I had an unusual conversation a while back after the passing of R’ Philip Berg with a Christian missionary. He was not only asserting that the Kabbalah teaches that Jesus is the Jewish messiah, with the Christian understandings of the term messiah, but also that this is the official doctrine of the Kabbalah Center itself. This last point I find very difficult to believe. Yes I am aware that R’ Berg was willing to compromise on halachic (Jewish legal) principles in order to spread his version of Kabbalah to as many people who would be willing to hear. He knew flat out that the messiah of the Kabbalah and the messiah of Judaism are one and the same, a great religious leader and warrior king (Nm. 24:17) who would bring the Jews back from exile (Ez. 36:24), bring world peace (Is. 2:2-4; Mc. 4:1-4; Ez. 39:9), and rebuild the Temple (Is. 2:2; Ez. 37:26-28). I simply can’t accept he would have said otherwise.
There are two basic claims that this missionary made as far as Jesus is concerned: Christian Trinitarianism is consistent with the Kabbalah and that Jesus is the messiah of the Kabbalah. The first point I would like to make clear is that contrary to popular belief one cannot actually separate Judaism and the Kabbalah. However, I will simply cite a few sources from the Kabbalah that demonstrate Judaism’s general stance. The first point is that the anthropomorphic reading of the Kabbalah is not acceptable according to the Zohar, one of the foundational texts of the Kabbalah. The Sefer Haredim Ch. 4 quotes the Zohar (Idrah Rabbah 3:127) that a person is cursed for ascribing physical characteristics to (even) the Sefirot. This would make anyone who tried to say the Trinity is derived from the Kabbalah an idolator. This piece of the Zohar is a general rule under which the entire Kabbalah must be understood.
The question still remains about Jesus himself. If we were to rely on the Jewish record without the Kabbalah, we might find ourselves with serious questions. It does not actually seem that the early Rabbis knew who he was. The mention of Jesus in the works of the contemporary historian Josephus is questionable at best, the Talmudic account of an evil Jesus is of a man who lived about 100 years before the Jesus of the New Testament, and if the account of Rabban Gamliel in the Book of Acts (5:33-39) is historically accurate then the Rabbis didn’t even know anything about his following until after his death! Keeping this in mind, this is what the Kabbalah has to say about Jesus:
Yeshua HaNotzri: He is the final portion of the filth of Kayin which is called the last waste product. Therefore he is punished in boiling waste products. He himself is the Nefesh of the man who cursed God in the time of Moshe. His name is seen in the first letters of the verse; Vayikra 24:16: “And whoever blasphemes the name of HaShem will die.” (The first three letters are vov, shin, yud: Yesho, as it is in the Talmud.) Therefore it says of him that he was the son of an Israelite woman and doesn’t mention his father’s name, because he was a mamzer just like his first gilgal. (Sefer HaGilgulim of Rav Haim Vital Ch. 67)
I’m not sure when and how this confusion set in about Jesus in the Kabbalah. I hope this sets the record straight about the issue. I understand that the Kabbalah Center does not take its cues from the mainstream Jewish community but I hope this article is taken under advise by its teachers should they decide to continue this narrative.