Jerusalem Seminar Presents Ancient Kabbalah in Bold, New Light

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This summer, in Jerusalem, a new pathbreaking seminar teaches Kabbalah from traditional, academic,and experiential perspectives. Students will learn with leading scholars, meet with local mystics and be inspired by spiritual teachers (July 3-22, 2006).

The recent explosion of interest in Kabbalah -- from superstars like Madonna to quantum physicists -- has demonstrated the contemporary appeal and relevance of this ancient Jewish mystical tradition. With a new and unique summer study program in Jerusalem, the walls that surrounded this hidden body of knowledge continue to fall.

Kabbalah -- traditionally defined as the secret "received" wisdom of Judaism -- has long been studied by elitist groups of orthodox male scholars, who regard it as an esoteric path beyond the ken of those without years of traditional learning. On the other hand, academic scholars of Kabbalah, though modern and egalitarian, have often failed to view it as a living spiritual tradition, focusing instead on an historical and analytical approach to the subject.

"We are trying to combine three approaches -- to fuse authentic kabbalistic practice with modern scholarship and contemporary relevance. This is an entirely new approach," says Rabbi Dr. Yakov Travis, founder of Tiferet Institute, sponsor of the program. "Tiferet" is a kabbalistic word signifying integration of opposites. Travis identifies himself as a post-denominational Jew. "Though I follow the traditional path of observance, I search for the point of unity that transcends the denominations."

According to Travis, the academic, historical perspective is necessary for students who want to maintain an honest, critical view of the texts. At the same time, these texts are grounded in Jewish spiritual practice and require some intimacy with modes of spiritual experience. "There is an amazing crossover occurring today" he states. "Kabbalah scholars, such as Professors Moshe Idel and Boaz Huss -- both of whom will be teaching on our program -- are much more aware of the living Kabbalistic tradition than were their predecessors. On the other hand, many of today's foremost traditional Kabbalah teachers have also studied secular subjects, and are interpreting its wisdom in terms of science, philosophy and psychology. They are faithful to the Kabbalah as a spiritual path, but want to see its broader implications."

Rabbi Dr. Eliezer Shore, the seminar's other principal lecturer, began his study of Judaism in college: "I graduated college in 1982 with a major in comparative religion, and then followed a spiritual search that eventually took me to yeshiva. Yet, I never felt my Kabbalistic studies contradicted my secular or ecumenical interests; rather, the two compliment each other." Shore, who publishes widely on Jewish themes, will be teaching a class on the use of language in Jewish mystical experience. “Kabbalists use words -- far more than silence -- to achieve meditative states and spiritual attachment to Divinity.”

The seminar will feature several women teachers of Kabbalah. Some, like Dr. Melila Hellner-Eshed, author of the recent work A River Issues Forth from Eden: On the Language of Mystical Experience in the Zohar, are non-observant Jews at the forefront of an Israeli movement to open up the study of mystical texts to all Jews, regardless of religious affiliation. Others, like Sarah Yehudit Schneider, author of Kabbalistic Writings on the Nature of Masculine and Feminine, are fully observant in their religious practice, yet have studied with and received approbations from the leading Kabbalistic masters of today. These women break the stereotype that Kabbalah study is forbidden to women, and bring a fresh approach that is unique to their feminine voices.

"This program is multifaceted and integrative," says Travis. "Students will engage their hearts and minds, ancient texts and modern studies, history and the present moment. It’s completely unique."

The seminar runs from July 3 to 23 at Yakar Center in Jerusalem, Israel, and is accredited by Siegal College. Students can earn up to six transferable credits.

For more information, visit http://www.tiferet.org or call Rabbi Dr. Yakov Travis at 216-225-1881 (USA).

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Rabbi Yakov Travis, Ph.D.