Friday, February 11, 2011

'Seeing God' looks into secrets of Kabbalah

It's Friday, time yet again for another posting of Interesting Jewish Stories & Facts (IJS&F). Today let's take another peek into the mystical world of Kabbalah.

David Aaron thinks the secrets of Kabbalah are open to anyone willing to explore this mystical philosophy developed in the 11th and 12th centuries. It's a journey worth taking, he suggests in his book, "Seeing God, Ten Life-Changing Lessons of the Kabbalah" (Tarcher/Putnam, $23.95).

Aaron, a rabbi, pianist, composer and poet, founded an educational institute, Isralight, in Jerusalem nearly two decades ago that offers seminars on Judaism. He quickly realized that many of his students were interested in learning Kabbalah, thinking that there were secrets to life to be found in the ancient belief system. During a phone interview, he talked about such secrets and explains why people remain interested in Kabbalah.

Q: Kabbalah continues to be an "in" thing, especially among New Age types, celebrities and people on the fringes of mainstream religion. Why? What is it about this esoteric Jewish practice that attracts people in search of meaning?

A: The Kabbalah is really the "unified theory of everything." It goes beyond denominations revealing the truth about God's all-embracing oneness -- the foundation of all love and meaning. Therefore, especially in our generation when we no longer believe that technology will make us happy and solve our existential problems, we are very hungry for a wisdom that can show us the way to personal fulfillment, love and meaning.

People are disillusioned with religious institutions like some churches and synagogues that are lacking soul, sophistication and inspiration. Although Eastern traditions are attractive, it does not fully satisfy a Westerner who was raised on the tradition of the Bible. Therefore Westerners are looking for a Bible-based mysticism -- the Kabbalah.

Celebrities are attracted to it perhaps because it really addresses the real meaning of our identity. It clarifies the power of the soul and its connection with God and how we are channels for God's spirit into the world. Entertainers often look for that creative moment where the spirit flows through them.

Q: You suggest in the opening chapters of your book that life has a way of "blinding" us -- that most adults have forgotten the state of awareness called wonder. Isn't this loss just part of the maturation process, the natural order of life? Wouldn't it be problematic for a person's well-being to hold onto such a childlike state throughout life?

A: Yes, it is definitely part of maturing to become more concrete in the way we think and create categories for the purpose of communication with others and thereby become social beings. However, this does not have to come at the expense of wonder, which is individual and cannot be expressed to others. The key to life is always balance. My teacher explained to me that a prophet was an adult child. He was able to draw strength from both aspects of himself.

Q: You write that the Kabbalah is referred to as the "secrets of life." Are there such secrets and, short of giving up one's day job to study and work with a spiritual guide, is it possible for most people to understand the mystical concepts of Kabbalah?

A: Of course there are many levels that one can ascend to. We all have the potential to reach these spiritual peaks (or should I say spiritual peeks). However, it does involve work to become a great master of Kabbalah. Other than becoming a master, we can all transform our daily life experience into a truly enlightened and inspired state. I wrote my new book "Seeing God" so that anyone could access the sweetness of this ancient wisdom and immediately experience more happiness, love and meaning in their life. Can God be seen by everyone? Yes, we can all learn how.

Q: You write about God being all that is, the one reality. When a person shows love, it is God's love; when we see joy, it is God's joy. But what about the other side, the dark side? When a person is angry or bitter or just plain mean, are these traits also a reflection of God?

A: They are not reflections of God, but they do contribute to the reflection of God. Without the dark side, would we know there was light? Just like in a painting, it is the dark colors and lines that bring contrast and thereby enhance the bright colors.

One of the major themes of Kabbalah and Jewish tradition in general is that our task on earth is to choose love and goodness. If there was no evil or hatred, there would not be choice and we could not reveal the greatest goodness and love that is accomplished when we overcome evil and hatred and choose love and goodness

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