This deeper understanding is necessary in recognizing the vital importance of Eretz Yisrael to the Jewish people. When we speak about Kabbalah, however, we are faced with an immediate dilemma. By its very nature, something secret is beyond our immediate awareness. Inner essences are hidden from mere superficial inspection. If a person is not educated to search for deeper levels, in Torah or any other field, he surely will not find them; he will not miss them; he will not even be aware that an inner dimension exists.
Not everything in life can be rationally explained. For example, the love between two people is something much more than a list of common attractions. A marriage partner or friend may be kind, smart, trustworthy, funny, and the like, but the attraction between two people is based on intangible reasons as well.
In light of all of the technical and scientific advances of modern times, the world recognizes the existence of forces which the human eye cannot detect. Microscopes, lasers, satellites, and telescopes have opened up worlds we never knew existed. The molecules, atoms, and genetic codes which were once hidden from our eyes are now recognized as the real building blocks of the physical world around us. Similarly, disciplines like psychology and sociology have led us to discover inner blueprints for both individual man and mankind. Only after a period of intensive probing can we uncover the inner secrets which rule a large part of our lives.
This invisible foundation of life is especially true in regard to the spiritual world. For example, God is invisible to the biological eye, yet He exists all the same. We recognize His presence either through a deep contemplation on the majesty of Creation; through faith in the traditions passed down from our forefathers; or through a profound personal experience in which God enters our lives. Yet we can never describe exactly His essence for, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, and My ways are not your ways, says the Lord. For My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts are higher than your thoughts.”1
The Torah is comprised of levels, from the revealed surface understanding, called Pshat; to a more inner contemplation, called Remez; to explanations called Drash; and to esoteric secrets known as Sod. The compilation of the inner, transcendental level of Torah is called Kabbalah. Only through its knowledge can we grasp the exalted specialties of the Jewish Nation, and understand the inherent symbiosis between the Jewish People, Torah, and Eretz Yisrael. In fact, our Sages have told us that it is precisely the study of this deeper aspect of Torah which will pave the way to Israel’s Redemption.2
Beside the difficult path of learning and character refinement which a person must follow in acquiring the secrets of Torah,3 there is another reason why this branch of knowledge has remained the exclusive possession of a small number of elite Tzaddikim. Throughout the exile, the main focus of Torah learning was on the revealed, practical side of Torah alone. Gemara and Halacha were the primary topics of study. With our exile from Israel and the destruction of our national framework, the focus on the national perspective of Torah and on the Clal was displaced by a preoccupation with the individual Jew and the personal mitzvot he was commanded to perform. In the Diaspora, the private, ritual precepts were all that we had.4 The deeper, philosophical level of Torah was largely ignored. To be sure, a select line of Sages5 continued to learn Kabbalah, but their knowledge was not shared by the masses.