The Need to Learn Kabbalah

Zohar                                    The Arizal
Rabbi Avraham Azulai                Ramchal
Vilna Gaon                              The Baal Shem Tov
The Ben Ish Chai                      Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzeira
Rabbi Yehuda Leib Ashlag          
The Leshem (Rabbi Shlomo Eliyashiv)
Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook


Zohar

In the merit of the study of this book - the book of the Zohar - the Jewish People will leave the Exile in a merciful manner.  - Zohar, Parashat Naso, 124b

At this time [the Messianic Era]...a spirit will go out and will not return - this is the spirit of Moshiach.  Woe to those who cause him to depart and leave the world, never to return!  These are those who make the Torah as a dry [barren] place and do not desire to involve themselves in the wisdom of the Kabbalah.  Woe to those, who bring about poverty and war and disgrace and murder and destruction in the world.  -  Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 30

The letters of the word “Bereishit" ("In the Beginning...”  Gen. 1:1) can be rearranged to read "atar yavesh", which means "a river [i.e., Torah] destroyed and dry".  At that time when it is dry, the children below scream out in unison and say "Shema Yisrael!”  - yet there is no sound and no answer.  This is regarding he who causes Kabbalah and wisdom to depart from the Oral Torah and the Written Torah and causes others to not attempt [to understand] them, saying that there is nothing but the simple meaning [peshat] in the Torah and Talmud.

Certainly [they are] as if they cause the [divine] flow to depart from this garden and river [above].  Woe to him - it would have been better that he had not been created in the world and not learned any Oral Torah, for it is considered as if he has returned the world to formlessness and chaos and causes poverty in the world and a lengthening of the period of exile.  - Tikunei Zohar, Tikun 43


The Arizal

A person does not completely fulfill his obligation [to study Torah] by involving himself with Tanach, Mishnah, Aggada, and the Babylonian Talmud.  Rather, one is obligated to involve himself to the best of his ability in the secrets of the Torah and the Work of the Chariot, for there is no greater pleasure for G‑d in all the creation than when His children below involve themselves in the secrets of Torah - to know His greatness, His beauty, and His supremacy.  - Introduction to Etz Chaim

My master, of blessed memory, used to say that regarding a person who is very sharp and quick-witted in in-depth study [of Talmud]; it is good for him to study one or two hours a day and not more - in order to smash the husks [kelipot].  However, regarding a person who has difficulty with in-depth [Talmud] learning, it is better to probe the inner aspect of the thing, i.e. the fruit, rather than the husk.  [This means] in-depth study and involvement in Midrash, Aggada, and, in particular, the Zohar and [other] books of Kabbalah.  - Pri Etz Chaim, Shaar Hanhagat Halimud


Rabbi Avraham Azulai

Behold, without knowing the wisdom of the Kabbalah, one is like a beast...because he performs the mitzvot without the reason/taste of the mitzvot, only performing the mitzvot like "scholarly" people.  Moreover, they resemble beasts that eat hay, which does not have the flavor of food meant for humans.  In addition, even if one is very involved in business matters and very preoccupied, he should not exempt himself from occupying himself in this wisdom [Kabbalah].  You should try to carve out some time from your daily activities each day in order that time will remain for immersing in this wisdom, because it is the foundations of the Torah.  You are not exempt from the Inner Torah [i.e. Kabbalah], because, without it, a person is an ox who eats straw.

I have found it written that all that has been decreed Above forbidding open involvement in the Wisdom of Truth [Kabbalah] was [only meant for] the limited time period until the year 5,250 (1490 A.D.).  From then on after is called the "Last Generation and what was forbidden is [now] allowed.  In addition, permission is granted to occupy [ourselves] in the [study of] Zohar.  And from the year 5,300 (1540 A.D.) it is most desirable that the masses, both those great and small [in Torah], should occupy themselves [in the study of Kabbalah], as it says in the Raya M'hemna [a section of the Zohar].  And because in this merit King Moshiach will come in the future - and not in any other merit - it is not proper to be discouraged [in the study of Kabbalah].


Ramchal

Regarding he that cries out all day in prayers and in the Shema Prayer and yet doesn't know the secret of unification - to unite Your Name properly, it is said: "Then shall they call upon Me, but I will not answer; they will seek me early but will not find me, for they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord.”  (Proverbs 1:28-29)  Therefore, "why do you cry to Me?" (Ex. 14:15)

But those masters [students] of Kabbalah ascend above and connect [to You] with a bond of faith in order to draw forth divine good will from before You, and immediately the ocean [of blessing] splits open before them...and all your mysteries are revealed before them....And this is the Wisdom of Truth [Kabbalah] which reveals Your Truth in the world.  - 516 Tefillot, #198


Vilna Gaon

He that is able to understand secrets of the Torah and does not try to understand them will be judged harshly, may G‑d have mercy.  -Even Shlema 8:24

The Redemption will only come about through learning Torah, and the essence of the Redemption depends upon learning Kabbalah.  -Even Shlema 11:3

All those who do not understand the secret meaning [behind something], do not grasp even the simple meaning.  - commentary on Proverbs 5:18

The Evil Urge is unable to overcome all who occupy themselves in the hinting and secret [levels of Torah].  - Ibid.


