Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections


Leading scholars and teachers share their favorite texts of the Jewish mystical tradition?many available in English for the first time?and explore why these materials are meaningful and relevant to us today. New in paperback!

In this unique volume, some of Judaism's most insightful contemporary thinkers bring the words of sages past to bear on the present. They explore how we can become closer to God through ...

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Leading scholars and teachers share their favorite texts of the Jewish mystical tradition—many available in English for the first time—and explore why these materials are meaningful and relevant to us today. New in paperback!

In this unique volume, some of Judaism's most insightful contemporary thinkers bring the words of sages past to bear on the present. They explore how we can become closer to God through our relationships with others, our observance at home and our actions in the world, asking:

  • What do mitzvot have to do with mysticism?
  • Is spirituality selfish?
  • Can mysticism enhance community?

Organized thematically, each section focuses on how mysticism engages and complements the dimensions of religious life, including studying Torah, performing mitzvot and observing halakhah.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A dazzling collection that displays the concerns and insights that animate the [mystical and Hasidic] texts and traditions…. A spiritual feast of religious meaning for those who enter its pages."
Rabbi David Ellenson, PhD, president, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion

"An illuminating and often moving collection that reflects the breadth and depth of contemporary interest in these texts as guides to Jewish spirituality and practice in our time."
Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, author, The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical

“A landmark collection that deserves to be read and reread. The diverse insights draw the seeker into the wisdom of Judaism in a way that may draw them into the community of practice as well.”
Rabbi Rami Shapiro, author, Hasidic Tales: Annotated & Explained and Ecclesiastes: Annotated & Explained

“Illuminates and probes deeply in multiple fields while speaking to engaged spiritual seekers and scholars. Studded with gems, often overflowing with learning and insights. All who want to grow spiritually, live more deeply, to both connect to tradition and renew it will find something to nurture their souls in this book.”
Rabbi Irving Greenberg, founding president, Jewish Life Network; founding president, Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

“An orchard of spiritual pomegranates, tended by some of today's most gifted Jewish scholars. A delight to read.”
Jay Michaelson, author, Everything Is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism and God in Your Body: Kabbalah, Mindfulness and Embodied Spiritual Practice

Publishers Weekly
Insights into the significance of traditional Jewish mysticism for today's Jews take center stage in this intelligent but esoteric collection of articles from notable Jewish scholars of Kabbalah. Underscoring the relevance of centuries-old Kabbalistic texts and practices are 26 independent contributions divided into six sections including "Discovering God in All Reality"; "Spiritual Growth, Inner Transformation"; "Embodied Spiritual Practice"; "Prayer, Repentance, Healing"; and "Torah, Halakha, Mitsvot." The writers, collectively, look back to Nahman of Bratslav and other past luminaries of Kabbalah and Jewish thought while integrating the observations of contemporary heavyweights like Arthur Green to establish a more relevant and timely understanding of the subject. Rabbi Gordon Tucker invokes A.J. Heschel's writing to delve into how prophecy still lives for those who open their minds to it, and Joel Hecker infuses the ideas of the 18th-century Hasid Menahem Nahum of Chernobyl on sparks of holiness into a modern reflection on the latent spirituality of eating. This volume's focused and deeply religious essays may well be too heavy for dabblers, but will certainly delight scholars in the field. (Dec.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580237192
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/29/2013
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Yehonatan Chipman, an Orthodox rabbi, lives in Jerusalem, where he works as a professional translator of academic Jewish texts. He is currently writing his first book on Jewish religious thought.

Reb Mimi Feigelson is an Israeli Orthodox rabbi. She is the mashpiah ruchanit
(spiritual mentor) and lecturer in Rabbinic literature and Hasidic thought at the
Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of American Jewish University in Los Angeles.
She is the former associate director of Yakar in Jerusalem and is an international teacher of Hasidism and spirituality.

Lawrence Fine, Irene Kaplan Leiwant Professor of Jewish Studies at Mount Holyoke College, is author of Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos: Isaac Luria and His Kabbalistic Fellowship, and other books.

