Kabbalah: the Hidden Wisdom
Kabbalah, often referred to as "the secrets" of Torah, has been closely guarded for millennia. This esoteric tradition traces itself at least as far back as the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and yet has been rarely taught openly, instead remaining a closely guarded tradition passed from teacher to student. Only until very recently have some of these teachings been made available to public - and even so remaining in their original language with few or no commentaries on hand.
Even the Zohar, certainly one of the most central of Kabbalistic texts, was only originally transmitted less than two thousand years ago - and then hidden away for another thousand or so years until it became revealed to the Jewish sages of those times. The Zohar, written in ancient Aramaic, is very obscure, often utilizing compounded poetic metaphors to convey profound understandings of the workings of Creation, and the most central passages of the Zohar were not clarified until Rabbi Yitzchak Luria taught them to his most trusted students in the mid-sixteenth century in Tzfat, Israel. The combined factors of the tumultuous history of the Jewish people and a fear that these teachings could be misunderstood and thus misused resulted in the further concealment of the Kabbalah well into the twentieth century.
The Language of the Kabbalah
In the language of the Kabbalah itself, the secrets of Torah are considered the essence of Jewish tradition and are thus likened to the inner "fruit" of Torah, as opposed to the outer "shells" or "peels". The fruit, like everything most dear to us, must be protected and preserved. The other aspects of Torah study, such as Bible and Jewish Law, can be considered crucial encasings for this inner wisdom. Ideally, a person must first pursue these more "external" aspects of Torah study - i.e. "cracking the shell" - before enjoying the sweet fruit of Kabbalah. And, certainly, the greater one's background in general Torah study, the more one will be able to access and understand the material contained within classic texts of Kabbalah.
But, contrary to some attitudes, Kabbalah was never meant to be reserved for the elite scholars. The primary classic texts of Jewish mysticism only encourage the study of Kabbalah.
Access To The Kabbalah Texts
Not only that, but ancient tradition teaches that as the world approaches the age of universal redemption and the Messianic Era our ability to access this hidden wisdom becomes greatly enhanced. We can see this in our generation alone with the proliferation of Kabbalistic texts now so easily obtainable in print; in addition, even many translations can be found - some even readily available on the internet (!). Also, it can be said that modern lifestyles and the influence of technology and media have enabled us to more easily think in the abstract, making Jewish mysticism, which is steeped in dynamic abstract models, easier to comprehend, even for the layman.
While it can be said that such sacred teachings should not be freely disseminated to those less than wholly pious, for hundreds of years many Kabbalists have stressed the importance of Kabbalah study by all Jews, particularly in this age of extreme alienation from our Jewish roots. This is because Kabbalah has the power, perhaps more than any other aspect of Torah study, to purify the soul, and thus heal a generation so thirsty for truth and meaning in life.