[This article was first published in the Christian Research Journal, Vol. 28, No. 02, 2005. For this CANA online version, endnotes were moved into the body of the text to enable the reader to more easily see the sources. There are some minor variations between this version and the edited version published by Christian Research Journal.]
We are stardust, We are golden,
We are billion-year-old carbon,
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.
From “Woodstock,” Joni Mitchell
For a short while in 2004, Target discount stores were selling a red string bracelet as part of a Red String Package for $25.99. The source of this bracelet was the Kabbalah Centre in Los Angeles (Heather Svokos, “Kabbalah bracelets strung up in serious religious debate,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug 18, 2004). Called a bendel, it has adorned the wrists of stars like Madonna and Britney Spears, both of whom have been studying this form of Jewish mysticism at the Kabbalah Center (various spellings for Kabbalah include Qabala, Kabballa, Kabala, and others). An authentic bendel has been cut from a long string wrapped seven times around the tomb of the biblical matriarch Rachel in Bethlehem (Svokos). Wearing this purportedly brings protection and luck. The Kabbalah Centre also sells Kabbalah water, supposedly charged with “positive energy” (William F.Stenmetz, “Kabbalah secrets on the Main Line,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 31, 2003).
The Kabbalah Centre, run by Rabbi Philip Berg (who writes as Rav P. S. Berg), has at least fifty locations around the world, and has distributed millions of books translated into twenty languages (Michael Berg, The Secret [NY, NY: The Kabbalah Centre, 2004], 89). One of Berg’s sons, Rabbi Yehuda Berg, authored The Power of Kabbalah and The 72 Names of God: Technology for the Soul (Kabbalah Publishing, 2003). Rabbi Michael Berg, Berg’s other son, is editor of the 22 volumes of the Zohar, the sacred text of the Kabbalah, and has written books as well, including The Secret and Becoming God. A promotional quote from page 16 of this book, released in September, 2004, states: “The truth is, we are destined to become God but pose as ants, indifferent to the ghastly spread between what we are and what we could be.”
According to Yehuda Berg, more than 18,000 students are enrolled in Kabbalah Centre classes in the United States, and another 90,000 are “active members.” The organization’s Web site is visited by 90,000 people monthly”(Debra Nussbaum Cohen, “Jewish Mysticism Goes POP,” New York Times, Dec 15, 2003).
Berg has popularized Kabbalah, and some say, commercialized it, offering it to anyone willing to study. Traditionally, Kabbalah is studied only by married Jewish men over the age of 40 who have studied the Torah (Remsen). However, the Kabbalah was already riding a wave into mainstream culture via other writers such as Rabbi David Cooper, whose book, God Is A Verb, was a bestseller in the late 1990’s, and Kabbalah scholar Daniel C. Matt.
What is Kabbalah?
Kabbalah is a body of mystical and esoteric beliefs based on commentaries on the Torah, the first five books of Hebrew Scripture (Genesis to Deuteronomy). The term Kabbalah comes from a Hebrew root word, kbl, “to receive” (Rabbi David A. Cooper, God is A Verb [NY: Riverhead Books, 1997], 11). According to Jewish Talmudic teachings, the secrets of the Kabbalah are to be “carefully controlled” (Cooper, vii). Rabbi Cooper says that Jewish mysticism satisfies a need for a “connection with the great unknown; we want to experience the secrets of other realities and the meaning of life” (Cooper, viii). The Kabbalah “discusses angels and demons, souls’ journeys after death, reincarnation, resurrection, and the goal of achieving messianic consciousness,” topics which make some Jewish teachers uncomfortable (Cooper, viii).
