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Since medieval times, the mystical tradition of Kabbalah was restricted to qualified men over forty—because it was believed that only the most mature and pious could grasp its complexity and profound, life-changing implications. More recently, Kabbalah nearly disappeared—as most of its practitioners perished in the Holocaust. In the national bestseller God Is a Verb, this powerful spiritual tradition, after centuries of secrecy and near-extinction, is explained clearly by one of...
Since medieval times, the mystical tradition of Kabbalah was restricted to qualified men over forty—because it was believed that only the most mature and pious could grasp its complexity and profound, life-changing implications. More recently, Kabbalah nearly disappeared—as most of its practitioners perished in the Holocaust. In the national bestseller God Is a Verb, this powerful spiritual tradition, after centuries of secrecy and near-extinction, is explained clearly by one of its most prominent teachers.
Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? How do we get there? These questions have fueled Kabbalists for nearly a millennium. Rabbi David A. Cooper is the first to bring this obscure and difficult tradition to a mainstream audience in a way that gently leads us to the heart of the subject, showing us how to transform profound teachings into a meaningful personal experience—and appreciate fully this great mystical process we know as God.
Jewish mystics have always been reticent to reveal the esoteric teachings of Kabbalah. The Talmud says that these secret teachings are to be carefully controlled. As a result, mainstream Jewish scholars prior to the twentieth century rarely explored this segment of hidden knowledge. More important, as the mystical insight of kabbalistic wisdom was reserved for only a handful of practitioners, most people involved in Judaism never had the opportunity to experience the wealth of this treasure within the tradition.
During the last half of this century, great strides have been taken to investigate and make available heretofore inaccessible kabbalistic material. Many texts have been translated and considerable research has been undertaken at institutes of higher learning. However, a gap still stands between the intellectual appreciation of these esoteric teachings and their integration into everyday Jewish practice.
Prior to fifty years ago, anyone saying the things that are addressed in this book might have been ostracized by the rabbinic community. Some readers would have been outraged to see esoteric discussions meant to be read by only a selected few. A large number would have been ill at ease with Torah interpretations from an egalitarian perspective. Still others would have found the mystical teachings of the Zohar quite strange, and in some ways a little too close for comfort to Eastern belief.
Thus, I resonate deeply with the feelings expressed by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, the most prolific modern commentator on Jewish mysticism, who opens one of his books, Meditation and Kabbalah, with the following statement: "It is with great trepidation that one begins to write a work such as this...."
I often encounter objections to elementary mystical Jewish teachings by fellow Jews who are unfamiliar with the scope and breadth of their own tradition. Typically, they are in denial. I have been told that meditation is not Jewish; belief in reincarnation is not Jewish; praying alone is not the Jewish way. These people are mistaken. Indeed, Jewish mysticism is a profoundly sensual, nature-connected spiritual practice that openly discusses angels and demons, souls' journeys after death, reincarnation, resurrection, and the goal of achieving messianic consciousness. This often is a source of considerable embarrassment for some Jewish teachers. They don't like to talk about such things.
Yet one of the biggest complaints of people in the West, Jews in particular, is that our religious traditions are not spiritual enough. We want to feel a connection with the great unknown; we want to experience the secrets of other realities and the meaning of life. We want spiritual practices that touch the heart and nourish the soul. We want a place of sanctuary where we can get a respite from the busy world around us.
Our yearning to reconnect with our essential nature transcends the limits of the intellect. It comes from a place of inner knowing that there is far more to life than material wealth. We know deeply within that the mysteries of creation speak in a language that can be absorbed only through "being" rather than by doing or thinking.
Western religious tradition and mythology are built upon the foundation of the teachings of the Old Testament. Many of these teachings became ossified long ago in fixed beliefs; to challenge them meant to be excommunicated. Now spiritual leaders in the West have had the courage to suggest different possibilities for understanding ancient tales. This new way of looking at things opens the gates for the potential of a paradigm shift that will change our very thought process and our relationship with the Divine.
This book contains many ancient ideas expressed in modern language. It suggests ways of interpreting biblical stories that confront traditional perspectives. All of the material presented has been thoroughly researched and cited for anyone interested who would like to inquire into the sources.
The purpose of this book is to provide insight into the foundation of Western mysticism. The reader does not need a background in traditional religious study to appreciate the ideas discussed herein. Although the base of information is from a Jewish point of view, the insights overflow into Christian and Muslim traditions, for the teachings are universal. This book is also written for people who are drawn to Eastern practices -- Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism -- to add to the dialogue and cross-fertilization of mystical insight between East and West.
If you are among the many people in the West who seek a richer spiritual life in the tradition of your heritage, you will discover within this book a new world of almost endless possibilities. This is not a book simply to be read, but to be experienced. It uses hasidic tales to amplify teachings, and offers exercises for those who would like to integrate practice into everyday life. This is a guide for the person who really wants to nurture the soul and come closer to God. If you are such a person, welcome to the hidden treasures of Jewish mysticism.
From GOD IS A VERB: KABBALAH AND THE PRACTICE OF MYSTICAL JUDAISM, by Rabbi David A. Cooper, Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi David A. Cooper. Excerpted with permission of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc. All Rights Reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.
Preface Author's Note Acknowledgments
Part One: The Past
Ma'Asey Bereshit (The Work of Creation)
Raising Holy Sparks Awareness The Garden of Eden Mystical Creation The Nature of God
Part Two: The Present
Olam Ha-Zeh (This World)
Template of Creation Five Worlds, Five Soul Dimensions Souls Fate and Miracles Angels and Demons Good and Evil
Part Three: Higher Awareness
Ma'Asey Merkevah (The Work of the Chariot)
The Mystical Chariot The Path of the Tzaddik (Jewish Enlightenment)
The Path of Learning The Path of Respect The Path of Generosity The Path of Lovingkindness The Path of Moderation The Path of Purity The Path of Joy The Path of Selflessness The Path of Awe The Path of Equanimity The Path of Extraordinary Mind-States The Path of Life Eternal (God Consciousness)
Part Four: Beyond This Life
Olam Ha-Bah (The World to Come)
Reward, Punishment, and Divine Providence Dying and Fear Reincarnation Dying and Death Heaven, Hell, and Resurrection Epilogue Endnotes Index
Posted July 18, 2009
Very good book for starters in Kabbalah. It helped me out very much in my beginners learning on the subject. I probably will buy other books from this author in the future.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 20, 2005
The best and most understandable of the Kabbalah books I've read. I am not THAT into the deeply religious aspects, but the practical side of this book is very meaningful. It is a wonderful guide and gives you many examples of things to try in order to bring you to a particular point, and to guide you in your life.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 30, 2003
I KEEP THIS BOOK CLOSE AT HAND. I READ IT DURING EVERY PAUSE OF MY DAY. DURING BREAK AT WORK. WAITING ON APPOINTMENTS. WHEN I WAKE UP AND CAN'T SLEEP. AT THE DOCTOR.WHEN I NEED A LITTLE PICK-ME-UP. I COULD GO ON AND ON. IT HAS CHANGED THE WAY I VIEW LIFE AND THE WAY I REACT TO IT. I'VE ONLY HAD IT A FEW MONTHS AND IT LOOKS YEARS OLD. A PURCHASE YOU WILL NOT REGRET.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 15, 2000
I was always floating from religion to religion and all my beliefs were jumbled inside my head. It seemed that no religion agreed upon what I felt was the truth for so long... until I read this book! It trully changed my life! I am a happier person and finally feel good about everything I come across!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.