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Students learn about Jewish mysticism


By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 4, 2004
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Madonna does it. Britney does it. Ashton does it.

Kabbalah, a study of Jewish mysticism, is attracting these celebrities and many other Hollywood types in search of fulfillment through a "spiritual high," according to www.digital-brilliance.com/kab/faq.htm, a Web site dedicated to answering questions about the practice.

Students can get a better understanding of what Kabbalah is really all about tonight at the Hillel Foundation at 7.

Naomi Brandis, a political science junior and co-chairwoman of the Hillel Foundation's Va'ad Learners Group, which is sponsoring the event, said assistant Judaic Studies Professor David Graizbord will speak on "Mysticism and Madonna," and the difference between traditional Kabbalah and the Hollywood fad.

Graizbord said the discussion will encourage students to find out about the popularity of Kabbalah, its origins and influence on pop culture and illustrate how Kabbalah is more than a new-age Hollywood craze.

"Hollywood has a shallow understanding of Kabbalah," Graizbord said. "It's blasphemous. It's not even Judaism, let alone Jewish mysticism."

According to the Web site, Kabbalah is an oral tradition of Jewish mysticism passed down from generation to generation, which dates from the 12th century and claims to reveal a secret knowledge of the unwritten Jewish oral law, or the Talmud.

But many rabbis from the orthodox, conservative and reform sects of Judaism say the Hollywood version doesn't teach the fundamental version of the Kabbalah, according to the Web site.

Graizbord said he wants to inform students that the Kabbalah is an intense study through which a person can reach a spiritual affinity and gain a greater understanding of the self and Judaism.

Brandis said the motivation to hold the event was twofold.

"It's important for people to understand (Kabbalah's) roots in Judaism," Brandis said. "Kabbalah is becoming popular in Hollywood, and our goal is to get more information out to people who are curious on what it is and what it isn't."

She said people can connect to something like Kabbalah in different ways and compared the Hollywood version to something spiritual and enlightening like yoga or Pilates.

"If it makes them happy, then so be it," Brandis said.

Kabbalah, which is derived from a Hebrew root word meaning to receive or to accept, is a Jewish tradition that claims one can unlock the secrets of creation and spirituality in order to be closer to God by studying its text. Its meditative and mystical study is something few take part in because of the long hours of dedicated studying necessary for the learner to reach his or her religious and spiritual affinity.

Graizbord said those interested in learning don't have to be Jewish to study Kabbalah any more than they need to be English to study British playwrights like William Shakespeare. But he said choosing to study Kabbalah means studying a part of Judaism, which is an important part of the history, beliefs and faith of the Jewish people.



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