Kabbalah “predates and transcends” any religion or nation, according to Philip Berg of the Kabbalah Centre (Rav P. S. Berg, The Essential Zohar [NY: Bell Tower, Crown Publishing Group: 2002), 61, 211]. It is not about “rote obedience of laws and commands,” but is rather a spiritual tool to enable us to regain unity with God, “to reenter the Eden from which we were exiled” (Berg, 4). “Linear, mechanistic” ways of “rational thought” need to be set aside in order to fully grasp Kabbalah teachings (Berg, 3). Yehuda Berg states that Kabbalah is the “hidden wisdom” that has been kept secret for centuries but now this teaching is coming into the open for a society fraught with social and spiritual problems (Yehuda Berg, The Power of the Kabbalah [Kabbalah Centre International, 2001], xix, xxv, xxvi).
The Zohar: A many splendored puzzle
The Kabbalah is a body of teachings that incorporates many writings, but the fundamental text of the Kabbalah is the Sefer ha-Zohar, commonly called the Zohar, which means “The Book of Radiance” or “the Book of Splendor.” This multi-volume text recounts conversations between legendary rabbis interspersed with commentaries on the hidden meanings of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures. The entire scriptures are considered a code, an “encrypted document” with hidden meaning, which must be discovered (decoded) and interpreted (P. Berg, 61, 211: Y. Berg, 46-47).
Matt states that the Zohar is a commentary on the Torah, “written in the form of a mystical novel,” that reveals the deeper level of meanings in the Torah (Daniel C. Matt, Zohar: Annotated and Explained [Woodstock, VT: Skylights Path Publishing, 2002], xxi). One method of discovering the deeper or “secret” meanings of words in the Torah is through gematria. There are several variations of gematria, but essentially it is a system in which each Hebrew letter is assigned a numerical value and certain procedures are performed using these numbers in order to “decode” the underlying message of the text (Cooper, 52-53).
Cooper, like Matt, teaches that the Torah can be studied on four levels, represented by the acronym P-R-D-S, which stands for pardes, meaning an orchard or garden. The P is for p’shat and represents the literal level; the R is for remez, meaning the metaphors, allegories, and parables of the text; the D is drosh, which is using additional material to interpret the text; and S is samekh, the “secret, hidden meanings that offer insights into the structure of the universe”(Cooper, 47). This deepest level is very difficult and can only be grasped after “considerable study” (Cooper, 50). The Torah is seen as a coded book that contains all the “wisdom of creation” (Cooper, 53).
The earliest teaching of the Kabbalah is The Book of Formation, allegedly revealed by the Creator to Abraham around 2000 B.C. (P. Berg, 5; Y. Berg, 232). Yehuda Berg claims that both The Book of Mormon and the Koran cite this book, and that wisdom from this teaching went East and developed the religions we know today as Hinduism and Zen Buddhism (Y. Berg, 232).
The next foundational piece was the 10 Commandments given to Moses. However, supposedly these were not really commandments but allegedly a code for the Ten Sefirot, which are emanations or aspects of God’s nature. According to Yehuda Berg, Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle were influenced by the early Kabbalah before its full revelation was given to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai around 160 A.D., when he revealed the full body of knowledge in the Zohar, which explained the secrets of The Book of Formation (Y. Berg, 234, 236). Shimon’s master was the legendary Rabbi Akiva, a figure referred to often in Kabbalah teachings.
Allegedly concealed for centuries, Zohar manuscripts in Aramaic were uncovered by the Spanish Kabbalist Moses de Leon in the 13th century. He claimed to have copied these manuscripts, which contained symbolism, “invented words,” and “erotic symbolism” (Matt, xxiv ). It is believed, however, that Moses de Leon wrote some of the text, perhaps with other kabbalists; parts of the Zohar may have been transmitted through automatic writing, a technique not unknown to kabbalists who meditated on a divine name of God, went into trance, and then wrote down words as their hands were guided (Matt, xxiv). Further revelation came in the 16th century with the commentary of Rabbi Isaac Luria, known as The Ari, or “Holy Lion.” Luria’s teachings became the “definitive school of Kabbalistic thought” (Y. Berg, 241). Other students of the Kabbalah, according to Yehuda Berg, were Dr. John Dee, royal astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I, and Sir Isaac Newton (Y. Berg, 241-42, 245).