Baal Shem Tov

In this generation, that of "the Heels of Moshiach,” the Arizal and the Baal Shem Tov have said that it is a mitzvah to reveal hidden aspects of the Torah and supernal secrets in order to burn the "thorns from vineyard".  - Notzar Chesed 84:6

The redemption of Israel and all the worth of Israel is dependent on the learning of the Zohar...

The Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory, used to encourage those serious about serving G‑d to learn every day from the Tikunei Zohar (a primary source text of Kabbalah).  - Derech Emunah in the introduction to the commentary on Psalms


Ben Ish Chai

Listen, those that can hear, and understand, those with intelligence, to that which the sages have told us and that which they have cautioned and informed every Jew: to come close to the Holy by involvement in the secrets of Torah and her hidden aspects.  "[For] it is a Tree of Life to those that grasp it.”  - Introduction to Daat U'tvunah


Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzeira

There is no joy like that of rejoicing in the knowledge of the Torah's secret wisdom, for this is the main reason that the soul comes into This World.  - Shaarei Arucha, 47

As long as a man does not know the Torah's secret wisdom, he walks in darkness, like a blind man in a chimney.  When one knows this wisdom, he emerges from darkness into light.  - Maaglei Tzedek, 121

A man's knowledge is not settled nor widened except through knowing the secrets of the Torah.  - Ibid.


Rabbi Yehuda Leib Ashlag

The redemption of Israel and all the worth of Israel is dependent on the learning of the Zohar and the innermost aspect of the Torah.

The opposite is true also.  All the afflictions and degradations that have come upon the Children of Israel are on account of their neglecting the most intimate part of Torah, and not having valued it but having related to it as something superfluous, G‑d forbid.  - Introduction to the Zohar, paragraphs 65-70


The Leshem (Rabbi Shlomo Eliyashiv)

They say in the beginning of Mesechet Atzilut (a kabbalistic text): Eliyahu Yosef opened, "It is written, 'The secret of G‑d is for those who fear Him'.  (Psalms 25:14)  This verse refers to the idea that even if a Jew learns Mishnah, Gemara and yet has no awe [of G‑d] - for naught does he splash in the great waters [of Kabbalah], all in which he toils is for nothing.  And every one who is G‑d-fearing [should] actively pursue the hidden aspects [of Torah], which are the essence of wisdom and knowledge, i.e. 'G‑d's glory is a hidden thing'.  (Proverbs 25:2)  When will you make glory for G‑d?  When you are occupied in the hidden aspects of Torah.”  See there.

I am very astounded regarding those [Torah] scholars of the generation that do not know anything [because they do not involve themselves in Kabbalah].  How can they stand not being involved in the Wisdom of Truth [referring to Kabbalah], which is the inner aspect of the Torah?  It is foreign to them [to the extent that] they completely do not know what it is.

And all of their excuses and reasons [for not studying Kabbalah] are totally inadequate, as it says, "[For the Torah] is not in the Heavens [alone]" (Eruvin 55).  For if it was in the Heavens, one must go up after her.  And it is simple that [the meaning of this phrase] refers to all parts [levels] of Torah, and the hidden aspect "is superior to them all.”  (Proverbs 30:10)  - From the introduction to "Leshem Shevo V'Achlama."


Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook

Due to alienation from the "secret of G‑d" [i.e. Kabbalah], the higher qualities of the depths of G‑dly life are reduced to trivia that do not penetrate the depth of the soul.  When this happens, the mightiest force is missing from the soul of nation and individual, and Exile finds favor essentially...  We should not negate any conception based on rectitude and awe of Heaven of any form - only the aspect of such an approach that desires to negate the mysteries and their great influence on the spirit of the nation.  This is a tragedy that we must combat with counsel and understanding, with holiness and courage.  (Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, Orot 2)

Now, when the final salvation is imminent, "the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land, and the buds are seen in the land" (Songs 2:12), and the demand of seeking the light of G‑d, of seeking exalted spiritual redemption, of streaming to G‑d and His goodness, increases and burgeons.  Now, the times require acquiring the Inner Torah [i.e. Kabbalah], with holy visions that cannot begin to be heard but by the ascent of the soul and the exaltation of its strength in the light of its highest, purest life.  A mass whose hearts have been touched by G‑d, of this divine camp, will be the power that establishes the foundation of the salvation, the power that gives grace, the light of life and the pride of greatness to the entire elan vital of the national renascence in the Land of Israel.  The Zohar, which breaks new ways, making a way in the desert, a road in the wilderness - it and all its crop are ready to open doors of Redemption.  (Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, Orot 57)