Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz signs a copy of Opening Tanya, one of the 60 books he has authored, for Rabbi Claudio Kogan of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick
Scholars take separate paths into the mystic
by Debra Rubin
NJJN Bureau Chief/Middlesex
Rabbis from Orthodox and Reform backgrounds brought their insights into Jewish mysticism to a New Brunswick synagogue this month.
And while they may have started from very different places, they both arrived at a destination where those looking to rise above the material and ordinary could find resources in Jewish tradition.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the noted Israeli scholar perhaps best known for his translation of the Talmud into modern Hebrew and English, spoke Oct. 17 at Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick on How To Live a Spiritual Life in a Materialistic Time.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author of a series of influential books on Jewish mysticism and spirituality, spoke Oct. 22 on Kabbalah: A Reform Approach, reading passages from his book Kabbalah: A Love Story ...
... "Real Kabala is when you use your study of Kabala to heal the divine," said Kushner, the scholar-in-residence at Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco and visiting professor of Jewish spirituality at the Graduate Theological University in Berkeley ...
Those who for centuries performed mitzvot only for the sake of performing a mitzvot were, in essence, acting as "God"s chiropractors," and expecting God to reply, "Thanks, I needed that," he said.
Kushner said the practice of continually dissecting and "recreating ourselves" through the study of sacred texts is "an enterprise unique to Judaism."
The master text of Kabala is the Zohar, a book once so revered that "for 400 years more Jews could quote Zohar than Talmud," said Kushner.
Kabala, with its mystical overtones, bears a similarity to Eastern theology with its emphasis on the feminine dimension of the divine and infusion of divine presence into everyday events.
The erotic yearning that can be found on the Zohar"s pages, explained Kushner, can be interpreted as: "It makes me happier to do what my lover wants than what I want. In loving someone else, we have a heightened sense of self."
Like Kushner, Steinsaltz also drew a connection between human action and divine reaction.
"Life is identical with the divine," he said ...