Matt states that the Zohar has many unknown words, puzzles, grammatical mistakes, oxymorons, puns, parables, and contradictory statements, forcing the reader to search for the meaning and to examine normal assumptions about God and about one’s self (Matt, xxv). The Zohar itself is believed to have a mystical effect on the world when its teachings are revealed. When one learns to use the tools of Kabbalah, “we reveal Light in the world and hasten the return to Eden” (P. Berg, 118).
The Creator and creation: light and vessels
In Kabbalah, the Creator is Ein Sof, which literally means “endless” (Matt, xxiii ). What we know as God is actually one of the higher emanations of Ein Sof, since, according to Matt, Genesis 1:1 actually says, “With beginning, It [Ein Sof] created God” (Matt, 12). Ein Sof pervades all creation, so that even a stone has divinity; Deity pervades all existence (Daniel C. Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism [NY: HarperCollins Publishers, HarperSanFrancisco, 1995], 24; Will Parfitt, The Elements of the Kabbalah [NY: Barnes & Noble, 1991], 68).
Various accounts of creation are given One is that Ein Sof emanated a spark, “from which emerged and radiated all light” and this constituted the upper world. A lower world was created from a light “without brightness,” which represents a lower consciousness (Cooper, 35).
Another account explains that the physical world came about from a spark, which expanded and gave birth through various points or emanations of the divine being, with Ein Sof descending through these points until the physical world resulted. According to some commentators, this original light was hidden in the Garden of Eden; according to others, it was hidden in the Torah (Matt, 14, 16).
Another source states that there was originally energy, a Light whose essence was joy and fulfillment. In order to share this essence, the energy created a Vessel, which had an infinite desire to receive. The Vessel, however, received some of the Creator’s desire to share. This tension between a desire to give and a desire to receive shattered the Vessel, and the Light withdrew. This caused the cosmological big bang, from which matter emanated. The Light stepped back to allow the Vessel “time and space in which to evolve its own divine nature” (Y. Berg, 61).
According to Rabbi David Cooper, Ein Sof “should not be called Creator, Almighty, Father, Mother, Infinite, the One, Braham, Buddhamind, Allah, Adonoy, Elohim, El, or Shaddai,” and “should never be called He”(Cooper, 65). These names are merely aspects of Ein Sof; we can only know Ein Sof in ways that transcend thought (Cooper, 67-68).
The Book of Formation teaches that the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are “energy” and “frequency patterns” which were helped to mediate creation. These letters are antenna that “arouse and harness the energy of the universe” (P.S. Berg, 5; Y. Berg, 185). Meditating on, reciting, or merely scanning these letters with one’s eyes, creates a channel between the Light of the Creator and one’s soul, and thus creates an internal change within the soul (Y. Berg, 193).
According to Michael Berg, we receive Light by learning to share. We reconnect with the Light and are thus able to become vessels of Light. We must become like the Creator in our essence, by changing from receiving to sharing, and thus attain fulfillment and joy (M. Berg, 36, 51). He states that sharing is not a matter of good deeds, righteousness, or enlightenment, but brings us fulfillment through acting in “self-interest in the highest sense” (M. Berg, 36, 52). Phillip Berg writes that we must have the desire to “receive in order to share” so that the Vessel will be able to receive the Creator’s Light “in full force” (P. Berg, 59, 246). Our actions in the physical world create “channels that connect us to the Divine” (P. Berg, 59, 246).
There seem to be some parallels between this teaching and the emphasis in Gnosticism on the remote, unknowable divine being and on the Light. In one Gnostic account, wisdom sends her daughter, Eve, to awaken Adam, who has no soul, so that “his descendants might become vessels of the light” (Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism, trans. R. McL. Wilson et al. [Leipzig, Germany: Koehler & Amelang, 1977; Edinburgh; T. & T. Clark, 1984; New York: HarperSanFrancisco and HarperCollins Publishers, 1987], 98).
