Rabbi Yaakov Hillel—A Real Kabbalist

October 30, 2008

While I am not of Sephardic decent, I have a great amount of respect for their practices and heritage. Indeed, I even enjoy praying at the occasional Sephardic Minyan and listening to the Middle Eastern incantations and melodies. Recently, I was fortunate to meet with and speak to one of the most well respected Sephardic Sages of our time-the great Rabbi Yaakov Hillel. Accordingly, I thought it would be appropriate to enlighten my readership to some of his English and Hebrew books that exude the wisdom of Judaism.

In his first book to ever be translated into English, Faith and Folly: The Occult in Torah Perspective (Tamim Tehiyah) Rabbi Yaakov Hillel, the Dean of Yeshivat Chevrat Ahavat Shalom in Jerusalem and a authoritative figure on mystical subjects, tackles the issues of superstitions, astrology, palmistry, sorcery, and other esoteric practices. In this 119 page book, Rabbi Hillel guides us clearly and concisely through the practices, telling us what is sanctioned and what is forbidden today.

It is worth noting however, that he strongly does not approve of Practical Kabbalah:

“If a person uses Practical Kabbalah…the evil that adheres to the good will cling to him. His soul which he had hoped to purify, will be sullied with evil (Faith and Folly page 45).”

“No one should use Practical Kabbalah unless he has been informed by Eliyahu Ha-Navi or shown clear signs that God wills it and his soul is suited for it (ibid page 47).”

In fact, the holy Arizal not only forbade teaching this form of Kabbalah to his disciple Rabbi Chaim Vital, but he also prohibited the use of Practical Kabbalah (Sha’ar Ha-Mitzvot, Parashat Shemot)

While there is much more that can be discussed on this topic, it is worth surveying the sources that Rabbi Hillel provides us. Quickly, we will all be able to make an educated opinion as to both our study of Torah and spiritual focus.

Additionally, another work of his that has recently been made available to the English speaking public is titled, Roni Akarah: A Guide for the Childless Couple. Whether one is religious or unaffiliated, Jewish or non-Jewish, infertility afflicts thousands of couples every year. To that end, this book is written with wisdom and sensitivity and is a treasure house of knowledge and encouragement for a Jewish husband and wife.

Finally, arguably the most recognized work of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto is Messillat Yesharim (The Path of the Just).  Nowadays however, some people feel that they can’t relate to the ebb and flow of this work. In light of the above, while many fine translations have been written for this work, the way in which Rabbi Yaakov Hillel presents and explains Luzzatto’s words in Ascending the Path, truly makes it once again relevant for our generation.

Amongst the many books that he has authored in Hebrew, I have most enjoyed the small but powerful Ad HaGal HaZeh. Rabbi Reuven Boshnack provides a nice summary of just some of the points that Rabbi Hillel discusses. Truthfully, what I benefited from the most was not just the Rabbi Hillel’s clear style of conveying esoteric concepts, but it was the organized Table of Contents that helped me navigate the work despite the complicated ideas written in Hebrew. Likewise, I enjoyed the fact that every quote was sourced and annotated to its fullest extent. Indeed, while I enjoyed the fact that the most recent English book from Rabbi Yaakov Hillel, Ascending Jacob’s Ladder, spoke to both the layperson and scholar alike, I felt that it was lacking his normal citations that apparently had been lost in translation

All in all, with thousands of Jews and non-Jews alike searching for knowledge of “Kabbalah,” but instead receiving a watered down version of pop-psychology mixed with a tea spoon of traditional Jewish mysticism, I would encourage any seeking soul to learn from the words of Rabbi Yaakov Hillel-A Real Kabbalist!

