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Kabbalah by Joseph Dan

- Abstract

In the 2005 movie Bee Season, Richard Gere plays a professor of kabbalah who lectures on the mystical repair of the world and employs an obscure technique of meditation on Hebrew letters to train his daughter for spelling competitions. At the Jerusalem premiere, I overheard a moviegoer expressing her amazement at the ease with which one of the world’s most arcane systems of thought has been appropriated by popular culture. “I can’t believe such a thing is coming out of Hollywood,” she said.

Given the vogue of kabbalah among pop celebrities, I was surprised by her surprise. Roseanne Barr has reported that kabbalah “helped me to totally reconfigure my entire being.” In Us Weekly, Britney Spears got herself photographed brandishing a kabbalistic manual poolside. Madonna (a/k/a “Esther”), a devotee of a controversial Los Angeles-based outfit known as the Kabbalah Center, came to Israel in September 2004 to visit a mystic’s grave and on her most recent world tour wore a kabbalistic red string bracelet and a T-shirt with the slogan, “Kabbalists Do It Better.”

About the Author

Benjamin Balint, a writer based at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, reviewed Joseph Dan’s Kabbalah in our April 2006 issue.