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by Kim Zetter

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-57324-170-9

A better title might be “Jewish Mysticism for Dummies.” Zetter, sometime contributor to the Los Angeles Times and Jerusalem Post, summarizes Jewish mystical teachings for an audience of nonspecialists and seekers. Her first five chapters provide an adequate introduction: she walks readers through some of the key kabbalistic texts, and we also meet figures from the history of Kabbalah. Readers will become acquainted with a few central kabbalistic concepts—that God created and destroyed seven worlds before ours, that creation is ongoing, that God created the universe through ten “emanations” or “forces” (sefirot). The volume culminates in a final chapter about “practical Kabbalah.” Here, Zetter falls down. Ostensibly addressing the relevance Kabbalah has to postmoderns, the book degenerates into holistic pap: “When we exhibit lovingkindness, we heal the world because acts of lovingkindness bring unification”; “To experience a Gevurah [strength] consciousness, Kabbalists advise us to examine areas of our life that are out of balance . . . eating too much or watching too much TV . . . . Instead of eating a bag of potato chips for an evening snack, we might want to opt for something healthier.” Instead of exploring, say, the ways Jews in the Jewish Renewal movement are integrating kabbalistic teachings into their worship services, Zetter ends on a weak note: Random Acts of Kindness with a faintly Jewish flavor. (6 illustrations)