The Tree of life: A Tree of light
Another core teaching of Kabbalah is the Tree of Life, which represents the 10 emanations and aspects of the Deity, Ein Sof (also called Ain Soph). Some writers refer to Ein Sof by name; others use the term “God,” though these two are not always considered the same depending on what is meant by the term “God”. This Tree is graphically illustrated as an inverted tree with the root (the first point) at the top, growing downward into three “branches” that each have three points (see illustrations here and here). The points on the right represent masculine, positive energy; the ones on the left are feminine, negative energy; and the middle points balance those on the right and left (P. Berg, 16). It is also illustrated as a chart of 10 interconnected points laid out in this same fashion. The divine Light becomes less bright as it travels down through these emanations toward the bottom point.
These emanations were a “primal beginning” (Matt, Zohar, xxiii) and are called the ten sefirot (sefira in the singular). The sefirot represent the model of man’s original nature (Matt, Zohar, xxvi). From the top down, the first one is Keter (crown), which adorns the head of Adam, made in the image of God. The next two are Hokhmah (wisdom) on the right and Binah (understanding) on the left (spellings may vary; for example, Hokhmah can also be found as Chochmah ). Binah is the womb, the “Divine Mother,” who conceives the seven lower sefirot (P. Berg, 18; Matt, Zohar, xxvi). These seven lower sefirot, according to some, represent lower or ordinary consciousness and what happens in the physical world (Cooper, 91).
The lower seven points are, in order downward: first, on the right, Hesed (or Chesed; loving kindness, also known as Gedullah, greatness), and on the left, Gevurah (judgment, strength); in the middle as a balance is Tiferet (beauty), son of Hokhmah and Binah. Second, on the right is Netsah (victory or eternity) and on the left, Hod (splendor), both being the source of prophecy; in the middle is the ninth sefira, Yesod (foundation), which represents the phallus, the “procreative life force of the cosmos” (Matt, Zohar, xxvii).
Finally, the tenth point at the bottom and in the middle is Malkhut (kingdom), a manifestation of the material universe where we live (P. Berg, 20). Gevurah, also known as Din, the fifth emanation, is the beginning of physicality, and associated with this sefirah is the archangel Samael, known as the Adversary. Gevurah can thus be destructive (P. Berg, 20).
Philip Berg states that it is at the point of Malkhut (which he spells Malchut) that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil “sinks its roots in a mirror image of the Tree of Life” (P. Berg, 21). On the other hand, Matt calls this point Shekhinah, the divine feminine, and states that the union of the lower Shekhinah with the upper Tiferet is the goal of spiritual life, and is seen in the human marriage bonds (Matt, Zohar, xvii; the breaking of this male-female tie is considered by some to be Adam’s sin).
Shekhinah is frequently spoken of in books on the Kabbalah as the “Divine Feminine or the feminine face of God” (Andrew Harvey and Anne Baring, The Divine Feminine [Berkeley: Godsfield Press, 1996], 86), “the female aspect of the Light” (P. Berg, 87), or as the feminine “Divine Presence” (Matt, Zohar, 8). The Shekhinah is also referred to as the Apple Orchard or the Mystical Garden of Eden (Harvey, 89).
Kabbalah teaches that God’s blessings flow to the world through the Tree of Life when there is ethical behavior among humans; evil actions disrupt the union of the sefirot and empower demonic activity. God and humankind are interdependent. God needs man in order to manifest God’s attributes in the world (Matt, Zohar, xxix). Matt writes that man is to be a vessel for God’s power and creativity, and that without us, God is incomplete and cannot realize the divine “design in and for the world” (Matt, Zohar, xvi). Thus, we are “co-creators with “God Itself” (Matt, Zohar, xvi).
According to Kabbalah, a person must metaphorically and spiritually ascend the 10 points of the Tree of Life to reunite with the Divine. As one increases his or her spiritual capabilities, one increases the capacity to contain more of the Light pouring down through these 10 emanations, and so draws nearer to the Creator as he or she ascends (P. Berg, 15). Thus, the Tree of Life both symbolizes the Divine Being, and offers the way back for humans to be reunited with the source from whence he came. Kabbalah, according to one writer, is not about worship or belief, but rather “becomes a direct path of communion between the individual and the Divine” (Harvey, 86).
