Central Beliefs In Kabbalah
According to the traditional kabbalistic school of thought, all thoughts and ideas stem from the foundation that is God. Therefore, the belief in God is central to the study of Kabbalah. Traditional kabbalists hearken to the words of Maimonides as written in the work called the Mishneh Torah: "The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of all wisdom is to know that there is God who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, and the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of God's being."
In tandem with this line of thinking is the idea that since God is the creator of both spirit and matter, He cannot be either of these things. This begs the question: "what is the nature of God?" Kabbalists believe that there are two sides or aspects to God. The first aspect is known as Ein Sof. This is a Hebrew expression that translates to "endless" or "infinite." This aspect of God is not accessible to human beings and is impersonal.
The second aspect of God can be accessed by human thought, at least in part. Kabbalistic thought holds that the two divine aspects complement each other through a process of emanations. The emanations have been characterized according to various schools of thought with later systems incorporating the various models into one. The various structures used to denote these emanations are: Four Worlds, Ten Spheres (Sephirot, or Sefirot), and Faces.
The singular of the word Sephirot is Sephira. A sephira is a channel through which divine energy can flow. It is believed that during creation, the unending light that emanates from God created something that humans experience as a finite reality. The 10 Sephirot represent ten divine emanations, each possessing individual names and which represent the hidden knowledge that is called Kabbalah.
There is a school of kabbalistic thought that believes the emanations serve to link all things to God. This line of thinking, as characterized by such scholars as Moses ben Jacob Cordovero, believes that all beings are a part of a larger chain of being. Another school of thought, as recorded by the Chabad Lubavitch founder and Chassidic scholar Schneur Zalman of Liadi, holds that God is all that exists and that all exists as a part of His whole.