Happy Tu B'Shvat, the New Year of Trees.
BS”D Kabbalah is greater than Halacha, or is it the other way around? See, here is the deal, the skinny as we used to say on the near north side: If Kabbalah were greater than halacha, then halacha would remain important, but no longer be authoritative.
If, on the other hand, halacha were to be greater than Kabbalah, then halacha would remain authoritative (the Law), but it would be ignored and finally eliminated for lack of need. We are all one day going to be tzadikim gemurim, and perfect obedience to the Torah will be our teva, and our only occupation with be to strive in fear of the Lord, for then full knowledge of the Truth will be ours.
That is the reality, Maaseh Merkava is the great thing and the dialogues of Rava and Abbaye are the small thing. Those are the words of the Rambam. Kabbalah is the truth and halacha is a consensus.
I will give you a moshol. My father once taught me a system of how to bet the horses. It was called the widow and it worked. I used it several times and won a lot of money at Santa Anita racetrack and in Tijuana (forget the track’s name, Aqua Caliente or something like that). I know gambling is ossur according to some, but I had not yet come to the Torah. Here is how the widow works. You get the racing form, a paper about the races and what the experts are saying about the horses. They sell it at the racetrack. And it has columns written by different experts on the horses. And the main collection of experts is called consensus. They are the newspaper writers who are scattered all over the country and they ‘dope’ the horses by knowing their breeding and their past performances, etc. And then there is another column called Trackman, and he is the guy on the scene, at the track that morning and is watching the warm ups and try-outs. If Trackman picks a horse to win that consensus does not pick at all, to win, place, or show, it will have long odds and has a good chance of winning. It does not happen in every race and it might not happen at all that day, but when it does happen, you bet it big. That’s that system, and it really works. Chachmah, mamash.
And it is a moshol for Kabbalah and halacha. Kabbalah is the Trackman and Halacha is consensus. Kabbalah is on the scene with the Torah and is watching the daily warm-ups of the Giver of the Torah. Halacha is what a bunch of guys in Yechupitsville think about things based on their understandings of the Torah, which are not infallible. When they don’t know a certain horse, and Kabbalah says it is a winner, the horse is going to go off at long odds and it has a 100% certainty of winning, because the race is fixed by the Creator of the racetrack and all the horses and even the jockeys. The Creator of heaven and earth has nachat, parental pleasure, only when His children are learning Maaseh Merkava. And forget the belly full of meat or the over forty and married shtick, this is Kabbalah, not halacha. True Kabbalah comes to us from only two sources, directly from Moses who received it at Sinai from G-d and gave it over to the 70 Elders of Israel. That is the true smicha. And it was never lost, but has been transmitted from generation to generation by hidden tzadikim, 36 hidden tzadikim in Israel and 36 hidden tzadikim outside of Israel. And among these are rabbis who have written books that are accepted by all Kabbalists as essential and authoritative.
The second way Kabbalah comes to us is through a new revelation from Eliyahu HaNavi, zachur l’tov, the Prophet Elijah who reveals new Kabbalah when it happens. This is the missing ingredient in Halacha and why Kabbalah is so much greater as to virtually nullify it. There are no new revelations in the world of the Talmud. In fact, the very concept of new revelation is anathema to the Rabbinic Brotherhood, whose job was to hold down the fort until the cavalry comes, the King, the Kohanim and Leviim, the Neviim, and the Shofet (the judge). Then the Oral Torah will go back to being alive, i.e., the Etz Chaim, the Tree of Life. The Kabbalah of Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, z’l, who received it from the mouth of Eliyahu HaNavi on the banks of the River Nile during the years 1563 to 1570. It was a new revelation that was so enormous that all relevant Kabbalah that has been handed down to us since then is based on the Kabbalah of the Arizal that he received from the Prophet Elijah. This is the tradition of Mekubalim, it is a true tradition.
Among the most essential of Kabbalah seforim derivative of the Arizal’s teachings is Talmud Esser Sephirot by Rabbi Yehuda Leib HaLevi Ashlag, known as the Ba’al HaSulam. It is the Sulam’s arrangement of the Arizal’s words, primarily from Sefer Etz Chaim, his major work, as written by Rebbe Chaim Vital in Tzfat, Israel, during the years 1570-1572. Talmud Esser Sephirot basically parallels Sefer Otzrot Chaim by Rebbe Chaim Vital, zy'a, from the teachings of the Arizal, but it is easier to learn.
Sof maaseh is that Kabbalah is the Torah that our sages say will bring the Mashiach. And that is why he has not come. Because halacha is wearing garments of mourning and the king comes only in simcha. The entire rabbinate system of jurisprudence, becomes non-obligatory customs, particularly those with elements of mourning and is replaced by search for the G-d of Jacob, striving to fulfill the words of the Prophet Habakkuk 2:4, “Tzadik b’emunato, yichyeh - a righteous person lives in his faith.” The verse does not say “the faith.” It says, “His faith.” Until he makes it his faith, he is neither a tzadik nor alive.”
What might work to unify Kabbalah with Halacha is to jettison every aspect of our Jewish observances which mourn the destruction of the Temple, either the First or the Second or both, For those observances of mourning are separating us from the Shechina, Who dwells only in simcha. And that includes mourning the students of Rebbe Akiva so that the joy and power of the period of Sephira can return. And what might happen if we take the energy of mourning which leaves a bad taste in our mouths for the Temple, chas v'sholom and turn it into learning the Torah of the Third Temple, as prophesied in the last nine chapters of the Book of Ezekiel. And I am forever wondering why we are also mourning for nearly 2000 years for rabbis who were killed by the hand of Hashem for doing the wrong thing. And what if all that traditional self-mortification is turned into celebration of Redemption because the King will come only in simcha. Who is going to kick the sourness and bitterness out of our lives except the individual. But it takes guts. But it takes even more guts to delay the King from coming, for the King dwells only in joy. And that is why He tarries. May we all live to see the unification of Yosef and Yehuda and the revelation of the Mashiach and the Bet HaMikdash, the Third Temple, as prophesied in the Book of Ezekiel 37:15-23.