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In the Lurianic Kabbalah, the Kellipot (singular: Kellipah) are the "husks" or "shells" imprisoning the sparks of divine light that were exiled from God as a result of the Breaking of the Vessels. The world as we know it is thoroughly comprised of these Kellipot, some of which are completely dark and "unclean" and thus irredeemable by man, other's of which are "translucent" and thus subject to human restitution.

By extracting (birurKellipah, or what amounts to the same thing, by "removing the kernel from the husk," the individual is able to "raise a spark" of divine light and contribute to Tikkun ha-Olam, the restoration of the world. The individual is enjoined not only to raise those sparks that he encounters in his environment, but to also attend to the Kellipot that bind his own soul and prevent him from actualizing his potential in the service of God and humanity.

However, it is important to remember that not all Kellipot can be disencumbered by every man. There are some Kelippot that man must avoid altogether. There are three Kelippot that are "shrouded in the darkness of the shells beyond electrum" (the so-called Kellipot Nogah). These Kellipot constitute the forbidden evils, and no man or woman may approach them and expect to have anything but evil as his reward. Only under very special circumstances, through the greatest love and repentance which places the penitent even above the wholly righteous, can the three "unclean" Kelippot be redeemed. Otherwise these Kelippot will remain embedded within the Sitra Achra, the "Other Side," until "death is swallowed up forever" (Schneur Zalman, Likutei-Amarim-Tanya, Ch. 7, p. 29)

An important parallel exists between the Lurianic symbol of Kellipot and the Jaina, Yoga, Sankhya, symbol of karma.

The doctrine of karma gives expression to the view that the fruits of an individual's actions cleave to the self in such a manner as to determine his spiritual status in both this, and in each of his subsequent lives. According to Jaina doctrine, a person's Atman or "self" is covered and hence obscured by layers of darkness which are the accumulated effects of his karmic activity. There are six colors (lesyas) of karma: the darker colors corresponding to more contemptible acts or sins (and hence bringing a darker stain upon one's self) and the lighter colors corresponding to lesser, more venial sins, or to even virtuous acts. The life-monad of one who commits a serious moral offense (such as killing) is so deeply obscured as to be almost completely invisible behind the lesyas, and even men, for example, who engage in killing as a profession (in Jaina thought this included butchers as well as hunters and warriors), have life monads that are almost completely without light.

The parallel to the Kabbalistic doctrine of the Kelippot is plain. The Kelippot, like the lesyas, are regarded as layers of darkness thatsurround a central divine light or spark (netzotz), and which correspond both to spiritual uncleanness (also derived in Judaism from contact with "death") and moral transgression. The Kelippot are also graded in terms of their degree of uncleanness or sinfulness, with darker layers corresponding to more trenchant evils and lighter layers (represented in the Kelippah Nogah or "brightness") corresponding to acts and behaviors which are "translucent" because they are considered partly divine.

In Indian thought an individual's spiritual progress involves a cleansing of the inner crystalline life monad of all karmic coloring and contamination, such that this monad or self literally shines with translucent lucidity. When so cleansed the monad, Atman, or self mirrors the highest truth of both man and the cosmos, just as the removal of the layers of Kelippot, in the Kabbalah, reveals the inner spark of a man's soul which is a perfect reflection or image of God. The removal of the lesya, like the disencumbrance of the Kabbalists' Kelippot, reveals an inner spirituality, and thus a reversal of man's ignorance of the divine. Just as "the extraction of the kernel" or "the raising of the sparks" enables the Kabbalist's soul to rejoin its source in the Infinite (Ein-sof), the Jaina or Hindu whose life monad has been cleansed of karmic matter becomes completely identified with the infinite world principle, Brahman-Atman.

While there are numerous othere parallels between the symbols of Karma and Kellipot, this should not obscure their differences. The Indian notion has a clear volitional component that is only implicit in the Kabbalistic one. Yet this difference is itself instructive. It is true that an individual, on the Hindu-Jainist view, is fully responsible for his own karma, whereas the Kabbalists often speak of the Kelippot as a necessary byproduct of creation. However when we examine these doctrines more closely we discover that, on a deeper level that karma too, is a necessary by-product of human action, and that an individual's Kelippot, are the results of those freely chosen acts through which he alienates himself from God. This is because, according to the Kabbalah, every act a man does, either increases or decreases the powers of the "Other Side". By juxtaposing the Indian and Kabbalistic metaphors we are perhaps in a better position to fully understand the implications of each.

The Kellipot are discussed in Chapter 8 of Symbols of the Kabbala,"Kellipot and Sitra Achra: The Kabbalistic Doctrine of Evil" (see esp. pp. 243-351). A detailed comparison between Karma and Kellipot is found in "Jewish Mysticism and the Philosophies of India" Kabbalistic Metaphors, Chapter #, pp. 99-103.

The Lurianic Kabbalah is treated in detail in Sanford Drob's Symbols of the Kabbalah and Kabbalistic Metaphors .

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All material on New Kabbalah website (c) Sanford L. Drob, 2001.

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