things go bad, a person's emotions are excited, and he or she will latch onto anything offering hope. But we must not take any lesson from people in such distorted states of mind. Writings are also extant in old books authored by Jews and even Rabbis that speak of mysticism. Jews feel what is in print, or authored by a "Rabbi" automatically renders the notion as a truth. But in any of these cases, if the idea was questioned on its own merit, it would be shown to be unsubstantiated, and even heretical. And other Jews accept mysticism simply because it has become popular in religious circles. They are afraid to disagree with the masses. Preservation of their social approval blinds them to the truth. One reader quoted the following from a book on Kabbala:

"Sefiros are filters or garments for Hashem's light.  Partzufim (Abba, Ema, Zeer, etc.) have faces and beards (Dikna), they have sexual relations, they get pregnant, and are brother and sister."  

"There seems to be a fine line between Judaism and idolatry...why is praying to God through these Names (Sefiros-Partzufim) not only permitted but is an essential part of the Kabbalistic system...".

The reader who is intelligent then asked, 

"How can these 'Partzufim' not be considered some type of polytheism?"

The reader is correct. Such notions are heretical, as they attribute physical qualities to God. It makes no difference that these notions are found in Kabbala, or authored by a famous Rabbi. These notions contain two grave errors:  1) equating God with creation; 2) assuming knowledge about God. Two Torah verses teach otherwise: “Man cannot know Me while alive (Exod. 33:20)” told to Moses. God also told Isaiah, “To what can you equate Me, and I will be similar? (Isaiah 40:25).” In both cases, God teaches that man cannot know God, nor is anything equivalent to God, in any manner. Therefore, the Kabbalistic writings quoted above deny God’s own words to Isaiah that He is not similar to anything, and His words to Moses, that He cannot be known. As we know the Torah is true, the Kabbalistic notions are false. 

The intelligent person will dismiss mystical beliefs when it comes to his or her Judaism, just as one dismisses such beliefs when to comes to practical matters of earning a living. Regarding the latter, we rely on real considerations to assure us that we obtain a steady job from a reliable and trustworthy employer. We do not select a job based on horoscopes or astrology. 

The point is, that just as we recognize reason and proofs to be the only considerations regarding practical matters, we must approach religious life identically. If we do not, then we live a lie, and not as God designed us. Remember, God gave us five senses and intelligence. This is because He desires us to live in line with what is perceivable and reasonable. Clearly, the Creator does not wish man to accept that which is baseless or imagined. Otherwise, these faculties would be of no use.

It is vital that you examine God's creation of the human being and take a lesson for determining your beliefs. Surely, God's specific design of man is for a reason. And if we ignore the lesson of our design, we in fact deny God to that degree.

As I have done time and again over the years, I once again urge teachers and Rabbis to include required classes on Jewish philosophy in your curriculum. The only method to correct the trend towards mysticism is to offer students our Prophets' and Rabbis' words on the truth of Jewish ideas. Please contact me and I will provide source material to assist you.