This descent of Light into materialism and the need to return to the Light is very Gnostic, as are the emanations of God. The Tree of Life and the sefirot have been used in New Age and occult teachings, and aligned with occult tools such as the Tarot. Indeed, the Kabbalah has been a basis for Western occult teaching for several centuries, though it should be noted that many Kabbalists and traditional Kabbalist rabbis do not sanction such activity.
In the garden: The shattering of vessels
In Kabbalah, Adam and Eve are viewed as symbols of male and female energy, and as metaphor for the “primordial Vessel whose existence” came before creation, thus encompassing all the souls of humanity to come (Cooper, 43; P. Berg, 245-46). The presence of the Serpent, considered a fragmenting force, was necessary for creation; otherwise, all would unite with God (Cooper, 87). This gave man the opportunity of earning the Light on his own (Y. Berg, 217).
One of the hidden meanings of the story is that there are two Gardens of Eden, one above, and one below, and reuniting these two Gardens is the goal of humankind (Y. Berg, 51). Yehuda Berg believes that the forbidden fruit was a sexual act between Eve and the Serpent (Y. Berg, 49, 56). Another writer interprets the sin as Adam driving out the Shekhinah by eating only from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and not from the Tree of Life, thus separating Shekhinah from her “husband,” Tiferet, and separating consciousness from unconsciousness (Matt, Zohar, 18). This act caused Adam and Eve to lose their garments of light and fall into a lower physical form, becoming clothed with garments of animal skin (Matt, Zohar, 48).
Philip Berg’s interpretation of the fall is that Adam and Eve chose with good intentions to have more Light, since this is what the Serpent offered. This choice was wrong, but because the Serpent’s temptation enhanced the difficulty of their choice, it was also worthy (P. Berg, 246-47). This sounds contradictory, but Berg explains that evil comes from God and serves the Creator. Cooper says that everything, including evil, has divine nature (Cooper, 160). Adam and Eve took a second bite of the fruit, done out of self-serving motives, thus short-circuiting their ability to receive the fullness of the Creator’s Light and thus moving them back to the material level with a knowledge of death and evil (P. Berg, 118, 248-49). God’s command that Adam must now work the land was not literal; rather, it meant that he must “rebuild the Vessel of yourself through your own work in the world” (P. Berg, 119).
Death as the result of disobeying God in the garden, according to Cooper, is not punishment but “the reality of a creation that has duality” (Cooper, 248). Death is merely separation “merging back into Oneness” (Cooper, 248).
In Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is like a fountain of God’s light, flowing ever downward. This was free flowing in the Garden of Eden, but humankind has disrupted this flow and is in shattered vessels, which it must rebuild on his own. The garden must be regained.
The art of correction and redemption
As in the Eastern religions, Kabbalah teaches reincarnation, the belief that we die and are reborn, living many lives, ever seeking to advance spiritually. We are in a process of repairing our broken vessels, which may take many lifetimes. This process of reparation and “mending the world through intense soul-work and acts of creative love and justice” is called tikkun, and is also referred to as “healing” or “correction” (Matt, xi; Cooper, 249).
Kabbalists believe that a wise soul, called a Tzaddik, is able to affect the Upper World and help bring more light into creation; the patriarchs were such people (P. Berg, 156-64; 193). When a critical mass of humanity spiritually advances, it tips the scale in favor of all humanity, and will bring us back to a connection with the immortality we had before the fall (P. Berg, 244; also Y. Berg, 220). We all have sparks of the Divine and are shards, albeit broken ones, of the original Vessel in the Garden. We can fix ourselves, regain what was lost, and reverse the Fall for all of humanity (P. Berg, 139, 249-251). All will be readmitted to Paradise (P. berg, 121). Our days spent doing good deeds are “woven into a garment of splendor that will clothe the soul as she enters God’s presence in the world to come” (Matt, Zohar, 46).