Eitan Fishbane, PhD, a frequent scholar-in-residence and guest speaker at congregations across North America, is assistant professor of Jewish thought at The Jewish Theological Seminary; author of As Light Before Dawn: The Inner World of a Medieval Kabbalist (Stanford University Press); and co-editor of Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections (Jewish Lights).

Eitan Fishbane is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Shabbat
  • Prayer
  • Spirituality
  • God and Theology
  • Mysticism
  • Ethics
  • Torah

Michael Fishbane is the Nathan Cummings Professor of Jewish Studies at the
University of Chicago. He is the author of numerous works on biblical and Jewish thought, including Biblical Myth and Rabbinic Mythmaking. His most recent book is Sacred Attunement: A Jewish Theology.

Rabbi Nancy Flam is cofounder of the National Center for Jewish Healing and former director of the Jewish Community Healing Program of Ruach Ami: Bay Area Jewish Healing Center. She cofounded the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, was its founding director, and now serves as codirector of programs. She edited the Jewish Lights series of pastoral-care pamphlets, LifeLights, and writes and teaches widely on Judaism, healing, prayer, spirituality, and social justice.

Rabbi Everett Gendler was ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. After serving congregations in Mexico City; Rio de Janeiro; and Princeton, New Jersey, he was rabbi for many years at Temple Emanuel in Lowell, Massachusetts, while also serving as Jewish chaplain and instructor in philosophy and religious studies at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He has written widely on Judaism and the environment, nonviolence, social justice, and liturgical innovation.

Joel Hecker is associate professor of Jewish mysticism at the Reconstructionist
Rabbinical College. He is the author of Mystical Bodies, Mystical Meals: Eating and Embodiment in Medieval Kabbalah and is currently preparing a translation of the Zohar on Song of Songs, Ruth, and Lamentations for volume eleven of The
Zohar: Pritzker Edition.

Rabbi Shai Held is cofounder, rosh ha-yeshiva, and chair in Jewish thought at
Mechon Hadar in New York City. He is completing a doctoral dissertation on the religious thought of Abraham Joshua Heschel at Harvard University. He contributed to Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections and Jewish Theology in Our Time: A New Generation Explores the Foundations and
Future of Jewish Belief
(both Jewish Lights).

Melila Hellner-Eshed is a professor of Jewish mysticism in the Department of
Jewish Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, as well as a senior research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. She is a member of the faculty of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and is active in Sulha, an Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation project. She is the author of A River Flows from Eden: The
Language of Mystical Experience in the Zohar.

Barry W. Holtz is dean of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish
Education at The Jewish Theological Seminary, where he is also the Theodore and
Florence Baumritter Professor of Jewish Education. His books include, among others, Back to the Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts and Your Word Is
Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer
(Jewish Lights), the latter coauthored with Arthur Green.

Jeremy Kalmanofsky is rabbi of congregation Ansche Chesed in New York City.
He was ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. His articles have appeared in a variety of Jewish journals, as well as in Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections and Jewish Theology in
Our Time: A New Generation Explores the Foundations and Future of Jewish
(both Jewish Lights). He serves on the editorial board of Conservative Judaism,
and is a member of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the
Conservative movement.

Judith A. Kates teaches Hebrew Bible and Jewish interpretive traditions at the
Rabbinical School of Hebrew College and in many programs of adult learning.
She is the coeditor (with Gail Twersky Reimer) of Reading Ruth: Contemporary
Women Reclaim a Sacred Story
and Beginning Anew: A Woman's Companion to the High Holy Days.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is one of the most widely read authors by people of all faiths on Jewish spiritual life. He is the best-selling author of such books as Invisible Lines of Connection: Sacred Stories of the Ordinary; God Was in This Place & I, i Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning; Honey from the Rock: An Introduction to Jewish Mysticism; The Book of Letters: A Mystical Hebrew Alphabet; The Book of Miracles: A Young Person's Guide to Jewish Spiritual Awareness; The Book of Words: Talking Spiritual Life, Living Spiritual Talk; Eyes Remade for Wonder: A Lawrence Kushner Reader; I'm God, You're Not: Observations on Organized Religion and other Disguises of the Ego; Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians; The River of Light: Jewish Mystical Awareness; The Way Into Jewish Mystical Tradition; and co-author of Because Nothing Looks Like God; How Does God Make Things Happen?; Where Is God?; What Does God Look Like?; and In God's Hands. He is the Emanu-El Scholar at San Francisco's Congregation Emanu-El and an adjunct professor of Jewish mysticism and spirituality at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is available to speak on the following topics:

• Jewish Mystical Imagination

• Rymanover's Silent Aleph: What Really Happened on Sinai

• Zohar on Romance and Revelation

• What Makes Kabbalah Kabbalah

• Sacred Stories of the Ordinary: When God Makes a Surprise Appearance in Everyday Life

Click here to contact the author.

Rabbi Ebn Leader is director of the Bet Midrash and an instructor in Talmud,
Jewish law, and Jewish mysticism at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College.
He is the coeditor of God in All Moments: Mystical and Practical Wisdom from
Hasidic Masters
, and has contributed to Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections (both Jewish Lights). Prior to coming to Hebrew College, he served for several years as an educator at Jewish secondary schools in Jerusalem and

Shaul Magid, PhD, is the Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Professor of Modern Judaism and professor of religious studies at Indiana University Bloomington. He is the author of Hasidism on the Margin: Reconciliation, Antinomianism, and Messianism in Izbica/Radzin Hasidism and From Metaphysics to Midrash: Myth, History, and the Interpretation of Scripture in Lurianic Kabbala, which won the
American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the Textual Studies category.

Ron Margolin is associate professor of religious studies and modern Jewish thought at Tel Aviv University and a senior researcher at the Shalom Hartman
Institute in Jerusalem. He is author of The Human Temple: Religious
Interiorization and the Structuring of Inner Life in Early Hasidism
; and The Inner
Religion: Phenomenology of Inner Religious Life and Its Manifestation in Jewish
(both in Hebrew).

Daniel C. Matt is a leading authority on the Zohar and Kabbalah. He is the author of the best-selling The Essential Kabbalah (HarperSanFrancisco, translated into seven languages); Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment (Paulist Press); God and the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony Between Science and Spirituality; and Zohar: Annotated and Explained (Jewish Lights). He is also the author of the annotated translation The Zohar: Pritzker Edition (Stanford University Press). He has so far completed six volumes of this immense project, which has been hailed as "a monumental contribution to the history of Jewish thought." Formerly professor of Jewish spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Daniel C. Matt now resides in Berkeley.
Daniel C. Matt is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Shekhinah: The Feminine Half of God
  • Raising the Sparks: Finding God in the Material World
  • The Mystical Meaning of Torah
  • The Zohar: Masterpiece of Kabbalah
  • God and the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony between Science and Spirituality

Click here to contact the author.

Prof. Haviva Pedaya teaches Judaism and culture in the Department of Jewish
History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She is the author of Vision and
Speech: Models of Prophecy in Jewish Mysticism
(Hebrew), Within the Eye of the
(Hebrew), and other works. Prof. Pedaya is also an award-winning Hebrew poet and musical director of the Yonah Ensemble, a project devoted to the revitalization of the liturgical and mystical music of the Near East.

Rabbi Nehemia Polen is professor of Jewish thought at Hebrew College. He is the author of The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the
Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto and The Rebbe's Daughter, recipient of a National
Jewish Book Award. He is also a contributor to the award-winning My People's
Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries
(Jewish Lights).

Carol Rose is a writer, educator, and counselor. She holds an MA in theology as well as degrees in religious studies and cross-cultural education. Her publications include Behind the Blue Gate and Spider Women: A Tapestry of Creativity and
Healing, coedited with Joan Turner.

Rabbi Neal Rose is a family therapist and professor of theology at the University of Winnipeg and has studied and lived in the Bratslav community in Jerusalem.
He has written about Martin Buber's presentation of Hasidism.

Rabbi Or N. Rose is an associate dean at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. He is the coauthor of God in All Moments: Mystical and Practical Spiritual Wisdom from Hasidic Masters and coeditor of Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice; Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections and Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings from around the Maggid's Table, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (all Jewish Lights).

Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi, the inspiration of the Jewish Renewal movement, is widely recognized as one of the most important Jewish spiritual teachers of our time. Professor emeritus at Temple University, he has contributed to Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections, and is the author of Jewish with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice, Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer, winner of the National Jewish Book Award; First Steps to a New Jewish Spirit: Reb Zalman's Guide to Recapturing the Intimacy & Ecstasy in Your Relationship with God, (all Jewish Lights); From Age-ing to Sage-ing; and Wrapped in a Holy Flame, among other books.

Rabbi Jonathan P. Slater, DMin, was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and has a doctor of ministry degree from the Pacific School of Religion. He is the author of Mindful Jewish Living: Compassionate Practice and codirector of programs at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, as well as an instructor in meditation at the JCC in Manhattan and other venues. He contributed to Who by Fire, Who by Water—Un'taneh Tokef, We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism—Ashamnu and Al Chet and All These Vows—Kol Nidre (both Jewish Lights).

Rabbi Gordon Tucker, PhD, is senior rabbi at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York, and adjunct assistant professor of Jewish philosophy at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he formerly served as dean of its rabbinical school. He is the editor and translator of Heavenly Torah: As Refracted through the Generations.

Sheila Peltz Weinberg was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and has served as an educator, activist, liturgist, and congregational rabbi. She has helped introduce meditation into the Jewish world as a form that can enliven and illuminate Jewish practice. She is a founder and outreach director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality and the author of Surprisingly Happy: An Atypical
Religious Memoir.

Chava Weissler is the Philip and Muriel Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Department of Religion Studies at Lehigh University. She is the author of
Voices of the Matriarchs: Listening to the Prayers of Early Modern Jewish Women
and is completing a book on the Jewish Renewal movement in North America.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction xiii

Part One Discovering God in All Reality
"Pass Not Away": Yearning for a Seamless Life of Connection
Nancy Flam 3
Seeking the Sacred Self
Jeremy Kalmanofsky 15
Yitro, (Neo-)Hasidism, and a New American Piety
Shaul Magid 22

Part Two Spiritual Growth, Inner Transformation
Approaching the Thick Cloud: Working with Obstacles in Our Spiritual Growth
Sheila Peltz Weinberg 33
"Who Am I to Go to Pharoah?"
Lawrence Kushner 39
The Cry of Redemption
Judith A. Kates 46
“All This and Maybe”: The Doubting Servant
Mimi Feigelson 51
Rabbi Nahum of Chernobyl and “Second Maturity”
Yehonatan Chipman 59

Part Three Embodied Spiritual Practice
Taking in the Torah of the Timeless Present
Gordon Tucker 67
Holiness in the Kitchen
Chava Weissler 72
Eating as a Spiritual Ecosystem
Joel Hecker 78
Loving God with the Evil Impulse
Daniel Matt 86

Part Four Compassion, Loving Others
“A Better Way of Being in the World, a Way of Compassion”
Jonathan P. Slater 93
Rabbi Nahman's “OD”: An Ode of Human Redemption
Everett Gendler 103
Spiritual Friendship: “Go Among People Who Are
Awake and Where a Light Shines Brightly”
Lawrence Fine 112
The Service of Love
Ebn Leader 119
The Splendid Bird: Reflections on Prayer and Community
Barry W. Holtz 129
Part Five Prayer, Repentance, Healing
Praying from the Depths
Melila Hellner-Eshed 137
The Tainted Produce: A Parable of Possibilities
Neal Rose and Carol Rose 145
Spiritual Wounds
Michael Fishbane 152
Sarah and Moses: God's Teachers of Compassion
Or N. Rose 162
Crisis and Repair, Trauma and Recovery
Haviva Pedaya 171

Part Six Torah, Halakhah, Mitzvot
Shabbat Candle Lighting
Eitan Fishbane 185
Why Do We Need the Mitzvot?
Ron Margolin 192
Jacob’s Remedy: A Prayer for the Dislocated
Nehemia Polen 201
On Faith Beyond Perception: The Slonimer Rebbe
Shai Held 209
Conclusion: Teyku—Because Elijah Lives On!
Zalman Schachter-Shalomi 217
Suggestions for Further Reading 221

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