This classic receives 5 stars based on the first chapter alone. This book is a general introduction to Lurianic Kabbalah.
The problem with this book is that it is written on the intermediate level. A person with no knowledge of Kabbalah will have no meaning of concepts like SaG of MaH of Adam Kadmon. Even worse, there are no diagrams, which are CRUCIAL for beginners.
Rav Yehuda Ashlag wrote a book called "The Science of Kabbalah". It discusses the same material (with commentary by Rav Michael Laitman). However, it goes into more detail so the person does not get lost. It also included DOZENS of diagrams so that, when we read Ramchal's book, we can SEE what he is talking about.
I purchased 138 Openings a few years ago. But, after reading "The Science of Kabbalah", I finally understood what Ramchal was talking about. Then, I could go back and read it again for the first time.
And it goes without saying that it is impossible to study Kabbalah without an authentic teacher in the Lurianic lineage who can explain every detail of Kabbalah in the common language. So, I study with Bnei Baruch under Rav Laitman ([...] There are live classes six nights per week. All of the books can be downloaded on PDF format. Everything is free.
I suggest that a person read Rav Ashlag's book either before or along with 138 Openings. He explains everything in detail with diagrams.
While this is one of the greatest Kabbalah books I've ever had the absolute pleasure of reading, I would not recommend it to someone who doesn't already have an innate affinity for the subject matter. A little ZEN understanding, as well, wouldn't hurt! For those who "do," this book is a ceaseless source of bursting radiance. Those who "don't," however, may find themselves struggling uselessly over undefined terms & methodologies. The same holds true for RAMCHAL's other great book: Secrets of the Future Temple. Both books qualify (in my opinion) as ACTUAL Kabbalah texts, as opposed to books ABOUT Kabbalah. If your approach is "scholarly," stick to the books ABOUT Kabbalah. If, on the other hand, your interest is in ACTUAL ecstatic Kabbalah experience, then by all means acquire and enjoy this (surprisingly little-known) classic.
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