On the practical level, the Kabbalah teaches a person how to climb the Tree of Life, the branches of which are like the “rungs on a ladder to enlightenment” (Matt, Zohar, 120). Cooper explains that there are three ways to ascend to higher consciousness: study and scrutiny of behavior; seclusion, contemplation, and soul-searching; and having a constant awareness of the implications of everything one does (Cooper, 171-72). Any action in the universe affects the rest of the universe; thus we are to be mindful of our actions (Cooper, 179).
Yehuda Berg gives detailed advice on overcoming selfish, reactive behavior with unselfish, proactive behavior. In fact, Berg considers Satan a code word for the “ego-driven, reactive behavior” in which we seek to receive for the self-alone; this we must avoid (Y. Berg, 109, 117). He offers several principles for being proactive such as: never blaming others or external events; remember that obstacles are an opportunity to connect to the Light; internal change is created through the Hebrew alphabet; and the negative traits one sees in others are reflections of one’s own negative traits (Y. Berg, throughout the book but summarized on 230-31).
Yehuda Berg also teaches the Certainty Principle. Using the story of the exodus as an example, he explains that God did not part the Red Sea; instead, Moses and the people proceeded with certainty and this gave them the power to part the waters. When one overcomes one’s reactive nature, one will be given the ability to overcome the natural laws, but one must act with certainty (Y. Berg, 173). Berg also explains that one of the tools Moses used was the 72 names of God, a sequence of letters that gave him “access to the subatomic realm of nature” (Y. Berg, 195).
One must accept responsibility for everything in our lives, according to Philip Berg, even our own death (P. Berg, 120). We “print our own ticket” to Paradise through our individual work (P. Berg, 121). Michael Berg advises one to rediscover who we truly are, to realize we must share in order to take on the Creator’s essence. By doing this, we will bring about the world’s transformation, and can even bring about the end of pain, suffering, and death itself (M. Berg, 51-52; 90-91). According to Philip Berg, this final transformation will happen upon the arrival of the Messiah (P. Berg, 162).
Kosher Kabbalah: The critics and the hype
The Kabbalah Centre has been severely criticized by some Orthodox Jewish rabbis for commercializing and undermining the teachings of the Kabbalah. The Bergs teach men and women of all ages and faith backgrounds, who have little or no knowledge of the Torah, and they do a brisk business of selling books and other products. The publicity has led many to decry the Kabbalah Centre as pop-culture Kabbalah. To compare the popular Kabbalah Centre with the real thing “is the relationship between pornography and love,” according to Adin Steinsaltz, a Hasidic rabbi in Jerusalem (Cohen). Another rabbi said the difference was similar to the difference between Barney and a pre-historic dinosaur (Elihu Salpeter, “Pop Kabbalah,” July 14, 2004; no longer online).
The Bergs and others respond that we are living in times when kabbalists need to share this wisdom so that humanity can face its challenges (Matt, Zohar, xi; P. Berg, 249, 263; Y. Berg, 218). One rabbi, who is not affiliated with the Bergs, writes that revealing the secrets of the Kabbalah can create the “potential of a paradigm shift that will change our very thought process and our relationship with the Divine” (Cooper, viii).
What also has seemingly incensed so many rabbis is the superstar connection with those like Madonna, giving the appearance of a celebrity culture merrily partaking of an ancient wisdom. Orthodox rabbis consider Kabbalah to be a sacred treasure that should be approached with reverence and respect. They claim this attitude is sorely lacking in those associated with the Kabbalah Centre.
The Kabbalah Centre’s connection to celebrities and its commercialization of Kabbalah products have made it a more visible target of criticism (the Kabbalah Centre and the controversy surrounding it was featured in a 20/20 television program aired in June, 2005). The method of teaching and the public availability, even aside from the commercialization, is likely a key factor in producing the discomfort of the orthodox rabbis.
It should be noted, however, that the Kabbalah Centre is not the first to offer Kabbalah outside its usual tradition. Teachings on the Kabbalah prior to the Kabbalah Centre’s popularity have been available to the general public since the latter half of the twentieth century, including several books mentioned in this article. In the mid-1980’s, an organization where I taught astrology offered a popular two-year course on Kabbalah.
