Thursday, February 16, 2012

God is Complicated: Kabbalah Part 2

Weiner spends much of his time studying Kabbalah with a female teacher, a British immigrant to Israel named Yedidah Cohen. The fact that Yedidah is a woman is unusual in Kabbalah study since prior to the twentieth century most Kabbalah students and teachers were men. Yedidah decided to come to Safed after she had a dream about the city. She began a spiritual reawakening after spending time at the Findhorn New Age retreat in Scotland She was inspired to study Kabbalah after a tranformational experience in a cave that she went to on the advice of a rabbi. While Yedidah was in the cave, the rabbi handed her a text to read about creation. Yedidah could not understand the text, but it filled her mind and she began to meditate upon its hidden meaning. After this experience, she began to study Kabbalah.

As Yedidah explains to Weiner, Kabbalah texts are written in code:

"The texts are intentionally deceptive. This strikes me as odd, and possibly cruel. But Kabbalists had their reasons. These teachings were so powerful, the rabbis believed, they posed a real danger to those not ready to receive them. By encrypting their work, the rabbis reached the "right" people while everyone else dismissed their tales as nothing  more than nice stories about kings and their crowns. So the modern Kabbalist is, first and foremost, an expert code breaker." ( p. 306).

Yedidah can spend days meditating on a particular passage before she understands it.

Much of Kabbalah seems to be a solitary experience. Students can listen to a teacher lecture about a passage or a Kabbalah idea. However, the moment of enlightenment is a solitary one, when the student finally understands the passage and its connection with God.

Interestingly enough, Weiner's most profound experience seems to have come when he was sitting on his hotel balcony, thinking back on all the religions that he has experienced. He looks up, and spots a hawk floating in the air, riding on the wind currents. Weiner forces himself to stop reading, stop thinking, just to be in the moment and observe. For the first time, he seems able to just feel and to appreciate the hawk's joy of the air and of flight.

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