Category Archives: Kabbalah books

I learn of or from

Yitzchak Ginsburgh: Body, Mind and Soul (2004)

Book coverThe basic description of Yitzchak Ginsburgh‘s (Body, Mind and Soul: Kabbalah on Human Physiology, Disease and Healing) book sounds new agey and simplistic:

This healing manual explains Kabbalah’s centuries-old perception of human physiology, its view on how to maintain overall health, and how this is dependent on our spiritual well-being.

But for me he is authentic. His background, lifestyle and humility is far more sympathetic than other popularizers, marketers of Kabbalah.

Mark Stavish: Kabbalah for Health & Wellness (2007)

I have to admit I do not have much faith in this book, but it is new and out and might relate to Kabbalah, so feel obliged to mention it. I am talking about Mark Stavish’s Kabbalah for Health & Wellness. This page claims that he is “ong-time student of esotericism and has written over a two-dozen critically received articles, book reviews, and interviews on western esoteric philosophy and practices.” The title made it sounded like the author sold out his understandings for making a quick buck. Not that this topic could generate mass interest, but probable has better chances than his last book on Alchemy. An Amazon.com reviewer compares and contrasts the book to Joseph Lisiewski’s The Kabbalistic Handbook for the Practicing Magician. Not having read either book, and not being primarily attuned to their authors’ perspective I don’t think I will attempt to get my hands on either volume. YMMV.

Magickal Judaism Academic Resources

Here is Liorah Chanah‘s blog entry in which she collected “Magickal Judaism Academic Resources.” I am afraid I will shamelessly lift from her list the books that are not yet in my collection. Besides the articles she lists about 30 books. And links to more at Meir Bar-Ilan’s page at Bar Ilan University. Who in turn links to Scott B. Noegel at my own University of Washington. Thank you all.

Kabbalist Big-Bangism

I followed the tracks from an Associated Press article at Combined Jewish Philanthropies that starts with “A Jewish organization is demanding an apology from a Georgia lawmaker after a memo using his name claims that evolution was a myth propagated by an ancient Jewish sect.” The website in question is http://www.fixedearth.com and the lawmaker is Representative Ben Bridges.

This is one of the most confusing website I have seen in a long time and I don’t just mean architecturally, design-wise and navigationally. I don’t have a problem with people believing whatever they want as long as it doesn’t harm anybody. So if the authors of this site decide that the Earth is fixed and Copernicus’ idea was a hoax, fine with me. I think they only harm themselves and their own reputation and not Copernicus’. I am even amused by the text in big red letters on the front page: “Read all about the Copernican and Darwinian Myths (and their many ramifications going all the way to Kabbala-based Big Bangism!)”

The site has eight pages dedicated exclusively to fight “Kabbalah.” I admit I didn’t manage to read through them. I was primarily looking for references, trying to figure out what the author based his claim on. I didn’t find much in this regard in the first half of the pages, which mostly sound as repetitive rants. But later this gem aroused my interest: “Both the Ramban [Nachmanides]…and the Rambam Moreh Nebuchim…agree that there was only a single act of creation, at the first moment of the ‘six days’, and everything else, (light, stars, moon, life) was created from that primordial creation.”

I tried to check upon his resources, but none of the links leading to external sites were working. I am still hoping to find Ramban’s writing on the topic. That might be more interesting, than this site. The look and feel suggests not just a non-professional editing, but also that the site was created a long time ago. My guess is that this (datedness) is the reason the links are broken.) According to archive.org it has been around at least since March 1998.

Another pointer I will follow up time permitting is this little quote: “Nechunya ben HaKanah, a 1st century Kabbalist, asserted that if you knew how to use the 42 letter name for God you could decipher a lengthy time between the creation of the universe and of man.”

But for now I think I wasted enough space and time on this site. If it does not have a big following I consider it harmless. But if lots of people believe it or see support for their own wild theories in it than I would recommend to create an anti-site rebutting this site’s claim. I don’t think it is worth the effort now, but I am not a proponent of censorship neither. Thus I would not get this site taken down.

Yehuda Berg: Kabbalah on Love (2006)

UK Book coverUS book coverThe ever prolific popularizer of Kabbalah , Yehuda Berg, published a book on “Kabbalah on Love“, with the subtitle “Technology for the Soul.” Digital Cubics’ blog copied the summary from Amazon: “Berg makes the distinction between love and need — which is a selfish product of ego — and reminds readers that only after connecting with the love within, and learning to love themselves, can they truly love someone else.” According to Amazon’s listing it was published in December 2006, but the official description suggests it was done for Valentine’s Day. I wanted to agree the latter, because it looks red enough to fit in the theme of the event. (Yes, I do judge a book by its cover, at least partially.) But with a little search I found that in the UK it was published in 2005 November. Look how the covers of the two versions differ. The one on the left is the newer US edition, while the right is the older from the UK. The one and only review at Amazon says it is “simple to read and to understand.” I have no doubts. The cover is made simpler for the US audience too.