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14 Responses to “Rabbi Yaakov Hillel—A Real Kabbalist”

  1. Fred Harari on November 23rd, 2008 10:07 pm

    I would like permission to use excerpts from Rabbi Yaakov Hillel’s book, “Faith and Folly” in my magazine.
    It is going to be a free monthly publication about the Jewish wonders of the world. It is an orthodox magazine supervised by Rabbi Michael Malka of the Elberon Torah Center in New Jersey.The magazine is going to be mailed out to the Sephardic communities in Brooklyn and New Jersey.
    I’m looking forward in receiving your repsonse.
    Kol tuv,

    Freddie Harari

  2. Ephraim Jeffrey Geltman on April 14th, 2009 11:24 am

    Rav Hillel has office hours a couple times a week in Geulah and he’s really accessible.

    Remarkable man!!!

    I’m thick in the heart of trying to fully clarify the whole issue of avodah zahra in natural medicine, and his book was invaluable.

    I’d love to hear any deep thought and questions on this topic.

  3. Lois C. Castillo on January 6th, 2011 10:10 pm

    I am looking for the book my mother recommended I read. Ascending Jacobs Ladder. We have Jewish roots on maternal and paternal side of family. My mother Alice Ruth Scheller nee White has been in search since a young girl and her mother on her death bed did admit to the JewisH ancestory. We have all read the Torah and continue to do so , on a daily basis. i believe in jesus but that he lives in each one of us until His coming to the world. I am interested in learning more. Thank you for taking time to read this and Happy New Year.

  4. Deborah Addi on July 29th, 2011 12:23 pm

    I would like to speak to Rabbi Yaakov Hillel on the telphone a s I live inNewYOrk, is this possible? What are the calling hours and do I call the Yeshiva directly. Please advise .thank you, this is an urgent matter,, thank you

  5. Jose on February 13th, 2014 8:20 pm

    In 2 kings 6 it speaks about the axe head that went into the water and Elisha threw in a piece stick and the axe head floated to the top and they were able to retrieve it, and also the Syrians the two women that had sons and told one to boil her son and eat him and the next day they would boil the other son but the lady hid the son. What is the meaning of this

  6. A. Fox on December 30th, 2014 8:03 am

    I am visiting E”Y and I would like to meet with Rabbi Yaakov Hillel. How do I get his contact information/find out his visiting hours?
    Thank you

  7. frank enger on January 11th, 2015 9:09 pm

    I would like to ask a shilah Rav Hillel regarding a life situation. (parnsa & health related) Is it possible to secure a personal meeting at his Yeshiva.
    I will make a trip to Jerusalem Feb 9th thru Feb 19th. Also is there a chance to learn( in English ) with a man or attend a shiur. Be well. Kol Tuv
    Michoel ben Moshe/frank

  8. erol aron menda on June 9th, 2015 1:34 am


  9. Sara-Leah Haber on July 12th, 2015 12:08 pm

    The number to reach him is:
    but I just called and he is out of the country for 3 weeks so they’re not making appts.

  10. yehuda on January 13th, 2016 6:10 am

    how do I get contact info I have family that really needs it

  11. Abraham rouah on April 5th, 2016 11:29 pm

    Urgent to save a life… can you please send it to Rabbi yaakov hillel my father in law is in hospital in uk in critical condition his brain is swelling he need a lot of braroth for a recovery if his brain..can you please rabbi ya a ko v pray for him David Ashworth son of Be s s y his mum he is born the 8 December 1939 …with the help if Aka dosh Barourouh. .. toda h rabah rabbi ya a ko v hill el abraham rouah

  12. Esther on June 6th, 2016 9:10 pm


    I would like to meet with Rav Yaakov Hillel.
    I am going on a trip to Israel next week

    Please send me contact details.

    Thank you,

  13. Eliyahu Oheda on September 24th, 2016 3:14 am

    can we werring Cameot

  14. Alistair on October 26th, 2016 4:19 pm

    Did the Kabbalists rely on the science of their day is there evidence that they had knowledge equal to or greater than 21st century science?
    For example, did they know that the Earth orbits the Sun?

    Do Kabbalistic studies like ma’aseh hamerkavah contain information that could be of use to scientists today?

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