3. “My Child, strive to see supernal light, for I have brought you into a vast ocean. Be careful! Keep your soul from gazing and your mind from conceiving, lest you drown. Strive to see, yet escape drowning.”

This quote comes from a passage in the Zohar entitled “Drowning.” The story tells of how Moses, who led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt, at one point wished to die in order to see the light of God. But because God knew that the people of Israel still needed Moses, God did not let him die. The quotation above evokes the story of Moses’ desire to see God’s light, and it serves as a warning to those who undertake the study of Kabbalah. Kabbalists believed in the power and danger of knowledge. They considered kabbalistic study an opportunity for enlightenment, but also peril. Those who study Kabbalah without caution and restraint face the danger of being overwhelmed by the knowledge they acquire, just as Moses became overwhelmed by the desire to know God.

The caution evident in the quotation above led early kabbalists to limit the study of Kabbalah to well-educated men in their forties, a group they considered the least vulnerable to the dangerous prospects of Kabbalah study.