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Jewish Journal

Daniel Matt: Revealing the secrets of the Zohar

November 4, 2010 | 11:00 am

Kabbalah- the ancient study of Jewish mysticism – continues to be one of the spiritual movements du jour in Hollywood and around the world. What makes this news timely is that if you are interested in exploring why Kabbalah is relevant today, you should attend one of the lectures from world-renowned author and lecturer Dan Matt when he makes a rare visit to Los Angeles at the Day of Kabbalah on November 14th to be hosted by JConnectLA (www.jewlicious.com) . To experience Matt’s thoughtful wisdom, we highlight our interview with him about various teachable moments from the Kabbalah.

Importance of Kabbalah

Kabbalah shows us how to see beneath the surface and discover deeper meaning—in the Torah and in our lives. Kabbalah jolts us out of our religious habits and makes us confront new possibilities. For example, the Zohar (the masterpiece of Kabbalah) reads the opening verse of the Torah not as In the beginning God created…, but rather: With beginning, [the Unnamable One] created God. This sounds shocking or heretical. But the point is that our usual understanding of God is pretty childish. What we think of as God is only one limited aspect of the infinite divine reality, which transcends and explodes all names.

Understanding God

Ultimately, God is Ein Sof, the Infinite. But, being finite creatures, it’s hard for us to comprehend or relate to Infinity. We need mental images of God. Yet all images are inadequate; so Kabbalah insists that we not limit ourselves to any one image or set of images. For example, most religious texts portray God almost exclusively in masculine terms. Kabbalah fills out the picture by showing that God is equally male and female: God as Father or King is balanced by the figure of Shekhinah, the feminine Divine Presence. There is a dynamic relationship between the He and She of God, and it’s up to us to unite the divine couple by living virtuously, ethically, and spiritually.

Finding God

The Jewish mystics speak of divine sparks hidden within all things. God is not someone up there running the show; God is the energy that animates all material existence. We can discover and “raise” the sparks by cultivating our awareness, by looking for spiritual opportunities. One of Shekhinah’s many names is the Secret of the Possible. The challenge is to actualize the divine potential in ourselves and in the world by choosing how to live lovingly and wisely. We can start by quieting our cluttered, busy mind with a few minutes of silence each day. Then it’s easier to identify the sparks, the possibilities of transformation.

Daniel Matt

Garden of Eden in Our Lives

We all know the famous story near the beginning of Genesis about the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It’s clear that God expels Adam and Eve from the garden. But the Zohar asks a startling question: Who threw whom out of the Garden? Through a very artistic and radical reading of the text, the Zohar suggests that Adam expelled God from the Garden! This seems impossible or heretical. But one way to understand this is that in some sense we’re still in the Garden—we just don’t realize it because we’ve lost touch with the spiritual dimension of life. The challenge is to reconnect with the divine reality that we have banished from our lives, to welcome God back in.

Day of Kabbalah - An urban learning retreat for mind, body, and soul

Date: Sunday, November 14, 2010 from 11:00 PM - 5:00 PM Location: Hillel Harkam Academy in Beverly Hills

Confirmed teachers include: Daniel Matt, world renowned scholar and translator of Zohar,  Rabbi Naftali Citron, The Carlebach Shul, NYC ,Dr. Raphael Kellman (author of Matrix healing) ,Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, JConnectLA David Sacks, Writer & Happy Minyan Educator and others. To find out more details, please visit JConnectLA (www.jewlicious.com)

Matt’s background

Daniel Matt, one of the world’s leading authorities on Kabbalah, has published over ten books, including The Essential Kabbalah and God and the Big Bang. Currently he is engaged in the immense project of translating and annotating the Zohar, and so far he has completed six volumes of The Zohar: Pritzker Edition. For this work, Daniel has been honored with a National Jewish Book Award and a Koret Jewish Book Award; the latter called his translation “a monumental contribution to the history of Jewish thought.”

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