Kabbalah is mystical teachings of Judaism. Followers of Kabbalah believe it is absolutely necessary to study Kabbalah as it is an inextricable part of being an observant Jew. Rabbis today are divided as to whether Kabbalah should be accessible to the simple person on the street. Here are a number of sources that actually emphasize the need to study Kabbalah.
• The Zohar is the foundational work of Kabbalah. It is written there that in the merit of studying the Zohar, the Jewish people will merit to be redeemed from the present exile in a merciful manner (Parshat Naso, 124b).
• The Arizal was a Rabbi and mystic who lived in Tzfat in the sixteenth century. His school of thought in Kabbalah is known as Lurianic Kabbalah (after his name which was Isaac Luria).The Arizal was adamant that along with a Jewish person’s obligation to learn the Bible in both written and oral form, one is also obligated to learn the mystical side of the Torah. He claimed that nothing brings greater pleasure to G-d then seeing His children engage in the study of the secrets of the Torah, through which they get to know His beauty, awesomeness and supremacy (Etz Chaim).
• Rabbi Avraham Azulai authored Kabbalistic works and compared one who doesn’t learn Kabbalah to a beast because such a person’s performance of Mitzvot lack the reasoning behind them when performed without the Kabbalistic reasons behind them.
• The Ramchal (whose actual name was Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto) was an outstanding Rabbi, Kabbalist and philosopher who wrote the book Mesillat Yesharim, an ethical treatise with mystical underpinnings that is studied world-wide until this very day. He claimed that the Jewish people who recite the Shema, which is the centerpiece of morning and evening prayers that proclaims the unity of G-d, without understanding the secret of the unification through Kabbalah are essentially calling out to G-d in vain.
• The Vilna Gaon, or Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman Kramer, was a foremost leader of non-Hassidic Jewry in the eighteenth century and until this day. He wrote that those who are able to study the secrets of the Torah (Kabbalah), yet neglect to do so, will be judged harshly. Moreover, he claimed that the evil urge is powerless over those who are occupied in learning the secrets of the Torah.
• The Baal Shem Tov, a Jewish mystical Rabbi who founded Hassidic Judaism explained that this generation, the one that is before the Final Redemption, have a special commandment to learn the hidden aspects of Torah and that the Final Redemption is dependent on such learning.