A Response: Esoteric versus Clear Revelation
Ein Sof is considered remote and unknowable, and the Tree of Life is believed to be a revelation of Ein Sof’s attributes. The biblical God, however, is not remote; He is intimately involved with His creatures and has revealed His attributes through nature, His Word, and Christ (Romans 1:20; Hebrews 1:1; John 14.9), not through mysterious puzzles.
Kabbalah presents Ein Sof’s attributes more as abstract principles than personal qualities. The God of the Bible, however, is revealed as having personal attributes; He can think, feel, and will (Psalm 147:5; 116:15; Rev. 4.11), and He relates to His creatures (humans) in whom He has also placed those personal attributes (Gen. 1.26-27).
Ein Sof’s attributes are said to be dualistic (male and female) and opposites are balanced within Ein Sof. The biblical God does not unite opposites. He is one (Deut. 6.4); He is a perfect unity of righteousness, justice, truth, mercy, and love, but these do no coexist in balance with their opposites within God. First John 1:5 clearly states that “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” and that the God of truth “cannot lie” (Titus 1.2).
Ein Sof is incomplete, since he needs man in order to complete his plan. But an incomplete God is an imperfect God, and cannot be God at all. If God is the standard for righteousness, He must be perfect and complete. The God of the Bible existed from all eternity (Gen. 1.1; Col. 1.17) in complete perfection in Himself (Exod. 3.14; Matt. 5.48; Acts 17.25). His creation of man was not out of necessity, but for His pleasure (Rev. 4.11).
Kabbalah teaches that the Torah is encoded with hidden meanings. In contrast, historic Christian interpretation assumes that God communicated the Torah to Moses in a normal fashion, and that the text says what it appears to say; there is no concealed meaning. Understanding ancient Hebrew grammar, history, culture and literary style is a sufficient method of interpreting the text. Seeking hidden meanings is a hallmark of gnosticism and occultism. Such a method can lead to imposing any foreign meaning on a text that one wishes. Furthermore, this implies that the Torah is insufficient revelation, since the Zohar is needed to uncover its meaning; thus, the additional revelation (the Zohar) is more complicated than the Torah itself! An esoteric text does not clarify a plain text. The God who created humans is able to communicate sufficiently to them in the Torah; no special key to unlock its meaning is needed.
The Kabbalah is essentially gnostic; that is, one must learn the spiritual secrets of the Torah through the cryptic and intricate Zohar, and then advance through knowledge and actions. This is in strong contrast to Biblical, orthodox Christianity, which is essentially relational and is based on a clear, direct revelation from a personal God and on the historical death and resurrection of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. We do not need to delve into esoteric realms to find the truth; truth is readily found in God’s word, and was declared by the Messiah, Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Nor do we earn redemption by works, but rather redemption is offered through the atonement of Christ. When one trusts Christ, one knows God, and is adopted by Him as a child (Galatians 4.5; Ephesians 1.5).
In Kabbalah, The Shekinah is sometimes called Eden, and the Torah is the Garden where God hid the light. By becoming vessels of light, we can regain Eden. In contrast, the Bible teaches that it is God who will redeem all creation, making it a “new heaven” and a “new earth” (Isaiah 66.22; 2 Peter 3.13). This redemption began with Christ’s death on the cross, and was the greatest tikkun of all. His work provided healing, that is, redemption, for all who trust Christ and ultimately for the whole physical creation (Romans 8:21-23) and complete redemption of our bodies (1 Cor. 15.12ff) and of physical creation is in the future after Christ’s return.
In trusting Christ, we are reconciled with our Creator, delivered from His wrath on sin, and gain a relationship with God, who loves us (John 3:16; Romans 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19). Light versus darkness is a theme in both the Kabbalah and the Bible. The true light, however, is not in the Tree of Life, but in Christ, who proclaimed, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8.12).