Jill Gregory & Karen Tintori: The Book of Names (2006)

Book coverOyve, the Daily Southtown told me the plot of a new book:

In ‘The Book of Names,’ a fictional, nefarious offshoot sect of the ancient Gnostic tradition known as the Gnoseos has learned the identities of 33 of 36 lamed vovniks and has systematically assassinated them to hasten the end of the world.

Sounds like we’ve got a Kabbalistic Da Vinci Code on our hands. And not just on ours, in Germany, where it was published last December, the book was on the bestseller list. In the US the book came out last month. The linked article quotes one of the authors’ hope ” that they [the readers] have a better understanding of Kabbalah [after reading the book] and some of the beauty that is inherent in Judaism, like the appreciation for life.” I hope she is right, but I would need to read the book to form an opinion whether it helps or not. Will do.

Maggy Whitehouse: Living Kabbalah (2004)

Book coverYet another Kabbalah book that does not fit my basic focus: Jewish Kabbalah. This one sounds new age-y as well, for example at Powell it is listed under (alternate) spirituality. But at Amazon.com it is in the top 700,000, which is not the worst possible place. The single review there is detailed enough to get a picture what the book might be about: tarot, food, tree of life, finance, ten commandments . . . not necessarily in this order. I just mention it because I came across this book today for the first time. It will serve fine as an addition to the database that I am building (very) slowly.

Éliphas Lévi and the Kabbalah (2006)

Levi coverHere is a review (or more like description) of a book that does not fit into my narrow Jewish Kabbalistic interests on at least multiple accounts. Éliphas Lévi and the Kabbalah – The Masonic and French Connection of the American Mystery Tradition by Robert L. Uzzel is about Eliphas Levi, who despite sporting Hebraic name was a Frenchman (from the 19th century). It was written by a Christian theologian. But the review is from today, the book was published recently, two months ago and it is related to Kabbalah’s influence (on Levi and consequently on a whole family of magickal traditions), so why not mention it. The review is on the blog of the publisher, Cornerstone, that is why it reads more like a description than a critical analysis. I looked into the sample chapter [PDF] posted by the publisher, about Levi’s life. I liked the style and the content, the book sounds interesting and well researched if you are into spiritualism and freemasonry, but I will probably skip it.

Commemorating the Safed earthquake

On January 1, 1837 an earthquake shook and destroyed most of the city of Safed and Tiberias at 2 PM. There were between 2 and 4000 victims. This HaAretz article covers the story through the eyes and words of the people who gathered to commemorate the event. They quoted Rabbi Avraham Dov Auerbach of Avritch [1765-1840, a Rebbe in Europe for forty years and in Zefat for ten, a disciple of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev] saying that “this city is the place from which the Kabbalah, the Zohar and the piyyutim (liturgical poems) went out, and therefore it is forbidden to leave.” This page recalls the traditional version of the miracle how he protected his community during the quake. Meanwhile the HaAretz article put it in current political context how “in times of hardship, the residents of Safed remained constant to the rabbi’s remarks on.” (To have some connection to a “Kabbalah book” I would like to point out that the story found at my second link is probably from Rossoff’s book: Safed: The Mystical City.)

What Kabbalah books are about?

This Chabad article by Naftali Silberberg summarizes somewhat cynically what Kabbalah books are about:

Open up a book of Kabbalah, and you will discover that:
a) there are countless spiritual worlds.
b) In actuality nothing exists but G-d alone; everything else–including ourselves–are merely extensions of the Divine energy.
c) Everything which occurs is for the best, because all is preordained by G-d. d) The physical is absolutely trivial. Torah, prayer and mitzvot are the truly important things in life.

Then he gives the scientific counterargument for these points. Instead of arguing them he points out the “Belief alone isn’t enough.” The unavoidable synthesis is presented at the end: “An entity becomes real to a perceiver […] when it is understood. The purpose of chassidism is to make G-d a real part of our life.” I love the simplicity of the message. Unfortunately it is using circular logic. What the author means by understanding is not explicated. It is probably a life-long process, so I don’t expect him to do it in a few lines. But without that it is based on belief. I don’t have a problem with that, but let’s not try to make it sound like a scientific argumentation.