Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On the day before Yom Kippur

I tend to be lenient in my reviews of books like The Gift of the Kabbalah: Discovering the Secrets of Heaven, Renewing Your Life on Earth, since Tamar Frankiel is earnest in her presentation of the material, and wants to truly help people with her work.  And if it does not work for me, that doesn’t mean it will work for others.  

That said, this books is a standard “New Age” treatment of the Kabbalah.  Frankiel presents the material in a Jewish context, but not to an extreme. She is definitely aiming at a more general audience.  In a way, her use of the sefiroth as markers of psychological well-being is close to the use of the Kabbalah by certain Hasidic circles.  Rather than being overwhelming about ontological facts of the universe, they reveal psychological truths.

But toward the end, Frankiel veers far off track for me, directing us to astrological techniques for the growth of the soul.  Again, not for me, but fair enough: Kabbalah has often been involved in astrology; it is found a place in many variant systems, so Frankiel is well within her rights to present such material here.

My biggest problem with this book, and the Kabbalah in general, is its complexity.  I like to think of the mystical quest as conceptually easy to understand (the merging of the self with God) yet practically hard to accomplish.  This book, and others like it, present a complex map for this goal, and make it hard indeed to reach the second goal. 

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